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      Back Issues

      Pambazuka News 478: Obama and AFRICOM: Militarisation intensifies

      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. Comment & analysis, 4. Advocacy & campaigns, 5. Pan-African Postcard, 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. Elections & governance, 21. Development, 22. Health & HIV/AIDS, 23. LGBTI, 24. Environment, 25. Land & land rights, 26. Media & freedom of expression, 27. Conflict & emergencies, 28. Internet & technology, 29. eNewsletters & mailing lists, 30. Fundraising & useful resources, 31. Courses, seminars, & workshops

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      Highlights from this issue

      - Urgent action needed to save lives of Saharawi activists

      - Daniel Volman: Obama and US military engagement in Africa
      - Alemayehu G. Mariam: The voodoo economics of Meles Zenawi
      - Motsoko Pheko: What are South Africans celebrating on 27 April?
      - Sudan: Serious concerns over electoral process
      - Audrey Mbugua: Homosexuality 'ungodly'? So what!
      - Joy Onyejiako: The ‘Kingdom of Ife’: African art at the British Museum
      + more

      - Geoffrey Njora: African finance ministers dismiss development declarations
      - Chambi Chachage: From comparative to competitive advantage
      - Yash Ghai: Should Kenya’s politicians leave the proposed constitution alone?
      - Azad Essa: I did not know Fatima Meer
      + more

      - Horace Campell: Are Sarkozy and Kagame playing games?

      - Hands off Mother Earth
      - Ensuring Kenya gets a new constitution
      - What about tolerance for WOZA activists
      + more

      BOOKS & ARTS
      - Amira Kheir: Review of 'Fire in the Soul – 100 Poems for Human Rights'

      - An open letter to Oxfam America on its stance on biotechnology
      + moreACTION ALERTS: Secret draft of Canada-EU free trade agreement
      ZIMBABWE UPDATE: Mugabe welcomes Ahmadinejad
      WOMEN & GENDER: New law to benefit Kenya women, lawyers say
      CONFLICT AND EMERGENCIES: Niger Delta amnesty at risk of unraveling
      HUMAN RIGHTS: Press all sides to end Somalia abuses
      REFUGEES AND FORCED MIGRATION: Tanzania deports illegal Somalis
      EMERGING POWERS NEWS: Emerging powers news roundup
      SOCIAL MOVEMENTS: Social movements for system change
      AFRICA LABOUR NEWS: NUM to oppose SA Eskom privatization
      ELECTIONS AND GOVERNANCE: Anger at Egypt MPs’ call for force
      HEALTH & HIV/AIDS: Africa should unite for drug development
      DEVELOPMENT: Agriculture key to Africa’s stability
      LGBTI: Uganda softens stand
      ENVIRONMENT: Swazi activist wins green prize
      LAND & LAND RIGHTS: Grabbing Africa
      MEDIA AND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION: Cameroonian editor dies in prison
      INTERNET & TECHNOLOGY: New Broadband network for Africa approved
      ENEWSLETTERS & MAILING LISTS: AfricaFocus Bulletin: Zimbabwe: Sanctions and solidarity
      JOBS: Vacancies at Christian Aid
      PLUS: 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

      Secret draft of Canada-European Union free trade agreement

      Trade Justice Network


      As Canadian and European trade negotiators gather in Ottawa for a third round of free trade negotiations, the newly formed Trade Justice Network has publicly released a draft text of the proposed Canada-European Union Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). The network is raising serious concerns about the agreement’s potential impact on public and environmental policy, culture, farmers and public services in both Canada and Europe, and has issued a set of demands that it says must be met before negotiations are allowed to continue.
      For Immediate Release
      April 19, 2010

      Trade Justice Network releases secret draft of Canada-European Union free trade agreement, makes demands of Canadian and European governments

      Ottawa – As Canadian and European trade negotiators gather in Ottawa for a third round of free trade negotiations, the newly formed Trade Justice Network today publicly released a draft text of the proposed Canada-European Union Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). The network is raising serious concerns about the agreement’s potential impact on public and environmental policy, culture, farmers and public services in both Canada and Europe, and has issued a set of demands that it says must be met before negotiations are allowed to continue.

      “The Harper government’s NAFTA-plus experiment with Europe is embarrassingly short-sighted in a world crying out for new answers to the social, economic and climate crises of our time,” says Stuart Trew, trade campaigner with the Council of Canadians, one of several environmental, labour, farmers’, cultural and social justice organizations which make up the new Trade Justice Network. “If only the Canadian and European negotiators were talking about creating a zone of high standards based on the precautionary principle, and of strengthened social protections. Unfortunately, the text we’re releasing today proves this deal is just another attempt to deregulate and privatize on both sides of the Atlantic.”

      The CETA has been called the most significant bilateral trade negotiation since NAFTA and the first to involve the provinces in negotiations. Controversial provisions in the draft text would open Canada’s telecommunications sector to full foreign ownership, stop municipal governments from implementing local or ethical procurement strategies, (as with NAFTA. Pat) and require a burdensome necessity test for prudential financial or banking measures designed to protect countries and consumers for the kinds of crashes we saw globally in 2008. The text also presents a direct attack on Ontario’s Green Energy Act, and it would virtually eliminate the rights of farmers to save, reuse and sell seed, providing biotech, pharmaceutical, pesticide, seed and grain companies powerful new tools to essentially decide who should farm and how.

      Canadian negotiators have also included a controversial investor-state dispute mechanism like the one in NAFTA. The Chapter 11 dispute process has allowed and encouraged large multinationals to sue North American governments for compensation against public health and environmental policies that limit corporate profits. “Europeans know Canada as a climate criminal thanks to Harper’s mockery of the UN climate talks and shockingly weak commitments in Obama’s voluntary Copenhagen Accord. Now we’re offering them an expensive and damaging investment protection pact that could help bring their own climate and environmental commitments down to our sad level,” says Trew.

      The Trade Justice Network presented a list of demands that must be met before Canada-European Union trade negotiations are allowed to continue any further. These include: a comprehensive impact assessment of the deal’s potential impact on the jobs, poverty, gender, human rights, farmers, culture and the environment; a fundamental protection for public services and expansion of social policy; protection for the right to use public procurement as an economic development tool, and of the right to regulate in the public interest based on the precautionary principle; a commitment to strengthen labour and environmental protections and make them as binding, if not more binding, than investor guarantees, and; a recognition of the primacy of Indigenous Rights over corporate rights in Indigenous lands, territories and waters.

      [Our negotiators did all of this for the EPA, right? Norman, I know many of you presented similar cases]

      The Trade Justice Network will hold a series of public forums over the course of the week to raise more questions about the proposed trade deal while official negotiations are taking place in Ottawa. Forums are scheduled to take place in Ottawa (April 19), Montreal (April 20) and Toronto (April 21), with guest speakers from Europe participating by Skype and through video presentations. For more information on the public forums (times and locations), or to learn more about the Trade Justice Network, and to read the civil society declaration on the CETA, visit: and

      A full copy of the consolidated draft negotiating text has been posted on the Trade Justice Network website

      Urgent action needed to save lives of Saharawi activists

      Letter from Y. Lamine


      Almost four weeks have already passed since the six of the seven Saharawi human right activists, held at the Moroccan prison of Sale, began their open hunger strike. Their were arrested and detained, on 8 October 2010, on their return from a family visit to the Saharawi refugees camps in south West of Algeria. The Moroccan government intends to bring them before a military court on account of that trip.

      Dear Friends
      I am writing to you, once more, asking you urgently to contribute in saving lives of 36 (so far) Saharawi Human Right Activists, in different Moroccan: 6 Sale / 19 in Tiznit /Taroudant 02 / Kenitra 02 / Bin Sliman 01 / Marrakech 03 in Morocco as well as 03 detainees in Black prison in occupied Laaiun Western Sahara. Almost four weeks have already passed since the six of the seven Saharawi human right activist ,held at the Moroccan prison of Sale, began their open hunger strike.

      Their were arrested and detained, on the 8th October 2010, at their return from a family visit to the Saharawi refugees camps in south West of Algeria. The Moroccan Government intends to bring them before a military court on account of that trip .

      Consequently their health is seriously deteriorating day after day, a tragic outcome of such situation might occurs at any time. Along side of their suffer from chronic illness resulting from many years that they have spent in Moroccan detention centers and the hunger strike that they have staged before. They are deprived from all their rights.

      International community have to act and assume it responsibly in particular EU and member of UN Security Council . After 35 years of this long conflict the least the Saharawi people can see in place after the long standing promise of decolonization of Western Sahara , an UN proper mechanism for monitoring human right situation in the territory , MINURSO must not be an exception of the rule –All UN missions through out the world have the mandate of monitoring human right .

      Morocco cannot be all time above the international law and most of all the respect of human right. And must not be shield from its moral political obligations .

      Finally I am utterly sure you will spare no effort in doing what you can in this issue . May I use this opportunity to express my respect and consideration

      Y.Lamine BAALI -POLISARIO Representative UK and Ireland


      Obama and US military engagement in Africa

      Daniel Volman


      cc US Army
      Upon replacing George W. Bush as US president, hopes were high that Barack Obama would oversee sweeping change in relation to US military policy. But, writes Daniel Volman, far from seeing a reversal, such policy has in fact intensified, entirely at the expense of more progressive diplomatic and economically-based approaches.

      When Barack Obama took office as president of the United States in January 2009, it was widely expected that he would dramatically change, or even reverse, the militarised and unilateral national security policy toward Africa that had been pursued by the Bush administration. But, after a little more than one year in office, it is clear that the Obama administration is essentially following the same policy that has guided US military involvement in Africa for more than a decade. Indeed, it appears that President Obama is determined to expand and intensify US military engagement throughout Africa.

      Thus, in its budget request for the State Department for the 2010 financial year, the Obama administration proposed significant increases in funding for US arms sales and military training programmes for African countries, as well as for regional programmes on the continent, and is expected to propose further increases in its budget request for the 2011 financial year.

      The 2010 budget proposed to increase foreign military funding spending for Africa by more than 300 per cent, from just over US$8.2 million to more than US$25.5 million, with additional increases in funding for North African countries. Major recipients included Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia, Morocco, Nigeria and South Africa.

      The 2010 budget request for the International Military Education and Training programme proposed to increase funding for African countries from just under US$14 million to more than US$16 million, with additional increases for North African countries. Major recipients slated for increases include Algeria, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Liberia, Libya, Mali, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa and Uganda.

      The 2010 State Department budget request also proposed increased funding for several other security assistance programmes in Africa, including the African Contingency Operations and Training Assistance programme (which is slated to receive US$96.8 million), the International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement programmes in Algeria, Cape Verde, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Morocco, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Sudan and Uganda, anti-terrorism assistance programmes in Kenya and South Africa, and the Africa regional programme.

      The same is true for funding in the Defense Department budget for the operations of the new Africa Command (AFRICOM) which became fully operational in October 2008 and the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) forces, which have been stationed at the US military base in Djibouti since 2002. The Obama administration requested US$278 million to cover the cost of AFRICOM operations and Operation Enduring Freedom-Trans-Sahara Counter-Terrorism Partnership operations at the AFRICOM headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany. The administration also requested US$60 million to fund CJTF-HOA operations in 2010 and US$249 million to pay for the operation of the 500-acre base at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti, along with US$41.8 million for major base improvement construction projects. And the administration is now considering the creation of a 1,000-man Marine intervention force based in Europe to provide AFRICOM with the capability to intervene in Africa.

      The continuity with Bush administration policy is especially evident in several key regions. In Somalia, for example, the Obama administration has provided some US$20 million worth of arms to the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and initiated a major effort to provide training to TFG troops at the CJTF-HOA base in Djibouti and in Europe. Furthermore, President Obama has continued the programme initiated by the Bush administration to assassinate alleged al-Qaeda leaders in Somalia and, in August 2009, he authorised an attack by US Special Forces units that killed Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, who was accused to being involved in the bombing of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania by al-Qaeda in August 1998.

      In the Sahel, the Obama administration has also sought increased funding for the Trans-Saharan Counter-Terrorism Program (US$20 million in 2010) and begun a special security assistance programme for Mali to provide the country with some US$5 million of all-terrain vehicles and communications equipment. Administration officials have justified this escalating military involvement in the Trans-Saharan region by arguing that the increasing involvement of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in criminal activity (including kidnapping for ransom and drug-trafficking) constitutes a growing threat to US interests in this resource-rich area.

      In Nigeria, which supplies approximately 10 per cent of US oil imports, the Obama administration has decided to expand US military support to Nigerian military forces, despite concerns about security in the Niger Delta, Islamic extremism in northern Nigeria and the country’s fragile democratic institutions. Thus, during her visit to Nigeria in August 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promised that the administration would consider any request by the Nigerian government for military support to enhance its capacity to repress armed militants in the Niger Delta region. The failure of the Nigerian government to implement major elements of its amnesty programme in this vital oil-producing area has recently led to a resumption of violent incidents and attacks on oil installations in the Niger Delta.

      In Central Africa and the Horn of Africa, the Obama administration is increasing security assistance to Uganda, Rwanda, the Kenya, Ethiopia and other countries in the region, and has conducted major training exercises both in Uganda and in Djibouti for the new East African Standby Force (EASF). The EASF is a battalion-sized force authorised by the African Union for independent African peacekeeping operations and other missions, but it remains dependent upon external support – especially from the United States – and is not expected to be able to operate on its own for many years to come. And in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Obama administration has just authorised the deployment of US Special Forces troops to train an infantry battalion at a base at Kisangani that was recently rehabilitated by the United States. The Obama administration has chosen to engage in this training programme despite the continuing involvement of Congolese troops in gross human rights violations (including the rape and murder of civilians) and in the illegal exploitation of the country’s mineral resources.

      This growing US military engagement in Africa reflects the Obama administration’s genuine concerns about the threat posed by Islamic extremism and by instability in key resource-producing regions, and its desire to help resolve conflicts throughout the continent. However, all these measures increase the militarisation of Africa and tie the United States even more closely to unstable, repressive and undemocratic regimes. Furthermore, despite President Obama’s rhetorical commitment to an approach that combines military and non-military activities, the administration lacks a comprehensive and effective plan to address the underlying issues – the lack of democracy and economic development – that lead to extremism, instability and conflict in Africa.

      This is chiefly because the Obama administration lacks the diplomatic and economic means to address these issues. The State Department and the Agency for International Development have been systematically starved of funding and other resources for years and simply lack the capacity to engage in Africa in the manner that would make such an effort possible. It will take many years and substantial increases in funding to build this capacity. And the Obama administration’s food security programme – its one major new initiative for Africa – is highly problematic since it relies on the use of expensive petroleum-based fertilizers, the mechanisation of agricultural production and the use of genetically-modified seeds.

      In the meantime, President Obama has decided that he has no choice except to rely primarily on military instruments and to hope that this can protect US interests in Africa, at least in the short term, despite the risk that this military engagement will exacerbate existing threats. The Obama administration would be well advised to curtail its military engagement in Africa and devote its attention to developing the capacity for diplomatic and economic efforts to address Africa’s underlying problems (as Joint Chief of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen argued in a recent speech) and to working with the European Union, China and other stakeholders on a cooperative engagement with Africa that will not further undermine African security and jeopardise America’s long-term interests.


      * Daniel Volman is the director of the African Security Research Project in Washington DC and a member of the board of directors of the Association of Concerned Africa Scholars. He is a specialist on US military policy in Africa and African security issues and has been conducting research and writing on these issues for more than 30 years.
      * This article was originally published in Africa Report, no. 22 (April–May 2010), pp. 23–4, under the title 'Obama should rethink US military expansion'.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      Ethiopia: The voodoo economics of Meles Zenawi

      Alemayehu G. Mariam


      cc H A
      While Ethiopia's Meles Zenawi may insist on his country's booming economic performance, the evidence speaks differently, writes Alemayehu G. Mariam. With the International Monetary Fund (IMF) strangely indulgent of the Ethiopian financial institutions' statistics, the picture is one of glaring exaggeration and inaccuracy that does a huge disservice to the Ethiopian people, Mariam concludes.

      'There are lies, lies and implausible lies,' to quote Meles Zenawi, the dictator-cum-economic spinmeister of Ethiopia. Last week, Zenawi told a snickering parliament a story that is the equivalent of the proverbial bull that gave birth to a calf (or in Amharic 'bere welede'): 'We will be seeing an economic growth rate of 10.1 percent this year, while inflation will fall to 3.9 percent. This is the result of sound economic policy.' (Sorry, but this is the result of voodoo economics!)

      For the past several years, Zenawi has been making hyperbolic claims of economic growth in Ethiopia based on fabricated and massaged GDP (gross domestic product) numbers, implying that the country is in a state of runaway economic development and the people’s standard of living is fast outstripping those living in the middle-income countries. In March 2009, for instance, Zenawi bragged that he expected the Ethiopian economy to grow by 12.8 per cent. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) disagreed in the same month, stating that given the global economic crisis Ethiopia could expect only about 6 per cent economic growth. Zenawi dismissively countered those who pointed out the discrepancies: 'We have differences with the international financial institutions when we predict our economic growth, but we usually agree on the economic growth statistics at the end of each year.' The questions remain: Did the Ethiopian economy grow by 12.8 per cent in 2009–10? Could it be expected to grow by 10.1 per cent in 2010–11? Who is keeping track of the economic statistics?

      The Central Statistics Agency (CSA) and the 'National Accounts Department of the Ministry Finance and Economic Development' are the two institutions in Ethiopia that are responsible for keeping track of the statistical data and providing analysis on economic performance. But neither organisation has the institutional capability to collect reliable and accurate economic data, let alone assemble complete and comprehensive datasets which could serve as empirical bases for economic prognostications. This fact was emphatically stated on 24 March 2010 in the official statement of Paul Mathieu, the IMF team leader who, after conducting an evaluation of the current half fiscal year economic performance of Ethiopia, said: 'Statistics collection of the country requires transformations, and we advised the government to do that.' Translated from 'diplomatese' into ordinary language, Mathieu’s statement makes it plain that the statistics and data generated and used by the regime to describe Ethiopia’s economic performance and make predictions are basically 'cooked-up'. The simple fact of the matter is that the statistics buttressing Zenawi’s exaggerated claims and projections of stratospheric economic growth, vanishing inflation and red-hot performance of key economic sectors originate from seriously flawed, massaged and deficient economic data cooked up in the kitchens of the two institutions for whom the IMF recently prescribed 'transformations'.

      Zenawi’s stated claims of multi-year runaway GDP growth taken at face value defy not only economic realities but also common sense. On 4 March 2009, the IMF reported that Ethiopia's economic growth could slow to 6 per cent in 2009 based on objective factors rooted in the global economic slowdown and specific trends in the critical foreign exchange earning sectors in Ethiopia such as coffee exports (with decreased demand and a 19 per cent decline in price), tourism and transportation, and depreciation of effective foreign exchange rates by 30 per cent. The IMF also indicated that Ethiopia has the highest inflation rate (26 per cent) in Africa outside Zimbabwe. In its April 2010 'Background Note: Ethiopia', the US State Department reported an average inflation rate (for the 2008–09 financial year) of 36 per cent. There is no IMF (or any other credible multilateral institution) year-end or any other report which indicates that Ethiopia could expect a 12.8 or 10.1 per cent economic growth or a decline in inflation to 3.9 per cent in 2009–10 or any other subsequent year. Indeed, IMF’s Mathieu stated on 24 March 2010 that 'non-food inflation remains close to 20 percent, and has been rising in recent months'. The claim that 'we usually agree on the economic growth statistics at the end of each year' is simply not true.

      However, for a number of years Zenawi’s regime has been pulling a public relations sleight-of-hand by using the IMF as a front to channel its own preferred economic statistics to prove its economic prowess and unrivalled success to the world. For instance, IMF 'Country Report (Ethiopia) No. 08/264 (July 2008)'[1], states: 'Growth has averaged 11 percent since 2003/04, far exceeding the minimum target of 7 percent in the Program for Accelerated and Sustainable Development (PASDEP), that is estimated to be consistent with keeping the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) within reach.' On pp 20–24 of this report, the origin of the data indicating an 11 per cent growth is not some independent data collection and analysis source but the very same Central Statistics Office which last month the IMF said needs massive 'transformation'. The footnotes in the above-referenced pages state: 'Sources: Ethiopian authorities; and IMF staff estimates and projections.' Similarly, the data source for 'Financial Soundness Indicators for Banking' is identified as the 'National Bank of Ethiopia; and IMF calculations.' In its official reports, the IMF simply accepts and incorporates at face value the data for GDP growth given to it by the Central Statistics Office (with its own staff estimates) and incorporates those figures in its own report without so much as qualifying it for completeness, accuracy or reliability.

      In the above-referenced report, the IMF further presents GDP growth data given to it by Zenawi’s regime for 2005–06 at 11.6 per cent and 11.4 per cent for 2006–07. The IMF uses its own 'estimates' (without fully disclosing its methodology given the fact that IMF staffers are allowed considerable latitude in incorporating country-specific circumstances in making estimates) to make additional GDP growth projections for 2007–08 at 8.4 per cent, followed by 6.0 per cent for 2008–09, 6.5 per cent for 2009–10, 7.5 per cent for 2010–11, 7.5 per cent for 2011–12 and 7.5 per cent for 2012–13. The discrepancy between the IMF’s and the regime’s estimates appears to reflect the IMF’s clear lack of confidence in the regime’s economic data and analysis.

      The bottom line on the regime’s statistical claims of economic growth, financial soundness and the rest of it is that the figures are cooked up in the Central Statistics Office and fed to the IMF, which slavishly (with a wink, nod and a smile) parrots back to the world the same figures with some of its own 'staff estimates and projections'. This is the extent of the economic statistical game that continues to be played before our eyes.[2]

      On the other hand, with respect to inflation, the World Bank (Policy Research Working Paper 4969, June 2009), citing IMF data, concluded, 'One of the most affected countries is Ethiopia, which, with the exception of Zimbabwe and small island economies, has had the strongest acceleration in food price inflation during recent years. Average food prices rose by more than 34 percent in 2007/08, but annual inflation reached historical record growth of 91.7 percent in July 2008.' On 17 March 2010, the regime’s Central Statistics Office reported, 'Except for cereals, all food components have shown a rise. The prices of fuel, construction materials, clothing and footwear, furniture and personal care (products) are on the rise.' What empirical evidence exists in the first half of 2010 to justify a prediction of a steep decline in inflation to 3.9 per cent in 2010–11 or beyond?

      All of the statistical fairytales about the economy told in parliament were a source of puzzlement and amusement for Bulcha Demekssa, the leader of the Oromo Federalist Democratic Party (OFDM) and former vice-minister of finance and senior official at various international institutions. Bulcha asked Zenawi in parliament how such fantastic GDP figures could be achieved: 'The prime minister and the government have repeatedly said Ethiopia has grown by 10 and 11 percent. The prime minister and Ethiopian economists know that it is a miracle for Ethiopia to grow by 11 percent. How is it that Ethiopia grew by 11 percent? We know that China, South-Korea are registering such economic growth. But we are confused how Ethiopia’s economy is growing like these countries. Our unemployment and poverty is on the rise.' Zenawi’s response was characteristically evasive, and he denied any real discrepancies: 'We have differences with the international financial institutions when we predict our economic growth, but we usually agree on the economic growth statistics at the end of each year.'

      The answer to Bulcha’s question, of course, is obvious: magic! All one needs to achieve 11 per cent growth is to invoke the GDP Spirits and recite to them the right incantations about 'sustainable development', 'export-led growth' and 'improved export revenue sector'. Then sprinkle a palm-ful of that fine IMF gold dust and command: 'Shazam! Let there be economic growth of 10.1 percent! (or 12.8, does not matter any number will do). Abracadabra! Inflation, I command you to go down to 3.9 percent (or 1.1).' But the real 'miracle' occurs when the magic wand is waived to deliver economic growth to a precise tenth of a percentage point such as 10.1 percent instead of merely 10.

      All of the economic swagger and wind-bagging about unrivalled economic boom, prosperity and progress comes from a regime not known for its economic 'literacy'. In an editorial published in the Economist magazine on 7 November 2006 in the context of the Starbucks coffee row, the magazine was graphic in its description of the regime: 'The Ethiopian government, one of the most economically illiterate in the modern world, would do well to take Starbucks's advice.'

      But there is a more fundamental question to be answered: Could a nation’s economic health be reduced to a single statistical summation? Does GDP growth necessarily mean an improved standard of living?

      Zenawi says GDP is the only measure of economic performance that has universal acceptance, and he will continue to use it until a better measure comes up. As anyone with an elementary understanding of economics knows, GDP has little value in meaningfully understanding a country’s economic growth, development and prosperity. Its analytical and descriptive value has been thoroughly critiqued in economic literature. Suffice it to say that to claim that an economy grew by an 10.1 per cent is like saying 'activity' on city streets increased by 10.1 per cent. The street 'activity' without specificity as to crime, car accidents, pedestrian traffic or other events by itself is meaningless. Yet for the past few years, the regime has been trumpeting GDP numbers as some sort of fetish that definitively explains Ethiopia’s economic growth. The GDP numbers, for instance, tell us nothing about the enormous disparity in incomes between the rich and poor in Ethiopia. By overstating economic welfare, GDP calculations do not tell us the magnitude of environmental damage that is taking place. GDP is certainly not a measure of the sustainability of growth, a point repeatedly made in numerous IMF reports on Ethiopia.

      Even if actual GDP growth in Ethiopia is 11 percent or more, it is a meaningless statistic when considered in light of the basic needs and wellbeing of the people. In the vital area of health, for instance, Ethiopia is in a state of absolute wretchedness. According to World Health Organisation (WHO) (2006) data,[3] to serve a population of 77 million people there were 1,936 physicians (1 doctor for 39,772 persons); 93 dentists (1 for 828,000); 15,544 nurses and midwives (1 for 4,985), 1,343 pharmacists (1 for 57,334) and 18,652 community health workers (1 for 4,128). Total expenditure on health as a percentage of gross domestic product was 5.9 per cent. General government expenditure on health as a percentage of total expenditure on health was 58.4 per cent, and private expenditures covered the balance of 41.6 percent. Hospital beds per 10,000 population was less than 25. Per capita expenditure on health was US$3 at an average exchange rate. The WHO’s minimum standard is 20 physicians per 100,000 population, and 100 nurses per 100,000 population. Such is the real matrix of Ethiopia’s 12.8 or 10.1 or whatever fictional GDP number that is pulled from thin air.

      On 3 November 2007, the Economist reported:

      'The fact is that for all the aid money and Chinese loans coming in, Ethiopia's economy is neither growing fast enough nor producing enough jobs. The number of jobs created by flowers is insignificant beside an increase in population of about 2m a year, one of the fastest rates in Africa… The government claims that the economy has been growing at an impressive 10% a year since 2003-04, but the real figure is probably more like 5-6%, which is little more than the average for sub-Saharan Africa. And even that modestly improved rate, with a small building boom in Addis Ababa, for instance, has led to the overheating of the economy, with inflation moving up to 19% earlier this year before the government took remedial action. The reasons for this economic crawl are not hard to find. Beyond the government-directed state, funded substantially by foreign aid, there is—almost uniquely in Africa—virtually no private-sector business at all.

      'The IMF estimates that in 2005-06 the share of private investment in the country was just 11%, nearly unchanged since Mr Zenawi took over in the early 1990s. That is partly a reflection of the fact that, despite some privatisation since the centralised Marxist days of the Derg, large areas of the economy remain government monopolies, closed off to private business. This is where Ethiopia misses out badly. Take telecoms. While the rest of Africa has been virtually transformed in just a few years by a revolution in mobile telephony, Ethiopia stumbles along with its inept and useless government-run services… There is no official unemployment rate, but youth unemployment, some experts reckon, may be as high as 70%. All those graduates coming out of state-run universities will find it very hard to get jobs. The mood of the young is often restless and despairing; many dream of moving abroad… Just as the government is slowing the pace of economic expansion for fear that individuals may accumulate wealth and independence, so it is failing to move fast enough from a one-party state to a modern, pluralist democracy. Again, the reason may be that it is afraid to.'

      The Heritage Foundation, the pre-eminent conservative American think tank, echoes the Economist in its 2010 Index of Economic Freedom and concluded:

      'Ethiopia underperforms in many of the 10 economic freedoms. The business and investment regime is burdensome and opaque. The overall quality and efficiency of government services have been poor and are further undermined by weak rule of law and pervasive corruption. Monetary stability is hampered by state distortions in prices and interest rates, and trade freedom is hurt by high tariff and non-tariff barriers… All imports must be channeled through Ethiopian nationals registered as official import or distribution agents with the Ministry of Trade and Industry. Foreign participation is prohibited in domestic banking, insurance and microcredit services, and several other activities… Ethiopia ranks 126th out of 179 countries in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index for 2008. Despite legal restrictions, officials have been accused of manipulating the privatization process, and state-owned and party-owned businesses receive preferential access to land leases and credit.'[4]

      Zenawi is desperate to show economic development of epic proportions in Ethiopia after nearly two decades of clinging to power. The fact remains that despite the incredible claims of economic growth, tens of millions of people are starving and go without any healthcare. Millions of young people remain unemployed and trapped in hopelessness. There is no rule of law and human rights violations are widespread. Whether or not Zenawi’s regime has accomplished an economic feat with few rivals in modern history is not a matter of wishful thinking or public relations. It is a matter of evidence, accurate, complete, reliable and comprehensive statistical evidence that is systematically and carefully collected, analysed and verified. Such evidence cannot be invented, fabricated, manufactured, contrived, concocted or cut from whole cloth. Benjamin Disraeli, the 19th century British prime minister, said,:'There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.' In Ethiopia today, we are witnessing all three.


      * This article was originally published by 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.

      [2] To see a consistent pattern of 'economic gamesmanship', see also IMF Country Report (Ethiopia) No. 07/247 (July, 2007); IMF Country Report (Ethiopia) No. 06/159 (May, 2006); IMF Country Report(Ethiopia) No. 05/25 (January, 2005) and other reports prior to these dates.

      What are South Africans celebrating on 27 April?

      Abandoning freedom for a fairytale destination

      Motsoko Pheko


      cc T S
      As South Africa prepares to celebrate Freedom Day on 27 April, Motsoko Pheko warns that the negotiated settlement that ended apartheid 16 years ago failed to take into consideration ‘the primary objectives for which the liberation struggle was fought’. The country’s constitution may be the best in the world, but isn’t it time it was amended on the fundamental issues that affect the majority poor, Pheko asks.

      What are we celebrating this April 27? Some say we are celebrating democracy, the birth of a rainbow nation, the miracle of a negotiated settlement, the best constitution in the world which makes South Africa the only country in Africa that has legalised same-sex marriages, and the fifth in the whole world to do so.

      Sixteen years of post-apartheid period, however, shows that the foundation upon which South Africa is built has dangerous cracks. The negotiated settlement was one-sided. The negotiations did not take into consideration the primary objectives for which the liberation struggle was fought. The fundamental interests of the majority 80 per cent were terribly compromised. The negotiators mistook the beginning of a long journey for arrival at the destination.

      That is why the South African constitution has not been amended except when it was to move the people of Khutsong to North West and those of Matatiele to the Eastern Cape. It was amended also when the residents of Phiri, a poor community in Soweto opposed the installation of water metres that made water expensive and unaffordable for them. The South African constitution has never been amended on any fundamental issues that affect the majority poor.

      The land policy of the ruling party is an unmitigated disaster. Land is the trophy over which the national liberation struggle was fought. Land is the national asset without which there can be no economic liberation of the majority poor. In South Africa, Africans are 80 per cent of the population, but they have 13 per cent of the land. This is as result of the Native Land Act 1913 that colonially legalised the land dispossession of the African people and created the ‘Native Reserves’ – the latter ‘Bantustans’ – as reservoir of cheap native labour for farms and mines. Section 25 of the South African constitution is now just another name for the Native Land Act 1913. It forbids any land claims by Africans before June 1913.

      After the Native Land Act, the first secretary of the African National Congress, Solly Plaatje said, ‘What took place when Ministers and members (of the colonial parliament) met in caucus in Cape Town, they alone know, but we have the result in the Native Land Act 1913. At the beginning of May (1913), no one knew that the year would see the last territorial freedom for Africans… On June 19 the same year, the law had been enacted and was operating in every part of South Africa.’

      Africans were dispossessed of so much land that the secretary of the ANC, Solly Plaatje, the ANC President, John Langalibalele Dube and three others went to Britain. On 14 July they presented a petition to King George V, the coloniser of the African country. These petitioners on behalf of the kings and people of this country said that they loved their country with a most intense love; that land had been taken away from them.

      The petitioners said they ‘fully accepted the sovereignty of Great Britain and no other.’ One of the demands to King George V was ‘that the natives (Africans) should be put into possession of land in proportion to their numbers, and on the same conditions as the white race.’

      This was nearly 100 years ago. But this has not happened. It was betrayed for the second time at the negotiations table in 1994 and swept under the carpet. This was despite the Africans Claims In South Africa and The Bill Of Rights that had been endorsed by ANC presidents such as Dr Alfred B Xuma, Dr James Moroka and Chief Albert Luthuli.

      This freedom document adopted by the ANC in 1943 reads: ‘We demand the right to an equal share in all material resources of the country and urge; That the present 13% of the surface area to 8 million Africans as against 87% to 2 million Europeans is unjust…and therefore demand a fair redistribution of LAND.’

      The liberation struggle of the African people in South Africa has consistently been one of equitable redistribution of land and its resources according to population numbers. But the ANC government opted to buy back African land on the willing seller, willing buyer principle. This has not worked in spite of billions of Rand spent on this exercise. The ANC government has now run out of money to buy land. The minister of land reform and rural development, Gugile Kwinti has admitted that he needs R72 billion to buy some land.

      An African proverb says, ‘It is a fool who buys his own cattle.’ Buying land that was taken from the Africans colonially is unjust, barbaric and flouts the principles of international law against colonialism and apartheid. This kind of land policy failed in Zimbabwe with dire consequences. If an economic giant such as Britain could not buy enough land in Zimbabwe, what hope is there that the ANC government can settle the land question by buying it?

      This unjust land policy has obliged Dan Mokonyane, author of ‘The Big Sell Out’ to write, ‘This is just as the crude spectacle of a rapist who comes to the scene of the devastation of his nefarious act to demand payment for loss of his semen and exertion.’

      What are we celebrating in South Africa this April 27? The former freedom fighters such as members of the Azanian Peoples’ Liberation Army (APLA) took up arms against apartheid. They are languishing in the prisons of ‘New South Africa’ for this. The United Nations declared apartheid a crime against humanity through the International Convention On The Suppression And Punishment Of The Crime Of Apartheid. Instead, it is former freedom fighters who been punished with imprisonment. The apartheid regime gave amnesty to over 3,500 of its own security forces and others in 1993. It shredded more than 44 metric tons of documents. In addition to this, the Truth And Reconciliation Commission granted amnesty to further perpetrators of apartheid.

      April 27 this year gives this nation the opportunity to reflect on the journey to freedom that has been abandoned for a fairytale destination.

      Burning of tyres and blocking of roads all over the country is a signal that something must be corrected before it is too late.

      In South Africa most unemployed people are Africans. The poorest people are Africans. People who live in squalid inhuman settlements are Africans. These inhuman shelters often burn or flood destroying lives and property. The least equipped hospitals and clinics are those that serve Africans.

      The worst or no roads are where Africans live. The least educated and skilled people in South Africa are Africans. People who have no money for education and are being educated in lowest numbers are Africans. People who have the shortest life expectancy are Africans. People with the highest child mortality are Africans. Yet billions of Rand are buying land and servicing the apartheid debt.

      The majority of 45 million Africans possess little or nothing. Their democracy is dispossession without repossession. The constitution of South Africa must be amended. There must be a just democratic constitution to create a developmental state that will lift the standard of living of all people and banish poverty and underdevelopment.

      Professor Sampie Terreblanche hits the nail on the head in his book, ‘A History of Inequality in South Africa,1652–2002’ when he writes, ‘The ANC’s core leaders effectively sold its sovereign freedom to implement an independent and appropriate socio-economic policy for a mess pottage when it entered into several compromises with the corporate sector and its global partners. These unfortunate “transactions” must be retracted or re-negotiated.’


      * Dr Motsoko Pheko is author of ‘The Hidden Side of South African Politics’ and several other books, and a former member of the South African parliament.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      South Africa – a deal gone wrong?

      Udo W. Froese


      cc I G N
      Twenty years after the release of Nelson Mandela from prison, the majority of black South Africans remain excluded from the country’s land and formal economy. Udo W. Froese asks whether the talk of national reconciliation and nation-building is simply propaganda.

      Over twenty years ago, on 11 February 1990, South Africa’s retired president and Nobel Peace co-laureate, Nelson Mandela, left the colonial-apartheid prison of Victor Verster outside Cape Town. South Africans and the international West considered Mandela as the African messiah.

      The rest of Africa awaited the outcome from a distance, particularly as time went on and the country’s newfound ‘freedom’ hadn’t accommodated the black majority on its land and in its economy.

      Instead, it conveniently passed the buck, insisting that it would take a very long time to correct the wrongs. This means in real terms, it would take forever to accept African-South Africans on their own land, to assist them in their growth from historical victims of ‘Bantu education’ to modern day participants in South African economic growth.

      Meanwhile the 91-year-old international icon heads the arch-imperial-colonial Rhodes Foundation, now named the Mandela Rhodes Foundation.

      Since then, much has not happened in South Africa. It is a country with an internationally negotiated democracy, all the foreign dictated trimmings and a liberal, un-African constitution, hailed as the ‘best in the world’, versus a centrally ‘colonial-apartheid Caucasian’-owned and controlled economy and its structured poverty for the people.

      The international West and its powerful Bretton Woods Institutions hail South Africa’s economy as ‘on course, strong, stable and well done’. They define the discriminating structures as a ‘Free Market Economy’. Whatever that really means.

      South Africa’s economy could at best be described as an exclusive, oligopolistic, cartelised, warehouse economy. Organised criminal business cartels are allowed to operate without any shame, to the disadvantage of the poor majority as well as to the country’s economy. In addition, the owners of this economy are well known to manipulate the politics of the day.

      Profits have always been firmly placed before humans. This means, the well-heeled are on the right side of the law. So much for the ‘rule of law’ and an ‘independent judiciary’, as preached by its owners.

      Historic and endemic mass unemployment, abject poverty, chronic starvation, rampant HIV Aids and way above-average illiteracy for the majority of South Africans, as well as reported crime levels exploited by an equally historic media-propaganda and thin infrastructure – shown off as the best in Africa – is a popular picture.

      This created the perception that all that glitters south of the Limpopo River is well and worth it; Africans from all over the continent flock to the south. Yet former president Thabo Mbeki once defined the South African economy as ‘a country with two economies – one well-functional and owned by the well-to-do white minority and their minions and one poor one, suffered by the black majority’.

      The ANC has remained as a ‘junior partner’ of the local and the international economic structures.This has led to a vulnerability of the majority of the population and all of those who rush down south to escape the unrests and economic hardships in their countries. It so happens that most of them are black Africans. Naturally, this plays into the hands of those with hidden agendas.

      South Africa seems to be held hostage through low-key internal civil strive in the forms of ‘xenophobia’, ‘taxi strikes and wars’, country-wide violent ‘delivery protests’ and hundreds of learners gurgling for the blood of some young local hip-hop star, who killed four schoolchildren and wounded two in a bad drag-racing accident in Soweto.

      To add insult to injury, the colonial-apartheid Caucasian Boers (white minorities and their paid up minions) thoroughly exploit a perceived loophole in the constitution – that of ‘minority rights’. Their attacks on the ANC, its government and its structures as ‘reverse racists’, ‘corrupt black Africans, unfit for their positions they now hold, incapable of self-government, let alone governing the country’ are strategic, race-based and vicious.

      And they win their days in the courts against historic popular war-songs of the ANC. This flies in the face of ‘national reconciliation’. They also interfere in basic human rights, such as land in sovereign, independent neighbouring African countries, using the country’s judiciary.

      Those unashamedly proud heirs of colonial-apartheid formed a host of active institutions throughout the country. They have openly declared their war against everything African, claiming their ‘democratic rights to defend minority rights’.

      A hostile, foreign-owned and controlled media – some having sold shares to national trade union funds, thus masquerading as South African – has always been historically used to wage a propaganda war of attrition, in unison with the imperial-colonial-apartheid political opposition, against all democratic African liberation movements.

      That same cacophony of media propaganda went all out to ridicule President Jacob Zuma and reduce him to a buffoon-like Idi Amin of South Africa.

      The timing of the aforementioned is obvious. All of the above-mentioned is rolled out just before the global FIFA World Cup hosted by South Africa in June/July 2010. Global media focus is on South Africa.

      To date, nothing has changed in sunny South Africa, except for some Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment Africans (BBBEEA), sitting in boardrooms, being used as shareholders to upkeep the old doctrine. Africans have also been recruited into the newsrooms, writing exactly what their white predecessors wrote before them. They were created by foreign white capital and made to form the buffer between black and white.

      Without a doubt, it is colonial and race-based and it is deliberately and intentionally undermining not only the ruling ANC, but the ruling SWAPO Party of Namibia, Mozambique’s Frelimo, the governing MPLA of Angola, Zanu PF in Zimbabwe, as well as Swaziland’s King Mswati III and his government.

      There seems an all-out effort to achieve a ‘new’ South Africa under ‘new’ white rule by 2014, this time possibly accepted by South Africa’s angry, hungry and tired black majority, the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the African Union, as well as the international West.

      Imagine if Germans were to attempt to further Nazi doctrines and policies after the Nurnberg Trials in post-Second World War Germany and the European Union (EU), enjoying foreign funded and directed ‘civil society’s’ propagandistic support?


      Senior researchers of South African history explain that a transformation in the ANC leadership took place from 1980. Many in the leadership had become over-compromised during talks with a host of imperial colonial-apartheid representatives across the board, South Africa’s powerful foreign owned and controlled industry as well as the international West during the ‘Cold War Era’. It was thus transformed to a capitalist elite.

      The established senior advocate and anti-apartheid veteran, George Bizos, also known as Mandela’s attorney, said on national television in Johannesburg, the ‘SABC TV 2 Morning Life’ programme in the morning of 11 February 2010, ‘Nelson Mandela was the master of his own destiny, of his own life since 1985’.

      While Mandela served his time in Victor Verster Prison outside Cape Town, he had a chef who cooked for him; free access to his family and the outside world; house attendants; newspapers, television and radio; and flights to Pretoria to meet with then State President P. W. Botha, his minister of justice, Kobie Coetzee and the head of National Intelligence Services (NIS), Dr Niel Barnard, in order to discuss and negotiate.

      In other words, Mandela had from 1985 to 1990 – five years before his release – to prepare for the historic leaving of his prison.

      Revered late ANC President, Oliver Reginald Tambo, referring to Nelson Mandela’s meetings with the colonial-apartheid regime in the crucial 1980s, observed, ‘Prisoners can’t negotiate their freedom’. He added saying, ‘Whilst still in prison, terms and conditions would be laid down to accept and agree on a take-it, or leave-it basis during talks with the regime’.

      Tambo remarked during his visit to the ANC camps in exile, ‘We are singing the same national anthem, raise the same flag and talk about our ANC’. According to aged ANC veterans, Tambo seemed disturbed about senior members of the leadership, who could have compromised the organisation. He seemed to question whom to trust. This, according to those veterans, eventually led to Tambo’s first stroke.


      The terms ‘national reconciliation’, ‘free market economy’, ‘equality before the law’, ‘equal participation’ and even ‘democracy’ including the hailed ‘freedoms’ remain an absolute cynical farce for as long as the imperial-colonial-apartheid beneficiaries, their economy, the banking cartel and organised crime structures dictate the terms and conditions for the aforementioned without any compromise, without any access to land and the economy.

      To quote Mayer Amschel Rothschild, founder of the Rothschild global banking dynasty: ‘Give me control of a nation’s money supply, and I care not who makes its laws.’

      For as long as Caucasian economic plunder barons, the ‘former’ colonial occupiers, all their minority groups, including Indians insist on being African and in return, Africans remain kept as ‘hewers of wood’ and ‘carriers of water’ with a dysfunctional democracy, no access to their land and the economy, South Africa’s and Africa’s blacks have simply been betrayed. National reconciliation and nation-building remain propaganda.


      * Udo W. Froese is a journalist based in Johannesburg, South Africa.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      Sudan: Serious concerns over electoral process

      Sudanese civil society networks


      cc S O K
      In the wake of serious doubts around Sudan's ability to oversee free and fair elections, Sudanese civil society networks 'believe that the voters of Sudan were unable to freely express their will and select their representatives'. Spelling out the range of problems impeding the current election, the group outlines a set of recommendations rooted in ensuring genuine representation for the Sudanese electorate.

      The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) represents an important development in the recent history of Sudan. It ended the long-running civil war, laid foundations for the Interim Constitution and opened the doors for political participation by instilling the ideal of peaceful political change. The agreement also aimed to ensure free and fair elections through full political and civil rights.

      Based on these principles, independent civil society became a major and effective partner in democratic transformation with the ultimate goals of freedom, democracy and individual rights. This is why we continue to emphasise that securing a political environment conducive to free and fair elections means abolishing all restrictive laws, reforming civil service, guaranteeing the neutrality and independence of the National Elections Commission (NEC) and governmental media, and ensuring that the people of Darfur have access to safe and free participation.

      Throughout the electoral process, civil society organisations have remained a critical component of democratic transformation. They have monitored everything from the adoption of the Elections Act to voter registration and finally the actual balloting. This was done to ensure, as much as possible, free and fair elections, as outlined in the Interim Constitution, the Elections Act and the international standards ratified by the Sudanese government.

      For the past week, three civil society networks and organisations have worked together in concert to deploy about 3,500 independent local observers throughout the 15 northern states. These observers continuously reported back what they witnessed at various polling stations across these states. This broad coalition was composed of TAMAM, a civil society group made of 120 member organisations, the Civic Forum, an organisation that coordinated the work of 56 organisations, and Justice Africa.

      After a thorough review of the reports that we received from field observers and after reviewing the census process, the debate around the Elections Act, the formation of the National Election Commission (NEC), the demarcation of constituencies, the voter registration period, the declarations of candidacy, the campaigning process, and, finally, the voting process, representatives of these networks and organisations outlined above have concluded that all of the above stages were characterised by major deficiencies.

      These deficiencies are as follows:

      1) The NEC conducted the election process based on a controversial census. There were widespread accusations that the government manipulated census figures for political purpose and there were no mechanisms for verifying the final result. This affected both the credibility of the census and, ultimately, the election.
      2) The NEC omitted voters’ residential addresses without any logical reason or justification for doing so. This made it impossible to audit the register to ensure whether the names it included are actual people.
      3) The NEC failed to publish the Voter Register in a timely or appropriate manner, ultimately hampering the objections process. More, the objections phase was shortened, further reducing its effectiveness. Finally, the data in this register was processed away from independent and party monitors, depriving the process of transparency.
      4) The NEC failed to define a cap on campaign expenditures for both political parties and independent candidates in a timely manner as required by the Elections Act. When these caps were finally announced, they were so high as to benefit only those parties with the largest amounts of resources. This, effectively, defeated the rationale behind having a spending cap, which was, ostensibly, to minimise the role money played in these elections.
      5) The NEC failed to conduct a proper voter education programme for the whole nation about the electoral process. When the commission finally launched its education campaign, it came too little too late. Furthermore, some of the voter education material produced by the NEC was biased to the ruling party using its election symbol, as well as its discourse.
      6) The NEC ignored the principle of neutrality and equal opportunity when it recruited state and district commissioners, elections officers and the rest of its administrative body.
      7) The NEC failed to transport election materials and equipment to the voting centres in several parts of the country on time. Names in the voter register varied greatly between various versions of the register. Also, names and symbols of some parties were left off the ballot, in some cases, ballot papers had to be replaced, and some centres received the wrong register.
      8) The ink used by the NEC to mark those who had voted could easily be removed. Moreover, they allowed voters to use resident certificates when voting, though such certificates are issued by unelected bodies (i.e., the Popular Committees) that are appointed and controlled by the government.
      9) The NEC and its High Committees failed to ensure that party agents guarded the ballot boxes. This is a clear violation of procedure. Furthermore, it did not protect candidates from harassment and other threats from security agencies and National Congress Party members.
      10) The NEC violated its own law when it allowed the armed forces to be registered in their place of work instead of their place of residence. The impact of this breach of the law is that it made the registration for the armed forces a compulsory task, and it opened the door wide for the ruling party to employ strategic voting.

      All these failures led to the corruption of the election process and opened the door wide for malpractice and fraud.

      The overarching theme of the current elections is one of severe moral and professional failure by the NEC which impaired it to manage fair and free elections. This failure happened despite the fact that the commission is sitting on huge financial resources never granted to an elections management body in the history of the country.

      For all these reasons, we believe that the voters of Sudan were unable to freely express their will and select their representatives.

      Based on the foregoing, we recommend the following:

      1) A full review and reconsideration of the entire electoral process, including the results. The establishment of the new government should not be based on these fraudulent results.
      2) The formation of a genuine national unity government agreed upon by all the political powers of the country in order to lead the country through the remainder of the transitional period.
      3) The dismantling of the NEC and a formation of a new commission that can earn the public’s trust and demonstrate moral integrity and professional capabilities.
      4) A second census as soon as possible that would be based on the highest possible professional standards. This second census must be free of political interventions. Further, it should be nationally and internationally monitored. Constituencies should be demarcated according to this new census.
      5) A second voter registration according to international standards, and an establishment of a permanent register that is updated periodically.
      6) An abolition of restrictive laws, the civil service and the security sector so as to guarantee their neutrality and integrity.
      7) Serious efforts to be exerted in order to put an end to the human misery of Darfur.
      8) A reorganisation of real elections as quickly as possible following Southern Sudan’s referendum on self determination, and the achievement of peace and security in Darfur.

      Finally, we would like to express our thanks and gratitude to the international community, and especially international civil society organisations, for their generous support of the Sudanese people in their relentless struggle for peace and democracy, and for their professional and financial help for Sudanese civil society. Without this help we would have not been able to observe the elections.


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

      Homosexuality 'ungodly'? So what!

      Religious fundamentalism in Kenya

      Audrey Mbugua


      cc k763
      As religious fundamentalists in Kenya stress homosexuality to be 'ungodly', Audrey Mbugua asks 'so what?' Religious-based delusions paralyse 'otherwise rational people', Mbugua argues, and religious fundamentalism 'fosters criminal activities by coating them with spirituality and messages of madness'.

      'The priests of the different religious sects dread the advance of science as witches do the approach of daylight.' Thomas Jefferson[i]

      A suspected gay man is rescued from Christian and Muslim criminals.

      Fundamentalism refers to a belief in a strict adherence to a set of basic principles (often religious in nature), sometimes as a reaction to perceived doctrinal compromises with modern social and political life. Fundamentalism is a multifaceted phenomenon and one of these many phenomenal is religious fundamentalism.

      How can one identify a religious fundamentalist? Herriot (2008)[ii] has the answers:

      1. They are reactive: Fundamentalists believe that their religion is under mortal threat from the secularism of the modern world … they have an enemy.
      2. Dualist: They conceive of the world in binary opposites, God and the Devil, good and evil, etc. Such thinking aids the task of resistance, for it justifies development of an in-group versus out-group social dynamic and all that follows from such dynamics.
      3. Fundamentalists believe that their book, through its interpreters or read directly, has supreme authority over what to believe and how to act.
      4. Fundamentalist interpretation of the holy book is selective. They choose specific ideas from it and emphasise them, often changing their traditional meaning when they do so.
      5. They hold a millennialist view of history, expecting God to fully establish his rule over the world at some future time. They believe they can hasten the arrival of this glorious event by fighting, literally or spiritually, on God’s behalf.

      Religious fundamentalism has permeated the vast depths of modern Kenya by infiltrating our education, penal and health systems. It’s a cancer that is eating into our great nation. It’s the source of all forms of irrationalities, misery and social decay that bedevil our country. It fosters criminal activities by coating them with spirituality and messages of madness.

      Earlier in the year, we witnessed Muslim and Christian adherents attacking anyone who 'appeared gay'. I don’t know what tests they did to ascertain who is gay and who is not, but it raised serious questions about where the line is between criminality and religious acts. In the same period, we witnessed 'religious leaders' and their followers rejecting the proposed constitution because it didn’t criminalise abortion for any reason.

      And what were the reasons for all these? These actions are ungodly and unbiblical. The few people who had the cojones to counter these allegations swallowed the bait and the argument degenerated into something like 'God created us in unique ways and loves us all'. I will not fall for the same nonsense. My question is, so what if some act is ungodly? So what? So what if homosexuality is ungodly? So?

      My second question is, why can’t God torment homosexuals and other unholy broods without 'using' these clowns? From the many characteristics that God possesses – he knows it all and is everywhere – you would expect all homosexuals to be wiped out in a fraction of a second. Is he running some other errands or did he forget to put on the alarm? Well, let’s look at what the bible 'says' with regard to exterminating homosexuals.

      'Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house. They called to Lot, "Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them." Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him and said, "No, my friends. Don't do this wicked thing. Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don't do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof."'

      Well apart from knowing Lot was a homophobic bloke the bible tells a lot about what God’s chosen few thought of women and their role in their society. But the insanities did not end there. The angels blinded the gay men in that village and later on God poured burning lava on the village. While escaping the wrath of God, Lot’s wife looked back (contrary to God’s orders) and was turned into a pillar of cooking salt.

      The habit of taking these delusions seriously is that they paralyse otherwise rational people in our community. Take a look at this statement: 'When a man mounts another man, the throne of God shakes' and the response you get from the human rights activist is: 'Oh it’s a lie, God loves us all'. But, let's for once agree that the throne of God shakes every time two men spoon. So what? What if it shakes? What does that have to do with humans? How can a god (capable of impregnating virgins and turning walking sticks into snakes) do such a shoddy job? If he created the entire universe, then how come he can’t create a throne that doesn’t shake whenever there is same-sex action? And, if the homosexual community will burn in hell, why torment them here on earth? Isn’t eternal damnation enough punishment?

      Another thing: Why do religious people pretend to have superior insight into issues such as abortion, homosexuality and sex changes? What facts do these people use to oppose or propose ideas or acts? Do they carry out research studies to correlate homosexuality and volcanic eruptions? How did they come to know that Haiti experienced an earthquake because of the sins of Haitians and not as a result of tectonic shift? And for those prophets of dooms lying that Kenya will be hit an earthquake very soon unless we repent, could they produce tangible evidence to support their claims. Or is it not just a case of some people pretending to be God’s spokespersons?

      Another issue that mystifies me is the problem of violence against sexual minorities and pro-choice activists meted out by religious people. How is violence going to stop people from engaging in same-sex activities? How is looting their property supposed to change people’s sexual orientation? Our minister of security should be sacked for sloppy work. The police have overwhelming evidence pointing at particular individuals culpable of the violence and looting of property that was witnessed in Kenya in the name of getting rid of homosexuality, yet they can’t arrest them. They arrested the survivors of those horrendous acts, leaving the culprits in our streets together with children. This also reminds me of the zeal our National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) has in apprehending those found to be breaking the noise regulation law – i.e., matatu operators – but they don’t do the same for preachers and prophetesses tearing our eardrums and showering us with saliva along our streets. Is it that these people are scared of God’s wrath or is it they are too devoted? Put these criminals behind bars. Is it perfectly legitimate to hack someone to death because of their sexual orientation but wrong if committed because of somebody’s tribe? Look at a blunder our president did, assuring a congregation of Catholics that his government would not legalise abortion. Why does he think the presidency has an obligation to appease the Christian community in Kenya? Why not say the same thing to a congregation of gardeners or mechanics or medical students? Why the church?

      The problem with our society is that we grant religious people and beliefs privileged respect. Whenever I throw some missionary preachers out of my house together with their holy books and religious leaflets, they fight back claiming they have freedom of worship. No, I recognise that freedom but it doesn’t grant them the right to invade my privacy. Worship whatever you want including invisible and imaginary beings, maize cobs, pieces of wood and livestock but stop shoving your religious beliefs down other people’s throats. Dawkins (2006)[iii] comments that 'A widespread assumption, which nearly everybody in our society accepts – the non-religious included – is that religious faith is especially vulnerable to offence and should be protected by an abnormally thick wall of respect, in a different class from the respect that any human being should pay to any other'.

      If your powerful god is to something worth talking about, he/she/it should be in a position to send emails to people engaging in same-sex acts warning them of dire consequences. This sounds much better than playing around with tectonic plates resulting into devastating earthquakes.


      * Audrey Mbugua is a member of Transgender Education and Advocacy, a Kenyan organisation formed to address social injustices committed against the country's transgender community.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      [i] As cited by Vasu Murti. Secularism Means Religious Freedom,
      [ii] Herriot P. 2008. Religious Fundamentalism: Global, Local, Personal, ISBN 0-203-92987 Pg 2
      [iii] Richard Dawkins. The God Delusion. A Black Swan Book: 9780552774291 Pg 42

      The ‘Kingdom of Ife’: African art at the British Museum

      Joy Onyejiako


      cc Cliff
      An exhibition of art from the Nigerian Kingdom of Ife at the British Museum isn’t only exquisitely beautiful, it is ‘something of absolute historical importance’, writes Joy Onyejiako. But given the low-key public response to the show, how much will it actually transform the ‘deeply embedded notion of African art as essentially primitive’ and encourage ‘the notion of a truly contemporary African artist’?

      It was with great anticipation that I approached the ‘Kingdom of Ife’ exhibition on display in the central gallery space at the British Museum. When ‘Africa: the Art of a Continent’ showed at the Royal Academy in 1995, there was this huge buzz of excitement which created long, meandering queues of people stretching quite someway along the length of Piccadilly. I distinctly remember a potent level of group euphoria, a crowd filled with an electric energy and the overriding feeling that this was an exhibition not to be missed. ‘Africa’ had been brought to our doorsteps and the public came out in force, with a fierce hunger to eagerly feast their eyes on unknown treasures. With the ‘Kingdom of Ife’ I could not help but notice that, although billed as ‘This major exhibition presents exquisite examples of sculpture from West Africa in brass, copper, stone and terracotta’, the response to the museum’s publicity was very much low-key. There were no great crowds queuing in anticipation. The museum’s inner court was teeming with visitors but the ticket desk was highly conspicuous in its isolation; the tourists and throbbing crowds were not seeking tickets for the ‘Kingdom of Ife’. The vast majority seemed completely oblivious of the ‘major exhibition’ above their heads.

      Regardless of the uninitiated throng, I headed across the Great Court and my unfettered footsteps began to grace the curving rise of Grecian steps. It was a strange feeling. I am quite unaccustomed to seeing African arts at this venue without first having to walk downstairs. Indeed, as the permanent African collection is hidden deep in the underbelly of this imperial beast we call the British Museum, the usual journey is subterranean. It might not occur to some people but the museum seems imbued with the Victorian class system of ‘upstairs and downstairs’ – upstairs for the wealthy and so-called enlightened, downstairs for those deemed ‘less deserving’. Perhaps the curators have unwittingly established a floor plan of exhibits that reflects their internalised sense of superiority over African artistry, ensuring that visitors to the African section must navigate to the lower levels of the building, to the very bottom of the cultural enclave. Without being too facetious, unlike the regal staircases that lead up towards other regional collections, the tunnel-like stairs down to the African Collection could quite easily be assumed to be heading in the direction of the lavatorial facilities, which are clearly mapped on the visitor’s architectural guide as situated on the same lower level.

      So it felt like the beginning of a new experience as I made my way towards the inner quarter, an upward walk that was psychologically a purifying start. As I entered the dimly-lit gallery, I was greeted by the notion that here was something of absolute historical importance and not only a vista of exquisite beauty.

      Copper heads, brass heads and terracotta heads, c1100–1400s, almost life sized, that immediately transfix one’s attention. Although little information is provided other than the dates and locations of discoveries in Ife, the finesse of execution and exquisitely accentuated details evoke a feeling that one could have seen these people in real life. They are the faces of the contemporary Nigerians that one comes across in everyday modern London, and so life-like that at times with very little imagination they could quite easily seem alive.

      My response to these skilfully wrought visions was not awe and disbelief, it was why – why have there been so many lies and distortions written about the African artist and the continent as a whole? Why have these great artworks, along with many other African creations held in Western museums, still effectively remained unknown by the general public?

      Western art institutions seem to devour the truth and deny people honest knowledge, keeping a tight rein (and reign!) on art and artefacts, many of which were pilfered and pillaged, decade after decade hiding them from view, only occasionally throwing some light on their African collections; and, just as suddenly as they appear, they disappear back to the storeroom, along with their cultural significance before their impact on the established art history canons can be recognised.

      There are institutional prejudices towards the art of Africa that favour moneymaking blockbusters that exploit so-called ‘primitive’ arts and pander to the perceived exoticism that distorts Western understanding of this great continent. The ‘Kingdom of Ife’ exhibition has not encouraged crowds of viewers perhaps because these superb naturalistic artworks challenge Westerners’ concepts of Africa and because buried deep in their consciousness they cannot totally believe or honestly celebrate the superior level of technical skill developed within Africa long before and on par with European antiquities.

      This historically challenging evidence remains largely ignored in the art history textbooks, which offer just minimal reference in passing, dropping great art such as these Ife sculptures in a gap between ‘crafts’ and ‘curios’. This exhibition with all its positive write-ups, hailed as ‘exceptional’, ‘unmissable’, ‘extraordinary’, should in 2010 be the sanction for a systematic annihilation of the once accepted anthropological debasement of African art and African artists. This should be the wake-up call to rewrite the history books and re-educate the masses, which includes many in Africa and those in the Diaspora, too long denied – culturally, socially and historically – the truth, as so many great works have been destroyed, sabotaged and falsely claimed.

      Whilst walking amongst the Ife sculptures, I was privy to the quiet whispers of surprise that escaped from the mouths of Western visitors. On occasion I would catch small conversations revealing astonishment at the technical ability and craftsmanship; but, just in case the visitor succumbed to this new-found appreciation and engaged understanding, there were the intervening, obligatory images to reinforce and cement existing preconceptions: The familiar representation of the half-naked African. Among the most evidently posed black and white photos was one showing the bare chest and grimacing face of an elderly Olokun priest standing in front of a terracotta-crowned head of ‘Olokun’, set rather regally on a white sheet for a backdrop (the head is one of a group found by the German ethnographer Leo Frobenius at the grove of the Yoruba God, Olokun). Another photo, which seems a perfect match for the stereotyped images that have captured the imagination of the Europeans and their fascination with the dark nakedness of African peoples, shows, yet again, a half-naked man, wearing only a badly fitting wrapper more like a loin cloth, with bare feet and arched back, poised over a granite palm-wine vessel. Influenced by its grainy black and white quality I initially thought it was from the 1800s, but alas, it is a modern image, taken in 1977. This signifies to me that a subtle undermining by reinforcing the stereotype of the primeval African artisan is still very much alive.

      And what kept hitting me as I read the exhibition texts was the relentless paraphrasing of the fact that leading European anthropologists, academic experts and cultural historians felt secure in the knowledge that the Ife artworks could not have been produced by Africans, that they must have had some European influence. In their view, naturalistic creations were simply not possible or within the realms of African artistry. From the Portuguese who went to West Africa in the 1400s and ‘discovered’ great works of art, to the relatively contemporary archaeologists and historians who defined the Ife heads in 1910 and again in 1938, all remained adamant that such works could not have been created by the ‘primitive’ African. For centuries this European notion insisted that refined art was way beyond Africans’ skill and imagination, and copious amounts of research were published, all denigrating the African. In 1910 Leo Frobenuis proclaimed that the magnificent and mysterious Ife bronze heads were in fact from Plato’s lost city of Atlantis and that the ‘Olokun’ head, which the people of Ife identified as one of the wives of Odunduma, was, in his opinion, to be identified with the Greek god Poseidon.

      Thankfully, science has been useful in dispelling some falsehoods. For example, carbon dating proves that Ife artisans made their own glass using local raw materials and confirms that the glass beads, which were once believed to have been imported from Europe or the Middle East, were in fact made in Ife, not to mention the intricately designed pavements and courtyards filled with life-sized sculptures.

      As has been known amongst the African intelligentsia, and has now been scientifically and irrefutably proved, the Ife artists developed their own highly sophisticated ‘movement’ or ‘school’ of naturalistic expression well before any Western influence. For too long African intellectual knowledge and opinion has been ignored or devalued, with only the opinion of the Westerner being taken seriously; the Westerner being the ‘expert’, the one who has ‘studied’ African culture, albeit from a Eurocentric angle. And countless historical journals and published academic studies have indoctrinated generations into accepting these false versions of reality.

      At the British Museum, the mistaken ‘expert opinions’ refuting the African origin of the Ife works, instead of being consigned to the dustbin where they belong, are again abundantly on display, as is the clarity with which they denigrate African abilities. Visitors reading these texts and the ideology expressed might perhaps just think how politically incorrect they are – but despite that, the falsehood has been needlessly repeated. Will this exhibition change the average visitor’s overall perception of African art? Leaving the exhibition will people now view the African artists of Ife and their work as equal to if not more sophisticated than their contemporaries in Europe c1100–1400?

      In 1948, the Illustrated London News headline declared: ‘Donatellas of Medieval Africa. African Art worthy to rank with the finest works of Italy and Greece.’ In 2010, articles in The Telegraph, Times and Independent are all in agreement on the superior quality of the art of Ife. But it is still too easy today, as a visitor to museums and art galleries, to accept images and academic theory from a European perspective, even if our intuition tells us that we ought to challenge them, that there is something intrinsically wrong in their evaluation.

      Africans are gradually learning to disassociate themselves from the negative European images of Africa and to make their own assessment of European art historians’ analyses that attempt to box African art into pre-conceived categories. Is the European analysis done with no real understanding of the cultural impact and societal damage to African peoples or to the global perception of a people? The visibly African Ife heads, with full rich lips, softly sculpted African noses and the beautifully braided hair of African heritage, were not only physically pillaged but also blatantly intellectually ‘pillaged’ in the European historical evaluation of who and what they signified. It is the same such evaluation of Egyptian antiquities that has resulted in defining Africans in Egypt only as slaves and the complete denial of the existence of African pharaohs. Just take a look in the Egyptian section of the British Museum and see those huge sculptures, many with noses visibly chipped, not erased by the grinding sand thrown around by the wind; the outline of the tip of a chisel can be seen in many. African images defaced, blatant historical brutality used with intent to destroy any notion that the African face was represented and that the African held power and influence in Egyptian culture.

      So, what has this exhibition really achieved? Has it reshaped the distorted concept of African art at the core of European thinking? Has it altered the deeply embedded notion of African art as essentially primitive, naive, crude, the product of a society only capable of curios and fetishes? Has it encouraged the notion of a truly contemporary African artist?

      Artists constantly battle to break free from perceived cultural limitations. Until very recently the predominant thinking in the European art world was that African artists should not be influenced by ‘modernity’ and if they are, then it is not ‘African’ art. Thus ‘African’ and ‘modern/contemporary’ were deemed mutually exclusive, enslaving creators to their ‘African-ness’ and denying them the ability to create a new art movement amongst contemporaries. Recent years have seen some recognition for Africa’s art, but if this ‘Kingdom of Ife’ exhibition is shown again in 2030, will it simply elicit the same comments of disbelief about past judgements on Africa’s arts, with nothing really having changed in outlook? Or will the art world have surpassed these deeply rooted internalised doubts? Will tomorrow’s arts graduates be truthfully informed and taught about Africa’s past and present artistic achievements?

      I would wish that by 2030 African art historians, academics and teachers will have ripped out the pages of distortion in existing art history texts and will have written unbiased analysis to present in the art history lectures held in the art schools and academic institutions of the world, with full reference to the great achievements of African arts, not by simply a few paragraphs or the occasional image, but chapters, books and full-scale lectures, dispelling forever the notion of Africa as primitive.

      Very little African knowledge is left as to the meaning and lives of the peoples of Ife. How did the Kingdom find its demise? Perhaps civil war in part, but I think it is possibly down to the mass enslavement of generations of people to the New World, the trade in human beings that included the artists and craftsmen, dissipating the knowledge and power of a once great kingdom.

      Left behind in Ife were some of the greatest of human works of art, made with techniques developed by these magnificent people. The works more than equal those of the renaissance period in Europe, magnificent in their realistic portrayal of the human form. In addition there are ceramics, medals, quartz stools, equestrian figures, and jewellery that configures intricate links, with precisely carved pendants.

      The Kingdom of Ife had an established community. This is not just an exhibition of art, but a wake-up call about the destruction of a society that wrenched the very heart and identity of a people. It opens the door of finding oneself; for all those in the Diaspora, more than lost works, more than colonial lies and untruths, this is the very picture of one’s identity of self. The lost Kingdom of Ife and many other African kingdoms, lost generations of artisans, mathematicians, chemists, physicists, lost in their chains bound for the New World; such a mass transportation of a people would no doubt leave unanswered questions, such as pertain to the Kingdom of Ife.

      This exhibition does not just show the exquisite skill of a people, it also redefines the racist theories on Africa’s intellectual development and cultural sophistication.


      * Joy Onyejiako is galleries and exhibitions assistant at the Brunei Gallery.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      Cuba in Haiti: Selective commendation, selective indignation

      Emily J. Kirk, John M. Kirk and Norman Girvan


      cc A J
      Cuba’s offer to rebuild Haiti’s entire national health service is arguably the most ambitious and impressive pledge made at the UN’s recent donor conference, write Emily J. Kirk, John M. Kirk and Norman Girvan, so why then have its efforts been largely ignored by the media, while those of other governments have been praised?

      The January 2010 earthquake in Haiti caused some 230,000 deaths, left 1.5 million homeless, and has directly affected 3 million Haitians – a third of the population. On 31 March, representatives of over 50 governments and international organisations gathered at the United Nations Haiti Donor Conference to pledge long-term assistance for the rebuilding of Haiti. At the conference, Cuba made arguably the most ambitious and impressive pledge of all countries to rebuild the entire National Health Service. While the efforts of other governments have been praised, those of Cuba, however, have largely been ignored in the media.

      The aim of Cuba’s contribution is to completely reconstruct the Haitian health care system – and to do so in a sustainable manner. The new system will be based on the Cuban model, embracing primary, secondary and tertiary health care, in addition to the training of additional Haitian doctors in Cuba. In summary[1]:

      The primary level will include 101 clinics to treat annually an estimated 2.8 million patients, perform 1.3 million emergency operations, deliver 168,000 babies, and provide 3 million vaccinations.

      The secondary level will be provided through 30 community hospitals. They will have the capacity to treat annually 2.1 million patients, and provide 1 million emergency surgeries, 54,000 operations, 276,000 electro-cardiograms, 107,000 dental exams, 144,000 diagnostic ultrasounds, and 487,000 laboratory tests. In addition, due to the high numbers of poly-traumatised patients, the 30 rehabilitation rooms will be included throughout the country and will provide 2.4 million therapeutic treatments for some 520,000 patients.

      The tertiary level of health care will be delivered by the Haitian Specialties Hospital, staffed by 80 Cuban specialists. It will contain various clinical departments, and will be used for research and teaching, as well as the further training of Haitian professionals who will gradually replace the Cuban professionals.

      Finally, 312 additional medical scholarships are to be provided for Haitian students to study in Cuba.

      What is also significant point is that these are not just ‘pledges’ from Cuba, but rather a development of medical assistance, which has been provided over the last eleven years, and dramatically increased since the earthquake. A Cuban medical brigade has been in Haiti since 1999 and has ‘a presence in 127 of the 137 Haitian communes, saved 223,442 lives, treated 14 million people, performed 225,000 operations and delivered 109,000 babies’[2]. Furthermore much of the promised programme is already in place, as ‘post-quake, 23 of these primary care health centres, 15 community reference hospitals and 21 rehabilitation rooms are up and running’.

      The cost of the Cuban programme over a ten-year period is estimated at $690.5 million – using 50 percent of international prices for services of this kind.[3] This is an enormous amount for a small developing country (11.2 million population); and moreover one that has been under a crippling economic blockade from its powerful neighbour for nearly half a century. It is even more notable when compared to those of other governments, particularly those of industrialised countries. For example, Cuba’s contribution in relation to its GDP is 152 times that of the United States, which pledged US$1.15 billion.[4] Among other G7 countries, France, the former colonial power, pledged US$188.93 million, Germany US$53.17 million, Japan US$75 million, and Canada US$375.23 million, while Italy and the United Kingdom, though not specifically listed, were probably included in the US$203.19 million pledge that was made in the name of ‘EU Remaining’ group of countries.[5]

      Hence in absolute terms the monetary value of Cuba’s contribution is almost four times that of France, 12 times that of Germany, and almost twice that of Canada. Indeed, excluding the US, Cuba’s contribution is more than the rest of the G7 countries combined, as well as 35 per cent more than the contribution of the World Bank (US$479 million). In all, 59 pledges were made from governments, regional blocs and financial institutions.

      In other words, while other countries are pledging money, Cuba is actively creating an entire sustainable health care system which will treat 75 per cent of the Haitian population,[6] and save hundreds of thousands of lives.

      And yet, in spite of the extraordinary value of this commitment, it has been largely ignored by the principal North American media. An analysis of coverage of the Haiti Donor Conference by five major US media – CNN, the New York Times, the Boston Globe, the Washington Post, and the Miami Herald – revealed that, of 38 posts recorded in the ten days immediately following the conference, only one mentioned the Cuban contribution – and that only briefly. In fact the first four listed above entirely ignored Cuba’s contribution; the one mention being in the Miami Herald. On the other hand 22 of the 38 postings mention the US contribution. The amount of media coverage is also instructive in indicating the gradual decline in media interest following the disaster. That said, the UN Haiti Donor Conference was clearly worthy of widespread attention, with a major gathering of some of the world’s leading decision-makers – yet there was noticeably little published about it, and especially about Cuba’s extraordinary contribution.

      In addition, our analysis of the first fifty results in Google News for ‘United Nations Haiti Donor Conference’ generated only two articles that mentioned Cuba’s role; one of which simply focused on the rarity of Cuban and United States officials working together. By contrast, 31 of the 50 articles discuss the contributions of developed countries at the donor conference, and 21 specifically discuss that of the United States – 9 of which mention the US$1.15 billion pledged by the US government.

      Indeed a content analysis of the articles reveals that their main theme was the importance of the role of the United States in helping Haiti. The dollar amount pledged was repeatedly stated, and the US effort was often described as being equally (or more) important than that of the UN. According to one article, ‘The biggest contributions came from the United States and the European Union’.[7] Even if one compares the absolute amounts pledged, this is simply not true – as the Venezuelan pledge was for US$2.4 billion.[8] Another article singles out the United States, explaining ‘Over 140 nations, including the United States, have provided immediate assistance and relief to millions of Haitians’,[9] and in media coverage the United States consistently headed the list of contributing countries. Another article lists the United States as having a more important role than the United Nations, noting ‘Haiti's friends, as they are called – including the US, France, Brazil, Canada, the UN and the Red Cross’.[10] In sum, while relief efforts in Haiti were/are an international affair, the media have largely focused on contributions made by the United States.

      Another common theme in coverage was the lack of assistance from other countries. Hence, when the assistance of the United States was not praised, those of other countries were denigrated. As one article states, ‘The United States pledged US$1.15 billion, in addition to the US$900 million it has already given... By comparison, China pledged US$1.5 million yes, you read it right, million with an “m” – in addition to the nearly US$14 million it has already given”.[11] Thus, there is a consistent pattern of disproportionately positive representation by the media of the role of the United States, one that both emphasises the actual pledge and ignores blatantly the significant Cuban pledge.

      There is a dramatic contrast between the cover-up of Cuba’s extraordinary contribution to Haiti by mainstream US media and the enormous attention by the same media on alleged human rights abuses in that country. Literally dozens of articles on this topic have appeared in recent weeks. Of particular media interest was the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo (a jailed ‘dissident’ with a criminal record who refused food for 80 days before dying) and the hunger strike of Guillermo Fariñas. The death of Zapata as a result of the hunger strike continues to be written about and discussed. Indeed it has been used consistently as a springboard to increase criticism of the Cuban government. Thus, between 10 February and 6 April, we found a total of 77 stories in the five media houses surveyed about the hunger strikers – five in CNN, seven in the New York Times, 13 in the Washington Post, four in the Boston Globe and 48 in the Miami Herald. The difference in the coverage of these two Cuba-related stories is striking. It reveals a clear disinterest in providing positive information on Cuba, but a significant appetite to criticise Cuba.

      As a result, instead of reporting on an enormously important and topical story on a programme aimed at improving the lives of 75 per cent of Haiti’s population, the media have chosen to focus on the individual cases of two men who have consciously and deliberately decided to embark on a suicidal course. It does not take much to work out that the aim is to embarrass the Cuban government by following these ‘human interest’ stories about two individuals who oppose the Cuban government, presenting them as martyrs. It is also obvious that there is a clear media filter, one which seeks to prevent any media coverage that could be construed as being positive of Cuba – in this case seen in the government’s commitment to the reconstruction of Haiti.

      In examining the media’s representation of Cuba’s role in Haiti’s development and the stories of two ‘dissidents’, it is clear that politically biased ‘infotainment’ has won out. Sadly (but perhaps predictably), in their coverage of Cuba, the media in the ‘developed world’ have focused on the latter while ignoring Cuba’s remarkable offer that will surely and significantly improve the lives of millions of Haitians, (while at the same time highlighting the role and contribution of the United States). Yet again we have an example of selective commendation and selective indignation in the North American media’s presentation of Cuba.

      * Emily J. Kirk will be an MA student in Latin American Studies at Cambridge University in September.
      * John Kirk is a professor of Latin American Studies at Dalhousie University, Canada. Both are working on a project on Cuban medical internationalism sponsored by Canada's Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).
      * Norman Girvan is professorial research fellow at the Institute of International Relations at the University of the West Indies in St Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago.
      * This article first appeared in CounterPunch.

      [1] Details from the Statement by Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez to the Haiti Donor Conference, available at ‘Pledge Statements”; United Nations International Donors’ Conference Towards A New Future For Haiti’. 2010.
      [2] From the Pledge Statement by Foreign Minister Rodriguez.
      [3] The total ‘includes the medical services provided, calculated at 50% of international prices; the sustainability of these services and the personnel providing them; and the training of a further 312 Haitian doctors in Cuba’. Whereas the Official Text of the Cuban Statement published on the UN website refers to this cost ‘over four years’, the text of Foreign Minister’s Bruno Rodriguez’s speech as published by Granma International refers to this cost over ten years (see Overseas Territories Review)
      [4] Cuba’s contribution of US$690.6 million is the equivalent of 1.22 percent of its annual GDP (US$56.52 billion in 2009); the US pledge of US$1.15 billion is the equivalent of 0.008096 percent of its annual GDP (US$14,204 billion in 2008). Source of the Cuban GDP estimate is the CIA Fact book figure at official rates of exchange; that of the US is the World Bank’s World Development Indicators.
      [5] Ibid.
      [6] Ibid.

      Al-Qaida and Iceland?; Sudan's elections; Nigeria's guard of honour



      Al-Qaida claiming responsibility for Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull volcano, Omar al-Bashir's notion of 'free and fair elections' for Sudan, and inspecting Umara Yar'Adua as a guard of honour all feature in this week's cartoons from Gado.

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

      Nuclear disarmament and the need for new beginnings

      Andrew Lichterman


      cc I G N
      In May, disarmament organisations will assemble alongside government delegations meeting for the 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference. But the ‘discussion, analysis and political course of action that bring real disarmament will not come from refining the discourses dominated by those who currently hold power and control debate, but by rendering them irrelevant,’ argues Andrew Lichterman – it’s time for conversations that chart a new way forward.

      In May, disarmament organisations will assemble alongside government delegations meeting for the 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference. Coming together in side-events between attempts to pursue and persuade diplomats has become a familiar practice among the world’s non-governmental organisations working on many issues, and should provide an opportunity to reflect and to develop strategies together. The focus on governments and their agendas in particular international forums, however, often overshadows our own discussions, limiting their scope to what those now in power might be persuaded to do in the near term, and how we might persuade them to do it.

      As we gather this year, humanity is confronted with several crises, each with different rhythms but all ultimately intertwined. We face the decline of our natural environment, with climate change only one of the human-induced transformations that are destroying natural and man made systems from which we draw out sustenance today, and limiting our options for how we will live in the future. These changes strike the poorest first – those who cannot afford to move, build expensive new infrastructure, or import the means of existence from afar when their locale is devastated by a global mode of production dedicated to short-term growth heedless of the long-term consequences. As competition for key nonrenewable resources intensifies, essentials of food and energy devour an increasing portion of their income, creating a rising cycle of misery exacerbated by a two tier global economy in which immensely powerful private corporations destroy local markets while ultimately raising the price of many necessities, pumping up profits by pushing costs off on ecosystems and future generations that have no voice.

      At the same time, the economic crisis persists, precipitated by the collapse of the latest and largest financial bubble and prolonged by the immense gulf between those few who control most of the world’s wealth and productive assets and the many millions who can neither find productive work nor pay for what might be produced by others. What ‘recovery’ there has been consists mainly of securing more of the world’s wealth and social product for the top twenty percent or so, the increasingly self-contained top-tier economy of government organisations and giant corporations which buy and sell most of the world’s goods to each other and their upper echelons, inhabiting fortified islands of wealth amidst a global sea of poverty. The growing chasm between the minority who hold secure places in the economy of large – and largely authoritarian – organisations and the rest of humanity is the defining social fact of our time. Unless it is directly confronted and overcome it will define the limits of the politically possible, driving increased conflict and with it expenditure by the wealthy sectors of society on ‘security.’ Both pervasive conflict and the misdirection of ever more resources in an effort to contain it, rather than removing its causes, will make the transformation of global energy, transportation, agriculture, and industrial systems essential for long-term human survival more difficult, perhaps impossible.

      In the first decade of the new century, we have wars and threats of wars, with nuclear weapons moving ever closer to the center of conflict. Nuclear weapons and nuclear ‘nonproliferation’ serve as the justification for wars and as the stalking horse for the economic and geopolitical agendas of largely unaccountable elites who control the most powerful states. They already are nuclear armed and having shown themselves, as in the case of the United States, ready to threaten nuclear weapons use against those who have none. And nuclear weapons – the all too real national arsenals of hundreds and thousands of them, not the imaginary ones that the demonised states du jour or ‘terrorist’ groups might or might not be trying to acquire – remain the machinery of ultimate catastrophe. They are still there, waiting at the end of some as yet unforeseen chain of great power elite contention and confrontation as those in power attempt to ‘manage’ the multiple crises in ways that apply ever more technology and violence, while stubbornly refusing to address the fundamental causes of deteriorating ecosystems and proliferating social conflict. This systematic exclusion of discussion about root causes, enforced myriad ways in forums large and small world-wide creates a pervasive feeling of inertia, a sense that political systems everywhere are not working.

      Despite all of this, most of the visible ‘disarmament work’ generated by ‘civil society’ organisations, proceeds with little change from one year, and one decade, to the next. The principal focus remains on three kinds of things. The first is the weapons themselves: The effects of their use, their legal status, the effects on ‘stability’ of various weapons systems when possessed by one or another combination of adversaries, the ecological effects of designing, testing, and producing them. The second is the mechanics of disarmament: How to dispose of weapons when no longer desired, how to verify their destruction or their continued existence, how to track the materials and technologies that can be used for their manufacture. The third is how to prevent anyone new from obtaining them. Efforts to mobilise support for elimination of nuclear arsenals concentrates on long-familiar litanies within these limits: The horrors we already know from the US atomic bombings of Japan, informed speculation regarding their civilisation-destroying capacity, the elaboration of convincingly plausible, and by now endlessly tweaked and refined, proposals for verifiable step-by-step elimination of nuclear arsenals, and a shifting array of related issues regarding the economic, social, and ecological costs of maintaining them.

      With few exceptions, the analysis and recommendations offered by the visible layers of ‘civil society’ stay on the terrain favored by professionals and experts: The description of social ills, and technical prescriptions for their elimination. Even moral appeals have narrowed to a kind of specialisation, with only those expert in religion or who hold irrefutable status as victims qualified to be heard. When connections between issues are made, they usually are made via the effects of nuclear weapons and the institutions that sustain them, rather than the causes for their existence. Mirroring the top-down ‘management’ approaches to controlling the ‘nuclear danger’ of those who control the most powerful states, scrutiny of fundamental causes is consigned to the margins. The questions of precisely who finds it useful to devote vast resources to maintaining civilization-destroying arsenals and the immense array of institutions that sustain them, and exactly what they find them useful for, are seldom asked. Rather than holding those in power to account for their actions, the experts and professionals who dominate ‘civil society’ arms control and disarmament discourse look for every opportunity to take them at their word. They grasp eagerly at the latest endorsement of ‘disarmament’ by those who hold or have held power, no matter how abstract or contradictory. This year no doubt we will hear repeated quotations from President Obama echoing in the halls of the United Nations, as a few hundred miles south his administration’s proposals for massive increases in funding for nuclear weapons research and production march in bipartisan lockstep through the halls of the US Congress.

      Martin Luther King observed that ‘all too many people find themselves living amid a great period of social change, and yet they fail to develop the new attitudes, the new mental responses, that the new situation demands.’ We are in another moment like that now, a time of profound dislocation and upheaval. We need a new conversation amongst ourselves about how we must order our societies and economies if we are going to make it through these times. We need to stop looking always upward towards those in power for what they might be willing to give us.

      Great moments of social transformation are characterised – in many ways, defined – by the failure of the existing political, cultural, and intellectual institutions to meet the needs of the majority of the population, to make decisions in ways we believe legitimate, to achieve outcomes that work for us. Today, the professionals who inhabit these institutions have little to say about what is most important. The ‘practical’ too often has come to be equated with asking only for what can be had within the existing institutional contexts, which means not challenging the existing distribution of wealth and power. If these constitute fundamental causes of the problems we are trying to solve or key obstacles to their solution, this is a doomed strategy.

      We need to have the courage to turn our attention and our efforts away from the states and their forums and back to each other. The discussion, analysis, and political course of action that bring real disarmament will not come from refining the discourses dominated by those who currently hold power and control debate, but by rendering them irrelevant. We must focus our efforts on building and sustaining solidarity, mutual support, and a common political program amongst those who suffer from an unjust and undemocratic global order of things that is enforced by overwhelming violence. As long as that order of things remains, nuclear weapons will be there, and likely in civilisation-destroying numbers. The work of ‘reducing the nuclear danger’ needs to be less about less weapons and more about more justice.

      How do we accomplish this? But no one person can point the way, and the kinds of work that are needed will vary from place to place. The first step is to admit that the predominant professionalised single-issue politics is not working. In addition to beginning a new conversation, we need to redirect our time and resources to the settings and kinds of activities where that conversation might actually take place.

      Here in the United States, we need to take our movement-building resources and our attention back down from the centers of power to the cities, towns, and neighborhoods where the effects are felt of decisions made at a distance, often geographically and always socially. This is so for a number of reasons. It is necessary because human-scale organisations where people can build trust and mutual support and can truly practice the skills of democracy – of making decisions together about things that matter –- are the essential building blocks of any larger, sustainable long term movement for a world that is more fair and democratic. It is necessary because propaganda thrives in social settings where people are fearful and isolated, and places where we work together to understand the world and to support one another in the face of violence and injustice are the strongest defence against the powerful institutions that ceaselessly strive to manipulate us. Finally, it is necessary because the hard questions about how we will remake a failing social order from within ultimately are felt and understood in the way they affect our livelihoods and the people and places we love.

      Whether our community should accept the lure of the next military contract or the next manufacturing link in some global chain of corporate production, making ecologically unsustainable products that only a minority of human beings can afford to buy, or instead should start to discuss and plan for a future that might allow us to live well within the ecological limits of our locale, our region, and our planet is a hard conversation to start, and harder to sustain. But it also is the kind of conversation from which a new way forward might emerge. When the debates that matter are limited to NGO experts and corporate lobbyists and professional politicians hovering around the apex of power in political systems dominated by concentrated wealth, the first order of business is to assure that all of the most powerful interests will be taken care of. After that, those who claim to represent the rest of us, official and unofficial, go forth and portray the dividing up of the remaining scraps as the only ‘practical’ steps towards a better world.

      The intractable character of the nuclear dilemma is not an aberration or some deviation from the ‘natural’ or ‘healthy’ path of the current order of things, but rather its penultimate expression. The immensely destructive wars of the last century on all sides manifested, accelerated, and set irreversibly in motion processes for the pursuit and accumulation of power by large, authoritarian organisations both ‘public’ and ‘private’ at a pace and scale that dwarfed anything that had come before. Most of humanity still is reeling from the onslaught of the juggernaut set loose. Those who think they can control its course only are careening toward the abyss. It is the nature of these power dynamics to grow and intensify at an ever-accelerating rate, despoiling the planet and consuming its resources at a pace that has become impossible to comprehend, much less control. The development of the atomic bomb was just a loud punctuation point, a marker of a much broader process – the eclipse of reason via its one-sided, instrumental perfection--nearing totality, the beginning of an ending whether the bomb is to be the means of our ending or not.

      Is there any power left on earth capable of opposing these forces? Who are they, who are we, who will we be? Those are the only questions left worth asking.


      * Andrew Lichterman has worked on peace and disarmament issues for decades. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area of California, and is a member of the boards of the Oakland, California-based Western States Legal Foundation and of the Albuquerque, New Mexico-based Los Alamos Study Group. The opinions expressed here are his own.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      Comment & analysis

      African finance ministers dismiss development declarations

      Geoffrey Njora


      The commitment of African finance ministers to continental integration, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the declarations of their own heads of state has come into question after national delegations from South Africa, Rwanda and Egypt succeeded in deleting any reference to budgetary targets for education, health, agriculture and water in the report and resolutions of the annual meeting of the African Union and Economic Commission for the Africa Conference of Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, which took place in Malawi at the end of March. Geoffrey Njora explores the possible consequences of their actions.

      After two heated debates during the recent African ministers of finance meeting in Malawi, national delegations from South Africa, Rwanda and Egypt succeeded in deleting any reference to budgetary targets for education, health, agriculture and water in the Common Position on MDGs and the conference report and resolutions. Their action brings into question the extent to which African finance ministers are committed to continental integration, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the declarations and resolutions of their own heads of state.

      The budgetary targets are embedded in a set of important declarations and decisions adopted by Africa’s 53 Presidents as far back as 2000. The declarations and decisions include the Dakar Framework for Action-Education For All: Meeting Our Collective Commitments (2000), the Abuja Declaration on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Other Related Infectious Diseases (2001), the Maputo Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security (2003) and Sirte Declaration on Agriculture and Water (2008). Among other strategies, these declarations and decisions commit governments to devote up to 20 per cent of their budgets to education, 15 per cent to health, 10 per cent to agriculture and 0.5 per cent to water and sanitation.

      The delegations were attending the 3rd Joint Annual Meeting of the African Union and Economic Commission for Africa Conference of Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development in Lilongwe, Malawi, held from 29-30 March. The ministers had met to address progress towards the MDGs and in particular, realising food security and employment among other issues.

      2010 is a critical year for these issues. In September, African presidents will join their counterparts to report against the Millennium Development Goals in the UN General Assembly. African governments will challenge the G20 to follow up G8 promises on doubling aid to Africa and global trade reform in June, as well as push for the delivery of US$30 billion promised for national adaptation and mitigation efforts in Copenhagen last year. In this context, the positions taken by the finance ministers completely undermine African governments attempts to hold their development partners accountable for the promises reached.

      In the heated debates, Cecil Noel, South Africa’s chief finance director set the tone for the debate that followed, stating, ‘These targets do not make any sense. I shall be asking my head of state to propose a review of these targets in the AU Summit in Kampala in July.’ He proceeded, supported by Egypt’s deputy minister Hany Dimian to argue, ‘The heads of states have made a colossal mistake. These targets straightjacket the process of budgeting in our countries.’ Rwanda’s finance minister John Rwangombwa concurred and was swiftly followed by Zimbabwe and Egypt’s call for the targets to be abandoned. Mozambique’s vice finance minister Pedro Couto called for any reference to a 10 per cent budgetary target for agricultural investment to be struck from the resolutions. Ironically, the declaration is known as the Maputo Declaration. Agriculture ministers adopted it in a meeting chaired by Mozambique in 2003 in Maputo.

      Delegations from Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, Malawi and Cote D’Ivoire argued for their retention in the drafts prepared by the AU Commission and Economic Commission for Africa. Addis-based ambassador Nkoyo Toyo warned against delegations dismissing decisions. She referred to their historical importance as standing commitments and cited a number of countries that have raised their budgetary allocations. The Nigerian head of delegation further noted, ‘I worry about the precedence we are setting where we make commitments and drop them when it is expedient.’ Kenya’s national planning permanent secretary Edward Sambili reminded the delegations that the targets are aspirational in nature. He further pointed to the 38 per cent that Kenya currently allocates to the four sectors as evidence that it is possible to reach these targets.

      Attempts by the meeting’s Malawian chairperson Hon Ken Kandodo and AUC chairperson Jean Ping to remind the finance ministers that the ministers did not have the power to change these presidential commitments fell on deaf ears. Accordingly, without the consensus needed, the references to the budgetary targets were struck first from the resolutions, then the Common Position on the MDGs and finally the report of the ministers conference.

      There are many consequences that could flow from this. Firstly, this could indicate an abandonment of the bold financing that has gone into reversing vulnerability to food insecurity, disease and denial of access to education. According to NGO The African Monitor, it is these targets that have inspired the improvements in small-scale farming, primary education enrolment rates and falling HIV/AIDS infection rates. In 2009, they noted that despite this progress, 44 countries continue to import 25 per cent of their food needs, and that retention of girls in education and the overall quality of education is still weak. Huge inequities exist between urban and rural, rich and poor and most people living positively with HIV/AIDS do not have access to life saving medicines.

      Secondly, how will Africa now have the integrity to hold the G8 and international community to the commitments that they have made to contribute 0.7 per cent of their gross national product and double development assistance to Africa? Should presidents backtrack on these commitments in Kampala, will African Union president Bingu wa Mutharika be able to stand before the G20 in June and the UN General Assembly in September and remind the international community of their obligations? I think not.

      Thirdly, the dismissive nature with which the finance ministers have treated these targets begs the question of whether the Millennium Development Goals and all the other decisions taken under the auspices of the African Union will go the same way. This path would further damage the credibility of Africa’s leaders in the eyes of those African citizens who feel their leaders lack political will, are unaccountable and completely self-interested. For these citizens, it is one more reason to dismiss Africa’s leadership.

      Lest you the reader be one of them, consider that behind these declarations and decisions are a number of research consultancies, numerous meetings of African ministers of education, agriculture, water and sanitation and health, at least five summits of Addis-based ambassadors, ministers of foreign affairs and heads of states and their delegations. At a conservative figure, this could have run into US$10 million over the last ten years. Got your attention? I think so.


      * Geoffrey Njora is a pan-African analyst who attended the meeting of the finance ministers.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      From comparative to competitive advantage

      Chambi Chachage


      cc S M
      Economist David Ricardo's theory of 'comparative advantage', despite being highly dubious, continues to exert a high degree of influence on Tanzanian policymakers, writes Chambi Chachage.

      The Nyerere Intellectual Festival Week has come to a close. It has proved to be what it promised to be, a moment of reflections on the Arusha Declaration in the time of a crisis of capitalism.

      Just before our economists wrapped up the festival with deliberations on a discipline that has primarily been responsible for dragging Tanzania down the road to neoliberalism, an interesting exposé occurred. Utsa Patnaik exposed the fallacy of David Ricardo's theory of 'comparative advantage'. Ironically, this theory continues to influence economic planners and policymakers.

      This author of 'The Republic of Hunger' indeed gave us food for thought. In her lecture on 'The agrarian question in the neoliberal era', she observes how this 'theoretical rationale is used to urge developing countries to "open up" their agriculture to free trade'. Yet we hardly question it.

      Said she: 'This famous argument where Ricardo took the two countries as England and Portugal, and the two commodities as cloth and wine, said that even if the second country, Portugal could produce both goods more cheaply than the first country, as long as the relative cost of production was different – namely one country say Britain by producing one unit less of wine could produce more of cloth, than the other country Portugal could, then it would make economic sense for Britain to specialize in cloth and Portugal in wine.' But do they produce both? No!

      In fact at the time when the theory was being developed in the wake of mercantile capitalism, it was Portugal that produced both goods. Britain produced cloth. But it could not produce wine commercially. Why? As Utsa reminds us, it is because it cannot grow grapes in Britain. No wonder, like many imperial countries of the time, it colonised countries with primary resources.

      Tellingly, as Utsa observes, 'modern textbooks try to avoid the problem by altering Ricardo's own example from cloth and wine to cloth and food'. 'But', as she notes, 'altering the example per se does not do away with the fallacy in the argument, for it is a rule and not an exception that countries trade in goods they are incapable of producing.' Yes, why buy what you already have?

      She thus affirms that 'developing countries are poor today precisely because they were and are much richer in primary resources than are developed countries which continue to depend to this day, more and more heavily for their food, beverages, fibres and energy on these developing countries.' In other words, we are poor because we are rich. They are rich because they are poor.

      However, as she puts it, the theory keeps on insisting that for 'unchanged total output of one good, the output of the other good would increase through such specialization, and by trading both countries could then consume more of one good for no lower consumption of the other good – thus both countries would benefit.' We only have to turn to our Poverty and Human Development Reports (PHDRs) to observe this persistent influence that Utsa studied elsewhere.

      PHDR 2007 confidently asserts that experience 'has proven that a sound choice of growth drivers is based on a comprehensive analysis of a country's comparative and competitive advantages'. It then categorically concludes that 'for most poor countries, including Tanzania, comparative advantages will, at least initially, determine the choice of appropriate drivers.'

      This, it claims, 'is because competitive advantages – developed over time – depend on an advanced level of technical and managerial expertise, which is currently lacking in most sectors'. What more rationale do we need for recolonisation through foreign direct investments and free trade? No wonder a first 'comparative advantage' PHDR 2007 lists is agricultural land!

      Probably because the ongoing global crisis of neoliberalism has stripped mainstream economics of its hegemonic garb of legitimacy, the recently launched PHDR 2009 is relatively less explicit. In its chapter on 'The role of the state in a developing market economy', it concludes that 'state ownership and implementation of specific activities will depend upon the comparative advantage of the state in relation to the other development actors' and not on 'direct ownership'.

      Lest we think this has nothing to do with Ricardo's theory, let's be reminded that the other development actors mentioned in PHDR 2009 include 'small-scale producers' and 'private investors'. As we all know, now the latter are virtually synonymous to foreign investors who are increasingly displacing small-scale producers. As a matter of fact they are doing so in the areas of 'geographical' 'comparative advantages' listed in PHDR 2007 – land, mining and tourism.

      It is not by accident then that our economists, who write these government reports which inform the National Strategy for Growth and Reduction of Poverty (MKUKUTA), talk that way. They have been brought up on the bosom of Ricardo. It is indeed 'most unfortunate that an incorrect theory has been taught for two centuries and continues to be taught uncritically to this day'.

      This is why it is very important to take Utsa's critique of the influence of Ricardo's fallacious theory in policymaking very seriously. After all, it was another equally influential economist, John Maynard Keynes, who confessed that 'practical men who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences are usually the slaves of some defunct economist'.

      Let us face the fact of life that we have been enslaved by the defunct economics of comparative advantage. That way we can free ourselves. For what we really have is a competitive advantage.


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

      Should Kenya’s politicians leave the proposed constitution alone?

      Yash Ghai


      Much of Kenyan civil society wants politicians to leave the current draft of the constitution alone, fearing that they will make only those changes that benefit themselves, and that disadvantage ordinary citizens, writes Yash Ghai. As various groups put pressure on the politicians to change specific provisions, from a gender, religious or other perspective, Ghai argues that if Kenya is to get a new constitution at all, it may be worth accepting compromises on some issues.

      The Committee of Experts (CoE) produced its harmonized draft in November, which it revised in December/January after public input, and revised again, taking into account the views of the Public Service Commission (PSC), though by no means accepting all its views. It is that draft that this article considers – and which we are told is about to face two days of onslaught from MPs seeking to propose amendments, for which they require the support of 65 per cent of their members. It is now called ‘The Proposed Constitution’.

      That draft is considerably better in many ways on the earlier versions, though some gains have been lost. We should recognise the effort that has gone into this, and the many improvements that have been made in terms of clarity and legal workability.

      If Kenya is to get a new constitution, as the people want, exhausted – indeed mystified – as they are by the twists and turns of the process, our expectations must in some ways be lowered. In the end perhaps the most important question is ‘will this be better than the existing constitution?’ In many ways it certainly will be: More recognition of the role and rights of women, rights and inclusion for other marginalised sections of society, clearer commitments to accountability, rule of law, and independence of the judiciary. Separating the government (executive) from parliament may well be a major improvement in governance. Even if there remain many things that could have been done, even on these points, we should not dwell on ‘if only…’

      We ought not to forget that what really got the current constitution-making phase off the ground was the National Accord – under international pressure – with the intention of avoiding any repetition of the dreadful events of early 2008. This introduces a new twist to the aspect of the system of government debate. In the 2000–2005 phase, we were concerned with achieving a workable and accountable system of government, which our curious presidential system was not thought to be. Now we need to avoid a system of government where the ‘winner takes all’, not just because this is too much power in one person’s hands, but because we fear that that the ruthlessness that may be shown in striving to be that one person, or to have that one person being ‘our person’ may destroy us.

      So, rights and values cannot be allowed to overshadow this question: Is the presidential system proposed less or even more likely to generate this savage competition for office? Whatever checks and balances are there may never get to be used if something worse than 2008 should occur. There is little hope that the system will be changed to something more collegial in parliament.

      Other concerns inevitably loom less large. Bringing the government closer to the people, through devolution, is desirable. It could offer greater control to the people, greater responsiveness of government – and even offer alternative arenas for political ambitions and training grounds for new breeds of politician. But the rather weak system, in terms of powers, and their distribution among so many small, and surely weak, units undermines this promise.

      There are some other issues that are particularly relevant to concerns about access to justice – an end to impunity and a generally more accountable system. Here I pick out just a few.

      With an independent prosecution system (very much to be welcomed), and a more independent judiciary, the third aspect of a fair system of criminal justice is effective representation for the accused. The public defender – responsible for this in a systematic way – figured in all drafts from the Constitution of Kenya Review Commission (CKRC) to the ‘Revised Harmonized Draft’, but has gone. Was it the victim of an obsession with brevity, of hostility to fair trial? In what sense was this ‘controversial’?

      It is hard to understand why the anomalous position of the attorney general has been retained: Supposedly the legal advisor to the government, who is to ‘promote, protect and uphold the rule of law and defend the public interest’, yet also member of the Cabinet, and of the Judicial Service Commission which is supposed to be independent.

      The work of an ombudsman may fall within the mandate of the human rights commission (since the CoE restored the right to fair administrative action excised by the PSC). But much better would have been a clear commitment to such an office, perhaps independent of the commission as the revised harmonized draft proposed. Let us hope the MPs don’t think that a parliamentary committee is an adequate substitute for a properly funded and functioning ombudsman.

      There are worries about the land provisions – will they really achieve justice in this area?

      Finally – rumour has it that some MPs hope to seize for parliament the final decision, removing the requirement of a referendum. They can only do this by amending the constitution, removing Article 47A – for which they need the same 65 per cent majority that they are apparently having problems mustering to propose changes to the proposed draft. Presumably we can at least hope that this repudiation of the National Accord would prove as impossible for the MPs to achieve as it would be for the people to swallow.


      * Yash Ghai is a professor of constitutional law. He is the head of the Constitution Advisory Support Unit of the United Nations Development Programme in Nepal and a special representative of the UN secretary general in Cambodia on human rights.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      I did not know Fatima Meer

      Azad Essa


      cc G H
      The late Fatima Meer was 'was to me like that elusive relative is to you', writes Azad Essa, a person who lived an incredible life whom you never got to know and who lacks the genuine recognition they deserve.

      A number of activists, writers, politicians, morons and other opportunists will be writing long-drawn tributes to Fatima Meer in the coming weeks. Some of the personalised tributes will be less bearable than others: 'I met Fatima at the mall' to the more ridiculous: 'She introduced me to my abusive ex-husband' or 'I tried to kill her once.' Describing her remarkable journey as one of the most incredible stalwarts of the anti-apartheid and anti-poor people struggle inadvertently will become as important as unashamedly recognising the opportunity to raise your own market value as the well-connected, blessed storyteller, an often nauseating and wilfully pathetic attempt at pontification to immortality by association.

      And now that I discuss Fatima Meer here, I become one of the losers I have just described. Except, I am not going to tell you how she taught me hopscotch, how she inspired me to care about others or how her memory gives me goose bumps.

      I did not know Fatima Meer.

      I have not read any of her 25 books. I was not even born when she lectured. And I probably was playing cricket when she patrolled Chatsworth as she attempted to help the poor natives.

      Fatima Meer was to me like that elusive relative is to you, the one your father, cousin or drunk neighbour told you about one night when you sat smoking pot on your roof, who apparently lived an incredibly rich life, whom you never got to know and worse, never ever were able to visit.

      We all have one of those.

      'You know, this man went against his family’s wishes… He moved to the Transkei in the '60s, building the first school for kids with special needs. He was a medical doctor but education was his thing. You know, he loved people so much that when he was detained for a week in a special holding cell for being a "K-lover", he met Madiba in passing and he was so inspired, he joined the arms struggle, functioning more as a doctor…', says your narrator, as he exhales the good stuff.

      'You should go talk to him one day, he lives just down the road … fascinating man… What he will tell you, you won’t find in any history book.' But, of course, you never did grab the opportunity.

      Just like I never did.

      Every day I would drive past Burnwood Road in Durban, the very road that swung alongside the Kennedy Road dump, where she lived in a modest house.

      And almost every week as I would drive by in a characteristic scurry, I would look at the bend that led to her home and Makro, and I would remind myself: 'I have to go see her soon!'

      But I never did. Sometimes I actually went on to Makro.

      And now she is gone, her house marked as a possible national heritage site.

      All the while I sit here, sheepishly writing a half-baked story of gutted regret, when I could have been 'out there' lapping up lessons she so willingly passed on to those who cared. But I am quite sure I am not the only one headed for a reality check.

      Today, if you walked into the sociology department at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (formerly known as the University of Natal), you will struggle for clues that would point to a time when an emphatic, important and moving character shook the corridors and pummelled her way to becoming the first black female professor at the white university.

      To those who knew her, Fatima Meer was tough as she was compassionate and insistent as she was giving. Crucially, she was able to circumvent rhetoric uniquely in pulverising her discipline beyond the lecture halls.

      But there is no honour board, no photo frame, no library, no chair of sociology that even links the university to this great servant.

      As a pioneering public sociologist, who literally linked the theoretical mumbo jumbo with the travails of the outside world with compassion, determination and fervour to make a difference, it is morally repugnant that returning sociology students will not even know that their seat once was warmed by the insistent foot soldier who lived what they probably were not being taught, something that most of our curriculums are lacking.

      It does not take long for the maggots to set in, but it took five days before the university’s corporate relations mustered up a press release of her demise.

      You can bet there will be a move to name a 'Fatima Meer' something or other, now that she is gone.

      Perhaps a library, a book counter or even a toaster.

      The question now is, is it too late to commemorate her legacy substantially, or will she simply be deified for lesser ends?


      * Azad Essa is a freelance journalist and lecturer at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. In his sparetime, he scolds politicians.
      * This article was originally published by Leadership.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      Nigeria's judiciary: A messy state

      Sabella Ogbobode Abidde


      cc S P
      Once a respected and professional example of high legal standards around the world, the Nigerian judiciary has now entirely lost its way, writes Sabella Ogbobode Abidde. The judiciary is plagued by lost case files, tampered evidence and inmates seemingly locked up indefinitely, Abidde stresses, a picture of decline that mirrors that of Nigerian society as a whole.

      As flawed as successive Nigerian constitutions have been, they have always, in theory at least, provided for an independent judiciary. In practice, however, this has not always been the case, especially in the last two decades. In the 1950s, through the early part of the 1980s, the Nigerian judiciary was, for the most part, a world-class institution. Lawyers were well-trained, well-behaved and well-versed in the art and science of the law. When you saw a lawyer, especially on the streets of Lagos, Ibadan and Port Harcourt, you knew you were before a man or woman of high standing.

      And when you heard a lawyer speak, you would think he or she invented both the English and the legal languages. And so it was that in the Nigeria of my youth, many friends wanted to be lawyers, and ultimately judges, especially of the Supreme Court. And why not? Consider this list: Adetokunbo Adegboyega Ademola (1958–72); Taslim Olawale Elias (1972–75); Darnley Arthur Alexander (1975–79); Atanda Fatai Williams (1979–83); and George Sodeinde Sowemimo (1983–85). Chief Justice Ayo Irikefe (1985–87) and Salihu Moddibo Alfa Belgore (1995–2006) are later additions.

      Some Nigerian lawyers and judges went on to serve with distinction across sub-Saharan Africa. And more than a few went on to serve at various United Nations posts. Justice Taslim Elias, for instance, went on to become the president of the International Court of Justice (commonly referred to as the World Court). A few years later, he also became a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague. Whether as lawyers, judges, educators or as administrators, Nigerians went on to become some of the greatest legal minds at home and abroad. In addition, legal communities in and outside of the African continent came to study the Nigerian legal system.

      In the last two and a half decades however, the Nigerian judiciary has been plagued by problems and intractable challenges: troubles and challenges brought on by post-1975 military regimes and by the legislative and executive branches of government. Other contributing, insidious factors include: (a) the declining standard of legal education; (b) the entrenched social ills that continue to eat away at the nation’s moral fibres; (c) the changing nature of Nigerian society which, in some cases, no longer values the rule of law, ethics and morality; (d) the belief that anyone and anything can be bought, sold or compromised, including the law and those who interpret the law; and (e) the single-minded pursuit of money and material gain to the exclusion of noble ideas and ideals.

      In any modern society, the judiciary and the fourth estate are the last bastion of what is good and decent and godly about humanity. One may argue that the executive branch matters, but not as much as the judiciary, and that the legislature matters, but not as much as the fourth estate. This is so because both branches of government may be occupied by half-baked men and women, but if the judiciary and the fourth estate are rotten, then the society has no hope for accountability and probity. The Nigerian fourth estate has been moribund for about two decades, and the judiciary is now comfortably rested alongside. What hope is there for Nigeria?

      What this means is that one can hardly tell the judiciary apart from the other two braches of government or from the fourth estate. Today, as most can attest to, the Nigerian judiciary has become a chamber of corruption, inefficiency and depravities. The entire court system – from the customary and sharia courts through the state and federal court system and up to the apex court – the system has become, for the most part, buyable and sellable. It is a mess. The Nigerian judiciary is in a messy state!

      Some have argued that the level of injustice within the Nigerian judiciary, in some cases, is way more than the level of injustice on the Nigerian streets. Case files are often stolen or lost or sold. Cases get postponed again and again and again and again. Investigating officers, court clerks and even judges may tamper with glaring evidence or the deserved justice. And indeed, the accused may get locked up for years that far exceed the number of years they would have spent if convicted.

      One could spend hours cataloguing what is wrong with the Nigerian judiciary. Even so, it needs pointing out that most of what is wrong with the Nigerian justice system, in addition of earlier indictments, came about mostly because of the deficiencies within the Nigerian legal system, low pay for lawyers and judges, poor infrastructures and the residual effects of several decades of pounding and unholy inducement from the executive and the political class. In all of these, one cannot separate the judiciary from other sections of the Nigerian state and society, a state and society plagued by all manners of excesses, inefficiencies and deficiencies.

      It is estimated that Nigeria has 227 prisons with a projected 60,000 registered inmates. The fact is that there are also illegal prisons in Nigeria, dungeons and gallows where political prisoners and 'enemies of government' are routinely held without the knowledge of family members. Frankly, no one really knows the number of people who are locked up in Nigeria. In February 2008, Amnesty International asserted that prisons in Nigeria are a 'national scandal', holding thousands of inmates who have not been legally convicted or inmates who have spent years, and even decades, awaiting trials – trials that may never come.

      The government, at both the state and national level, along with the judiciary, are to be blamed for this messy state. How do you hold suspects for decades and decades without trial? Why postpone cases again and again and again to the point where there is no justice for the accused, or a sense of closure for the aggrieved? In addition, there are the issues of unsanitary condition and the inhumane treatments around and within the Nigerian prison system. Convicts deserve to be locked up if and when the courts say so, but whatever constitutional rights they are entitled to must still be respected.

      The 2008 Amnesty International report went on to say that 'The judiciary fails to ensure that all inmates are tried within reasonable time; indeed, most inmates wait years for a trial. When inmates are convicted, most courts do not inform them of their right to appeal. Nor does the judiciary guarantee that all suspects are offered legal representation. Few of the courts take the necessary steps to end the use of evidence elicited as a result of torture. In breach of national and international law, the judiciary does not guarantee fair trial standards even in the case of minors.' What system of justice is this, if there is an iota of justice at all?

      There is something else: For the most part, the Nigerian judiciary has not been very helpful in resolving most of the electoral disputes in Nigeria. It is common knowledge that some disputed cases take two to three years to resolve. For instance, 'It took 3 years to decide the Ngige/Obi gubernatorial tussle and Emordi senatorial tussle. Yet both governorship and senatorial tenures are 4 years!' In the same vein, it took more than two years to resolve the Buhari–Obasanjo electoral disputes. Considering this and many other vexing issues, one can only conclude that the Nigerian judiciary has lost its way.


      * 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.

      Spectacle and salvation: Challenging western visions of Africa

      Annwen Bates


      In a piece written for Pambazuka News in 2007, Annwen E. Bates looked at how Africa’s lack presented as spectacle is used ‘to legitimise Euro-American programmes of salvation – from colonialism to aid involvement’. With South Africa in the spotlight ahead of the football World Cup in June, Bates revisits some of the ideas raised by her original article.

      Some time ago I wrote a piece for Pambazuka News about the June 2007 Bild cover featuring Africa’s silhouette and a skeletal, AIDS orphan (See ‘Africa: Through the lens of Western bourgeois mythology’). Friends and readers pointed out two glaring typos: I referred to ‘an outline of an uninhibited continent’ and renamed the mastermind guest editor ‘Bob Geldhof.’ ‘Geldhof’ was rectified. Yet after I received a chastising email, ‘You really should edit “uninhibited”,’ I decided against erasing my slip. As I started peering at this slip and musing over ‘Geldhof’, they offered keyholes to some interesting ‘truths’ that normative spelling did not.

      Words often fissure and crack open under the pressure of history and meaning. The original piece discusses how Africa’s lack presented as spectacle is used to legitimise Euro-American programmes of salvation – from colonialism to aid involvement, and even international events. Lack stands rather tenuously in pendulum with excess. ‘Uninhibited’ points to actions and gestures of excess. In the pairing under discussion – the ‘uninhibited’ continent is also the uninhabited continent. The perceived excessive actions of the ‘African people’, in sexual relations, violence and material greed, have left a decimated and consequently uninhabitable continent. In my previous discussion, it is the HIV/AIDS epidemic ‘borne’ of adult sexual excess that orphans vulnerable, skeletal, ghost-like children (like the one on the Bild cover) and leaves an unfilled, unpopulated, un-parented continent. The resulting consequence of uninhibited action is an uninhabited place: The Bild cover’s outline of Africa blares a coroner’s map of an uninhibited now uninhabited continent. The two words, in my reading, are not as far removed as they may first seem.

      Let me now pry the undertones of my second typo: Geldhof. To ‘geld’ means to castrate, deprive of virility, emasculate or weaken and is from the Old Norse ‘gelder’, meaning barren. ‘Hof’ indicates a meeting place, usually with an administrative function, and dates back to Anglo-Saxon for hall. I certainly did not intend to rewrite Geld(h)of as an administrative centre of emasculation, yet through the typo ‘I’ have. The slip itself splits into two possible interpretations. Geld(h)of draws attention to the deprived virility of the ‘grand old’ administrations – the white patriarchal, centres – that waved the flags of colonialism and more recently, aid salvation. Or, in having the capacity and power to edit, disseminate and endorse certain visual and rhetorical tropes about the African continent, as was the case in the Bild issue, Geld(h)of deprives the ‘uninhabited continent’ of the opportunity to make its own stand. Simply, the slip intimates either the centre crumbling or the hold it continues to impose. Perhaps, like a fissure, the slip alludes to the centre’s crumbling and power simultaneously.

      But that was June 2007, and we are now nearing June 2010. South Africa is flags and road works blazing for the upcoming Soccer World Cup, even as a few other incidents (which I do not intend to unravel here) absorb the spotlight. Playing with words, like shuffling images, does not seem of much use when the question remains: How to stave off attitudes that ‘Africa’s’ spaces are uninhabited terra for the grasping by the Geld(h)of’s who manage media, government, education, health and even safety and security? Images that reflect genealogies of attitude, like words that carrying underlying values and judgments, contribute to the unfaithful cartography about which I wrote previously. Yet, even when the best intentions underpin them, representations and demarcations result in limited cartographies. My continued hope is that those within the lines drawn may voice and image the cartographies with their experiences and aspirations.


      * This piece is dedicated to Philomène, who encouraged me.
      * Annwen E. Bates is an independent cultural critic. She currently works for South Africa’s premier performing arts company.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      The useful delusion of being independent

      Hama Tuma


      Fifty years after ‘18 African countries allegedly gained their “independence” from colonialism’, it is ‘safe to state that most of Africa suffers from the delusion of being independent’, argues Hama Tuma. ‘Colonialism played many tricks on gullible Africans,’ writes Tuma, ‘and its most damaging joke has been to declare that it has left…while actually rushing back in through the back door.'

      Without going deep into the not so negligible difference between an illusion (more of a perceptual problem) and a delusion (concerning belief despite facts to the contrary) it is safe to state that most of Africa suffers from the delusion of being independent, fifty years after some 18 African countries allegedly gained their ‘independence’ from colonialism, which was a tricky monster if there ever was one.

      Colonialism came with the Bible in one hand, and as the Africans bowed to pray, the white man took the land and their alleged freedom (at least from being colonised by a foreign country). Colonialism played many tricks on gullible Africans and its most damaging joke has been to declare that it has left (front door exit) while actually rushing back in through the back door (neo colonialism using the black bourgeoisie). The puppets wearing black masks – denounced so bitterly by Frantz Fanon for one – were quick to declare that formal independence (flags and a native government that played the puppet role to the hilt) was actually the real thing.

      A national flag, a black oppressor in a Mercedes Benz and a Rolls Royce, palaces and corrupt and hedonistic existence for the few and Africans were expected to hail this as freedom and salvation. Those who said the emperor was actually naked and that colonialism has continued in a new garb (with the old stink in place) were quickly silenced. Belgian and CIA agents collaborated to have Patrice Lumumba murdered. Freedom fighters Um Nyobe, Felix Moumie and later on Mondlane, Machel and Cabral were gotten rid off in one way or another. Pan-Africanists with a strong anti imperialist stance were made victims of foreign-engineered coups, as in Ghana and Nkrumah. Colonialism never left but wore a new mask; Africa was doomed as the traitors had a field day, selling the whole continent without any scruples or qualms.

      The one party state that was the darling of the West, fleecing Africa through a corrupt and malleable strongman – Mobutu is a good example – went against any notion of democratic governance. Rebellions were bound to erupt here and there and the colonisers had to spread again the virus of what Nyerere called ‘tribalism’ and is nowadays referred to as ‘ethnicism’, the ‘Ethnic assaulting the Nation’ as Samir Amin put it in a book. Africa's desire to consolidate nation states broke against the iceberg of ethnic assault and the division helped carry the goal of the rapacious West to its zenith. (Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union were also to become victims of this sponsored ethnic or nationality assault). Worse still, even the ethnically or nationally cohesive people like the Somalis succumbed to the virus. Divided on clan levels, they are still going on with their carnage no matter what.

      Yet, we must admit that, fifty years on, the delusion of independence is no longer a big problem – we all know few African countries are really independent. Actually, the two countries that had never been colonised, Ethiopia and Liberia, are also fine examples of dependence and neo colonial servility. Liberia was handed over to freed American slaves and these imposed their corrupt rule over the ‘natives’ with the help of America and North American companies like Firestone rubber company. When the jury of revenge came (via the Samuel Doe coup) it was indeed violent (Tolbert and many ministers were summarily shot).

      Liberia was not independent in the 19th century and is not so now either. Ethiopia was never colonised (maybe the Ethiopians read the Bible before the white man and were not duped to close their eyes and pray) but the regimes in power for more than seventy years were/are puppets of foreign powers (USA and the Soviet Union) and Ethiopians have never realised their dream of democratic governance. This is not to say that there was little difference between the colonised and the not colonised (perhaps there is some in the psyche and type of wounds), but it is to assert that colonialism did not leave, not ever, but stayed on with more fangs and new garb. As I said, colonialism is a tricky monster.

      It can even change colour and appearance, given the fact that China is now busy replacing the old and known plunderers. As a ‘Young Turk’ plunderer, China seems to have little or no scruples, other than fiercely pursuing its own national interests – but it has learnt the moves and gives lip service to the ‘delusion’, the flag and the false belief in a non-existent sovereignty. Buttering up our ego, telling us we are rich and proud when we are poor and miserable and they are taking away our wealth and backing our killers (Beshir, Meles, Mugabe, etc).

      In reality, the assault on our pride and self-respect has been so strong that most of us have succumbed to self-hate (a bonanza for the skin lightening product manufacturers for example), and lack of self-confidence. We claim that partaking of wisdom at the feet of the white man is all, we speak English or French and we are wise and we know it all (as opposed to the ‘ignorant’ majority that doesn't); our salvation can only come from the good will of the new colonisers. The pathetic souls who pray ‘Our Father who art in the White House’ are good examples of this malady. The dependence and absolute lack of belief in the strength and power of one's people is very damaging especially in light of the real situation, in which there seems little hope of achieving meaningful social change peacefully. And yet, it is sadly true that the armed rebels claiming to fight for our liberation have turned out to be murderous thugs (Renamo, RUF, LRA and others), lumpen guerrillas if you want. Our misery is compounded; colonialism is dead but long live colonialism is not a dead cry.

      It is of course possible to contend that we should be left alone with our delusions. It is probable that if one takes one's hell for a paradise, then the suffering may appear less (illusion). Ethiopians say that if we call it life, dwelling in the graveyard may be comfortable or warm; perspective matters. If the poor man did not drink butter in his dream, he would have died sooner from constipation is another favourite saying in Ethiopia. Delusion plays a role. Instead of a white Bwana governor, we have a black native oppressor – is there any difference? Isn't it better if we delude ourselves that there is a difference, especially when we cannot find an iota even using a magnifying glass for investigation? Less expectation, less frustration; more delusion, less pain. The bastards have not left (blood diamonds, blood Coltan, a whole continent plundered without mercy) but why not delude ourselves that they have? Viewed from this angle, the delusion of independence makes our graveyard feel warm. We all know we live in a ‘cold’ continent, so why harp on it and shiver when we can embrace our delusion and sweat from the imagined heat?


      * Hama Tuma is an Ethiopian political activist and writer.
      * This article first appeared on Ethiopia Exchange Services.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      Zimbabwe at 30: Let the Uhuru generation speak

      Youth Alliance for Democracy


      People born after 1980 have benefited little from 30 years of Zimbabwe’s independence, writes the Youth Alliance Democracy, thanks to the government’s continued failure to empower young people, rather than seeing them as equal partners in politics. Half of political representatives – from local government to the cabinet – should be ‘youths below the ages of 35, who can forward and address the youth concerns and youth mainstreaming in all national policies and processes’, the alliance argues.

      As we celebrate 30 years of independence, we still await true and youth-centred democracy. Zimbabwe is one country that is failing the ‘Uhuru generation’ (youths born after independence). Since 1980 the then ruling party and various political establishments failed to politically and economically empower youths, relegating them to sloganeering and the situation has not changed with the inception of an inclusive government. The year 1980 was a bad start for Zimbabwean youths. There has been no independence on the part of the youth in Zimbabwe.


      In 1980 the post-colonial government inherited a stable economy with a strong currency, despite the fact that the country was coming out of a protracted war and a closed economy owing to the mandatory sanctions imposed by the UN against the Ian Smith regime. Economists have argued that what was needed in 1980 was the recapitalisation of local industries, so that locally manufactured products could compete on the international sphere and attract markets. Unfortunately this need was not addressed by the Mugabe regime. Instead looting and unplanned expenditure became the order of the day.

      During the 1982/3 agricultural season, there was a serious drought which caught the government unawares, despite warnings by the meteorological department. Since it had failed to adequately budget in the fiscus for the natural disaster, this saw the government struggle to cushion the populace against looming threats of starvation with little success. What was more of the blow to Zimbabwe’s economy was that the revolution began eating its own children with the inhuman and unbudgeted for military expedition that resulted in the silencing of dissenting voice in the Midlands and Matabeleland regions. The military action was uncalled for, unnecessary and ill-conceived in a country that claimed to be independent and democratic. This saw the North Korean trained 5th Brigade massacring over 20,000 innocent civilians, leaving the Uhuru generation in these areas without parents or breadwinners under looming threats of hunger. President Mugabe later confessed that it was ‘a moment of madness’ – insanity to say the least.

      By 1987, owing to these economic malpractices including high level corruption – a case being the Willowgate scandal with millions being swindled from government chauffeurs – Zimbabwe’s economy was ailing. The then minister of finance Dr Bernard Chidzero nicodemously went to the IMF to seek an economic rescue package, which he was effectively given with no conditions in 1988. However this economic tranquiliser did not last long; by 1989 he had returned trying to lure possible intervention from the international body. This time Zimbabwe was advised to undergo a structural adjustment program, which became known as ESAP. This saw the privatisation of the economy, with the results being felt by workers as retrenchments became the order of the day. Inflation rose and by April 1990, it had reached 20.34 per cent; inflation was never to decline from this year. Unemployment rose and became the order of the day. Our breadwinners became unemployed and could not afford healthcare, education, food and shelter for us – the Uhuru generation suffered most.

      What puzzles the mind is that in his inaugural budget under ESAP, Chidzero defended ESAP as a homegrown solution that had no links with the Brettonwoods Institutions. Even legislators at the time seconded him, including the newly established executive president of the Republic of Zimbabwe. The labour movement waged strike action against the effects of privatisation, but these were thwarted with maximum force and in typical military style, three youths were shot dead at Ziscosteel in Redcliff in 1997. The situation was the same with the student movement that had initially opposed the establishment of a one-party state during the 4 October demonstrations; the University of Zimbabwe and the various polytechnics became war zones. At this time dissent was brewing among the war veterans who felt that the struggle had been aborted, especially with the unfulfilled land issue.

      The government continued on a series of economic blunders with the populist awarding of the war veterans gratuities of US$50,000 each. This money was unbudgeted for and in its expenditure was not channelled to any productive sectors of the economy but lavishly spent at the expense of the Uhuru generation that needed medical care, affordable education and meaningful employment opportunities.

      With the formation of an opposition political party in 1999, human rights abuses intensified. It became ‘normal’ to abuse people’s rights. In 2000 under the supervision of the then minister of youth Elliot Manyika, the ministry came up with a document entitled the ‘National Youth Policy’ which, to save space and time in this dossier, was catastrophically imposed on youths without their due contribution. The same was done with the National Youth Service, which trained youths to be servants of the older generation and chant slogans. The Uhuru generation continues to suffer.

      The economic madness of the past decade was witnessed by all and sundry as inflation rose to world peaks, voodoo economics became the order of the day as zeros and zeros were removed from the Zimbabwe dollar – but to no avail. Ours became a disillusioned generation, with little if any hope, as basic commodities became a scarcity, employment rare and worthless, while the ‘older comrades who are more equal than the others’ looted to satisfy their ever-growing stomachs.

      Youths were nothing but recipients of this evil system and most found solace in migrating to other countries where they are treated as third class citizens. With this state of affairs, those who could not leave for greener pastures were caught in this oppressive cobweb and were either manipulated by the politically or economically privileged or engaged in unorthodox survival means. Those who raise(d) questions about this evil state of affairs are seen as outcasts by those who want to cling on to power till eternity. Statistics of the last decade indicate that of the 302 people who lost their lives to political violence, 78 per cent were below the age of 35. The Uhuru generation have now become strangers in the land of their birth.

      This goes without saying that parliament also enacted the Zimbabwe Youth Council Act, which provides that seven members of the ZYC board are elected by youth associations registered with the national body, while eight are appointed by the minister. The question is: Is this not an expression of dictatorship by the minority over the majority? What is the logic? Is this not following a misplaced and obsolete illogic of the ‘need to guide’ youths? The continued presence of such a legal framework – which is not even in the least of the list of motions raised in parliament – is a true reflection of the generational disparities that exist even under an inclusive government.

      Various civic society groups emerge(d) and face(d) a polarised and risky operating environment. It has been equally difficult for youths to enter into the political sphere owing to transitional misnomers, where – perhaps owing from the liberation Marxist doctrine – political power is gained from one’s economic muscle, yet society tactically excludes them from the politics through economic disempowerment. This is certainly at the expense of an issues-based political dispensation.


      In all this political mess, youths in ‘leadership’ positions were and are still less than 2 per cent, yet they constitute the majority. Of the 2 per cent, they value(d) political party patronage at the expense of their peers. The appointments of youth in Zimbabwe to positions of authority have always been cascaded to reflect and serve the interests of the older generations.

      This has equally been true of gender imbalances, where cosmetic appointments of women to positions of authority have become a norm – for youths it’s even worse as they are felt to be immature and in need of the guidance of the elders – hence the presence of the likes of Saviour Kasukuwere, a minister of youth who is not even a youth, being assisted by a 51-year-old permanent secretary. Fewer than 10 MPs from the three political parties represented in parliament and government are below the age of 35, there are no youths in the Senate or in the presidium, and just two youths in the cabinet. A larger number of employees at the Zimbabwe Youth Council are not youths, but 90 per cent of the unemployed are youths.

      No wonder youths are complaining about these bodies. That is precisely why the land reform process was violent and did not benefit the ordinary youth; that is the reason for Operation Murambatsvina, the cause of manipulation of youths to perform and wage various acts of violence, the failure of the inclusive government to address the question of youth empowerment, both political and economic.

      This is also the sad reality that explains why the Youth Fund in the Ministry of Youth has failed to improve the lives of ordinary youths. Not a single ordinary youth has benefitted, with the exception of those that chant the loudest slogans! This is why the youth of this country will continue to fight for empowerment, engaging a deaf old generation.


      Zimbabwe at 30 marks a new era where the youths of Zimbabwe should demand the adoption of a quota system: 50 per cent of representatives – from local government to the presidium – should be youths below the ages of 35, who can forward and address the youth concerns and youth mainstreaming in all national policies and processes. The next elections should see number of young people declaring their political interests and candidature, the political formations in this country should embrace fully the youths as candidates for political office.

      The development and acceptance of youths as equal partners in politics should be, and is in tandem with the Decade for African Youth Development, 2009–2018. Participation of youths in electoral processes should not be confined to voting for an older candidate who long surpassed being a youth, but also as able and equal candidates.

      Economic muscles should not be used for vote-buying and rigging elections. Elections manifestos should be concrete action plans that are not only realistic but in tandem with the economic, social and political aspirations of youth. Equally if the current constitution-making is to bring a new constitution, it can only be democratic and accepted by the youth if it embraces a quota system in governance and encourages true empowerment initiatives that are owned and managed by youths.

      The cancer that was bred for the past three decades must be cured. Youths should represent themselves in all decision-making and political bodies, so that they can advocate for the redress of youth concerns, a scenario that will guarantee youth mainstreaming. This should not be done by an older generation; the impetus, mandate and obligation lies in this historic Uhuru generation.

      Promises of a national reconciliation process are documented and were made in the Inter Party Agreement/GPA and an organ set up. In its composition the organ fails to realise and accept that the most vulnerable group that perpetrated and were victims of violence in the past decades are youths. The elderly who constitute this body are not youths and owing to time and material conditions and progression will not allow the organ to know exactly what the youth of this nation hold and want! This could be as a result of politics of marginalisation at the expense of national development, and no national healing is in sight for Zimbabwean youths. Again the Uhuru generation continues to suffer from past traumas. ‘Even the smallest bird can sing from the tallest tree.’

      Our nation’s history has been marred by marginalisation of youths from the political playing field and only youths can adequately and promptly represent themselves.

      Youth Alliance for Democracy holds firm that it is only when youths are given space to be represented by youth political leaders whether independent or from various political establishments out of a fair electoral process that guarantees that 50% of decision makers across the board are youth, 25% being young women, youth concerns can be redressed without which the Uhuru Generation will continue to suffer at the behest of the older selfish generations.

      Let the Uhuru generation speak for itself and DO NOT speak on its behalf we are able.


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

      Advocacy & campaigns

      Hands off Mother Earth


      On the eve of UN Mother Earth Day, over sixty national and international organizations threw their weight behind a common statement launching a global campaign to prevent real world deployment of geoengineering experiments. Geoengineering refers to large-scale intentional tinkering with the climate and earth systems to counteract global warming. The ‘Hands Off Mother Earth’ campaign (or H.O.M.E. campaign) regards such geoengineering schemes as dangerous and unjust. It is urging individuals and organizations to speak out in opposing them.
      “With rich governments and industrial interests jockeying for open-air geoengineering tests it is time to draw a line that should not be crossed.” affirmed Silvia Ribeiro of ETC Group, Mexico. “Mother Earth is our common home whose integrity should never be violated by geoengineering experimentation – it should never be a laboratory for these risky and unjust schemes.”

      Ben Powless of the Mohawk Nation (Canada) representing the Indigenous Environmental Network explained:

      “For too long our peoples’ bodies and lands have been used to test new technologies. Now, in response to climate change, these same people want to put Mother Earth at risk with geoengineering technologies. We can’t afford to threaten our planet in this way, especially when simple, just and proven solutions are at hand.”

      Ricardo Navarro, from CESTA, El Salvador speaking on behalf of Friends of the Earth International, said:

      “The same countries and companies that have neglected climate change for decades, are now proposing very risky geoengineering technologies that could further disrupt the weather, peoples and ecosystems. For them geoengineering is a “perfect” excuse to claim they can keep on heating the planet because later they will cool it off with dangerous experiments. As global environmental movements, we cannot allow the geoengineers to experiment with the planet and its peoples.”

      Launched in Cochabamba Bolivia at the Peoples’ Conference on Climate Change and The Rights of Mother Earth, the H.O.M.E campaign features an interactive website where individuals can ‘lend a hand’ to the campaign, leaving messages and uploading images of themselves. The site features a public portrait gallery of individuals with open palms calling a halt to geoengineering. This gallery is expected to swell as the focus of the campaign moves from Cochabamba this week to upcoming UN talks culminating in the next meeting of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Cancun Mexico in December. A facebook group for the H.O.M.E. campaign has also been launched.

      “We do not need to test geoengineering because we know that it is a fundamentally unjust technology” asserted Pat Mooney, Executive Director of ETC Group speaking at the campaign launch. “Could you imagine, in your wildest dreams, that the governments who have spent decades denying or avoiding climate change; who have failed to meet even the minimal requirements of the Kyoto Accord; who lack the courage to tell their societies to change their lifestyles; have either the integrity or the intellect to manipulate the oceans or the stratosphere in any way that could be either environmentally-effective or socially-equitable for the world? Should their hand be on the global thermostat?”

      A press conference launching the campaign in Cochabamba will be held today 21st April at 4pm Edificio del Rectorado y Vicerectorado, Planta Baja – UNIVALLE. (Sala de Prensa)

      The website of the Hands Off Mother Earth Campaign can be viewed online at The list of organizations and individuals signing the campaign statement can be found at this address.

      A Spanish language website will follow shortly.
      The Facebook page is public and can be joined at

      The campaign can also be followed via twitter @HandsOffMotherE

      For more information contact:

      In Cochabamba, Bolivia:
      • Silvia Ribeiro, ETC Group – [email protected] Local cell phone in Cochabamba: +591 74315817 (also reachable on +52 1 55 26 53 33 30 ) (Spanish/English)
      • Diana Bronson, ETC Group [email protected] Local cell phone in Cochabamba: +591 74776682 (also reachable via voicemail at +1 514 6299236 (English/French)
      • Ricardo Navarro, Friends of the Earth International – [email protected] Local cell phone in Cochabamba – +591 74803583 (Spanish/English)
      • Ben Powless, Indigenous Environmental Network – [email protected] (English)

      In Montreal, Canada:
      • Jim Thomas, ETC Group – [email protected] phone: +1 514 273 9994 cell phone: +1 514 516 5759 (English)

      In Ottawa, Canada:
      • Molly Kane, ETC Group – [email protected] phone: +1 6132412267, ext 26 (Spanish, English, French)

      In Davao City, Philippines:
      • Neth Dano ,ETC Group – [email protected] phone: +63 917 5329369 (English/Tagalog)

      Background Notes:

      The Hands Off Mother Earth (H.O.M.E.) Campaign has been established in response to clear indications that government, military and industrial players are attempting to move the climate debate towards embracing geoengineering as a “Plan B” to supplement action on emission reductions:

      • Last year Russian scientists led by controversial climatologist Yuri Izrael, a key science advisor to President Vladimir Putin, announced they had undertaken the first outdoor experiment to release sulphate aerosols in the atmosphere for geoengineering purposes. They hinted that larger follow up experiments were in the offing.

      • In September 2009, a panel of geoengineering advocates convened by the UK’s Royal Society published an influential report calling on governments to contribute millions of dollars towards establishing a ten year international programme of geoengineering research – including real world field trials.

      • Since 2007 former Microsoft chairman Bill Gates has channeled millions of dollars of private funds to several teams of geoengineering researchers. Microsoft’s former chief technical officer, Nathan Myhrvold, has also become an outspoken champion of the field. Myhrvold’s firm Intellectual Ventures already has several patents pending on geoengineering techniques.

      • In the past six months the Science Committees of the UK House of Commons and US Congress have held joint committee hearings into establishing a geoengineering research programme, including outdoor experimentation.

      • In March 2010, 175 self-selected geoengineers from 14 countries met in Asilomar California to develop “voluntary guidelines” for experiments in geoengineering the planet. The meeting was organized by a group associated with the commercial geoengineering firm Climos Inc. Over seventy civil society groups issued an open letter opposing the aims of this meeting.

      For further information about geoengineering or the H.O.M.E. campaign visit

      Tanzania: Political will required to achieve freedom of information


      On April 14, 2010 during the ongoing Parliament meeting in Dodoma, Hon. Damas P. Nakei, MP for Babati Rural asked a question in the House wanting to know the limitations on an MP to access public information held by Government and what type of information an MP might be denied. A Coalition comprising eleven Civil Society organisations (two from outside Tanzania) organized and held meetings and public hearings countrywide to collect people’s views. All along, it emerged that the public was not only interested in the freedom to access information but wanted this to be pronounced as a basic right – hence the notion of Right to Information in the discourse of the Coalition’s work.
      On April 14, 2010 during the ongoing Parliament meeting in Dodoma, Hon. Damas P. Nakei, MP for Babati Rural asked a question in the House wanting to know the limitations on an MP to access public information held by Government and what type of information an MP might be denied.

      This question, together with two other supplementary questions asked by Hon. Nakei himself and Hon. Zitto Kabwe, were answered by the Minister of State, Prime Minister’s Office (Policy, Coordination and Parliamentary Affairs), Hon. Phillip Marmo who went on to detail the rights and limitations of a Member of Parliament in accessing public information quoting section 10 of the The Parliamentary Immunities, Power and Privileges Act (Cap. 296), R.E., 2002 regarding accessing information from public offices.

      In his response, Minister Marmo made remarks which as the Coalition on the Right to Information we find calls for clarification so as to set the record straight: The following is an unofficial translation of what the Minister said:

      “The limitations include the ones I mentioned in my supplementary answer, but let it be remembered that there are huge demands for public information and worldwide, where there is a huge public demand, including parliamentarians wanting to access information from government offices, there are usually processes to ensure this including a law providing greater details. This legislation is normally called the Freedom of Information Act.

      In our country, for all this time, we have not seen a push or demand for such a law from the general public, parliamentarians or even from the media. This is why we have continued to use the current procedures”.

      Concluding the exchange, Hon Samuel Sitta (MP), Speaker of the National Assembly, urged the parliamentarians to make good use of Rule 81 which allows them individually or through respective Parliamentary Standing Committees to table motions for debate and passage, rather than just complain about inadequate laws.

      The Coalition for the Right to Information is greatly shocked by the statement made by Hon. Marmo that there has not been any demand from the public or media or Parliamentarians for a law that will grant the right to access information that is in the hands of government and its departments and agencies.


      In February 2005, the URT Constitution, 1977, was amended for the 14th time to delete and introduce a new Article 18 that provides for full rights to demand access and disseminate information.

      That revolutionary step proved that the government had recognised the right of citizens to access information.

      Numerous steps have followed after the above constitutional development including the preparation of a Government Communications Policy.

      In October 2006, there was another historical milestone when the Government published on its website a draft Bill for the Freedom of Information Act, 2006.

      This particular draft bill opened doors for various stakeholders to engage in a nationwide debate around this basic human right. It was discerned that the Bill did not meet the spirit of the constitutional provisions and could not stand up to meet international best practice. Rather than ensure access, it was mainly in contravention of the foundational principles of the Freedom of Information.

      In the draft bill, access to information from public institutions and whistleblower protection was seen to have been downplayed and given scant attention. The bill also continued to place a shield on unnecessary secrecy on many categories of information. Since this draft bill was seen as having a lot of deficiencies, stakeholders rejected the bill and urged the government to give them time to undertake public consultation. This request was granted by the Government.

      The Coalition which comprises eleven Civil Society organisations (two from outside Tanzania) organized and held meetings and public hearings countrywide to collect people’s views. All along, it emerged that the public was not only interested in the freedom to access information but wanted this to be pronounced as a basic right – hence the notion of Right to Information in the discourse of the Coalition’s work.

      Stakeholder proposals on a bill for the Right to Information Act were then prepared and officially submitted to the Government in August 2007, with copies of the same distributed to all members of Parliament and the Cabinet, various Government institutions and agencies as well as non State actors deemed interested in this particular issue. The bill proposed by stakeholders factored in broader national interests including the need for a transparent framework in which a citizen can access to particular pieces of information held in Government offices. Around 7,000 copies of the proposed bill booklets were disseminated to the public and various newspapers published the proposals in the form of pullouts, feature articles, analyses and commentaries.

      Additionally, issues relating to Media Services were discussed and debated, in accordance with the principles established by the media profession. As was advised, Media Services became a separate realm leading to a separate set of recommendations for a draft Media Services Bill prepared by the Coalition and submitted to the Government officially in October 2008. Again, copies of such recommendation booklets were disseminated widely to all Members of Parliament, Cabinet Ministers and key Government institutions and agencies as well as non-state actors.

      Furthermore, the Coalition has had two meetings so far with the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Social Development under the capable leadership of Hon. Jenista Mhagama, MP, whose contribution and cooperation has all along been immensely sound. The Committee has proved to be active and in true defence of national interests, judging from active contributions in improving the stakeholders’ recommendations.

      However, there has not been sufficient cooperation and response from the Government in working towards the enactment of good information and media services laws. For instance, there has never been an official response to all the developments made throughout the stakeholder consultation processes leading to the drafting of the recommendations despite the Coalitions attempts in keeping the Government informed all the time.

      It is not known todate whether the Government rejected or accepted the stakeholder recommendations. Attempts by the Coalition to seek audience and have joint meetings with Government experts to strike a common position have proved futile. The Coalition wrote three times to the Hon. Minister for Information, Culture and Sports, George Huruma Mkuchika on February 2, 2009; on September 8, 2009 and on November 30 in request for such a joint meeting. The three letters notwithstanding, there has never been a response from the Minister or his Ministry, not even an acknowledgement of receipt of the communications from the Coalition!

      The Parliamentary Standing Committee met with the Coalition on January 20 2010 in a meeting at which the Deputy Minister for Information, Culture and Sports, Hon. Joel Bendera represented the Government. The Deputy Minister insisted that the process towards the enactment of a Media Services and Control Act was underway and that the next stage would be to write a Cabinet paper, a statement which has also been repeated by Minister Mkuchika. In spite of all this, none of the two has provided explanation on the Right to Information Act process. It is our considered concern that the Right to Information Bill has been shelved by the Government!

      It is quite disappointing therefore to hear Minister Marmo say that there has never been any demand from the public, parliamentarians or media for a good law to enable Tanzanian citizens to access legitimate public information as they may require to make informed decisions in their daily lives. The efforts made so far are not worthy the neglect that we continue to see from the Government. It now seems clear that the Government does not want to listen to people’s views in this matter.

      The Right to Information is a basic right for every human being which is guaranteed and protected in the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania and a number of international and regional instruments for the protection of human rights, most of which Tanzania is actually a signatory.

      It is a responsibility of the Government to enact good laws to enhance the accessibility of information to its citizens for the enjoyment of such rights. But if the Government is not ready to take up this responsibility, then we would like to join hands with the House Speaker, to ask Members of Parliament to use Rule 81 to have individual MPs or Parliamentary Committees initiate and table a private motion for a bill to enact a law that would guarantee the right to information in Tanzania. The Coalition will be ready to work with any authority wanting to pursue this course in the future, be it an individual MP or a Parliamentary Standing Committee.

      The coming of a law that guarantees the Right to Information will facilitate the speedy transformation of our society, in terms of democracy and people-centred development. It is also in line with the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals, including eradicating poverty and fighting crime, corruption and embezzlement in public offices. This is the sure way to promote socio-economic and political development in the country.

      The Coalition is proud of and encouraged by the fact that a good number of Tanzanians across the country participated in the preparation of the recommendations that have been submitted to the Government demanding that there be the Right to Information and Media Services Bills to be enacted into laws. Beyond the bills, the Coalition has already prepared recommendations for regulations to guide the smooth implementation of the two laws as soon as they are enacted.

      And in order for the two laws not to conflict with other statutes, the stakeholder recommendations also include a proposition of existing laws that would be in contradiction with the coming two laws. Therefore, it is being proposed that some laws and/sections of laws be repealed as a way of permitting the smooth implementation of the laws to be enacted.

      The Stakeholders Coalition is led by the Media Council of Tanzania (MCT) and includes: the Media Institute of Southern Africa Tanzania Chapter (MISA – Tan); Tanzania Media Women Association (TAMWA); The Bar Association of Tanzania Mainland (TLS); Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC); Tanzania Network for Legal Education (TANLET); National Organization for Legal Assistance (nola); Media Owners Association of Tanzania (MOAT) and Tanzania Gender Networking Programme (TNGP). Other partners in the Coalition who have offered input and technical expertise are the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) based in India and Article XIX based in London, UK.

      Kajubi D. Mukajanga

      Executive Secretary

      Media Council of Tanzania &

      Chairman of the Coalition for the Right to Information

      April 20, 2010

      What tolerance for ZESA Four?



      In his Independence Day address, President Robert Mugabe spoke of the need for Zimbabweans to “foster an environment of tolerance and treating each other with dignity and respect irrespective of age, gender, race, ethnicity, tribe, political or religious affiliation." At the same time, four WOZA activists, Jenni Williams, Magodonga Mahlangu, Clara Manjengwa and Celina Madukani were spending their fourth day in the cold, dark, filthy cells of Harare Central Police Station.
      In his Independence Day address today, President Robert Mugabe spoke of the need for Zimbabweans to “foster an environment of tolerance and treating each other with dignity and respect irrespective of age, gender, race, ethnicity, tribe, political or religious affiliation.” At the same time, four WOZA activists, Jenni Williams, Magodonga Mahlangu, Clara Manjengwa were spending their fourth day in the cold, dark, filthy cells of Harare Central Police Station. Their crime? Exercising their constitutional right to peaceful protest and asking electricity service provider, ZESA, to improve their service and revise their flawed billing system. The demonstration in which the four women were arrested, together with 61 comrades who were released without charge later the same day, was entirely peaceful. The women have not been formally charged by police and yet have been subjected to an extended detention. Is this the tolerance, dignity and respect that the President is referring to?

      Detention in appalling conditions is the reality for human rights defenders in Zimbabwe. 30 years of independence from colonial rule is an achievement worthy of commemoration. How much sweeter would it have been if the party that helped to liberate the people of Zimbabwe was now not actively involved in their oppression? It is time that the promises of the liberation war be delivered to the people of Zimbabwe.
      This is a link to video footage of the WOZA demonstration to the ZESA headquarters in Harare that led to the arrest of the four women.

      Time for commitment is over, time for action now!

      Civil Society Communiqué


      This is a communiqué issued by members of civil society Participating in ‘Civil Society Experts Consultation on Maternal, Child and Infant Health and Sexual and Reproductive Health in Africa’ Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, April 17-18, 2010, organised by Solidarity for African Women’s Rights Coalition (SOAWR), IPPF-Africa Region, Ipas Africa Alliance, Save the Children International, Abantu for Development, and the UN Millennium Campaign in collaboration with the AU Commission to assess progress in reducing maternal, child and infant mortality and implementation of the Continental Framework on Sexual and Reproductive Health (Maputo Plan of Action 2007-10):
      Time for Commitment is Over, Time For Action Now!
      Communiqué of the Civil Society Experts Consultation on Maternal, Child and Infant Health and Sexual and Reproductive Health in Africa,

      April 17-18, 2010, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

      We, members of civil society Participating in ‘Civil Society Experts Consultation on Maternal, Child and Infant Health and Sexual and Reproductive Health in Africa’ Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, April 17-18, 2010, organised by Solidarity for African Women’s Rights Coalition (SOAWR), IPPF-Africa Region, Ipas Africa Alliance, Save the Children International, Abantu for Development, and the UN Millennium Campaign in collaboration with the AU Commission to assess progress in reducing maternal, child and infant mortality and implementation of the Continental Framework on Sexual and Reproductive Health (Maputo Plan of Action 2007-10):

      Commend African governments for committing themselves to address maternal, newborn and child health as outlined in the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa, The African Youth Charter, Continental Framework on Sexual and Reproductive Health (Maputo Plan of Action 2007-10) and The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. We further commend the African Union for declaring maternal, newborn and child mortalities continental emergencies requiring commensurate urgent actions;

      Congratulate countries that have launched the Campaign on Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa (CARMMA) and taken action to address the maternal, newborn and child health at national level as indicated in the best practices below. However, a lot more needs to be done.
      Urge all African Governments and other Relevant Stakeholders to ensure the following:

      Make Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) a priority
      · Prioritise adolescents’ and young women’s needs by creating policies, programs and guidelines to reduce the impact of unsafe abortion and facilitate their access to comprehensive reproductive health services;
      · Provide comprehensive sex education and services for the sexual and reproductive health of the youth.

      Reposition and Prioritise Family Planning
      · Promote access to contraception and sexual health and reproductive rights for both men and women including family planning as a development priority including female and male condoms as well as emergency contraception, with the full involvement of young people, based on culturally sensitive approaches, community mobilization and men’s engagement.

      Unsafe Abortion
      · The grounds for legal abortion should be broadened by repealing existing laws criminalizing abortion and access should be implemented under criteria permitted by existing laws;
      · Ensure expanded the coverage of comprehensive safe abortion care services. Strengthen Health

      Systems with Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (MNCH) as a Priority
      · Ensure essential measures such as quality reproductive health services, antenatal care, skilled health workers assisting at birth;
      · Take measures and give incentives to retain medical personnel and avoid the brain drain;
      · Train middle-level health providers, especially midwives, skilled birth attendants and community health nurses who can be deployed to underserved areas to work with poor communities to emergency obstetric and newborn care, adequate nutrition, post-natal care for mothers and newborns.

      Eradicate Harmful Traditional Practices
      · Ensure the enactment and enforcement of legislation to eradicate female genital mutilation, including when performed by medical personnel, and laws and policies on the minimum age of marriage at 18 in line with regional and international commitments to respect girls’ human rights and prevent risks associated with child marriage and adolescent pregnancies. Combat Violence against Women and Girls
      · Enact and strengthen laws to address violence against women;
      · Provide social and psychological support and compensation to victims of violence;
      · Implement the Africa-Wide campaign on VAW recommended at the Sixth Africa Development Forum (ADF VI) on Action on Gender Equality, Women’s Empowerment and Ending Violence against Women.
      SRH Commodities Stock outs
      · Include SRH products and commodities in the list of essential medicines;
      · Put in place strategies to address lack of personnel and to ensure functioning procurement and the distribution of drugs and equipment, quality of care, and financial accessibility;
      · Enforce policies and legislation on counterfeit medication without hindering access to generic medicines.

      · Continue to widen and subsidize insecticide-treated nets (ITNs) coverage and address problems related to malaria drugs procurement and supply-chain processes. Integrate HIV&AIDS/STIs in SRH

      · Enhance prevention methods and access to post-exposure prophylaxis drugs;
      · Strengthen the prevention of parent-to-child transmission of HIV and AIDS within the framework of maternal and child health care programmes;
      · Increase the coverage rates of prevention of parent -to –child transmission (PPTCT+) and pediatric treatment services from the current average of 30-40% to the globally agreed-upon target of 80% and ensure high-quality services.

      Public-Private Partnerships
      · Private sector should be involved as a key partner in planning, decision-making and resource mobilisation in matters related to maternal, newborn and child health. There should be a clear strategy on how to engage the private sector at the different levels and for the different responsibilities.
      · Ensure a regulatory framework to guarantee within private sector, quality of MNCH services, training of private health care workers and availability of commodities for family planning and reproductive health.

      · Scale-up of resources allocated to health to achieve the minimum commitment of 15 per cent endorsed by African leaders in Abuja with 4% of the 15% going to maternal and reproductive health interventions to address unsafe abortion in national and health-system budgets;
      · Prioritise come up with a specific percentage of resources be earmarked for newborn and child health within the 15% budget for health.
      · Increase access to MNCH services through community based health insurance schemes within the context of AU Social Policy Framework;
      · Enforcing zero tolerance policies on corruption in the health sector.
      Implementation and Monitoring and Evaluation Mechanisms
      · Make maternal and new born deaths notifiable;
      · Develop and strengthen monitoring, evaluation and information systems on SRH and child health by focusing on sex-disaggregated data collection, production, analysis and dissemination;
      · Extend the Continental Framework on Sexual and Reproductive Health (Maputo Plan of Action 2007-10) to 2015;
      · To develop and implement national action plans on MNCH based on national priorities and come with mechanisms for reporting progress annually at national level and at the sessions of AU Conference of Ministers of Health.
      Civil Society Organisations Commitments:
      · Strengthen civil society collaboration to hold governments accountable on their commitments on SRH and MNCH;
      · Strengthen coordination of interventions and campaigns with governments and the private sector to avoid duplication of efforts and resources;
      · Continue to provide SRHR and HIV information and services for women, adolescents and communities;
      · Continue to advocate for the power of informed choice and personal decision-making on SRHR and comprehensive prevention approaches;
      · Continue campaigns to end violence and all forms of discrimination against women and girls.

      Addis Ababa, Ethiopia April 18, 2010

      Abantu for Development
      African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET)
      Akina Mama wa Afrika
      Alliance for Reproductive Health Rights, Ghana
      Association Burundaise pour le Bien-Etre Familial (ABUBEF) Association Nigérienne pour le Bien Etre Familial Association Nigérienne pour le Bien Etre Familial (ANBEF) Niger Association Rwandaise pour le Bien-Etre Familial (ARBEF) Rwanda Campaign to End Paediatric HIV/AIDS – (CEPA)
      DSW Ethiopia
      East African Sub-Regional Support Initiative for the Advancement of Women (EASSI)
      Family Guidance Association of Ethiopia
      Fair Play for Africa Campaign
      Federation of Women Lawyers, Kenya
      Inter-African Committee against Harmful Practices (IAC)
      Ipas Africa Alliance
      IPPF-Africa Region
      Kenya Treatment Access Movement (KETAM)
      Save the Children International
      Solidarity for African Women’s Rights Coalition (SOAWR)
      The Rosebush Foundation
      UN Millennium Campaign (UNMC)-Africa
      Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), Benin

      1. Specific targets to promote sexual and reproductive health including maternal, child and infant health have been set in plans of actions and commitments by African governments in the Maputo Plan of Action for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights 2007-2010, Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa (2003); African Youth Charter, Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa (2004); Abuja Declaration on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Other Related Infectious Diseases (2001), African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (1990), The Convention on Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) (1979); Vienna Declaration on Human Rights (1993); International Conference on
      Population and Development (ICPD Plan of Action (1994); Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995), and The Millennium Declaration (2000) amongst others;
      2. Gaps between policy and practice remain significant. It is sad that mothers and newborns are no more likely to survive today than two decades ago with prospects worst in countries battling AIDS, conflict and poverty.
      Little progress has been made in the response to ensure that African women and girls enjoy sexual health and reproductive rights and services. Consequently, preventable, detectable and treatable obstetric complications-including post-partum haemorrhage, infections, eclampsia, anaemia (exacerbated by malaria and HIV), prolonged or obstructed labour and complications of unsafe abortion account for the majority of maternal deaths;
      3. Little progress has been made towards reducing under-five and infant mortality. Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for half of all deaths among children under five. For newborns, the greatest health risks are posed by severe infections, which include sepsis/pneumonia, tetanus and diarrhoea together with asphyxia and pre-term births. Close to one in seven children die before his or her fifth birthday as a result of weak child survival interventions-use of insecticide-treated bed nets (to prevent malaria), nutrition, antiretroviral treatment for pregnant mothers who are HIV-positive, exclusive breastfeeding and immunization;
      4. 36, 000 African women and girls die annually from unsafe abortion, accounting for 14 percent of all maternal deaths in the region and a higher percentage in many countries. Almost 60 percent of annual deaths from unsafe abortion in Africa occur among women and girls younger than 25 (WHO 2007). However, in many African countries laws criminalising safe abortion persist denying women access to safe abortion;
      5. The enjoyment of African women’s sexual and reproductive rights is hindered and compounded by other human rights issues including: inadequate access to information, education and services necessary to ensure sexual health; sexual violence, harmful traditional and customary practices affecting the health of women and children (such as early and forced marriage), and lack of legal capacity and equality in areas such as marriage and divorce;
      6. Improved health, sexual and reproductive health contributes to economic growth, societal equity, gender equality, and democratic governance, thus bringing tremendous benefits to women, families and societies. Reproductive health and rights are instrumental for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
      Best Practices in Africa
      · In 2002, Malawi rolled out an essential health: childhood vaccines; treatment of childhood infections such as tuberculosis, schistosomiasis, acute respiratory infections, and diarrhoeal diseases; prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections; prevention and management of malnutrition; and management of eye, ear, and skin infections. It has since been expanded to include neonatal services. Donors were invited to work together in funding the package. Malawi has also upgraded health facilities and trained armies of community health workers; clinical assistants to carry out emergency caesarean sections if there are no obstetricians. The number of nurses is beginning to improve, rising from one nurse per 4000 people inn 2005 to one per 3000 in 2008. Malawi is on track to reach the MDG for child deaths. Mortality among under five has dropped nearly 50% in 15 years to 122/1000. Maternal mortality is falling but remains high, at around 800/100 000 births.
      · Uganda in 2005, Côte d’Ivoire in 2008 and Mauritius in 2007, revised their population policy and instituted a road map for accelerating the reduction of maternal morbidity and mortality.
      · Botswana involves males in sexual and reproductive health interventions.
      · The United Republic of Tanzania and Mauritius provide pregnant women and children under-five with treated mosquito nets, in addition to free maternal and child health services. · Namibia provides adolescent-friendly health services and also conducts gender and reproductive health workshops.
      · Côte d’Ivoire has rehabilitated its structures offering emergency obstetric care, and equipped 135 medical structures with reproductive health facilities.
      · Botswana, Uganda and Zimbabwe provide female condoms free of charge.
      · Namibia has trained youth as peer educators and condom use promoters, such that about 64 per cent of youths in the age group 15-19 uses condoms during their first sexual intercourse, compared to 53 per cent of adult men.
      · Female genital mutilation is specifically addressed in enacted laws in Burkina Faso, Mauritania and the Niger.
      · Algeria, Comoros, the Congo, the Gambia, Morocco and Tunisia have prepared national strategies to combat VAW.
      · The Governments of Malawi and the United Republic of Tanzania have adopted gender budgeting and auditing initiatives incorporating gender-sensitive economic analysis in their budgetary plans.
      · Gender budget analysis has been conducted in the health sector in Mozambique more particularly on user fees.
      · Rwanda, over the last few years, with a committed Government and strong women’s health advocates and community involvement, has tripled the use of modern contraception, skilled birth attendance had increased to more than 50 percent and half of the deliveries now take place in health facilities.
      · In Ghana, the Government agreed to the requests of women’s health groups and decided that pregnant women will not be required to pay into national health insurance schemes.
      · In Mozambique, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Zambia and Mauritius, more skilled midwifes are being trained and deployed. More advanced skills are also being taught to carry out higher-level functions. In Egypt and Tunisia have halved their maternal mortality by increasing access to family planning and skilled birth attendance with emergency obstetric care. Women’s health advocates have been critical in igniting action to raise awareness to gender equality to bring about these changes.
      · Maternal mortality rate in Egypt is low due to efforts improving hospital facilities with equipments, increased training for health care providers, and increase in the blood banks community awareness, increase in family planning and antenatal care. In 2008, the Egyptian government passed laws banning both female genital mutilation and marriage of girls below 18 years of age considering that FGM and early marriage is a threat to reproductive health.
      · In Kenya, community midwifery training has been to improve maternal and newborn care by taking midwifery skills and care to women within their own homes through the provision of domiciliary midwifery.
      This strategy focuses on empowering retired midwives and midwives who are not employed and who are already living in the communities to assist women during pregnancy within their homes and to manage minor complications and to further facilitate referrals when necessary.
      · In Ethiopia and South Africa safe medical abortion is legal as a way of reducing maternal mortality.
      · In Djibouti, women have organized themselves to establish a community health fund. The fund supports health care visits during pregnancy and life-saving care during childbirth, including transportation, to ensure a safe delivery.
      · In Mozambique, women’s groups successfully campaigned to raise the legal age of marriage by 2 years to 16 with parental consent and to 18 without.
      · In Egypt, Ethiopia, Cote d’Ivoire, Mali and Nigeria, more girls are going to school, more births are attended by skilled health workers, more women and couples are using family planning. There is an increasing action by civil society to end violence against female genital mutilation and cutting.
      · In Uganda, women and their attendants are supported to stay near health facilities close to their due date
      · In Morocco, free transport is provided to obstetric health facilities in rural areas.

      Letter to President Zuma on the appointment on John Qwelane

      The Lesbian and Gay Equality Project (LGEP)


      The Lesbian and Gay Equality Project (LGEP) wrote to the President on 19 January 2010 regarding the appointment of John Qwelane to the post of High Commissioner to Uganda. Despite assurances that the matter would be addressed, there has been no reply, prompting this follow-up letter
      Dear Mr President

      Honourable Jacob Zuma


      The Lesbian and Gay Equality Project (LGEP) wrote to the President on 19 January 2010 regarding the above mentioned matter. On 5 February we received a letter from Mr Robert Ngobeni of the Presidency s Administration Services acknowledging receipt of the letter and assuring us that it will receive your attention.

      On 25 January 2010, the eve of the African Union Summit, The Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Ms Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said during a question we asked of her on a national radio station: "The ministry of international relations and co-operation, will respond to the Equality project's letter of concern , and added that if the President intends appointing Mr Jon Qwelane as the South African Ambassador to Uganda, the ministry will request a meeting between the Ministry the Presidency, the Equality Project including Mr Qwelane, to discuss the Equality Project's concerns . Ms Nkoana-Mashabae assured the public that we will not send anyone and anybody to represent themselves in another country, in contradiction to the country's constitution and the bill of rights."

      Mr President, despite these assurances no such meeting took place. We were therefore very puzzled to read reports that during your recent State visit to Uganda, Mr Qwelane was seen next to you in what appeared as a confirmation of his diplomatic status. Indeed, there were press reports that members of the South African Embassy in Uganda had confirmed Mr Qwelane s appointment. This, despite there being no official confirmation from either your office or your government s information services.

      In light of the above, Mr President, the Equality Project is left with no other option than to conclude that the pledges of your government to respond to, and engage, the views and concerns of South Africa's LGBTI and broader progressive community over the issue of Mr. Qwelane's appointment are not to be taken seriously. Further, at a time when violence and social discrimination against LGBTI persons in South Africa is rampant it must surely be paramount for our elected democratic leadership to openly commit to defending and upholding the entirety of the Bill of Rights in our Constitution.

      With all due respect Mr. President, in the absence of such a commitment, the message that is being sent to the LGBTI community is that neither their views nor their lives are considered meaningful and/or equal to other citizens.

      In struggle,

      Phumi Mtetwa
      Executive Director
      Lesbian and Gay Equality Project

      CC: Ms Maite Nkoana-Mashabane
      Minister: International Relations and Cooperation

      Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba
      Director General: International Relations and Cooperation

      Ms Lindiwe Zulu
      International Relations Adviser to the President

      Commissioner Pregs Govender
      Deputy Director: South African Human Rights Commission

      Mr Robert Ngobeni

      Phumzile S. Mtetwa
      Executive Director
      Lesbian and Gay Equality Project
      Tel: +27 11 487 3810/1
      Cell: +27 72 795 9194

      Fax: +27 11 487 2332 or +27 86 652 9523

      Email: [email protected]

      Physical Address:

      36 Grafton Road (Corner Hopkins Str.); Yeoville

      Postal Address:

      P O Box 27811; Yeoville; 2143

      South Africa


      Working for social, economic and political transformation!

      Katiba Sasa! Campaign

      Ensuring Kenya gets a new constitution


      The Katiba Sasa! Campaign is a civil society initiative aimed at ensuring that Kenya gets a new constitution. The National Civil Society Congress (NCSC) declares 2010 the Year of Transformation. The campaign was launched to ensure that Kenyans enact a new constitution to begin the process of transformation.

      As different groups align themselves with either the Yes or the No vote on the Proposed Constitution of Kenya (PCK), the Campaign has noted distortions and lies being told about the Proposed Constitution.

      The campaign’s brochure [PDF] corrects distortions on provisions on land, abortion, the disciplined/armed forces and the right to demonstrate/picket, representation and devolution, to enable Kenyans make the right choice. Through this information, Katiba Sasa! Campaign puts the facts right and begins preparing Kenyans to vote Yes for the Proposed Constitution of Kenya.


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

      Pan-African Postcard

      Are Sarkozy and Kagame playing games?

      Horace Campbell


      There is much uncertainty around the 2 March arrest of Agathe Habyarimana, widow of former Rwandan president Juvénal Habyarimana. Following a visit to Rwanda by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Agathe was arrested and subsequently released on bail, writes Horace Campbell, a turn of events that appears but a part of the murky collusion between Rwanda and France around the militarisation of the eastern DR Congo.

      Intrigue and uncertainty surround the arrest of Agathe Habyarimana in France on Tuesday 2 March. Agathe is the widow of the former president of Rwanda Juvénal Habyarimana. The fastest genocide in human history took place in Rwanda between April and July 1994. Both Juvénal and Agathe Habyarimana had been associated with the most extreme section of the Rwandan polity called the 'Akazu'. This was the section of Rwanda that promoted genocidal ideas, and their ideas were translated into the fastest genocide in history. Agathe Habyarimana, otherwise known as 'Lady Genocide', was referred to in Rwanda as the political force behind the Akazu, the extremists who organised and carried out the genocide.

      Since the overthrow of Mobutu Sese Seko in the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo), Agathe Habyarimana had sought asylum in France while there were efforts to extradite her for her role in the genocide. After living comfortably within the networks of planners of war and destabilisation for over 12 years, she was taken into custody days after French President Nicolas Sarkozy visited Rwanda in February 2010. President Nicolas Sarkozy of France admitted on Thursday that his France had made 'grave errors of judgment' in the 1994 Rwandan genocide, but stopped short of offering a formal apology. Instead of an apology, Sarkozy promised a new era of cooperation between Rwanda and France. Agathe was, thereafter, released on bail.

      Is this a farce or tragedy? Can the reader imagine if 16 years after the Nazi Holocaust the SS (Schutzstaffel), architects of the Nazi Holocaust, were living comfortably in a foreign country despite having been accused of killing six million Jews? With that in mind, we must also remember that Agathe Habyarimana is not the only suspected genocidaire who has been sheltered around the world. There is a diaspora of extremists from Rwanda who are coordinating wars in the Great Lakes region. Many of these extremists are living in Europe and North America. Félicien Kabuga is one of the most well-known of these extremists. Kabuga, who allegedly was the chief financier of the Interahamwe, lived comfortably as a businessman in Nairobi, Kenya, for many years. After living openly and colluding with the ruling elements in Kenya, Kabuga has disappeared from public view in Kenya, but has not been arrested, despite the fact that there has been a warrant out for his arrest from the International Criminal Court (ICC) for Rwanda.

      Both Agathe Habyarimana and Kabuga have been linked to the Interahamwe and Ex-FAR (Rwanda Armed Forces), the extremist militia that was mobilised for genocide against Tutsis in Rwanda. Since 1994 when the French army under Operation Turquoise assisted the Interahamwe and the Rwanda Armed Forces (Ex-FAR) to flee from the army of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), these genocidaires have made the eastern Congo a space of perpetual war and plunder. The Ex-FAR and the Interahamwe have since given different names to their so-called ‘rebel organisation’, and the most recent name is the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR). Literally, over a million Rwandese were held hostage in the eastern Congo by Interahamwe and Ex-FAR after 1994. From their bases in the Congo, they had carried out military forays into Rwanda. The war against Mobutu in 1996 released a million refugees who returned to Rwanda, and 40,000 of the most extreme genocidaires formed themselves into militant groups in the eastern DRC, especially North and South Kivu. While the rank and file lived in the eastern Congo, the architects of the genocide were involved in the business of war, plunder and trafficking while flipping between Cameroon, France, Kenya, the US, Germany and Belgium, coordinating a war in the eastern Congo and anticipating to go back and finish their work.


      Since 1996, militia groups in eastern Congo have been involved in war and the rape of women. The details of these wars are now linked to the plunder of the resources of eastern Congo. In the first five years after the genocide, Rwanda gained international sympathy because it claimed its war in the Congo was to combat those who had committed genocide. Since the peace accord of 2002 that ended the major wars in the Congo involving Uganda, Rwanda, Angola, Zimbabwe, Namibia and the government of the DRC, peace has eluded the people of the Congo. Despite the fact that the largest UN peacekeeping force (MONUC) now exists in the Congo, a UN Security Council report points to collusion between the Congolese army, the Ex-FAR and MONUC. These UN Security Council reports on war in the DRC make it clear that many military forces, including the Rwandan army, benefit financially from the militarisation of Eastern Congo.

      Since April 2009 there has been a bill before the US Senate, the Congo Conflict Minerals Act, that would require US companies selling products using tin, tantalum or tungsten to disclose the country of origin of the materials to the Securities and Exchange Commission. Progressives have been campaigning in the United States to ensure that the US government act and pass the Congo Conflict Minerals Trade Act of 2009 (HR 4128) into legislation to ensure that companies manufacturing, retailing or trading in minerals comprised of tin, tantalum, tungsten or gold originating in the DRC have the absolute obligation to defer finances from reaching armed groups and military units inflicting death, destruction and human rights abuses.


      Rwandan President Paul Kagame has ingratiated himself with the West by presenting himself as a victim, and has sought political support from progressive Africans for his fight against the Ex-FAR and Interahamwe. It is now clearer, however, that there is no political will from Rwanda under Paul Kagame to end the wars in the Congo. Rwanda and Uganda have in the past been named by the UN Security Council as plunderers of the resources of the Congo. The UN 'Report of the Panel of Experts on the illegal exploitation of natural resources and other forms of wealth of the Democratic Republic of Congo' estimated the Armée Patriotique Rwandaise has been earning about US$320 million a year from commercial operations in eastern Congo. Rwanda enjoys the distinction of being an exporter of coltan when coltan is not mined in Rwanda. From time to time when the violence and rape of women reach the international news, there are ritual noises about Rwanda withdrawing from the eastern Congo and reigning in its own militia. The arrest of General Laurent Nkunda in Rwanda must be seen as part of this ritual. There is a need for transparency and openness about Rwanda’s activities in the Congo if there is going to be peace in the Great Lakes region.

      From the records of the balance sheet of the Rwandan economy, it becomes clearer why it is imperative for Kagame and his foreign accomplices that the eastern DRC remain destabilised. Hence, the strategic planners of the West do not want an end to war and rape in the Congo. The Western governments and their non-governmental organisations that profit from ‘conflict situations’ in Africa are enablers of the Rwandan leadership and are complicit with the perpetuation of war. War is good business for arms manufacturers and for Western NGOs and humanitarianism. Peace-loving Africans have been concerned by the anti-Chinese rhetoric coming out of some sections of Europe. Kagame should come clean about what he discussed with the British Army Chief of General Staff (CGS) General Sir Richard Dannatt, who visited Rwanda in February 2009. These discussions have now been followed up by high-level visits from European leaders. What was the nature of the ‘regional security’ that was discussed? French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, a former official of a well-known international non-governmental organisation, had been working hard to smooth relations between France and Rwanda, especially after the French courts accused Kagame of downing the plane of former Rwandan president Juvénal Habyarimana. Because of the ambiguity of this incident – which has been blamed for triggering the genocide – it was urgent for Rwanda to expose the truth about what happened. Instead, there were intense secret consultations between Rwanda and France, leading to the first visit by a French president to Rwanda since the 1994 genocide.

      It was after Sarkozy left Rwanda that Agatha Habyarimana was arrested in France and later released on bail. Are Sarkozy and Kagame playing games? We ask this question because of the vitriolic anti-Chinese sentiments coming from certain European capitals, where there are accusations of China colonising the Congo. Fifty years after the West colluded to assassinate Patrice Lumumba and propped up Mobutu and Mobutuism, the same West is stoking the fires of war in the Congo. The political leadership in China itself has not been asleep. Earlier this year, General Ma Xiaotian, deputy chief of staff of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, visited the Congo to discuss bilateral ties and military cooperation. China is a member of the UN Security Council, and if there have been provocations against Chinese workers in the Congo to foment crisis, China should bring this matter to the AU (African Union) and to the public. We cannot afford another proxy war in Africa.

      Kagame and Sarkozy are two unpopular politicians. Sarkozy presented himself as a shameless racist when he gave a speech in Dakar, Senegal, in July 2007. He said:

      '[Colonialism in Africa] is not responsible for genocide. It is not responsible for dictators. It is not responsible for fanaticism. It is not responsible for the corruption, prevarication. It is not responsible for waste and pollution… The tragedy of Africa is that the African man has never really entered history. The African peasant … has known only the eternal renewal of time via the endless repetition of the same actions and the same words. In this mentality, where everything always starts over again, there is no place for human adventure, nor for any idea of progress.'

      Sarkozy insulted the people of Senegal and Africans everywhere. It is obvious that Sarkozy’s mindset and understanding of Africa is in no way different from that of the typical racist European portrayal of Africans over the centuries as a people without history, a people that lack the capability to build a harmonious society. It is this same Sarkozy that Kagame has now mended fences with and made his political bedfellow. Africans believe in forgiveness and ubuntu. But Africans also believe in the politics of truth. Why are the financiers of the Ex-FAR and the Interahamwe being organised and funded from the US and France? It has become obvious that for Kagame to continue mining coltan, there must be war in the Congo. And for this illegal mining, the construction of roads and railways is a threat to the plunderers of the Congo.

      Within Rwanda itself, prominent allies of Paul Kagame who formed the RPF (Rwandan Patriotic Front) have now run away. General Kayumba Nyamwasa, who was head of the army, and Patrick Karegeya, who was head of intelligence, have run away. Theogene Rudasingwa, who was the secretary-general of the RPF, has run away. Major Alfonse Furuma has run away. Even this week, other top officials of the RPF have exposed the deep dissent within the ruling party. These former officials must come clean on the level of collusion between the West and Kagame in the militarisation, destabilisation and plunder of the Congo. These former RPF leaders in the US and South Africa cannot hope to take power militarily. The problem of Rwanda and the Congo require peaceful solution. Decent French citizens should separate themselves from Sarkozy and those in France who colluded in the execution of the genocide and Operation Turquoise. Agathe Habyarimana should be arrested and those hiding Félicien Kabuga should be exposed. Paul Kagame must open the political process in Rwanda to put an end to military solutions to political problems. The capitalist crisis cannot be resolved by another long period of war and destruction in Africa.


      * Horace Campbell is a peace activist who is working to realise the dream of the late Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem of building African unity by 2015.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      Books & arts

      A problem of definition

      Review of 'Fire in the Soul – 100 Poems for Human Rights'

      Amira Kheir


      'Fire in the Soul – 100 Poems for Human Rights', writes Amira Kheir, is a great set of poetic works, but one whose 'human rights' framing 'does a disservice to the beautiful poems encapsulated in this collection'.

      The premise itself of a human rights-themed collection of poems might seem a bit bizarre to some of us. I was somewhat hesitant and fearful of cringe-worthy moments when I first picked it up and read the title of this New Internationalist edition of ‘Fire in the Soul – 100 Poems for Human Rights’.

      However, should you be sitting on the fence as to whether or not to flick through the pages of this publication, let me compel you to choose to engage and discover a new manifestation of the age-old union of art and politics. ‘Fire in the Soul’ reminds us that human rights – although increasingly marred by debates over the construction of an ideology, the politicisation of enshrined legal mechanisms and what sometimes appears to be a disguise for neo-imperialist agendas – are more simply and primordially an aspiration to our collective possibility. In the words of its editor Dinyar Godrej, 'The urge to realise who we are, the journey of becoming and being is at the heart of what we call human rights.'

      The collection is coloured by a range of stylistically and aesthetically diverse pieces, varying in content, structure, object and symbolism. From classics like Nazim Hikmet’s ‘On Living’ and Mahmoud Darwish’s ‘The World Is Closing In On Us’ to Ken Saro-Wiwa’s ‘The True Prison’, they contemplate questions of mental, institutional and collective imprisonment. From the riveting ‘We Are Struggling To Understand’ by Azad Essa, to Ama Ata Aidoo’s pungent ‘Speaking of Hurricanes’, they challenge normative notions of identity and its definition. From spellbinding sonnets of love in all its beauty and anguish like Forugh Farrokhzad’s ‘The Sin’ to Nadia Anjuman’s ‘Nazam’, they expose the vastness of human solitude and tenacity in the face of oppression. From Margaret Atwood’s ‘A Women’s Issue’ to Paul Celan’s ultimate call of despair ‘Deathfuge’, they pierce right to the core of questions of existence.

      However, there are some problems of definition that come to the surface. If we take the best of what we understand human rights to be – a basic minimum standard, an intangible entitlement to dignity, a preserving of all that constitutes our humanity – and de-contextualise the location and political baggage that comes with them, then human rights are a phenomenal endeavour and this collection a great emblem for them. It encompasses a multitude of different stories from different provenances, and resonates a powerful common theme of empathising with injustice.

      Yet as we know too well, politics are inextricably linked to human rights. The human rights discourse ignores the politicisation of its curtain definition and attempts to universalise issues (which sometimes cannot be universalised) by simplifying regional relativism and appealing to our common humanity. In extreme cases, we have seen the flag of human rights legitimate un-humane and un-rightful military invasions and interventions. Furthermore, the curtain title of ‘human rights’ is limiting to the array of human emotions, struggles, victories and defeats illustrated in these works. My problem is therefore one of definition rather than of content. The framing of this collection is its weakening factor. The overarching title of human rights is simply too loaded with a problematic sense of entitlement which does a disservice to the beautiful poems encapsulated in this collection.

      Consequently, that which it tries to convey so vigorously – and which it sets out to do quite uniquely – results in a manipulation of these relevant works in their own right, to the ends of the sometimes not so legitimate human rights agenda. Let's just say that reading through these poems is a pleasure and inspiration in spite of the fact that they have been branded and ‘marketed’ as human rights symbols. If this hadn’t been a collection drafted specifically for the purpose of joining in the universal choir to end a generalised view of all injustice and celebrate a generalised view of our common humanity, it would have been better. Simply, I am sceptical of the very dangerous curtain term of human rights itself, the connotation of an ideological revolution it carries with it and the multiple dimensions of historical, economic and context-specific burdens it ignores.

      Although it is a great tool for us to collectively fight injustice and reclaim citizenship and power, the human rights agenda at its worst is a mass-branding facet of globalisation, seeking to paint everyone with the same brush, often leaving little space for the real organic sprouting of beliefs. And like all institutions borne of a revolution, it becomes entrenched in its own beliefs, which substantiate it and hinder its progress in the face of the changing world around it. Like other institutions such as governments, nationhood and religion it becomes more preoccupied in sustaining itself rather than truly challenging and redefining what it stands for. And that is why even revolutions have to constantly be scrutinised, so that they continue to serve the best interests of people.


      * Dinyar Godrej (ed) 'Fire in the Soul – 100 Poems for Human Rights' (New Internationalist, Oxford, 2009, ISBN: 978-1-906523-16-9).
      * Amira Kheir is a freelance writer and musician based in London.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      Letters & Opinions

      An open letter to Oxfam America on its stance on biotechnology

      The Oakland Institute


      Oxfam America’s endorsement of biotechnology sets a very dangerous precedent of being used by the industry in their struggle to force the adoption of GM crops in spite of strong global resistance. The shocking endorsement of transgenic crops in the face of diverse and voluminous literature countering their stance, threatens to damage Oxfam’s relationship with longtime allies and its reputation as an independent organisation.

      Mr. Jeremy Hobbs
      Executive Director, Oxfam International
      266 Banbury Road, Suite 20
      Oxford OX2 7DL
      United Kingdom

      Mr. Ray Offenheiser
      President, Oxfam America
      1100 15th St., NW, Suite 600
      Washington, DC 20005
      United States of America

      April 12, 2010

      Dear Mr. Hobbs and Mr. Offenheiser:

      We the undersigned, as part of the global food justice and food sovereignty movement, are writing to you to express our grave concerns with the recent position publicized by Oxfam America in support of agricultural biotechnology as a viable solution for addressing poverty faced by resource poor and subsistence farmers in developing countries. We deemed necessary to write to you not just because of a recently released book, but also because Oxfam America appears to be positioning itself as a ‘good broker’ for independent research on Bt cotton in West Africa with support from the Gates Foundation.

      Recently released, Biotechnology and Agricultural Development: Transgenic Cotton, Rural Institutions and Resource-Poor Farmers, reports on the outcome of an Oxfam-America project funded by the Rockefeller Foundation. The book, edited by Robert Tripp, assesses the socio-economic impacts of genetically modified cotton on smallholder farmers in India, China, Colombia, and South Africa. Although the book alleges its neutral stance on biotechnology, it appears very biased in favor of transgenic crops. Its conclusion “transgenic crops offer enormous possibilities” not only contradicts several major assessments conducted by the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development. (IAASTD) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), it also ignores a significant body of natural and social science literature on the topic. As colleagues who share the principles of Oxfam’s mission to “influence the powerful to ensure that poor people can improve their lives and livelihoods,” we are deeply troubled that the study and its scientifically questionable (at best) conclusions, falsely support practices that hinder rather than help efforts to save lives, end poverty, and promote social justice. The publication betrays the vibrant global movement that is demanding a more ecologically sustainable and socially just agriculture, free from corporate control.

      In reviewing the publication we find it problematic for the following reasons, which we elaborate upon in this letter:

      1. False advertising on appearing neutral while endorsing GM crops
      2. Incomplete research using selective information to arrive at a pro-GM conclusion
      3. Its focus on GM crops as a solution to help resource-poor and subsistence farmers climb out of poverty


      The book claims its neutral stance on Bt cotton and purports that the study is “located outside the polarized debate.” The editor states strongly up front that “The narrow focus will not allow sweeping judgments certifying that transgenic crops are good or bad, appropriate or inappropriate.” Yet judgment about the benefits of Bt cotton is pervasive throughout the book.

      Conclusive statements lauding Bt cotton are made, such as, “Transgenic cotton producing insecticidal toxins is a highly effective technology in the battle to control pest damage to cotton,” and “the technology has proven generally successful in providing additional protection against several important cotton pests.” Each chapter features sweeping claims, such as that provided for the Chinese case study: “Bt cotton has made a significant contribution to Chinese cotton production… the new technology provided effective pest control and allowed farmers to increase their productivity.” According to the book, in South Africa “research has clearly shown that the Bt cotton technology works.” The authors conclude that in India “Bt hybrids contribute to cotton productivity.” Although the chapter on Colombia takes a more measured approach by positing that “it is not possible to attribute all of the productivity gains of Bt growers to the transgenic technology but it would certainly appear that it has made a positive contribution to those who have been able to use it.” None of the above can be characterized as being neutral. Furthermore, review of a very limited volume of existing data on the topic to draw its conclusions is not neutrality, but rather indicates a clear bias.


      The book omits critical empirical data and analysis that would otherwise lead to a widely different conclusion about the alleged productivity and success of Bt cotton. Also the findings within each country case study are contradictory.

      The book cites the Makhathini Flats experience in South Africa as the model example which “has been hailed as proof that GM crops can benefit smallholders in Africa.” Most informed observers know well that Makhathini Flats is considered a Potemkin village for the biotech industry whose lobbyists swoop down in delegations to visit a handful of carefully nurtured farmers with scripts extolling the wonders of Bt cotton. The book claims, “The majority of the literature has reported impressive adoption rates and positive economic returns.” How the authors arrived at such a sweeping claim of Bt cotton’s success is baffling.

      The study ignores significant scientific findings that arrive at a substantially different outcome. According to a five-year study of farmers in Makhathini Flats conducted by Biowatch South Africa, the majority of small-scale farmers did not benefit from Bt cotton. In fact, in their drive to purchase Bt cottonseeds—which are double the price of conventional seed—farmers amassed on average $1,322 in debt. Of the 36 farmers studied, only four made a profit, whereas 80 percent defaulted on their loans.

      Another study published in 2006 in the academic journal Review of African Political Economy found that widespread adoption of GM technology in the Makhatini Flats was the result of limited choices for farmers. The adoption rate was high in the first years because farmers had no other option – one company provided both credit and seeds. Although Bt cotton was supposed to reduce farmers’ dependence on pesticides, the study found that this was not the case due to the emergence of secondary pests, like jassid. Ignoring these findings, the book based on Oxfam’s project concludes “Research has clearly shown that the Bt cotton technology works and that both large-scale and smallholder farmers can benefit.”

      The chapter on China cites a 2002 and 2004 study (Huang et al) that found that “farm-level surveys in northern China show that the adoption of Bt cotton has raised cotton yields and allowed farmers to reduce their insecticide use.” The authors, however, fail to include findings from a major 2006 Cornell study jointly conducted with the Center for Chinese Agricultural Policy and Chinese Academy of Science. The team of researchers included Per Pinstrup-Andersen, the 2001 Food Prize Laureate and former Director General of IFPRI. The Cornell study found that seven years after the initial commercialization of Bt cotton in China, the profits enjoyed by Bt cotton growers quickly diminished due to the emergence of secondary pests. Another finding was that Bt cotton farmers spent more on secondary pest control as their conventional counterparts: $16 per hectare for Bt growers, versus $5.70 per hectare for non Bt farmers. By 2004, Bt cotton growers earned 8 percent less than their counterparts because GM seed cost triple the amount of conventional seed. It is also worthy to note that even before adoption of Bt cotton, pesticide use among Chinese farmers was already quite high in China, which does not bode well for current rates.

      In the case of India, the study omits other findings that counter its conclusions. The authors write, “The introduction of Bt cotton has coincided with increasing cotton yields and production in the past few years.” Summary of the book states, “although Bt cotton contributes to yield increases, its original purpose was to lower the requirements for insecticide use…The Bt growers spray less frequently than the non-Bt growers for bollworm… the Bt growers make somewhat fewer total insecticide applications and use a considerably lower quantity of insecticides….”

      In the first week of March, biotech agriculture giant Monsanto admitted to the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) of India, that field monitoring of the 2009 cotton season showed that pink bollworm has developed resistance to its genetically modified (GM) cotton variety, Bollgard I, in Amreli, Bhavnagar, Junagarh and Rajkot districts in Gujarat. This admission verified 2004 findings of the scientists at the Central Institute of Cotton Research in India who warned of the risk of pest resistance to Bt varieties in a paper published in the Indian Academy of Science publication. The authors established a theoretical model to predict resistance development in bollworms due to overuse of the cry1Ac gene.

      In a recent report submitted to Jairam Ramesh, India’s environment minister before Monsanto’s admission, K.R. Kranthi of the Central Institute for Cotton Research had cautioned that bollworms are developing resistance. The report also warned that not only has Bt cotton been rendered ineffective, it has also led to detection of some new pests never before reported from India, which are causing significant economic losses. Two reputable Indian publications, The Hindu and India Today, recently established that cotton productivity dropped from 560 kg lint per hectare in 2007 to 512 kg lint per hectare by 2009. While the Oxfam study found that “Bt growers make somewhat fewer total insecticide applications and use a considerably lower quantity of insecticides,” the two Indian publications reported an increase in pesticide expenditure by cotton farmers from Rs. 597 crore in 2002 to Rs. 791 crore in 2009.

      The chapter on Colombian farmers’ experiences with GM cotton concludes “it has made a positive contribution to those who have been able to use it.” This conclusion, however, is not backed by the data presented by the authors. For one, if Bt cotton was so successful, then why did the percentage of land devoted to Bt cotton production drop from 70% in 2005 to 40% by 2009? The Oxfam study admits that GM seeds did not save “farmers significant investment in insecticides,” but claims that “the technology’s principal advantage appears to be its yield enhancement.” But higher yields were not uniform across the areas studied. How can the authors conclude BT cotton to be a success when they found higher uses of insecticides for GM seed that costs three times the price of conventional seed? With a more complete and unbiased review of the extensive literature, the book may have drawn different conclusions.


      We are troubled by the book based on Oxfam’s project, not only because of its veiled endorsement of biotechnology based on selective data, but because it diverts attention from real solutions for smallholder and subsistence farmers: structural reform and ecologically based agriculture. We are alarmed by the emphasis on the promise of transgenic crops and advocating for greater institutional support to facilitate the technology. The study concludes that “Transgenic crops may make an important contribution, but even their most ardent supporters should agree that many other things must be in place in order for farmers to take full advantage of the technology.” This dangerously misses the mark if the goal is to achieve small holder-farmer viability and agricultural development. As we’ve countered in this letter, the Oxfam study’s narrow focus on short-term economic performance and yield productivity (based on faulty and selective data) without factoring in externalities clearly undermines any limited gains by farmers growing Bt cotton. It goes against Oxfam’s own advice that policymakers need two types of information to weigh transgenic crops: externalities and the impact on farmers and the agricultural economy.

      Unfortunately, the study focuses narrowly on yields and profit (using selective data) and “does not provide a rigorous assessment [of] environmental, health, and gender impacts.” Yet it contradicts itself. According to its March 18th press release, “An innovation such as a transgenic crop is not simply a technical solution, it is an intervention with social, economic, and political consequences.” Yet none of these effects are weighed, such as the long-term viability for small-scale farmers, the impact of increased use of insecticides on the health of farmers, their families and the ecosystem, high cost of GM seeds, and dependency on private companies for seed.

      According to the book, “The exceptional controversy engendered by agricultural biotechnology has pushed us into asking the wrong kinds of questions and engaging in the wrong types of debate.” Yet Oxfam America’s study misses the mark and deflects growing attention from real solutions now being discussed at the highest official channels (IAASTD and the UN) to grassroots food justice communities around the world.

      The Oxfam study does not challenge the consequences of resource-poor farmers’ dependency on seed that is vulnerable to the vagaries of pricing set by three multi-national corporations. According to the USDA National Statistics Service, biotech soybean seeds have more than doubled in price from 2001 to 2009 from $23.90 a bushel to $49.60 a bushel. According to a report by Farmer to Farmer Campaign on Genetic Engineering, royalties paid to Monsanto for the Roundup Ready trait in soybeans has also nearly tripled in the last decade from $6.50 in 2000 to $17.00 per bag by 2009.

      The study’s narrow focus completely ignores structural inequalities faced by small-scale and subsistence farmers in the Global South, such as the massive subsidization of agribusiness corporations in the EU and US, forced trade liberalization policies, and legacies of colonialism. This study gives the green light to biotechnology instead of challenging corporate control over our food systems. Instead of promoting a holistic approach built on ecologically based farming systems where extensive studies have demonstrated a wide swath of environmental, social, and economic benefits that hold great promise in resolving the ongoing food crisis and the adverse impacts of climate change, Oxfam America hails biotech.


      Oxfam America’s endorsement of biotechnology sets a very dangerous precedent of being used by the industry in their struggle to force the adoption of GM crops in spite of strong global resistance. The book based on the outcome of Oxfam America’s project and the shocking endorsement of transgenic crops in the face of diverse and voluminous literature countering their stance, threatens to damage Oxfam’s relationship with longtime allies and its reputation as an independent organization. Oxfam, with this study, appears to be siding with corporations, who have used cotton in their efforts to promote GM crops as a whole. Bt cotton is a Trojan horse for future GM crops, including sorghum, cassava, maize, rice and all the staple crops in the world.

      This reckless move also raises questions whether Oxfam America’s position endorsing GM crops is a result of significant funding from the Rockefeller and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundations. The Rockefeller Foundation provided financial support for Oxfam America’s Biotechnology and Development report. In November 2009, Oxfam America received a $491,270 grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation “to support the monitoring of bacillus thuringiensis cotton impact in West Africa.” These two foundations are explicit promoters of biotechnologies. The Gates Foundation has important ties with Monsanto, the leading company in the biotechnology industry, which has been using ‘revolving doors’ with Foundations and Government Agencies, to erase obstacles and reach its current leading position on the market. Unfortunately, historically and today, agroecological research and development receives a fraction of what biotechnology R&D receives, which this grant by the Gates Foundation perpetuates.

      Furthermore, Oxfam America supports the Global Food Security Act of 2009, also known as the Lugar-Casey Act, and claims it will “improve long-term food security by investing in long-term agricultural development.” The section 202 of this Act includes “research on biotechnological advances appropriate to local ecological conditions, including gm technology.” This bill gives favored treatment of biotechnology that is controlled by two or three companies, mostly by Monsanto which has invested over $8.6 million in lobbying Congress last year to pass the Lugar-Casey Act.

      Oxfam America is surrendering to the biotech industry and their corporate extensions and private foundations. By doing so it is selling out those it has committed to help and support, including resource-poor farmers, and all those defending health, biodiversity, and the environment. We hope Oxfam America will retract its stance on biotechnology and join the global farmer, environmental, and justice movements united around the world calling for an end to corporate domination and contamination of our food.


      African Biodiversity Network

      African Centre for Biosafety, South Africa

      Biowatch, South Africa

      Bharatiya Krishak Samaj/Indian Farmers Association, India

      Cathy Rutivi, IAASTD Advisory Bureau Member, Sub Saharan Africa

      Center for Food Safety, US

      CNOP (Coordination Nationale des organizations Paysannes/ National Coordination of Peasant Organizations), Mali

      Consumers Association of Penang (CAP),Malaysia

      Development Research Communication and Services Centre (DRCSC), West Bengal, India

      Earthlife Africa, South Africa

      Family Farm Defenders, US

      Food & Water Watch, US

      Food First, US

      Global Village Cameroon(GVC), Cameroon

      GRABE, Benin

      GRAIN, Spain

      Grassroots International, US

      International Development Exchange (IDEX), US

      Institute for Sustainable Development, Ethiopia

      Surplus People's Project, South Africa

      Kalpavriksh Environmental Action Group, India

      Kalanjium Unorganised Worker's Union, India

      Kalanjium Women Farmer's Association, India

      Kheti Virasat Mission, Punjab, India

      Dr Mira Shiva, Initiative for Health , Equity and Society, Diverse Women for Diversity, India

      Ndima Community Services, South Africa

      Pambazuka News, Kenya, Senegal, South Africa, UK

      PLANT (Partners for the Land and Agricultural Needs of Traditional Peoples, US

      Tamilnadu Resource Team, India

      Tamilnadu Women's Collective, India

      The South African Freeze Alliance on Genetic Engineering (SAFeAGE), South Africa

      Safe Food Coalition, South Africa

      Thamizhaga Vivasayigal Sangam/Farmers Association Of Tamil Nadu, India

      The Oakland Institute, US

      Vandana Shiva, Navdanya, India

      The Ujamaa revolution



      The Kenyan people cannot have leaders who don’t have their interests at heart, writes redINK, ‘We must organise ourselves and identify a genuine alternative leadership.’

      ‘You can fool some people sometime but you can’t fool all the people all the time’ Peter Tosh.

      Easy targets is what we Kenyans are, very easy targets indeed. The same bag of tricks that was used to swindle us out of power in 1963 are still the same tricks currently being employed to totally alienate us from freedom and prosperity. They have used our ignorance and irrationality against us; they have used our tribally aligned shortcomings to incite us; they have used our hunger and poverty to control us and they have certainly used state machinery to clobber our scanty resentment. Yet still, in our ethnic cocoons, we cheer on as they rob, rape, steal and kill with impunity. Our docile acceptance of these tribal war lords is a shame and a betrayal to the future of the Afreekan people.

      The Kenyan government, like every other African government, is a neo colonial government. Omali Yeshitela chairman of the African Socialist International puts it in clear perspective, ‘Neo colonialism is white power in a black face’. This simply means that we have black British and American political leaders. Has it ever come to your notice that in each election year our most potential presidential candidates spend many hours between amerikkka and brutiain? Moi, J.M, Kenyatta, Jaramogi, Ouko, Matiba, Muliro, Kibaki, Uhuru, Orengo, Kalonzo, Raila; black home guard faces exercising white imperial power against their own people. ‘WASHINDWE!’ We cannot have leaders who don’t have our interests at heart. We refuse to accept a leadership that is dependent on western charity and is not accountable to its people. We can no longer continue to support these lazy and arrogant families of the home guard fraternity. They have fooled and used us long enough and this time we are not willing play a recipient role. We must come together and speak to each other. We must organise ourselves and identify a genuine alternative leadership. A call to all Kenyans, all Afrikans, to rise up and participate in the liberation of Afreeka.

      As we organise ourselves towards freedom, they will initially attempt to ignore us. It will be impossible to ignore 10 million voting Kenyans. They will then advance the struggle and use the mainstream media to brand, abuse, ridicule and dismiss us. It will be silly to dismiss 11 million voting Kenyans. They will then endeavour to arm twist and co-opt our leadership. I don’t know how they will manage to arm twist 12 million voting Kenyans nor do I think that they have the money to co-opt 13 million voting revolutionaries. When all their corruptive attempts end in vain, they will then proceed to imprison, torture and kill a few of us in order to arouse the Kenyan curse of irrepressible fear. We fear no more. A new consciousness is growing amongst the Afreekan youths. In Kenya, come election time in 2012,
      things will be different, very different. We shall attempt a revolution, a bloodless revolution, a youthful revolution, a vote revolution, a silent revolution, a conscious, non-violent revolution by Afreekans for a united, free and prosperous Afreeka. We call it the Ujamaa Revolution.

      They have fooled us a long time; they will not fool us this time. Afreeka MOJA, Afreeka HURU!

      African Writers’ Corner

      Expressing your own spirit

      Ben Okri interviewed by Zahra Moloo


      The following is an audio interview [mp3] with Nigerian poet and novelist Ben Okri, conducted by Zahra Moloo. Commenting on the influences on his writing, Okri discusses a writer's 'natural journey' and the importance of drawing upon as wide a set of literature as possible.

      * Zahra Moloo is an independent journalist from Kenya, currently based in London, UK.
      * This is an independently produced audio piece, which previously featured on the Amandla! radio show at CKUT 90.3FM radio station in Montreal, Canada.


      Paula Akugizibwe


      What do you do with numbers so big that
      They stop being people
      And start being data
      And you put them on paper
      And make life or death
      With tired calculators
      What do you do with your heart so big
      Do you put it on freeze
      Shun the bleeding disease
      Do you take it in stride
      Would you still feel alive
      Do you sustain
      A million little bolts of pain
      Or deny that bitter refrain
      and Stay Calm?

      * Paula Akugizibwe is a Rwandan health and human rights activist.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      Blogging Africa

      What are the donors really doing in Haiti?

      Sokari Ekine


      ‘Humanitarian intervention’ in Haiti, South African attitudes to HIV/AIDS and condom use, police killings in Lagos and everyday life in the aftermath of an earthquake are among the stories covered by Sokari Ekine in this week’s overview of the African blogosphere.

      More than three months has passed since the Haitian earthquake, dignitaries have come, had their photo shots with a few chosen survivors, held babies in their arms, given speeches on the resilience of the Haitian people and lots of promises then returned to their mansions and lives of excess. I wonder if they get the irony of the costs incurred by their ‘do-gooder’ visits. What exactly is the point? It changes nothing for the Haitian people; instead the NGOs, aid agencies, missionaries and rabble of ‘do-gooders’ who descended on Haiti under the guise of ‘humanitarian intervention’ have profited on the backs of the people and their pain.

      As Ezili Danto writes in the ‘The Plantation called Haiti: Feudal Pillage Masking as Aid’ like buzzards hungry for food they wait to devour Port-au-Prince and rebuild in their own image ‘tourist enclaves and waterfront casinos’ along with garment factories for cheap T-shirts and mango farms to fill the grocery baskets back home in the USA. Commenting on the 31 March UN donor meeting in New York she writes:

      ‘The colonial marketplace called Haiti - which the World Superpower amuses itself with, by apportioning off, at will, to various nations and commercial allies - needs no more to be a Bush-Clinton dream place except to get rid of the recalcitrant African population and import a more submissive workforce. Maybe China has been approached to help in this next step?

      ‘Boiling down and bringing to focus the big picture, the US has had a hand in fifty solid years of US-supported dictatorship in Haiti. Starting from 1957 to 2010 with (2006 to 2010) 4-years of sham election-for-exclusion-of-the-masses and some brave but brief glimpses of opposition to US “neoliberalism” for 7-months in 1991 and then barely 3 years from 2001 to 2004. February 29, 2004 was the last time Haiti’s masses were included in Haiti’s political life. This US rule in Haiti is nothing if not a rousing success of the US’s crushing might over the defenseless Black Haitian majority's wishes for a better life, for use of the resources of their own country to elevate their circumstances. But at the March 31st UN Donor Meeting, the US-led in the continued “rescue” of Haiti from, presumably, the “evil and corrupt Haitian government” unable to rule their own people, too weak to prevent the catastrophe wrought on by a 7.0 earthquake.’

      Project Jacmel personalises the impact of the earthquake and the aftermath pillage through the story of film student and artist, Claudel ‘Zaka’ Chery. The earthquake destroyed the school but the students managed to salvage some equipment which they are using to document the lives of the people on the streets. Claudel, who lost his best friend and mentor, has taken the camera and turned it on himself:

      ‘I feel I’ve lived some really bad times, but I found something good in those bad times,’ he said. ‘I want to show the world what happens when people live such hard times.’

      The Haitian Blogger asks the whereabouts of the American Red Cross who collected more than US$409 million in donations. The ARC claim they are working on the ground but no one is seeing evidence of this. Haitian Blogger’s comments are based on an investigative video report by ‘teslakontrol's’ to try to find out where the millions the ARC claimed to have spent in a recent report e.g. ’75% of the homeless received emergency shelter materials’ ‘$55 millions in food’:
      ‘Haitians who have been on the ground in Haiti don't see the evidence for these assertions made by the Red Cross. Nadine Renazile, a Haitian-American and Lead Librarian at Columbia University says, "I saw two 'local' Haitian Red Cross buildings while in Haiti. They were a disgrace to the organization. What money and aid are being provided to the local chapters were not evident.’

      A camp inhabitant interviewed in the video above present "cookies" that they were given by the World Food Programme. One resident says the water provided by the Red Cross was giving her a stomach ache. Another said that besides coming around to give water and vaccinations, they have not gotten food aid from the Red Cross. From the makeshift blankets on stilts behind her, the Red Cross is not providing water-proof tents either. The camp is just yards away from Red Cross headquarters in Port-au-Prince. The video was made in March and uploaded to YouTube on April 1st of this year.’

      Africa is a Country reports on his recent visit to the Apartheid Museum just outside Soweto, which he says is struggling to attract South Africans especially younger people. As part of a campaign to attract younger people, interviewers went into the streets and randomly asked young people what they knew about South Africa with some interesting results:

      ‘We simply asked them to identify a series of famous people. First popular culture icons and lastly a famous anti-apartheid leader. The result, as you can get a sense from the videos below, “…Over 86% of the people interviewed easily recognised the popular figures and failed to identify the South African anti-apartheid leader.” I was less surprise that the young people in the videos could not could identify Albert Luthuli, the first South African to win a Nobel Prize. What was more disturbing when one of them thought Joe Slovo, leader of the ANC’s armed wing, Communist leader and later the first Housing Minister in a democratic government, was Hendrik Verwoerd, Apartheid prime minister during the 1960s until he was murdered by a coloured parliamentary worker.’

      Fungai Neni has a worrying story about the failure of young men in using condoms. She decided to interview some young people in Johannesburg following an AIDS gala featuring clothes made out of condoms:

      ‘I admit my sample was very small, but here’s what a few people had to say:

      “I don’t use condoms because they are the very cause of HIV, particularly those government condoms you get for free. The HIV is actually in those condoms because the white man wants to kill us.”
      Pierre (mid-20s) from Congo

      “Hey, after a while, I just forget about it (using condoms). I only get scared of HIV and stuff when I see it on TV, but otherwise, it’s not so big a deal to me.”
      Katlego (27)

      ‘I won’t go into the rest of the comments because they are pretty similar. It would seem more people than we realise aren’t getting tested for HIV and aren’t using condoms. Maybe I am making a gross generalisation here, which is why I want to know what you think.’

      Black Looks comments on yet again more police killings in Nigeria, this time in the Lagos working class district of Ajegunle:

      ‘Ajegunle is Lagos’s largest working class neighbourhood and home to millions of people with no water and no sanitation. Since there is no electricity and people cannot always afford to buy a generator the “viewing centers” become community hubs where people can watch films and other forms of entertainment with their families and friends. The question is, do the poor have a right to entertainment or is that something just for the rich who can afford to visit the fancy air conditioned and licensed cinemas in exclusive enclaves? The gap between rich and poor in Nigeria is not just a huge gaping hole but one where the disdain and dismissal of the poor is disturbing. The Nigerian Police, as the video below shows, treat the poor like criminals to be harassed and bribed at will. Since the end of military rule in Nigeria, the police have become the face of the army. They are run as a military institution, armed as a military institution and have the mindset of the military rather than a civilian police force whose primary role is to protect not brutalise the public.’


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

      Emerging powers in Africa Watch

      A new battleground: Chinese culture in Sudan

      Owen Grafham


      While the greatest foreign influences on Sudanese youth culture have been predominantly American in recent years, there are signs that the Chinese government is beginning to get in on the act, writes Owen Grafham.

      Walk down any of Khartoum’s major roads and you will find Chinese products lining the roadsides. Much has been made about China’s push into Africa, and Sudan is pivotal to China’s interests in the region. But China has been slow to match its economic activity with a coherent cultural development strategy. Now there are signs this could be about to change.

      Even a cursory knowledge of Sudanese youth is enough to reveal that America is still the dominant overseas influence. One student, Mohammed, at Sudan University, told me that:

      'We watch their television, we listen to their music. Of course the American influence is large.'

      This cultural dominance creates more than just superficial changes in the youth population. The economic spill-over effects of exporting a culture can reveal itself in enrolment at foreign universities, language courses (at home and abroad), and global emigration and tourism patterns. Of the cultural bodies currently working in Khartoum, the British Council and the American Embassy both hold regular ‘cultural events’, including poetry recitals, movie screenings and musical concerts. Both bodies, and particularly the British Council, also play pivotal roles in the local educational infrastructure. The British Council recently held and sponsored a three-day event under the maxim of 'Time for change at tertiary level in Sudan', which aimed to revamp the entire structure of university education in Khartoum.

      Recent signs suggest that China may finally have decided that the time is right to join this cultural battleground. An implementation programme signed at the end of January between Ethiopia and China has pledged to enhance the two nations' cultural cooperation over the course of the next four years. This agreement kicked off with a Chinese Film Festival in Addis Ababa, but the cultural agreement is intended to produce long-lasting visible manifestations of cultural contact between China and the region. The Chinese consulate in Khartoum told me that they currently had no plans to initiate cultural or language-based activities. However, events on the ground suggest that the Sudanese population is becoming more attuned to the potential of China to influence their daily lives.

      The number of students studying Chinese language at Khartoum University has risen from 35 in 2005 to more than 180 this year. The department is currently in the process of relocating to a bigger premises. One student, currently studying at Khartoum University, told me that:

      'With Chinese and Arabic it is easy to get a job. If I can speak Chinese then I can get a good job as a translator with a Chinese company and earn a lot of money… Chinese is definitely more beneficial than English here in Khartoum.'

      By 2008, an estimated 120,000 worldwide students will travel from abroad to go to college at a Chinese university, up from 8,000 less than a decade before. Yet the expanding Chinese presence in Africa has not developed entirely without strife. Conflicts between Chinese immigrants and local populations have erupted in Zambia (2006), Ethiopia (2007), Nigeria (2007), South Africa (2007), Cameroon (2009) and Algeria (2009).

      Although the Chinese department at Khartoum University was keen to tell me about the good cultural ties between China and Sudan, local businessmen seem to possess a mild antagonism. There is a broad awareness of the Chinese preference for importing labour and materials to the detriment of the local Sudanese workforce. There is also a certain resistance to the flooding of local markets by cheap Chinese products, which can increase competition and stifle local production. And scepticism about China’s involvement in Africa has not merely come from ‘the bottom-up’. Rhetoric from figures as senior as former South African president Thabo Mbeki has warned against China’s 'new form of neocolonialist adventure' on the African continent. Yet the cultural influence of the Chinese on Khartoum remains rather elite and withdrawn, restricted to a smattering of Chinese restaurants and a restricted population based in the wealthy areas around Riyyad district.

      Clearly, given China’s ever-growing stature in world affairs, Chinese cultural activity in Sudan will only increase over the course of the coming years. Yet to what extent China is able to ‘win over’ the Sudanese people and topple America as the bastion of cultural norms remains to be seen. The signs are clear that China is ready to expand its remit in Africa and Sudan, as one of China’s most significant partners, will surely not have to wait long to find out what this development means for them.


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

      Men, mahjong and money: Chinese migrants in Khartoum

      Owen Grafham


      Accompanied by Nomie, a Chinese female translator, Owen Grafham describes interacting with Chinese migrant workers in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum.

      Nomie is of small, slim stature. When we first meet she is wearing a large, wide-brimmed hat (think Indiana Jones), white khakis and a long-sleeved pastel shirt. Born and educated in Xian, Nomie, a 26-year-old translator, she now finds herself in Bahary, Khartoum, working in the middle of a large construction project which will provide an extra source of power for thousands of residents in the neighbourhood.

      Nomie’s neighbourhood is a relatively wealthy suburb of industrial northern Khartoum. It is not particularly pretty, but there are not many parts of Khartoum that can be described that way anyway. We meet her at the large mosque, by far the standout feature of the area, and take the dusty five-minute walk to her apartment, skipping over holes in the ground and dodging the small football game going on nearby.

      Her house is, on first impressions, wonderful. Large enough to be described as a small mansion, it has a clean, tiled floor and a spacious modern feel. We enter through an archway adorned with Chinese new year slogans and we are greeted by several of Nomie’s colleagues, who, we are told, speak pidgin ‘Sudanese-English’ but are shy to attempt it in front of us. With our basic, faltering Chinese we greet these new friends and are ushered upstairs past several partially clothed Chinese men and into Nomie’s room. It is small and sparse. There is one bed with a (ineffective) mosquito net, one desk and one chair. Surprised by the smallness of the room given the size of the house, we ask how many people live here. Nomie’s reply reveals that the number is somewhere between 60 and 70, shared between two adjacent houses.

      After gladly welcoming the offer of Jasmine tea, we go into the room of Nomie’s boss, Mr Wong. Mr Wong, although busy, is kind enough to welcome us enthusiastically and it is in his room that we begin to chat. Mr Wong, who spends two hours every night teaching himself English from CD-ROM packages, seems to be our secondary host. He is noticeably one of the older members of staff here. The power station, it seems, is by and large a young man’s game. Nomie is, in fact, one of three women on the site and Mr Wong is one of only two people we meet who look over 30. The project has no specific time span: 'It will be done when it is done', we hear. They have been here for four months already but things are progressing slower than hoped. Nomie explains that the Chinese and the Sudanese have very different working methods. The Sudanese are insistent on checking details, to the detriment of making progress Nomie says. They lack punctuality and do not appreciate the need of Nomie and her co-workers to organise their routines in advance. Mr Wong’s English, which is basic but admirable, is not particularly suited to an in-depth discussion of feelings, but he is unsurprisingly passionate when drawn on to mention his family. He has left a beautiful wife and a daughter back in the central Chinese province of Hubei. The pictures which he shows us from his laptop reveal a wonderful young family. So why did he leave to come here we ask?

      The motivation is, rather unsurprisingly, financial. The workers here work six days a week, 8am–6pm with a two-hour lunch break designed to accommodate food and siesta time. Transport to and from the power plant is in the form of a private driver, provided by the company. Food (breakfast, lunch and dinner) is provided by the on-site chef who cooks 'home-style' Chinese food. Entertainment is almost exclusively ‘in-house’. The workers at this power plant are spending, I estimate, as close to nothing as is almost humanly possible.

      Nomie seems to think that she is the only one in the group who is interested in Khartoum’s cultural offerings. The others, she says, are content to spend their weekly day-off sleeping and playing mahjong. Nomie had hoped to learn some Arabic but her attempts to set up language exchange programmes with English–Arabic translators at the power plant have fallen through. She seems to have rather accepted that she, like the others in the company, will fail to learn any Arabic. Nomie is, after four months in Khartoum, looking forward to returning home. She is frustrated by the delays at work and misses her family, friends and her usual routine. The incessant heat and dust of Khartoum is becoming rather difficult to bear and she is allergic to the mosquito bites she is getting.

      That night we eat fish, steamed rice and Chinese salad. Rather greedily we eat two helpings, the simple quality of the food makes a welcome break from the Sudanese staple that we have become acquainted to. We then, after much prompting, join in the evening’s round of mahjong, forcing us to hastily brush up on our Chinese number characters. After some initial luck (and some help from an ever-increasing crowd of amused onlookers), we eventually are respectably beaten. Obligatory photos notwithstanding, we exit, promising to meet again in the near future and introduce Nomie to some of the local Sudanese cuisine.

      The smells, sights and sounds coming from inside the house resonate in the quiet Sudanese night as we retrace our steps to the roadside. Insulated from everything but the heat and dust, this is a day in the life of Nomie. It is an un-glamourous picture of men, mahjong and money.

      N.B.: Some days later we heard that Mr Wong had contracted malaria and was very ill. Nomie eventually accompanied Mr Wong home and replacements were sent in their stead. The project is continuing as planned.


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

      Highlights French edition

      Pambazuka News 142: Les enjeux des alternatives agricoles en Afrique


      Zimbabwe update

      Mugabe welcomes Ahmadinejad


      President Robert Mugabe welcomed Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Zimbabwe Thursday, a meeting of two leaders united in fierce opposition to the West. Mugabe met Ahmadinejad at the Harare airport Thursday afternoon.

      PM laments lack of progress


      Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has lamented the failure of the unity government to fully implement all the terms of the Global Political Agreement by partners in the inclusive government saying this was holding back economic revival progress. The Prime Minister said this in his opening address of a business conference held at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) in Bulawayo Wednesday.

      South Africa refuses to accept new Zimbabwe travel document


      Thousands of Zimbabweans have been left stranded at the Beitbridge border post after South African immigration officials refused to recognize a newly introduced Temporary Travel Document. According to reports from the state owned Herald newspaper ‘South African port officials allegedly fired their guns to frighten the affected travellers into crossing back to the Zimbabwean side of the border

      ZANU PF threatens crackdown on MDC after World Cup


      Villagers in districts of Mashonaland East provinces have been told to brace themselves for more political violence, following ‘promises’ from ZANU PF officials they would be dealt with after the 2010 World cup finals. Pressure group, Zimbabwe Democracy Now, issued a statement Thursday detailing how Mike Chiwodza, a ZANU PF district chairman, has been going around the province telling villagers ‘We will kill you after the World Cup.’

      African Union Monitor

      Africa: AU Commission chief in US for high level meetings


      African Union (AU) Commission Chair Jean Ping is in the US for a series of meetings, including the first annual US-AU High Level Bilateral Meeting at the State Department here. During his trip, Ping, who is leading an AU delegation, will discuss issues of mutual concern with some of the most senior US officials, including the Attorney General, USAID Administrator Raj Shah and the U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk.

      Women & gender

      DRC: Refugee agency dismayed by impunity for endemic rape


      The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has spoken out against the large number of rapes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), voicing concern at the impunity with which the attacks are being carried out. On average, 14 assaults have been recorded daily over the past three months, but “we fear that the real numbers could be much higher considering that many survivors keep silent for fear of being ostracized,” agency spokesperson Melissa Fleming told reporters in Geneva.

      Global: The Beijing Platform for Action 15 years on


      This year marks the 15th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action (BPfA). A 15-year Review of the implementation of the BPfA (Beijing +15) has seen civil society organisations contribute numerous studies, reports, statements and updates on whether or not commitments made have been met and to offer recommendations on how to improve policy and practice. This update from Siyanda brings together a selection of these materials.

      Haiti: Sexual violence in displaced camps


      Since the first days of the earthquake, many humanitarian and human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, have issued warnings about the increased risk of gender based and sexual violence. The risks are well founded. Thousands of displaced people are sleeping in public spaces in just one square meter or even less; women are obliged to bath almost naked under the eyes of the other residents and passers-by; children sleep alone at night because they are unaccompanied or their mothers are working outside the camps in order to feed them.

      Kenya: New law to benefit women, say lawyers


      Women and children will benefit equitably from family and national resources should the proposed constitution sail through, law experts have said. Speaking at a land reform forum Friday, law experts said the draft law guarantee equitable access to matrimonial property and public land, and provides for the enactment of laws to govern the same.

      Human rights

      Africa: Human rights laws 'should be in national languages'


      The African Union (AU) Commissioner for Human and People's Rights, Sioyata Maiga, on Monday urged the media to publicize human rights related issues in local languages. She made the appeal on arrival in the Angolan capital, Luanda, at the head of a delegation of the African Commission for Human and People's Rights (ACHPR) for an 8-day official visit to assess the progress of human rights in the country.

      DRC: Army 'killed civilians' in Mbandaka


      The Democratic Republic of Congo army killed at least 11 civilians as it retook the airport in Mbandaka from rebels this month, a rights group says. The Asadho campaign group says it has confirmed 11 killings but suspects another 31 during the Easter attack. Nine of the dead had been in detention for three months but were then accused of being rebels and killed, it said. The government is investigating.

      Nigeria: Governors threaten to execute prisoners to ease congestion


      Amnesty International has condemned a reported move by Nigerian state governors to execute death row inmates to ease overcrowding and urged the authorities to instead address the underlying problems in the criminal justice system.

      Somalia: Press all sides to end abuses


      Participants to this week's international meeting on Somalia should press for an immediate end to abuses against civilians by Somalia's transitional government, African Union forces, and armed opposition groups, Human Rights Watch said in an open letter.

      Refugees & forced migration

      Egypt: Cairo Refugee Film Festival 2010

      Call for films


      The Cairo Refugee Film Festival (CRFF) is an Initiative that started in 2009 with the aim of organizing a film festival commemorating the World Refugee Day in June. For more information on last festival, please click here. This year, the initiative is supported by several collaborators namely St. Andrew’s Church and Congregation (Refugee Ministry), the Center for Migration and Refugee Studies (CMRS) at the American University in Cairo, Egyptian Foundation for Refugee Rights (EFRR) and Tadamon: Egypt-Refugee Multicultural Council as well as others.
      The Cairo Refugee Film Festival (CRFF) is an Initiative that started in 2009 with the aim of organizing a film festival commemorating the World Refugee Day in June. For more information on last festival, please click here. This year, the initiative is supported by several collaborators namely St. Andrew’s Church and Congregation (Refugee Ministry), the Center for Migration and Refugee Studies (CMRS) at the American University in Cairo, Egyptian Foundation for Refugee Rights (EFRR) and Tadamon: Egypt-Refugee Multicultural Council as well as others.

      The Cairo Refugee Film Festival is calling for films to be screened in June 2010 in Cairo, Egypt. The 2010 Festival aims at providing the Cairene audience with a critical yet hopeful look at the lives of refugees around the world.
      For general inquiries, please e-mail: [email protected]

      Films meeting the following conditions are eligible for screening:
      1. Documentaries and feature movies focusing on the resilience, struggle and coping mechanisms of refugees around the world
      2. Films with English subtitles (if not originally in English).
      3. Films produced after January 2008.

      Film and Relevant Information Submission
      Each participant is kindly asked to submit the following information:
      1. Title of the film
      2. A 150-word synopsis of the film
      3. Trailer of the film
      4. Website of the film (if any)

      Final Selection
      The film will be viewed by the Festival’s Committee. The participant will then be informed of their decision to screen or not to screen the film no later than 22 May, 2010.
      Selected Films
      The works that will be selected for screening at the Festival:
      1. Must be rights-cleared
      2. Will be subjected to Arabic subtitling
      3. Will be stored for educational purposes

      Shipping Information
      Please note that:
      1. Shipping expenses to the Festival for selection are to be paid by the entrants.
      2. We need to be informed by e-mail of the title of the film, the date it has been sent, and the name and address of the participant. E-mail: [email protected]
      3. DVDs should be sent to:
      Outreach program
      Center for Migration and Refugee Studies, American University in Cairo
      113 El Kasr El Aini Street, P.O BOX 2511
      Cairo 11511, Egypt
      4. Deliveries from abroad should bear the following note: “Temporary Import – for cultural purposes only, of no commercial value”

      Deadline for Submission: 20 May, 2010

      Egypt: Sudanese refugee dies due to torture

      The Contemporary Sudanese Centre


      Mr. Isaac Ismail Matar Mohammed died in one of the secret Egyptian security prisons where he was detained involuntarily since January 16, 2010 with two of his comrades from the neighborhood of October Sixth. The news spread amongst the refugees that the detainees were being subjected to various forms of torture including beatings, electric shocks and immersion in cold water. The victim’s body was not able to stand the torture and he died in detention three weeks ago.
      Mr. Isaac Ismail Matar Mohammed died in one of the secret Egyptian security prisons where he was detained involuntarily since January 16, 2010 with two of his comrades from the neighborhood of October Sixth. The news spread amongst the refugees that the detainees were being subjected to various forms of torture including beatings, electric shocks and immersion in cold water. The victim’s body was not able to stand the torture and he died in detention three weeks ago.

      The number of Sudanese refugees and asylum-seekers detained in the different prisons in Egypt is still unknown. They face torture and trials that do not meet the most basic rights of the defender nor do they meet the fundamentals of fair trials. The arrests took place during the first months of this year. A campaign of arrests was launched by the Egyptian state security apparatus against refugees and asylum seekers, mostly from the troubled Darfur region, most notably under the allegations of assisting people to infiltrate into Israel.

      Large numbers of detainees have disappeared involuntarily for a period of three months. They were later located in State Security centers where they appeared in Tora prison on April 8th before the court of Abbasia and they were indicted by the State Security Prosecution. It was reported in the news at the time that two of the refugees - did not specify their names - were transferred to the hospital and that a third one lost his mind as a result of torture while another refugee, Isaac Matar, lost his life for the same reason.

      Mr. Isaac Matar, nicknamed Uncle Isaac, is a 53-year-old man who was born in the town of Seleia South of Darfur. He is the father of two daughters and two sons and he had left his home after being subjected to torture and persecution that has caused paralysis in the some organs of his heart and he was waiting for an operation to repair a valve of the heart. The UNHCR and its implementing partner Caritas have been slow to act due to the high cost of the operation. It is believed that Mr. Matar died due to an electric shock he received inside the prison.

      It is noteworthy that the Sudanese Embassy in Cairo cooperates with the Egyptian security authorities in the campaigns of arrest, torture and deportation of refugees to Sudan with travel documents issued by the embassy. Friends of the deceased refugee, Isaac Matar, received a call from the Sudanese Embassy on the night of April 19th conveying to them the news of his death while he was detained at the Egyptian State Security without specifying the exact place. The phone call mentioned that the incident took place three weeks ago and that it was kept secret. The body was handed over by the Egyptian authorities and they requested the approval of his family to bury him in Egypt, "simply as if nothing has happened," to quote one of his relatives in Sudan.

      Isaac Matar is a refugee and he carries a refugee card from the UNHCR. This means that the UNHCR is responsible for his protection in Egypt and that the Sudanese Embassy in Cairo has no right to intervene because it represents the government that caused his escape from his home. The Sudanese embassy says that no one cares for the dead corpses of the Sudanese refugees in Egyptians hospitals; and that they always receive phone calls of this type. This shows that the Sudanese nationals lack care and attention.
      It is required to open an investigation into the death of the Sudanese refugee Isaac Matar and in the situation of all the Sudanese refugees who have been and still are subjected to various forms of torture, while not receiving adequate health care out of Egyptian prisons. An investigation should be open with the Egyptian state in the cases of torture and forced disappearances of the Sudanese refugees. Officials involved in murder and torture should also be held accountable.

      There are conflicting stories about the real number of Sudanese detainees amongst the large number of African detainees in the Egyptian prisons; most of them were asylum seekers or refugees from Darfur who have been arrested during the crackdown of State Security; or captured while trying to infiltrate at the borders between Egypt, Libya, Israel and Sudan or arrested from roads, apartments and cafes in Cairo.

      Reports indicate the presence of a large number of Sudanese nationals in the Egyptian prisons and troubling cases for international law and human conscience. We emphasize that accurate statistics for prison inmates and detainees are not available and that their situation is very disturbing, especially being subject to torture and to accusations that lack credibility and evidences. State security refuses that the refugees choose their own lawyers and they subjected to trials selectively.
      The situation of Sudanese inmates in Egyptian prisons among them refugees and asylum seekers in the absence of the responsibility of their state, and the inability of the UNHCR to carry its responsibilities towards them. This creates a hard reality that impairs human conscience and that puts the responsibility on the activists of the human conscience and human rights and on international and Egyptian human rights and humanitarian organizations in order to work more effectively.

      The Egyptian state is required to provide accurate data on the number of Africans in its prisons; and identify the numbers of Sudanese inmates and the reasons for their detention and the state of their health conditions. In addition to investigating cases of torture and murder, Egyptian authorities need to allow lawyers to be hired by the detainees to defend them in courts.

      The Contemporary Sudanese Centre

      News Monitoring Section

      April 20, 2010


      North Africa: On the Egypt-Israel border, a modern exodus


      Last month, as Jews around the world prepared for Passover, Egyptian border guards were killing migrants trying to cross into Israel. How many of us, as we sat at our Seder tables, were even aware of the dramatic parallel to the Passover story taking place on the present-day Egyptian-Israeli border?

      Somalia: UN-backed scholarship recipients reach out to fellow refugees


      After graduating from a teacher training college in Kenya thanks to a United Nations-backed scholarship scheme, three Somali men are returning to the refugee camp they grew up in to help the next generation of children. Aden Yusef Mohamed, Ahmed Aden Hasa and Hish Mohamed Maow ranked in the top 20 among the 500 students they graduated from the two-year programme at the Nakuru Teachers Training College.

      South Africa: Hotel Yeoville


      Hotel Yeoville, is a ground-breaking public art project which, by way of freshly designed digital interfaces, keys into the diversity of Forced Migrant, Refugee and South African experiences that make the controversial suburb of Yeoville such a hot melting pot. This neglected suburb on the eastern edge of Johannesburg is home to 40 000 people, 70 percent of whom are migrants and refugees from the rest of the African continent.
      Hotel Yeoville, is a ground-breaking public art project which, by way of freshly designed digital interfaces, keys into the diversity of Forced Migrant, Refugee and South African experiences that make the controversial suburb of Yeoville such a hot melting pot. This neglected suburb on the eastern edge of Johannesburg is home to 40 000 people, 70 percent of whom are migrants and refugees from the rest of the African continent.

      Hotel Yeoville aims to address themes of forced migration, the idiosyncrasies of place and the threat of xenophobia by tapping into the vital role of the Internet as a diasporic hub. Instead of reporting on the violent and extreme outcomes of xenophobia, the project explores the roots of difference, attempting to give public airtime to the most ordinary, everyday conversations of South Africans, migrants, refugees and foreigners. The broadest objective is to produce a social map of an inner city neighborhood (Yeoville) that is home to a largely invisible community of forced migrants and refugees from all over the African continent.

      The project was developed in partnership with the Forced Migration Studies Programme, at the University of the Witwatersrand and is driven by public participation and participatory design processes. Hotel Yeoville was conceived of and is directed by Johannesburg-based artist Terry Kurgan. To produce the exhibition in the library she has worked closely with Tegan Bristow, an artist and interactive digital media developer and with Alexander Opper and Amir Livneh of Notion Architects as well as Artist Guylain Lutu.

      The project aims on the one hand, to provide useful information, access to hidden resources, and communication opportunity to the migrant and refugee community in Yeoville and beyond. On the other, it aims to connect people and generate content; an online community aimed at building social networks and starting conversations about important public and social issues and events. Inhabiting the familiar global life of the Internet, and produced entirely through public participation and participatory design processes, the Hotel Yeoville is a project designed to make people feel at home wherever they find themselves.

      Please visit to view some of the products of our interactive exhibition. There is a slide show embedded into the homepage which will give you a close up view of what we have produced.

      Yeoville Library
      51-53 Raleigh Street
      Yeoville, Johannesburg

      Mon to Thurs 1-5pm,
      Fri and Sat 9am ­ 1pm

      Terry Kurgan (project director)
      [email protected]
      +27 83 230 1739

      Please send replies to: [email protected]

      Tanzania: 68 Ethiopians face charge of illegal entry


      The Tanzania Police Force has put 68 Ethiopian migrants in custody pending their arraignment in court for illegal entry into the country, it was officially reported Wednesday. According to Tanga Regional Police Commander Liberatus Sabas, the Ethiopians claimed during interrogation they had no intention of either staying or committing offence in Tanzania but we retransiting to South Africa.

      Tanzania: Government deports 57 illegal Somali migrants


      Tanzania is deporting 57 Somali migrants who illegally entered that country last month, officials said. The migrants who were fleeing from the war in Somalia are mostly youth and included six children, officials said.

      Social movements

      Africa: South Africa's poor to pay for dirty World Bank loan


      Just how dangerous is the World Bank and its neo-conservative president Robert Zoellick to South Africa and the global climate? Notwithstanding South Africa's existing US$75 billion foreign debt, on April 8 the bank added a $3.75 billion loan to South Africa's electricty utility Eskom for the primary purpose of building the world's fourth-largest coal-fired power plant, at Medupi. It will spew 25 million tons of the climate pollutant carbon dioxide into the air each year.

      Global: Civil society opposes Zoellick’s GCI request


      World Bank President Robert Zoellick is expected to formally release the World Bank Group’s request for an estimated $58 billion general capital increase (GCI) on Sunday, April 25th at the conclusion of the World Bank’s Spring Meeting this weekend. A broad and growing global coalition of environmental, faith-based, human rights, community, and indigenous rights groups are calling for an end to the Bank’s continued financing of dirty energy projects, withholding support for the Bank’s GCI request within member country capitals as a consequence.

      Global: Social movements for system change


      On April 19, an Assembly of the Social Movements was one of the first activities on the agenda at the People's World Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in Cochabamba, Bolivia. The Assembly highlighted the popular focus of the conference, which was organized by the Bolivian government after the failure of governments and industries to negotiate a plan to stop climate change in Copenhagen last December.The conference is being held from April 19 thru 22 and is meant to amplify the voices of those who were not heard in Copenhagen.

      South africa: ANC intimidation continues in Kennedy Road


      On Sunday 18 April an ANC MP in the Provincial Parliament by the name of Dora Dlamini intimidated Nozuko Hulushe, a Kennedy Road resident and Abahlali baseMjondolo member, and demanded that she withdraw her assault charge against a local ANC leader before the case goes to trial.

      South Africa: Poor people's movement draws government wrath


      The rise of an organized poor people's movement in South Africa's most populous province, KwaZulu-Natal, is being met with increasing hostility by the ruling African National Congress (ANC) government, which claims to be the legitimate representative of the poorest of the poor. South Africa has been rocked by increasingly frequent service delivery protests - a euphemism for communities taking to the streets to voice their frustration with the alleged slow pace of social service provision - but it is the formation of a militant non-aligned social movement, Abahlali Basemjondolo - shack-dwellers movement, in Zulu - that is causing greatest concern.

      Africa labour news

      South Africa: NUM will oppose Eskom privatisation – Komane


      The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) would not allow for the privatisation of State-owned power utility Eskom, deputy general secretary Oupa Komane has said. He was speaking at the NUM's energy mix workshop in Johannesburg. However, deputy Public Enterprises Minister Enoch Godongwana, speaking on behalf of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), said that government's plans did not involve the privatisation of the power company.

      Tanzania: Business rejects government move to raise minimum wages


      Tanzania's business community has rejected the government's suggestion to raise minimum wages in the private sector by 100 percent, saying it is unpayable. Employment, Labour and Youth Development Minister Juma Kapuya early this week an nounced that the government and stakeholders in the labour sector had agreed to the hike, but the business community's reaction has not been in favour of the move because it would hurt private enterp rises.

      Emerging powers news

      Emerging Actors in Africa news round-up


      In this week's roundup of emerging actors news, Moroccan prime minister meets Communist Party delegation, China to embark on multi-billion dollar investment in Ethiopia, South Africa boosts coal supplies to China and India, and Korea has important lessons to teach Africa.

      Chinese firm warned against use of powerful explosives
      Gasabo district has issued a stern warning to the Chinese firm dealing in stone mining activities in Jabana, over their continued use of strong explosives to blast stones, a process that has led to further destruction of area residents’ properties. Read more

      China and Uganda have carried out fruitful cooperation within the framework of the China-Africa Cooperation Forum
      Bukenya thanked China for its assistance to his country and said Uganda expects China to encourage more of its businesses, especially small and medium-sized ones, to invest in Uganda to boost the African country's employment and development. Bukenya also reiterated his country's insistence on the One-China policy. Read more

      Moroccan prime minister meets Communist Party of China delegation
      Morocco and China have witnessed frequent exchanges after Morocco achieved independence and the two countries understand and support each other in the international arena, Fassi said during Thursday's meeting with a delegation of the Communist Party of China. Read more

      Huawei now ordered to fix fibre-optic errors
      The Uganda government wants Chinese information technology giant Huawei Technologies to undertake a forensic audit of its own works in laying the country’s main fibre-optic cable backbone under the National Backbone Initiative project’s first phase, and fix the glaring mistakes at the company’s cost. Read more

      China to embark on multi-billion dollar investment in Ethiopia
      China Africa Development Fund (CADFund), which officially opened its Addis Ababa Representative Office a week a go, is considering investing in three projects in Ethiopia. The three new projects under appraisal include: Investing in a Chinese industrial zone, establishing a huge food processing company, and expanding LIFAN Motors Company. Read more

      Chinese firms boost African investment
      Africa, which boasts a large volume of natural resources and powerful consumption market, is turning into an increasingly important destination for Chinese investment. Read more

      Chinese ambassador assures stronger ties with Cameroon
      The Chinese ambassador to Cameroon, H.E. Xue Jinwei, paid a maiden visit to the health facility. The visit was as a result of fruitful cooperation that exists between Cameroon and China. H.E. Xue Jinwei, met the different departments notably the maternity ward, reanimation ward, Chinese pharmacy, x-ray among others and also the personnel. Traditional dance groups from the country could be seen in some corners in the hospital premises to welcome the august guest. Read more

      Vice Foreign Minister Wang Guangya Meets with Senegalese Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Niang
      Wang said since the resumption of diplomatic ties between the two countries, bilateral relations have maintained a sound momentum of development with frequent friendly exchanges at all levels, effective pragmatic cooperation in various areas and close communication and consultations in international affairs. China attaches importance to ties with Senegal and is ready to further enhance communication and cooperation with Senegal to push forward the friendly cooperative relations between the two countries. Read more

      NAFDAC take fake drugs war to China
      A combined team of the Senate Committee on Health and the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control has concluded a 5-day working visit to China as part of Nigeria's leading role in ensuring quality drugs for consumers. Read more

      Tanzania benefits a lot from Chinese infrastructure aid
      Tanzania has benefited a lot from the Chinese assistance on infrastructure in Africa. I think the first project of the infrastructure for probably the whole of Africa, is TAZARA, the Tanzania-Zambia Railway," Tanzanian Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs Mustapha Mkulo told Xinhua on Friday. 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


      Tharoor’s ouster a blow to India’s Africa surge
      “We do not wish to go and demand certain rights or projects or impose our ideas in Africa. But we do want to contribute to the achievement of Africa’s development objectives as they have been set by our African partners,” Tharoor said. This approach has found enthusiastic response in Africa. Read more

      South Africa boosts coal supplies to China and India
      South Africa’s Richards Bay Coal Terminal, Europe’s biggest source of coal burned for electricity, is boosting supplies to India and China as rebounding Asian economies build new power plants. Read more

      India eyeing Africa, Latin America for exports
      Stressing the need to diversify country's international business, Union Minister of State for Commerce and Industries Jyotiraditya Scindia said India was eyeing Africa and Latin America for exports potential. Read more

      Other Emerging News

      Brazil, India and South Africa agreed that more diplomacy was required in the international standoff with Iran over its controversial nuclear program
      The accord, struck in a brief meeting ahead of a BRIC summit in Brasilia, hewed to Brazil's line defending Iran from building efforts in the UN Security Council to slap the Islamic republic with more sanctions. Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and South African President Jacob Zuma "recognized the right of Iran to develop nuclear programs for peaceful purposes in keeping with its international obligations," they said in a joint statement. Read more

      Korea has important lessons to teach Africa
      Africa is making efforts to become a major economic bloc and is seeking to develop local industries with foreign investment. Richard Scobey, the World Bank regional director for Africa, says that although China has made huge investments in Africa, the region still needs funds from Korea for sustainable growth. Africa is a large continent that offers vast opportunities for Korea, he said in an interview. Read more

      Congo trade agreement creates opportunities for South Africa
      A MEMORANDUM of understanding on economic co-operation with the Republic of Congo is set to deepen technical, trade and industrial co-operation with South Africa.
      Zuma said he was convinced that by fostering closer trade and investment ties, South Africa would be able to mobilise to a maximum level its collective resources and promote substantive “intra-Africa trade”. Read more

      Turkey seeks to regain foothold in Africa
      Turkish President Abdullah Gul's official visits to Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo last month underscored increased efforts by the Islamist-rooted government for closer contacts with the continent, where many share the country's predominantly Muslim faith. Read more

      "Africa Is Good Investment Destination"
      African Union Commission Chairman Jean Ping set a note of selling Africa as an investment destination in the first high level talks between the African Union and the United States State department whose delegation is led by Deputy Secretary of State
      Read more

      Nigeria and South Africa to enhance trade relations
      The South African embassy has promised to improve on the challenges faced by Nigerian business personnel in getting visas to that country, in order to enhance the trade relations with Nigeria. Read more

      Rawlings and Konadu sense smear Campaign
      The attention of former President Rawlings and his wife, Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings has been drawn to publications in newspapers, on the worldwide web and other wide-circulating news mediums alleging that the Mills Administration has paid an amount of $5 million to them. Read more

      Brain drain and low investment hamper African science
      Africa's contribution to the global body of scientific research is very small and does little to benefit its own populations, according to a report from Thomson Reuters (TRI.N) released on Monday. Read more


      India - Africa Partnership: What the future holds?
      In recent years India has engaged African countries with a renewed vigour at both bilateral and multilateral levels. With the establishment of India-Africa Forum in 2008, India’s engagement with Africa has become more structured. India and African countries have enjoyed a close and cooperative partnership that encompasses political, security, economic, cultural and other areas of mutual interest. This conference is aimed at identifying the challenges and future drivers of India’s partnership with Africa. Read more

      East Africa opens its doors to investors
      As prospective investors troop to Dar es Salaam for the Investment Climate Facility for Africa Summit in May, Kampala will be laying on the carpet over $850 million worth of investments. The summit will precede the annual Africa World Economic Forum scheduled for Dar es Salaam from May 5 to May 7.
      The Investment Climate Facility for Africa is a unique public-private partnership between government and business that aims to help Africa create a more attractive business environment and realise its potential as a global player and trading partner. The summit will focus on business registration and licensing, the cost of each procedure needed to register a business as a percentage of per capita income in Sub-Saharan African countries, customs and taxation. Read more

      Most successful COMESA Investment Forum closes on positive note for Africa’s accelerated development
      Closing the 3rd COMESA Investment Forum – Connecting Africa to the World – at Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, Chairman of COMESA Council of Minister, Professor Welshman Ncube said the 19-Member regional body was now open for substantial investment and accelerated trade. The best performing countries, ranked by the World Bank’s latest “Doing Business” report include COMESA Members namely Mauritius, Rwanda and Egypt, and non-member Botswana. Read more


      How BRIC has changed the pecking order
      Together these countries account for 40 per cent of the world’s population, 26 per cent of the world’s geographical area and 22 per cent of the world’s GDP. In the past two years, they contributed to 50 per cent of the world’s economic growth despite the recessionary conditions elsewhere. Two of them — Russia and Brazil — were among the world’s largest petroleum producers. And the other two — China and India — were the world’s biggest energy guzzlers. Read more

      Resources and African Renaissance
      Led by increasing investment in natural resources and optimistic predictions for overall economic growth, it appears that 2010 will be the year of Africa's ascendance in international affairs.
      As Africa's share of global foreign direct investment continues to grow, domestic and regional politics will become increasingly sensitive to investment decisions by foreign firms. The recent dispute between Cote d'Ivoire and Ghana over ownership rights to a new offshore oil discovery in the Gulf of Guinea highlights the growing propensity of private companies to affect African geopolitics. Read more

      Can the West learn from China in Africa?
      Deborah Brautigam, Associate Professor in American University’s International Development Program, is author of the book The Dragon’s Gift: The Real Story of China in Africa (see our review here),]]here[/url]),[/url] and a new blog which digs into current China in Africa issues reported in the press. She recently spoke at NYU and answered a few of our questions. Read more


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

      Global: IBSA - Closer social connections, not just government ties


      The IBSA Fund, which finances anti-poverty projects in the most vulnerable countries, is an example of the spirit in which India, Brazil and South Africa wish to build their partnership, their leaders say. The fund was set up in 2004, one year after the India-Brazil-South Africa (IBSA) Dialogue Forum was created, with annual contributions of one million dollars from each member. It currently supports reconstruction in Haiti after the January earthquake, agriculture in Guinea-Bissau, and projects in other African and Asian countries like Burundi and Cambodia.

      Elections & governance

      Egypt: Anger at MPs' call for force


      Protesters have gathered in central Cairo to condemn calls by two Egyptian politicians and officials loyal to Hosni Mubarak, the president, for security forces to open fire on pro-democracy demonstrations. About 70 people joined the protest on Tuesday, the third in two weeks calling for greater political freedoms and an end to an emergency law that allows indefinite detentions.

      Madagascar: Talks set for April 28


      The protagonists in Madagascar's political crisis have agreed to attend talks in South Africa on April 28. President Andry Rajoelina ousted Marc Ravalomanana with the help of dissident soldiers in March last year after weeks of popular protests. The two have been at loggerheads ever since as international mediators work to install a unity government.

      Rwanda: Opposition leader Ingabire released


      A Rwandan opposition leader has been conditionally released after being arrested on Wednesday. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza was accused of collaborating with a terrorist group and denying the genocide.

      Southern Africa: A tale of two neighbours turning sixteen and thirty


      Sweet sixteen and already showing signs of strain: that is the mood that hangs over South Africa as the 27 April celebration of the first democratic elections approaches, writes Colleen Lowe Morna. The political shenanigans of the far right who still dream of a separate homeland for white people and far left who insist on singing the song “kill the Boer” even after the High Court ruled that this is hate speech have led the Mail and Guardian to coin the term “idiotocracy” to describe our national politics.
      Sweet sixteen and already showing signs of strain: that is the mood that hangs over South Africa as the 27 April celebration of the first democratic elections approaches. The political shenanigans of the far right who still dream of a separate homeland for white people and far left who insist on singing the song “kill the Boer” even after the High Court ruled that this is hate speech have led the Mail and Guardian to coin the term “idiotocracy” to describe our national politics.

      Next door, Zimbabwe celebrated a muted thirtieth birthday on 18 April: the country that has swung in our lifetime from bread basket of the region to a poverty stricken autocracy led by the same leader who got away with stealing an election from the opposition and calls the shots in a supposed government of national unity.

      As I turn fifty next month, I cannot help but cry two beloved countries, whose destinies are inextricably linked and have shaped my life. I was born and spent the first sixteen years of my life on a United Church of Christ mission in a remote corner of south east Zimbabwe, a few kilometres as the crow flies from the Mozambique border.

      My parents, both white South Africans who fled apartheid in the fifties and hoped that the then Southern Rhodesia would gain independence like its neighbours, sought to live their vision of the future in this quiet community. Instead, as Ian Smith unilaterally declared independence in 1965 and half the students at the school left to join guerrilla forces in Mozambique after that country’s independence a decade later, they became active in liberation politics. In 1976 they were stripped of their citizenship and took refuge in Botswana.

      I returned to Zimbabwe soon after its independence in 1980 after completing my journalism studies overseas to one of the most exciting chapters in my career as President Robert Mugabe called on all to turn swords to ploughshares. Plugging the gap in the black education system that I went through until secondary school, he invested heavily in education. The legacy is evident in the Zimbabwean brain power that has become the country’s biggest export.
      Geographically the hub of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Zimbabwe also became its intellectual heart beat: the centre of efforts to divert economic dependence on South Africa; the experimenting ground for every new development theory.

      But by the late eighties the shine was wearing. An overwhelmingly state dominated media sang the praises of a one party state. The army moved in to crush opposition in the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) stronghold of Matebeleland. It was both a happy and profoundly sad day when the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) and ZAPU signed a peace pact. This was the end of any semblance of opposition, the beginning of the hegemonic thinking that saw an orderly land redistribution programme sink into lawlessness and inevitable economic decline.

      By then I had taken a job with, and been posted by the Commonwealth Secretariat as chief of operations for its observer mission to South Africa from 1991 to 1994. The 1994 elections - that saw the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) come in at the last minute with reprints of election ballots and major logistic nightmares - were far from perfect, but had to be made to work. I recall in our late night crafting of the Commonwealth report trying to find words that would give the elections a pass mark without compromising the requirements of free and fair elections. We settled on the phrase that the elections “substantially reflected the will of the people.”
      Like 18 April 1980 in Zimbabwe, 27 April 1994 in South Africa was an ecstatic moment. Those of us who have had the good fortune to live both these moments will treasure them as once-in-a-lifetime experiences that you cherish no matter what. Fast forward to 2010 and the question on everyone’s mind is: will South Africa take the same route as Zimbabwe? It’s not inevitable, but the danger is real.

      South Africa is a far larger and more diverse country than Zimbabwe. Ironically, the “idiotocacy” of the right and left are one of its strengths: such polarisation creates space for the more rational middle ground if the fringes are not allowed to dominate. The complete closure of that space in Zimbabwe is what has made it so difficult for the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) to make any headway. The pillars of democracy: freedom of association, freedom of speech and an independent judiciary may be worn but they are still in tact in South Africa.

      Leadership, however, is a serious concern. A telling barometer of leadership is how those in power view women, who constitute the often silent majority in all our countries. I have a vivid memory, while still a journalist in Zimbabwe, of Nelson Mandela’s first visit soon after his release from prison in 1990. Walking down the red carpet with Mugabe, he looked decidedly uncomfortable as he approached the ZANU women laying kangas that bore their leader’s image on the ground. Mugabe, on the other hand, cringed when scores of South African women exiles broke from behind the barriers to embrace Mandela in a public display of equality.
      That was South Africa’s first leader. Now we have Jacob Zuma: the populist; openly polygamous and promiscuous in his personal life; unable to articulate a clear vision for his country including on women’s rights, or to control the wayward tendencies in his African National Congress (ANC) party. The demise of the Commission on Gender Equality is symptomatic of a broader malaise in the task of strengthening and deepening democracy for which 27 April 1994 marked a mere beginning.

      One of the most haunting media images I have as Zimbabwe turns thirty and South Africa sixteen is ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema wearing a Mugabe shirt and basking in the hallo of Zimbabwe’s octogenarian leader. The reprimand from Zuma and the ANC are welcome but one has learned to be sceptical about what will follow. Malema, it should be recalled, is appealing an Equality Court ruling that found him guilty of sexism in his crass statement that women who are raped don’t ask for taxi money in the morning.

      At a moment we should be celebrating the ending of the worst forms of racism under white settler colonialism and emergence of rainbow nations that thrive on diversity we are crying two beloved countries. The only hope is that from these tears will emerge redemptive strategies and a clear Vision 2020. Too many have given too much for us to get lost so soon.

      * Colleen Lowe Morna is Executive Director of Gender Links. The article, written in her personal capacity, forms part of the GL Opinion and Commentary Service that offers fresh views on every day news.

      Sudan: Election fraud caught on video?


      A video showing election fraud during Sudan's election is being circulated online. Sudan's National Elections Commission has dismissed it as fake. The video show election officials stuffing ballot boxes. Oppoition groups claim that the video proves their claims of rigging by by the ruling National Congress Party (NCP).

      Sudan: Government delays releasing poll result


      Sudan’s poll results, due on Thursday, will be delayed – and a full picture is unlikely to emerge until next week – says the National Elections Commission. The delay has been occasioned by the counting that is taking longer than anticipated and other logistical problems.


      Africa: Agriculture is key to stability


      The sixth Partnership Platform (PP) Meeting of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) opened Thursday in Johannesburg, South Africa, providing participants with an opportunity for multi-partner peer interaction, review and experience sharing among the core institutions and partners involved in CAADP implementation.

      Africa: Big Dams: Bringing poverty, not power to Africa


      Africa’s large dams (more than 1,270 at last count) have consistently been built at the expense of rural communities, who have been forced to sacrifice their lands and livelihoods to them yet have reaped few benefits. Large hydro dams in Sudan, Senegal, Kenya, Zambia/Zimbabwe and Ghana have brought considerable social, environmental and economic damage to Africa, and have left a trail of "development–induced poverty" in their wake.

      Caribbean: Another dagger in the back

      Renwick Rose on EPAs and the plight of banana farmers


      Former regional diplomat Sir Ronald Sanders and British trade expert and journalist David Jessop regularly take their time to write in the press on matters pertaining to relations between the Caribbean and the European Union, particularly in the field of trade. I am not sure how many of us who do read really consider the implications of what they have to say.
      Former regional diplomat Sir Ronald Sanders and British trade expert and journalist David Jessop regularly take their time to write in the press on matters pertaining to relations between the Caribbean and the European Union, particularly in the field of trade. I am not sure how many of us who do read really consider the implications of what they have to say. Our decision-makers, (or, most of them, at least) and regional trade officials, certainly do not seem to believe what they say, judging by their lack of actions to correct obvious weaknesses in regional strategies and tactics.

      Last week, Sir Ronald wrote (in SEARCHLIGHT, that is) of the shafting of our rum producers by the European Commission (EC), the executor (what an appropriate term!) of the policies of the European Union (EU). It make interesting reading and the lessons of how the EU treats the rum producers of the region should be one we should absorb deeply. These are not the poor banana farmers of the region, not the single-parent female heads of households and banana farms in Dominica, St. Lucia or St. Vincent. These are not the impoverished workers and farmers in the paddy fields or sugar-cane plantations in Guyana. These are the members of the powerful WIRSPA (West Indies Rum and Spirits Producers Association), some of whom have long historical and even ethnic connections with Europe.

      WIRSPA is a serious group of business people, held up by both the EC and regional governments and trade negotiators, as a model of how the rest of us should prepare to do business with Europe. It is true to say that WIRSPA took its task seriously, doing its own lobbying and negotiation to a point where one got the impression that they felt satisfied with the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) which the Caribbean signed with Europe in late 2008. Now it appears that gladness is turning to sadness.

      For as Sanders points out in his column, the Commission, that erst while “friend” of the rum producers is reneging on its undertaking. Apparently the WIRSPA producers had spent large sums modernizing their industry, and improving their marketing techniques, expecting to be reimbursed by the Commission. But as in every major act since the first colonialists and slave traders set foot on Africa, India and the Caribbean, the hand of treachery was hidden only to be revealed with a tightly-held dagger at a later stage. Using the old method of “shifting goalposts”, the Commission is using rules of the European Development Fund to close off the period for reimbursement, leaving the rum producers holding your-know-what-end of the stick. WIRSPA is bawling “blue murder”, and by right at that.

      The experience of rum, however WIRSPA may view it, is no different to the treatment of sugar, rice and bananas. Yet when some of us in civil society organizations in the region, warned of this in the five years leading up to the EPA signing, our negotiators and governments would have none of it. They even repeated the Commission’s talk of the EPA being a “saviour” for our banana industry and all the more reason why we should sign. So sign we did, at least our governments did, only for the Commission to quickly unfasten the wheels from the EPA banana vehicle. There was the “banana deal”, the tariff reduction, the BAM (banana adjustment measures) thrown in as a sop, and now out comes the dagger – agreements with Colombia and Peru with one with Central America to follow. Both the banana industry and the rum industry, pillars of economic development in the region are suffering.

      Mind you, it is not just the Commission at fault. Our own governments, throughout the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries must also share the blame. While they signed the Contonou Agreement in 2002, providing participation of civil society and the private sector as one of the Fundamental Principles of the ACP-EU partnership (Article 2), very few ACP governments have, in practice, respected this principle, even fewer in CARICOM. There are exceptions of cause, the government of SVG being one, but even here there are too many inconsistencies in implementation. The result is that whereas Caribbean civil society and governments should have been standing shoulder to shoulder, refusing to sign a bad trade agreement, and holding out until we achieved our just ends, they capitulated.

      Our banana farmers – from Spring Village, Langley Park, Micoud, Castle Bruce, Richland Park, Dennery, Grand Bay, etc—were left abandoned under the leadership of WINFA and with support of regional civil society organizations, academics and European civil society support. We were scoffed at as we marched in Castries, rallied in St. Joseph, Dominica and Lauders St. Vincent, and picketed outside the Grand Barbados Hotel in Barbados. Our people, banana farmers among them, were more interested in the cheap politics of division in the islands, then in the impending havoc. Yet, even at this late stage, we must still fight. Sir Ronald Sanders has made that quite clear:
      “Letter writing is not enough. It’s time for Caribbean governments to do more; and to do more militantly and robustly than in the past. A high-level tam should be dispatched to Europe now, not only to talk to governments but to take the case beyond governments to the media, non-governmental organizations, and, ultimately, the people of Europe ……”
      When I read that, it was as though I was writing. Let’s hope that our people can see beyond the narrow confines of day-to-day problems to call on our governments to ACT. I am holding up my hand volunteering to back them up fully. What of you?

      * This article appeared in Searchlight, St. Vincent, on April 9, 2010

      East Africa: Green agriculture growing in leaps and bounds


      Organic agriculture using natural farming methods rather than fertilisers and pesticides has made significant gains in African countries – not just among farmers but among consumers too. Africa needs to triple agricultural productivity by 2050 to keep pace with population growth.

      Global: 64m more people to live in extreme poverty - WB report


      A World Bank report said that some 64 million more people would be living in extreme poverty in 2010 due to global recession. "The economic crisis and recession have substantially increased the challenge of meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) targets," the World Development Indicator (WDI) 2010, released by the bank on Wednesday, stated.

      Kenya: Horticulture sector hard hit by volcanic ash crisis


      Volcanic ash crisis - Though flights have resumed across Europe after clouds of ash from the Iceland volcano disrupted flights for days, Kenya's flower and vegetable industry has been cou nting its losses from the crisis, amid reports that the industry was losing US$3 million per day at the peak of the flight-an situation.

      Lesotho: Getting community consultation right


      The Lesotho Highlands Water Project will move into its second phase in 2010. The first phase has been praised as a shining example of transboundary water sharing in Africa, but community dissatisfaction may mean a rough ride for its extension. The Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP) is the largest on the continent, transferring water from the Malimatso, Mtsoku and Senqunyane rivers to South Africa’s industrial heartland in Gauteng province.

      Health & HIV/AIDS

      Africa: African countries should unite for drug development


      African nations must pool resources to promote local pharmaceutical innovation, say Ibrahim Assane Mayaki and Carel IJsselmuiden. Africa bears a quarter of the world's disease burden, yet accounts for less than one per cent of global expenditure on health. About half of the continent's population lacks access to essential medicines and the few drugs that are available often come from outside — Sub-Saharan Africa imports nearly 90 per cent of its medicines.

      Africa: Canadian Grandmothers to attend historic gathering on HIV/AIDS


      The first-ever African Grandmothers' Gathering takes place on Mother's Day weekend in Manzini, Swaziland - and forty-three Canadian grandmothers will be there, representing thousands of women who form the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign of the Stephen Lewis Foundation. Since 2006, the campaign has raised more than seven million dollars to support African grandmothers who are parenting their orphaned grandchildren in the most challenging of circumstances.

      Africa: Challenges remain in accessing HIV prevention, treatment


      Despite the progress that has been made in the AIDS response in Africa, many challenges remain that prevent people from accessing the HIV prevention and treatment services they need, a top United Nations official said during a visit to Senegal. Michel Sidibé, the Executive Director of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), noted that in 2008, about 45 per cent of pregnant women living with HIV in Africa were receiving antiretroviral drugs to prevent transmission to their children, up from 35 per cent the previous year.

      Africa: Fight to end african polio outbreak enters second round


      More than 77 million children in 16 countries will be vaccinated against polio from tomorrow (24 April) in the critical second round of a synchronized effort to stop a polio outbreak across west and central Africa. However, Burkina Faso and Sierra Leone have postponed their campaigns until 7 May after vaccine delivery was delayed by the closure of airspace in Europe due to the volcanic eruption in Iceland. Existing stockpiles in the other 16 countries will allow this vaccination campaign to go ahead.

      Africa: Studies for young people often of poor quality, show limited effect


      The quality of research examining HIV prevention programmes targeted at young people in Africa is poor, according to the authors of a systematic review and meta-analysis published in the online edition of AIDS. Moreover, evidence that such prevention programmes had an effect was limited and confined to sub-groups.

      Global: World Bank commits $200m for malaria bed nets


      Backing a call for greater action from the United Nations Special Envoy for Malaria, the World Bank has committed $200 million to provide people in sub-Saharan Africa with treated bed nets to protect them from a disease that kills nearly 1 million people every year.

      South Africa: Khomanani shambles


      There are growing calls for a forensic audit into Khomanani, Government’s flagship HIV prevention campaign which has cost the taxpayer millions of rand but has very little to show for it. The Khomanani Communication Consortium (KCC), with principal parties Sadmon Projects and Consulting, Sizwe Ntsaluba VSP, Izwi Multimedia and TBWA Hunt Lascaris, won the lucrative R190-million government tender in May 2007.


      Global: Call to action: International protest against child abuse


      On April 13 the number two in the Vatican hierarchy, the Pope’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, claimed that there is a link between homosexuality and paedophilia. The LGBT movement worldwide has risen up against this false, despicable and anti-scientific statement from the Vatican, which is trying to deflect attention from priests’ sex crimes by blaming LGBT people.

      South Africa: LGBT protest against US and Uganda


      A protest march will take place in Pretoria on Freedom Day, April 27, to demand equality for lesbians and gays in both the U.S. and Uganda. Organised by Up & Out, the University of Pretoria's gay organisation, the protestors will march from the Ugandan Embassy to the U.S. Embassy. The U.S. has been slammed by the organisation for its continued refusal to grant same-sex couples federal marriage rights and benefits. "How can a supposed first world nation decide to do such things?" asked Up & Out in a statement.

      Uganda: Government softens stand


      A Cabinet committee has recommended changes to Ndorwa West MP David Bahati’s anti-gay legislation that preclude the possibility of discarding it, Daily Monitor has learnt. But the report, which is yet to be discussed by Cabinet, indicts Mr Bahati for not applying the kind of sophistication that would have anticipated the international condemnation that came after the draft legislation was tabled in Parliament last year.


      Niger: Lack of data on causes of death buffers French company


      French state-owned company Areva continues to deny any wrongdoing after findings that populated areas in Niger remain contaminated with high levels of radio-activity. The company seems to be escaping censure partly because of lack of data on cancer-related causes of death among Nigeriens working at or living near the uranium mines.

      Swaziland: Activist wins green prize


      Thuli Brilliance Makama is not everyone's idea of an environmental hero. An attorney in Swaziland, Africa's last absolute monarchy, she has made her name not as a conservationist but by investigating the deaths of suspected poachers.

      Land & land rights

      Africa: Grabbing Africa


      The continent of Africa, already facing severe food shortages, has in recent years been targeted for land acquisition by countries from outside the region. The trend started in the 1990s when countries such as Sudan allowed rich Gulf countries to buy agricultural land in the areas irrigated by the bountiful waters of the White and Blue Nile. The oil bonanza had not yet materialised in Sudan. Under virtual sanctions from the West, it was facing severe economic constraints and was caught in a bloody civil war.

      Africa: New FIAN report on landgrabbing 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 today 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.

      Global: World Bank proposal for win-win land grabbing denounced


      La Via Campesina, FIAN, Land Research Action Network and GRAIN, together with over 100 allies, are issuing a loud appeal to stop the current wave of land grabbing that is taking millions of hectares of farmland away from rural communities across Africa, Asia and Latin America. Their appeal coincides with the release of a new World Bank report that confirms the massive extent of of the current land grab assault and puts forward seven "principles" to make these land deals socially acceptable.

      Mali: Rush for land along the Niger


      Domestic and international investors are taking over increasing amounts of arable land in Mali. In the Macina commune of south-central Mali, a giant irrigation canal is in the final stages of construction. Libya is in the process of developing 100,000 hectares of land it has leased adjacent to the Niger River.

      Media & freedom of expression

      Cameroon: Editor Germain Ngota dies in prison


      Cameroonian editor Germain Ngota has died in prison in the capital, Yaounde. He was the managing editor of the Cameroon Express and one of three reporters detained in March on charges of fraud and using false documents. An adviser to the Cameroonian journalists' union (SNJC) said Mr Ngota was not given any medical treatment during his detention.

      Cameroon: Female editor harassed


      The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has denounced the convocation on Monday in Douala, of Mrs. Henriette Ekwe, Director of the Weekly newspaper, Bebela by officers of the Secret Information Service, the military security and the Head office of External Research (DGRE), over her appearance on a programme broadcast on Equinox TV on April 6th.

      Equatorial Guinea: AFP correspondent held for five hours


      Reporters Without Borders has condemned the five-hour detention of Samuel Obiang Mbana, correspondent for Agence France-Presse (AFP) and Africa n°1 radio, at the police station in the capital Malabo on 14 April. The journalist was arrested at Malabo international airport where he went to cover arrivals for an extraordinary summit of heads of state of the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC).

      Zimbabwe: Empty promises for free expression


      Zimbabwe's power-sharing government has not carried out critical media reforms as promised under the country's September 2008 Global Political Agreement, Human Rights Watch said in a report. The 26-page report, "Sleight of Hand: Repression of the Media and the Illusion of Reform in Zimbabwe," says that the Zimbabwe Africa National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), the former sole ruling party, still holds the balance of power in the coalition government forged with the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), the former opposition movement, in February 2009.

      Conflict & emergencies

      Eritrea: Rebels claim killing 11 government soldiers


      Two Eritrean rebel groups said they killed 11 government soldiers and wounded some 20 others in a coordinated attack on military camps in southern Eritrea. The groups -- the Red Sea Afar Democratic Organisation (RSADO) and the Eritrean National Salvation Front (ENSF) -- said in a joint statement that they had briefly taken control of the camps on Thursday and seized weapons and military intelligence.

      Nigeria: Delta amnesty at risk of unravelling


      The government’s amnesty programme whereby militants in the Niger delta are to be disarmed and rehabilitated with a stipend, job training and a micro-credit loan, has been linked to reduced violence in the delta, but critics say it has made the same mistake as almost every other disarmament, demobilization, rehabilitation and reintegration (DDRR) campaign: too much “dd” and not enough “rr”’.

      Nigeria: Reprisal killings in Jos


      The Nigerian military has exhumed seven fresh corpses from shallow graves near the city of Jos, in the latest apparent revenge killing. There are almost daily reports of attacks on people in rural villages and of disappearances in Jos itself.

      Internet & technology

      Africa: FOSSFA launches the African FOSS reporter award


      FOSSFA has launched the African FOSS Reporter Award Competition 2010. The award aims to highlight the impact of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) on the development of Africa. It recognizes outstanding reporting for a general audience and honors individuals (rather than institutions and publishers) for their coverage of FOSS. The competition is run in partnership with Deutsche Welle and supported by OSIWA as part of an initiative to raise public awareness of FOSS in Africa.

      Africa: Freedom Fone v.1.5 launched


      Does your community need access to information but has limited or no access to the internet or email? Do you want to be able to share more information than 160 characters allows? Freedom Fone offers the possibility to extend the reach of information to citizens and groups presently excluded from the information loop because of lack of access to resources such as computers and the internet.

      Africa: Idlelo 4: Sign up for the pre-conference training programme


      The Fourth African Conference on FOSS and the Digital Commons (IDLELO 4) to be held from 17th - 21st May, 2010, in Accra at the Ghana-India Kofi Annan Centre of Excellence in ICT (AITI-KACE). This knowledge-building and sharing event under the theme: “Development with Ownership” is a forum for African experts and their global partners to share experience in order to expand awareness of the 'open' philosophy and the creation and use of open technologies for the benefit of our people.

      Africa: The end of GenARDIS small grants for rural women round III


      In March GenARDIS grant winners met for the last time after more than a year of innovative research and work to improve rural women’s lives in countries like Ethiopia, the Dominican Republic and Zambia. With projects as diverse as community radio drama groups, pest control through information access and using technology to promote women’s inheritance and land rights, projects were as diverse as the countries they came from.

      South Africa: Microsoft play ‘big brother’


      Microsoft will want to be a player rather than just a big spender in South Africa’s black empowerment policy, the company has said following the announcement it would spend about half a billion rands (about US$ 64 million) in the next seven years to boost local business partnerships.

      Southern Africa: Zimbabwe aims for 'knowledge society' with ICT bill


      Zimbabwe is expected to pass legislation that could help it take better advantage of information technology, despite the economic crisis that has gripped the country. The Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Bill, which would pave the way for implementing a strategic ICT plan launched in February, is currently awaiting cabinet approval before it goes to parliament for further scrutiny.

      eNewsletters & mailing lists

      Zimbabwe: Sanctions and Solidarity

      AfricaFocus Bulletin MApr 18, 2010 (100418)


      "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 neighbors can strengthen their diplomacy by backing it with effective pressures, even if they hesitate to use the word sanctions." - Briggs Bomba and William Minter.

      Fundraising & useful resources

      Africa: Call for Ideas: "Ten Ideas for Tomorrow's Africa"


      Within the framework of the 50th anniversary of African independence, the Social and Human Sciences Sector of UNESCO (SHS) is launching a “Call for Ideas” for prospective proposals in favour of Africa’s development within the next decade.

      Global: Media Legal Defence Initiative


      The Media Legal Defence Initiative is a non-governmental charity which works in all regions of the world to provide legal support to journalists and media outlets who seek to protect their right to freedom of expression. Founded in 2008, the Media Legal Defence Initiative was created to expand the resources available to assist the media to defend their rights in legal cases, and to direct those resources to areas of greatest need.

      Courses, seminars, & workshops

      Africa: International Conference on African Same-Sex Sexualities and Gender Diversity

      First announcement


      The mission of this conference is to identify and celebrate indigenous and evolving male, female and/or gender variant same-sex sexual practices, identities and communities, including expressions of gender diversity, and to promote their social acceptance and their physical and social well-being.

      First Announcement

      International Conference on African Same-Sex Sexualities and Gender Diversity, to be held February 13 – 16, 2011 in Pretoria, South Africa.

      Conference Mission: To identify and celebrate indigenous and evolving male, female and/or gender variant same-sex sexual practices, identities and communities, including expressions of gender diversity, and to promote their social acceptance and their physical and social well-being.
      Primary target group: Persons knowledgeable about or scholarly engaged in the study of same-sex practices, identities, and communities from a liberating or emancipatory perspective (persons from Sub-Saharan Africa are encouraged to attend), sexual rights advocates, and persons from Sub-Saharan Africa engaged in the artistic expression of gender and same-sex sexuality issues.|

      Call for abstract submission will be released soon.
      The conference is a joint initiative of the following organizations: AMSHeR (African Men for Sexual Health and Rights), Behind the Mask (South Africa), GALCK (Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya; Kenya), Gender DynamiX (South Africa), HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies (New York), Hivos (Netherlands, main sponsor), Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC; South Africa), Humure (Burundi), International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (ILGHRC), Oxfam, UNDP (Southern & Eastern Africa).

      Africa: Zanzibar International Film Festival


      The Zanzibar International Film Festival is the largest multi disciplinary art and cultural festival in Africa. Dedicated to the exhibition of films, music and Panorama, each year over 150 films made in Africa, Middle East, Europe, Latin America, USA and Asia are exhibited. Currently ZIFF is accepting applications for all African films and films from the Dhow Countries region - South East Asia, the Arabian Peninsula, The Persian Gulf, Iran, Pakistan, and the Indian Ocean Islands.

      Egypt: CMRS course on refugee participation

      June 13-17, Cairo


      The Center for Migration and Refugee Studies (CMRS) at the American University in Cairo, Egypt is pleased to offer a short course on “Refugee Participation in Policy and Practice” June 13-17 2010, to be taught by Professor Barbara Harrell-Bond, one of the world’s leading scholars and activists in the field of refugee studies.

      Egypt: Creative writing course - Cairo


      This 10 week Creative Writing course will look at various techniques and exercises to open up & improve writing writing skills, work with metaphor and imagery, create texts and narratives to given themes and word counts as well as free writing. The end goal will be to write a 1000 word short story. There is no criteria other than a willingness to open up one's writing; the course is designed that people of varying writing experience can participate and each draw their individual benefits.

      Global: Art Omi international artists residency


      Application is open to all professional visual artists from all over the world who have been professionally active for at least the past 3 years (your resume/CV should reflect professional activities since 2007 or earlier).

      Uganda: Call for photography workshop


      Since its first edition in 2008, Bayimba Cultural Foundation has organised a number of workshops prior to the annual Bayimba International Festival of Music and Arts with a view to stimulate artistic creativity and to ensure that all disciplines of arts find their way to the Festival. For 2010, Bayimba Cultural Foundation decided to include a Photography Workshop prior to the 3rd edition of the Festival (scheduled for 17-19 September, 2010). The results of the workshop will be exhibited during the Festival and in other locations after the Festival.

      Zimbabwe: Harare International Festival of Arts 2010


      The Harare International Festival of the Arts roars into life on April 27 at venues in and around the capital. Festival organisers held a pre-launch press briefing on Friday April 9th 2010 at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe where they unveiled the festival programme.

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