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    Back Issues

    Pambazuka News 477: Zimbabwe: Demystifying sanctions and strengthening solidarity

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

    Pambazuka News (English edition): ISSN 1753-6839

    CONTENTS: 1. Action alerts, 2. Features, 3. Announcements, 4. Comment & analysis, 5. Advocacy & campaigns, 6. Books & arts, 7. Letters & Opinions, 8. African Writers’ Corner, 9. Blogging Africa, 10. Emerging powers in Africa Watch, 11. Highlights French edition, 12. Zimbabwe update, 13. African Union Monitor, 14. Women & gender, 15. Human rights, 16. Refugees & forced migration, 17. Social movements, 18. Africa labour news, 19. Emerging powers news, 20. Africom Watch, 21. Elections & governance, 22. Corruption, 23. Development, 24. Health & HIV/AIDS, 25. LGBTI, 26. Racism & xenophobia, 27. Environment, 28. Land & land rights, 29. Food Justice, 30. Media & freedom of expression, 31. News from the diaspora, 32. Conflict & emergencies, 33. Internet & technology, 34. eNewsletters & mailing lists, 35. Fundraising & useful resources, 36. Courses, seminars, & workshops, 37. Publications

    Help Pambazuka News become independent. Become a supporting subscriber by taking out a paid subscription. Donate $30 a year.

    Highlights from this issue

    - Briggs Bomba and William Minter discuss Zimbabwe's sanctions
    - Konstantina Isidoros on Morocco's mistreatment of Saharawi activists
    - Korir Sing’Oei Abraham on the Endorois' legal victory
    - Yash Tandon critiques the World Bank's notion of 'quiet corruption'
    - In whose interest are the Sudanese elections?
    - KANERE's refugee free press under attack
    + MORE

    - Chambi Chachage on dispensing 'survivors' justice' in Zanzibar
    - Chris Rodrigues responds to Mphutlane wa Bofelo and 'revolutionary songs'
    - South Africa is the 'next frontier for land invasions', writes Grasian Mkodzongi
    + MORE

    - Good Vibrations urged to stop support of Clitoraid
    - Angolan victims of demolition continue to face severe difficulties

    - Peter Wuteh Vakunta reviews Ngugi wa Thiong’o's 'Dreams in a Time of War'
    + MORE

    - Fugisayi Sasa's poem 'Mr President'

    - Dibussi Tande on the blogosphere's reaction to the death of Eugene Terreblanche

    - The launch of the China–Africa Joint Research and Exchange ProgrammeACTION ALERTS: Give Nigeria a voice at Chevron’s AGM
    ANNOUNCEMENTS: Fahamu launches new Refugee e-newsletter
    ZIMBABWE UPDATE: WOZA members arrested
    WOMEN & GENDER: Report reveals shocking patter of rape in DRC
    CONFLICT AND EMERGENCIES: Niger Delta: Ceasefire?
    HUMAN RIGHTS: Stop brutality against Samburu people in Kenya
    REFUGEES AND FORCED MIGRATION: Tanzania grants citizenship to Burundian refugees
    EMERGING POWERS NEWS: Emerging powers news roundup
    SOCIAL MOVEMENTS: Angola’s civil society achieves unprecedented victories
    AFRICA LABOUR NEWS: Gabon ready for dialogue as oil workers begin strike
    AFRICOM WATCH: Obama expands military involvement in Africa
    ELECTIONS AND GOVERNANCE: Nine killed as Sudan polls end
    HEALTH & HIV/AIDS: No excuse for neglect women, activists say
    CORRUPTION: Nigerian Ex-governor wanted for alleged corruption
    DEVELOPMENT: Africa looks to nuclear power
    LGBTI: Continent-wide upsurge in homophobia a tragedy
    RACISM & XENOPHOBIA: Xenophobia hitting asylum-seekers
    ENVIRONMENT: Malawi, UNDP sign climate change deal
    LAND & LAND RIGHTS: Land grabs continue as elites resist regulation
    FOOD JUSTICE: Programmes addresses underlying causes of hunger in Uganda
    MEDIA AND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION: Moroccans group to fight for free speech
    NEWS FROM THE DIASPORA: African diplomats reject EU anit-Cuba resolution
    INTERNET & TECHNOLOGY: New Broadband network for Africa approved
    ENEWSLETTERS & MAILING LISTS: AfricaFocus Bulletin: Africa: Profiling cash drains
    PLUS: jobs, fundraising & useful resources, publications, courses, seminars and workshops

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

    Action alerts

    Give Nigeria a voice at Chevron's Annual General Meeting


    Help give Nigeria a voice at Chevron's Annual General Meeting this year by donating your frequent flyer miles or proxy vote to the JINN delegation. Each year, Chevron stakeholders gather for the company's Annual General Meeting at the end of May.

    Shareholders have the opportunity to speak--or to donate their shares to allow others to speak at the meeting as their proxy. JINN needs your help in increasing Nigeria' representation at the meeting by providing proxy votes and frequent flyer miles. If you own shares in Chevron and wish to donate your proxy vote, or if you have frequent flyer miles on any airline, please
    contact Abby at (415) 990-0792 or [email protected]


    Zimbabwe: Demystifying sanctions and strengthening solidarity

    Briggs Bomba and William Minter


    cc Sokwanele
    In debates about Zimbabwe's political crisis and the role of the international community, it is difficult to sort out reality from rhetorical smoke and mirrors, write Briggs Bomba and William Minter. The current debate on ‘sanctions’ is a classic example: There is much strong language for and against, but rarely do debaters bother to say which measures are actually in place and what specific effects they have or should have.

    The fact that sanctions on Zimbabwe have been imposed only by Western powers has undermined their international legitimacy, despite the well-documented violations of democratic rights that are used to justify them. Zimbabwe's civil society has been divided on whether sanctions are appropriate measures. President Mugabe and his defenders have even contended that sanctions as such are illegal as well as illegitimate. Others, including many who support sanctions in this case, have rightly pointed to the fact that Western countries have not imposed similar sanctions on other regimes guilty of similar offences.

    But ‘sanctions’ can refer to a wide variety of international measures penalising certain actions in order to alter behavior. Any country has the sovereign right to determine its foreign policy towards another country, according to its own laws, with the sanctions option occupying the middle ground between diplomacy and war. Whether such measures are seen as legitimate and are effective in achieving results cannot be answered without paying attention to the details. It's long past time for those concerned with the future of Zimbabwe to take a step back from the current debate and look at what measures are in place, how they are implemented, and what impact they have on the democratisation process.

    It is also essential to understand sanctions as only one among several policy tools. In the case of Zimbabwe today, both supporters and opponents of sanctions exaggerate their importance. The international community, both global and regional, has other tools as well. Key issues are not only when to lift or relax sanctions but also how much support Western countries will provide for economic recovery. Even more decisive will be whether Zimbabwe's African neighbours can strengthen their diplomacy by backing it with effective pressures, even if they hesitate to use the word ‘sanctions.’


    The current sanctions, justified by supporters as increasing pressure on President Robert Mugabe and his colleagues to cease human rights abuses and remove other blockages to democratisation in the country, differ in several respects from previous sanctions against the white-minority regimes in Rhodesia and South Africa. They are aimed at abuses by a specific political faction rather than at a system entrenched for generations. And they are explicitly defined as limited and ‘targeted’ rather than as comprehensive.

    Even so, today's debate resembles previous debates in featuring a wide gap between rhetoric and reality. Thus Great Britain and the entire United Nations imposed presumably comprehensive sanctions on white-minority Rhodesia after its Unilateral Declaration of Independence in 1965. But British and other world leaders clearly understood that strategic components of sanctions, such as the ban on oil imports, were being undermined by South Africa, by the Portuguese colonial regime in Mozambique, and even by British oil companies. Sanctions against Rhodesia became a decisive factor only after 1975, when Mozambique became independent and closed its transit routes to Rhodesia. And it was in part the tacit threat of sanctions from South Africa as well that finally induced Ian Smith to enter into negotiations for transition to majority rule (see William Minter and Elizabeth Schmidt, ‘When Sanctions Worked: The Case of Rhodesia Reexamined,’ in African Affairs, April 1988).

    In effect, the sanctions then were labelled as comprehensive, but were actually not comprehensive. Today's sanctions are labelled as targeted. But no one, not even the governments that have adopted sanctions, seems to have investigated to what extent they are actually hitting the intended targets or having much effect at all.

    No government has imposed comprehensive trade or investment sanctions on Zimbabwe, comparable to those that anti-apartheid activists demanded, and partially achieved, against the South African apartheid regime, or to those that the United States still imposes on Cuba. Yet hard-line supporters of President Mugabe try to give such an impression, claiming that the existing measures have massive negative effects on the Zimbabwean economy. In fact, the European Union and the United States are still among Zimbabwe's largest trading partners. EU-Zimbabwe trade totalled some US$561 million in 2008, the last year for which full statistics are available, second only to the dominant role of South Africa with US$2,650 million in trade with Zimbabwe. China followed with US$267 million and the United States with US$197 million.

    Sanctions supporters, however, have not effectively challenged the misleading impression that sanctions are comprehensive, failing to explain clearly the measures in place. Trying to change the terminology by referring to ‘restrictive measures’ has only added to the confusion. The governments imposing sanctions, happy to take political credit for taking action on Zimbabwe, are conspicuously uninterested in explaining how or whether the measures are working.

    In addition to prohibitions on arms sales, the limited measures in place include asset freezes and travel bans targeted at specific individuals and the companies owned by them. The European Union, for example, cites ‘persons who bear a wide responsibility for serious violations of human rights and of the freedom of opinion, of association, and of peaceful assembly.’ The US Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001 (ZDERA), calling for measures later implemented by President George W. Bush, specified ‘individuals responsible for the deliberate breakdown of the rule of law, politically motivated violence, and intimidation in Zimbabwe.’

    Implementation of these measures, however, have been neither transparent nor precisely targeted. As of March 2010, the list of persons targeted by EU sanctions included 197 individuals and 31 companies, after six individuals and nine companies were removed from the list in February. The US list, last updated in November 2008, included 132 individuals and 54 companies. One can, with some difficulty, locate these lists on the web. But there is no documentation explaining the process for deciding on additions or deletions from the lists, and no explanation of the reasons a particular person or company is on the lists. The credibility is not enhanced by the fact that the lists, from Canada, Australia, and New Zealand as well as from the US and EU, do not coincide with each other.

    Some of those on the lists are appropriate targets of sanctions, such as President Robert Mugabe himself, or officials well-known to be directly responsible for violence, such as war veteran leader Joseph Chinotimba, Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri, and Zimbabwe Defence Forces Commander Constantine Chiwenga. But others clearly should not be there, such as former minister of health Timothy Stamps, who is on the EU list even though he retired in 2002. Stamps was responsible for the innovative and successful Zimbabwean health policies of the 1980s and early 1990s, before the system was devastated by cuts imposed by the Mugabe government at the insistence of international financial institutions. Also questionable additions to the EU list are people like Peter Chingoka, whose management of Zimbabwe cricket may be dubious on multiple grounds, but who can hardly be considered responsible for politically motivated violence. And including journalists, such as Judith Makwanya of Zimbabwe Broadcasting and Caesar Zvayi, of The Herald, however sycophantic their support of the regime, hardly seems consistent with advocacy of freedom of the press.

    Some names, such as that of former cabinet secretary Charles Utete, who retired in 2003, seem to be on the list simply because of their continued association with Zanu PF. In fact the lists seem to be have been compiled to include all prominent government and party officials, without bothering to document their involvement in human rights abuses or opposition to democracy. Even if such a broad targeting mechanism were appropriate at one time, which is doubtful, it became clearly inappropriate with the establishment of the government of national unity over a year ago, in February 2009. There are many flaws in implementation of the agreement forming that government, and there are Zanu PF hardliners determined to sabotage it. But it is counter-productive to indiscriminately identify all Zanu PF officials as complicit in those actions.

    In 2008, a new executive order by President G. W. Bush, renewed in March of 2009 and 2010 by President Obama, made sanctions more inflexible, referring not only to persons meeting the original criteria, but to ‘senior officials of the Government of Zimbabwe,’ as well as to state-owned companies. The results have included blockage of assistance to companies such as Agribank and ZB Bank, which supply financing for Zimbabwe's small-scale farmers. And even though many officials of the current unity government have not been added to the US list, the wording of the executive order still reflects a counter-productive rigidity in Washington policy circles. When Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangarai's delegation met with President Obama in June 2009, for example, Zimbabwe’s minister of tourism Walter Mzembi, an advocate for reform within Zanu PF, was barred from the meeting, even though he is not on the US sanctions list.

    This less than discriminate ‘targeting’ undermines the credibility of the sanctions in Zimbabwe and the Southern African region, and casts doubt on the motives of the countries implementing the sanctions. In practical terms, the targets can easily evade serious consequences by doing their business in South Africa or in Asian countries. The failure to evoke the sanction of regional public opinion by an open process significantly weakens the impact of the measures, allowing defenders of Zanu PF to dominate the debate. Instead of changing behaviour, poorly implemented and poorly explained sanctions provide Zanu PF with a convenient scapegoat to divert attention from their failure to implement agreements.

    In addition to the targeted sanctions against individual persons and companies, the 2001 ZDERA act by the US Congress mandates US votes against loans or debt cancellation for Zimbabwe by international financial institutions (IFI), such as the IMF, the World Bank, and the African Development Bank, unless the president determines that Zimbabwe has met conditions including return to the rule of law, or waives this provision.

    Since the formation of the unity government, relations between Zimbabwe and the IFI have thawed but remain strained and restricted by Western governments’ policies. Significantly, the IMF has restored Zimbabwe voting rights and granted a US$510 million support facility for economic crisis, while the World Bank is managing a multi-donor fund to support recovery.

    In this new era of the unity government, despite its faults, there is no justification for continuing political restrictions on IFI dealings with Zimbabwe, such as those stated in US legislation. These institutions instead need to work constructively with the energetic efforts led by Zimbabwe's finance minister Tendai Biti to turn around the economy and bring relief to long-suffering Zimbabweans. Relief for international debt of almost US$6 billion, said to be depressing economic growth rates to a third of its potential, is fundamental to the sustainability of economic reforms and development efforts. An official audit of the debt and a new framework for debt contraction and management are essential. As civil society activists have long demanded, for Zimbabwe and other African countries, this should be based on transparency and accountability, including identification of illegitimate debts, rather than rigid application of IFI frameworks.

    There are real issues in the relationship between Zimbabwe and international financial institutions. The 1990 structural adjustment program, supposedly home-grown but crafted along standard World Bank lines, impacted negatively on social services and the economy more generally, sparking social struggles and eroding Mugabe's legitimacy in the eyes of Zimbabweans. While Zanu PF must take responsibility for the economic mismanagement, corruption and political repression that followed, international financial institutions share the blame for launching Zimbabwe's spiral of decline from its status as a model for the region. As with other African countries, the relationship of Zimbabwe with the IMF and World Bank is problematic. But these issues should not be confused by conflating them with the distinct issues of removing obstacles to political democratisation.

    Finally, the confusion between comprehensive and targeted sanctions seems to have had effects in incidents apparently based on misunderstanding. Thus, a US company reportedly justified refusal to allow software downloads to a student at Africa University, in Zimbabwe, because of sanctions, and Harvard University reportedly gave a similar justification for denying financial support to a student from Zimbabwe. Such incidents indicate a spill-over effect of sanctions beyond the intended targets, and strengthen the case for a comprehensive review.


    As of this writing, in early April 2010, the future of the democratisation process in Zimbabwe remains highly uncertain, despite some recent positive developments such as appointment of independent commissions on human rights, elections, and the media. Despite renewed mediation efforts by the Southern African Development Community (SADC), now led by South African President Jacob Zuma, there remains a stalemate on ‘outstanding issues.’ Zanu PF hardliners are still resisting sharing authority with MDC officials in the government. Most significantly, while day-to-day political violence has dramatically reduced, the potential for more violence remains given the fact that the culture of impunity has not been dealt with systematically. There has been no progress at all on security reform. With new elections predicted for next year, most likely without completion of a new constitution, the capacity to ramp up repression – and the will to do so – remain intact.

    In this context, ‘lifting’ sanctions on hardliners who continue to impede progress would be a mistake. It would be seen as a signal of impunity for future as well as past abuses. But keeping the current list as is would also be a mistake, based on and reinforcing the incorrect premise that Zanu PF should be regarded as homogeneous. Current sanctions, which do not take account of such realities, should be reviewed and refocused, with more precise targeting and consistent implementation.

    Those sanctions that remain after the review should be matched with equally prominent policy measures to support economic and social recovery in Zimbabwe, as well as continuing support of civil society. Supporters of sanctions should actively encourage input by Zimbabwean and African civil society into the review process. They should also urge Southern African governments to consider parallel if not identical measures for effective pressure to remove obstacles to democratisation.

    Given the defects of current sanctions, and in the light of the changed circumstances since the formation of the unity government in 2009, a systematic review is clearly required. Such a review, including all the countries that have adopted sanctions, should include a detailed evaluation of the criteria for inclusion on an agreed list of targets, investigation of the reasons for including specific persons and companies, and transparent and wide disclosure about the process and the results. The intended effect should not only be more credible implementation. It should also be aimed at gaining more support from Zimbabwean and international public opinion, with convincing documentation for every name included on the list.

    The resulting list would certainly have fewer names. But, if strategically managed, it could have greater impact. It should include a procedure for appeal by affected parties and be updated regularly, with a process for tracking implementation and a mechanism for relevant additions and deletions reflecting new developments. The current list, for example, does not reflect the rapid growth and strategic importance of the diamond industry in eastern Zimbabwe, accompanied by well-documented human rights abuses by the Zimbabwean military, as well as corruption and illegality in assignment of contracts. Two South African companies established in collaboration with former Zimbabwean military officers (Mbada Diamonds and Canadile Mining) were awarded new mining rights in 2009 and are embroiled in controversy both in Zimbabwe and South Africa. Yet there is apparently no process for investigating whether or not they should be added to the sanctions lists.

    A policy based on sanctions alone, however well targeted, would be fatally flawed. There must also be strong and well publicised positive measures to meet humanitarian needs and to support economic and social recovery (‘humanitarian plus’). In fact this is now the official policy of Zimbabwe's ‘donors,’ including those countries imposing sanctions. But the consolidated UN appeal for 2009, calling for US$722 million for critical needs, raised only 65% of the total required. The 2010 appeal, released in November 2009 and calling for US$378 million, had raised only US$12 million by late March 2010, despite positive reports from the previous year on collaboration between donors, private agencies, and working-level Zimbabwean government officials.

    While this gap can partly be explained by slow budget and disbursement processes, it also contradicts the donors' own judgment that support is ‘time critical.’ Donor countries should urgently give much greater priority to substantive action with immediate effects to support both humanitarian and development needs in Zimbabwe.

    Continued support from Western countries for Zimbabwe's civil society and democratisation process, moreover, should be transparent, with clear goals linked to protection of the rule of law and the democratic process. Criticism from Zanu PF hardliners is inevitable, of course. But Western governments should take maximum care to ensure that their grants as well as their sanctions are targeted on the basis of clearly defined principles rather than partisan political goals.


    Actions by Western countries may have some influence. But it is Southern Africa, and particularly South Africa, that is the most decisive component of the international community for the future of Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe's neighbours, particularly South Africa and Botswana, are the most severely impacted by the ongoing crisis in Zimbabwe. South Africa hosts the largest number of Zimbabwean refugees, estimated by independent researchers to number over a million. The political and economic crisis in Zimbabwe, accompanied by xenophobic violence against refugees in South Africa, is the major threat to peace in the Southern African region.

    To their credit, the countries of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have been engaged in ongoing diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis, with the Global Political Agreement (GPA) leading to the formation of the unity government last year the most notable accomplishment. SADC, with South Africa in the lead, is the guarantor of this agreement. South Africa, Zimbabwe's leading trading partner, has greater economic leverage than any other country. Yet while Western countries have overemphasised largely ineffective sanctions, South Africa and its SADC partners have also faltered, failing to ensure full implementation of the GPA. The impact of diplomacy has repeatedly been undermined by a stance of ‘see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil,’ carried over from the period of President Thabo Mbeki's ‘quiet diplomacy.’

    Almost one year into the presidency of Jacob Zuma in South Africa, policy remains hobbled by the lack of a plan B to deal with Zanu PF intransigence. Hopes aroused by the latest round of mediation have been dashed. SADC leaders are well aware that it is President Mugabe and his colleagues who are holding up progress, as they were well aware of the waves of state-sponsored violence, which reached their height during the 2008 election crisis. In private, SADC officials are often vocal in their criticism of Zanu (PF). Before he was president, Zuma himself publicly rebuked Mugabe for failing to step down. But in public, with the exception of Botswana's President Ian Khama, SADC leaders have failed to bring public pressure to bear for Zimbabwe's leaders to implement their commitments. Strikingly, President Zuma has even undermined his own diplomacy by echoing the talking points of Robert Mugabe.

    As mediators in Zimbabwe, SADC leaders do have to avoid unproductive rhetoric, and South Africa has to avoid the image of a regional bully. But diplomacy without real pressure loses credibility. When diplomacy is thwarted, failure to strengthen it with other options not only evades the region's responsibility to Zimbabwe. It also endangers the stability and damages the reputation of the entire region.

    The unity government has resulted in real progress in Zimbabwe, mitigating the decade-long political and economic crisis. Political violence is reduced and the economy is improved. But these changes will not be sustainable unless constitutional reform is completed and unless fundamental political change is protected from the threat of violence from an unreformed security sector. Just as Western governments need to think beyond relying primarily on sanctions, so SADC governments need to think creatively beyond exclusive reliance on 'quiet' diplomacy.

    This does not imply, as defenders of ‘quiet diplomacy’ often argue, shifting to the opposite extreme of ‘megaphone diplomacy’ or intrusive intervention by the mediators. But continuing mediation could be strengthened if SADC governments were also willing to be proactive in building public support for the goals of respect for human rights, the rule of law, and the illegitimacy of political violence to intimidate political opponents and other critics. In particular, it is important to provide encouragement to the new human rights, electoral, and media commissions.

    South African and other SADC leaders can also help focus the spotlight on abuses. In effect, although new elections may come next year or later, Zimbabwe is already in a ‘pre-election’ period. SADC preparation should begin now, making use of existing SADC standards, rather than waiting until increased violence is imminent. More broadly, the tone of debates in South Africa in particular can influence parallel debates in Zimbabwe. A case in point is the current debate on indigenisation, where a new proposal to require 51 per cent Zimbabwean ownership of companies raises real issues of economic inequality but also provides ample opportunity for elite corruption, demagogic rhetoric and extra-legal actions.

    There are also other formal mechanisms, such as the Kimberley Process (KP) for diamond certification, which may significantly affect the resources available to ‘securo-crat’ hardliners. SADC governments, which have leading roles in this internationally mandated process, should insist that this process go beyond technical details to fundamental issues of human rights and corruption. Abbey Chikane, the former chairman of South Africa's Diamond Board, is currently investigating Zimbabwe diamonds as the KP monitor. Whether or not he certifies the diamonds from Marange, and on what grounds, will be a key indicator of whether SADC is willing to use the leverage it has to promote accountability in Zimbabwe.


    Despite unresolved ‘outstanding issues’ and inconsistencies of implementation, the unity government in Zimbabwe has created a new context which requires the rethinking of strategies by all those concerned with the future of that country. In the international community, Western governments should review sanctions and stress positive measures as well. African governments and international organisations, including the African Union as well as SADC, should find ways to add muscle to their diplomatic interventions. Both should pay attention to civil society and the structural requirements for democratisation rather than focusing only on political parties, involving a wide range of voices in reviewing their policies towards the crisis.

    Such policy reviews could give an opportunity for convergence between Western and African governments in support of the democratic process in Zimbabwe. Realistically, however, solidarity activists should not expect more than incremental changes from their governments. Activist groups both in Southern Africa and around the world, including Zimbabwean diaspora groups, should also take their own initiatives.

    Dockworkers around the region set a precedent for vigorous action in 2008, when they refused to unload an arms shipment from China to Zimbabwe in 2008, sparking support from broader civil society. Given how the public debate on Zimbabwe is still dominated by outdated and simplistic stereotypes, groups in Southern Africa and internationally should give priority to highlighting the achievements of the unity government as well as exposing continuing obstacles to democracy and economic recovery. Only a visible boost in people-to-people solidarity is likely to lead governments, from Pretoria to London and Washington, to adopt more effective policies. The primary responsibility lies with the internal efforts of Zimbabwean democratic forces. But their chances of success will depend on whether those outside, both Zimbabwean and others, also take their responsibilities seriously.


    * This article is co-published by Pambazuka News and Foreign Policy in Focus.
    * Briggs Bomba, a Zimbabwean civil society activist, is director of campaigns for Africa Action.
    * William Minter is the editor of AfricaFocus Bulletin.
    * Both Bomba and Minter recently visited Zimbabwe.
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

    Western Saharan hunger strikers: Morocco's territorial and human rights violations

    Konstantina Isidoros


    cc UN Photos
    As 36 imprisoned Saharawi activists continue a hunger strike from seven Moroccan jails, Konstantina Isidoros writes of the 'groundswell of international condemnation of Morocco's behaviour'. Protesting against Morocco's longstanding occupation of Western Sahara and the human rights abuses suffered by the indigenous Saharawi population, the hunger strikers' action represents the latest peaceful challenge to the Moroccan state's illegal claims on Western Sahara, stresses Isidoros, from individuals widely recognised as 'prisoners of conscience'.

    Morocco's latest human rights violations yet again display its characteristic contribution to the Western Sahara conflict. These insights show the extremes to which Morocco exercises its 'tools of persuasion'.

    36 Saharawi human rights defenders across seven Moroccan jails are on hunger strike as political prisoners of conscience. The wave of hunger strikes began on 18 March, with the first group now reaching their 26th day, and are reported as suffering desperately critical symptoms of medical deterioration.[1] International observers and local NGOs monitoring the hunger strikes are warning of the risk of an imminent humanitarian tragedy and an urgent need to intervene for the immediate release of the Saharawi prisoners. Fears about their critical medical conditions suggest they are nearing irreversible deterioration that could result in death, exacerbated by chronic illnesses resulting from previous years of incarceration and beatings in these Moroccan prisons.

    They are protesting against Morocco's illegal invasion and occupation of Western Sahara, human rights violations against the indigenous Saharawi population, and serious judicial violations such as arbitrary arrest, 'disappearance', false imprisonment, unfair trials and torture.[2] Morocco persistently ignores the International Court of Justice's (ICJ) 1975 advisory opinion, which rejected Morocco's claims over Western Sahara and reaffirmed indigenous Saharawi rights to decolonisation and self-determination.

    A groundswell of international condemnation of Morocco's behaviour has triggered the launch of fresh worldwide appeals. Western Sahara Campaign (with over 100 high profile signatories including Frank Ruddy, former deputy chairman of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara) and Western Sahara Resource Watch each sent open letters to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon demanding that the United Nations monitor Morocco's human rights violations,[3] and halt Morocco's illegal territorial violations.[4] Human Rights Watch and the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights (RFK Center) also sent a joint letter to Ban.[5] Amnesty International sent their statement direct to the Moroccan authorities, stating 'Morocco must end harassment of Saharawi activists'.[6]

    Many of these Saharawi human rights advocates are recipients of numerous peace prizes, including a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize. Yet the Moroccan authorities habitually use a medieval vocabulary to make ambiguous claims of 'treason' by 'collaboration with the enemy and endangering state security'.


    Observers and campaigners have reported the persistent harassment of Saharawi activists as an 'escalating wave of repression by Moroccan authorities'.[7][8] On 17 November 2009, Amnesty International issued a public statement saying:

    'The Moroccan authorities appear to be adopting an increasingly repressive approach to the exercise of these rights by Sahrawis, in breach of their obligations under international human rights treaties, notably the ICCPR [International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights], and the UN Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998.'[9]

    Of particular concern was the Moroccan king's speech on 6 November 2009.[10] His vocabulary was unprecedented in its hostility towards, and explicit incitement of aggression against the Saharawi. It accused them of treachery and declared that all objections to Morocco's ambitions were acts of 'terrorism'. Campaigners have construed this language as an overt incitement of royally sanctioned future violence. The speech was followed by the furious response of British filmmakers Paul Laverty and Ken Loach in which they succinctly suggested that 'the king and his government respect international law and join the civilised world'.[11]

    Even international observers and human rights lawyers are obstructed by Moroccan authorities from witnessing judicial processes and are at risk of violations by Moroccan police. Human Rights Watch formally reported cases of Moroccan obstruction of foreign journalists and human rights lawyers seeking access to witness Saharawi trials between 19 October and 21 November 2009.[12] ASVDH's (Sahrawi Association of Victims of Grave Human Rights Violations Committed by the Moroccan State) website is uploading breaking news of fresh assaults on international observers. For example, a press release dated 8 April reports: 'two international observers, Mr Rafael Antorrena and Berta Herranz, were arrested and taken to an unknown destination'.[13]


    On 7 April, Moroccan settlers attacked 11 Saharawi human rights advocates at Layouune airport in the Moroccan Occupied Territory of Western Sahara, beating and stripping them naked under orders of the Moroccan security services.[14] The 'Saharawi 11' had just landed at Layouune airport from a humanitarian visit to the Saharawi refugee camps on the other side of the Moroccan Berm.[15] A group of international observers had accompanied the 'Saharawi 11', but the Moroccan authorities prevented them from booking the same flight to obstruct the presence of international witnesses.

    This echoes the September 2009 'Casablanca 7' story, when a separate group of seven Saharawi human rights advocates made the same trip, but were arrested by Moroccan secret service police on arrival at Casablanca airport on 8 October 2009.[16] Six of the '7' remain incarcerated in Salé prison, Rabat, having been there indefinitely for six months awaiting trial in a military court.

    One of the 'Casablanca 7' hunger strikers, Rachid Sghir, had previously been severely beaten under interrogation by the Moroccan police, days after giving an interview to BBC producer Sam Bagnall and presenter Simon Reeves for the BBC's documentary Tropic of Cancer (broadcast on 21 March 2010 in the UK).[17] On the BBC's website, Bagnall verifies that Moroccan secret police had been following the film crew, so they arranged a meeting with Rachid and his human rights associates in a safe house to record the interview about Morocco's repressive occupation of Western Sahara.[18]

    Amnesty International's January 2010 appeal was for the case of Ahmed Mahmoud Haddi, who experienced enforced disappearance, is awaiting trial and is believed to have been tortured while in custody.[19]


    Six of the Salé-imprisoned 'Casablanca 7' (one is very ill) began their hunger strikes from 18 March 2010 in protest of their indefinite imprisonment and lack of clear charges. These are Ali Salem Tamek, Brahim Dahane, Yehdih Ettarrouzi, Ahmed Naciri, Saleh Labaihi and Rachid Sghayer.

    Brahim Dahanne, Dagje Lachgar, Ali Salem Tamek, Ahmed Nassiri, Saleh Labihi, Rachid Sghaer, Yahdih Ettarouzi (cc asvdh)

    The hunger strikers issued this statement on 18 March:

    'Our detention has been condemned by governments and parliaments around the world as well as human rights organisations, trade unions and civil society groups. We are being persecuted for exercising our right to express political opinion and engage in legitimate activities to protect the human rights of our people. In protest at our detention we are today beginning an open hunger strike in order to expedite our claim to a fair trial and our release without condition. We call on democratic forces in the world to support our fight for our release and that of all Saharawi political prisoners held in Moroccan jails.'

    Another 19 hunger strikers are in Tiznit prison and their hunger strikes started from 20 March. These are Moustapha Abd-Dayem, Hreish Hassan, Mohamed Berkaoui, Bachir Isamïli, Mohamed Taghioullah Fekallah, Brahim Khalil Meghimiah, Khalihenna Abouhassan, Moulay Ali Bouamoud, Fadli Binhau, Mahmud Aboughassem, Sheiahu Hamza, Fathi Sid Ahmed, Daihani Abdallah, Mohamed Salami, Sawakh Djamal, Mahdjub Ailal, Hassan Mohamed Lehassen, Nourdinne Taher and Lehmam Salama.

    And there are a further three hunger strikers in Boulmharez prison in Marrakech (El Waaban Said, Brahim Bariaz and Ali Salem Ablag), three in Layouune prison (Bachri Bentaleb, Ameidan Chej and Mohamed Berkan),[20] two in Taroudant prison (Louali Amaidan and Jalad Hasan), two in Kenitra prison (Laaseiri Salec and Amaidan Saleh) and one in Bensliman prison (Hasan Abdelahi).[21]

    Detailed medical information from the hunger-strike monitoring groups highlights the critical symptoms experienced by the hunger strikers as loss of consciousness, fatigue, migraines, asthma, acute cardiac and intestinal pain, asthma, vomiting and diarrhoea. Blood pressure and sugar levels are reported as decreasing alarmingly, with growing kidney, liver and gallbladder complications.

    The Saharawi Lawyers Association has also reported cases of neglect by Moroccan prison administrations, lack of proper medical assistance from prison clinics and staff, and Saharawi prisoner Hassan Abdullah in Bin Sliman is said to have been severely beaten by Moroccan prisoners at the incitement of prison staff.


    A groundswell of international publicity and solidarity for the Saharawi is mounting against Morocco's territorial and human rights violations in its illegally occupied territory.

    On 13 April, Human Rights Watch and the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights (RFK Center) sent their joint letter supporting a UN mandate for human rights monitoring. They also remind Ban Ki-moon that the primary objective of the 1991 United Nations-brokered ceasefire and installation of MINURSO, the UN peacekeeping force, was to implement a referendum on Saharawi self-determination, which has still not taken place 19 years later.

    Amnesty International's 9 April press release documents these recent Moroccan violations. Malcolm Smart, Amnesty's director for the Middle East and North Africa programme, says: 'We are increasingly concerned for the health of these detainees as they continue with their protest… In fact, we consider them prisoners of conscience imprisoned for the peaceful exercise of freedom of expression, and we are urging the Moroccan authorities to release them immediately and unconditionally.'[22]

    On 6 April an open letter was sent to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon calling for the UN to monitor Morocco's human rights violations in its illegally occupied territory of Western Sahara. MINURSO is the UN peacekeeping mission for Western Sahara, and is the only contemporary UN mission in the world without a mandate to monitor human rights. Over 100 organisations and high-profile individuals such as parliamentarians, trade unions, celebrities, NGOs, campaign groups, academics and journalists have acted as signatories to the appeal. These include Frank Ruddy, former deputy chair of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), film director Ken Loach, renowned British actress and MP Glenda Jackson, Gare Smith, former principal deputy assistant secretary of state, US State Department, and the UK trade unions TUC (Trades Union Congress) and UNITE.

    On 29 March, Western Sahara Resource Watch sent a letter to Ban Ki-moon additionally asking for the UN to halt Morocco's territorial violations of plunder and exploitation of Western Sahara's natural resources. This letter highlights how 'Morocco's activities are carried out in contravention of a raft of UN General Assembly resolutions including resolutions 62/113, 62/120, 63/102, 63/111, 64/98 and 64/99, amongst others, as well as its international obligations pursuant to Article 1 of both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. As established with great clarity by the UN Legal Counsel in 2002: "… if further exploration and exploitation activities were to proceed in disregard of the wishes and interests of the people of Western Sahara, they would be in violation of the principles of international law applicable to mineral resource activities in Non-Self-Governing Territories."'

    In April 2009, both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International released their public statements addressed to the United Nations Security Council urging the UN to monitor human rights in Western Sahara. Moreover, in a 2006 report, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) also called for the implementation of urgent measures to protect human rights.


    It has only been four months since the last high-profile hunger strike of Aminatou Haidar, the 'Saharawi Ghandi', grabbed the attention of world media. Frantic multi-country negotiations were fuelled by international politicians, civil society campaign groups and celebrities such as Spanish film director Pedro Almodóvar and actor Javier Bardém (Penélope Cruz's fiancé).

    Haidar was returning from New York in November 2009, having received the Train Foundation's Civil Courage human rights award, when Moroccan authorities confiscated her passport, denied her entry and forced her back to Lanzarote airport. She spent 32 days on hunger strike on the floor of Lanzarote airport, reaching a life-threatening stage of medical deterioration before the full media glare finally forced Morocco to back peddle. Human Rights Watch declared that her forced expulsion breached article 12 (4) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which states that no one can be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter their own country; article 2 of protocol 4 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms; and article 12 (2) of the ICCPR, which also stipulates that everyone shall be free to leave any country.[23]

    A selection of examples of the numerous Moroccan violations is as follows. On 21 November 2009, Mohamed Baikam and Ahmed Salem Fahime were arrested at the Mauritanian border and reportedly tortured. Also in November, Abdul Rahman Bougarfa was arrested when attempting to travel to Barcelona to attend an international meeting and Moroccan authorities confiscated his passport.[24] September 2009 saw over 20 documented reports of police torture being forwarded to Amnesty International: e.g., Boujdour Sultana Khayia had her arm broken by police; Mohamed Brakan (21 years old) was thrown from the roof of a house by police; Mohamed Tahil was assaulted by police and his nose broken; and Ayzan Amydan arrested.[25]

    Excessive violence is regularly used at peaceful Saharawi protests. A young Saharawi student, Hamdi Lembarki, died after being savagely beaten by security forces on 30 October 2005. Internet video uploads and blogs provide evidence of the Moroccan police excessively using teargas and batons at peaceful protests by university students during 2008 and 2009. In August 2009, six Saharawi teenagers (the 'Oxford Six') were arrested and prevented from flying to a peace camp in the UK, and a 19-year-old female student Nguia El Haouassi was abducted by Moroccan police (see Pambazuka News, 10 October 2009).[26]


    In 1975, as Spanish colonisers withdrew from Western Sahara, Morocco's claims to territorial sovereignty of Western Sahara were rejected outright by the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Its 'Advisory Opinion' of 16 October 1975 concluded that there was no tie of territorial sovereignty between the territory of Western Sahara and the kingdom of Morocco or the Mauritanian entity.[27] Yet Morocco has always disobeyed international law; shortly after the ICJ ruling was published, it invaded Western Sahara and annexed approximately 80 per cent of the territory which is now called the Moroccan Occupied Territory of Western Sahara (not the 'Moroccan Sahara' or 'Moroccan Southern Provinces', as Morocco desperately tries to name it) (Hodges 1983; Damis 1983; Shelley 2004). For the last 34 years, an estimated 165,000 refugees have lived in exile in refugee camps administered by the Polisario Front on the Algerian desert border town of Tindouf. The Polisario formed their nation-state in exile in 1976, the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), and control the remaining 20 per cent of the Western Sahara, called the 'Free Zone' or 'Liberated Territory'. The Polisario continues to seek self-determination and a return to homeland for the Saharawi people.

    Since its 1975 invasion, Morocco has subverted the decolonisation process by moving Moroccan settlers into the occupied territory, defied more than 100 UN resolutions on the Saharawi people's right to self-determination, and still today, continues to refuse independence to the indigenous Saharawi population. Since the 1991 ceasefire, Morocco has pursued this territorial violation of a neighbouring nation-state by using the idiom of 'diplomacy' through political manoeuvrings within US and French corridors of power with the intent to influence opinion in its favour.

    A major driving force behind Morocco's occupation of Western Sahara is the exploitation of valuable natural resources such as gas, oil, phosphates and Atlantic fishing reserves. Morocco's illegal economic exploitation is another crisis, as it provides Morocco with commercial interests to 'do business' in the occupied territory. The illegal commercial exploitation of Western Sahara's natural resources is exacerbated by complicit foreign governments and companies who enter into illegal business deals with Moroccan companies or authorities in the occupied territory, such as for example the EU (European Union) purchase of Western Sahara fishing permits from Morocco and the violation of US administration policy by the United States Trade and Development Agency's funding of Moroccan development projects which support Moroccan industries on the occupied land of Western Sahara. The Western Sahara Resource Watch research group is a foremost monitor of Morocco's exploitation activities and a respected source for accurate data.[28]



    * Konstantina Isidoros is a doctoral researcher in anthropology at the University of Oxford. Her field of study is the Sahara desert with a special interest in the Hassaniya-speaking populations of Western Sahara. The views expressed in this paper are those of the author. This document is an original transcript and copyright property of the author.
    * © Konstantina Isidoros
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

    [1] The Sahrawi Association of Victims of Grave Human Rights Violations Committed by the Moroccan State (ASVDH):
    [2] For history see Free Western Sahara Network:; The Saharawi Association of Victims of Grave Human Rights Violations Committed by the Moroccan State; Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights:; Amnesty International library for 'Morocco/Western Sahara':
    [3] See Western Sahara Campaign UK for the full letter and list of signatories:
    [4] See Western Sahara Resource Watch, who closely monitor Morocco's plunder of Western Sahara:
    [9] Amnesty International public statement 17 November 2009:MDE 29/012/2009.
    [14]; Australia Western Sahara Association:
    [15] The Berm is Morocco's 1553 mile-long militarised sand wall and is heavily land-mined. Morocco built it with US assistance:;
    [16] Amnesty International report:
    [17] To see the Western Sahara portion of the BBC's Tropic of Cancer:
    [19] Amnesty International urgent action statement 15 January 2010: MDE 29/004/2010.
    [20] This prison is called Carcel Negra, meaning Black Prison.
    [21] List of prisoners and hunger strike start dates provided by the Hunger Strike Monitoring Committee of ASVDH (approved by The Saharawi Journalists and Writers Union, UPES,
    [25] 23 September 2009 (Press release marking International Peace Day).
    [27] The 1975 ICJ's legal opinion on the Western Sahara stated that the court could not find 'any legal tie of territorial sovereignty between Western Sahara and the Moroccan State'. And with respect to both Mauritanian and Moroccan claims, 'the materials and information presented to [the Court] do not establish any tie of territorial sovereignty between the territory of Western Sahara and the Kingdom of Morocco or the Mauritanian entity'. See also: Mundy, Jacob. The Question of Sovereignty in the Western Sahara Conflict. First presented as Conference Paper, June 2008.


    Below is a sample bibliography of respected authors, campaigners and trusted analyses on the Western Sahara. Given that Morocco has a long history of manipulating facts and events regarding their illegal invasion of the Western Sahara, this bibliography consists of publications that help to provide, as Pazzanita so aptly termed it, the 'antidote to propaganda' (Pazzanita 1994). The Zunes & Mundy book due out in June 2010 is the new and much awaited authoritative publication since the Hodges, Damis and Shelley books.

    To receive up-to-date and accurate Western Sahara news and support the worldwide appeal, please join:

    Western Sahara Campaign UK (
    Free Western Sahara Network (
    Sandblast (
    Western Sahara Resource Watch (
    Australia Western Sahara Association (
    The Western Sahara Association in California (
    Spanish Group of pro-Saharawi Associations (
    Norwegian Support Committee for the Western Sahara (
    Illegal EU-Moroccan Fisheries Agreement (
    Amnesty International (
    Human Rights Watch (
    Landmine Action de-mining programme in Western Sahara (
    Two of the important analytical blogs are and


    Damis, J. 1983. Conflict in Northwest Africa: The Western Sahara Dispute. California: Hoover Institution Press.

    Farah, Randa. 2003. 'Western Sahara and Palestine: Shared Refugee Experiences.' Forced Migration Review. Oxford: Refugee Studies Centre with the Norwegian Refugee Council/Global IDP Project. January, 16: 20-23.

    Franck, T.M. 1976. 'The Stealing of the Sahara'. American Society of International Law.

    Hodges, Tony. 1983. Western Sahara: Roots of a Desert War. Westport, Conn.: L. Hill.

    International Court of Justice. Reports of Judgements, Advisory Opinions and Orders: Western Sahara. Advisory Opinion of 16 October 1975. (See also related Oral Reports, Written Statements, Press Releases, Orders).

    Mundy, Jacob. 'The Question of Sovereignty in the Western Sahara Conflict'. June 2008. Paper presented at the International Conference of the Jurists for Western Sahara, La Cuestión del Sáhara Occidental en El Marco Jurídico Internacional, Las Palmas, Canary Islands.

    Mundy, Jacob. 2006. 'Neutrality or Complicity? The United States and the Moroccan Takeover of Spanish Sahara'. Journal of North African Studies. 11 (3). pp.275–306.

    Mundy, Jacob. 'Thirty years of conflict: How the US and Morocco seized the Spanish Sahara'. January 2006. Le Monde diplomatique.

    Mundy, Jacob. 2004. 'Stubborn Stalemate in Western Sahara'. Middle East Report Online.

    Pazzanita, Anthony G. 1994. 'Morocco versus Polisario: A Political Interpretation'. The Journal of Modern African Studies. 32 (2). June. pp.265-278.

    Shelley, Toby. 2004. Endgame in the Western Sahara: What Future for Africa's Last Colony? New York: Zed.

    Zunes, Stephen. and Mundy, Jacob. (forthcoming: June 2010). Western Sahara: War, Nationalism and Conflict Irresolution. Syracuse University Press. Quote referenced to Agence France Press, 11 April 2007.

    Zunes, Stephen. 2007. 'The Future of Western Sahara.' Foreign Policy in Focus.

    Zunes, Stephen. 2006. 'Western Sahara: The Other Occupation.' Tikkun Vol 21 No. 1, January 2006.

    Zunes, Stephen. 1998. 'Morocco and Western Sahara'. Foreign Policy In Focus.

    Zoubir, Yahia H. September 2009. 'The United States and Maghreb–Sahel Security.' International Affairs. Volume 85 Issue 5, pp. 977 – 995

    Zoubir, Yahia H. 'Stalement in Western Sahara: Ending International Legality'. Middle East Policy Council Journal. Volume XIV: 4. Winter 2007.

    From non-beneficiaries to active stakeholders: The Endorois

    Korir Sing’Oei


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    With the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) deciding in favour of Kenya's Endorois people, Korir Sing’Oei Abraham hails an unprecedented court victory. The Endorois were forcibly evicted by the Kenyan government in the period 1974–79, and their victory suggests positive ramifications for indigenous peoples' rights across Africa at large, Abraham argues.

    The decision of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) in the Centre for Minority Rights Development (CEMIRIDE) and Minority Rights Group International (MRG) (Endorois) vs Kenya case has been hailed as a landmark ruling by both international and national human rights organisations, the media and members of the donor community, among others. Human Rights Watch, Witness, Centre for Housing Rights and Evictions, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, Amnesty International and the International Commission of Jurists, among others, are all agreed that the decision represents a significant step for indigenous rights’ recognition and protection in Africa. The media, both local and international, have lauded the ACHPR for taking the bold step of entrenching indigenous rights in the continent’s human rights normative framework. While speaking to a mammoth crowd gathered to celebrate the Endorois decision at Lake Bogoria on 20 March 2010, the Dutch ambassador to Kenya Laetitia van den Assum echoed the urgent need to resolve the land rights claims of minorities as per the verdict of the ACHPR. This article reflects on three issues. First, a background on the Endorois’ struggle is provided, followed by an assessment of the jurisprudential sweep of the Endorois decision and the extent to which it constitutes a ‘boundary marker’ in the development of human rights law in Africa. Lastly, a consideration of the opportunity structures that ensured the adoption of this momentous decision by the ACHPR is made and some thoughts on implementation of the decision provided.


    Between 1974 and 1979, the Endorois, a semi-nomadic Nilotic community of about 60,000 people were forcefully evicted by the Kenyan government to pave way for the creation of the world famous Lake Bogoria Game Reserve. The consequences of this eviction devastated the Endorois’ pastoralist enterprise after they lost thousands of their livestock owing to a lack of pasture and water. Disconnected from a lake they consider sacred, and denied access to vital medicinal plants only found by the edges of the Lake Bogoria, the community’s existence was imperilled. From the arid lands of Marigat where they were hence confined, the Endorois, unlike other minority groups in Africa who have suffered similar fate, embarked on a sustained campaign to regain the territory that defines their identity, livelihood, spirituality and survival. From 1993 until February 2010, the Endorois have sought legal solutions to their predicament in Kenyan courts and more recently at the ACHPR, which finally affirmed their right to property, natural resources, development, culture and religion.


    Since the adoption of the Social and Economic Rights Action Center (SERAC) vs Nigeria (Ogoni) decision in 2001, no other verdict of the ACHPR has attracted more attention than the Endorois decision. While the Ogoni decision is the definitive authority for the proposition that a state party under the African Charter is culpable for failing to regulate the actions of a non-state actor (Shell Corporation), which have deleterious effects on the environment and the right to life of a community – the Ogoni – the Endorois decision goes further in at least three ways.

    In Ogoni, the ACHPR was inarticulate with regard to the beneficiaries of rights. For instance, it variously referred to the Ogoni as a people but failed to accord them full collective recognition for purposes of being joint partakers with the Nigerian state of the oil resources within their territory. In contrast, the ACHPR in Endorois finds unequivocally that the Endorois as an indigenous community have a legal persona and are hence capable of being imbued with rights within the meaning of article 21 of the charter, which provides that 'All peoples shall freely dispose of their wealth and natural resources … [and] in no case shall a people be deprived of it.' The commission established that the basis of Endorois indigeneity was that their 'culture, religion, and traditional way of life are intimately intertwined with their ancestral lands – Lake Bogoria and the surrounding area'. By finding that the Kenyan state failed to include the Endorois in the profit structure of the exploitation of the Endorois’ ancestral land for tourism and mining, the ACHPR proceeded to require the Kenyan state to compensate the community for ‘all losses incurred’. In this way the ACHPR has exorcised the ghosts of its previous wobbly conception of ‘peoples’ earlier described by Fastah Ouguerguez, the Algerian scholar and now judge at the African Court on Human and Peoples Rights, as exhibiting a 'chameleon-like character'.

    The ACHPR in Ogoni found the Nigerian state culpable for its failure to 'involve the Ogoni Communities in the decisions that affected the development of Ogoniland'. In this case however, the ACHPR did not define the scope of involvement which would satisfy the right to the development provision of the charter. The Endorois decision in contrast demonstrates the extent to which the ACHPR is willing to go to ensure that the right to development in the charter is applied in favour of marginalised groups in Africa. Consequently, the ACHPR precisely defines the threshold of consultation and prior informed consent as the minimum parameters that states must attain before executing development programming in indigenous communities’ territories.

    Rather than rely on the doctrine of implied rights, which was the basis for the ACHPR’s finding of a violation to the right to housing and food in the Ogoni decision, the ACHPR in Endorois liberates the rights under the charter from the shackles of restrictive textual interpretation. Rather, it moved to provide a dynamic and context-specific interpretation that accords more closely with the spirit of article 31(1) of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. Whereas in Ogoni the commission required that states must respect rights holders and the 'liberty of their action' within the context of the right to development, the ACHPR in Endorois proceeds to define and delimit the scope of the right to development for the very first time. Appropriating language from welfare economics thinking popularised by Amartya Sen, which characterised poverty as the lack of capabilities and the absence of choices, the ACHPR found that the right to development under the charter was both constitutive and instrumental, or useful as both a means and an end. 'A violation of either the procedural or substantive element' held the commission, 'constitutes a violation of the right to development.' The commission applied article 60 and 61 of the charter which permits it to be inspired by international law and borrowed from the UN Declaration on the Right to Development to hold that the right to development requires compliance with five main indicia: equitability; non-discriminatory; participatory; accountability and transparency. This was the clearest elaboration yet of the normative content of the right to development by any human rights treaty body.

    In more specific terms, the Endorois decision has crafted clear contours for the protection of land rights of indigenous communities. The African Commission specifically noted that mere access to land would not meet the demands of article 14 of the charter to the extent that it would leave indigenous peoples vulnerable to further annexation of their territories by the state or third parties. While acknowledging that the establishment of a game reserve was a legitimate aim and served a public need in terms of the proviso to article 14 of the charter, the commission found that the complete eviction and denial of the community from the land was disproportionate to this purpose. In other words, the commission was persuaded that the creation of the national park did not need to preclude the Endorois and could have been accomplished by alternative means proportionate to the public need for tourism infrastructure. Utilising language from articles 26 and 27 of the UN Declaration on the Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Indigenous Peoples (2008), the ACHPR concludes that the indicia set by international law for indigenous peoples' land entitlement includes evidence of their occupation or use of territory over a considerable length of time even absent of official title deeds. The ACHPR emphasised that indigenous peoples’ parity of engagement with the state and third parties as ‘active stakeholders rather than as passive beneficiaries’ will only be secured if they have full ownership rights with respect to their customary lands.


    The significance of the Endorois decision lies in three issues relevant to Africa’s political, economic and human rights context: identity; collective land rights and development. With respect to identity, the commission in Endorois has shown that it is more willing to lift the veil over the hierarchies and diversities within a state in order to ensure equal protection of the law to all. By acknowledging that the scope of article 14 of the African Charter extends beyond individual property based on state-sanctioned titles to encompass collective property grounded on cultural norms, the commission has revisited the post-colonial discourse on the need to re-assess colonial land relations that continue to contribute to present iniquities, often leading to violent conflicts. In particular, the decision indicates the danger of game parks and reservations – albeit ripe for tourism dollars – represent far serious abrogation of human rights for marginalised communities residing on these lands. By puncturing the juridical stranglehold of states over land, the Endorois decision requires states to engage in a robust conversation with indigenous groups in framing developmental options that encroach upon land traditionally occupied by communities. At a time when Gulf states and China are buying or leasing land in Africa to satisfy insatiable appetites for food and bio-fuels – in what the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has described as the ‘new scramble for Africa’ – the Endorois decision provides a bulwark for communities to check states’ unfettered discretion in entering into such transactions.


    The choice of the Endorois to anchor their struggle for property, natural resources and development rights on their claim to their indigenous status was quite strategic. However, their success is both a function of clear strategy and fortuitous developments in the national, regional and international human rights terrain.

    At the national level, the emergence of the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) in 2003 as a mobiliser of state structures toward ensuring state compliance with its basic human rights treaty obligations – regional and international – came at a good time for the Endorois. Indeed, it was the KNCHR that moved the Kenyan state to effectively participate in defending the Endorois communication, hence foreclosing any attempt on the part of the state to claim that the current decision was arrived at without its input. Further, it was the KNCHR which in 2005 ensured Kenya’s compliance with provisional measures by the ACHPR, requiring it not to interfere with the suit in the Endorois case through either the grant of new leases or otherwise.

    Within the African Commission itself, the structural resistance toward indigenous peoples’ rights was crumbling thanks to the exceptional efforts of the Working Group on Indigenous Peoples’ Issues in Africa, supported by the IWGIA (International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs). Initially established by a 2001 resolution of the ACHPR to study the issue of indigenous peoples and ‘formulate recommendations on appropriate measures to prevent and remedy violations of indigenous peoples' human rights’, this working group had by 2003, the year when the Endorois' communication was seized by the commission, produced a comprehensive report on the situation of indigenous communities in the continent. It is this report, among several other outputs of the working group, that the litigation efforts of the Endorois utilised to persuade the ACHPR that the fear of indigenous rights recognition in Africa were misplaced.

    Internationally, the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2008 provided great traction to the Endorois legal struggle at the ACHPR. Whereas Africa had been strongly opposed to the adoption of this declaration in 2007 on the basis that ‘everyone is indigenous in Africa’, by 2008 African states provided a ringing endorsement to the declaration. It is noteworthy that the ACHPR, itself a convertee to the reality of indigenous peoples’ human rights challenges, mounted a spirited campaign at the African Union (AU) in support of the declaration, including through its authoritative Advisory Opinion the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This article 45 opinion seems to have played a crucial part in swaying the few African countries toward support for the UN Declaration. It is unsurprising that the ACHPR, in finding for the Endorois, relies time and time again on the UN declaration as validating its findings.


    Asbjorn Eide, the long serving chair of the now defunct UN Working Group on Minorities, holds the view that internationalising human rights grievances has the potential to lead to the 'idealization, positivization and realization' of human rights by the state. This constructivist notion of human rights development applies quite well to the Endorois legal struggle. While it is inarguable that the judicialisation of the Endorois claim has already amplified indigenous peoples’ rights in Africa, the substantial benefits to the community of the decision remain dependent on Kenya’s full implementation of the legal recommendations of the commission. This should not be problematic considering that the opportunity structures that ensured the realization of a positive decision still exist and can be deployed to secure Kenya’s full compliance with its obligations in article 1 of charter to give effect to the rights and duties through 'legislative or other measures'.


    * Korir Sing’Oei Abraham is the co-counsel for the Endorois community and the co-founder of the Centre for Minority Rights Development (CEMIRIDE), Kenya and Zimbabwe.
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

    'Quiet corruption'?: The World Bank on Africa

    Yash Tandon


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    The 'Africa Development Indicators 2010' report, with its emphasis on the 'quiet corruption' of public sector workers supposedly not fulfilling their roles, is the latest attempt by the World Bank to wash its hands of its primary role in Africa's continuing impoverishment, writes Yash Tandon.

    The 'Africa Development Indicators 2010' report on 'quiet corruption' is one more example of the World Bank's distractive politics. Distractive because it seeks, wittingly or unwittingly, to sidetrack issues that are fundamental to understanding the continuing poverty and underdevelopment of Africa. Distractive also because it seeks, probably consciously and purposely, to exonerate the World Bank from its own role in perpetuating Africa's mal-development.

    What does the report say? The report essentially makes three points.

    Firstly, it invents or borrows a new concept – 'quiet corruption' (QC) – defined essentially as the failure on the part of public servants to deliver services or inputs that have been paid for by the government, corrupt practices downstream at the frontline of public service provision. The most prominent examples are absentee teachers in public schools and absentee doctors in primary clinics. Others include drugs being stolen from public clinics and sold in the private market, as well as subsidised fertilizer being diluted before it reaches farmers.

    Secondly, the report argues that 'quiet corruption' is not only pervasive and widespread in Africa, but it hurts the poor disproportionately, and it can have long-term consequences. As Obiageli K. Ezekwesili, the World Bank's Africa region vice-president, says in his foreword, 'Denied an education because of absentee teachers, children suffer in adulthood with low cognitive skills and weak health. The absence of drugs and doctors means unwanted deaths from malaria and other diseases. Receiving diluted fertilizer that fails to produce results, farmers choose not to use any fertilizer, leaving them in low-productivity agriculture.'

    Thirdly, QC doesn’t make headlines, the way, for example, that bribery scandals do. It has yet to be picked up by Transparency International and other global indexes of corruption. In order to make this point, the report embellishes a photo on its cover of an iceberg symbolising that QC is deep in the ocean. What is visible on the surface is a small part of this scourge, one that, the report argues, is the cause of so much misery in Africa.

    Let us, before we make a critique of the report, give it its due. There is no denying that 'quiet corruption' as defined by the report does exist. It is important to take cognisance of this reality, not only in Africa but in the whole world. To single out Africa is unfair. Even so, it didn’t need a whole 200-page report to make the above points. The report is repetitious, making the same point over and over. A bit of editing could have reduced it to a more user-friendly report of no more than 50 pages, and, above all, reduced the cost of production and distribution, disallowing a bit of 'quiet corruption' within the World Bank itself. This, however, is a minor failing compared to more profound failings of the report.

    Where does the report go wrong?

    First its exaggerated claim that 'quiet corruption' is in its own words so 'lethal' that it 'undermines Africa’s development', and that it significantly explains why Africa is unable to meet its Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The report says: 'The widespread prevalence of big-time and quiet corruption in Africa significantly undermines the impact of investments to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). In the parlance of this essay, the iceberg of corruption is sinking considerable efforts to improve the well-being of Africa’s citizens, particularly the poor who rely predominantly on publicly provided services. Specifically, corruption and poor governance help explain why increased funding allocations, such as those aimed at meeting the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), have not necessarily translated into improvements in human development indicators, particularly in Africa'.

    Let us examine this claim with a clear mind. What it says is that investments aimed at meeting the MDGs in Africa are undermined because petty bureaucrats, teachers, doctors, nurses, customs officers – indeed, the entire middle-level public service – are the bane of society. They are the ones responsible for Africa's failure to meet the MDGs. To provide this claim with empirical evidence, the report cites several examples.

    Uganda appears to be in the worst situation in the matter of teacher absenteeism, for example. The report cites some secondary sources to 'prove' its point. In western Kenya, Glewwe, Kremer and Moulin (2009) document that 12 per cent of teachers were found to be outside the classroom when they should have been teaching. An even higher fraction is estimated in Uganda, where nearly one-third of teachers found were not in the classroom during learning periods (Habyarimana 2007).

    Another example of 'quiet corruption' is in the transport sector. The report cites a study by Teravaninthorn and Raballand (2008), who constructed a dataset of transport costs and prices covering 11 routes and 7 countries. The study found that 'corruption tax' (to use the word employed in the report) in the form of levies that policemen and custom officials charge is significant in West Africa – about 20 to 27 per cent, although, surprisingly, this 'tax' is almost insignificant in eastern and southern Africa, at 1 per cent. And in Tanzania, it appears it is the doctors and nurses that bear the brunt of malaria-related deaths. The report cites two studies (de Savigny et al 2008; Das and Leonard 2009) to show that in rural Tanzania nearly four out of five children who died of malaria sought medical attention from modern health facilities. The report concludes, 'A range of manifestations of quiet corruption, including the absence of diagnostic equipment, drug pilfering, provider absenteeism, and very low levels of diagnostic effort, all contributed to this dire statistic.'

    There are at least three things wrong with this kind of analysis and 'reporting'.

    One is methodological. Various researchers employ various methodologies in their surveys, as well as various conceptual categories. Neither the concepts nor the research methodologies are comparable. Any casual reader would find it an astonishing discovery, if the above-mentioned statistics are anything to go by, that in East Africa for example, teachers appear to be the most corrupt in the whole of Africa, but policemen and customs officials, by comparison, appear to be the paragon of virtue!

    The second is the improper use the World Bank makes of this secondary literature it quotes in the report. The authors and researchers might have their own reasons for carrying out the research they did, and they might have their own explanations for things like teacher absenteeism. Moreover, they do not go on to say that these kinds of 'malpractices' by teachers, doctors, nurses, customs officials, policemen and lower- or middle-level bureaucrats provide an 'explanation' for the failure of Africa to reach the MDGs. This is the World Bank's conclusion, and not of the authors and researchers they amply quote. It is opportunistic, to say the least, for the World Bank to abuse the authority of scholars to massage its own preconceived conclusion, and to 'prove' a point that these scholars are not making.

    The third criticism of the report, and this is the most 'lethal' (to use a word the report uses in relation to 'quiet corruption') to the World Bank's argument, is that by drawing attention to petty corruption (which, admittedly, exists in Africa, as indeed in most parts to the so-called 'Third World'), the World Bank tries, in vein, to shield its own culpability in the creation and perpetuation of the condition of poverty and underdevelopment the countries of Africa (and other countries in the Third World). It is a known fact that in the 1980s and 1990s, the World Bank, together with the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and the so-called 'donor' community and the World Trade Organisation (WTO), devised a fairly elaborate system of what was called the structural adjustment programmes (SAPs) and later the poverty reduction strategy papers (PRSPs) which, in return for 'development aid', forced these countries to adopt premature liberalisation, privatisation of their economies and other such policies. Ample evidence has mounted since then to show, incontrovertibly, that the SAPs had devastating consequences, including deindustrialisation and mass unemployment in those countries that had adopted the SAPs and PRSPs. For additional on-the-ground evidence of the effects of SAPs on the economies of Bangladesh, Ecuador, El Salvador, Ghana, Hungary, Mexico, the Philippines, Uganda and Zimbabwe, see Structural Adjustment Participatory Review International Network (SAPRIN) (2004), 'Structural Adjustment: the Policy Roots of Economic Crisis, Poverty and Inequality' (Zed Books).

    It is out of desperation and the necessity of survival that had then forced teachers, nurses and lower- or middle-level bureaucrats, those that could not emigrate to the West (and thousands did), to resort to petty corruption at home. This does not excuse their actions. But that does go a long way to help understand the root causes of the so-called 'quiet corruption' which now the World Bank blames for the failure to attain the MDGs in Africa. African countries have indeed failed to attain the MDGs. The bulk of the blame should be laid at the door of the IMF, the World Bank, the WTO, the so-called 'development aid' from the 'donor community', and, let us not shield them, the top echelons of the governments in Africa. It is 'grand corruption', not 'quiet corruption' that has much to answer for Africa's under- and mal-development.

    One final point needs to be made. The World Bank Vice-President Obiageli K. Ezekwesili argues in the foreword that 'It will require a combination of strong and committed leadership, policies and institutions at the sectoral level, and—most important—increased accountability and participation by citizens, the demand side of good governance' to get rid of corruption. We cannot agree more. But the World Bank is hardly a model to emulate. The whole process of imposing the structural adjustment programmes on Africa was top-down. Once this was completed, members of civil society and NGOs (non-governmental organisations) were invited to make their input. This was called 'participatory planning'. Many of these NGOs were also funded by the donors. The NGOs were supposed to represent the people. They were a substitute for the people. Once the World Bank had involved the NGOs, it could say, 'The people were consulted; we have embarked on a people-driven process.' Once the fig leaf was in place, the implementation of the 'plan' could go on safe in the media-hyped illusion that the people had 'participated'. The fig leaf could scarcely cover the bank's nudity.

    The 'quiet corruption' of lower- and middle-level bureaucrats, teachers, nurses, policemen and customs officials in Africa, although indefensible, is, in its proper context, a 'quiet resistance' against the daily practice of 'grand corruption' of the ruling oligarchs and plutocrats in Africa in connivance with the donor community and the 'grand coalition' of the World Bank, the IMF and the WTO.


    * Yash Tandon is the author of 'Development and Globalisation: Daring to Think Differently' (Pambazuka Press).
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

    Elections in Sudan: In whose interest?

    Sudan Democracy First Group


    cc S O K
    With concerns surrounding Sudan's ability to deliver free-and-fair elections and Omar al-Bashir's ruling National Congress Party (NCP) the only party pushing for an April vote, Sudan Democracy First Group argues that the US should respect the will of ordinary Sudanese instead of propping up the status quo.

    'Even America is becoming an NCP [National Congress Party] member. No one is against our will.'
    President Omar al-Bashir, in Sinar, Blue Nile State City rally, 3 April 2010

    On 5 April 2010 the African Union, under the leadership of former Ghanaian president John Kufuor, dispatched the final members of its 50-person strong team to monitor the elections in Sudan, scheduled to begin on 11 April 2010. The big question, however, is whether there will be any elections to monitor.

    Over the two days prior to this the major Sudanese political opposition parties had said that they were withdrawing from the presidential elections and boycotting the parliamentary ballot – to varying extents. Declaring that the 'election lacks the minimum fundamental requirements of a free and fair election' the main opposition parties on Thursday, speaking as the Sudanese National Consensus Forces (SNCF), laid out a set of demands for their continued participation in the process, central to them the postponement of elections until November 2010. Among the key conditions they have identified are: finding a just and comprehensive solution to the Darfur crisis and the full participation of its peoples in the election; the fulfilment of the major pillars of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA); a review of the Electoral Act and the formation of a new national election commission; and the conducting of the self-determination referendum for southern Sudan in January 2011.

    As sections of the international community engage in strenuous lobbying to reverse this position and ensure that the elections go ahead as planned, the question must be asked: in whose interests is it to hold these elections now?

    The suggestion that those who support the CPA must support these elections to maintain the CPA timeline at all costs bears little scrutiny: arguments relating to the sanctity of the CPA schedule and its integrity ring hollow when set against the litany of CPA violations cited in the SNCF’s comprehensive statement. As the international NGO International Crisis Group said starkly last week in a report published on the election process, 'the Khartoum government is rigging the 11–13 April elections in Darfur to return an indicted president and his party to power with catastrophic consequences for Sudan'. The ruling National Congress Party (NCP) 'has manipulated the census results and voter registration, drafted the election laws in its favour, gerrymandered electoral districts, co-opted traditional leaders and bought tribal loyalties'. The opposition parties on the ground have confirmed this assessment. They have come to the same conclusion: elections now would be a travesty.


    - Is an April vote in these circumstances in their interest? Does it promote their rights under the CPA and the democratic transition process? Certainly a critical issue for the people of southern Sudan is whether a postponement of the election might delay the long-awaited self-determination vote. The government of South Sudan is particularly concerned about the creation of any new obstacles, real or perceived, to allowing their people to exercise their rights in the referendum on unity or independence. The circumstances surrounding the details of achieving independence are already deeply complex, with issues such as border demarcation, security and structures still not clarified.

    - This week the opposition forces said clearly that they believed that in the event of a postponement of elections to November the referendum should and could go ahead as scheduled in January 2011. It is vital that this guarantee is fulfilled. The attempts to put pressure on the opposition political parties led by the NCP and the international community are not legitimate from our point of view as they reflect the efforts to isolate and fragment the Sudanese people in such critical times. (On Thursday 1 April in front of the Umma party base the Sudanese people demonstrated, urging Sudan’s political parties to completely withdraw from the 2010 elections under current oppressive circumstances.)

    - The people in Darfur have been particularly subject to a denial of their rights to exercise a free-and-fair vote. As rights groups have said, the election violations by the NCP have been committed 'most dramatically in Darfur, where it has greater freedom and means to carry out its strategy because of the ongoing conflict'.

    - The only party pushing for the vote in April is the NCP, desperate to affirm the legitimacy of its presidential candidate who is subject to an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court (ICC). Its chief international ally appears to be the United States, which, despite the occasional bombastic rhetoric for internal consumption by President Bashir, has been a staunch ally of Khartoum in recent months. As Bashir said on Wednesday 31 March about Special Envoy Scott Gration’s emergency mission to Sudan to try to put the elections back on track: 'Even America is becoming an NCP member. No one is against our will.'

    - The policy of the US and its allies towards Sudan is rapidly losing its neutrality and credibility in the eyes of the people. Despite the warnings from all domestic parties and independent international experts from the Carter Center to the United Nations over the last weeks about the torture, the rigging and the fundamental unfairness of the election process, Special Envoy Gration only arrived for a whirlwind of crisis meetings earlier this week when it seemed like the farce would not go ahead as planned after all. What does this say to the people of Sudan? The fact that the envoy has now thrust himself deeply into manipulation of the internal political dynamic, unabashedly attempting to influence the outcome of the debate in a way which supports the position of the ruling party, is quite extraordinary. The fact that he is in substance walking hand-in-hand with a discredited and repressive regime must be highlighted.

    - President Barack Obama in his policy and positions towards Africa regularly reflects on the need for respect for the autonomy of African people in making decisions and taking responsibility. His current policy in Sudan is diametrically opposite to that position. His envoy to Sudan is playing the old game, obviously comfortably; his statements, positions and engagement with a regime that has been condemned locally and internationally reflect poor consideration for Sudan's autonomy and the rights of the citizens of the country. US support for maintaining the status quo is creating fear and divisions and is another major factor in hindering Sudan from overcoming its crisis. To move out of this dark period towards democratic transformation the sovereign will of the people of Sudan must be recognised and respected. This involves free-and-fair elections at home and an international community supportive of the exercise of democratic principles.

    The Sudanese people have said no to these elections at this time. Why is the US saying yes?


    * Sudan Democracy First Group is a coalition of democrats for Sudan activists, trade unionists and academics representing Sudan from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds. The main agenda of the initiative is to voice the concerns of the voiceless Sudanese people across the country in the current critical moment the country is going through. The initiative is connected to other initiatives formed by Sudanese people in different centres across Sudan. For information contact [email protected].
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

    Al-Bashir votes and Al Shabab enters Kenya



    Omar al-Bashir's vote at the Sudanese elections and the response of Kenya's immigration services to Al Shabab feature in Gado's cartoons this week.

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

    Refugee free press in grim situation

    Reporters experience attacks on press freedom and human rights



    cc K N
    Since the beginning of the year, the situation for the Kakuma News Reflector has become increasingly precarious, KANERE writes – a dangerous sign for refugees wishing to exercise their right to a free press and express their voices through the independent newsletter, which operates out of Kakuma Refugee Camp in northwestern Kenya. Here KANERE shares details of how the safety, protection and security of its journalists in the camp have been jeopardised.

    During the month of March 2010, Kakuma News Reflector (KANERE) reporters faced several threats and insecurity problems hindering their basic safety and halting the operations of the newsletter.

    KANERE attended a few meetings with the UNHCR and Lutheran World Federation (LWF). The meetings did not yield any discernable solution to the ongoing problems imposed on KANERE by both the security agencies and international ‘humanitarian’ bodies that govern the refugee camp. These bodies are believed by journalists to be targeting the refugee free press.

    For example, the KANERE editor was assaulted by three men well-known to him, and his house was destroyed in November, 2009. During these assaults, the editor lost valuable personal properties and documents. Despite filing several reports with Kenyan Police and bringing the case to the attention of UNHCR officials, the editor’s case has never been taken to court. A more detailed account of this incident can be found at

    On 19 March 2010, in a closed meeting with UNHCR and LWF, chief security officers, the UNHCR head of sub-office and the KANERE editor, UNHCR denied having had any problems with KANERE or its journalists.

    The UNHCR head of sub-office was briefed on the entire situation that forced the call for the meeting and then asked the LWF chief security officer to clarify why his office was looking for the KANERE leaders. In this meeting, both UNHCR and LWF raised concerns over the presence of individual visitors coming into the camp from abroad, who might be having links with KANERE.

    They made the argument that there was a visitor of Ethiopian origin in the camp during the month of the February 2010. Official claimed that this visitor was distributing money to refugees. KANERE never knew of this visitor. It was not clear why KANERE leaders were to be summoned by LWF security officers on these grounds.

    The Ethiopian community chairman spoke to KANERE journalists about the Ethiopian visitor who was reported in the camp by UNHCR and LWF. The chairman stated that he was bitter about how the visitor was thrown out of the camp. He said the visitor was kind and a helper. ‘He was ordering and providing free food for the refugees at Franco Hotel and giving money for the Christmas holidays. But we don't know his mission.’

    The LWF security officer also pointed out that he had no problems with KANERE leaders, despite the fact that he had ordered his security staff to look for the KANERE leaders; he claimed that his security staff had taken a wrong step in causing problems for the editor and his journalists. ‘We don't have any problem with KANERE. My mandate was is to investigate and clarify,’ said the LWF security officer.

    Although these officers’ statements appear supportive, journalists are very concerned by the procedures used to force them to attend the meeting. During the attempt to summon KANERE leaders, an LWF official told the Ethiopian chairman that there was a visitor to meet KANERE and there were concerns raised by the government and UNHCR against KANERE.

    Towards the end of the meeting, the KANERE editor called for assistance in securing his own safety and for better protection of journalists: ‘I request for protection and security for my life. I am afraid of this entire situation in the camp,’ he said. The editor gave names of six of the perpetrators in his assault case and asked officials to prevent these refugees from creating additional problems for KANERE. He also requested that UNHCR take steps to ensure legal protection of journalists through the court of law, as the editor’s insecurity cases have been duly filed with authorities, but were never taken up and justice delayed.

    On 29 March 2010, at about 11:00am, the editor received a call from a former KANERE reporter. The former reporter was threatened by a Kenyan government official at the Department of Refugee Affairs (DRA) in Kakuma. According to the reporter, his particulars were taken and he was warned of participating in KANERE’s reporting activities. Apparently, the DRA official warned the former reporter that unless he stopped ‘this business’ that he and a few others were doing, then he should be prepared for anything as bad as deportation.

    ‘He was pointing fingers at me and ordering and demanding my personal details, including my registration number. He told me you can be deported for what you were doing in the camp,’ said the former KANERE reporter in an interview 30 minutes after the threatening meeting.

    Forty minutes later, three KANERE journalists in the Ethiopian community restaurant with the editor received a threatening call from the Kenyan police inspector, ordering the editor to appear at the Kakuma Police Station on grounds of which the editor was not informed. ‘You must come to the station and appear in person today and not later than tomorrow by 9:00am,’ said a police inspector over the phone.

    Due to the shocks of dangerous threats and arrests, KANERE immediately called and spoke to the UNHCR protection officer for help, but the officer could not help. The office of the DRA was also informed and there was no reaction. As the police were looking for the editor, other reporters stopped their activities for a while. This issue is still pending as UNHCR is planning to hold a meeting with KANERE soon.

    KANERE journalists remain frustrated with the entire situation. Journalists want to be free and independent in their reporting. Local humanitarian agencies continually say one thing and do another, conveying reassuring verbal messages that contradict the threatening reality on the ground. These events have massively hindered the operation of KANERE, jeopardising the journalists’ personal safety, and slowing the achievement of KANERE’s vision for independent and active reporting.

    We appeal to UNHCR and local agencies to support a refugee free press, to respect human rights, and enable refugee journalists to create a more open society in the camp. Despite formidable obstacles in the current moment, the KANERE team remains committed to developing a platform for fair and public debate on refugee affairs through their reporting activities.


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

    The death of Eugene Terreblanche

    Choosing mythology and folklore over facts and action

    Mphutlane wa Bofelo


    cc Fugue
    The recent murder of Eugene Terreblanche, founder of the white supremacist Afrikaner Resistance Movement, should have focused the attention of the world on the exploitative, oppressive and de-humanising conditions of the landless peasants and farm workers in South Africa, writes Mphutlane wa Bofelo. But it’s easier for the country’s elites to blame racism alone for the incident than to acknowledge the historic links between race and class dynamics and to tackle the disparities that these have created, he concludes.

    The debate and analysis in the media following the death of Eugene Terreblanche once again reflects the penchant for de-linking race from class dynamics. Some of the analysis also betrays the proclivity to equate the legitimate anger and violent rebellion of the black working class – who are victims squeezed at the intersection between race and class – with the oppressive and de-humanising racism of the white farmer abetted by unbridled capitalism.

    The mother of the 15-year-old boy, who is one of the accused, told the press that her son told her that when he and his co-worker asked Terreblanche for their money, he told them first to bring in the cows. After they had brought in the cows, the right-winger still refused to pay them. According to the boy’s narration, this refusal by Terreblanche to pay the workers even after making them run around and fetch his cows is what provoked the 28-year old farm labourer to hit the white racist four times with an iron rod. The boy also confessed to also taking the rod and giving Terreblanche three blows with it.

    This case should focus the attention of the world on the exploitative, oppressive and de-humanising conditions of the landless peasants and farm workers in a South Africa in which a few whites, foreign firms and the white church still own chunks of the land, while the black majority are squeezed into slums and ghettoes or live in perpetual fear and in squalid conditions on white-owned land.

    It should have brought to the attention of the world – especially proponents of flexible labour regulations and free marketeers – that without tight labour regulation and the effective enforcement of labour regulations, the lives of the majority of black farm workers and domestic workers in particular, and workers in general, will continue to be an eternal hell and unending gloom.

    It should have highlighted the fact that without radical transformation of landownership patterns, equitable allocation of land and wealth and a labour friendly labour policy regime, the relationships between white people and black people on the farms will continue to be master/serf, owner/slave, baas/boy relationships and white superiority/black inferiority will prevail.

    This story therefore should have elicited calls for government to:
    - Rein in white Farmers – and all employers – to ensure fair and just labour practices
    - Review its land redistribution policies to a design policy programme that ensures a radical and drastic transformation of landownership patterns in this country
    - Review its flexible labour policies.

    Predictably, this has not been the case. The media, experts, analysts and political parties and political gurus have focused our attention on the possible link between ET’s murder and Julius Malema’s ranting of ‘Dubula iBhunu’ (‘Kill the Boer’).

    This is the safest thing for our black and white liberals to do. Not pronouncing that wage-dispute or rather a rebel against non-remuneration of workers’ labour is central to this murder saga will ease the conscience of many black and white liberals – including some radicals and ‘socialists/ communists’ – who pay their workers peanuts and treat their domestic workers and gardeners as slaves.

    Terreblanche’s ill-treatment, abuse, and exploitation of workers were informed by his racist regard of black people as sub-humans and appendages of white society. But he and his ilk would have little space for manoeuvre if we were to have a government that meant business as far as pursuing an egalitarian political economy and social policy trajectory was concerned.

    ET and his kind tasted the smell of victory when the court declared that it is illegal for black journalists to have a platform only for black journalists to deal with issues peculiar to them, away from interference and intrusion by white voices, while finding nothing wrong with white-only platforms like AWB, and white labour union solidarity.

    It is the surface modification of apartheid-capitalism that has allowed and continues to allow space and a breeding ground for white supremacists and the super-exploitation, denigration and de-humanisation of black farm-workers and domestic workers.

    Merely harping on incidents of racism without linking them to the historic marriage between race and class and the failure of the current dispensation to confront class and racial disparities, will be a matter of dancing under a burning roof.

    But – of course – we are a nation of mythology rather than facts. We choose to hide in the security of songs and dance, rhetoric and folklore, rather than deal with bitter realities. Instead of doing away with the socio-economic, structural and institutional arrangements and impediments to the creation of an egalitarian and anti-racist society, we prefer to sing old struggle songs or blame everything on the singing thereof.

    The stubborn fact of the matter is that the murder of Eugene Terreblanche – the Neo-Fascist leader of the ultra-Afrikaner nationalist Nazi-style paramilitary far right outfit, Afrikaner Weerstande Beweging (AWB), had more to do with black labourers’ outrage against super-exploitation, denigration and de-humanisation by a supremacist white racist than with the out-of-tune singing of a political elite black nouveau riche fat-cat called Malema. After all it is the politico-economic dispensation of which Malema is a proponent and beneficiary that has retained the structural inequalities and institutional arrangements that maintained unequal power and social relations between black people and white people, thereby perpetuating the structural racism and elitist disregard for the dignity and rights of the labourers upon which the attitudes and practices of white and non-white owners of capital, landlords and madams thrive.


    * Mphutlane wa Bofelo is a South African cultural worker and social critic.
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

    Race, liberation and authentic citizenship

    Liepollo Lebohang Pheko


    cc Fugue
    A discussion with the Afrikaner Resistance Movement’s Andrie Visagie on live national television has ‘brought into sharp focus a whole host of tensions, contradictions and implications of what it means to be a South African in 2010’, writes Liepollo Lebohang Pheko. Visagie’s outburst is a reminder, argues Pheko, that this ‘liberation of ours is hotly contested, differentially experienced and highly compromised; the majority are yet to fully move into an encompassing expression of this citizenship and liberation at all levels and spheres of life.’

    Last week on South Africa’s ETV an unexpected national moment occurred, a phrase was coined and a YouTube global discourse erupted. A discussion between myself and Andrie Visagie of the AWB (Afrikaner Resistance Movement) brought into sharp focus a whole host of tensions, contradictions and implications of what it means to be a South African in 2010 from two very divergent perspectives. The last few days have been an opportunity of reflection and stillness through the tumult.

    I am deeply moved by countless messages of support, strength and courage from across the country and beyond. I stand in gratitude to the many people who are lifting up prayers and sending love. As I traversed the digital highway a number of nuances lit my consciousness. The thirty-minute programme comes at a moment when race relations seem to have been exposed in all their fragility. As one of the gracious messages conveyed, ‘I am forever changed by what I witnessed’.

    It is very difficult to express the moment when Andrie Visagie charged towards me in the studio and then pointed at me saying ‘I am not through with you’. It happened fast and quickly entered the popular lexicon of talked about events. This has not afforded me much space to revisit the moment. However watching it again has been alarming, offensive and contemptuous in the extreme. Having seen Mr Visagie’s response to the question about whether he cares about farm workers in this country, one wonders at the sort of intimidation they are subjected to in remote parts of this country by people like him. The interviewer rightly stepped between us and responses to this intervention form part of my concern. Having read a sampling of the copious commentaries and blogs that sprung up like mushrooms – most of which express concern and indignation at what I experienced – there are some disturbing tendencies being circulated.

    I am amused by some of the comments that note that my well-manicured nails show no evidence of suffering. Other bloggers remarked that if I were their wife, they too would have been angry since I talked until Visagie was backed into a corner of impotent rage. Another said that the manicured nails of this independent, opinionated woman in Visagie’s face were nearly enough to provoke a beating. It seems that in some people’s minds the brutal verbal onslaught upon an African woman by a thickset white man was not only acceptable but somehow deserved. These men effectively stood back and allowed their sister to be assaulted by white supremacy while they watched in amusement and even sympathy with the very supremacy which has also brutalised them.

    This suggests a psychosis of self-hate, coupled with centuries of a mental onslaught which now accepts very bizarre, perverse and brutal behaviour as normative. As Fanon articulates, ‘the development of violence among colonised people will be disproportionate to the violence exercised by the threatened colonial regime … violence is in action all-inclusive and national’. None of us have been spared the repeated citations that natives are untrustworthy, lazy and blood-thirsty. Accusations that black people want handouts, free houses and jobs they do not deserve at the expense of white people are the latest incarnation in what is effectively part of the same narrative. The narrative suggests that Africans do not deserve anything beyond the discretion of white largesse and that those who dare for more self determined lives are ‘cheeky kaffirs’ who pose a threat to the long-standing status quo.

    The blogs by some of the white Visagie sympathisers do not bear repetition but remind us that our national identity is fractured and contested. They help us recall that the phenomenon called liberation is far removed from the miraculous melding of rainbow diversity. Several of these bloggers have been given the entry point to enunciate the sort of rage that Visagie usefully brought into the national domain. We are presented with an interesting collision of race, gender and class prejudices. Of the many calls I have received in recent days, none have been from the Human Rights Commission, the Commission of Gender Equality or the Equality Court. I am not aware of anything that these institutions have said in the media that they may not have had the opportunity to communicate to me.

    Perhaps they are also grappling with how to reach out to an African woman who inadvertently found herself in the midst of combustible race and gender hostility on live television. It is admittedly complex to examine the gender, race and class intersections then frame an appropriate or adequate response. Even my multiracial church has not managed to frame a concerted response to what many saw on TV screens. It is profoundly uncomfortable. Where the blood of Jesus should be the lowest common denominator, Kingdom citizenship seems to be obscured by very earthly but pervasive discomforts about race, racism and the ugliest facets of discrimination.

    One wonders what the response would have been if an African leader perhaps a Vavi, a Mantashe or Julius had castigated and threatened a white woman panellist in the same manner. I have no doubt that the furore would have gone beyond YouTube amusement and entered the realms of the criminal justice system. One can already imagine the likes of Afri-forum demanding an apology, submitting a complaint to the BCCSA and beating a determined track towards the Equality Court before the weekend was up.

    At the time of writing the programme has been removed from broadcast because of complaints from viewers who assert that it has created race tension. I am of the opinion that it has merely reminded us of long standing division thus presents an excellent opportunity to have overdue conversations about things we rarely speak of outside confined spaces.

    If this incident had occurred to the sister, mother, daughter, wife or neighbour of any right minded man of any race in this country I would like to believe that the blogs which are absorbed by my glossy finger nails would contain far more thoughtful reflection and appropriate outrage. Questions about what was allegedly said to provoke Visagie’s outburst have much in common with the rape survivor being asked what she was wearing at the time of the crime. It is the same rationale that which men use to terrorise their partners within the confines of the home because of spurious infractions. It is also the same rationale that asks women whose toddlers have been raped why they left their diaper-clad children in the care of others.

    As a young woman in the 1990s I was concerned that the popular call to arms ‘wa thinta bafazi wa thinta mbokodo’ would eventually narrow the space for women to express pain. It denies us the right to articulate deep hurt, whether physical, emotional or spiritual, and does not permit African women the inherent right to experience the necessity of vulnerability. It presumes that we are rocks to be raped, assaulted, abused, humiliated by employers, traumatised in the home, objectified in popular culture and held ransom to the grossest abuses in the name of culture – all to be borne with stoic dignity. The alibis under banners like ‘so strong, black woman, survivor, resourceful’ absolve us all from taking corrective action. It is a perverse logic, which must be questioned and challenged.

    We have become so accustomed to centuries of being dehumanised, humiliated and subjected to the most violent assault on our personhood as Africans and women that incidents such as this elicit little more than passing outrage. The assault on our personhood extends to the man who was fed to lions, the person who was shot because a farmer thought they were a baboon, the workers dragged by bakkies, the women who were fed urine-laced food at the University of the Free State and whose humiliation was compounded by the inexplicable invitation that these young men return to complete their studies. Some of these would almost seem like urban legends if they were not such atrocious and absolutely indescribable acts of racially charged aggression and hatred.

    Reconciliation sixteen years on has not at all resolved the structural deficits nor begun to address economic sovereignty. I beg to differ with the hypothesis that white minority rule is gone and that it is gone forever. It is pervasive in economic power, corporate capital and visible in the GINI coefficient. South Africa’s is the highest in the world along with Brazil, higher than India and China. Allocation of resources and opportunity is still skewed along racial lines. The fault lines are evidenced by the still appalling living conditions of most Africans in this country, and the implicit acceptance of this situation. It is the same deficit of values and appreciation of our personhood that allows this to continue almost unchallenged by the new government. They are in effect gate, keeping and perpetuating the years of social apartheid. Having decreed that we stop talking and forgive without any restorative processes, we are ransomed by silent dismay. By our silence we are mocked and in our darkness we are further tormented.

    ‘We want to be free. We are not interested in being a part of this failure of South Africa,’ says Andrie Visagie. And yet statistics show the contrary to be true. They show in fact the African majority has yet to receive the benefits of citizenship sixteen years into the new dispensation, and that in fact Mr Visagie and the majority of white citizens have not experienced any recession of their privileges. They are still the winners.

    Several people have asked me if Mr Visagie apologised to me once emotions had subsided, even as a public relations exercise. It occurred to me then that the extent sense of censure was a mooted statement issued by the AWB, which received little media attention. It iterated the constitution‘s principles of freedom of expression, adding that the secretary general’s behaviour on ETV contradicted this. No mention was made about the verbal onslaught and the pending publicly-made threat that Mr Visagie made to me. Nor was he asked to explain his remarks. I am owed at least an apology and that apology is also owed to the millions of people in this country who have been subjected to the brutality, dehumanisation, legislated discrimination and systematic removal of land, resources and collective attack on our self-esteem. It has been an attempt to totally annihilate Africans’ sense of being and entitlement to self-determined lives in their own country.

    Beyond that sense of shame, a sincere recognition of Africans’ humanity would act as a useful platform to acknowledge centuries of white privilege, begin the corrective actions that the government has, in sixteen years, done with little or uneven effect.

    No one begrudges the nation some much-needed comic relief during these recessed times. It should however not negate a moment to examine the implications of this action and our attendant inaction. This liberation of ours is hotly contested, differentially experienced and highly compromised; the majority are yet to fully move into an encompassing expression of this citizenship and liberation at all levels and spheres of life.

    People like Andre Visagie are merely emblems of deeply rooted resentment, unresolved battles and fraught and fractured national identities. And the matter of white entitlement has never been more clearly elucidated. Centuries of unmerited gain and head starts do not seem to form part of their reflection.

    Perhaps this is the beginning a process of reconfiguring an authentic sense of our nation. Claudia Von Werlhof expresses it thus: ‘One cannot be with the people who are below, without telling the dominant people very clearly, that they have to come down … The mighty have to get down from their throne, and the powerless have to raise themselves’. Who then will help the powerless to raise themselves and who will climb down from the throne of social and economic privilege?


    * Liepollo Lebohang Pheko is policy and advocacy director of The Trade Collective and director responsible for social accounting, institutional transformation, social and development policy, Four Rivers.
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

    Making safe abortion illegal and unsafe abortion legal

    Denying Kenyan women basic rights

    Mary Wandia


    cc P K
    As a range of interest groups clamour for amendments to Kenya’s draft constitution on the basis of claims that it ‘legalises abortion’, Mary Wandia asks them to consider the ‘sobering facts on abortion, women’s rights and the status of women’. Voluntary abortion ‘happens irrespective of whether laws making it legal or illegal exist’, writes Wandia, and Kenya’s current legislation simply ‘makes safe abortion “illegal” and unsafe abortion “legal”, sentencing poor women and girls to unnecessary and preventable suffering and death.’

    Since the draft constitution for Kenya was passed by parliament, paving the way for its publication and referendum, those seeking to stop the march towards a new dawn for Kenya have embarked on a mission of misinformation and misinterpretation of the draft constitution for selfish personal and fundamentalist interests. They have latched onto Article 26, claiming that it legalises abortion.

    Abortion is defined as the partial or complete expulsion of products of conception before viability, normally taken as 23 weeks from the last normal menstrual period. There are two types of abortion: Spontaneous abortion referred to by lay people as miscarriage, and elective or voluntary abortion.

    In case they have not read the draft constitution carefully, Article 26 on the right to life states that:
    (1) Every person has the right to life.
    (2) The life of a person begins at conception.
    (3) A person shall not be deprived of life intentionally, except to the extent authorised by this constitution or other written law.
    (4) Abortion is not permitted unless, in the opinion of a trained health professional, there is need for emergency treatment, or the life or health of the mother is in danger, or if permitted by any other written law.

    The clause seeks to protect the life of all Kenyans regardless of their gender, religion or moral persuasion. It balances the interest of the church on one hand and women’s rights to life and respect for medical ethics and professionalism on the other. The crafters of Article 26 listened to all interest groups and came up with a provision that appreciates that there are instances when abortion does occur naturally or spontaneously, which is referred to as miscarriage in layman’s language.

    In fact, 30 per cent of all clinically diagnosed pregnancies end in spontaneous abortion. It also seeks to acknowledge that medical conditions such as ectopic pregnancy, high blood pressure and others do not allow a woman to carry a pregnancy to term without resulting in maternal and foetal death and therefore doctors make a choice to preserve the life of the mother.

    It is therefore immoral to try and misinform Kenyans on this issue from the pulpits or public forums. A few men who have never and will never conceive should not purport to speak for and on behalf of the women of Kenya on an issue that they are inexperienced to discuss.

    They must realise that women are citizens of Kenya and entitled to all human rights. Women constitute more than half of the Kenyan population and also over 80 per cent of the church. Are the leaders telling us the lives of the majority of Kenyans who voted them into power and who finance and sustain the church are inconsequential?

    In their submissions to the Committee of Experts, women’s groups, lawyers and medical practitioners made it clear that a constitution has no business delving into issues of abortion and should provide the general principle and leave abortion to be legislated through an act of parliament. They disagreed with the church’s assertion that is now in Article 26 (2) that ‘the life of a person begins at conception’. They questioned what conception is or when it occurs and expressed fear that this vague reference point may be used to criminalise certain effective and safe contraceptive methods. The church’s proposal prevailed.

    Politicians and church leaders must emulate the humility of other interest groups; exercise tolerance, honesty and truthfully educate Kenyans on the provisions of the draft constitution so that we can realise a new constitution for this country. As they clamour for the amendment of the Article 26 before or after the referendum, they must consider sobering facts on abortion, women’s rights and the status of women in this country.

    They need to appreciate that abortion is a universal practice: It occurs in all parts of the world – east and west, developed and developing, rich and poor –and among women of all types, single and married, sexually promiscuous and ‘celibate’, believers and non-believers, adolescent and older. Abortion is not a service procured by women only; men also force their wives, daughters and girlfriends to procure it.

    They should note that no one in his or her right mind would say that it is fortunate to need a kidney or heart transplant. The same applies to abortion. Should need arise, it is very fortunate to be able to have a safe and legal one. That is why abortion is a medical procedure that doctors are taught and examined on to make sure they are proficient in performing it before leaving medical school, just like a tooth extraction, amputation of the leg or any other medical procedure.

    They should recognise the fact that voluntary abortion happens irrespective of whether laws making it legal or illegal exist. The only difference is that where laws restricting voluntary abortion exist, like in Kenya, many women – especially those who are poor and cannot pay for safe procedures – end unwanted pregnancies themselves, or at the hands of unskilled personnel using unsafe methods, risking their health and lives. Legal status only affects the safety of abortion. In other words it makes safe abortion ‘illegal’ and unsafe abortion ‘legal’, sentencing poor women and girls to unnecessary and preventable suffering and death. It does not save ‘babies’, it just kills and maims women and girls.

    Even though the current Kenya laws restrict voluntary abortion, 300,000 abortions are performed annually. For the 21,000 women who manage to get to health facilities with abortion complications each year, most post abortion care is provided in government health facilities, exacting a heavy toll on our under-resourced public health system.

    Voluntary abortion reflects the unmet contraception and security needs of women and girls in the Kenyan society. Poor and young women in our country do not have easy access either to birth control, proper sex education or protection from sexual violence such as rape. Who is to judge that voluntary abortion for these Kenyan citizens is improper? Have we seen the church and political leaders marshal their troops in support of the Kenyan women’s call for an end to violence against women particularly rape and incest?

    Haven’t they been at the forefront of campaigns against opposing the use of contraceptives and introduction of sex education in schools? Have certain sections of the church been accused of sexually violating women and girls? For those who end up being pregnant, are they entitled to voluntary abortion? Is it moral to punish women for the failings of society or even the failings of their own judgment as human beings?

    Have some sections of the church refused to baptise or admit in their schools children born out of ‘wedlock’ because they have ‘no fathers’, their ‘parents are single’ or simply because they are ‘children of sin’? Have they excommunicated women who get pregnant before marriage, regardless of the circumstances under which they conceived?

    It is imperative to appreciate that a woman with an unwanted pregnancy has three choices: To continue with the pregnancy with its risks and responsibilities; continue with the pregnancy and arrange for adoption; or procure abortion with its risks and consequences. The key word here is CHOICE.

    There are known ways to reduce the health and human burden of unsafe abortion: To integrate sex education in the upper primary school curriculum; to increase the prevalence of contraceptive use to reduce overall levels of unintended pregnancy; to broaden the legal criteria under which abortion is permitted and establish services for the provision of safe, legal abortions within the law; and to provide women who experience complications from unsafe abortion with the medical treatment they need.

    They could learn from Ethiopia, South Africa, Benin, Chad, Niger, Togo, Guinea and Mali, which have amended their laws to provide for safe abortion, resulting in considerable reduction in unsafe abortion and maternal mortality rates. Abortion is morally right because a woman should not be forced to use her body to bear a child against her will.

    The universal moral justification would be that no one should be forced to use his or her body for the benefit of someone else. The real moral outrage should be that a section of our society with selfish personal and fundamentalist religious and political interests is preventing a majority of Kenyans from enjoying a very critical service-abortion. Lets us vote YES and later amend Article 26, not to make abortion illegal, but to make it explicitly legal and available on demand. That is the only way to ensure that all Kenyan women and girls enjoy their fundamental rights to life and health.


    * Mary Wandia works on gender justice and governance. This article reflects her personal opinion.
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

    Ethiopia: The truth, the whole truth and…

    Alemayehu G. Mariam


    cc Obbino
    Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has damned a recent report by the US Department of State into the country’s human rights practices in 2009 as ‘Lies, lies and implausible lies’. Alemayehu G. Mariam imagines how Zenawi might respond to a sample of the findings included in the document.

    ‘Lies, lies and implausible lies,’ blasted Meles Zenawi, the enfant terrible of Ethiopia, in describing the 11 March 2010 US State Department’s ‘Report on Human Rights Practices’ in Ethiopia. Apparently, the US State Department is not worth a damn when it comes to lying: ‘The least one could expect from this report, even if there are lies is that they would be plausible ones,’ snarled Zenawi. ‘But that is not the case. It is very easy to ridicule it [report], because it is so full of loopholes (sic). They could very easily have closed the loopholes and still continued to lie.’ His consigliere, Bereket Simon chimed in, ‘It is the same old junk. It’s a report that intends to punish the image (sic) of Ethiopia and try if possible to derail the peaceful and democratic election process.’

    So here is a representative sample of the implausible, ridiculous and junk lies of the US State Department and the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth of Zenawi’s dictatorship:


    There were numerous credible reports of unlawful detention of opposition candidates and their supporters. Opposition UDJ party president Birtukan Mideksa, whose pardon was revoked and life sentence reinstated in December 2008, remained in prison throughout the year. She was held in solitary confinement until June, despite a court ruling that indicated it was a violation of her constitutional rights. She was also denied access to visitors except for a few close family members, despite a court order granting visitor access without restrictions. There were credible reports that Birtukan's mental health deteriorated significantly during the year.


    A humongous LIE! Birtukan is actually at the ‘Akaki Hilton Spa and Resort’ doing R&R (rest and relaxation). Her health situation is in perfect condition. She may have gained a few kilos, but other than that, and that may be for lack of exercise, she is in perfect health. All the lies about Birtukan’s bad health situation are made up by the ‘usual suspects’ who shall remain nameless. She is not denied access to visitors, but she is shy and prefers to visit only with her mother and daughter. In short, she is having the time of her life. Or as the French say, ‘C’est la Vie!’


    The constitution and law provide citizens the right to change their government peacefully. In local and by-elections held in 2008, virtually all of the more than three million seats open at the federal and local levels were taken unopposed by the ruling EPRDF and allied parties. Of the 3.6 million local and by-election seats open to be contested, opposition parties won three.


    The State Department should know better than telling this ridiculous lie. The opposition won only three seats because ‘there is no alternative in the opposition.’ Everybody knows that including ‘most Western governments [who] want Meles to continue because there is no alternative in the opposition. As long as the elections are semi-democratic, they’ll probably stay quiet, keep giving aid, hope for liberalisation of the economy and leave full democracy for later.’ Here is a hint: The opposition will completely lose again in next month’s election regardless of how many candidates they run because they don’t understand a simple fact about elections: ‘The people who cast the votes do not decide an election; the people who count the votes do.’


    Although the constitution and law prohibit the use of torture and mistreatment, there were numerous credible reports that security officials tortured, beat, and mistreated detainees. Opposition political party leaders reported frequent and systematic abuse and intimidation of their supporters by police and regional militias… Abuses reportedly include being hung by the wrists for several hours, bound by chains and beaten, held in solitary confinement for several days to weeks or months, subjected to mental torture such as harassment and humiliation…


    Lies! Torture is a matter of semantics. The alleged torture-victims in the State Department report have an unusually low threshold for psychological and physical pain and discomfort. They also exaggerate stuff. The truth is that the so-called torture-victims are all wusses and wimps. Intimidation is a state of mind as is solitary confinement. Some people just scare easy. Individuals in solitary confinement are not really ‘solitary’ because they can talk to themselves all day and all night. It is a bold-faced lie for the State Department to say, ‘the [‘Ethiopian’] constitution and law prohibit the use of torture and mistreatment.’


    The country has three federal and 117 regional prisons. There are several unofficial detention centers operating throughout the country. Prison and pretrial detention center conditions remained harsh and in some cases life threatening. Severe overcrowding was common, especially in sleeping quarters. Juveniles were often incarcerated with adults, sometimes with adults who were awaiting execution. Men and women prisoners were generally, but not always, separated… The government continued to prevent International Committee of the Red Cross representatives from visiting police stations and federal prisons throughout the country including those where opposition, civil society, and media leaders were held.


    Lies, dirty lies! The so-called prisons are actually popular spas and resorts, as Birtukan can testify. The reason they are ‘severely overcrowded’ is because of high popular demand. It’s ‘la dolce vita’ (the sweet life) as they say in Italian in those spas, or ‘c’est la vie’ as they say in French. As to juveniles, women and condemned prisoners being held together, what difference does that make? A criminal is a criminal is a criminal. The Red Cross? They are too nosy, always asking questions. Shouldn’t they be helping out flood, earthquake and disaster victims somewhere else instead of sniffing around spas and resorts?


    Although the constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, the government frequently did not observe these provisions in practice… The federal police acknowledged that many of its members as well as regional police lacked professionalism. In July the Addis Ababa Police Commission fired 444 staff members, including high-ranking officials, for involvement in serious crimes including armed robbery, rape, and theft. There were no prosecutions of those dismissed.


    Another pack of lies! The State Department is putting words and numbers in the mouths of the Police Commission. The allegedly ‘fired’ police officials are still in their jobs continuing to do armed robbery, rape, and theft.


    Authorities regularly detained persons without warrants and denied access to counsel and family members, particularly in outlying regions. Although the law requires detainees to be brought to court and charged within 48 hours, this generally was not respected in practice… While in pretrial detention, authorities allowed such detainees little or no contact with legal counsel. Police continued to enter private residences and arrest individuals without warrants.


    First of all, the whole due process thing is overrated. Lawyers, warrants, procedure and all that legal mumbo jambo are a big waste of time. The applicable principle is that one is presumed guilty until proven innocent. So, why do guilty people need lawyers? It does not make sense. Why should warrants be required to arrest guilty people? Anyway, even if these people did not commit a crime, they definitely thought about committing one. They are guilty, guilty, guilty! The State Department is obviously pushing some new-fangled Western idea that a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty. What a bunch of liars!


    In May the director general of the Federal Police reported that 65 per cent of the 45,000 criminal cases filed at the federal first instance court in 2008 were eventually dropped due to lack of evidence or witnesses… There was a large backlog of juvenile cases, and accused children often remained in detention with adults until officials heard their cases.


    As the old saying goes, there are lies, damned lies and statistics. The State Department is fabricating false statistics to show that the regime is going soft on criminals. That is a lie! It is a well-known fact that a criminal case is filed only after a person has been convicted of committing a crime. To claim that nearly 30,000 cases were dropped for lack of evidence is to unfairly suggest that the vast majority of those charged were not guilty. How could that be so? The director general of the Federal Police never reported such statistics. It is all a figment of the State Department’s warped imagination.


    Political party leaders reported incidents of telephone tapping and other electronic eavesdropping. In May a former employee of ETC, the state-run monopoly telecom and Internet provider, reported from self-imposed exile that the government had ordered ETC employees to unlawfully record citizens' private telephone conversations… The government used a widespread system of paid informants to report on the activities of particular individuals. Kebele officials have been reported to go from house to house demanding that residents attend ruling coalition meetings. Those persons who do not attend party meetings reportedly have difficulty obtaining basic public services from their kebeles.


    Ding, dong! All lies told by paranoid opposition leaders who are afraid of their own shadows. By using the phrases ‘widespread system of paid informants’, ‘forced attendance of party meetings’, etc., the State Department unfairly suggests that the country has become a police state. Not true! If they had done their ‘investigations’ right and interviewed the ‘informants’, they would have easily found out that the ‘informants’ are actually researchers doing field studies in social anthropology using ‘participant observation’ techniques. Kebele officials never force people to attend party meetings. The people just love to party and show up uninvited.


    During the year the government loosened restrictions on the delivery of food aid from donor organizations into the five zones of the Somali region in which military activity was the most intense. Approximately 83 per cent of food aid reached beneficiaries, a significant improvement from the previous year.


    Liars! The State Department in its usual manner is cooking up numbers. No food aid reached beneficiaries in the five zones of the Somali region.


    The government restricted academic freedom during the year. Authorities did not permit teachers at any level to deviate from official lesson plans and actively discouraged political activity and association of any kind on university campuses. Frequent reports continued of uniformed and plainclothes police officers on and around university and high school campuses. College students were reportedly pressured to pledge allegiance to the EPRDF to secure enrollment in universities or postgraduation government jobs. Non-EPRDF members were also reportedly denied teachers' benefits, transferred to undesirable posts, and restricted in promotions.


    Ha! Who would believe in their right minds anything those fog-headed college students and their absent-minded professors say? There is a good reason why they are not allowed to engage in politics or deviate from the official lesson plan. We know from personal experience decades ago that you if give students and their professors an inch, they will take a mile. If you give them ‘academic freedom’, they will soon be yapping in the streets for speech freedom, press freedom, associational freedom, assembly freedom and all sorts of other freedoms. That is just too much freedom for those crazy students and their air-headed professors to handle.

    It is just too bad the US State Department can’t handle the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth!


    * This article first appeared on the Huffington Post.
    * Alemayehu G. Mariam is a professor of political science at California State University, San Bernardino, and an attorney based in Los Angeles.
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

    Ethiopia: 'C’est la vie? C’est la vie en prison!'

    Alemayehu G. Mariam


    cc R G
    While many respected sources have raised serious concerns about the health of Ethiopian political prisoner Birtukan Midekssa, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi alarmingly continues to insist that her situation is one of 'perfect health', writes Alemayehu G. Mariam.

    When Meles Zenawi, the arch dictator in Ethiopia, was asked about Birtukan Midekssa’s health in her prison on 23 March 2010, he was comically philosophical about it. He said Birtukan's health was in 'perfect condition', except that she may be putting on some weight.

    'The health situation of Birtukan, the last I heard, is in perfect condition. She may have gained a few kilos, but other than that, and that may be for lack of exercise, I understand she is in perfect health… I am not surprised that they [US State Department] have characterised Birtukan as a political prisoner, because I understand they have also characterised Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) and Oromia Liberation Front (OLF) terrorists … as political prisoners… But that is life; I think the French say, "C’est la Vie."'

    It has now been 461 days since Birtukan Midekssa, the first woman leader of a political party in Ethiopia, was snatched from the streets by Zenawi’s goons and re-imprisoned for allegedly denying a pardon from a bogus political conviction in 2007. On 9 January 2010, Zenawi told a press conference that any discussion of Birtukan’s release was 'a dead issue'. On 15 January 2010, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention adopted an opinion finding that Birtukan Midekssa is a political prisoner. In its 25 February 2008 country reports on human rights practices, the US State Department stated: 'On December 29, [2008] Unity for Democracy and Justice Party [UDJ] president Birtukan Mideksa was rearrested for accurately telling European media organizations that she had not requested from the government a pardon leading to her release from jail in July 2007.' On 5 December 2009, Amnesty International declared that Birtukan 'is a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned for peacefully exercising her right to freedom of expression and association'. In its 24 March 2010 report, Human Rights Watch declared, 'Ethiopia’s most prominent political prisoner is Birtukan Midekssa, the leader of the UDJ party.' In its 11 March 2010 country reports on human rights practices, the US State Department reported that Birtukan was a political prisoner who is being held in 'violation of her constitutional rights':

    'Opposition UDJ party president Birtukan Mideksa, whose pardon was revoked and life sentence reinstated in December 2008, remained in prison throughout the year. She was held in solitary confinement until June [2009], despite a court ruling that indicated it was a violation of her constitutional rights. She was also denied access to visitors except for a few close family members, despite a court order granting visitor access without restrictions. There were credible reports that Birtukan's mental health deteriorated significantly during the year.'

    When Zenawi says Birtukan is in 'perfect condition' and 'may have gained a few kilos', he is of course mocking her. He is taking a cheap shot. It is his way of distracting attention from the universally accepted fact that she is his personal political prisoner. He gets a kick out of publicly humiliating her. He uses sleazy humour to suggest that she is sitting idly in his prison and getting fat. It is not enough for Zenawi to keep Birtukan in solitary confinement in a filthy dungeon, deprive her of basic human contact for months, deny her the most elementary human rights, torment her day and night and condemn her in public. No, no! That is not enough. Zenawi must mock and heap scorn on her and roll over laughing at the sight of her suffering. The brave young woman who stood up to him in public must be humiliated and slapped in the face in public. 'Birtukan Invictus'[1] must become 'Birtukan the Vanquished'.

    Just imagine the caricature of Birtukan getting 'fat' at the 'Zenawi Akaki Hilton (AKA "federal" prison) Spa and Resort' feasting on steak tartare and washing it down with gulps of tej (a local honey wine). But the 'fat joke' aimed at Birtukan is not Zenawi’s first. This past December he described her as a 'silly chicken' who ultimately did herself in because she did not know the limits of her modest abilities and his overwhelming and boundless might.[2] Well! Excuse the hell out of me, but I am not laughing! I am not into sick jokes!

    Zenawi is right though in saying that Birtukan suffers 'from lack of exercise'. It is absolutely true that after being held in total solitary confinement for six months and semi-solitary confinement for nearly a year after that, Birtukan suffers severely 'from lack of exercise'.

    Lame and sadistic jokes aside, there is something inane in Dr Zenawi’s bill of 'perfect health' for Birtukan. He has never seen or visited her in prison. He has not allowed her friends, extended family members, colleagues and associates to visit her. He has refused to allow a reputable physician to visit her, at her own cost. He has prohibited diplomats, journalists and representatives of humanitarian organisations from visiting her. The only persons he has allowed her to see are her aged mother and her 5-year-old daughter for one-half hour or less once a week. But he has heard from Birtukan’s jailors that her health is in 'perfect condition' and she is getting fat on the gourmet cuisine at the 'Akaki Hilton Spa and Resort'. Such is the arrogance of power!

    But Birtukan’s health situation is no joking or laughing matter for us. In fact, as the US State Department has documented, her health has been deteriorating since her re-imprisonment in December 2009. After she was abducted from the streets, she was thrown straight into solitary confinement for the first six months at the 'Akaki Hilton'. She now remains in semi-solitary confinement there. As anyone familiar with the operation of penal institutions knows, solitary confinement is a special form of punishment reserved for the most violent, dangerous and predatory prisoners in an institution. Such prisoners are denied contact with other persons, except limited contact with prison staff, because they have a record of being a serious danger to prison staff, other inmates or themselves. They are kept incommunicado as a preventive security measure. Birtukan was placed in solitary confinement immediately upon arrest. What possible or conceivable threat, danger or violence could the former judge, lawyer and political party leader have presented to deserve solitary confinement straight from the streets?

    Those familiar with inmates who have served time in solitary confinement know that prolonged isolation produces extraordinarily stressful experiences for detainees with a whole range of harmful health effects. In solitary confinement, the individual is cut off from virtually all human contact and forced to live in an environment with little stimulation. No radio, books or other materials are allowed. Prison staff are instructed to maintain minimal contact with such prisoners. As I have explained elsewhere,[3] there are specific psychiatric symptoms associated with solitary confinement including perceptual distortions, illusions, hallucinations, agitation, self-destructive behaviour, pervasive sense of hopelessness and overt psychotic disorganisation. Prolonged solitary confinement-induced stress often triggers the onset of mental illnesses and psychological impairments such as hearing voices, severe and extreme panic attacks, loss of impulse control with random violence, difficulties with thinking, concentration and memory and overt paranoia. When the 11 March 2010 State Department report diplomatically states, 'There were credible reports that Birtukan's mental health deteriorated significantly during the year', what it is really saying is that Birtukan has shown many of the solitary confinement-induced 'mental' symptoms. In simple terms, Birtukan’s tormentors are doing their best to torment her into madness.

    Solitary confinement is a method of subjugation that aims to strip away the pride, honour and dignity of the prisoner. It is a process by which the prisoner is reduced into complete and total helplessness. It is the ultimate demonstration of raw machismo: Those in power seek to psychologically and physically break down the prisoner held in isolation, destroy their sense of self, well-being and security, instil fear and cause such prisoners to commit self-destructive acts. For political prisoners, the ultimate aim is to drive them mad. Such is the crime that continues to be committed against Birtukan every single day. She is, without a shadow of doubt, a victim of psychological torture.

    But why humiliate, mistreat, degrade, mock, dishonour, brutalise, torment and abuse Birtukan?

    The answer is simple. For Zenawi, Birtukan’s case is strictly personal. She stood up and opposed him on principle. He mistakes that as stubborn defiance. He has to teach this 'uppity' woman a lesson she will never forget. He has to break her down for challenging his power and authority. Birtukan must also be punished for something Zenawi could never have: The love, respect and admiration of the Ethiopian people.

    The interdisciplinary scientific literature in the field of political psychology is illuminating in understanding aberrant psychological attributes of political leaders driven by primitive and pent-up emotions such as anger, vindictiveness and hatred. For instance, the works of Harold Laswell, Otto Kernberg, Jerrold Post, Eric Fromm and others provide valuable insights in understanding the vindictive personality. Some individuals in positions of power have accumulated deep bottled-up anger and hatred and live in a constant state of rage. They are afflicted by what may be called 'pathological anger and loathing'. While healthy anger is a natural reaction to perceived or real injustice, pathological anger and loathing are mechanisms by which some in positions of power lash out at others as a way of restoring to themselves self-esteem, prestige and a sense of power, control and invincibility. They must constantly intimidate, brutalise and terrorise others to gain respect. In the process, they become solipsistic (preoccupied with themselves). They suffer delusions of grandiosity in which they create grossly fantasised self-images and perceptions of their achievements. In pursuit of grandiosity, they become 'malignant narcissists' driven by unrestrained aggression, an insatiable need for power and recognition and a distrust of others laced with an underlying sadism. Kernberg, for instance, argues that 'malignant narcissism' develops as a defence against feelings of inferiority and rejection.

    Pathological anger and loathing often leads to a poverty of empathy (the ability to feel for the suffering and pain of others). Those afflicted by this syndrome rationalise their cold-heartedness to themselves by 'externalisation' (finding outside enemies to blame for their failures) and 'splitting' (attempting to hide something in their background that they are ashamed of). In short, such individuals experience an objective sense of 'self' only when they are persecuting and inflicting pain and suffering on others and enjoying the havoc they have wreaked on their victims.

    In considering Birtukan’s health situation, many are mindful of the fate of Dr Asrat Woldeyes, the famed surgeon, professor of medicine and Ethiopian patriot who was imprisoned by Zenawi in the late 1990s, and denied medical care until his situation had significantly worsened during detention. His underlying heart condition and diabetes and other complications worsened irreversibly by delays in providing him with adequate medical care. He passed away on 14 May 1999. Many believe Dr Asrat’s fate is what awaits Birtukan.

    Zenawi said the 'usual suspects' are spreading lies about Birtukan’s health, namely that she is not in 'perfect health'. It is not clear to whom he is referring. Birtukan’s mother? Her 5-year-old daughter? The only logical 'suspects' are the same people who are telling him that Birtukan is in 'perfect health' and 'gaining a few kilos'. They are indeed spreading lies because Birtukan is in bad, very bad health. She is suffering. If Mr Zenawi thinks this is a lie, let him allow the International Red Cross, US embassy personnel or any other independent international body to visit and report on her.

    As I have written before,[4] the truth about Birtukan is simple: The dictators are not afraid of her, but they are terrified of what she represents, Ethiopia’s bright future. Birtukan stands for the unity of all Ethiopians and stands against ethnic hatred, division and strife. That petrifies her captors. As Nelson Mandela 'dreamt of an Africa which is in peace with itself', Birtukan dreams of an Ethiopia at peace and harmony with itself. That sends shivers down the spines of those who have caged her. Birtukan appeals to Ethiopia’s youth, who represent over 70 per cent of the population. As Ethiopia is the country of the future, young Birtukan and the millions in her generation are the shining stars rising over the horizon of that future.

    Since we are all dabbling in French, perhaps Ethiopia’s enfant terrible would appreciate the wisdom of an old French saying: 'Ceux qui rient le vendredi, pleureront le dimanche' ('Those who laugh on Friday will cry on Sunday').

    Mr Zenawi, it is 'c’est la vie' (that’s life) for you; for Birtukan it is 'c’est la vie en prison' (that’s life in prison).

    Un-cage the lioness of Ethiopia! Free all political prisoners in Ethiopia!


    * Alemayehu G. Mariam is a professor of political science at California State University, San Bernardino, and an attorney based in Los Angeles. He writes a regular blog on The Huffington Post, and his commentaries appear regularly on,, and other sites.
    * This article was originally published by The Huffington Post.
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

    [4] See note 1.


    Fahamu launches new Refugee E-Newsletter!


    Fahamu’s Refugee Programme is pleased to introduce the Fahamu Refugee e-Newsletter, a monthly publication that aims to provide a forum for providers of refugee legal aid. With a focus on the global South, it aims to serve the needs of legal aid providers as well as raise awareness of refugee concerns among the wider readership of Pambazuka News. The e-Newsletter will follow recent developments in the interpretation of refugee law; case law precedents from other constituencies; reports and helpful resources for refugee legal aid NGOs; and stories of struggle and success in refugee legal aid work. It welcomes contributions from legal aid providers, refugees, and others interested or involved in refugee legal aid.

    Pan-African Diary 2011: Call for entries


    Pambazuka Press is planning to publish a Pan-African activists' diary for 2011. The diary will be a handbook of key information about Pan-African history, quotations from thinkers and activists (women and men) in Africa and the diaspora, pictures of critical events in our past, information about key events during 2011, and lots more.


    If you would like us to include events – meetings, conferences, festivals, actions, courses, publications etc - that your organisation is planning to hold in 2011, please send details to panafdiary [at] pambazuka [dot] org.


    If you would like to suggest quotations for publication in the diary, please send them to panafdiary [at] pambazuka [dot]org. Make sure you include the source of each quote so that those who want to read more will know where to find it.


    If you have suggestions about information you would like to see in the diary, please send them to panafdiary[at] pambazuka [dot] org.

    Help make this diary the essential handbook for all activists in Africa and the diaspora. Make sure you get your recommendations in to us by 14 April 2010. Don’t be left out – let us know what events you are planning for 2011.

    We can’t guarantee that we will include everything you suggest, but we’ll do our best!

    The 2011 Pan-African Diary: the essential tool for freedom and justice!

    Comment & analysis

    Dispensing survivors' justice in Zanzibar

    Chambi Chachage


    cc M V
    With Zanzibar in the throes of political instability as its 2010 elections approach, Chambi Chachage calls for a 'win–win situation' and draws upon Mahmood Mamdani's emphasis on 'survivors' justice'.

    Recent developments in Zanzibar's politics require serious historical scrutiny. It is not by accident we are now being bombarded with what transpired before and during the revolution. Why now?

    If you happen to be internet savvy you might have come across a video of the ‘bloody revolution’ that is circulating online. One can sense that its aim is to debunk the revolution. It is coming in the aftermath of a quest to commemorate Zanzibar’s ill-fated independence of 1963. I say ill-fated because its government was the one that was overthrown in the 1964 revolution.

    One cannot dispute the historical fact that the political landscape in Zanzibar continues to be shaped by the build-up to this revolution. The bitterness has not yet disappeared among its polarised survivors. As an attempt to resolve this seemingly never-ending animosity, a number of great political negotiators have called for a ‘muafaka’ (accord) based on a coalition government.

    Chief among these reconciliatory figures are Mwalimu Julius K. Nyerere, Chief Emeka Anyaoku and Professor Haroub Othman, to name but a few. It is well-documented how they relentlessly called for a government of national unity in Zanzibar. One of them even attempted to mediate.

    Two key players have now been added to the equation. The Citizen (7 April 2010) notes that way back in 1958 Kwame Nkrumah, the leader of the then newly independent Ghana, advised Abeid Amani Karume and his political opponents to 'work together, win elections together, and win independence together' in Zanzibar. 'Karume', The Citizen further cites its source, 'accepted the idea and started advocating a unity government as the proper mode of governance.'

    The source, Salum Rashid Maulid, who was the first secretary of the Revolutionary Council, affirms that Karume expressed this desire for a government of national unity in 1962 at the Constitutional Conference in London, suggesting that it 'would eliminate political differences among Zanzibaris'. But in 1963 a controversial election did not fulfil that desire. Then the revolution was broadcast in 1964. What has happened since then has been a political rollercoaster.

    To put an end to this political instability – which tends to reach its peak during elections – the president of Zanzibar, Amani Abeid Karume, and the leader of the main opposition party, Seif Sharif Hamad, are now on ‘talking terms’. In fact what is happening between them is unprecedented. Seif has even made 'a surprise return to the Zanzibar headquarters of the Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), 20 years after quitting the ruling party' (The Citizen, 8 April 2010).

    All these reconciliatory moves are ‘long overdue’ affirmations on the need to embrace what the author of ‘Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, Politics and the War on Terror', Professor Mahmood Mamdani, refers to as ‘survivors’ justice’. This justice, as opposed to ‘victors’ justice, 'seeks to reconcile rather than to punish, to look forward rather than backward'. It is a more relevant way of dispensing justice in 'a continent where a relentless pursuit of justice in the post-independence period had all too often turned into vengeance'. Why? Because there is no winner to take it all!

    Mamdani further elaborates: 'If peace and justice are to be complementary, rather than conflicting, objectives, we need to distinguish victor’s justice from survivors’ justice: If one insists on distinguishing right from wrong, the other seeks to reconcile different rights. In a situation in which there is no winner and thus no possibility for victor’s justice, survivors’ justice may indeed be the only form of justice possible.' He then presents South Africa as a case study.

    Thus: 'If Nuremberg is being turned into the paradigm for victors’ justice, the postapartheid transition in South Africa needs to be acknowledged as the paradigm for survivors’ justice. The end of Apartheid in South Africa was driven by two terms – forgive but do not forget – agreed upon at Kempton Park. The first part of the compact was that the new power will forgive all past transgressions of the law, as long as they are publicly acknowledged as wrongs. There will be no prosecutions. The second was that there will be no forgetting, which is why henceforth rules of conduct must change, thereby ensuring a transition to a postapartheid order.' This is continuing.

    But can all this apply to Zanzibar? Yes. Why? Simply because of the conflicting legacy of the revolution. As Mamdani correctly observes, South Africa is not an isolated example, rather, 'it is actually a prototype for conflicts raging across the African continent.' From what we have seen in the 1995, 2000 and 2005 elections Zanzibar, as it is now politically, is a ticking bomb that can easily explode and lead to a number of conflicts. Do we know what will happen in the 2010 elections?

    Let us go back at the drawing board and dispense a form of justice fitting for Zanzibar. So far, I am fully convinced, such form can only be survivors’ justice. Only a win–win situation will do.


    * Chambi Chachage is a co-editor of 'Africa's Liberation: the Legacy of Nyerere', forthcoming from Pambazuka Press.
    * Chambi Chachage's blog can be found at
    * © Chambi Chachage
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

    ‘Black boers’ and other revolutionary songs

    Chris Rodrigues


    A hat tip to Mphutlane wa Bofelo for pointing out the subtext to the ANC’s claim to the ‘Shoot the Boer!’ song, writes Chris Rodrigues. For is it not the case, as wa Bofelo points out, that the attempt to establish a heritage status for the song locates the struggle in the past? And what of the new songs that the poor sing today, songs like, ‘Amabhunu amnyama asenzela i-worry’ – ‘Black Boers cause us worries’? Does this current storm in Julius Malema’s teacup not also divert attention from this reality?

    Part of the problem resides in the fact that the media tends to follow the blindingly obvious – in this case, the day-to-day pronouncements of those who hold political office. The body politic is, however, capable of other forms. The University of Abahlali baseMjondolo – the University of the Shackdwellers – is a case in point. University? Shackdwellers? What kind of politics is this that doesn’t seek parliamentary representation? Still, it’s unforgivable that in a country where protests occur with such frequency – there is no ink spilt analysing contemporary idioms.

    Anthems, as the Uruguayan essayist Eduardo Galeano says, are often full of ‘threats, insults, self-praise, homages to war, and the honourable duty to kill and be killed’. The archetypal Marseillaise, for instance, warns that the Revolution ‘will water the fields with the impure blood’ of the invaders. Terrifying stuff but once institutionalised, as Messrs. Malema and Motlanthe are arguing, these songs of death and victory are sentimentalised and tamed. They are no longer sung outside the Bastille but inside the Stade de France. In the ANC’s case – we could draw a distinction between singing near Casspirs, and singing in the vicinity of parking lots full of SUVs.

    It is, rather, the adaptation of a song, or a new song sung by the excluded that is, as the philosopher Slavoj Žižek argues in First As Tragedy, Then As Farce – the truly revolutionary anthem. Working from the premise that ‘universal humanity is visible at the edges’ – a phrase he borrows from Susan Buck-Morss – he describes how the newly self-liberated black slaves of Haiti faced down the French soldiers sent to crush their republic, by singing the Marseillaise. As Žižek suggests, in that moment, they were asserting:

    ‘In this battle, we are more French than you, the Frenchmen, are – we stand for the innermost consequences of your revolutionary ideology, the very consequences you were not able to assume’.

    Could we not say the same with the ‘Black Boers cause us worries’? Not only are the poor demonstrating their non-racialism (a black person can also be a Boer – a metaphor for an oppressor), they are simultaneously radicalising, through differentiating class from race, what the ANC’s theorists would call the National Democratic Revolution.

    Indeed, it must be somewhat unsettling for the ANC (as in Žižek’s example, the French), who once held a revolutionary initiative, to hear new analyses of the struggle – like the following from Abahlali:

    ‘It is the community organisations and poor people’s movements who are protesting around the country who are true to the spirit of the struggle against apartheid. The politicians who try to herd the people into stadiums to tell them that the politicians in their cavalcades are the true inheritors of the spirit of that struggle have made themselves our enemies’.

    All it seems the ANC can say is that we once sang a seditious song and what is now required is – as represented by our regime – obedience to that heroic heritage. Regrettably, a judicial ruling has breathed new life into what is an anachronistic farce for, as Karl Marx might have said, the ANC ‘only imagines that it believes in itself and asks the world to share in its fantasy’.

    Sixteen years of neo liberal economics dressed up in leftist drag means that a new generation are singing real songs again. These old-new freedom songs are, routinely, met with rubber bullets. It underscores one of wa Bofelo’s points – that people have always known that ‘it does not only take a white skin to install or perpetuate a system based on unequal allocation of power and inequitable distribution of wealth and resources’.

    Here, however, we enter a more thought-provoking terrain and, again, Žižek is useful. He inverts Marx’s old definition of farce by insisting that ‘contemporary cynicism’ as regards ideology (post-modernism, if you like) only imagines ‘that we do not “really believe” in our ideology [for] in spite of this imaginary distance, we continue to practice it’.

    In other words, is not all this attention on Malema, and on a long-in-the-tooth song, not an illusory fight that both the black and white bourgeoisie would prefer to a real one over, dare we say it, communism of some sort? Is it not that the bourgeoisie believe in capitalism so much that they would rather chose a Janus-face soap-opera (with its empty posturing and hysterical condemnation) than confront the ideological challenge posed by the new anti-capitalist movements? Is it not the case that a clown prince is (even to the South African Communist Party) preferable to a real communist?

    A few years ago, the Financial Mail wrote something particularly telling in regard to the then president-in-waiting. It was in the edition entitled, ‘Be Afraid’. ‘It's not the corruption and rape charges that investors and SA business think about when they think of Zuma’, said feature writer Carol Patton, ‘it's the simple fact that he has a far more radical support base than Mbeki’.

    That someone could be radical – let alone a class for itself – is the spectre haunting South Africa’s rainbow elites. The ‘Shoot the Boer!’ song represents then, in a Freudian sense, only a symptomatic return of this repressed fear.

    ‘But what about farm attacks/killings’, someone could ask? Are these not, as AfriForum and the Democratic Alliance assert, a literal enactment of that satanic song?

    This question also masks its ideology. We should first ask what a farm attack/killing is? And once both phrases also include the attack/killing of farm workers by farm owners, we should ask what motivates farm owners to attack/kill farm workers? The answer to that question will, no doubt, extend the initial inquiry well beyond the three words of a song.

    There is, of course, a more obscure question – one that proves that the blind are leading the blind – and it’s whether the murder of an abusive white supremacist, like Eugene Terreblanche, is attributable to others ‘hate speech’?

    Let’s stop changing the topic. South Africa has been dubbed ‘the protest capital of the world’. The recent Kennedy Road attacks, which left two dead, and Abahlali activists hiding in safe houses, are harbingers of an intensifying class struggle. As one of its members said, ‘The ANC regards [Abahlali] – not the other official political parties – as their true opposition, because we are closer to the pain on the ground’.


    * This article first appeared on thought leader.
    * Chris Rodrigues is a filmmaker and writer. Born and raised in Cape Town he currently resides in Cork City.
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

    South Africa: The next frontier for land occupations?

    Grasian Mkodzongi


    ‘There is no doubt that South Africa will become the next frontier for "land invasions"', writes Grasian Mkodzongi, ‘the situation in the country is a ticking time bomb. It’s almost impossible to think that a system of extreme injustice and poverty reflected across the country could be sustained forever.’

    In 2001, I was a politically naive young Zimbabwean immigrant living in the slums of Johannesburg when, as a member of a local civic group, we got wind of an impending eviction of ‘squatters’ who had illegally occupied a piece of land on the outskirts of Johannesburg called Bredell. When we arrived at the impending eviction, the battle lines were already drawn; international media organisations, the likes of CNN, BBC, etc. had already raised their satellite dishes, poised to beam dramatic scenes of ‘squatters’ being evicted to the world. It looked as if many of us in attendance at this sombre event had come to witness a public hanging. Desperate land occupiers waited nervously holding their line.

    Before noon, the wretched ‘land grabbers’ found themselves facing the ‘evil’ realities of the new South Africa. Makeshift homes constructed with tin and cardboard in a quest to have somewhere they could call home were demolished on camera. Although a few of us who had come to witness this obscene event tried to provide support by waving our ‘socialist’ flags and singing freedom songs, the eviction went ahead. Troops of black security guards wearing red boiler suits, locally known as ‘Rooi Gevaar’, demolished the land occupier’s homes and forcefully removed helpless women and children. It was an ugly experience; I felt like I was witnessing a woman being raped but with no means to help her. One elderly woman took off her clothes in protest, an act with a deep cultural meaning, as the nudity of an old woman is supposed to bring a curse to its onlookers. Whether those who evicted her were later befallen by misfortune, nobody knows.

    As we all stood helplessly watching the demolition, we wondered about the logic of South Africa’s liberation. How could a government voted into power by poor and disenfranchised people forcefully evict them in the name of private property? Given the international news cameras, it seemed the South African government wanted as much publicity as possible for the eviction in order to demonstrate its commitment to the protection of private property; South Africa wanted to send the right signal to the markets that Zimbabwean-style land ‘invasions’ were not allowed here. The South African minister of land had earlier told the media that ‘land grabbing’ was not welcome; property rights were as sacred as the republic’s constitution. Those who illegally occupied farms would be forcefully removed. The ‘Bredell land grab,’ as the mainstream media called it, and the subsequent publicity it generated unmasked something sinister about post apartheid South Africa; it revealed the double standards within the leadership of the African National Congress (ANC).

    While the ANC elites continue to make promises to the poor, the Bredell eviction saga demonstrated that the ANC government was more interested in calming nervous white land owners and foreign investors than addressing the root causes of landlessness and social injustice, steeped in the country’s apartheid history. What made this very public eviction saga more depressing was that the ANC, with its close trade union linkages, had for many years fought against apartheid policies like the 1913 Land Act which eventually gave three quarters of arable land to Whites and the subsequent eviction of ‘native’ South Africans to the so called ‘Homelands’. Moreover, the ANC came to power in 1994 after a landslide victory with promises of reversing apartheid era injustices based on the moral principles of the Freedom Charter. Many blacks saw the release of Mandela and the subsequent elections of 1994, which led to a free South Africa, as a new dawn. However, the Bredell eviction demonstrated that post-apartheid South Africa had a long way to go in addressing apartheid-era injustices.

    What we witnessed on this day was not a one-off event. Besides landlessness, blacks in the new South Africa face all forms of social injustices: Poor sanitation, unemployment, homelessness, and electricity and water cut-offs – the list is unending. Many civic groups have now been formed in order to deliver all forms of parallel social services to the poor, including reconnecting water and electricity for those disconnected due to failure to pay escalating bills. The poor no longer rely on the government for social services, but on each other for their survival.

    South Africa remains a very strange place, a divided society. The transition from apartheid to majority rule involved what Patrick Bond called ‘elite transition’, for the beneficiaries of the new South Africa are indeed few and mostly white. In some places one gets a feeling that there are two countries in one – a small Mediterranean archipelago with beautiful bungalows perched on hilltops, whites-only beaches where blacks are there to serve the rich; the other a stereotypical African country with overcrowded slums, high unemployment, petty thieves and petty commodity brokers living on the edge. Extreme poverty and extreme wealth live side by side in the new South Africa. Blacks have been reduced to a life of shameless grabbing of virtually everything for survival. Basic mobile phones, wedding rings and all small jewellery can attract violent robbers – even a pair of Nike shoes in inner city areas like Hillbrow can attract muggers.

    The situation has not been helped by a high influx of immigrants from neighbouring countries flocking to South Africa in search of what seems like a paranoiac gold rush. This has resulted in dangerous levels of intolerance and xenophobia, which reached a breaking point last year when poor and dispossessed South Africans vented their anger on the easy scapegoat of illegal immigrants. The Rainbow Nation, glamorised by the iconic images of a free Mandela, has become a very dangerous place. Hordes of poor slum dwellers have no option but to resort to ‘affirmative action’ – the violent recovery of property from whites. Robberies have now forced many whites and the rich of all colours to live in homes that look like fortresses, fitted with state of the art security alarms, armed response, electric fences, burglar-proof gates, CCTV, neighbourhood watches, etc.

    It has become dangerous to be rich in South Africa. A home has to be barricaded to avoid marauding robbers; many South African homes now look more like American embassies protected against potential terrorist attacks. Dangerously armed robbers lurk in the dark waiting to pounce on unsuspecting rich people; those who have been fortunate enough to enjoy the comforts afforded to them by the Rainbow Nation, courtesy of Mandela’s reconciliation legacy. South Africa’s inability to deal with repressed apartheid-era anger among blacks is a reason for concern. Politicians have glossed over the past by promoting an ideal image of a Rainbow Nation to lure foreign investors, while beneath the surface a simmering storm of discontent brews. Repressed anger manifests itself in the form of violence by unemployed blacks killing each in the battle for survival. With no work and no sense of dignity, masculinity among the poor is expressed through gun violence. The main victims of this violence are vulnerable women; South Africa has one of the highest incidences of rape in the world, and many of the victims of this rape end up infected with HIV, creating a vicious cycle of poverty and sickness in black neighbourhoods. This repressed apartheid-era anger has yet to find a proper exit; until it does, the ghosts of apartheid will continue to haunt South Africa in the near future.

    Apartheid-era racial attitudes are more openly reflected in South Africa’s rural farming areas. Here the laws of the jungle apply. White vigilante groups deliver rough justice to poor blacks working in these rural enclaves, where changes in racial attitudes formed during the apartheid era are hardening instead of changing. Not long ago a farmer did the unexpected, killing a black farm worker by tying him behind the back of his truck and then driving along a gravel road for stealing tomatoes. What gave this farmer the confidence to commit this horrendous crime is that the end of apartheid was negotiated, and Nelson Mandela’s reconciliatory policies failed to dismantle the apparatus of apartheid. No wonder many of the rich love him and his legacy; history is yet to judge this iconic figure fully.

    The recent killing of Eugene Terreblanche, the self-confessed white supremacist leader of the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB) by his farm workers demonstrates the battles that lie ahead. Although politicians in South Africa have down played Terreblanche’s murder as a one-off non-political event, his violent end is a significant political event that is likely to expose simmering racial tensions in South Africa’s rural farming enclaves. An estimated 3,000 White farmers have so far been murdered; this number is likely to increase, as battles for racial justice are likely to intensify in the future. Political leadership is required to channel black grievances if an open bloodbath is to be avoided in the near future.

    In many racial enclaves it is still business as usual, as propertied elites use the law to protect their property from forceful acquisition. This quest to preserve their property is supported by the logic of neo liberal capitalism, which the ANC government overzealously adopted in its macro-economic policy formulation. The fear of a Zimbabwean style capital flight or a great exodus of investors is a reality that South African policy makers have been keen to avoid. A result of the above is that the poor have been sacrificed on the altar of the international markets; those who suffered during apartheid continue to live in poverty, while wealth remains in the hands of whites and a few black elites, beneficiaries of the so-called black empowerment. Behind the hullabaloo of freedom lies the naked truth about post apartheid South Africa – that millions of blacks continue to suffer the vagaries of injustice, unemployment, homelessness, and landlessness.

    Although South Africa supports a policy of land restitution, the process of land claims gets stuck in bureaucratic processes, with some communities simply giving up, as they have no capacity to interpret the law and have limited access to legal aid. Many people who lost their land during apartheid-era ‘black sports clearances’ are still waiting to recover stolen property. This situation is likely to explode in the future. The government’s mainly market-driven land reform has failed to deliver land, only an insignificant amount of land has so far been recovered. White farmers continue to dictate the pace of land reform and in the process they distort land markets to their advantage. The cannibalistic tendencies of markets are at play here – as George Soros once remarked, ‘markets have a notorious habit of fluctuating’. In the South African context, land markets have been fluctuating to the benefit of white farmers; Adam Smith’s invisible hand of the market has helped white farmers secure their land holdings by frustrating the South African government’s efforts to recover land and resettle landless blacks.

    The logic behind all this is the obsession with foreign direct investment – for it is argued that confiscating land to resettle people will send the wrong signals to the markets. Markets get ‘emotional’ where property rights are not respected, as was demonstrated in Zimbabwe where the economy was deliberated sabotaged and boycotted after peasants occupied commercial farms.

    However the language of property rights brings with it certain ambiguities; do landless blacks not have the same right to property ownership as their white counterparts? What about the recent history of forced removals, black sports clearances, and the violent murder of civilians at Sharpeville? Moreover many of these foreign capitalists that the ANC government is keen to protect directly benefited from apartheid. There is evidence to suggest that during apartheid foreign direct investment increased, with many European and American corporations investing in a country that openly violated human rights. These are the same people that are enjoying the protection of ANC elites, an insult to the suffering masses in black townships.

    South Africa has a lot to learn from its northern neighbour Zimbabwe. The pitfalls of delaying land reforms were demonstrated there not long ago, when a desperate Mugabe unleashed peasants to help themselves to white farms, after markets failed to deliver land to the landless as expected. There is evidence to suggest that Mugabe has become something of a cult figure to many landless South Africans and other landless people across Africa, who see their own governments as too aligned to landed capitalists instead of righting historical injustices. Although the World Bank is now well aware of the political dangers associated with delays caused by market-driven land reform, it continues to promote these policies in South Africa, contrary to research carried out by its own economists, which has long highlighted the political risks associated with land concentration.

    A few South African white farmers I’ve met are already nervous about the future and some have taken the bold step of selling and repatriating their profits before things get nasty. But for many rich and privileged white land owners, owning huge tracts of land is addictive – something that one can not give up even when the consequences become very expensive. Instead of co-operating with government efforts to address the land hunger facing blacks, they have instead resorted to a powerful farmer’s lobby, which has frustrated efforts to recover land for resettlement.

    There is no doubt that South Africa will indeed become the next frontier for ‘land invasions’; the situation in the country is a ticking time bomb. It’s almost impossible to think that a system of extreme injustice and poverty reflected across the country could be sustained forever. Sooner or later South Africa’s poor will run out of patience and the problem is that, unlike their Zimbabwean counterparts, the South African poor will be dangerously armed. It will only take a maverick or charismatic leader to do what Mugabe did – play a political game by giving the poor the green light for an unofficial fast track land reform to take place.

    However such a scenario could be easily avoided if all those involved in the land issue in South Africa work together to resolve the issue before a repeat of what happened in Zimbabwe occurs. It seems though that many of those hoarding land are keen to keep their entrenched positions. The only hope for South Africa’s landless poor no longer lies with the ANC government’s market driven land reform, but in the ‘barbaric’ process of ‘land grabs’ or self-provisioning.

    The model can be found nowhere other than in Soweto, where self-trained ‘activist electricians’ are helping to reconnect those affected by power cut-offs. One wonders if this Soweto model will one day be cascaded to address the issue of landlessness. Such a process is the only way many landless people can get access to somewhere they could call home. This however requires leadership; in Zimbabwe it took Chenjerai Hunzvi the late charismatic war veterans’ leader to arm-twist a reluctant Mugabe into confronting landed elites; in South Africa however such leadership is non-existent yet.

    Many ANC elites of the ‘Umshini wami’ genre, epitomised in the person of Jacob Zuma and Julius Malema, have sunk deep into the luxury and bliss afforded to them by the Rainbow Nation, rich kulaks with limited links to their rural constituencies. One can only hope that one day a leader will emerge among the poor to lead the battle for socio-economic justice.


    * Grasian Mkodzongi is a human ecologist and PhD candidate at the Centre of African Studies (University of Edinburgh).
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

    Was terrorblanche a Muslim?

    Azad Essa


    As racial tensions continue to rise over the murder of Eugene Terreblanche, Azad Essa writes a satirical piece on reports from the South African Muslim and Halaal Authority (SAMHA), that they have been inundated by calls from foreigners asking ‘if it was true that Terrorblanche was Muslim'.

    As racial tensions continue to rise over the murder of Eugene Terreblanche, and renewed concerns about the ability of black people to host thousands of visiting white people for the World Cup in June 2010 flourish, the South African Muslim and Halaal Authority (SAMHA), report that they have been inundated by calls from foreigners asking ‘if it was true that Terrorblanche was Muslim’.

    Speaking at a press conference on Easter Monday, SAMHA spokesperson Abu Is'a Vanker said that the organisation was initially surprised to have been inundated by the queries over the weekend but realised it was a rare opportunity to hit the mainstream.

    ‘It is surprising, to be honest, but you know what they say, ‘all publicity is good publicity,’ Vanker chuckled.

    Vanker explained that the organisation was a non-partisan organisation only in the business of certifying food and drink, and did not carry a conversion register.

    ‘We are only interested in how animals are slaughtered on farms, and if they follow the Islamic procedure,’ said Vanker.

    Vanker explained that SAMHA were obviously thrilled that so many foreigners were visibly interested in the religion at a time when the country was at the precipice of a civil war.

    But industry insiders say that where SAMHA is concerned, there’s more than what ‘meats’ the eye. Sources say that top Muslim businesses, currently on excellent terms with the ANC, will suffer dramatic losses if rumours of playing for both sides surface.

    ‘There is talk about minorities working behind our back in the meat industry,’ said one ANC member who refused to be maimed.

    It was a topic that dominated the otherwise buoyant mood at the press conference, as top-notch and well-paid journalists from some of the Muslim community’s Durban-based investigative publications dug-into SAMHA’s business relationship with Terreblanche.

    But Vanker refuted all claims of an existing business liaison.

    ‘Mr Terreblanche did approach us as a potential supplier, assuring us that one of his slaves-err-labourers was a practicing Muslim, but we did not reach any agreement,’ said Vanker

    He explained that SAMHA were not happy with the working environment they witnessed during their inspection.

    When asked if conditions of employment for Terrblanche’s labourers had put them off dealing with Terreblanche, Vanker said it was nothing of the sort.

    ‘We just saw a p-i-g in the neighbouring farm and decided against it,’ spelt Vanker.

    But leading Islamic scholar, a professor at the University of the Rudwa Islamic Business School (RIB), an all-girls finishing school based in Durban, argued that the inference that Terreblanche was Muslim based on appearance was unfair.

    ‘Look, just because he had a long beard, treated workers badly and attacked the World Trade Centre doesn’t mean he was Muslim,’ said Professor Ridwana Omarjee.

    ‘This is a type of tacit Islamophobia and a direct attempt by white liberals to pass off one more white supremacist as yet another Jew-hating Muslim fantasy,’ she added.

    ‘When is the CIA going to take responsibility for creating this monster?’ she asked.

    Omarjee said that speculation that Terreblanche was Muslim would create further polarisation within the already vulnerable Muslim community.

    ‘As it is, we have this ‘terrorist’ cloud hanging over us, but to be labelled as right- wing just because a couple of Malays speak Afrikaans, would be just too much,’ she added.

    Omarjee said that the local Muslim community was already at war over the permissibility of eating Rainbow chicken and requested the media to be responsible when reporting on other livestock.

    ‘The media needs to be responsible. We don’t need any more ambiguity’

    ‘Besides, my husband loves his meat,’ she blushed.

    Commenting on the possible connection between Julius Malema’s ‘kill the boers’ song and the murder of the biggest-Boer-of-them-all, Terreblanche, esteemed Muslim Cleric Mufti Adam al Jamali from East London, said that all music ought to be banned anyway.

    ‘Look, whether it is instruments or beat boxing, all such manipulations of sound effects are categorically haraam and must be condemned,’ he argued.

    ‘What does shaytaani Beyon-che mean when she sings, “All the single ladies, All the single ladies”?’ he gesticulates.

    ‘Treating workers badly is one thing. But music encourages homosexuality as well,’ he reasoned.

    On whether Terreblanche was Muslim, Mufti al Jamali said that even an autopsy couldn’t prove a thing.

    ‘Even an autopsy wouldn’t indicate if he is Deobandhi, Salafi, Sufi … it would kill our morale if we were to somehow find out he was a Shi’ite,’ he said.

    ‘It might be also insensitive to do such a thing at this point,’ he added.

    The Mufti also said that it was not the policy of the local Muslims to alienate any group in business, but it would be disingenuous to mess with the ruling party.

    ‘I honestly doubt that the local Muslim community would dare have such strong links with Terreblanche,’ he added.

    A small delegation of Muslim clerics and prominent businesspeople met the ANC early on Tuesday morning to clarify the situation.


    * This article first appeared on thought leader.
    * Azad Essa is a journalist based in Durban. He writes the award-winning blog, Accidental Academic.
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

    Confronting the occupation: Haiti, neoliberalism and the US

    Kali Akuno


    cc B & P
    Fiercely critical of the US's role and continued presence in Haiti in the wake of the country's earthquake, Kali Akuno highlights the dangers of the supposedly neutral term 'humanitarian intervention' and calls for solidarity with the Haitian people in the face of the 'militarisation of the relief and reconstruction effort'.

    The three-month marker for the earthquake that devastated Haiti is now upon us. The significance of this marker is not one determined by the Haitian people, but rather by the enemies of the Haitian people and peoples’ movements throughout the world.

    According to Milton Friedman and the intellectual gurus of neoliberalism, there are critical timelines and stages that must be strictly adhered by to successfully capitalise on a catastrophe and transform a society. The three-month marker is one of these critical timelines, and in the words of Friedman himself 'a new administration has some six to nine months in which to achieve major changes; if it does not seize the opportunity to act decisively during that period, it will not have another such opportunity'. Based on experiences in Iraq, Sri Lanka and New Orleans over the past 10 years several things must be in place at the three-month marker in order for the catastrophe to be fully exploited. These include: sufficient military force to contain the population; the dispersal and fragmentation of the affected population to limit its ability to mobilise resistance; and the legislation and implementation of a new policy regime that seeks to privatise nearly everything and eliminate all financial controls.

    One of the central enemies of the Haitian people are the gurus of the ideology of neoliberalism. These gurus are the neoliberal theoreticians and policy hacks who control Wall Street, the US Federal Reserve, the Bretton Woods institutions – the IMF (International Monetary Fund), World Bank and the WTO (World Trade Organisation) – and most of the central banks of the world since the 1990s. These gurus, most particularly the theoreticians, created a script in the 1970s to exploit catastrophes, natural and human-created, not only for material gain but radically regressive social transformation. After waging an incessant ideological war against socialism and communism, the theoreticians won critical support amongst the commanders of government and the captains of capital by the early 1980s and were able to start fully unleashing their fury on the world after the test-run of General Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship in Chile during the 1970s. This neoliberal script is a form of what Karl Marx termed 'primitive accumulation' and what David Harvey calls 'accumulation by dispossession', and is becoming popularly known via the works of Naomi Klein as 'disaster capitalism' and the 'shock doctrine'.

    A key ideological and strategic tool of this neoliberal script is the concept of 'humanitarian interventionism'. Despite how well-intentioned this concept sounds, it is a tool developed through the auspices of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation), under the guiding hand of the US government, to be executed through the UN to allow the imperialist powers to legally and morally interfere in the domestic affairs of weaker nations. Stated plainly, it is colonialism dressed in fine linen. As a practice it gained legitimacy after the imperialist-induced atrocities in Rwanda, Burundi and the former Yugoslav republic in the 1990s to allegedly put an end to crimes against humanity such as ethnic cleansing and genocide. In the wake of these atrocities the UN, under the direction of the US and its European allies, has executed the doctrine of humanitarian intervention in all of the aforementioned countries and the DR Congo, Iraq, Somalia and Haiti.

    The latest imposition of humanitarian interventionism in Haiti was in 2004, after the US overthrow of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and the Lavalas government, allegedly to restore order and maintain peace. But, this cut was just a deeper penetration of the affliction of neoliberalism imposed upon Haiti by US imperialism with the willing aid of Haiti’s own decadent ruling class, beginning in the 1980s under the regime of 'Baby Doc' Jean-Claude Duvalier.

    The current US occupation (the third since 1915) of Haiti removes the mask of the UN occupation in place since 2004, and is promoted and (sadly) widely unquestioned, in the US and throughout the world, as a 'humanitarian operation' allegedly to stabilise the situation in Haiti in order to provide quake relief – which is nothing more than a perpetuation of the longstanding racist view of the US government that the Haitian people are incapable of adequately presiding over their own affairs. The fact is, with the advancements and refinements in the application of the 'shock doctrine' stemming from the occupation of Iraq, the political transformation of Sri Lanka following the tsunami of 2004, and the social and demographic transformation of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the US government and transnational capital are seeking to apply a 'coup de grace' on the people’s movement in Haiti in order to clear the way to remake it as a neoliberal paradise.


    The stakes at play in the US occupation couldn’t be much higher for the people’s movement and the working and peasant masses of Haiti. Under US military rule the overwhelming bulk of the international relief aid (materials and finances) is centrally controlled by a handful of relief agencies handpicked by the US and the UN, who along with elements of the Haitian elite control who gets anything and when, and thus have turned relief aid into a weapon of social and political control. The major ports of entry into the country and its main transportation arteries are under tight US control, restricting people’s ability to organise and mobilise under the ongoing dire circumstances. Potential routes of refuge to the US via the sea and the Dominican Republic via land have been effectively closed and legally barred. And the political repression unleashed after the liquidation of the Lavalas government in 2004 by the Haitian ruling class, former military and Tonton Macoute forces, and MINUSTAH (the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti) is intensifying, particularly with the ongoing banning of the Fanmi Lavalas party from running in upcoming elections. And there is the hunting-down by the US military and mercenary forces of political prisoners associated with the Lavalas movement and government, who were liberated by the collapse of several prison facilities during the 12 January earthquake. To top it all off, the hurricane season is approaching rapidly, and no one, not the US military, the UN and NGO relief agencies or the Haitian government is prepared to face it and the potential calamities it could bring, particularly as it relates to further displacement, the deepening of food insecurity and the spread of infectious diseases.

    And these are just the short-term issues posed by the US occupation and the militarisation of the relief and reconstruction effort. The long-term issue is the suppression of the people’s movement for self-determination and the imposition of permanent structures of dependency and subservience that the US government and the transnational ruling class are seeking to impose via a prolonged occupation. US imperialism is seeking to do no less to Haiti than it did with the occupation of 1915–1934, and that is to remove the threat of social revolution in Haiti and rebuild the Haitian military to serve as a repressive instrument against it in the service of transnational capital.

    The US occupation of Haiti is not just a singular containment initiative. It is also an initiative to further the rollback of progressive social transformation that has swept large parts of Latin America and the Caribbean since the late 1990s. The first major rollback initiative under Obama’s command was the Honduran coup that successfully ousted President Manuel Zelaya. The second, albeit with far less US intervention, was the election of a right-wing government in Chile, under the leadership of billionaire President Sebastian Pinera. The occupation of Haiti is the third and by far the most deeply penetrating of these rollback initiatives. With it US imperialism is seeking to contain initiatives like ALBA – which in English translates into the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of our America – initiated and principally led by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez as an alternative of the FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas). ALBA, through the solidarity initiatives of the Cuban and Venezuelan governments, was making significant headway in Haiti prior to the earthquake with the creation of rural hospitals and schools and the provisioning of subsidised oil and low-interest development loans. Under the US occupation these initiatives are being stunted and contained in their growth. The greatest rollback threat however is the occupation itself. It is a stark reminder to the aspiring progressive governments and social movements in Latin America and the Caribbean that as far as US imperialism is concerned, the Monroe Doctrine is still in full effect over its historically claimed 'backyard', and that there are limits to the progressive reforms it is willing to tolerate.


    The US occupation is not just a problem for Haitians, and social movements in Latin America and the Caribbean, it is and must be understood as a problem for the progressive social movement within the US itself. Sadly, the Black Liberation Movement (BLM) has been divided and largely demobilised in relation to Haiti since the 2004 coup, in large part due to differences over how to view, understand and relate to Fanmi Lavalas and President Aristide. Many have succumbed to accepting the grave distortions and outright lies perpetuated by the US government and right-wing and ultra-left Haitian forces against President Aristide, Fanmi Lavalas and the Lavalas movement. This position ignores the popular will of the Haitian masses and distorts the significant contributions of the Lavalas movement and government towards the realisation of a participatory democracy and a people-centred path of economic and social development as an alternative to neoliberalism. Similar dynamics have also occurred within Caribbean and Latino social movements within the US. And for the most part Haiti and the UN, and now, US occupations hardly register at all within the largely white-dominated anti-war movement (gaining even less attention than the ongoing occupation of Palestine). Undoubtedly racism, particularly the long-standing spectre of the black hoards of Haiti, is at play in this sad scenario.

    This situation must change, and the varied forces of the Black Liberation Movement must lead the way. The Haitian masses and popular movement without question are and will continue to fight valiantly to end the US occupation, but they cannot be left to fight on their own. It is incumbent upon the forces of the Black Liberation Movement to organise a multinational and/or racial anti-imperialist initiative and coalition within the US that fights for the immediate end of the US occupation and the neoliberal impositions it seeks to impose. The initiative must also take a committed stand in support of the demands of the Haitian popular movement that calls for the return of Aristide, freedom for political prisoners, reparations and restitution (particularly from France for the brutal indemnity imposed in 1824) and the cancellation of foreign debt and the negation of their structural adjustment conditionalities. In short, we must seize the opportunity to create our own script to counter neoliberalism and humanitarian interventionism in support of the people’s struggle for self-determination and sovereignty in Haiti.

    This initiative must be conceived as one of joint struggle, one that is clear on the mutual and reinforcing self-interests of the social movement in Haiti, with its peasant and working-class base, and the social movements in the US, and their multinational, working-class base, in the context of the ever-increasing interrelated and interdependent capitalist world system we live in. Our actions should not be contingent on charity or (worse) pity, but a firm grasp that as the social movement in Haiti goes, so goes the potential for the social movement in the US, for the allowance of one tyranny is the spawn of a hundred more. As we gather our forces to support the resistance of the Haitian people, and join with it in common struggle against imperialism, we will appear as a new defiant spirit and a force to be reckoned with.


    * Kali Akuno is based in Atlanta, Georgia, and works as the director of education, training and field operations at the US Human Rights Network (USHRN). He is in the process of writing a book about his experiences organising in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina, tentatively called 'Witness to a Cleansing'.
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

    Trialling Major Hamza Al-Mustapha

    Sabella Ogbobode Abidde


    cc AMMS
    As Major Hamza Al-Mustapha – a former aide to Sani Abacha – continues to be held without trial in Nigeria, Sabella Ogbobode Abidde argues against his indefinite detention. No matter how dubious a person's reputation may be, Nigeria needs to move away from the anti-democratic legal practices that characterised its former military regime, Abidde concludes.

    Worldwide, there have been more than a thousand 'trials of the decade' or 'trials of the century'. Among these are the trial of Socrates in 399 B.C., the trial of Galileo Galilei in 1633, the Salem witchcraft trial of 1692, the infamous Alger Hiss trials of 1949–50, the apartheid-era trial of Nelson Mandela of 1963–64 and the 1995 O.J. Simpson trial. And then there were the Nuremberg trials, which took place in Bavaria, Germany, from 1945 until 1949, and of course the recent Slobodan Milosevic trial at The Hague, which ended after almost five years without a formal verdict because Milosevic suffered a fatal heart attack.

    Even in Nigeria, there have been some very famous court trials – real and shambolic. For instance, in November 1962, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and 28 other members of his party, the Action Group (AG), were put on trial for treasonable felony. In the intervening years, great men like Fela Anikulapo Kuti and Gani Fawehinmi were also dragged through the court system on trumped-up charges. University students, journalists and members of the intellectual class were also dragged through the system. Sometimes, the verdicts are clear; at other times, the cases simply 'disappear'.

    Every so often, however, we have instances were the cases go on and on and on, almost without end. One such case is that of Al-Mustapha (and his alleged co-conspirators). Indeed, peculiar circumstances may elongate trial durations. Under such a condition, the accused and the general public are made aware of the reasons why, unless of course there are issues of national security at play. In the case of Al-Mustapha, the government, it seems, have simply decided to abridge his constitutional rights. If not, how else can they explain a decade-long trial, a trial without an end in sight!

    Retired Major Hamza Al-Mustapha was the chief security officer (CSO) to the late General Sani Abacha. Amongst other charges, he was accused of 'planning or helping to plan the murder of Mr. Alex Ibru, publisher of The Guardian newspaper'. Al-Mustapha may not be a nice man, and indeed, he may be one of the most despicable human beings that ever traversed Nigeria. But that’s not the point; he is not being held simply because he was not a nice fellow. He and his alleged co-conspirators are being held because of a series of criminal complaints made against them.

    Why are they still being held a decade after the allegations were first made? Why is Al-Mustapha still being detained without a speedy and fair trial? A recent report by the Punch newspaper (Friday 26 March 2010), stated that the 'Absence of electricity supply at an Ikeja High Court on Thursday stalled the ongoing trial of Maj. Hamza al-Mustapha … Our correspondent, however, observed that there was power supply to all other courts except that of Justice Olokooba…' Other media houses also reported this strange event.

    Is Al-Mustapha a security risk? We don’t know. Did he endanger the wellbeing of the nation? We don’t know. Is he a murderer? We don’t know. Did he conspire with others to kill the innocent? We don’t know. We don’t know the answers to these and other legal questions because the courts, either at the state or federal level, have not made a legal proclamation. A decade later, we still don’t know. Must it take another decade before he knows his fate and for us to know the answers? This is a travesty, a violation of his rights.

    Sadly and unfortunately, the Nigerian Bar Association and civil society in Nigeria have not deemed it fit to protest this illegality. To detain a man – whether we like him or not – for this long is unconscionable. His continued detention is against the law and common sense. Whatever Al-Mustapha did while an aide to General Abacha should not factor into how the courts treat him. If he committed prosecutable offences, well then, let justice take its course – fairly and speedily. Prosecute him now or set him free; prosecute him now or let him return to his family.

    We cannot now embrace the same things we abhorred during the military regime when fellow Nigerians were detained without fair and speedy trials. We cannot condemn Al-Mustapha and then turn around and do to him what we are alleging he did to other Nigerians. Revenge is not justice; tit-for-tat is not justice. Throw the Criminal Code of Conduct at him, throw the constitution at him, but do it in a fair and just manner.

    What manner of law allows the government to incarcerate a man indefinitely, and what kind of people turns a blind eye to the illegal dealings of its government? The continuing detention of Hamza Al-Mustapha and others should be denounced by all peace- and democracy-loving Nigerians. If the government can arbitrarily detain fellow Nigerians then none of us must feel safe and secure. At a time when we should be reaping the benefits of democratic rule, our government is, essentially, kidnapping fellow Nigerians. If after 10 years they cannot secure a conviction, how many more years do they need?

    As responsible and civic-minded Nigerians, it is therefore up to us to faithfully protest and vigorously condemn his continuing detention. It is our duty to help protect Hamza Al-Mustapha’s civil liberties. By doing so, we help to strengthen our position and our freedom before this and future governments. We safeguard our own constitutional rights if we help guarantee the constitutional rights of fellow Nigerians. We cannot and must not leave this or future governments to their own devices. No. We’ll be courting disaster if we do so. Therefore, we must demand that the government conclude this case within 90 days, or set the accused free. Let’s demand justice, not just for ourselves and for our friends, but also for our enemies and our critics.


    * Dr Sabella Ogbobode Abidde is with the Department of Humanities at Alabama State University. Outside of the academy, he is a noted public intellectual who has written extensively on African and global affairs. He can be reached at [email protected].
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

    Advocacy & campaigns

    Feminists challenging Clitoraid

    Urge Good Vibrations to drop their support of Clitoraid


    It is possible to address the negative effects of female circumcision without denigrating African women. African women who have undergone circumcision also deserve integrity and respect! Please sign this petition urging Good Vibrations to drop their support of Clitoraid. Clitoraid's humiliating campaign urges supporters adopt African women's clitorises.
    Good Vibrations should instead support any of the numerous African women's organizations who have been mobilizing around the issue for generations. Supporting a cult is not the same as supporting African women's own initiatives!

    According to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, Clitoraid has successfully mobilized over U.S.$120,000 from U.S. supporters alone in support for their humiliating clitoris adoptions. They have raised even more in countries like France and Australia where they are also active in their demeaning campaign.

    Surprisingly they have gained support from Good Vibrations, one of the most allegedly progressive feminist businesses in the U.S.

    Clitoraid is a project of the Raelian movement ( A UFO religion that believes that all life on Earth was created in scientific labs by a species of extraterrestrials. Their previous venture, Clonaid was met with a kind of skepticism that Clitoraid has not.

    Feminists Challenging Clitoraid is a group mobilizing a vocal challenge to the humiliating and racist exploitation of the issue of Female Circumcision for dubious fundraising purposes and we could really use your support. In response to Good Vibration's recent dismissal of our challenge ( we are calling for reinforcements and we need you to lend your voice in pushing back.

    This petition is not to encourage the continuation of Female Circumcision! It calls for all of us to respect African women when addressing this important issue.

    Write to Good Vibrations urging them to cease their support of Clitoraid for their humiliation of African women!
    Send emails to:[email protected], [email protected] [email protected], and [email protected]

    Are you in North America? Call Good Vibrations and communicate your concern about their support of Clitoraid's humiliating African women's clitoris adoptions:
    Camilla Lombard, Events and Publicity Manager voice: (415) 974-8985 ext. 201

    Thank you for your support of African women's right to respect and dignity!
    and here Read more on this important issue.

    South Africa: Statement on the national crisis & proposal for a way forward

    Unemployed People's Movement


    Our country is in crisis. The internal contradictions of the African National Congress have bought it to the point where it is no longer able to give leadership to society. It continues to speak the language of nationalism and national liberation but it has degenerated into an association of predatory elites hell bent on using the state to plunder the society. The gap between the ANC’s language and its practice is now so large that the organisation can no longer speak to the national interest with any conviction, clarity or credibility.
    We have the highest rate of protest in any country in the world. People are in revolt across the country. Every night the TV news shows the police shooting at the poor. One of the most popular songs in these protests is “Amabhunu amnyama asenzela i –worry” – the black boers are causing us worry. The fact is that the ANC have taken over the systems of oppression and instead of dismantling them they have used them to enrich themselves. The people are quite correct. The ANC leaders have become the black boers.

    With Julius Malema’s open embrace of the brutal regime in Harare the final destination of the ANC’s trajectory has been made clear. The people of Zimbabwe have waged a long struggle against the criminal regime in Harare. So far their gains have been very limited but Malema has gone to Harare and urinated on those gains, on the struggle of the Zimbabwean people, on their hopes for a free and just Zimababwe and all those who have been beaten, jailed and killed in the struggle to free Zimbabwe from the scourge of Zanu-PF.

    Malema can sing the songs from the struggle against apartheid as much as he likes but the people will not be fooled. In Soweto Malema went to visit JubJub in the holding cells and not the families of the children who were killed by JubJub. His position is clear. We all know what side he is on and that is the side of the super-elite.

    Our position is also clear. We agree 100% with Amilcar Cabral who said that:

    ‘We are fighting so that insults may no longer rule our countries, martyred and scorned for centuries, so that our peoples may never more be exploited by imperialists not only by people with white skin, because we do not confuse exploitation or exploiters with the colour of men's skins; we do not want any exploitation and corruption in our country, not even by black people.’

    Of course white racism remains a problem and it must be confronted but Malema is just misusing that struggle to try and distract the masses from his own plunder from the public purse.

    The ANC has lost all ability to give leadership to society. It is now just like some sort of trade union for the super-elites. The people are awakening to their treason and the ANC will not govern for ever. But in the meantime leadership of this society will have to come from below – from the struggling masses in the townships and squatter camps.

    We as the Unemployed People’s Movement are calling for the masses to resist Malema’s distractions and to give leadership to this society. We make the following contribution to the conversation about the direction that should come out of the shift to leadership of the society by the working class and the poor.

    We need a fundamental social reorganisation. The first steps should include serious steps to recognise and to deal with the crisis of unemployment. These steps can include:

    1. Taking immediate steps to put the Right to Work in the Constitution.

    2. Immediately implementing a guaranteed income of R2000 per month for all unemployed adults.

    3. Immediately baring all party leaders from competing for government tenders.

    4. Immediately investigating all party leaders with unexplainable wealth.

    5. Immediately reversing the militarisation of the police and ceasing all repression of the movements of the poor and the working class.

    6. Immediately beginning a serious discussion about how to socialise the economy.

    We also need a fundamental political reorganisation. Immediate first steps should include:

    1. Building a united platform for all progressive organisations and individuals outside of the ANC alliance. We support the call for a Conference of the Democratic Left.

    2. Creating democratic councils in all communities and places of work and study in which the people can discuss the creation of a clear and credible alternative vision for the country in which all South African can have a real stake in the future.

    3. Building a democratic people’s movement that win can control of the state.

    Ayanda Kota

    Unemployed People’s Movement


    [email protected]

    Victims of Angola demolition continue facing hunger and health problems



    The march against home demolitions and forced evictions 'Don’t Push Down My House' was scheduled to take place on Saturday April 10, in Benguela, Angola. In a letter to Omunga, the provincial governor of Benguela did not authorize the demonstration because 'the province of Benguela has not registered demolitions, forced land evictions and other acts that collide against the law'.
    In a letter to Omunga, the provincial governor of Benguela did not authorize the demonstration because “the province of Benguela has not registered demolitions, forced land evictions and other acts that collide against the law”.

    In its response, Omunga argues that demolitions are taking place in various places in the Benguela province, such as in the towns of Benguela and Lobito. According to Omunga, citizens are victims of demolitions, they have their plantations destroyed and live under permanent threat of being evicted from the places where they live, already in a miserable situation. The organisation points out that even if there were no demolitions, land evictions or any other actions or threats of this kind taking place in Benguela, and if they occur in any part of the country, this is of public interest and is already a reason to carry out the march.

    Brutal demolitions and forced evictions have become a regular occurrence in cities and rural communities in Angola. The last major one happened in the beginning of March in Lubango (Huila province capital), killing seven people and displacing 3,800 families. They have been transferred to Tchavola, in the outskirts of Lubango, a place with no water, sanitation, schools or transportation. The situation is still of a humanitarian emergency (photos attached and on the site

    Two weeks ago, the government of Angola apologised to the victims of the demolitions, but said that the “requalification of urban areas” will continue. The provincial government of Huila said the demolitions will restart in June.

    This is the second time the provincial government bans the march. Before the one planned for March 25, the provincial governor of Benguela decided to prohibit the peaceful manifestation and a climate of intimidation was strategically set up, with shock-riot police with trained dogs placed along the route where protesters would march. In a statement, the governor argued that “within the framework of its duty to defend social order, tranquillity and peace, will use the legally constituted means in order to stop such an action and declares that it will not be responsible for any physical or material damage that may arise from the exercise of its authority, in defence of the established order”.

    The solidarity movement to support the ideas that leads the march – the respect for human rights, to the freedom of expression, organisation and manifestation – keeps growing and comes from different countries, from the UK to Togo, from Bangladesh to Brazil.

    You can add your name and/or the name of your organisation, by simply sending it in any language to [email protected],[email protected] and [email protected]

    The updated list of supporters is on

    Letters have also been an important tool of support and protest. Recently, The Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE), in partnership with Christian Aid and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), sent a letter to the provincial governor of Huila (with copies to the Presidency of the Republic of

    Angola and to the Presidency of the National Assembly of Angola) showing its concern with the violent and illegal evictions and demolitions and with the housing, land and human rights situation in Angola. More information here:

    Ana Cláudia Menezes

    Angola Programme

    Christian Aid

    Books & arts

    'I learned that our land was not quite our land'

    Review of ‘Dreams in a Time of War: A Childhood Memoir’

    Peter Wuteh Vakunta


    Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s latest publication, ‘Dreams in a Time of War: A Childhood Memoir’, is ‘a treasure-house of childhood memories’, writes Peter Wuteh Vakunta. ‘It is an informative and didactic memoir written with the intent of taking the reader down memory lane. The story of Ngugi’s travails through life, it lends credence to the wise saying that epic characters are often associated with humble beginnings.’

    ‘Dreams in a Time of War: A Childhood Memoir’ begins Ngugi’s narrative precisely where stories of epic heroes always begin – with the place, time, and circumstances of his birth: ‘I was born in 1938, under the shadow of war, the Second World War, to Thiong’o wa Nducu, my father , and Wanjiku wa Ngugi, my mother. I don’t know where I ranked, in terms of years, among the twenty-four children of my father and his four wives, but I was the fifth child of my mother’s house’(p9). Having been born in a polygamous family with too many mouths to feed, young Ngugi often suffered pangs of hunger: ‘I had not had lunch that day, and my tummy had forgotten the porridge I had gobbled that morning before the six-mile run to Kinyogori Intermediate School’(p3). Not only did the youngster have to dispense with food on occasion; he had to walk an incredibly long distance each day in quest of the knowledge he so badly needed to improve his lot in life. Knowing who Ngugi is today, it is shocking to learn that he never owned a pair of shoes until he was admitted into high school: ‘I had walked barefoot all my life’ (p245).

    Ngugi’s adolescent years were formative, characterised by rites of passage: ‘My grandmother turned to me: “And my husband here?” She called me husband because I was named after my grandfather… The idea of circumcision was very far from my mind. But for some reason she would not let the matter go, and a few days later she brought up the subject, reiterating that Ndungu who was my age, could not become a man and leave me behind a boy’(p163). The initiation school sometimes referred to as an unsafe ordeal by westerners is highly regarded in Kenya and beyond. Circumcision is a practice whereby the loose skin at the end of a boy’s penis is cut off. The initiation school is viewed as a nursery where moral rectitude is inculcated in the minds of initiates who are taught life skills such as courage, resilience, stoicism, creative thinking, and respect. Most importantly, the rite of passage is perceived as a coming of age, an inevitable bridge between boyhood and manhood. As Ngugi puts it, rites of passage were not only ‘initiations from one phase of life to another but also forms of social education’ (p83).

    Indeed, Ngugi portrays himself as a cultural hybrid, having undergone initiation in the indigenous and western senses of the word: ‘One evening, my mother asked me: ‘Would you like to go to school?’ It was in 1947’ (p49). This moment marks the genesis of Ngugi’s initiation into the white man’s school, a school that had tonic effect on the growing youngster: ‘…at lunchtime when other kids took out the food they had brought…to eat during the midday break…I would often pretend that I was going someplace, but really it was to any shade of a tree or cover of a bush, far from the other kids, just to read a book, any book…’(p3).

    ‘Dreams in a Time of War’ is homage paid to Kenya’s nationalists, many of whom paid the supreme price in the struggle to free their country from British colonial yoke. Ngugi sheds ample light on the seminal role played by the Mau Mau in the liberation struggle: ‘The guerillas are under strict orders from Marshall Dedan Kimathi not to kill at random. The guerrillas could not survive without support from the people… there were hundreds of others who did not survive, butchered by the colonial forces…’ (p182).

    The historical significance of Ngugi’s memoir resides not only in allusions to historical figures like Dedan Kimathi, Jomo Kenyatta, Eisenhower, Hitler and Winston Churchill among others, but also to the question of settler colonialism in Kenya and the irksome land misappropriation that surfaced in its wake: ‘I had learned that down beyond the forest was the Limuru Township and across the railway line, white-owned plantations where my older siblings went to pick tea leaves for pay…I had learned that our land was not quite our land; that we were now ahoi, tenants at will. How did we come to be ahoi on our own land?’(p10).

    Western imperialism in Kenya went farther than mere land grabbing. The colonialists owned the means of production as this example indicates: ‘…white people owned the tea plantation on the other side of the railway, and I had even heard that there were white owners of the Limuru Bata Shoe factory…’ (p39). Thus, this book is a lampoon on how Europe underdeveloped Kenya. It is a rap on colonialism and its attendant ills. Ngugi believes that the disintegration of the African continent began at the infamous Berlin Conference of 1885 ‘that divided Africa into spheres of influence among European powers…’ (p15).

    ‘Dreams in a Time of War’ is captivating in several respects, but the quality that grips the reader’s attention is the writer’s continual recourse to the literary device of intertextuality. He resorts to cross-references in a bid to prove salient points. For example, on p111, Ngugi refers to Theodore Natsoulas’ article ‘The Rise and Fall of the Kikuyu Karing’a Education Association in Kenya, 1929-1952’, published in the Journal of African and Asian Studies 23.3-4(1988):220-21, to underscore the colluding role played by Western religions in the cultural alienation of Africans. In the same vein, he alludes to Winston Churchill’s ‘My African Journey’ (1968) on p14, to lambaste the cantankerous role the British played in the dismemberment of Kenya. Ngugi takes the West to task for the spoliation of Africa, particularly the theft of Africa’s lands. On p227 he refers to Stevenson’s ‘Treasure Island’, a book that he counted among his favourites in his adolescence. Charles Dicken’s ‘Great Expectations’ (p219) belongs in this category as well.

    Clash of cultures is a leitmotif in the book. Ngugi discusses the uneasy cohabitation of modernism with tradition in Kenya as follows: ‘Baba Mukuru’s house was antithetical to Kahahu’s. He was as confident in the ways of his ancestors as Kahahu was in the ways of his Christian ancestors. For him, tradition was sacrosanct.’ (p82-3) A little further, the narrator sheds more light: ‘Baba Mukuru poured a libation for the ancestral spirits that they might be with the living and the newly born’ (p83).

    Cultural hybridity is manifest throughout the book in the form of indigenisation of language. Ngugi straddles the linguistic divide by drawing from both his indigenous language and English as this example illustrates: ‘It was the main hut not because of its size but because it was set apart and equidistant from the other four. It was called a thingira’ (p9). Code-switching enables him to express cultural specificities. Sometimes, Ngugi employs vernacular language words in order to underline otherness: ‘These must the white spirits, the mizungu, and this, the Nairobi had heard about as having sprung from the bowels of the earth’ (p14). In his attempt to transpose the speech mannerisms of Kenyans into written English, he resorts to the alternate use of languages, including everything from the introduction of a single unassimilated word up to a complete sentence as this other example shows: ‘…which he Gikuyunized as mburaribuu, kaniga gaka, mbaga ino, and which he used freely to address any of his children at whom he was angry’ (p18).

    Quite apart from Africanisms, Ngugi makes abundant use of proverbial expressions to translate the worldview of the Kikuyu into a European language: ‘…I comfort myself, because I don’t have to tell my stories to listeners eager to eat from the palm of my hand’ (p232). Another insightful maxim used by Ngugi for the purpose of translating Gikuyu sagacity into English is: ‘The Gikuyu have a saying that out of the same womb come both a killer and a healer’ (p215). Throughout the narrative, he uses Gikuyu apothegmatic expressions – proverbs, idioms, ideophones and interjections for the purpose of self-expression. His memoir reads like an oral tale. The reason is that he strives to translate orality into the written oral word. The book is replete with songs culled from the author’s childhood memories. The one on p34 is particularly interesting because it captures the servile obedience characteristic of colonial subjects:

    We are marching on
    We are marching on
    At whose order?
    The king’s orders
    Let’s march on.

    Ngugi goes to great lengths to translate the discursive orality of his maternal tongue into written English. He simulates the Gikuku storyteller by creating the spontaneity of oral performance. In sum, the publication of this nonfictional book after the voluminous Wizard of the Crow (2006, 768 pages) is welcome relief for readers who are intimidated by sheer length. True to himself, Ngugi has proven once again to be a true master of the word.


    * Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s Dreams in a Time of War: A Childhood Memoir, is published by Panthon Books, New York, 2010 (ISBN 978-0-307-37883-5).
    * Peter Wuteh Vakunta is visiting assistant professor in the Department of African Languages and Literature, University of Wisconsin-Madison.
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

    The social life of 'maids'

    Efua Prah


    Efua Prah reviews Francis Nyamnjoh's 'Intimate Strangers', a book in which 'we learn and unlearn a lot about human beings and the solidarities they forge and deny one another'.

    Through Francis Nyamnjoh’s Immaculate of Mimboland, a foreigner in Botswana, we learn and unlearn a lot about human beings and the solidarities they forge and deny one another.

    I think my sense of what was normal and accepted behaviour really got tested as I read the stories Immaculate transcribed for Dr Winter-Bottom Nanny. My surprised reaction really is exemplary of how easy it is to normalise certain ways of being (like what our expectations are and what we measure as acceptable) and categorise relationships according to these definitions.

    It never occurred to me that the relationships between 'maids and madams' could be such a rich area for research. I really enjoyed how the lives of others allowed the reader to engage with an issue that I have up until this point taken for granted. I found myself making comparisons between the relationships explored in the book and the relationships I entertain in my daily life. Throughout my childhood we have always had extra help around the house. The people my parents employed certainly had an infinitely different relationship with us (the children). I imagine that my parents may have had to consider a whole set of different parameters of engagement compared to the ones I took on. For me, the people who helped around the house, now that I really do think about it, were 'intimate strangers' – intimate insofar as they knew a lot about my growth in the world and were indeed strangers because I knew next to nothing about their growth in the world. It was as if our relationship was held in time and bound by geographic obstacles. They often lived far from our home and would travel to and from work everyday at fixed times. Hence, I think an exploration of the relationship between children and 'maids' would also allow for an interesting narrative.

    After reading about these relationships, I questioned my mother about the validity of the accounts as they were vastly different to my experience with domestic workers here in South Africa. I found it so intriguing that such differences could take place in so close a distance between countries – Botswana is a neighbouring country to South Africa. I have an aunt that lives in Botswana and I was curious to find out if such narratives were possible. When I questioned my mother she replied that she was unaware of the nature of the relationships between 'maids and madams' in Botswana and so I have to assume that the stories in the book are in fact relationships that get played out daily, although even now I find myself saying, 'Really? Can it be so that both "maids and madams" feel as it is written in this story?'

    Another fascinating dynamic was that of 'foreigners' (Bakwerekwere) and Batswana. It was very interesting to be introduced to such forms of discrimination that were seemingly justified by the characters in the book. The ways in which people judged and made suppositions about others along cultural lines within the framework of 'maids and madams' was eye-opening. It was interesting to draw parallels between the lives of South Africans and 'foreigners' living and seeking employment here in South Africa – who gets hired, for what reasons and the consequent results of 'foreigners'' successful employment.


    The subtlety in which the reader was exposed to obvious racial preferences articulated by 'maids' ensured that a balance of the main themes was maintained. Furthermore, weaving race dynamics into the narrative in the way 'Maids and Madams' does created a space for the reader to formulate their own opinion as to why such perceptions may be held. The text neither attempted to assuage the reader into any position except their own nor did it ascribe judgment on any one party for holding or fuelling this perception.


    I thought that in looking at aspects of interaction as determined by one's age highlighted the cultural trappings people fall into in attempts to survive in a job, as was the case with Angels’ mother-in-law and her elderly 'maid'. Cultural norms play an enormous part in determining which roles each person takes on. As shown in the stories, the hiring and firing of 'maids' is solely the domain of the 'madam', so regardless of the exhausting job of finding the right 'maid', the husband does nothing to ease the burden, expecting the home to be run as efficiently with or without a 'maid'. The wife’s role is to make sure the kids are fed and ready for school in the mornings, picked up in the afternoons and then she must make sure that lunch and/or supper is prepared for when the husband comes home hungry. As if this was not a lot to do, at some point during the day it is the expected and accepted duty of the wife to conduct the search for the perfect 'maid' whilst still finding time to go to work to pay necessary bills. It is a wonder what the man does in terms of creating a home for his family. Nothing in the stories is offered so I am left assuming that men are counter-productive in the creation of a home in Botswana.


    The social life of 'maids' in the home setting of the 'madam' really was the element within the stories that left me wide-eyed and mouth agape. Having never had such experiences with any of the domestic workers my parents employed I found it quite astonishing that 'maids' happily brought their boyfriends to their place of employment. I understood when it was written that of course if you are living and working on the same premises then it ought not to be a problem to have your loved one spend evenings with you. What surprised me was the extent to which 'maids' expressed this need. The lives of 'maids and madams' in Botswana is a very colourful one indeed!


    Reading about the sexual advances made between employees and domestic help did not strike me as something surprising. Although I neither have first- nor second-hand knowledge of such cases, it seemed to be something that could easily play out within the home setting, especially when the stranger plays such an intimate role in one's life. I think that assertions of sexuality and power occur in many places of employment and on many stages of interaction. When such occurrences take place in the home many variables are immediately thrown into the narrative (i.e., the children if there are any, class discrepancies, etc). Many other relationships get entangled when one crosses that line. It was interesting to read about how such incidents creep into homes. Moreover, I really am enjoying how these stories of sexuality and power have generated assumptions and opinions in me and mostly how it has created an internal debate as I navigate through ideas of morality and ethics.


    Immaculate really was the needle weaving the string through the fabric of this story. Through her character, the reader met Angel, Mrs Winter-Bottom Nanny and all the other people who willingly shared their stories. In a sense she was a representation of the way in which 'maids and madams' are described as 'intimate strangers' – the reader enjoyed the luxury of sitting in on the lives of others without offering anything in return. Immaculate became an open-ended book to discover and map our assumptions and opinions about 'maids and madams' on her narrative. Her character unfolded at a steady tempo to the final build-up, where she reveals the delicate parts of her story to Dr Nanny. The only character that is left unturned is Dr Nanny, who functions as the omnipotent researcher. One catches only a glimmer of her character when Immaculate listens to an over-run of the interview conducted between Dr Nanny and someone else. The idea given is that Dr Nanny did not switch off the recording device before answering her phone to speak to a friend. She is heard commenting on the intrusiveness of domestic workers on her life – how at first it was a fascinating anomaly to her but now she was feeling as though it was an infringement of her personal space.


    The tying-in of the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs – computers and cell-phones) into the narrative added an extra layer that built upon Immaculate’s narrative. She was the primary user of a computer (emailing transcriptions) in the story as well as being the primary character in the unfolding of the possible role cell-phones take on in communication. She is haunted by the text messages left by Philip on her cell-phone and keeps them as a reminder of the hold he has of her. Within this framing, examples of herbs used in malice are highlighted. These examples are weaved simply into the story and one does not get the sense that it is a far-fetched reality. Medicine and its malpractice is a topic only explored in the last few chapters, which ensures that the main themes of the book become pronounced and the surrounding themes (like that of ICTs and malicious medicinal practice) act as support structures for other more prominent themes. However, it is a risk to introduce such a vast and thick topic such as medicinal herbal lore within the framework of ICTs right at the end of the book, as I feel it is a topic needing its own narrative.

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book. It generated a healthy debate within my mind and stretched my thoughts about the fixed ways in which I formulated opinions based upon expectations and measures of accepted behaviour.


    * Francis Nyamnjoh, 'Intimate Strangers', Langaa Research and Publishing, Bamenda, ISBN: 978-9956616060, 2010.
    * Efua Prah is a PhD student at the University of Cape Town.
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

    Letters & Opinions

    In pursuit of freedom, justice and responsible government

    A response to ‘A long walk from Soweto to Sandown'

    Anne Price


    Mphutlane wa Bofelo’s article is a ‘weighty warning about leftist spin’ for those who, ‘in their naivety and idealism, tend to see compatriots in anyone who talks the talk’, writes Anne Price, in a letter addressed to the author.

    Dear friend in pursuit of freedom and justice and responsible government,

    I am a 63-year-old white woman. I’m privileged and as such am able to spend a lot of time reading, watching the news and downloading e-mails. I am also very in touch with local affairs.

    Typically I start the day downloading mail, my head filled with devastating images from the news the previous night, (skeletal refugees in Darfur, pitiful Haitians desperate for food). I open my e-mails. Several online petitions arrive requesting my support; another devastating deforestation capital punishment for gays in Uganda, Solidarity with Cuba – I add my name and send them on. I read a blog about America's increased troops in Afghanistan, several on Global Warming and spend some time on your thought-provoking piece.

    A disturbing thought crops up. While I am in awe of the ease of access to opinions and grateful that I am able to stay informed, local issues have been swamped out – a rape and a shebeen stabbing over the weekend – and ongoing local problems like high teacher absenteeism. Old perspectives on the whole question of protest start to surface. After reading ‘From Sandton to Soweto’ I try to give these form.

    The first of these is easy to describe. Beware of jargon:

    ‘after 15 years of ANC government, the owners of capital now know that the radical leftist terminology that the ANC uses is just a rhetorical spin to sell rightwing programmes'.

    It’s so easy to toss out clichéd catch phrases to gain acceptance to the club. That’s why it’s such great fodder for satirists. But your treatise adds far more weighty warnings about leftist spin. It’s a warning to those who, in their naivety and idealism, tend to see compatriots in anyone who talks the talk. Like Julius Malema. The use of a single word turns him into a champion of socialism and the poor, the singing of a single phrase and he becomes an outraged victim, an honourable combatant in The Struggle.

    As you point out the old and new capitalists make good use of the spin. Both know the game. You’re absolutely right about the expectations of the comrade-capitalists. They want everything that the old elites have. I suspect that some are aiming for a great deal more.

    I think you are brave. You are treading a tricky path because you are trying to expose, within your own readership, this naivety and the dangers inherent in wholesale acceptance of left wing language.

    In the former Soviet Union, nationalisation and state ownership resulted in state capitalism and the emergence of the nomenklatura. This replicated itself in many countries going by the label socialist/communist, people’s republic or some variant thereof. Very often, it was the case of the state/party prescribing socialism for the masses and capitalism for itself.

    This is another brave statement exposing the dangers of labels. As we are seeing in SA, capitalism is able to take on many guises. But is it wise to believe that corruption and greed are the products of capitalism only? I suppose it’s a matter of opinion but I believe that there is a tragic flaw in the human condition. We seek comfort over sacrifice. We are unable to act upon the needs of the broader society, let alone the globe. And as a citizen of a poor country, where you’ve had a rudimentary education and your only chance for survival is through a government job, or making sure your sister/cousin holds on to her government job, and the salting away of money for the day when your patron, or the entire government, is booted out. Before long survival is replaced by the need for comfort and then opulence. Massive greed takes over. In South Africa, it’s getting hard to tell our apparatchiks from our nomenklatura. They’ve become such a large, well-heeled group.

    I have other concerns with regard to some perceptions, strategies and tendencies within the groups which are seeking solutions to societal issues – academics, cultural workers, Civil Society etc. (We judiciously avoid labels these days).

    These groups are present in all countries. They are the litmus of the dangers which threaten, the canaries down the mine, the conscience of a nation. They tend to be small. But given the right strategies, and an understanding of the mood and needs of the nation, they can grow – like the anti-Vietnam war movement in America. Maybe too slowly for us? But in those instances, such as the Civil Rights Movement in America, the aggrieved were in the minority. Here they are in the majority.

    For brevity let me use the term Movement to describe this loose grouping of social activists.

    - The Movement seems to spend much time preaching to the converted. How many of us need to be reminded of the evils of capitalism? Criticism, as they say, is the easy part.

    - For many there’s a lack of direction. Since the exposure of corruption within many of the communist states the concept of nationalisation has been seriously tainted. State ownership meant fat profits for the party bosses, unsustainability (continuous reliance on state support) and little concern for working conditions. Nationalisation is now viewed with suspicion, an open invitation to nepotism and corruption, especially in a country like ours. Is there a model that will work for us? Perhaps the Fifth International will yield some solutions. Yet I fear that wholesale adoption of these would be disastrous. It will be up to the thinkers and the well-informed members of the Movement like you, to work out solutions to our unique and urgent circumstances.

    - The Movement perceives itself to be bigger than it is. This is a commonplace in any grouping which surrounds itself with opinions of the like-minded and loses touch with the larger society. The Movement must be very careful, as its members receive missives from one another and from across the globe, that the computer screen does not become an infinity of mirrors.

    - It needs to beware the scapegoat strategy. Malema is masterful at it. In a corner with corruption charges? Sing an incendiary song, take a swipe at the SACP. Apartheid is the cause of most of our ills, an obvious fact, known to the vast majority of South African of all persuasions and one which must never be forgotten. But inform a crowd on the rampage for lack of services that Apartheid is responsible, that a good socialist agenda has been high-jacked by neo colonials and neo liberal-capitalists and these days they will reply with great clarity and anger – maybe these neo what what’s have a fancy label but they are crooks and we know exactly who they are.

    As you point out, the present regime has allowed many apartheid evils to continue. But we need far stronger protest and action. Wake up everyone... the mental holocaust known as Bantu Education is still alive and well in our schools, shaping the minds of our children. I am acutely aware of it in the five rural schools in my neighbourhood. I assume that most supporters of the Movement, like our bureaucrats, send their children to model C schools, which is completely understandable. But it means that the disgraceful state of education in our schools is out of sight. We could wave the blame banner over Naledi Pandor and Kadar Asmal, accusing them of having a neo liberal-capitalist agenda. But will it help?

    - The Movement is in danger of becoming just as removed from what’s really happening in this country as the reigning government. We just have to ask ourselves why Malema has caught the hearts and mind of his constituency – the most important in the country. They are not in the suburbs or offices looking at their computer screens.

    - The Movement has shrunk dramatically since the advent of democracy in this country. Compared with the size of such groups in other countries, it is totally inadequate to deal with the deluge of ills which beset us. Like the anti-apartheid movement we need to be garnering support from outside our borders. What I see is the opposite – causes in other parts of the world seem to take up a disproportionate amount of our time – including those that pertain to climate change.

    There’s an insufficient realisation of the responsibilities that come with being the conscience of the nation. The canary must react to the adverse conditions down our mine, especially those which need to be urgently addressed.

    We have to prioritise. Sure, I hate seeing Mandela with American celebrities. I'm sad that Hugh Masekela cannot meet him and I really believe that John Kani should play Madiba. But these two artists are internationally celebrated, living stimulating lives. I don’t think we can afford to take up their cause, which can never move me to outrage the way the Department of Arts and Culture does with its squandered budget, while our artists struggle to put food on their tables. Even big global issues (apart from global warming), while being acknowledged, cannot displace our own shocking problems. I don't need to list them. But we all know that we top the international list of far too many terrible things.

    Is it going too far to say that it might be considered morally reprehensible, given the small numbers and positions of privilege of many members, for the Movement to spend protest time and energy on anything else? I can't help but draw comparisons with the protests of the 60s. Sure our efforts as students, mostly from privileged backgrounds, can be seen as pathetic now. What the heck did we hope to achieve as we stood with our amateurish banners on Jan Smuts avenue? But I do remember our total commitment to the most relevant issues. Of course we would pass resolutions condemning the war in Vietnam, the arms race etc. But there was no way we could spare the time that was needed for our own horrors – Bantu Education, press censorship, pass laws, deaths in detention. Protest was really difficult then but I find I cannot use this to counter the accusation posed by this generation: ‘Why didn't you do more?'

    Protest is a whole lot easier now. Instituting real changes is always hard but it needs to happen. Let's not see another generation having to face the question put to them by their children: 'Why didn't you do more?'

    The world IS changing, my friends

    A response to ‘Immodesty, Islam and the gender equity movement’

    Elma Doeleman


    I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this article was written by a man, writes Elma Doeleman.

    While reading the article on this conference, I was convinced it was written by a woman. What a surprise to learn at the end that it was a South African male author!

    The world IS changing, my friends. Thank you, Mphutlane wa Bofelo, for your excellent comments on this conference.

    The World Bank and transparency

    David Shaman


    History suggests that the World Bank’s management believes transparency is something that should apply to its clients and other external stakeholders rather than to itself, writes David Shaman. He invites readers to share their own experiences and observations at his new blog.

    When he left the World Bank in 2005, former President James Wolfensohn said transparency reduced corruption, reduced corruption led to better governance and better governance increased development. Transparency, he believed, was the key. But history suggests the Bank’s management believes transparency is something that should apply to its clients and other external stakeholders rather than to itself.

    Defenders of the Bank might note that the institution recently updated its information disclosure policies. But the Bank did so because it had to. After years of resisting calls for change from external critics, the pressure had become overwhelming. As the author of a new book, The World Bank Unveiled: Inside the Revolutionary Struggle for Transparency, I examine the meaning of transparency inside the institution. My experiences suggest it means different things to different internal stakeholders and that these sensibilities are often conflicting and reflect a vast array of backgrounds. For example, in recent years the Bank merged a knowledge sharing mantra into a culture that hordes information and it has implemented greater disclosure measures that were often viewed by external observers as rhetorical flourishes.

    Over the next few months, I will offer perspectives on the World Bank and transparency and accountability issues as well as thoughts on reforms. I invite you to share your own experiences and observations with a wide community of international development practitioners and interested readers. To read further, please visit The World Bank Unveiled blog.

    Together, we can make a difference in molding a World Bank that more effectively addresses poverty alleviation.

    African Writers’ Corner

    Mr President

    Fugisayi Sasa


    his mouth is intrusive
    invading my conscience
    with words
    his promises
    i believe his tongue
    dripping honey is a dagger
    through my ears
    sirens wailing
    in my mind
    are relief from
    his public addresses
    his idle chatter i believed
    his voice is the
    hyena’s laughter
    animals in the night
    whose wildness i cannot
    hear when asleep in bed
    of a time before
    his mind withered
    and let his wide open mouth
    spew hollow words
    i believe mr president
    nobody is tuned in
    to your frequency

    * Fugisayi Sasa is a Zimbabwean poet.
    * This poem was originally published by Poetry International Web.
    * © 2008 Fugisayi Sasa
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

    Blogging Africa

    Terre Noire, Terre Blanche: South Africa in black and white

    Dibussi Tande


    ANC Youth League President Julius Malema’s racial pot-stirring coupled with the gruesome murder of white supremacist leader, Eugene Terre Blanche, has led to a rise in racial tensions in South Africa and lots of soul searching about the future of the 'Rainbow Nation'.

    Tia-Mysoa argues that the talk of racial violence is overblown and that the racial tensions are being stocked by extremist minorities on both sides of the racial divide:

    'There’s no doubt that a large number of folk in this country are really very upset right now, and I genuinely believe that many, especially those who have lost loved ones in the ongoing genocide perpetrated by the black savages, have every reason to feel extremely angry. No one deserved to die in the manner Eugène Terre Blanche did, and the fact that certain black people happily celebrated his death, has also made me feel very angry indeed.

    'Some people like Malema are always angry. I think he was born that way! His outburst the other day when he humiliated a BBC journalist in public was a perfect example of how nasty he can get. BUT, Malema does not represent the entire nation of black youth in this country! In fact, there are 1000’s of black people in this country who also think the man is an idiot. For obvious reasons their views seldom get published in the MSM.

    'Most members of the AWB have been angry since the day the organisation was born in 1973. What has their anger achieved since then? – Absolutely nothing! Although I’ve heard that more than 3000 new members have recently signed up, after their leader was murdered, the organisation’s numbers still DO NOT represent the majority white Afrikaners living in this country. There’s talk in the media that the AWB wants to avenge the death of Eugène Terre'Blanche, but I really doubt whether people with this attitude actually represent the true wishes of the majority AWB members!'

    The Salad Magazine Blog laments that the racial hatred that has destroyed Zimbabwe has turned its sights on South Africa and argues that the onus is on white South Africans to diffuse the situation:

    'White Africans need to be made to sit down at the same table as their fellow Black Africans and instead of lording it over them they need to humble themselves and listen and see the pain and hatred that we have caused over the generations to fellow human beings who don’t happen to be the same colour as us. We need to be face to face with that deep rooted hate and pain. We can’t keep on waltzing along and pretending that all is fine and the rainbow nation has a pot of gold at the end of it. We need to learn to understand our differences and then respect each other for the human beings that we all are...

    'I am a proud African woman who happens to be White. I never choose my colour. I have to carry the history whether good or bad, whether I personally believed that it was right to divide and rule by racism or not. I am judged not by who I am and what I think and believe but by the colour of my skin and its history here in Africa. Because of it I have had to learn that I must walk that extra mile and extend my hand further and pay attention to the feelings of others more than my own...

    'Acting like an ostrich and swanking around telling Black people ‘to get over it and move on’ or blindly rushing off to the nearest court to scream racism is NOT THE WAY TO HEAL THE HURT AND PAIN OF GENERATIONS THAT OUR ANCESTORS CAUSED.

    'We need to open the doors to talk, listening, facing facts and start the long and painful journey of healing the still very open, raw wounds of the past.'

    Patriotic Courage uses the murder of Terre Blanche as a backdrop to the broader debate over the transfer of white-owned farms to Blacks:

    'It is absolutely simplistic to believe that we can simply replace 360 years of farming experience with a nation of subsistence farmers with little knowledge or skills in the modern farming methods required to produce food cost effectively.

    'No matter how attractive the modern farms may appear they will soon be destroyed by overzealous redistribution and nationalisation. It is all very well for my favourite kindergarten politician to rant and rave about the success of Zimbabwe's land reform (tell that to the starving masses in Zimbabwe who leave every day for the possibility of feeding themselves in South Africa) but the bald fact is that the land reform process was fatally flawed because it was based on two fatally flawed assumptions. These are that the modern commercial farmer needs no more knowledge than the seasons to plant a crop and that the people being returned to the land are actually willing to live far from the modern amenities and live the austere life of a commercial farmer. Many of the beneficiaries of land reform would much rather have access to their historical cemeteries and compensation for the land that they lost while leaving the farming to those people who know what they are doing...'

    Missmaniac is so concerned about the worsening racial climate in South Africa that she is seriously thinking of leaving the country:

    'I am not a racist, I am not a white supremacist or right winger...
    Recent events in our country have scared me, not only as an Afrikaner, but as a citizen of the Republic of South Africa...
    I cannot raise my children in such a country, where education systems are failing us, where thousands of people of all races are being murdered, raped and assaulted, in a country where we are declared as one of the most crime stricken countries in the world.
    What am I supposed to teach my children? How do I tell them that their country's history is only violence and hate ?
    When I look at my two sons, I realize that it would be a great injustice to them and will therefore seriously consider leaving this beautiful nature, this country with its mesmerizing savannas, its enchanting forests, its majestic mountains, its diverse and magical coasts and ocean and its golden deserts... '

    Working and Living in South Africa has a more sanguine view about the racial tensions in the South Africa,, arguing that the real South Africa is vastly different from the one portrayed in the media:

    'My daily life has nothing to do with Julius Malema and Eugene Terre’blance and the minorities they represent. All I see or hear of them is through the media. And most days I don’t even have time to watch or read the news...

    'Middle of the road South Africans I come into contact with every day barely speak about politics or race relations. Most people think Julius Malema isn’t worth the newspaper space he takes up. Many believe Terre’blanche’s murder was a criminal act – not a political statement...
    In the South Africa I live in, most people I come into contact with are excited about the Soccer World Cup! ...

    'We are more concerned about whether the Stormers will continue winning matches or who will win the English Premiership than in the next election.

    'Yes, in the South Africa I live in we have problems below the surface that keeps cropping up because we refuse to deal with it. And yes the AWB and the Malemas live here too.
    But we are much more than just our politics. We have lives beyond politics.'

    Techmasai questions why South Africa’s tech scene is predominantly White, and argues that this does not augur well for the country’s long-term stability:

    'The racial disparities of the South African technology scene are so surprising. In a country which seems to enjoy both local and international recognition, it is surprising that there exist to my opinion such disparity. Out of the top start-ups out of South Africa, almost all of them are founded and run by a full team of Caucasians...

    'In the South African tech start-ups scene, almost everything is founded by Caucasians and the whole team who work behind the projects are mostly Caucasian. I cannot show that this hypothesis is true in all cases but a look at the teams in Afrigator, Crowdfund and Blueworld confirmed this theory.
    In terms of South African bloggers, it could be because of chance but I swear to my life, out of the blogs I read most are written by white South Africans...

    'The issue of race is sensitive, but the utter lack of people of color in the South African technology scene to me is amazing. It is slightly humorous to think that in a country where the majority population is either Indian or Black (about 90%), the technology scene is almost 90% controlled by Caucasians. What is not humorous however is the inherent danger which such a situation can cause in society, even affecting the general internal security and stability of a country.'


    * 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.

    The imagination to see beyond chaos

    Sokari Ekine


    Morgan Tsvangirai’s contradictory statements on LGBTI rights, Madagascar’s elections and various interpretations of Africa by western visitors are among the topics featured in Sokari Ekine’s roundup of the blogosphere.

    Two weeks ago the Zimbabwean Prime Minister and MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai announced his support of President Robert Mugabe’s refusal to include LGBTI rights in the new Zimbabwean constitution. However Tsvangirai’s statement contradicts the official position of the MDC party, which states:

    ‘Under the Bill of Rights section, the MDC position paper states that: “In addition, the right to freedom from discrimination, given our history of discrimination and intolerance, must be broad to include the protection of personal preferences, that is gays and lesbians should be protected by the constitution.”

    It is unbelievable that a party leader would speak out against his own party’s position paper particularly on a constitutional and human rights matter.

    African Activist publishes a conversation by UK Guardian reporter and a Zimbabwean friend about how ‘publicly supporting gay rights could be electoral suicide in this socially conservative country’ – a view which turns out to be based on the person’s Christian beliefs:

    ‘He said: “There's no way I would vote MDC if they supported gay rights.”
    Why not, I asked.
    “You cannot be doing that. I don't know about other cultures, but this is African culture. I give you a 100% guarantee, 120% guarantee, nobody in my clan is doing that.”
    My friend is a kind and gentle man. I didn't want to argue. But I didn't want to let it go either. I kept cutting away with questions until I got to the roots of his beliefs.
    He said: “I take my knowledge and morals from the Bible. If something is not in the Bible, I don't believe it. I don't know about the dinosaurs.”’

    Kubatana posts a joint press release by Gay and Lesbians of Zimbabwe and Zimbabwe, a Human Rights NGO forum, on Tsvangirai’s statement which again is contradictory with a further statement. In other words, the message the MDC leader is giving is unclear and will only increase tensions. The press release stated:

    ‘The statements, which make reference to attempts to include gay rights in the Constitution undermine public tolerance and acceptance of diversity. Issues of sexuality impact on the dignity, privacy, identity and freedom of people. We urge you not to undermine the dignity of these individuals by making such homophobic statements.

    ‘We call on the principals to desist from making statements likely to promote hate and prejudice. Zimbabwe is going through a transition from a period characterised by hate, violence and economic suffering and moving towards national healing.’

    Can We Save Africa by Wanjiru, comments on the tagline of Afroline, an Italian based African online news site. The tagline is a quote by Ryszard Kapuscinski which reads: ‘Africa is dying in silence for no one listens to its voice’.

    I had also written to Afroline complaining about the quote but it still remained. The fact is that Africa is not dying and this kind of statement speaks to western notions of a continent in need of saving, invariably by white folks. Wanjiru comments:

    ‘While I didn’t find it all that strange that a Polish journalist’s quote would show up on an Italian website seeking to give voice to people on the African continent, I did find the whole thing somewhat troubling. First of all, I find Mr Kapuscinski’s quote to be a bit alarmist, and I question anyone who puts Africa and dying in the same sentence – how many times and to what end must we hear about the myriad ways the continent and its peoples are suffering, enduring, and fading away into diseased, war-racked nothingness? I’m nowhere close to being African and I find the whole picture dismal, reeking entirely of prejudice and self-fulfilling prophesied doom.’

    I have to admit knowing nothing about Malagasy politics and have never included a blog from Madagascar. Time to change. The Malagasy Dwarf Hippo writes a post on the election process and the challenges to improve participation and minimise fraud. There has been an ongoing discussion amongst a number of Malagasy bloggers and this is Dwarf Hippo’s latest contribution. The recommendations could be applied to any number of countries and I hope some Nigerian election monitors can learn something from the discussion and suggestions:

    ‘-Elections are measurements, therefore we all should expect measurements errors and be transparent about them.
    -Elections are not only about determining the choice of the constituents but also about providing trust to the same constituents that their votes are accounted for properly.

    ‘About preventing voting errors or fraud:
    - A consensus was reached that combining a paper trail of voting record and a stable digital streamlining of the process.
    Paper trail provides the critical physical evidence of a casted vote. Digital streamlining helps limit the intermediary steps in vote count so that the probability of fraud is reduced.
    - Search for statistical hints that suggest that polls might have been fabricated.
    - Spreading the voting period over three days instead of one to make sure everyone has a chance to vote, unclog voting poll and prevent wearing out of poll volunteers.
    - The importance of exit polls as a mean of verification of the official count.
    In fact, holding opinion polls in between election cycle helps make sure that there are no sudden outrageous difference between ratings and voting poll.’

    Egyptian Chronicles blogs about the second anniversary of the April 6th Movement in Egypt, ‘Egypt's Intifada’, started in 2008 by Esraa Rashid and Ahmad Maher to support workers in El-Mahalla El-Kubra, an industrial town, who were planning to strike on 6 April. As usual, demonstrators gathered together in Tahrir Square, Cairo. EC then goes on to give regular updates on the movement of the protests and the response by the police, which was to arrest everyone:

    ‘The protesters tried to gather in front of the Shura council but could do not as usual, they moved to Talaat Harab where the Ghad Party was going to participate in the protest but the security cracked it and the hunting party started. In the end the few that managed to escape to head for the lawyers bar!!

    ‘A group of activists not less than 90 have been detained, some of them have been released after touring Cairo and some will spent tonight in a cell!! Some of these activists were injured during the clashes with the security forces including a 60 years old man!! Again this is also nothing, it happened before in previous protests. Already all the detainees are currently in Madinat El-Salam area. The Arabic Network for human rights information has latest updates with the detainees names. Updated: Here is the complete list of detainees' names…

    ‘Now this year the girls and ladies' participation was bigger than previous year and it seems that ministry of interior has known such info and thus it took its precautions to avoid any criticism or accusation of sexually harassing the female protesters; Policewomen or rather women prisoner guards have participated in cracking the protest this year for the first time and strangely they were not less violent as their men counterparts according to eye witnesses and reporters. Nevertheless the plain clothed policemen and agents have sexually harassed women protesters in the same old miserable ways of grabbing and tearing up their clothes!!’

    There are quite a few South African blog posts responding to the murder of AWB leader, Eugene Terre’blance last Saturday. Kameraad Mhambi sees the murder as ‘shifting the [South African] landscape’. I think that is a slight exaggeration but it has raised some simmering-below-the-surface unresolved issues in the country. He has some questions about why the police announcement came so soon after the murder and why the culprits called the police after killing Terreblanche. He comes up with his own theory:

    ‘I’m not a great conspiracy theorist, but here is one possibility. At least this theory is way more plausible than that that surrounds other famous South African killings, like Chris Hani’s death.

    ‘The two “killers” are not the killers at all. They found Terreblanche and called the police. The police thought they were sitting on a political time bomb, and arrested the two. Better to tell the world that he had been killed in a domestic dispute than if the killers were strangers. What signal would that send out?

    ‘Lets see. If my theory is correct the truth will out. Unless the suspects die. But that would be too audacious. What is more certain however is that South Africa for some has become a place of even more fear and uncertainty today.’

    Khanya responds to the hype in some media that a race war is now imminent with a some crime reports from his local neighbourhood – nothing. He thinks maybe the criminals were having a holiday like the rest of the country. He goes on to give a roundup of the blogosphere’s response, which ranged from the ‘any murder is horrific and unjustified’ to the ambivalent – does anyone other than AWB really care?

    Black Looks posts on a soon to be broadcast documentary on life on the streets of Lagos, commenting on the different interpretations of the city depending on who you are and where you come from. In response to a quote from the producer ‘They are normal people doing what they have to do to survive’ she writes:

    ‘What is normal – how do we measure normality and why would poor people be less normal than anyone else? Are the rich, the middle classes normal?

    ‘What does he expect poor people to do? Its disingenuous to imagine because people are poor they are not capable of organising and policing their communities. The Harvard architect Rem Koolhas documentary ‘Lagos/Koolhaas’ which I recently saw in Lagos, is similar in its bewilderment of how the city manages itself and people negotiate their daily lives. A problem with many westerners who visit Africa, is they are so used to their own form of order which is often extremely boring in its predictability, they lack the imagination to see beyond the apparent chaos. Buses parked haphazardly without any obvious sign of where they are headed may appear chaotic as opposed to neatly lined up buses in the bus park with visible signs of the destination. But there is a method its just that they don’t know what it is!’

    * Sokari Ekine blogs at Black Looks.
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

    Emerging powers in Africa Watch

    Boosting FOCAC’s intellectual capacity

    The launch of the China-Africa Joint Research and Exchange Program

    Sanusha Naidu


    Sanusha Naidu writes about the China-Africa joint research and exchange program that was launched at the end of March by the follow-up committee of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), in partnership with the Institute of West Asian and African Studies (IWAAS) of the Chinese Academy of Social Science (CASS).

    At the end of March the follow-up committee of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in partnership with the Institute of West Asian and African Studies (IWAAS) of the Chinese Academy of Social Science (CASS), launched the China-Africa joint research and exchange program . Hosted in Beijing the launch was considered to be a high-powered event with the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs being one of the significant stakeholders of the launch.

    The joint research and exchange programme follows closely on the heels of the FOCAC 2009 meeting where Premier Wen Jiabao announced amongst the 8 measures the creation of a common academic platform to strengthen cooperation and exchanges between scholars and think tanks from both sides as part of the endeavour towards ‘increasing mutual understanding between the peoples'. More

    Moreover it represented the fulfillment of the vision mooted five decades earlier by Premier Zhou Enlai during his visit to Accra, Ghana in 1964 where he also outlined the overarching principles that would govern China’s effective development assistance and cooperation partnership with Africa.

    From the African side there was a diverse set of voices with representation from academic institutions like CODESRIA as well as national think tanks ranging from Kenya, Cameroon, the Republic of Congo, South Africa, Morocco, Tanzania, Mauritius, Libya, Benin, Nigeria and Senegal. And Fahamu was also invited to participate as part of the social movement dynamic.

    But perhaps what captured the essence of the launch was the theme: Peace and Development in Africa and China-Africa Cooperation, which revolved around the following areas:
    • Africa’s Prospects for achieving the MDGs and the role of the International Development Community
    • Africa’s Peace and Security Issues
    • African Integration and Regional Cooperation
    • Sino-African cooperation after the financial crisis

    Therefore the underlying foundation of the launch was essentially about maintaining stability in Africa’s political and socio-economic landscape and in the continent’s external relations. And, of course, understanding how this can be achieved through establishing joint research exchanges and building collaborative knowledge systems.

    While the gathering represented a unique opportunity for Africa participants to outline the type of research agenda that should be set in order to develop a mutually beneficially partnership, the actual focus of the discussions seem to focus on a particular ideology and discourse that has become the conventional wisdom on Africa.

    In this regard the presentation made by the general secretary of CODESRIA, Ebrima Sall, captured this myopic view in the literature on Africa’s development. He highlighted that for there to be a genuine research exchange, the first step is to redefine the scholarship that we use when examining Africa’s development challenges.

    Of course what he was talking about is the western hegemonic epistemology that tends to define African problems in a narrow lens of western philosophy of what is wrong with Africa and then prescribes what should be done to save the continent.

    These comments, made by Dr. Sall, definitely raises several critical issues about the future of this research and exchange program.

    First, the platform provides an ideal space to build indigenous African knowledge systems that can determine how African challenges should be approached from an African perspective.
    Not only does this promote a direct response in shaping the literature on Africa but it also becomes a significant platform in promoting a more viable knowledge base of South-South cooperation.
    Second, by using the exchange to nurture a dominant scholarship that is African centered means that trilateral dialogues that incorporate Western views is neutered, thereby preventing Western institutions from becoming the authoritative voices on Africa’s relationship with China, how it should be controlled and what lessons China should learn from Western experiences.

    This is critical since until now the debate on Africa-China engagement has been largely influenced by commentators and other such pseudo academics aka business consultants who have acted as advisers to Western governments as well as to Beijing in pretending that they know what is best for Africa.

    While there can lessons to be learnt from Africa’s past experiences with former development partners, it is not absolutely necessary that we need to see the engagement in the same vein of the liberal enlightenment. The issue is really about how does African maximize the best possible benefits out of its relationship with China based on its own terms and through an African epistemology.

    Here we should be looking at Africa’s own response to the economic crisis of the 1970s and the Structural Adjustment Programs, which produced the Lagos Plan of Action and Alternative Framework to Structural Adjustment Programs. We should also recognise the works of great scholars like Amir Samin, Amilcar Cabral, Thomas Sankara, Julius Nyerere and others, which have made invaluable contributions to African scholarship and still shape the thinking of many young African scholars who are promoting an Africa discourse and literature.

    Moreover, we must remember that the current compartmentalization of the state of affairs in Africa as something new ignores that Africa has experienced crises before and there is a plethora of literature of how Africa can overcome these challenges as highlighted by the writings of the great African thinkers identified above. It is imperative that this scholarship is not neglected in the joint research and exchange program.

    Third, if the intention of this joint research and exchange platform is to develop mutual understanding between African and Chinese peoples then we must also reflect on the common social justice struggles that is being experienced in African and Chinese societies. Such class conflicts reflect that the growth model and the trickle down effect has not created a better life for all. If anything it has created widening gaps of inequality. Therefore, these are identical struggles about inclusion, rights, human centred development and dignity that should not be seen as mutually exclusive. But it also means that we must be honest about the role of the political and economic states elites in this engagement. In other words who benefits?

    Fourth, the platform should also be about whether new paradigm shifts can be created around Africa’s integration into the world economy and more importantly with respect to realigning the structures of production within African economies.

    What we should be asking in this respect is whether a new model of engagement can be drawn out of this platform where China is willing to reform the financial and political institutions of the international architecture that is currently built around the orthodoxy of the liberal model of growth and the liberal enlightenment philosophy of the trickle down effect.

    This remains a critical inquiry since we cannot overlook how the rise of the corporate capital from the South is gaining from this model and advancing their profit margins through a modern day version of imperialism while their governments are playing to the historical platitudes of development partnerships.
    Definitely, questions of trade protectionism, tariff barriers and other related issues should be at the fore of what type of market access and reform of the WTO is the right mix for Africa.

    Finally, while the platform must be lauded because it does create the opportunity for Africa scholarship to be mainstreamed, we must also be aware that there are competing interests amongst scholars in the continent and those from the Diaspora.

    Therefore there must be an overall attempt to ensure that this platform does not become a contested terrain of personality clashes and whose voice gets heard.

    As much as this is an exchange between African and Chinese scholars, the critical impulse for this to be an effective partnership and collaboration has to be the inclusion and the voice of social movements, activists and communities that are at the cold face of the Africa-China engagement and who have important stories to share about how this engagement is affecting their daily lives whether for good or ill, even though it may fall outside the ambit of formal academic research.

    This is because old tensions between state authorities and citizens in African societies have become more acute in recent years. While we cannot deny that these emerging powers (including China) have reignited the debate about transformation of the African state, the type of development we should be seeking and how Africa should engage with these actors (i.e. what is Africa’s agenda and policy), it is also recreating new forms of capitalist class formations. This is because of the way class structures are aligned to state capital and accumulation of wealth in African societies and the fact that African governments are seen as active agents in this engagement.

    Therefore as we embark upon this new chapter in the Africa-China engagement, I am reminded of the remarks made by my colleague, Dr Firoze Manji, regarding the debate on the footprint of the emerging powers in Africa:
    “We need to consider who is benefiting from the engagement with China and how? It is not enough to talk about 'African countries' as if they were comprised of a homogeneous population with the same material interests. Are the interests of our ruling classes being strengthened by their relationships with China (or other players)? If their interests are being enhanced, what are the consequences for the rest of us? Or are we going to delude everyone that the 'national interests' are all that matter? What is the impact of China et al's engagement on class formation, on capital accumulation, inequalities, etc.? What opportunities does it present to social movements and other citizen organisations for advancing their own interests and the interests of the oppressed through playing one imperial power against another? What will be the consequences of rapid capital accumulation of a class of African traders who have avidly positioned themselves to ply trade to and from China? How much of the antipathy and xenophobia towards China is a reflection of the competition between the petty bourgeoisie?’

    These are definitely pertinent issues that need to be addressed.

    More importantly the platform represents an opportunity for African academics, scholars and other voices to develop and shape an African policy coherency, which must be based on African ownership.

    Moreover, it must be an evolving relationship that advances an African agenda on nurturing and shaping our young journalists and media institutions towards developing the African media perspective.

    We have an opportunity, how it is shaped from the African side will determine whether China does, indeed, offer an alternative form of engagement.


    * Sanusha Naidu is the Research Director of the Emerging Powers in Africa program based with Fahamu in South Africa. She attended the launch of the China-Africa joint research and exchange program

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

    Highlights French edition

    Pambazuka News 141 : Les exigences d'un accès à l'information publique en Afrique


    Zimbabwe update

    61 WOZA members released - 4 charged, remain in custody


    61 of the 65 members, including juveniles, arrested outside ZESA headquarters in Harare earlier today have been released without charge. Four members, Jenni Williams, Magodonga Mahlangu, Clara Manjengwa and Celina Madukani, remain in custody and will spend the night in cells. They are being charged with participating in an illegal gathering.

    WOZA and MOZA deliver yellow cards to ZESA in Harare - 70 arrested


    At noon April 15, 500 members of Women and Men of Zimbabwe Arise marched to the offices of the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA), Megawatt House, in Harare. Three simultaneous protests converged at the ZESA headquarters where the peaceful group handed over ‘yellow cards’ to staff members of the electricity service provider along with a report that outlines WOZA’s demands.

    African Union Monitor

    The African Union and Security Sector Reform


    While the AU’s attempt is encouraging, it has shortcomings, and a case can be made that SSR requires a new approach and mechanism and should be supported in a much more strategic, patient and regional manner. Africa is the largest ‘market’ for SSR and SSR-related services. African ownership, however, remains limited. The AU should provide that.

    Women & gender

    DRC: New report shows 'shocking pattern of rape' in eastern Congo


    An extensive study of rape victims in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), commissioned by Oxfam and conducted by the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, shows that 60 percent of rape victims surveyed were gang raped by armed men and more than half of assaults took place in the supposed safety of the family home at night, often in the presence of the victim's husband and children.

    Global: Agriculture: FAO sharpens focus on gender performance in agriculture


    The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has said that its new toolkit will highlight anti-hunger and development efforts by helping countries gather more accurate information on differences between men and women in agriculture.

    Mozambique: Guebuza honoured


    Femmes Africa Solidarité has honoured the Mozambique's President, Armando Emilio Guebuza, with its African Gender Award, for his efforts in championing wider participation of women in his government. The award came on 4 April, just a few days before the southern African nation celebrates its national Women's Day on 7 April, which acknowledges efforts of women in the liberation struggle.

    Zambia: First Lady bemoans high maternal mortality rate


    First Lady Thandiwe Banda has said Zambia has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world and that safe motherhood is still far from being assured. Ms Banda was speaking in Lusaka when she officiated at the opening of a media capacity building workshop on the campaign for accelerated reduction of maternal mortality in Africa (CARMMA).

    Human rights

    Kenya: More than 50,000 at risk of imminent forced eviction


    Kenya's government should halt the proposed eviction of more than 50,000 people living alongside the country's railway lines until guidelines that conform with international human rights standards have been adopted, Amnesty International said on Thursday. On 21 March Kenya Railways published a notice giving residents 30 days to pull down their structures and leave, or risk prosecution. Most of those affected are slum dwellers in parts of Nairobi.

    Kenya: Stop brutality against Samburu people


    In January, 2010, a team from Cultural Survival's Global Response program went to Kenya to document a year-long pattern of brutal police assaults on the Samburu people of northern Kenya. These assaults, which include killing, raping, beating, and wholesale robbery, take place in an atmosphere of racial prejudice and discrimination against pastoralist tribes that resist assimilation and westernization in order to maintain their unique cultures. Kenyan police forces operate with impunity throughout the country, but in northern Kenya their brutality targets a specific ethnic community in violation of their rights as Indigenous Peoples.

    Libya: Government frees 'insulting' dissident Jamal al-Haggi


    A court in Libya has freed a dissident who faced 15 years in jail for complaining he was tortured in prison.
    Jamal al-Haggi was acquitted of charges that he insulted judicial officials, Human Rights Watch said.

    Senegal: “Off the Backs of the Children”


    Hundreds of marabouts in Senegal subject talibés living under their de facto guardianship to conditions akin to slavery. They force the children to perform a worst form of child labor—begging on the streets for long hours—and subject them to often brutal physical and psychological abuse, all within a climate of fear

    Somalia: UNHCR condemns victimization of civilians


    UNHCR is shocked by the further loss of civilian lives we've seen from fighting in Mogadishu earlier this week. More than 30 people are reported killed, many of them civilians including children. From local sources we understand that medical facilities are having difficulties coping with the many wounded. Residents have described this week's shelling as among the worst in months.

    Refugees & forced migration

    East Africa: Tanzania gives citizenship to 162,000 Burundi refugees


    The UN has praised Tanzania for granting citizenship to some 162,000 refugees who fled Burundi 38 years ago. "It's the most generous naturalisation of refugees anywhere," said UN refugee agency spokeswoman Melissa Fleming.

    Egypt: Don't deport Darfur refugees to face persecution


    The Egyptian authorities should immediately cease deportation proceedings against two refugees from Darfur, Human Rights Watch has said. Egyptian authorities are preparing to deport Mohammad Adam Abdallah and Ishaq Fadl Ahmad Dafa Allah back to Sudan, where they would face persecution. Both men have been granted formal refugee status by the United Nations refugee agency, which should protect them from deportation.

    Egypt: Iraqi children arrested, detained and threatened with refoulement

    Egyptian Foundation for Refugee Rights


    On 4 April 2010 Egyptian State security arrested Karar from the street while he was returning from a bank to his home. Karar is a secondary school student and was in the midst of preparations for the final secondary completion exams.
    We are writing you regarding the arbitrary arrest, mistreatment, ongoing detention and threatened deportation of a 17 year old Iraqi refugee and his 18 year old brother by the Egyptian government.

    We are writing to you to request your intervention on behalf of these refugees.

    It is our belief that their likely mistreatment, continued detention and threatened deportation constitutes a violation of their rights as human beings and as refugees, including a breach of the obligations owed to him by the Egyptian government by virtue of it being a signatory to the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees of 1951 and other international treaties.
    Background Information
    On 4 April 2010 Egyptian State security arrested Karar from the street while he was returning from a bank to his home. Karar is a secondary school student and was in the midst of preparations for the final secondary completion exams.

    Before his family approached the EFRR office, they went to the police station to ask about Karar and to complain about his arrest. Unfortunately, the police officers refused to answer the family’s questions or act upon its demands for their child’s release; one of the police officers suggested that Karar had been arrested in order to deport him. EFRR subsequently submitted a complaint to the High General Prosecutor concerning this arrest and detention and has demanded his immediate release. The EFRR has also submitted a complaint to the National Council for Human Rights regarding the arrest and detention of this refugee.

    In the middle of the night of 12 April 2010 Egyptian security raided Karar’s family home. A computer was seized and Hayder, the 18 year old brother of Karar was also arrested. The EFRR is in the process of filing a formal complaint about the arrest and detention.

    Illegal Detention of Refugee Children
    The EFRR recalls that it is considered a breach of Egypt’s international obligations under the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees of 1951 which Egypt has signed and ratified (i) to arbitrarily detain refugees, and (ii) to threaten refugees with forced removal to a place in which they would face persecution (“refoulement”). In addition, the detention of children is in clear contravention of the guidance of the Executive Committee of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, of which H.E. Ambassador Hisham Badr of Egypt serves as vice-chairperson.

    Horn of Africa: Puntland begins repatriating Ethiopian migrants


    Authorities in Somalia's self-declared autonomous region of Puntland have begun repatriating hundreds of Ethiopian migrants, officials have reported. "These are people who decided they wanted to return but could not afford to do so," said Mohamud Jama Muse, director of the Migration Response Centre (MRC) in Bosasso, Puntland's capital.

    Kenya: A Voice from the voiceless: Dadaab refugee camps

    A letter from the camps


    With humble respect, on behalf of the refugees living in the camps of Dadaab, we would like to share our grievances with the world and ask for you to help us find our way to freedom. Our lives in the camps are far worse than you can imagine. We live in an open prison, far away from justice and humanity. We talk, but our voices are never heard. We move, but only inside a cage. We have many skills and talents, but we are denied our chance to maximize our potential. We are chained to a life full of stress and despair; a life for which many would prefer death. We are denied opportunities for education and employment. We live in a condition without adequate water, food, or health facilities. We are arbitrarily beaten or detained by police within the confines of the camp. We lack the ability to freely express ourselves or have control over the decisions affecting our lives.
    Dear All the concerned Memebers,

    With humble respect, on behalf of the refugees living in the camps of Dadaab, we would like to share our grievances with the world and ask for you to help us find our way to freedom.

    Our lives in the camps are far worse than you can imagine. We live in an open prison, far away from justice and humanity. We talk, but our voices are never heard. We move, but only inside a cage. We have many skills and talents, but we are denied our chance to maximize our potential. We are chained to a life full of stress and despair; a life for which many would prefer death. We are denied opportunities for education and employment. We live in a condition without adequate water, food, or health facilities. We are arbitrarily beaten or detained by police within the confines of the camp. We lack the ability to freely express ourselves or have control over the decisions affecting our lives.

    For those of us lucky enough to obtain employment with the agencies, we are exploited through the payment of mere “incentive” wages, while national and international staff receive much greater payment and benefits. How can you force us to live in a certain place that denies us our human rights and our basic needs?

    This note wishes to express some of the challenges we face here in the refugee camps of Dadaab in the hopes that we will be given a chance to have greater control over our lives, and have our fundamental human rights fulfilled. Although the challenges and abuses we face are numerous, we will only briefly mention some of our main grievances, including restricted movement, exploitative working conditions, poor service deliver, and false information and abuse by UNHCR and other agencies operating in the camps.

    For many of us, the restrictions on movement and the conditions in our forced confinement have caused more psychological, economical, and health problems than diseases and wars have caused.

    We ask the Kenyan government, the other governments of Africa, and the people of the world to hear our voices, see our condition, and look further into our situation. We only want our chance to thrive, to live our lives, to visit our family members, to attend school, to receive medical treatment, to help support our families, and to have control over the economic and policy making decisions affecting our lives. We only want the chance to live as other human beings live, with a hope for the future.

    Please hear our cries, allow us to move freely from this open prison, and provide us the opportunity to live our lives, support ourselves, and pursue our dreams!

    Restricted Movement

    Some of us have faced the imprisonment of the refugee camps of Dadaab since 1991, while others of us are newly arriving. Although there have been changes and developments over the past nineteen years, our restricted movement has caused and continues to cause our underdevelopment and deterioration. Many people have died from simple diseases because they could not move to get treatment in Garissa (a town only 90 km from Dadaab). Many parents have remained separated from their children who disappeared from the camps because they could not move to search for them or inquire of their whereabouts. Many students have missed their chances for educational opportunities, have failed to take their final examinations, or have been unable to obtain education certificates earned because they could not receive the permission to move. Many people have been forced into greater poverty by being denied the chance to work and by having to pay three times the price of goods in other regions because they can not move to get cheaper goods for consumption or business. Perhaps worse still, many who have tried to move have been beaten, arrested, detained, and/or forced to pay heavy bribes or fines of large amounts of money they never imagined.

    Exploitative Working Conditions

    Ever since the creation of the refugee camps of Dadaab in 1991 and 1992 and thereafter, UNHCR and the agencies operating in the refugee camps of Dadaab have relied for their operations on the exploited labor of the refugee communities. Whether skilled or unskilled labor, refugee staff members have worked in conditions and received wages that are in violation of national and international labor laws. While many of the refugee staff in the agencies work tirelessly for the agencies and their fellow refugees, they still merely receive “incentives” for their hard work and dedication. Even highly experienced individuals, some of whom have graduated from Universities, colleges, and secondary schools in Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Congo, Sudan, etc., receive unlivable wages, let alone wages commensurate with their experience. In addition to the dreadfully low, unlivable wage, refugee staff members are discriminated against in their payment. Specifically, although refugee staff members work as many hours and complete as many or more tasks as national or some international staff members, refugee staff members are paid significantly lower amounts and are called the derogatory name of “incentive” staff members receiving not wages or a salary but “incentives.” Indeed, though the work load given refugee staff members often exceeds that national/international staff members, refugee staff members are not given their proper respect or payment.

    In a related manner, refugee staff often face harsh and discriminatory treatment by national and international staff of UNHCR and the agencies. Several national and international staff frequently use harsh commands and create a difficult work environment, and are given titles of officers even though they do not have as much experience or strong work ethic as the refugee staff members. As an example of the unfair treatment of refugee staff members, these staff members often have to queue for long hours simply to receive their payments and such long lines often cause staff members to miss the limited opportunities to receive their payment and in turn delay their receipt of their hard earned payments. As another example, refugee staff members have great difficulty receiving transportation services of the agencies, sometimes even when travel is required by their jobs. Also, refugee staff members are often not given opportunities for training or scholarships, or even if they do receive such opportunities they are not given work permits at the end of even multiple degrees. Moreover, refugee staff members are not allowed to take part in decision making about the refugee programmes ironically that the refugee staff members usually must implement and that are intended to benefit refugee beneficiaries. Similarly, refugee staff members are not afforded an opportunity to participate in planning, writing project proposals, or otherwise participating in any other management functions despite in many circumstances years of experience and knowledge about the refugee communities who are supposedly the beneficiaries of the agencies’ programs and the conditions in which they live and operate. Indeed, refugee staff members are not even provided meaningful opportunities to present feedback that is received, considered, and/or implemented. Incentive Wages At the heart of the exploitation of refugee staff members lies the entire system of “incentive workers.”

    The agencies in the camps of Dadaab divide staff into three main categories:

    § International staff

    § National staff

    § Incentive staff

    While national and international staff have relatively similar salaries, working conditions, and privileges, the so-called incentive staff are barely paid, are discriminated against, and are often treated with disrespect. The national and international staff members have every thing required for the fulfillment of the respective work such as transport, office tools and equipment, refreshments etc. at their disposal. At the same time, the refugee staff generally have no such access despite the fact that the national and international staff often greatly depend upon the refugee staff in order to carry out their duties, gain access to and understand the refugee communities, and break through language barriers and cultural differences. Yet, while the incentive staff are indeed the back bone of the agency operations in the camps, the relationship between these two sets of staff and the treatment of refugee staff members is horrible.

    The agencies and UNHCR continue to simply pay only meager incentives, which are minimal amounts in and of themselves and are not accompanied by any significant bonuses, benefits, allowances, pensions, separation payments, or other components of standard national and international staff contracts even for refugee staff members that have been working for over a decade. An incentive worker will earn as little as 50 – 90 USD per month, regardless of the number of years of experience, seniority in employment or academic qualifications. Indeed, the skills, academic credentials, and experiences varies significantly across the work force of refugees, ranging from primary school leavers to those with multiple Masters degrees and diplomas who have worked for more than a decade. Yet all are subject to harsh conditions and meager payment. In addition, the ill treatment and lack of respect for refugee staff and their tireless efforts has taken its physical and emotional toll on many staff members, and in fact some young professionals have developed psychological problems due to the frustrations they face while others have chosen to even risk their lives to return to their respective homelands in the hopes of finding an adequate means of survival for themselves and their families. Moreover, the vast disparities between refugee staff and national/international staff continues to create envy and hatred among the staff of the same agency.

    The incentive system is often claimed to be necessary because of limited budgetary resources and because refugee staff members are not allowed to officially work under Kenyan law. However, in actuality, these supposed justifications serve only as mere excuses for the agencies to hide behind so that they can continue to exploit refugee labor. With respect to the limited resources, first of all limited resources can not serve as an excuse for exploiting refugee labour. Moreover, the amount of money that is wasted if not skimmed off the top by the agencies reaches huge amounts; if there are indeed limited resources, the agencies could shift resources away from ineffective trainings, corrupted individuals, and high paid national and international staff in order to adequately pay incentive staff members.

    In a related manner, in line with the problem noted above of not including refugee staff in decision-making and managerial tasks: the agencies should “open the books” and allow refugee staff members to be a part of resource allocation decisions. With respect to the inability for refugees to work under Kenyan law, again the agencies and not the Kenyan government are setting the amounts of the incentive wages and if the agencies are able to legally provide incentives at all then the agencies can not point the finger at anyone other than themselves with respect to the exploitative amounts that are arbitrarily set by UNHCR and the agencies. Moreover, UNHCR and agencies are able to obtain work permits for refugee staff members in Nairobi and elsewhere when they deem it appropriate. Further, it is the obligation of UNHCR to advocate on behalf of refugees’ right to work and pressure the government of Kenya to follow its obligations under the Refugee Convention to allow for such rights.

    We ask members of the international community to step up for this matter and come forward to help us refugee staff members regain our human dignity and equality and fairness for all in terms wage earning, working conditions and decision-making. Furthermore, we ask that international human rights bodies and the International Labor Organization study and scrutinize the years in which our talents, skills and services have been exploited and abused by the agencies in Dadaab. The title “incentive worker” The title given to the refugees working with the humanitarian agencies is itself exploitative and demeaning. Literally the word incentive means something given to some in order that he/she keeps the same spirit in the course of an operation; however the magnitude of the incentive in the camps of Dadaab is negligible. Considering the workload carried out by the staff or employees drawn from the refugee community, it is the case that refugee workers form the backbone of the humanitarian operations in the Dadaab camps. Indeed, without these workers, the agencies would suffer an acute shortage of human resources. Given the fact that the title “incentive” does not actually sound proper, the refugee workers often feel discouraged and humiliated to be called an incentive worker, which even can weaken the productivity and output of the workers. Furthermore the title incentive widens the already expansive gap between the refugee workers and the national and international staff, which further hinders the cooperation necessary to achieve the important goals of the humanitarian operations in Dadaab.

    The more favorable the working conditions, the more efficient an employee will be in her/his daily undertakings, and the more cooperative relations amongst different categories of staff members, the more likely the operations in general will be successful. Thus, if only from the point of view of improving operations in Dadaab, the title of the refugee staff should be changed, the disparity in wages must be closed, and the working conditions must be improved. Harmonization Incentive Document for 2010 A memo concerning the “harmonization of refugees incentive workers wages” was developed by UNHCR in collaboration with all of the NGOs working in the refugee camps; some of the NGOs have shown skepticism about the effects of the document but the policy has been passed without adequate input or consideration of the viewpoints of current refugee staff members. While we recognize the potential positive effect of raising the wages of those agencies paying the lowest amounts, harmonization should only result in a harmonization upward. Moreover, we believe that individuals should be paid wages that are both living wages and appropriate for their jobs and their level of expertise and experience. The document is totally contradicting the conventions to the refuges. Indeed this is a practical evidence that UNHCR is violating the international conventions and protocols relating to the provisions and service of the refuges instead of promoting, it.

    Furthermore, the UNHCR has not increased a sigle coin to the refguee workers and what it done was a cheating withno consultation to the concerned parties; indeed the amount that was dedected from the fellow refugee workers were increased for the other fellow refguee workers thus, creating envy and hatered among the working refguee workers!. In this world it has never been noticed that somesone’s pay is lowered without proper justifications.

    Despite the fact that many other irrlguralies that can not be not be summarized is ongoing on daily, weekly, monthly or annually basses within the confines of the refugee camps of Dadaab.

    Poor Service Delivery

    The Dadaab refugee camps were established in the wake the devastating civil wars and persecution in neighboring countries, such as Somalia, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Sudan, Uganda, Burundi, Congo, and Eritrea. While we are grateful for the support that has been provided to those who have had to flee from their home countries, it is incredible that nearly twenty years after their adoption, their remains terrible problems in the service delivery and operations of the various agencies operating in the Dadaab camps: UNHCR, WFP, CARE, NRC LWF, IRC GTZ –IS, WINDLE TRUST KENYA, DRC HI, MSF, etc. The food distribution sector, the education sector, the medical care sector, the water and sanitation sector, and the land allocation and shelter sectors provide just a few of the many examples of the continuing and sometimes worsening poor service delivery. Food While the refugees in the Dadaab camps do appreciate the relentless efforts of the international community to ensure that the refugees in the Dadaab camps are given food, we ask the international community if a three (03) kilograms of maize and 50 grams of oil is enough to feed a person for a period of 15 days. This meager amount does not meet international standards. Worse still, a quarter of the amount claimed to be given is often stolen during food distribution, in large part because the workers of the food distribution are not adequately paid and are thus encouraged to steal from the beneficiaries. How can refugees be forced to remain in camps, told for twenty years that they are not allowed to work and raise their own livelihood, and then not be given enough food to feed themselves and their families?


    Education in the camps consists of several primary schools and secondary schools and other adult learning literacy institutions. While education, especially at the primary level, is a basic need and right, various factors have limited the quantity and quality of education provided in the camps of Dadaab. At the most basic level, the camps’ population has swollen thrice in recent years, while the capacity has only minimally increased. The focal organization for education in the camps, CARE international in Kenya, has not done a good enough job at increasing the education capacity. Poor quality education is matched with poor infrastructure, as many of the buildings remain the same as those built in 1992 to accommodate some 97,000 refugees while the population has currently grown to nearly 300,000. We have 18 primary schools across the three camps with an average of 3500 pupils per school. These large numbers of learners face many challenges in school. The general ratio of teachers to pupils is 1:80; a situation that has forced many learners to become dropouts, ending up on the market streets. All the 18 mentioned primary school are registered as Kenyan National examination centers while the learners in grade 8 (standard eight) must sit for the national exams in November of each year. The Kenya national examination law states that for a school to be a centre for national examination, there should be a least one trained teacher per class in that school; contrary to this law the schools in Dadaab do not have adequately trained P1 teachers. Yet the ministry of education of the government of Kenya officially has accepted this situation, which has resulted in poor performance in all these 18 schools. Another factor affecting education is the issue of payment. A teacher who is expected to serve as a role model, shape the study and character of various children, and teach the next generation of students, receive some of the lowest wages, lower even than donkey cart riders. The low payment causes more qualified individuals to seek other jobs, and for those who remain as teachers to have little motivation to do a good job in their work. Another problematic feature of the education system is that although as many as 4000 pupils sit for their national exams (KCPE), only roughly 120 students from each camp will have the opportunity to move on to secondary school, and even fewer of those who complete secondary school will have opportunities for further education after high school. Courses in Kenya University and colleges, despite funding by the international community, remains limited.

    Medical Care

    Medical conditions and nutrition have declined since 1992; down the line diseases are increasing while the interventions are relatively minimal compared to the number of patients in the hospital. In addition, as a result of acute malnutrition in the camps and anemia, child mortality rate is on the rise.

    Further, due to ongoing fighting in neighboring Somalia, many refugees continue to come to the camps with numerous diseases, injuries, mental sickness, skin diseases and birth defects, many of which are not able to receive medical attention and are told that their ailment is too complicated to be attended to in the camps. As result many patients will converge at UNHCR field offices for their medical concerns but unfortunately UNHCR protection unit staff will keep refugees waiting and only refer them to the same doctors, nurses, and medical facilities that are already stretched too thins Which are expected to assist roughly three hundred deliveries per month in each of the camps. Currently, we have three medical charity organizations in camps MSF SWIZ in Dagahaley, IRC in Hagadera, and GTZ-IS in Ifo. Yet, especially due to the overcrowding, the medical facilities simply do not meet the incredible medical needs in the camps. Some of the most basic issues in the medical care sector include: – Lack of qualified personnel in hospitals – Lack of medicine/ procured – Lack of emergency equipment / ambulance theatre – Lack of adequate facilities or equipment to deal with many of the ailments Water and Sanitation Water and sanitation services are basic and essential; there are 15 boreholes in the camps which supply safe water to the refugee population since water is chlorinated before being supplied. Those boreholes are managed by borehole attendants or incentive workers who work from 6:30am to 6:30pm ever day, even on weekends or public holidays, since water is needed every hour of the day, and yet only earn minimal wages. Similarly, sanitation, waste management, and carcass collection and disposal, as well meat inspections/hygiene promotion are carried out incentives staff while the national staff seem to sit in the office browsing the internet and pretending to be busy in the offices. (Issues of latrine are handled by NRC whiles other sanitary and hygiene activities are done by CARE – RAP Watsan). In addition, the water crisis in the deeply populated Dadaab camps often results in fighting at the tap stands among families, village mates, and block mates. Sanitation and waste management is also worrying. The current network of latrines is hardly maintained and there are not nearly enough latrines for the Dadaab refugees in general. The latrine system in Dadaab camps is far below internationally accepted and minimum standards, such as 1 latrine for every 20 people.

    Land Allocation and Shelter

    For security reasons and because of the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Somalia, many Somali refugees flee and escape ordeals in the war torn Somalia and seek protection in the Dadaab camps. Yet upon arrival in Dadaab, new arrivals often receive little guidance, orientation, or support to find land, obtain food, seek medical screening or vaccinations, etc. For instance, when a family comes to Dagahaley camp, where registration has been undertaken since 2005, the only thing they receive form UNHCR is a food ration card after waiting for around 10 days.

    Finding shelter is often left to the good will of the refugees already living in the camps, despite the fact that severe overcrowding and congestion already exists in the camps. Most of the new arrivals simply build make-shift shelters that are susceptible being washed away by the heavy rains, or they resort to a living under the trees or a “house” where they are exposed to the elements. New arrivals thus face problems related to security, cold, wild animals, poor sanitation, etc. In addition, after registration the new arrivals often do not get non food items that they are intended to receive such as plastic sheeting, a cooking set, Jeri cans, and blankets; even accessing food is hard for new arrivals as they will start getting food from WFP up to 10 days after obtaining registration from UNHCR.

    False Information Provided to Community Representatives and Visitors

    Although there are the above problems and many more in the refugee camps of Dadaab, often visitors come to Dadaab and are shown a very different picture than the actual reality. Indeed, visitors of various high positions and organizations visit the worlds’ largest refugee camps of Dadaab in north eastern Kenya. Dadaab has in some ways become like a circus display or tourist attraction, with so many visitors coming in and out to see the camps and meet with refugees. Most visitors come with the intention of evaluating how the funds they have donated have been implemented for the target refugees. Visitors who individually only infrequently and occasionally pay visits to the refugee camps are thoroughly misguided about the real information on the ground. Visitors are often taken to pre-arranged places and meet with special people organized to supposedly speak on behalf of the refugees, who often give information that does not inform the visitors of the real circumstances of refugees’ conditions. It is believed that some agency staff members use bribery and other means of influence with refugee leaders whom they think can give substantial and fabricated information to the visitors that will protect and promote the agencies and their supposedly humanitarian work. It is believed that some agency staff members make false promises to such leaders, such as offering resettlement opportunities or contracts in order to entice these leaders to hide the true information about how agencies deal with refugees when high profile visitors come to the refugee camps. In addition, often when high profile visitors come to the camps, their time is scheduled such that they do not meet with many of the true leaders, intellectuals, young leaders, women’s groups and other stakeholders from the refugee community to hear and know from them directly without the presence of the Agency’s representatives. Moreover, the security guards (AGK) are given instructions to be on high alert and only allow those who had been chosen by the agencies to meet with the visitors. For instance during a recent visit by 17 embassies to the refugees camps, our community leaders, intellectual, young leaders and other stakeholders from the refugee community were only given an opportunity to present all of their pressing problems in a mere 45 Minutes, with agency representatives present who could note which refugees spoke and potentially deal harshly with those who spoke after the visitors had left. In addition, on the onset of the arrival of various visitors, agencies attempt to undertake various preparations intended to deceive visitors about the situation in the camps, such as intensive cleaning campaigns, having even senior officers wade through the rubbish, adding new/temporary infrastructure of all sorts (tables, seats, wall hangings/messages, computers, etc.), painting walls, putting up boards and signs to show orgnanized residential and office compounds, and so forth. As but one example, when some high profile visitors were coming to visit the camps in mid-2009, new buildings were constructed, walls were painted, old equipment was hidden, and intense cleaning efforts were undertaken at a surface level in order to deceive the visitors. If the amount of hard work that was taken to make these preparations was done on a daily basis to actually address the problems facing those in the camps rather than simply providing surface level window dressing to please visiting donors and officials, the situation in the camps could much improve. As another example, when an envoy of ambassadors visited the WFP food distributed centre, all of the former containers used for distributing food (which had been cut in size in order to limit the amount of food given to each refugee) were set aside and every individual was allowed to receive a full ration. But these measures only existed during the few minutes when the visitors were present.

    Taken together, the agencies make significant efforts to hide the truth of the situation of refugees in the camps of Dadaab when visitors arrive. We therefore make a heartfelt request to the Intentional Community, high profile visitors, media, government officials, human rights bodies, independent journalists and other concerned parties to always think beyond the box while visiting the Dadaab refugee camps, to be skeptical of what they are being shown, to try to ensure that they take some time to talk privately to a number of different refugees, and to visit unplanned areas in order to uncover the true living situation of the refugees and hear their voices longing to determine their uncertain future! Abuse from UNHCR Officers in Dadaab against refugee youth advocating for their rights. National and international staff members of UNHCR and other agencies in the camps of Dadaab often attempt to harass and intimidate refugees who advocate for their own rights. As a recent example, the UNHCR Head of Sub Office, in the presence of elder witnesses, threatened various refugee youth who intended to attend a meeting at his office, shouting that in case any youth came into his (UNHCR) office he would call the police and arrest them. Similarly, the senior Protection Officer has often failed to protect the rights of the refugees while allegations of harassment and human rights abuses flood his office in Dadaab. If UNHCR jeopardizes and denies the basic rights of the refugees in Dadaab Refugee Camps and denies the opportunity for refugees to advocate for their own rights; who will then advocate for the rights of the thousands of the disadvantaged societies in Dadaab camps? It can only be concluded that the UN and other agencies do not wish to see a community who can manage their own affairs independently. It can only also be concluded that the agencies in Dadaab are more political agencies than they are humanitarian agencies, with many agencies undertaking similar tasks and doing little to actually assist refugees as they claim. Moreover, the reports shared by the agencies with the donors often provide false information and figures, including but not limited to false information about living conditions, security, service delivery, movement, education, development, health, water and sanitation, food, and services they allegedly provide but often either do in a sub-standard manner or never have even undertaken at all. While agency staff often argue that refugees have no right to complain because the services they receive are free, it must be noted that agency staff also receive free of charge much better services than the refugees receive, including in the areas of water, medical care, food, housing, electricity, etc. We request from the international community and other concerned parties to help us mange our own affairs and that affect us by giving us a chance to get the jobs we can do for own selves.


    In sum, we wish to reiterate that we hope that the international community will hear our cries and undertake efforts to end the exploitation and abuse we face by pressing for an end to restricted movement, a reform of exploitative labor policies, an improvement in service provision, a greater allowance for participation in decisions about service provision to the refugee communities and refugee staff members, and the end to the deception and abusive practices of the Kenyan government, UNHCR, and the other agencies operating in the camps of Dadaab toward the refugees and the international community. Furthermore, the International community and the concerned goverments should watchout carefully the actions of the govermentof kenya, UNHCR and the other Agenceis opertaing in the region decissively and should held account for any inhuman acts. Thanks and looking forward to your immediate durable solutions.

    Kind Regards,

    Refugee Silent Welfare Committees

    Tanzania: 74 Ethiopian migrants jailed for illegal entry


    A resident magistrate in the southern Tanzania region of Ruvuma has sentenced a group of 74 Ethiopian nationals to six months imprisonment or a fine of 10,000 shillings (approximately US$10) for illegal entry into the country.

    Zambia: Unruly refugees sent home


    A shadow has fallen over Zambia's long history of generously hosting refugees from troubled countries since 36 foreigners were deported to neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), but the government says it is only trying to ensure security and order in camps that still shelter some 57,000 people. "We are hoping that [deportations] will stop," said James Lynch, country representative for the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Zambia. The organization communicated its alarm at the expulsions to the Zambian authorities on 13 April.

    Social movements

    Angola: Unprecedented victories achieved by civil society


    Civil society organisations in Angola gave a lesson of citizenship, courageously marching to say “Don’t Push Down My House”.The demonstration finally and peacefully took place in the coastal city of Benguela. Despite of the ban announced by the provincial government, the march managed to break the silence and voice the protest against the brutal house demolitions and forced land evictions that have become a regular occurrence in Angola in the last years.
    Civil society organisations in Angola gave a lesson of citizenship last Saturday, courageously marching to say “Don’t Push Down My House”.
    The demonstration finally and peacefully took place in the coastal city of Benguela. Despite of the ban announced by the provincial government, the march managed to break the silence and voice the protest against the brutal house demolitions and forced land evictions that have become a regular occurrence in Angola in the last years.
    The local government still tried to hinder the march, by organising a public activity at the same time in the final point, but that did not discourage the demonstrators who simply changed their destination.
    “It was one more step built by civil society in this long journey. It is a clear evidence of civil society’s fundamental role and which cannot be denied at any time”, says the blog Quintas de Debate, by OMUNGA, Christian Aid’s partner.
    Although against the Constitution, protests to denounce human rights violations are prohibited in Angola and any kind of similar act are repressed and its leaders intimidated (OMUNGA had organised initially the march for March 25th but it faced a compact barrier of riot police).

    The last major wave of demolitions and evictions happened in March in Lubango (Huila province capital), killing seven people and displacing more than 25,000 people. Many of these citizens have been transferred to Tchavola, in the outskirts of Lubango, a place with no water, sanitation, schools or transportation. The situation is still that of a human-made humanitarian emergency.
    However, in another unprecedented move, the Government recently apologised to the victims of this violence, and promised not to hold any more demolitions and evictions in the same way. However, civil society expects more demolitions and evictions in Angola in June.

    Congratulations to our partners – Omunga, ACC, SOS Habitat, AJPD, IECA and others – which in diverse ways and at great personal risk achieved these two victories!
    Congratulations also to the victims of evictions and demolitions who have been fighting as they can against the abuses.

    Finally, congratulations to the many civil society actors and alliances in Angola and internationally: there has been a strong movement to condemn the Lubango catastrophe and support the march. We have no doubts that the visibility and wide solidarity were contributing factors.

    South Africa: Really, it is a shame


    South Africans are facing tough times. It is a time when there is no humanity, a time when no one in government is interested to listen to your story if you are a poor person. There are good thinkers in this country, but if their ideologies are coming from the bottom up, from poor communities, no one is prepared to listen carefully.

    Africa labour news

    Gabon: Government ready for dialogue as oil workers begin strike


    As the indefinite strike called by Gabon's oil workers entered day two Thursday, the government has said it is willing to resume dialogue to end the strike. "The government solemnly reaffirms its preparedness to resume the dialogue," said a statement by Labour Minister Maxime Ngozo Issondou.

    Emerging powers news

    Emerging Actors in Africa news round-up


    In this week's roundup of emerging actors news, Three steps to unleashing Africa's genius, China is ready for Ghanaian entrepreneurs, South Africa and China sign trade deals worth R2,3bn, Africa and India to boost cooperation in agricultural technologies for smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa.


    Three Steps To Unleashing Africa's Genius
    While Africa has an active microfinance space and emerging mid-size private equity sector, there is a gaping "missing middle" in Africa's capital markets that includes seed stage angel investment and early stage venture capital. The existence of a major gap in the financial markets of the world's second most populous continent is a serious problem: seed and early stage investment are major drivers of any robust entrepreneurial economy, and entrepreneurship is the most important force for sustainable job creation in the world. Read more

    Juba abandons plan for rail link to Kenya
    South Sudan will commence building a modern railway line linking it with east Africa next month after a Kenyan initiative hit a brick-wall. This railway line is expected to facilitate the movement of goods and people to and from Juba to any part of the wider East African region including Mombasa, Uganda, Sudan, Ethiopia and Djibouti. This new railroad — to be known as the East African Rail (EAR) — will connect Juba in South Sudan to Gulu and Tororo, from where it will join the existing Kenya-Uganda railway. This is considered the largest project being undertaken by New Sudan Foundation on behalf of the Government of South Sudan (GOSS). Read more

    Ghana’s Ambassador to China ready for Ghanaian entrepreneurs
    Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry has concluded arrangements with the Ghana Embassy in Beijing – China and the leadership of the China-Africa Business Council for the hosting of Ghanaian companies and entrepreneurs who will participate in the Ghana – China Business Partnership programme which seeks to organize various investment partnership building missions to various industrial provinces in China. Read more

    China firm to invest $600 mln in Zambia copper mines
    China Nonferrous Metal Mining (CNMC) plans to invest $600 million (R4.4 billion) in Zambia between 2010 and 2011, encouraged by the country's abundant mineral resources and political stability, company president Luo Tao said .Read more

    Jabana residents to petition government over compensation
    A few weeks after some residents of Jabana in Gasabo District whose properties were destroyed by stone mining activities disagreed with the outcome of the evaluation process, the affected residents are now threatening to petition the local government ministry to have their complaints heard. Read more

    Experts say cultural and academic exchanges between China and Africa are conducive to the development of cooperation
    Joao Manuel Bernardo, Angola's ambassador to China and acting dean of the African diplomatic corps, said Africa and China were on the right track for better understanding between their peoples and the sharing of development experience with the launch of the China-Africa joint research and exchange program. Read more

    African Minerals and China Railway sign iron-ore accor
    China Railway will spend 167.8 million pounds ($256 million) to buy 33.6 million new shares of African Minerals for 500 pence each, the explorer said today in a statement. That will provide most of the funds for the first phase of production at the Tonkolili project, Guernsey, Channel Islands-based African Minerals said. Read more

    South Africa and China sign trade deals worth R2,3bn
    South Africa and China signed trading agreements to the value of $311-million (R2,3-billion) on Wednesday, reaffirming China's position as South Africa's number-one trading partner. The two countries signed a similar agreement in 2007 to the value of $143-million. Speaking at the signing ceremony in Pretoria, South Africa's Trade and Industry Minister Dr. Rob Davies pointed out that the value of the contracts more than doubled in a three-year period, showing the countries' commitment to mutually beneficial trading ties. Read more

    China-Africa development fund opens office in Addis Ababa
    The China-Africa Development Fund (CADFund) opened its second representative office in Ethiopia, reports ENA. The first office opened was in Johannesburg, South Africa. The opening ceremony was held at Sheraton Hotel in Addis Ababa in the presence of Ethiopian senior government officials, officers of foreign embassies, representatives of different organizations and institutions, according to the report. Read more

    China and South Africa agree to boost ties
    Jia Qinglin (L), chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), meets with South African President Jacob Zuma in Pretoria, South Africa, on March 30, 2010. (Xinhua/Huang Jingwen). China and South Africa have agreed to boost bilateral relations and cement their cooperation against climate change. Read more

    Tanzania now battles China`s monopoly on rare earth metals
    China has over 95 percent market share in the global production of rare earth metals, but many alternatives are now being examined, such as the Wigu Hill deposit in Tanzania owned by Montero Mining. Read more

    Two Chinese companies sign contract to build dams complex in eastern Sudan
    Sudan's Dams Implementation Unit (DIU) on Tuesday signed a contract with the China Three Gorges Corporation (CTGC) and the China Water and Electric Corporation ( CWE) to implement the Upper Atbara Dams Complex Project in eastern Sudan. Read more

    Chinese companies take part in modernisation of water supply system in Mozambique
    The Mozambican minister for Public Works and Housing, Cademiel Muthemba, Monday in Malhampswene, Matola municipality, officially laid the first stone of the expansion and modernisation of the water supply system to the cities of Maputo and Matola and the district of Boane, in Maputo province. Read more

    China looks into buying modular vehicle platform from South African group
    The Chinese government has shown interest in buying 10 000 units of a South African-designed vehicle platform, as well as the rights to produce the platform in the Asian country, from local company the Virleo group, says owner Craig Savides. url=]Read more[/url]

    Ugandan president commissions Chinese constructed military barracks
    Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has commissioned a military barracks constructed by a Chinese company Medallion Engineering Ltd, an affiliate of China North Industries Corporation (NORINCO). Read more

    President Girma holds talks with Chinese delegation
    President Girma Woldegiorgis here on Monday held talks with a Chinese delegation led by Yan Junqi , vice chairwoman of the Standing Committee of China's National People's Congress (NPC). Read more

    China vows to enhance bilateral ties with Zimbabwe
    China has vowed to push vigorously its traditional friendship with Zimbabwe to a new height on the occasion of 30 years of diplomatic ties between the two countries. Chinese ambassador to Zimbabwe Xin Shunkang made the remarks in a speech published in the Herald newspaper on Monday to mark three decades of China-Zimbabwe diplomatic relations. Read more

    Egyptian minister lauds China's role in African development
    Egyptian Minister of Investment Mahmoud Mohieddin on Monday lauded China's role in investment and development in Africa. In an interview with Xinhua on the sidelines of the 3rd Common Market of East and South Africa (COMESA) Investment Forum held here, Mohieddin said China's participation in the COMESA forum as well as its presence in the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation ( FOCAC), reflected its efforts in the diversification of its investment in the continent. Read more

    Egyptians angry at banning made-in-China phones
    In Abdel Aziz Street in downtown Cairo, the most famous market for electronic devices, Mohamed el-Khteib, a mobile phone shop owner, was waving to passersby, trying hard to persuade them to buy his made-in-China mobile phones. Read more

    Chinese government hands over refurbished stadium to Zimbabwe
    The Chinese government handed over the refurbished Zimbabwe national sports stadium to the Zimbabwean government on Saturday. The stadium was built with the assistance of the Chinese government in 1987, but had been closed for renovations for the past three years. Read more

    Chinese, South African presidents discuss bilateral ties
    Chinese President Hu Jintao met here Thursday with South African President Jacob Zuma to exchange views on further development of relations between their two countries. Read More


    Piece of Opinion: India ripe for global assignments
    After spending last week in New Delhi discussing policy issues with Indian officials, journalists and scholars, I was impressed with India’s rapid development and its potential to help African states, but wondered why it refuses to accept a global role. Read more

    Africa and India will boost cooperation in agricultural technologies for smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa
    The Hyderabad-based International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the European Market Research Centre (EMRC) this month, to facilitate ICRISAT's participation in two key annual Africa business forums organised by the EMRC — the Africa agri-business forum and the Africa finance and investment forum. Read more

    State-run shipping corporation of India plans to buy three new container ships by 2010
    "We are evaluating various options to start an India-Africa liner route. We also have plans to acquire three new container ships by this year-end," the official said, adding the corporation has earmarked $200-225 million to fund these three vessel-purchases and plans to float a tender for the same in the next few days. Read more

    Bharti's success may open floodgates for M&A in Africa
    “The Bharti-Zain deal will open the floodgates to many such deals by Indian companies in the continent,” says Manu Chandaria, chairman of the Kenya-based Comcraft group. Mr Chandaria’s business, which started as a retail trade in provisions, is today a diversified behemoth spanning aluminium, computer hardware, software, plastics and steel businesses. Read more

    India aims to boost African market ties
    Two-way trade between Africa and India was worth about $30bn in 2008 to 2009, or about 8 percent of India's total trade. This is expected to rise to $70bn by 2015 as the Department of Commerce's Focus Africa campaign kicks in. Nigeria, South Africa and Angola dominated Africa's exports to India while its imports were far more evenly spread with South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Mauritius and Tanzania being the main destinations. Read more

    India seeks South Africa's help for importing cheetahs
    More than 60 years after they were wiped out from the country, India is now seeking help from South Africa for importing cheetahs to re-introduce them in jungles back home, environment minister Jairam Ramesh said on Wednesday. Read more

    Jet launches Mumbai-Johannesburg daily non-stop flights
    argeting the African market, India's largest private carrier Jet Airways Wednesday began its daily non-stop flights from Mumbai to Johannesburg - its 23rd international destination. Read more

    In Other News....

    Liberia and Brazil have taken major steps to jumpstart longstanding relations between the two countries
    Following bilateral discussions Wednesday in Brasilia, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and the President of Brazil, Luis Lula da Silva, the two countries agreed to promote cooperation in the areas of energy and mining as well as education. According to an Executive Mansion dispatch, the agreement calls for the training of teachers and academicians in graduate and undergraduate programs in Brazil and an alignment of teaching programs between higher institutions of learning in Liberia and Brazil. Both countries also agreed to recognize the credentials issued by their respective institutions of higher learning. Read more

    Eskom's World Bank to bring problems to South Africa
    The World Bank will bestow economic and environmental problems on South Africa through the granting of a $3.75 billion (R27.3 billion) loan to electricity parastatal Eskom, social movement Jubilee South Africa said on Tuesday. "The large size of the loan, as well as the signal that the granting of the loan sends to other lenders to make further loans, will have serious economic repercussions," Jubilee said in a statement. Read more

    Gazprom interested in gas projects in Northern Africa
    Tass cited Mr Alexander Medvedev Gazprom’s deputy chairman and head of Gazprom Export as saying that Russia gas utility Gazprom is interested in gas production, processing, piping and sales projects in Northern Africa, a geographical region located in close proximity to the European market. Read more

    Iran-Africa ties no threat to others
    Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki has stressed that the Islamic Republic's relations with African countries are not in opposition to any other country. The Iranian foreign minister noted that Tehran's relations with other states "are based on mutual respect and interests.” Read More

    Stakes are high in African investment race
    The rush to exploit Africa’s natural resources has kicked back into high gear in recent decades, with massive new investment from developing countries - especially China and others like South Korea - desperate to feed their burgeoning industries. But China and Korea are not the only Asian countries interested in the African market. “Japanese investors have been making substantial investments in Africa and have been adopting strategies in targeting the growing consumer market in Africa,” said Takao Seki, director of the Japan External Trade Organization. Read More

    IBSA/BRIC News

    India, China agree to strengthen bilateral relations
    During the sidelines of the IBSA and BRIC Summits in Brazil, the Indian and Chinese Presidents held a bilateral meeting to which both the leaders agreed to the need of further strengthening their relations, particularly in trade and investment sectors. Read more

    Dr. Rathin Roy addresses Prime Minister Singh, President Lula and President Zuma Recommendations from the Academic Forum of the 4th India-Brazil-South Africa (IBSA) Dialogue Process are presented to the Heads of State and Government of the three countries in Brasilia. Read More

    IBSA Academic Forum
    Read more here

    South-South Cooperation or Trilateral Diplomacy?
    The two important events for the ‘Global South’ – the India-Brazil-SouthAfrica (IBSA) and the Brazil-Russia-India-China (BRIC) summits – will have great resonance for the future shape of South-South cooperation, says Rathin Roy, director of the International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth (IPC-IG), based in Brasilia. Read More

    IBSA has entered period of consolidation, must focus on new intiatives: PM
    Stating that the India, Brazil, South Africa (IBSA) grouping has entered a phase of consolidation, visiting Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh said that leaders and governments of these three countries should focus implementing various initiatives taken up under its framework in his address to the Summit. Read More

    PM's visit underlines rising Indian interest in Ibsa, Bric
    Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, always a reluctant participant in groupings which have an affinity to alphabet soup, is in Brasilia after concluding a four-day trip to Washington DC. However, all the signs are that this time, India is a much more enthusiastic player in South-South cooperation, whose beginnings are often credited to Jawaharlal Nehru. Read More

    Brazil, India, S.Africa agree more diplomacy needed on Iran
    Brazil, India and South Africa agreed in a trilateral summit Thursday that more diplomacy was required in the international standoff with Iran over its controversial nuclear program. Read More

    BRIC summit wraps up early
    Brazil, Russia, India and China wrapped up their second-ever BRIC summit with boasts their bloc was becoming a formidable force for global change. A joint statement emphasized the group's intent to see a "multipolar, equitable and democratic world order" result from a shake-up of international financial institutions and the United Nations to better reflect the aspirations of their emerging economies. Read More

    IBSA: Brasilia Declaration
    The Leaders highlighted that the three countries' commitment to democratic values, inclusive social development and multilateralism constitutes the basis for their growing cooperation and close coordination on global issues. They noted that a first round of IBSA Summits of Heads of State/Government (Brasilia, 2006; Tshwane, 2007; New Delhi, 2008) has strengthened the three countries resolve to continue to work for enhancing the role of developing countries, increasing the interchanges amongst themselves with the participation of their peoples, and for implementing concrete projects in partnership with other developing countries. Read More

    New Directions or Just New Directors?
    The business and political leadership of the world's strongest emerging economies meet this week in Brazil. Are these gatherings of the champions of a new and fairer global economy, or of new pretenders to the old throne? “A part of the idea behind IBSA is to push for reform, but the reform is not about empowering smaller countries," says Shawn Hattingh, a researcher at the International Labour Research Information Group in Cape Town. "It's about IBSA members getting greater voting rights (within the IMF and World Bank). It's basically a power play within the existing system." 
In Hattingh's view, neither IBSA nor BRIC represent anything new for the majority of people living in the South. Read More


    The Oil Factor in Sino–Angolan Relations at the Start of the 21st Century
    by Ana Cristina Alves
    SAIIA Occasional Paper, No 55, February 2010
    Read more

    Aid to Africa: What can the EU and China Learn from Each Other?
    by Jin Ling
    SAIIA Occasional Paper, No 56, March 2010
    Read more

    From Isolation to Integration? A Study of Chinese Retailers in Dakar
    by Romain Dittgen
    SAIIA Occasional Paper, No 57, March 2010
    Read more

    Emerging Commercial Rivalries in Africa: A View from South Africa
    by Dianna Games
    SAIIA Policy Briefing, No 15, February 2010
    Read more


    * Compiled by Anna Lena Wachter, intern based with the Emerging Powers in Africa programme.

    Africom Watch

    Africa: Obama expands military involvement in Africa


    When President Barack Obama took office in January 2009, it was widely expected that he would dramatically change, or even reverse, the militarised and unilateral security policy that had been pursued by the George W. Bush administration toward Africa, as well as toward other parts of the world.

    Elections & governance

    DRC: A stalled democratic agenda


    This latest briefing from the International Crisis Group, examines the failure of the leaders elected in 2006 to radically change governance and to fulfil the democratic aspirations of their citizens. Nearly four years after Joseph Kabila won the presidency in elections hailed as a milestone in the peace process, power is being centralised at the presidential office, checks and balances barely exist, and civil liberties are regularly undermined, despite growing signs that the regime is unable to manage local conflicts.

    Ethiopia: Zenawi warns opponents against violence ahead of elections


    Ethiopia’s premier Meles Zenawi on Tuesday strongly warned opposition parties against any violence ahead of the parliamentary and presidential elections in Ethiopia on 23 May. In a rather harsh parliamentary debate after he presented the government’s annual report to the House, opposition MPs bombarded Zenawi with accusations that his government and party members had continued to intimidate their members.

    Guinea: Government bans unauthorised demonstrations


    Guinean Minister of Territorial Administration and Political Affairs, Nawa Damey, on Monday urged political parties to put an end to "unauthorised demonstrations" which could cause traffic jam in Conakry, the capital. In the statement, read on the State Radio, the Minister called on political lead ers to exercise restraint and understanding in their activities so that they could make their contributions towards building a peaceful political transition in the country.

    Kenya: Government launches electronic register to curb poll fraud


    Prime Minister Raila Odinga became the first Kenyan to register electronically as a voter following the introduction of a landmark electronic register, aimed at curbing fraud in future elections, which led to widespread chaos in 2008. Odinga, who led the opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) during the 2007 Presidential elections, hailed the introduction of the electronic voter register as a historic step towards changing Kenya's previously flawed elections, leading to chaos.

    Kenya: Government to dissolve truth, reconciliation body


    Disturbed by the failure of the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) to discharge its duties, the Kenyan government has now initiated the process of disbanding the body. Justice, National Cohesion and Constitutional Affairs Minister, Mutula Kilonzo, under whose docket the TJRC falls, said Thursday that he had asked the Parliamentary Committee on Legal Affairs to work on modalities of disbanding the Commission.

    Madagascar: Leader to disband government


    Madagascar's leader has vowed to disband his internationally rejected government and form an interim body with an ousted opposition leader following an ultimatum from the army to solve a festering crisis. Analysts say there has been growing unease in some quarters of the government and military, and increased international pressure on Andry Rajoelina to solve the crisis, which has unnerved investors in the island's oil and mineral resources.

    Sudan: Nine killed as polls end


    Nine people were killed, including a member of President Omar al-Beshir's National Congress Party, as violence broke out on Thursday that was unrelated to nationwide elections, according to the southern Sudan army. The country held its first national election in 24 years.

    Sudan: President asks opposition to join government


    Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has asked opposition parties to join his government if he wins landmark elections currently under way. With polling due to end on Thursday, Mr Bashir has extended an offer to other parties to join his ruling National Congress Party (NCP).

    Sudan: Violence mars last day of vote


    Sudan’s ruling party has said that the southern army had killed nine people, including at least five of its officials, stoking tensions during voting in the first open elections in 24 years. Oil-producing Sudan entered the last of a five days of presidential and legislative polls that mark a key test of stability for Africa’s largest country, emerging from decades of civil war and preparing for a 2011 southern referendum on independence.

    Uganda: Besigye anger at lack of election reform


    Uganda's main opposition leader Kizza Besigye had told the BBC of his anger that proposed electoral reforms have not even been debated in parliament. Dr Besigye was talking after being re-elected leader of his Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party


    Nigeria: Ex-governor wanted for alleged corruption


    Nigeria's anti-graft Economic and Financial Crimes Commi ssion (EFCC) has declared the immediate past governor of oil-rich Delta State, James Ibori, wanted for alleged official corruption and money laundering. An EFCC statement said a court warrant had been obtained for the arrest of the governor, who was earlier freed of a 170-count charge of corruption against him by a court. EFCC has appealed against the ruling.

    Tanzania: Corruption in housing: is NHC a den of corruption?


    The public outcry of alleged entrenched corruption in Tanzania’s National Housing Corporation (NHC) appears to have reached catastrophic proportions with helpless victims alleging that the vice is so extensive and deeply rooted to the marrow of this giant state corporation

    Tanzania: SFO faces potential suit over Corrupt Tanzania Radar Case


    The corruption money would have constructed over 5,400 classrooms, paid 315,000 teachers, provided over 7.4million families with treated anti malaria mosquito nets’. The Tanzania corrupt Radar scandal appears to be taking a new twist as the notorious British Serious Fraud Office (SFO) now faces a potential legal suit over the manner in which it handled the corruption case involving the British Aero Space (BAE)


    Africa: Africa looks to nuclear power


    Nuclear power holds promise for 10 African countries now in pursuit of building their own nuclear plants. Wind and solar solutions aren't reliable enough, planners say, nor do they offer adequate electricity.

    Angola: Oil wealth eludes nation’s poor


    The government of Angola has not done enough to combat pervasive corruption and mismanagement, Human Rights Watch has said in a report. Even though the oil-rich country's gross domestic product has increased by more than 400 percent in the last six years, Angolans are not seeing their lives improve accordingly, Human Rights Watch said.

    East Africa: Rwanda receives $121.6 mln from World Bank


    Rwanda and the World Bank on Friday signed two grants totalling $121.6 million to support the land-locked nation's budget as it recovers from the global downturn and aid reforms. Mimi Ladipo, the World Bank's country manager in Rwanda said $115.6 was earmarked to bolster the 2009/10 budget, a little higher than the previous fiscal year because it included almost $30 million to help mitigate the impact of the global downturn.

    Global: 2010 ECOSOC High Level Segment (HLS)

    Open call for oral and written statements


    The NGO Branch of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs is pleased to announce an open call for oral and written statements for the 2010 ECOSOC High Level Segment (HLS) for NGOs in ECOSOC consultative status. The HLS will include sessions on the Annual Ministerial Review (AMR) and the Development Cooperation Forum (DCF).

    Global: Climate aid threat to countries that refuse to back Copenhagen accord


    Rich countries have threatened to cut vital aid to the developing nations if they do not back the deal agreed at the UN climate summit in Copenhagen, it has emerged. The pressure on poor countries to support the US, EU and UK-brokered Copenhagen accord came as 190 countries resumed UN climate talks in Bonn in an atmosphere of mutual suspicion.

    Global: Taming the debt vultures


    A so-called Vulture Funds bill - to stop finance companies using British courts to extort excessive debt repayments from some of the world's poorest countries - was passed in the frantic scramble to finish outstanding parliamentary business before Britain's general election in May.

    Kenya: Lightweight kit for small farmers


    A new piece of kit in the form of a backpack could help small farmers in Kenya increase yields, profits and agricultural know-how in a sustainable way. The backpacks, weighing 15-42 kg, contain things which help farmers bring a crop to harvest, including tools, a training manual and, in some versions, a collapsible water tank. They are designed for small plots of land and are currently being used in the Mau Forest region.

    Health & HIV/AIDS

    Africa: Tanzanian President raises alarm on HIV/AIDS in African armies


    HIV/AIDS could pose a security concern in Africa due to high infection rates among military forces, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete has cautioned, saying the loss of personnel not only af fected military preparedness but also increased costs of recruitment and training of replacements.

    Global: ‘No justification for neglecting women’


    Activists have cautioned that the Gates Foundation funded study, released today in The Lancet and showing welcome progress on reducing maternal mortality globally, also reveals one catastrophic exception. They said that current global AIDS programmes were reminiscent of the Victorian era, casting pregnant women as potential vectors of disease, and ignoring their health in the single-minded rush to achieve a 2010 goal of preventing the transmission of HIV to their babies.

    Kenya: Funding threatens AIDS prevention


    Pregnant mothers who are HIV-positive could soon find it challenging to access life-saving HIV drugs because Kenya was denied 270 million dollars in funding from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The Global Fund cited the existence of two ministries of health and the jostling between them over control of funds as a major source of concern.`

    Libya: Critics dispute health care quality reports


    Libyans are criticising an April 4th government report that describes the country's health care as expansive and top-of-the-line. "Reports like this are created at a time of need to tell lies," Libyan rights activist Mohammed Sehim said.

    Malawi: Court case drives MSM deeper underground


    An engagement ceremony has landed a same-sex Malawian couple in jail, propelled their country into international headlines, and pushed men who have sex with men (MSM) further towards society's risky margins. Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga were arrested and charged with sodomy and indecency after their public engagement in late December 2009.

    Southern Africa: Malawi to outlaw polygamy


    The Malawi government will soon draft a law that will outlaw polygamy. Minister of Gender, Women and Children Development Patricia Kaliati said the move intends to help stop growing rates in HIV and AIDS cases.

    Zambia: MSF responds to worst cholera outbreak in years


    In Lusaka, the capital city of Zambia, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is responding to the worst cholera outbreaks in the country for many years. Over the last five weeks the number of cholera cases has risen dramatically to more than 4,500, while more than 120 people have lost their lives. Despite hopes that the outbreak has reached its peak the previous week and that the number of cholera cases will start decreasing, heavy rains that continue to cause severe floods in the city could potentially worsen the situation in the coming weeks.


    Africa: Continent-wide upsurge in homophobia a tragedy

    “I AM” – Inclusive and Affirming Ministries


    In the wake of a continent-wide upsurge in homophobia with Zimbabwe’s leaders Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai being the most recent to put there voices to it, Rev. Pieter Oberholzer and gay Christian activist, Victor Mukasa, were chased away “like lepers” from a consultative meeting on homosexuality held on 16^th March in Malawi. They’ve been attending on invitation of secretary-general Canaan Phiri of the Malawi Council of Churches (MCC), who organised the event.
    In the wake of a continent-wide upsurge in homophobia with Zimbabwe’s leaders Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai being the most recent to put there voices to it, Rev. Pieter Oberholzer and gay Christian activist, Victor Mukasa, were chased away “like lepers” from a consultative meeting on homosexuality held on 16^th March in Malawi. They’ve been attending on invitation of secretary-general Canaan Phiri of the Malawi Council of Churches (MCC), who organised the event.

    Oberholzer and Mukasa spoke of their humiliation being stereotyped in the “vilest way” by church leaders. “It was a horrible experience,” says Mukasa, an Ugandan gay activist who lives in Cape Town. “I am saddened that I’ve been treated by people of God as the enemy.” Lutheran Bishop Joseph Bvumbwe who chairs the Malawi Council of Churches (MCC), said the meeting intended to “brainstorm issues of homosexuality, lesbians and Aids and let the church take a position on it. The meeting was called in order for churches to understand the issue,”
    Homosexuality and sex are still taboo subjects in Malawi, where gays operate underground for fear of prosecution and open hostility from people. This is the first time ever a meeting to debate homosexuality was held in Malawi.

    Phiri said: “We want our pastors to be informed on issues of homosexuality. When we know the background to gays, we can’t pretend they do not exist,” He expressed the hope that Oberholzer and Mukasa’s witness would have shed light on the many misunderstandings that exist around homosexuality.
    The MCC meeting spent two hours on the first morning of their consultation deliberating whether they could allow the testimony of Oberholzer and Mukasa. They later elected to expel them.

    The meeting resolved to uphold Malawi’s homophobic stance against gays and lesbians describing homosexuality as “sinful”. A MCC communique issued at the end of the symposium however reads: “We
    recognise the universality of human rights and fundamental freedoms of all human beings,”
    The church leaders’ statement comes in the wake of the continued detention of Malawi’s first openly gay couple who have been arrested after holding an engagement ceremony in Blantyre end last year.

    Oberholzer heads up “I AM” (Inclusive and Affriming Ministries), a South African based organisation that seeks to promote dialogue on sexual orientation within churches. “I AM” held a 1^st African Dialogue on Christian Faith and Sexuality in November 2009 in Stellenbosch, attended by clergy and LGBTI participants from 13 African countries.

    Issued by: Laurie Gaum, media relations officer, [email protected]
    083 456 1986
    “I AM” – Inclusive and Affirming Ministries

    Kenya: IGLHRC slams anti-gay website


    A gay rights activist in Kenya is receiving death threats and has been attacked on several occasions by random people who have seen and read about him in an anti-gay website that publishes and puts up posters of suspected homosexuals in different cities of Kenya, as ‘NOT WANTEDs’. The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) revealed this week, as it denounced the website , stating that it is a violation of rights and that it victimises people, in the name of religion.

    South Africa: Government to fight corrective rape


    As the case of Millicent Gaika (30), a Cape Town lesbian who was beaten up and raped by a man known to her, is presently being heard at Wynberg Court, government has condemned the ongoing acts of “corrective rape” in the country and has vowed to put an end to them. After the man was arrested, the case was first heard at the Wynberg Court on Tuesday, 6 April but was postponed to today, Tuesday 13 April. Speaking outside the court where people are marching in support of Gaika, Ndumi Funda of Lulek’isisizwe LBT Women’s Project said, “We are strongly opposing bail for the perpetrator and we want to see justice being done for Gaika."

    Racism & xenophobia

    Global: Xenophobia hitting asylum seekers: UNHCR


    Asylum seekers are being thrown out of some countries because of a rise in xenophobia and political campaigns that use foreigners as scapegoats, the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) chief said. Asylum and immigration are sensitive issues in many countries, such as Italy and Greece, which say they cannot cope with hundreds of thousands of people arriving as potential illegal migrants, often on rickety boats from Africa.


    Africa: Malawi, UNDP sign $4.2m climate change deal


    Malawi and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has signed a formulation phase project document for managing climate change in the country to be implemented to a tune of $4.2 million

    Kenya: Extreme weather tests pastoralist perceptions


    The effects of climate change - such as drought, livestock deaths and resource conflict - may be all too apparent for the pastoralists of northern Kenya, but there is much to be done to explain the true causes. "We were warned about the current situation by our elders and spiritual leaders when I was very young. This was about 50 years ago when the Ngishili age groups were born,” Lemeteki Lerinagato, 70, told IRIN in the Samburu district.

    Land & land rights

    Africa: Land grabs continue as elites resist regulation


    A year after the purchases of vast swathes of farm land in Africa first drew public attention, transactions remain as opaque as ever. Private companies are resisting a global code of conduct that would ensure transparency and local elites continue to benefit from deals that encourage corruption and increase food insecurity.

    Africa: ME’s farmland buys seen as ‘a win-win partnership’


    The head of a 19-state African trading bloc has denied the Gulf’s policy of snapping up cheap farmland across the continent is tantamount to a ‘neo-colonialist’ land grab. Sindiso Ngwenya, secretary general of Comesa, which counts Kenya, Egypt, Sudan and Madagascar among its members, said multimillion-dollar land deals aimed at securing the Gulf’s food supply provide crucial capital to overhaul poverty-stricken rural areas and build infrastructure.

    Africa: New FIAN report on land grabbing in Kenya and Mozambique


    On the International Day of Peasants’ Struggle, April 17, FIAN International together with many other civil society actors calls for an immediate stop of land grabbing. A new report published by FIAN International documents the findings of two research missions on land grabbing to Kenya and Mozambique, and concludes that land grabbing violates human rights.

    Botswana: Puma urged to disinvest over controversial tourist lodge on Bushman land


    Survival is appealing to sports giant Puma to disinvest from tourism company Wilderness Safaris over a lodge it has built on land belonging to the Bushmen of Botswana. Puma bought a 20% stake in the company via a private placement shortly before its listing on the Botswana and Johannesburg stock exchanges on 8th April.

    Kenya: Citadel turns to agriculture in search of investment


    Egyptian private equity firm Citadel Capital is seeking to buy Kenya’s firms and long-term land leases as it seeks agro-based raw materials to feed its food business. Citadel’s consumer food business, Gazour, is keen to cut reliance on imports to supply its Egyptian plants by controlling the supply chain from farmer to the shop shelf to protect it from global commodity price fluctuations

    Tanzania: Agency calls for peaceful resolution to rising tensions in Ngorongoro


    International agency Oxfam is deeply concerned with the recent detention of one of its staff and two colleagues from the Ngorongoro NGO Network (NGONET) by authorities in Loliondo, following protests by local women about alleged violations of land rights in the area. The three were detained on 12 April and released the next day on bail. Oxfam calls on the authorities to hold an immediate investigation into the detentions, and take steps to address the concerns of local communities amid growing tension in the area.
    Oxfam deeply concerned at detention of staff member and local partners

    Agency calls for peaceful resolution to rising tensions in Ngorongoro

    International agency Oxfam is deeply concerned with the recent detention of one of its staff and two colleagues from the Ngorongoro NGO Network (NGONET) by authorities in Loliondo, following protests by local women about alleged violations of land rights in the area. The three were detained on 12 April and released the next day on bail. Oxfam calls on the authorities to hold an immediate investigation into the detentions, and take steps to address the concerns of local communities amid growing tension in the area.
    The detentions appear to be linked to protests this week led by citizens concerned about their land rights. Last year, hundreds of families were evicted from the land they were using and now there are steps underway by the local government to change land demarcation. Local communities say this will further undermine their access to grazing and natural resources, and threaten their livelihoods. The Oxfam and NGONET staff were detained after recent protests, despite not being involved in the protests. There have also been local reports that other local NGOs and known activists have been subject to harassment by the authorities in recent days.
    Justin Morgan, Country Director for Oxfam GB in Tanzania, said:

    “Oxfam has a long history of working to help eradicate poverty in Tanzania, and we highly value the close cooperation from the government of Tanzania in this work. Recently in Ngorongoro we have worked with the government and NGONET to provide food and other assistance in response to the severe drought that has affected the area in 2006, 2007 and 2009.
    “We also firmly believe in the rights of Tanzanian citizens, especially the poor and marginalised, to organise and raise their concerns about issues that affect their livelihoods and fundamental rights. We know the government of Tanzania ascribes to democratic values including freedom of association and freedom of expression, and these recent developments appear to be out of step with their normal policy and practice. The right of citizens to have a voice, and for that voice to be heard, is an integral part of democratic society.”

    Oxfam calls on all parties to exercise restraint, respect human rights and find a peaceful resolution to the underlying issues that are causing the current tensions in Ngorongoro.
    “Holding an urgent discussion with all key stakeholders in the area may be one way towards understanding the full concerns that local residents have, and seeking constructive solutions”, said Mr Morgan.

    More information:

    Adam Davies, Communication Coordinator, Oxfam GB, Tanzania,

    Mobile: +255 772 600 208. Email: [email protected]
    Oxfam is a worldwide organisation that employs over 6,000 people in more than 80 countries to overcome poverty and suffering. Oxfam has been working in Tanzania since the 1960s, on among others, education, livelihoods, strengthening civil society and promoting women’s rights.

    Food Justice

    Uganda: UN programme addresses underlying causes of hunger


    The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is launching a new livelihood programme designed to address the underlying causes of food shortages in Karamoja, the poorest and most marginalised region in Uganda which has not had a successful harvest in five years and where more than 80 per cent of the population lives in poverty.

    Media & freedom of expression

    Gambia: Government still investigating journalist's murder


    The Gambian government has given reasons why investigation into the murder of journalist Deyda Hydara has not been concluded. According to the Interior Minister, Ousman Sonko, two key witnesses in the case are outside the government jurisdiction and attempts to reach them have been unsuccessful.

    North Africa: Moroccans form group to fight for free speech


    Moroccan journalists, activists and university professors have launched a new organisation to defend free speech for the press and the public. The Freedom of Press and Speech Organisation will also work to influence the development of laws affecting the media, the group’s founders said at its inaugural press conference Saturday (April 10th) in Rabat.

    Uganda: Government pushes ahead with repressive media law


    The proposed media law is a monster, says Dr George Lugalambi, chair of a coalition fighting to preserve press freedom in Uganda. Publishers and journalists would have to apply annually for a licence, which could be revoked at will in the interests of "national security, stability and unity," or if coverage was deemed to be "economic sabotage."

    West Africa: MFWA launches fund for media development


    The sub- regional rights body, Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), will Tuesday launch the West Africa Media Development Fund (WAMDEF), aimed at providing “low-interest credits to address the financial challenges of small and medium, private and independent media in West Africa.”

    News from the diaspora

    African diplomats reject anti-Cuba resolution passed by European Parliament


    The ambassador of the Republic of Congo to Cuba, Pascal Onguemby, rejected the lies included in an anti-Cuba resolution recently approved by the European Parliament. Addressing participants in the inauguration of the Eleventh International Conference on African Culture in the Americas that began today in Santiago de Cuba, the African diplomat spoke on behalf of the ambassadors from Burkina Faso, Cape Verde and Mozambique, as well as the cultural attaché from Angola.

    Haiti: Women demand role in reconstruction


    Women's civil society groups were noticeable by their absence from the landmark Haiti donor conference on 31 March, which secured pledges of US$5.3 billion over the next two years to support the country’s post-quake recovery. Their lack of a presence at the meeting was indicative of a broader missing voice in Haiti’s long-term reconstruction prospects, gender activists argued.

    Conflict & emergencies

    Burundi: Stop pre-election Violence, hold perpetrators accountable


    Burundian police and administrative officials must take stronger measures to prevent and punish pre-election violence, Human Rights Watch said today. Members of various political parties, especially their affiliated youth movements, have clashed on a number of occasions since November 2009. In most cases, police have not conducted thorough investigations and no one has been held accountable.

    DRC: Uneasy calm after fighting in northwest


    Fighting between "Enyélé" insurgents and regular armed forces in the northwestern Democratic Republic of Congo at the beginning of April left 18 people dead, including nine rebels, and triggered mass displacements from the region's principal city, Mbandaka.

    Mozambique: Earthquakes: Not a matter of if, but when


    Time is everything in responding to a natural disaster. Mozambique's disaster management specialists are worried that they are missing key data on the small tremors that take place almost daily in the quake-prone country. Three of Mozambique’s five seismic detection stations are out of order, their seismographs damaged months ago by lightning and rains.

    Nigeria: Niger Delta: Ceasefire?

    Stakeholder Democracy Network


    The "post amnesty" process that is supposed to be rehabilitating militants in the Niger Delta continued to face questions throughout March. Matters were not helped when a gathering of government and Niger Delta leaders associated with the process in Warri, Delta State, was interrupted by two car bombs planted by disgruntled militant
    The "post amnesty" process that is supposed to be rehabilitating militants in the Niger Delta continued to face questions throughout March. Matters were not helped when a gathering of government and Niger Delta leaders associated with the process in Warri, Delta State, was interrupted by two car bombs planted by disgruntled militants.

    The car bombs were meant to be symbolic and were detonated some distance from those participating in the event. The approach was almost identical to car bombs that were placed in the car park of estates of Shell and Agip in Port Harcourt in 2006 without loss of life.

    The Warri incident highlighted several problems that have remained an issue over the past five years. The Federal Government has a track record of making significant vague promises to suspend conflict and then failing to follow up. Militants have relied on their ability to cause mayhem as a primary negotiating tool and have often struggled to produce any coherent agenda. "Reconciliation" initiatives have often been treated as an opportunity for those at the core of implementation to enrich themselves and it is little surprise that efforts to date have failed.

    Acting President Jonathan has a key opportunity to break with the existing cycle of violence but time is limited. His replacement of the cabinet effectively removes the key players from the existing process and gives him a chance to present a fresh start. He also does not lack resources – with an earlier 'reintegration' budget ranging from $373m upwards. Militant groups also appear willing to allow some breathing space and there have been no follow up attacks to the Warri blasts as yet.

    However Jonathan's opportunity is tempered by the need to do more than buy off the current crop of militants. If he does not act to address broader community concerns that include widespread unemployment, appalling service delivery and social dislocation, then the current cycle of militancy as a means of extracting resources will continue. Jonathan needs to do something dramatic for communities and the broader population to generate a counter balance to those militant and government actors who are comfortable benefiting from the current cycle of violence.

    Communities Oil Industry "Stake"

    There has been considerable talk generated by government announcements of a "10% share" for communities in oil producing regions by divesting part of the stake held by public operator NNPC. This has been presented as a significant move to stabilise relations between government, companies and communities. However documents seen by SDN show that the design of this initiative is far from as generous as it might seem.

    The first impression to be dispelled is that the share will actually be anything like a 10% share of revenue. In fact, the core of joint venture operations is a modest part of overall oil income – government figures estimate that a drop from 60% to 40% in NNPC share of Joint Ventures (JVs) will produce just a 2.2% reduction in government income. The vast majority of oil revenue is channelled through taxes and royalties. The 10% share will entitle "communities" to something around 1% of gross oil revenues.

    The second surprise is that drafted government plans are not for a "giveaway" of this share but a 'sale' to communities that will be financed through deductions from the 13% of net revenues that are already paid to states. These shares will be given to trusts whose definition six months after the initial proposal is also shockingly vague, with obvious potential to spread rather than reduce channels for corruption and violence.

    Indications are that the new actors in the Presidency are only just bringing their attention around to this proposal. There is an urgent need to establish whether this proposed mechanism has redeeming features. For example, any new regime that forced greater transparency on both the government and oil companies (whose Nigerian revenues remain obscured within their global accounts) would be a step forward.

    Presently the key processes are being run in reverse order. There is a desperate need to support the development of genuinely owned community governance bodies across the Niger Delta. The modes under which this can be done will require time and commitment to fully develop. Once this is begun it is appropriate to look afresh at which revenue models could be used for channelling funds to communities.

    Sudan: Four Darfur peacekeepers kidnapped


    Four peacekeepers with the joint UN-African Union mission in the Sudanese region of Darfur have been kidnapped, a spokesman for the force says. The peacekeepers went missing on Sunday and have now been confirmed as abducted, a spokesman for Unamid.

    Internet & technology

    Africa: New broadband network for Africa approved


    Funding for the first phase of an initiative to connect African research centres and link them to an existing European network has been approved by the European Commission. The approval follows a report that identified sufficient IT infrastructure in Africa to support the AfricaConnect Initiative, which aims to improve research collaborations and access to information.

    Africa: Satellite to fibre – Africa’s big change is really under way, says new report


    2010 is not shaping up to be a good year for satellite operators and resellers in Africa. There have been rumours that for the first time one operators’ sales in the continent have slipped down several percentage points. This year sees the arrival of four more international fibre cables: Glo One, Main One, EASSy and LION. Balancing Act’s latest report – African Fibre and Satellite Markets – takes the temperature of the current market and seeks to predict where things will be in three years time.

    Africa: Satellite to fibre – Africa’s big change is really under way, says new report


    2010 is not shaping up to be a good year for satellite operators and resellers in Africa. There have been rumours that for the first time one operators’ sales in the continent have slipped down several percentage points. This year sees the arrival of four more international fibre cables: Glo One, Main One, EASSy and LION. Balancing Act’s latest report – African Fibre and Satellite Markets – takes the temperature of the current market and seeks to predict where things will be in three years time.

    Global: TechSoup Global and GuideStar International combine operations


    TechSoup Global, the U.S.-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides technology resources and knowledge to NGOs around the world, and GuideStar International, a U.K.-registered charity that promotes transparency and civil society organization (CSO) reporting, have announced that they will combine operations in order to strengthen their respective capacity-building programs for civil society. The two organizations share a mission to benefit global civil society through the provision of technology, information, and resources.
    TechSoup Global and GuideStar International Combine Operations

    Move Strengthens Global Capacity-Building Programs for Civil Society

    SAN FRANCISCO/LONDON—APRIL 15, 2010—TechSoup Global, the U.S.-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides technology resources and knowledge to NGOs around the world, and GuideStar International, a U.K.-registered charity that promotes transparency and civil society organization (CSO) reporting, today announced that they will combine operations in order to strengthen their respective capacity-building programs for civil society. The two organizations share a mission to benefit global civil society through the provision of technology, information, and resources.

    The TechSoup Global Network, which now reaches more than 100,000 civil society organizations in 32 countries, will gain GuideStar International’s deep expertise in making civil society organizations more visible, accountable, and effective, allowing TechSoup Global and its partners to more easily identify and reach those organizations that are working to address society’s most urgent needs.
    “This is an exciting time for the philanthropic sector and for our two organizations,” said Rebecca Masisak, co-CEO of TechSoup Global. “Both GuideStar International and TechSoup Global have created contribution economies — networks of far-reaching partnerships with foundations and corporations, governments, and NGOs — and over the years we have developed a deep respect for one another’s work. As our paths crossed and our approach naturally converged, it became clear that by formally combining our operations, we can work together more efficiently and powerfully for global good.”
    The combined operations will focus on developing and strengthening a coordinated and sustainable global network, as well as building on-the-ground capacity in Europe. The London-based GuideStar International, along with Fundacja TechSoup, an independent foundation in Warsaw, Poland, will work closely with 14 European partners to strengthen programs and operations benefiting European civil society.
    “Today’s announcement reflects our mutual conviction about the central importance of information and technology for the future of a robust global civil society — and it also promises an exciting future for our international network of GuideStars,” said Buzz Schmidt, founder and head of GuideStar International. “With the capabilities, resources, and reach of TechSoup Global, the GuideStar International network has far greater sustainability and opportunity than ever before.”

    Luc Tayart de Borms, managing director of the King Baudouin Foundation and chair of GuideStar International, added, “This is an important collaboration that will increase investment in and access to critical resources for civil society. By combining the strengths of these programs, TechSoup Global and GuideStar International will be able to create synergies and to offer a common proposition to civil society in many countries.”

    Today, GuideStar International supports a network of GuideStars in six countries with several more in active development. GuideStar International will continue to operate as a U.K.-registered charity with a focus on development and promotion of GuideStar reporting services. Over the next 24 months, TechSoup Global will take the lead in enterprise-level strategy, technology architecture, and integration. Buzz Schmidt, founder and chair of GuideStar International, will join TechSoup Global’s board of directors. There will be no disruption to the operation of the existing programs or commitments of either organization.
    GuideStar USA, an independent US 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, is not a party to this combination, but will work closely with TechSoup Global and GuideStar International, particularly with respect to policies underlying the development of GuideStar services internationally.

    To view an online version of this press release, please visit

    About TechSoup Global
    TechSoup Global, a nonprofit organization, was founded in 1987 on the belief that technology is a powerful enabler for social change. Alongside its partners — including foundations and corporations, governments and NGOs, social entrepreneurs and volunteers — TechSoup Global is working towards the day when every nonprofit and social benefit organization on the planet has the technology resources and knowledge it needs to operate at its full potential. Today, TechSoup Global has 180 employees, an annual operating budget of $23 million, and operates programs in Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Europe through a network of independent, capacity-building NGOs. With support of leading technology companies, including Microsoft, Adobe, Cisco, and Symantec, TechSoup Global and its network have reached more than 100,000 organizations and distributed more than 5.8 million technology products in 32 countries. TechSoup Global also runs NetSquared, an ambitious global experiment that empowers individuals at the local level to build and share innovative technology solutions to social problems. For more information about TechSoup Global, please visit
    GuideStar International

    GuideStar International (GSI), a U.K.-registered charity, works with civil society leaders worldwide to develop GuideStar services for their own countries. A GuideStar service provides a detailed catalogue of reports on a country’s CSOs on a powerful but easy to use public website. GSI supports this growing network through the provision of a shared Common Technology Platform as well as advice and support in each country’s development process. Today, GuideStar International works with national partners in six countries to develop and launch GuideStar services for CSOs in these countries. For more information, please visit

    Global: The unspoken risks of cell phones and wireless networks


    Africa has been catapulted into the electronic age over the past decade and a half by an almost incomprehensibly swift growth in telecommunications technology driven primarily by a massive rollout of cell phones and wireless technology throughout the continent.

    Kenya: Digital villages project rolled out


    Each constituency in Kenya will by the end of the year boast of at least five digital centres complete with computers and Internet connectivity in a government plan to bridge the IT gap.

    eNewsletters & mailing lists

    Africa: Profiling cash drains

    AfricaFocus Bulletin Apr 12, 2010 (100412)


    "Estimates [for the period 1970-2008] show that over the 39-year period Africa lost an astonishing US$854 billion in cumulative capital flight--enough to not only wipe out the region's total external debt outstanding of around US$250 billion (at end-December, 2008) but potentially leave US$600 billion for poverty alleviation and economic growth. Instead, cumulative illicit flows from the continent increased from about US$57 billion in the decade of the 1970s to US$437 billion over the nine years 2000-2008." - report by Global Financial Integrity.

    Fundraising & useful resources

    Effective participation in the constitution review process

    Call for Proposals from Civil Society Organisations


    Amkeni Wakenya is a UNDP led Facility set up to promote democratic governance in Kenya. The name Amkeni Wakenya is inspired by the second stanza of the National Anthem that calls upon all Kenyans to actively participate in nation building. Amkeni Wakenya primarily works through Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in recognition of the significant role that they play in ensuring that the aspirations of Kenyans are taken into consideration in the democratization process.
    Mobilising Kenyan Citizens to Effectively Participate In the Constitution Review Process”.

    Call for Proposals from Civil Society Organisations

    Amkeni Wakenya is a UNDP led Facility set up to promote democratic governance in Kenya. The name Amkeni Wakenya is inspired by the second stanza of the National Anthem that calls upon all Kenyans to actively participate in nation building. Amkeni Wakenya primarily works through Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in recognition of the significant role that they play in ensuring that the aspirations of Kenyans are taken into consideration in the democratization process. Amkeni Wakenya supports and strengthens the role of citizens in the deepening of democracy, human rights, access to justice and governance reforms in Kenya and is supported the Royal Netherlands Embassy, Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), Royal Norwegian Embassy (Norway) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

    Amkeni Wakenya is inviting Civil Society Organisations based in the Rift Valley to submit proposals under the theme: “Mobilising Kenyan Citizens to effectively participate in the Constitution Review Process”.

    Eligibility Criteria

    This Call is open to Civil Society Organizations including Community Based Organisations, Non Governmental Organizations, Faith Based Organizations, Academic institutions, Research Institutions

    registered in Kenya under the applicable laws;
    based in the Rift Valley Province
    Board of Directors or governance and other policy-making organ is fully Kenyan.

    The proposal should focus on one or a combination of the following components, with emphasis on facilitating active and effective citizen participation:

    Voter Education on the Referendum including but not limited to, conducting voter education at the grassroots; carrying out media-related activities to educate the public on how to vote at the referendum and increasing civic engagement.
    Civic Education on the Draft Constitution including but not limited, to dissemination of the Draft Constitution, using creative methods to deliver civic education to different audiences; media-related activities and educating the public on the content of the Draft Constitution.
    Monitoring the Referendum, including but not limited, to assessing the administrative mechanisms of the referendum, assessing the registration process and the enabling legal framework; patterns of media coverage, the campaign environment, as well as dispute handling mechanisms by the referendum administration or the judiciary.
    Post-referendum activities including, but not limited to, implementing projects at the grassroots aimed at promoting peaceful co-existence, deepening reconciliation among different communities and conflict prevention around the referendum; and public education on the outcome of the referendum.
    Projects supported under this call will run for a period of 6 months from June 2010- December 2010.

    Successful organisations will be eligible to receive grant allocations of between USD 10,000 and USD 20,000 which will be paid out in Kenya Shillings.

    All proposals including a Work Plan and Budget must be submitted in the format given in the Application Form which is available on the Amkeni Wakenya website

    All applications should be sent to [email protected] or dropped off in hard copy at the following address:

    Amkeni Wakenya,

    UNDP Programme Management Unit,

    14th Floor, Anniversary Towers, Monrovia Street,

    P.O. Box 30218-00100 Nairobi.

    All applications must be received at the Programme Management Unit not later than 1200 noon on 23rd April, 2010.

    KONI - The Panafrican Alliance of Colombia


    KONI – The Panafrican Alliance of Colombia is a non-governmental organization based in Bogota. In the spirit of pan African solidarity and cooperation, Koni has designed and availed a platform of technologies and tools for the exchange of ideas, methodologies and strategies of development on the African continent, and its Diaspora in Colombia

    Courses, seminars, & workshops

    Africa: 19th African Human Rights Moot Court Competition


    The 19th African Human Rights Moot Court Competition will be held at the University of Abomey-Calavi, Cotonou, Benin from 4 - 9 October 2010. The deadline for Faculty registration was 28 February and individual registration is 15 May 2010.

    Africa: LLM in Human Rights and Democratization


    Individuals from all African countries are invited to apply for admission to study for the Master‚s Degree (LLM) in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, South Africa

    Africa: Sabbatical programme for regional development policy research

    Call for applications


    The African Research and Resource Forum (ARRF) is a research, data resource, reflection and policy debate institution devoted to the resolution of the governance and development issues confronting policy-makers and societies in the East African Community (EAC) and the Great Lakes Region. It links scholars, researchers, opinion leaders and public service functionaries to interact and share ideas. The Forum also facilitates the evolution of a regional community of scholars, activists and institutions, with a shared interest in resolving inter-African development problems.

    Africa: Understanding the Great Lakes - A new field course


    Applications are now open for the RVI’s first Great Lakes field course, to be held from Saturday 17 to Friday 23 July 2010 in Bujumbura, Burundi. The course is a fast-track, graduate-level introduction to the history, political economy and culture of Rwanda, Burundi and the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Taught in English and French by a distinguished faculty of international and regional specialists, the course follows in the tracks of the acclaimed annual RVI courses on Sudan and the Horn of Africa. For more information please see Courses or download a prospectus here. The application deadline is 7 May 2010.

    CODESRIA Gender Institute 2010

    Theme: Gender and Sports in Africa’s Development


    The 2010 Gender Institute selected the theme of Gender and Sports in Africa’s Development: Towards Gender Equality in Sports in Africa. This builds on the debates on the same theme held during the 2009 edition of the Annual Gender Symposium held in Cairo in November 2009. The papers presented at this symposium revealed a marked gender disparity within the African sports space.
    Each year, since 1994, CODESRIA has organised a Gender Institute which brings together 12 to 15 researchers for between four to six weeks of concentrated debate, experience-sharing and knowledge-building. During the first few years of the existence of the Institute, its main objective centred on the promotion of a generalised gender awareness in the African social research community. The Institute has subsequently been organised around specific themes designed to strengthen the use of gender as an analytic category that is integral both to the output of African social researchers and the emergence of a networked community of scholars versed in the field of Gender Studies. The theme that has been selected for the 2010 Institute is: Gender and Sports in Africa’s Development.

    The 2010 Gender Institute selected the theme of Gender and Sports in Africa’s Development: Towards Gender Equality in Sports in Africa. This builds on the debates on the same theme held during the 2009 edition of the Annual Gender Symposium held in Cairo in November 2009. The papers presented at this symposium revealed a marked gender disparity within the African sports space. To this end, the 2010 Gender Institute seeks to encourage researchers to explain and comprehend the recognized causes of this disparity and to urge them to take a critical look at sports, particularly from a gender perspective.

    Sports is a set of practices which are grouped in three different categories: educational sports, which includes physical education in schools; leisure sports comprehended as a physical activity for relaxation and leisure time occupation; finally, competitive sports managed by national and international sports federations. It is now accepted that sports, in its different methods of exercise, is a universe that reproduces the dominant social values and reflects trends in the overall society (Pocciello, 1997). Indeed, the sports space cannot be detached from the overall social situation nor can it be regarded as a neutral and closed space. Furthermore, the field of sports is dynamic and therefore responsive to time and social changes. As such, it constitutes a space for building socio-cultural elements that promote the expression of stereotypes linked with gender differences and provides information on gender relations (Laberge, 2004). In this perspective, the gender approach is part of a development logic that admits the effectiveness of both sexes for the accomplishment of societal progress.

    Like in all social practices, gender differences and inequalities in the field of sports are shaped and revealed both in the form of physical practices and in related institutional structures. Thus, considering gender in sports unavoidably leads to questions about gender parity and obstacles that impede its fulfillment. The Institute will try to highlight gender specificities of sports, which includes questions such as: How does the influence of gender proceed, according to spaces, times, practices, bodies, or institutions? Furthermore, to account for connections between local and global levels, is it possible to identify some peculiarity in modes of gender expression in sports in Africa? Finally, in what ways does sport contribute to development in Africa?

    Multidisciplinary approaches (sociological, historical, anthropological, economic etc.) are welcome to highlight the complexity of gender relations in sports and for a better knowledge of the reality in Africa. Comparative approaches are also highly desirable to address issues as varied as the gendered socialization process, the distribution of practices by gender and according to attendance in the sports space, commitment of both sexes in sports management, the sports body and its conventional connections with femininity and masculinity, etc. Thus, the challenge of the works will be to deepen knowledge on the methods of construction of gendered identities, hierarchical relations that underlie them, and to highlight the socio-cultural codes that maintain them.

    With no intention to be restrictive, the 2010 Gender Institute proposes to develop the following areas of intervention:
    - The sports space: a space for gendered practices;
    - Gendered socialization and selection of sports practices;
    - Gender in sports organizations (associations, clubs, federations, international bodies);
    - Gender and the mixing of sexes in physical and sports education;
    - The modes of gender expression in the Olympic Games;
    - Body, sports and gender;
    - The genderization of physical recreation;
    - Sports, gender and the media;
    - Sports and handicap: gender in adapted physical activities.
    - Sports, gender and development

    Eligibility and Selection
    For every session, CODESRIA appoints an external scholar to provide the intellectual leadership of the Institute. Directors are senior scholars known for their expertise on the topic of the year and for the originality of their thinking on it. They are recruited on the basis of a proposal and course outline covering a total of up to forty five days during which they are expected to:
    - participate in the selection of laureates;
    - assist with the identification of appropriate resource persons;
    - design the course for the session, with specifications of sub-themes;
    - deliver a set of lectures and provide a critique of the papers presented by the resource persons and the laureates; and
    - submit a written scientific report on the session.

    In addition, the Director is expected to (co)edit the revised versions of the papers presented by the resource persons with a view to submitting them for publication in one of CODESRIA’s collections. The Director also assists CODESRIA in assessing the papers presented by laureates for publication as a special issue of Africa Development or as monographs.
    For the 2010 Gender Institute, Professor Monia Lachheb from Tunisia will be the director. She is a senior scholar in the field of Gender and Sports and has published extensively in this area.

    Resource Persons
    Lectures delivered at the Gender Institute are not introductory courses, but critical think-pieces that are meant to help advance the reflections of participants on the main topic of the year, and on their own research topics. Resource Persons are, therefore, senior scholars or scholars in their mid-career who have published extensively on the topic, and who have a significant contribution to make to the debates on it.
    Once selected, resource persons must:
    - submit a copy of their lectures for reproduction and distribution to participants not later than one week before the lecture begins ;
    - deliver their lectures, participate in debates, and comment on the research proposals of
    - the laureates;
    - review and submit the revised version of their research work for publication by CODESRIA n
    not later than two months following their presentation.

    African social scientists who have a minimum qualification of a Masters’ degree, with a proven research capacity and who are currently engaged in teaching and/or research activities are invited to send in their applications for consideration for admission into the Institute. The selection of laureates is done by an independent committee of renowned scholars.

    Applicants for the position of Resource Person should submit:
    - an application letter ;
    - two writing samples ;
    - a curriculum vitae and ;
    - a two-pages abstract of their proposed lecture.

    Applicants wishing to be invited as Laureates should submit:
    - an application letter;
    - a curriculum vitae ;
    - a letter indicating institutional or organisational affiliation ;
    - a research proposal (two copies and not more than 10 pages, in English or French ) indicating a descriptive analysis, outlining the theoretical interest of the theme chosen by the applicant, and its relation to the problematic and concerns of the theme of the 2010 Institute and ;
    - two reference letters from scholars and/or researchers known for their competence and expertise in the candidate’s research area, including their names, addresses and telephone, e-mail, fax numbers.

    The deadline for the submission of applications is Friday the 15th April, 2010. Laureates will be informed of the outcome of the selection process by Friday the 30th April, 2010. Laureates are expected to use the month of May to carry out fieldwork or collect information and use it to prepare a draft paper based on their proposals. This draft paper should be submitted to CODESRIA on or before the 5th June, 2010. Laureates will be expected to work with this draft paper (not a proposal) and prepare it for publication during the Institute.
    The Institute will be held from 7th to 25th June, 2010 in Dakar, Senegal.
    Applications should be sent to:
    The CODESRIA Gender Institute,
    Avenue Cheikh Anta Diop X Canal IV,
    B.P. 3304, CP 18524, Dakar, SENEGAL.
    Tel. (221) 825 98 21/22/23
    Fax: (221) 824 12 89
    E-mail : [email protected]

    Global: Peace and Conflict Studies


    Sydney University’s Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies is now offering its globally renowned Masters program of postgraduate coursework to students around the world. Graduates enjoy challenging and rewarding careers in aid and development, in NGOs large and small, think-tanks, governments, universities and beyond.

    South Africa: Conference on the plight of domestic workers

    Cape Town, 7-8 May 2010


    Tens of millions of domestic workers world-wide, and hundreds of thousands in South Africa, suffer exploitation and abuse. Confined within an invisible and poorly regulated segment of the labour market, they are mainly unorganised and without knowledge of their legal rights. The Social Law Project at the University of the Western Cape is hosting a conference in Cape Town on 7-8 May 2010 under the banner "Exploited, undervalued - and essential" as part of an international initiative towards promoting more effective legal protection, decent work and empowerment in the domestic employment sector.

    USA Africa dialogue series - Conference call for papers


    The University of Texas at Austin scholars to submit conference papers for the 2011 conference on Africa in World Politics. The goal of this conference is to create an interdisciplinary dialogue concerning Africa's contemporary and historical place in world politics.
    Africa in World Politics

    Due November 31, 2010

    2011 Africa Conference At the University of Texas at Austin

    Theme: Africa in World Politics
    Dates: March 25-27, 2011
    Venue: The University of Texas at Austin
    Convener: Toyin Falola

    We are inviting scholars to submit conference papers for the 2011 conference on Africa in World Politics. The goal of this conference is to create an interdisciplinary dialogue concerning Africa's contemporary and historical place in world politics. Africa is too often regarded as being on the periphery of the world political arena, when in fact the nations of Africa have played an important, although often tactically manipulated, role in global affairs. What was Africa's historical place in world politics? How did independence and the Cold War change this locality? What is Africa's role today and what needs to be done to insure that the African voice is heard in international forums in the future?

    Some potential paper topics may include:
    - Africa in the Ancient and Medieval Worlds (Africa in the Medieval Islamic World, Indian Ocean trade, Egypt and Carthage in the Classical World)
    - The politics of the Atlantic Slave Trade and slavery in the Atlantic world
    - Pan-Africanism and its global political implications (for instance, the creation of Liberia)
    - African colonies' role in the new European nationalism of the late nineteenth century
    - Africa and Africans in the World Wars
    - Africa in the United Nations and the United Nations in Africa
    - Strategic political alignment during the Cold War
    - Africa and the Non-Aligned Nations
    - African nations as "third world" or "developing" nations
    - Africa's changing role in the context of North-South relations
    - Africa's relations with the United States, EU, and the individual countries of Europe in the post-Cold War geopolitical situation
    - The rise of Asian interests in Africa and their political implications, including those of China, India, and Japan
    - Africa, Africans, and the politics of transnational communities
    - African representation in international institutions, ranging from the economic (IMF and World Bank) to those concerned with health and human services (The Red Cross/Crescent and WHO)
    - The effectiveness and role of African political institutions such as the African Union (AU) and the previous Organization for African Unity (OAU)
    - Cultural expressions of political realities, including political protest in the forms of music, literature, film, art, etc., both in Africa and throughout the Diaspora

    - Forms of transnational political protest
    - The concern over global terrorism and the instability of African nations
    - Africa in the international courts, addressing issues of piracy, crimes of pharmaceutical companies, genocide, etc.
    - The political implications of past and present world financial crises

    As with all our previous conferences, participants will be drawn from different parts of the world. Graduate students are encouraged to attend and present papers. The conference will provide time for scholars from various disciplines and geographical locations to interact, exchange ideas, and receive feedback. Submitted papers will be assigned to particular panels according to similarities in theme, topic, discipline, or geographical location. Additionally, selected papers will be published in book form.

    The deadline for submitting paper proposals is November 31, 2010. Proposals should include a 250-word abstract and title, as well as the author's name, address, telephone number, email address, and institutional affiliation. Please submit all abstracts to

    Toyin Falola: [email protected]
    Jessica Achberger/ Charles Thomas: [email protected]

    A mandatory non-refundable registration fee of $95 must be paid immediately when an abstract is accepted. Go to the Conference Shop where you can pay with a VISA, Mastercard, or Discover card. If you prefer to send a check, select the pre-pay option. Write the check out to the "University of Texas" and enter "Conference" on the memo line. Please be sure that your name is somehow printed on the check so that we can easily correlate your payment with your abstract.

    It is expected that all participants will raise the funding to attend the conference. The University of Texas at Austin does not provide participants with any form of funding support, travel expenses, or boarding expenses.


    Who Rules the Waves? Piracy, Overfishing and Mining the Oceans


    With piracy raging in the Indian Ocean, international disputes over undersea oil and gas, and chronic overfishing, the oceans have rarely been subject to such varied and environmentally damaging conflict outside a world war. In Who Rules the Waves? Denise Russell gives us a rare insight into these issues and how they could be resolved.

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