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    Back Issues

    Pambazuka News 484: Israel and the Flotilla: Piracy on the high seas

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

    Pambazuka News (English edition): ISSN 1753-6839

    CONTENTS: 1. Action alerts, 2. Features, 3. Announcements, 4. Comment & analysis, 5. Advocacy & campaigns, 6. Books & arts, 7. Emerging powers in Africa Watch, 8. Highlights French edition, 9. Zimbabwe update, 10. Women & gender, 11. Human rights, 12. Refugees & forced migration, 13. Social movements, 14. Emerging powers news, 15. Elections & governance, 16. Corruption, 17. Development, 18. Health & HIV/AIDS, 19. Education, 20. LGBTI, 21. Environment, 22. Land & land rights, 23. Food Justice, 24. Media & freedom of expression, 25. Conflict & emergencies, 26. Internet & technology, 27. eNewsletters & mailing lists, 28. Fundraising & useful resources, 29. Courses, seminars, & workshops

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

    Highlights from this issue

    – Call from Gaza for global response to killings on the flotilla
    – Rwanda: Advocates demand immediate release of US Attorney Erlinder
    – Statement on GALZ for international partners

    - Vote for Sokari Ekine in the Nigerian Blog Awards!
    - Celebration of Tajudeen's life and ideas - 17 June

    – Horace Campbell: Israel and the Flotilla: Piracy on the high seas
    – Dana Wagner: Africa condemns Israel’s strike on Gaza-bound aid
    – Mahmood Mamdani: Beware bigotry: Free speech and the Zapiro cartoons
    – Alemayehu G. Mariam: Of elections and diapers in Ethiopia
    – Khadija Sharife: Egypt: Between a pyramid and the Empire State Building
    – Chris Zambelis: A war of words in the new Middle East Cold War
    + MORE

    – Savitri Taylor and Brynna Rafferty-Brown: African refugees in Indonesia: An uncertain future
    – Karly Curcio: Africa's illicit financial outflows
    + MORE

    – Presidential pardon for Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza: Statements from SAMWU/SADC Lawyers Association
    – People's voices must be heard in climate negotiations

    - Africa's Liberation: The Legacy of Nyerere
    – Imruh Bakari: 'Welcome to Lagos' and other adventures

    – Adams Bodomo: Africans in Yiwu, China’s largest commodities cityZIMBABWE UPDATE: Friction in government over IMF monitoring proposals
    WOMEN & GENDER: Accessing the Pill: Every woman counts
    CONFLICT AND EMERGENCIES: Civilians killed in Somalia fighting
    HUMAN RIGHTS: Human rights activist found dead in Kinshasa
    REFUGEES AND FORCED MIGRATION: UN warns of lack of funds for DRC displaced
    EMERGING POWERS NEWS: Emerging powers news roundup
    SOCIAL MOVEMENTS: Landless People’s Movement under attack in South Africa
    ELECTIONS AND GOVERNANCE: Burundi opposition alleges election fraud
    CORRUPTION: UN Chief declares end to ‘age of impunity’
    HEALTH & HIV/AIDS: African mining makes TB epidemic worse
    DEVELOPMENT: African rice gets status upgrade
    EDUCATION: Free education becomes a reality in Swaziland
    LGBTI: Malawi couple could face further harassment
    ENVIRONMENT: World Environment Day
    LAND & LAND RIGHTS: Botswana Bushmen take government to court over water rights
    FOOD JUSTICE: Fallout from Niger food crisis
    MEDIA AND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION: Ethiopia’s independent media gagged around elections
    INTERNET & TECHNOLOGY: Ghanaian boy wins Google top prize
    PLUS: Jobs, Fundraising & useful resources, publications, courses, seminars and workshops

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

    Action alerts

    Call from Gaza for global response to killings on the flotilla


    Gaza-based Palestinian Civil Society Organisations and international activists called on the international community and civil society to pressure their governments and Israel to cease the abductions and killings in Israel’s attacks against the Gaza Freedom Flotilla sailing for Gaza, and begin a global response to hold Israel accountable for the murder of foreign civilians at sea and illegal piracy of civilian vessels carrying humanitarian aid for Gaza.

    We salute the courage of all those who have organized this aid intervention and demand a safe passage through to Gaza for the 750 people of conscience from 40 different countries including 35 international politicians intent on breaking the Israeli-Egyptian blockade. We offer our sincerest condolences to family and friends who have lost loved ones in the attack.

    By sailing directly to Gaza, outside of Israeli waters, with cargo banned illegally by Israel, such as the 10,000 tonnes of badly needed concrete, toys, workbooks, chocolate, pasta and substantial medical supplies, the flotilla is exercising international law and upholding article 33 of the Geneva Convention which clearly states that collective punishment is a crime against humanity.

    The hardships of Israel's closure of Gaza have been well documented by all human rights groups operating, most recently by Amnesty International in their Annual Human Rights Report concluding that the siege has "deepened the ongoing humanitarian crisis. Mass unemployment, extreme poverty, food insecurity and food price rises caused by shortages left four out of five Gazans dependent on humanitarian aid. The scope of the blockade and statements made by Israeli officials about its purpose showed that it was being imposed as a form of collective punishment of Gazans, a flagrant violation of international law." The United Nations continuously states that only a fraction of the required aid is entering the Strip due to what it calls ‘the medieval siege’, with John Ging the Director of UNRWA in Gaza specifically expressing the need for the Flotilla to enter Gaza. The European Union’s new foreign affairs minister Catherine Ashton has just reiterated its call for, “an immediate, sustained and unconditional opening of crossings for the flow of humanitarian aid, commercial goods and persons to and from Gaza.”

    The people of Gaza are not dependent people, but self sufficient people doing what they can to retain some dignity in life in the wake of this colossal man-made devastation that deprives so many of a basic start in life or minimal aspirations for the future.

    We, from Gaza, call on you to demonstrate and support the courageous men and women who went on the Flotilla, many now murdered on a humanitarian aid mission. We insist on severance of diplomatic ties with Israel, trials for war crimes and the International protection of the civilians of Gaza. We call on you to join the growing international boycott, divestment and sanction campaign of a country proving again to be so violent and yet so unchallenged. Join the growing critical mass around the world with a commitment to the day when Palestinians are entitled to the same rights as any other people, when the siege is lifted, the occupation is over and the 6 million Palestinian refugees are finally granted justice.

    Press Contacts:

    Dr Haidar Eid: One Democratic Sate Group and University Teachers' Association

    Dr Mona El Farra: Middle East Children's Alliance, Gaza 00.972.598.868.222

    Adie Mormech (UK): International Solidarity Movement 00.972.597.717.696

    Max Ajl (US): Gaza Freedom March 00.972.597.750.798

    Signatory Organisations:

    The One Democratic State Group

    University Teachers Association

    Arab Cultural Forum

    Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel

    Association of Al-Quds Bank for Culture and Info

    Popular Committee against the Wall and Settlements

    International Solidarity Movement

    Palestinian Network of Non-Governmental Organisations

    Palestinian Women Committees

    Progressive Students Union

    Medical Relief Society

    The General Society for Rehabilitation

    Gaza Community Mental Health Program

    General Union of Palestinian Women

    Afaq Jadeeda Cultural Centre for Women and Children

    Deir Al-Balah Cultural Centre for Women and Children

    Maghazi Cultural Centre for Children

    Al-Sahel Centre for Women and Youth

    Ghassan Kanfani Kindergartens

    Rachel Corrie Centre, Rafah

    Rafah Olympia City Sisters

    Al Awda Centre, Rafah

    Al Awda Hospital, Jabaliya Camp

    Ajyal Association, Gaza

    General Union of Palestinian Syndicates

    Al Karmel Centre, Nuseirat

    Local Inititiative, Beit Hanoun

    Union of Health Work Committees

    Red Crescent Society Gaza Strip

    Beit Lahiya Cultural Centre

    Al Awda Centre, Rafah

    Rwanda: Advocates demand immediate release of US Attorney Erlinder


    International Human Rights Advocates join the Erlinder family in condemning Rwanda's arrest of US Attorney Peter Erlinder and demanding his immediate release. Professor Erlinder, a faculty member at William Mitchell College of Law in the United States and president of the Association des Avocats de la Defense (ADAD), the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) Defense Lawyers Association, was arrested by the government of Rwanda under the leadership of President Paul Kagame. Peter Erlinder has been arrested in the course of his representation of Rwanda’s opposition leader, Victoire Ingabire.

    Advocates Demand Rwanda’s Immediate Release of U.S. Attorney Erlinder
    Press Release


    David Gespass, National Lawyers Guild; 205 566-2530
    Gena Berglund. International Humanitarian Law Institute of Minnesota;
    651 208-7964
    Emira Woods, Institute for Policy Studies; 301 523-2979

    International Human Rights Advocates join Erlinder family to condemn Rwanda’s arrest of U.S. Attorney Peter Erlinder and demand his immediate release.

    Saturday, May 29, 2010 (Washington, DC) –Professor Erlinder, a faculty member at William Mitchell College of Law in the United States and president of the Association des Avocats de la Defense (ADAD), the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) Defense Lawyers Association, was arrested by the government of Rwanda under the leadership of president Paul Kagame. Peter Erlinder has been arrested in the course of his representation of Rwanda’s opposition leader, Victoire Ingabire.

    Erlinder’s arrest was politically motivated and seeks to punish him for fulfilling his responsibilities as a lawyer, to be a vigorous and conscientious advocate for his clients. The Rwandan government and President Kagame must allow fair and public trials. Erlinder’s advocacy is in the finest tradition of the legal profession and every individual and government committed to the rule of law, including the authorities in Rwanda, should applaud his dedication to human rights and international law.

    As international human rights activists, we join the Erlinder family to call on the United States government, the United Nations, non-governmental organizations and individuals around the world to prevail upon Rwanda to release Erlinder immediately. The U.S. has had a special relationship with Rwanda which remains one of the largest recipients of U.S. foreign assistance in Africa. Given the U.S. government’s expressed commitment to democracy and the rule of law, it is critical that the Obama Administration and the U.S. Congress uphold these values in Rwanda and demand the immediate release of Peter Erlinder, an advocate of justice.

    “Professor Erlinder has been acting in the best tradition of the legal profession and has been a vigorous advocate in his representation of his clients. There can be no justice for anyone if the state can silence lawyers for representing defendants it dislikes. A government that seeks to prevent lawyers from being vigorous advocates for their clients cannot be trusted. The entire National Lawyers Guild is honored by Erlinder’s membership, his leadership as past president and his courageous advocacy.” said David Gespass, president of the National Lawyers Guild.

    “The offense Peter is charged with is not based on facts, but on the suppression of free speech in his representation of clients, which undermines the rule of law. His family knows he stands with people who are oppressed by those in power and he encourages people to stand up for justice.” Masako Usui, wife of Peter Erlinder.

    “The real issue here seems to be whether the U.S. and the world will stand by and allow my father to be detained and prosecuted for doing his job, as an attorney and advocate for his clients. After a career of defense of others, he needs our help now demanding his immediate release and dismissal of all charges.” said Sarah Erlinder, daughter of Peter Erlinder.

    “The International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) is outraged at the arrest of Peter Erlinder in Rwanda. This arrest violates the rights and privileges of lawyers in discharging their professional responsibilities, constitutes a willful obstruction of the judicial process and is in gross violation of the rights of defense of an accused person,” said Jeanne Mirer, President, International Association of Democratic Lawyers

    Statement on GALZ for international partners

    GALZ (Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe)


    On Thursday 27 May 2010, Ellen Chademana and Ignatius Mhambi were released on bail until a trial set for Thursday 10 June 2010, on allegations of possessing indecent material and displaying a placard seen as insulting to Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe. GALZ is now calling on organisations to send statements in support of GALZ, highlighting the raid of the GALZ offices, the arrest Ellen Chademana and Ignatius Mhambi, the torture of Ignatius while in custody, the continued harassment of GALZ staff and the police saying that they want to question all staff members.


    On Thursday 27 May 2010, Ellen Chademana and Ignatius Mhambi were released on bail until a trail set for Thursday 10 June 2010 on allegations of possessing indecent material and displaying a placard seen as insulting to President Robert Mugabe.

    GALZ had previously asked regional and international LGBTI and human rights organisations to take caution so as to not jeopardise the case, but after reviewing the situation and in light of the ruling of the case.

    GALZ is now calling on organisations to send statements in support of GALZ highlighting the raid of the GALZ offices, the arrest Ellen Chademana and Ignatius Mhambi, the torture of Ignatius while in custody, the continued harassment of GALZ staff and the police saying that they want to question all staff members;

    For regional and international partners who plan to produce public statements or send letters, GALZ is proposing the following elements be included. Letters should be addressed to:

    The Attorney General’s Office

    P. Bag 7714, Causeway

    Telephone: +263 4 774586/7

    Minister of Home Affairs and
    Physical Address:
    Eleventh Floor
    Mukwati Building
    Corner Fourth Street and Livingstone Avenue

    Postal Address:
    Private Bag 7703

    00 - 263 - 4 - 703641
    00 - 263 - 4 - 703643

    00 - 263 - 4 - 707231

    [email protected]

    Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs

    Letters should call on them to:

    Note that “these laws are relics of British colonialism. They are also contrary to international human rights standards. Specifically, article 2 of The African Charter on Human and People’s Rights that prohibits discrimination on all grounds; article 3 and 19 secure for all the right to equality; and article 5 and 6 guarantee the right to dignity and liberty.

    Uphold human rights values and principles that Zimbabwe ascribes to through regional and international treaties (African Charter, SADC treaty to promote human rights, article 4).

    (We decided that we could not mention the constitution of Zimbabwe as there are too many contradictions and they could say that they we were well within their right to raid, detain, harass and search our homes as this is a case of public morality.)

    Dispense their duties and responsibilities fairly and equitably with a view to justice.

    (law enforcement agents are coming after members of staff and say they are investigating while it seems quite clear that they don’t have a case and are out to get us.)

    Uphold the respect and integrity of LGBTI person s and human rights defenders free from torture, inhumane and degrading treatment

    Cease the harassment of LGBTI human rights defenders by law enforcement agents

    Diplomatic Community

    Although GALZ would like to push Development Agencies to be vocal about the current situation, we realise that there is a need to use strategies that do not make an already volatile situation worse.

    GALZ has used a quote from UN Secretary-General:

    “Our challenge is clear... our commitment to reach universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.

    In many countries, legal frameworks institutionalise discrimination against groups most at risk. Yet discrimination against sex workers, drug users and men who have sex with men only fuels the epidemic and prevents cost-effective interventions.

    We must ensure that AIDS responses are based on evidence, not ideology, and reach those most in need and most affected.

    Let us uphold the human rights of all people living with HIV, people at risk of infection, and children and families affected by the epidemic. Let us, especially at this time of economic crisis, use AIDS response to generate progress toward the Millennium Development Goals. Most of all, let us act now” Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General United Nations, December 2009

    We would like you to call on the various embassies to:

    Highlight as far as they possibly can, human rights abuses experienced by LGBTI human rights defenders in Zimbabwe in discussions with development partners and political parties

    Encourage human rights organisations to support GALZ by speaking on the universality and indivisibility of human rights. And to particularly encourage HIV organisations to weigh in about how criminalisation and discrimination against LGBTI people is a major barrier to an effective AIDS response.


    Israel and the Flotilla: Piracy on the high seas

    Who is above international law?

    Horace Campbell


    cc G C
    Israel’s military attack on Gaza-bound humanitarian ships, the Freedom Flotilla, on 30 May, brings questions of piracy and the violation of international laws into sharp focus, writes Horace Campell. But the incident is only the latest example of the Israeli government’s policies to ‘dehumanise the Palestinian people and those in solidarity with them’, observes Campbell, as he calls for ‘peace-loving citizens all over the world’ to join forces with ‘peace-loving Israeli citizens and Palestinians who stand for peaceful coexistence to change the present apartheid leadership in Israel’.

    The Israeli military attack on Gaza-bound humanitarian ships, the Freedom Flotilla, on international waters on Monday 30 May, has brought into sharp international focus the questions of piracy and violation of international laws. The Freedom Flotilla was a convoy of six ships with about 700 humanitarian activists on a mission of mercy with 10,000 tonnes of aid for the citizens who have been under siege from the Israeli state. It was a convoy organised by International Solidarity Movement comprising of citizens from many countries. The convoy was on international waters, sailing to Gaza with the aim of breaking the three-year-long Israeli blockade of Gaza that has meted untold hardship on the inhabitants of the area when Israeli military commandos attacked one of them, the Marvi Marmara, killing between 10 and 19 and arresting hundreds. This act is only one of the many deliberate efforts by the current political leadership of Israel to derail the realisation of peace in the Middle East and frustrate the endeavour to put an end to the dehumanisation of Palestinians. Acts of aggression and the dehumanisation of Palestinians and their sympathisers must be publicised, exposed and denounced. The activities of the enablers of the Israeli leaders must also be exposed and denounced by concerted efforts of peace-loving citizens all over the world, including Africans.


    Africans who have experienced enslavement, colonialism, apartheid and intense exploitation are dehumanised every day, and in fighting against our dehumanisation, we cannot support the dehumanisation of other people. It is an appalling twist of history that some of those who suffered dehumanisation at the hands of the Spanish Inquisition right up to Nazi Germany have forgotten about this dehumanisation, and are now willing to support a government in Israel that has a deliberate policy to dehumanise others.

    The Israeli attack on the Freedom Flotilla is only the latest outrage in the policies of the Israeli government in their militaristic and aggressive policies to dehumanise the Palestinian people and those who are in solidarity with them. Indeed, the Gaza blockade and the attack on the Freedom Flotilla compound the clear crimes against humanity visited on the people of Palestine spelt out in the Goldstone Report of 2009. As one speaker noted on a broadcast on Democracy Now in the USA,
    ‘the failure to hold Israel accountable for the war crimes documented in the Goldstone report; the failure to hold Israel accountable for the act of international terrorism and murder in a hotel room in Dubai; the failure to hold Israel accountable for four years of murderous siege on Gaza that has killed, by itself, 400 Palestinians for lack of access to medical aid and other needed supplies. The failure to hold Israel accountable in all these ways has sent Israel the message: do what you like, get away with whatever you want to, until people hold Israel accountable.’


    This policy of the dehumanisation of the Palestinians cannot be sustained without the active support of those who enable the militaristic leaders of Israel. The first enablers are those leaders of states in Africa and the Middle East, who are overtly and covertly allies of Israel. In this category, Egypt stands out because the present leadership of Egypt is complicit in the blockade against the people of Gaza.

    The second enablers are members of the European Union who because of their guilt in the persecution and dehumanisation of Jewish people from 1500 to 1945 refused to take a principled stand against the dehumanisation of Palestinians. Another enabler, Turkey, whose citizens were on board the Freedom Flotilla, has stood at the crossroads of the military, political, and economic alliance with the conservative forces in Israel. Among these enablers of the Israeli military, the United States of America stands in a special category.

    The subservience of US leaders reached the point where citizens of the United States are bombarded with distortions about the realities of the politics of the Middle East. Writers such as John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt who have openly discussed Israeli influence over US foreign policy in the book, ‘The Israeli Lobby and US Foreign Policy’, have faced ostracism by mainstream scholars of international relations. This book has provoked such polarisation in the US academy that one gets a sense of the self-censorship in the United States when it comes to a discussion of Israel. The alliance between the militaristic leaders in the United States and Israelis since 1948 ensures that many leaders of Israel believe that Israel can act with impunity and international law does not apply to Israel.


    Barack Obama became the president of the United States on the basis of the desire of many US citizens for hope and change. Yet, the cooperation and collaboration between the US military and the Israeli intelligence forces continue, so that war and instability dominate the Middle East. The US provides the international, political, and diplomatic cover for the state of Israel. Hence, even in the midst of international condemnation of the violation of international law, the US protects Israel in the Security Council of the UN. This is the same Israeli government that insulted President Obama and his vice president Joe Biden, when Biden visited Israel in 2010. The Israeli political leadership, which has internalised racist attitudes toward blacks and Africans, chose the moment of Biden’s visit to display their contempt for Barack Obama.

    The Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who grew up in the suburbs in the USA, has exposed his white supremacist instincts and his racism has only been surmounted by the extremism of the Israeli foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman. Both the prime minister and foreign minister have thrown a challenge to the Obama administration so that the US government has to make a clear choice between the expansion of illegal settlement further into the Palestinian settlements, or a negotiated peace process.


    The attack on the Freedom Flotilla derailed the advanced military planning for coordinated military initiatives against the people of Iran. In the year when the UN Security Council was discussing ending the expansion of states with nuclear weapons, the silence about Israel’s nuclear weapons portrayed the double standards of Western Europe and the US in their opposition to Iran without dealing with the actuality of Israeli nuclear weapon. Peace activists want to reassert the fact that none of the nuclear powers have the moral authority to call for a nuclear-free world. The opposition to a potential Iranian acquisition of nuclear weapon must be accompanied by international denuclearisation so that we can move toward a world free of nuclear weapons.

    We mourn with relatives of those killed by this Israeli military action. When acts of international piracy and terrorism are denounced, why does the United States maintain a double standard on terrorism? Who are the terrorists? To the citizens of Turkey who lost loved ones, we mourn with you as well. We encourage you to redouble your effort to ensure that Turkey heals itself from its militaristic past so that you work to transcend the silences on militarism and genocide. Your courage in supporting the peoples of Gaza and Palestine must be applauded with added efforts to move Turkey towards a peaceful future outside of NATO. This should include the agitation against future military exercises between Turkey and Israel. Patriotic Turkish soldiers ought to be in solidarity with Turkish citizens who died; and clarify what they understand when General David Patraeus (commander of the US Central Command, CENTCOM) said that all options, including military strikes, are on the table in relation to US engagement with Iran.


    The opposition by peace-loving Israeli citizens against apartheid Israeli leaders is a reflection of the people’s solidarity with those killed by the attack on the Freedom Flotilla and the Palestinians who continue to suffer the indignity of the occupation. This solidarity reinforces the essence of shared humanity – the fact that you are yourself dehumanised when your fellow human being is dehumanised.

    The last thing that a Jewish person should support is the dehumanisation of others. Peace-loving citizens all over the world would have to join forces with peace-loving Israeli citizens and Palestinians who stand for peaceful coexistence to change the present apartheid leadership in Israel, which believes that the best way to achieve peace is through continuous war.


    * 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.

    Africa condemns Israel’s strike on Gaza-bound aid

    Dana Wagner


    cc F E
    Israel’s raid on an aid flotilla bound for the Gaza Strip has left at least nine dead and several more wounded. On board were activists and aid workers from more than 30 countries, accompanying more than 10,000 tonnes of aid supplies intended for Palestinians in Gaza. Dana Wagner provides a round-up of responses from African governments and civil society groups.

    The Israeli attack against an aid flotilla en route to the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip has left at least nine dead and several more wounded. African countries have joined other members of the international community to express outrage at the latest show of aggression towards the Gazan Palestinians.

    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended Israel’s action against the ships, in international waters at the time of the attack, as a preventive measure to stop aid from reaching the blockade around the Palestinian territory, citing security. The blockade around Gaza has been enforced by Israel and along the Egyptian border since 2004.

    The attack against aid workers from more than 30 countries aboard the flotilla has incited civil society groups and foreign ministries in Africa. Here is a glimpse of the words and the movements:


    Dozens protest outside the foreign ministry in Cairo. Many hold pictures of late president Gamal Abdel Nasser. Meanwhile Cairo-based Arab League held an emergency session Tuesday to discuss the attack.[1]

    The Cairo Institute for Human Rights is a signatory of a statement issued by 33 groups gathered in Kampala that comdemns the Israeli attack.

    Egypt has condemned the violence and the government has opened its border with the Gaza Strip at the Egyption-controlled Rafah point to allow for access to aid. The crossing, opened 2 June, will remain open indefinitely.[2]


    A night vigil was held 1 June outside St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town. Protestors called on the international community to take action against Israel.[3]

    ‘We need to do to Israel what the world did to apartheid in South Africa,’ said Salim Vally, chairperson of the Palestine Solidarity Committee of South Africa, in an interview with the Mail & Guardian. ‘Boycott, recall the South African ambassador to Tel Aviv, and expel the Israeli ambassador.’[4]

    Vally is also part of the Coalition for a Free Palestine that represents a number of South African CSOs that in a statement expressed outrage at the ‘Israeli massacre’.

    The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) condemns the attack and in a statement calls for the international community to hold Israel accountable ‘for the murder of foreign civilians at sea and illegal piracy of civilian vessels carrying humanitarian aid’.

    A vote for the expulsion of ambassador Dov Segev-Steinberg has been posted online on the news site iafrica.

    The South African Department of International Relations and Cooperation condemns the flotilla attack and in a press release states it also ‘strongly condemns all military aggression by Israel against innocent civilians, including those in the occupied West Bank and Gaza’. The government recalled its ambassador to Israel 3 June.


    The Forum Social Sénégalais (FSS), a CSO based in Dakar, condemns the Israeli attack as a monstrous crime in a statement issued 2 June. The statement labels Israel a terrorist state and calls on the UN to lift the Gaza blockade. FSS also asks that Israel be tried for crimes against humanity.

    A union of CSOs is planning a march and demonstration 4 June in Dakar to end at the government foreign affairs ministry at Place de l’Indépendance.


    Hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets of Rabat 31 May in protest of the flotilla attack.[5]

    La Coalition Marocain Pour La Cour Penal Internationale, a Moroccan CSO, is a signatory to a 33-group statement issued out of Kampala that condemns the Israeli attack.


    A small group of demonstrators including intellectuals and journalists against the Israeli attack was blocked 2 June by police in front of the US embassy in Algiers.[6] Algeria does not diplomatically recognise Israel, but demonstrations in the capital are banned.


    The government of Sudan issued a statement condemning Israel for the attack and calling on the international community to act to end Israeli impunity.[7]


    The Kenyan-based civil society groups Kituo Cha Sheria and the Kenyan Section of the International Commission of Jurists are signatories to a statement signed by 33 groups gathered in Kampala that condemns Israel’s attack against the flotilla.

    The government of Kenya said it ‘expresses deep shock and regret at this tragic loss of civilian lives and calls for a full investigation of this deplorable incident,’ in a statement released 1 June by the Foreign Ministry. The ministry also called for an end to the blockade encircling the Gaza Strip.


    International NGOs, gathered in Kampala for the International Criminal Court Review Conference, issued a joint statement to condemn Israeli violence against Palestinians in Gaza after the attack on the aid flotilla. The statement was signed by 33 groups, including Uganda’s Hope After Rape, Uganda Women and Children Organisation, Disabled Women’s Network and Resource Organisation, Uganda Joint Christian Council and Human Rights Network-Uganda.[8]


    The Network Movement for Democracy Human Rights, Coalition for Justice and Accountability and Sierra Leone Coalition for the ICC, all based in Sierra Leone, are signatories of a joint statement of condemnation by 33 groups gathered in Kampala.


    The Cameroon Coalition for Human Rights is a signatory of the 33-group Kampala statement.


    The DRC-based groups Femme pour la Paix, le Developpement et les Droit de l’Homme, Synergie des ONG’s Congolaise pour les Victimes and Ligue pour la Paix et les Droits de l’Homme are also signatories of the statement by 33 groups in Kampala.


    The Muslim Public Affairs Centre in Nigeria condemns the Israeli attack and in a statement said ‘it is sad to see that in the face of the unspeakable massacre that Israel committed [31 May], not for the first time, the international community remains almost totally silent’. MPAC called on the Nigerian government to condemn ‘the Israeli siege’.


    * Dana Wagner is an intern with Pambazuka News.
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.


    [1] Taragana, 2 June 2010,
    [2] Reuters, 3 June 2010,
    [3] NewsTime, 2 June 2010
    [4] Mail and Guardian, 2 June 2010,
    [5] The Telegraph, 2 June 2010
    [6] The Canadian Press, 3 June 2010.
    [7] Sudan Vision Daily, 3 June 2010
    [8] Ma’an News Agency, 3 June 2010

    Beware bigotry: Free speech and the Zapiro cartoons

    Mahmood Mamdani


    cc D B
    Zapiro’s controversial cartoon featuring the Prophet Mohamed, published in South Africa’s Mail & Guardian, prompts Mahmood Mamdani to ‘reflect on times and places when humour turned deadly’. Speaking at the University of Johannesburg, Mamdani explores the relationship between ‘two great liberal objectives, freedom of speech and civil peace’. Zapiro’s cartoon, Mamdani argues, has misread the real challenges we face today: The intellectual challenge of distinguishing between ‘two strands in the history of free speech – blasphemy and bigotry’, and the political challenge of building ‘a local and global coalition against all forms of bigotry’. We need to learn ‘how not to respond to a changing world with fear and anxiety, masked with arrogance, but rather to try a little humility so as to understand,’ Mamdani writes.

    It warms my heart to see these flowing gowns. I congratulate you on work accomplished! For over a millennium, these gowns have been a symbol of high learning from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic. Should anyone ask you where they came from, tell them that the early universities of Europe – Oxford, Cambridge, le Sorbonne – borrowed them from the Islamic madressa of the Middle East. If they should seem incredulous, tell them that the gown did not come by itself: Because medieval European scholars borrowed from the madressa much of the curriculum, from Greek philosophy to Iranian astronomy to Arab medicine and Indian mathematics, they had little difficulty in accepting this flowing gown, modelled after the dress of the desert nomad, as the symbol of high learning. Should they still express surprise, ask them to take a second look at the gowns of the ayatollahs in Iran and Iraq and elsewhere and they will see the resemblance. Education has no boundaries. Neither does it have an end. As the Waswahili in East Africa, which is where I come from, say: Elimu haina muisho.

    Today, I want to talk to you about the core value of the liberal university, critical thought, not just any thought, but thought which dares to stand up to the dictates of power and to the embrace of wealth, even to the seduction of popular prejudice.

    Yesterday, when I was in Cape Town, a friend gave me the week’s edition of Mail and Guardian. I went straight for my favourite section, the cartoon by Zapiro. To my surprise, Zapiro featured a cartoon of Prophet Mohamed, agonising: ‘OTHER Prophets have followers with a sense of humour! …’ I want to take this opportunity to reflect on times and places when humour turned deadly. Such a reflection should allow us to think through the relationship between two great liberal objectives, freedom of speech and civil peace. Since Zapiro seems to present his series of cartoons as a second edition of the Danish cartoons, I shall begin with a reflection on the original.

    When the Danish cartoon debate broke out I was in Nigeria. If you stroll the streets of Kano, a Muslim-majority city in northern Nigeria, you will have no problem finding material caricaturing Christianity sold by street vendors. And if you go to the east of Nigeria, to Enugu for example, you will find a similar supply of materials caricaturing Islam. None of this is blasphemy; most of it is bigotry. It is well known that the Danish paper that published the offending cartoons was earlier offered cartoons of Jesus Christ. But the paper declined to print these on grounds that it would offend its Christian readers. Had the Danish paper published cartoons of Jesus Christ, that would have been blasphemy; the cartoons it did publish were evidence of bigotry, not blasphemy. Both blasphemy and bigotry belong to the larger tradition of free speech, but after a century of ethnic cleansing and genocide, we surely need to distinguish between the two strands of the same tradition. The language of contemporary politics makes that distinction by referring to bigotry as hate speech.

    Just a few weeks after the Danish cartoons were published, the German writer Gunter Grass was interviewed in a Portuguese weekly news magazine, Visão. In that interview, Gunter Grass said the Danish cartoons reminded him of anti Semitic cartoons in a German magazine, Der Sturmer. The story was carried in a New York Times piece, which added that the publisher of Der Sturmer was tried at Nuremberg and executed. I am interested less in how close was the similarity between the Danish and the German cartoons, than in why a magazine publisher would be executed for publishing cartoons. One of the subjects I work on is the Rwanda genocide. Many of you would know that the International Tribunal in Arusha has pinned criminal responsibility for the genocide not just on those who executed it but also on those who imagined it, including intellectuals, artists and journalists as in RTMC (Radio-Télévision Libre des Mille Collines). The Rwandan trials are the latest to bring out the dark side of free speech, its underbelly: How power can instrumentalise free speech to frame a minority and present it for target practice.

    To understand why courts committed to defending freedom of speech can hold cartoonists responsible for crimes against humanity, we need to distinguish between bigotry and blasphemy. Blasphemy is the practice of questioning a tradition from within. In contrast, bigotry is an assault on that tradition from the outside. If blasphemy is an attempt to speak truth to power, bigotry is the reverse: An attempt by power to instrumentalise truth. A defining feature of the cartoon debate is that bigotry is being mistaken for blasphemy.

    The history of blasphemy as a liberating force is particularly European, not even American. To understand the political role of blasphemy in Europe we need to appreciate the organisation of the Church as an institutional power. Institutionalised religion in medieval Europe was organised as a form of hierarchical power, with an authority from the floor to the ceiling. Institutional Roman Catholicism mimicked the institutional organisation of the Roman empire, just as the institutional organisation of Protestant churches in Europe borrowed a leaf from the organisation of power in the nation states of Europe.

    The European example was not emulated in the United States of America. Though blasphemy marked the moment of birth of the New World, the New World was not particularly receptive to blasphemy. The big change was political: Puritans and other Protestant denominations were organised more as congregations and sects, more like voluntary associations, than as hierarchical churches. There was also a change in religious practice: The puritans shifted the locus of individual morality from external constraint to internal discipline, displacing both the Pope and the Scriptures with inner conscience. Pioneered by the Quakers, the Christ of scriptures became the ‘Christ within’. Unlike in Europe, religion in the rapidly developing settler democracy in the United States was very much a part of the language of the American Revolution and of the public sphere. The European experience has to be seen more as the exception than the rule.

    And yet, the European experience is not without a lesson for the rest of us. It is precisely because of a history of opposition between organised religion and political society, and the consequent history of religious civil wars, that compromises have been worked out in Europe, both to protect the practice of free speech and to circumscribe it through laws that criminalise blasphemy. When internalised as civility, rather than when imposed by public power, these compromises have been key to keeping social peace in European societies. Let me give two examples to illustrate the point.

    My first example dates from 1967 when Britain’s leading publishing house, Penguin, published an English edition of a book of cartoons by France's most acclaimed cartoonist, Siné. The Penguin edition was introduced by Malcolm Muggeridge. Siné’s Massacre contained a number of anticlerical and blasphemous cartoons, some of them with a sexual theme. Many booksellers, who found the content offensive, conveyed their feelings to Allan Lane, who had by that time almost retired from Penguin. Though he was not a practicing Christian, Allen Lane took seriously the offence that this book seemed to cause to a number of his practicing Christian friends. Here is Richard Webster’s account of what followed:

    ‘One night, soon after the book had been published, he [Allen Lane] went into Penguin’s Harmondsworth warehouse with four accomplices, filled a trailer with all the remaining copies of the book, drove away and burnt them. The next day the Penguin trade department reported the book “out of print”.’

    Now Britain has laws against blasphemy, but neither Allan Lane nor Penguin was taken to court. Britain’s laws on blasphemy were not called into action. I want to point your attention to one issue in particular. Allan Lane was not a practicing Christian but he had internalised legal restraint as civility, as conduct necessary to upholding peaceful coexistence in a society with a history of religious conflict. To put it differently, the existence of political society requires the forging of a political pact, a compromise.

    My second example is from the United States. It concerns a radio show called Amos ‘n’ Andy that began on WMAQ in Chicago on 19 March 1928, and eventually became the longest running radio program in broadcast history. Conceived by two white actors who mimicked the so-called Negro dialect to portray two black characters, Amos Jones and Andy Brown, Amos ‘n’ Andy was a white show for black people. Amos ‘n’ Andy was also the first major all-black show in mainstream US entertainment. The longest running show in the history of radio broadcast in the US, Amos ‘n’ Andy gradually moved from radio to TV. Graduating to prime time network television in 1951, it became a syndicated show after 1953.

    Every year, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) protested against the racist character of the portrayal that was the show. Giving seven reasons ‘why the Amos ‘n’ Andy show should be taken off the air,’ the NAACP said the show reinforced the prejudice that ‘Negroes are inferior, lazy, dumb and dishonest,’ that every character in the all-Black show ‘is either a clown or a crook.’ ‘Negro doctors are shown as quacks and thieves,’ Negro lawyers ‘as slippery cowards, ignorant of their profession and without ethics,’ and Negro women ‘as cackling, screaming shrews … just short of vulgarity.’ In sum, ‘all Negroes are shown as dodging work of any kind.’

    But CBS disagreed. You can still read the CBS point of view on the official Amos ‘n’ Andy website which still hopes that black people will learn to laugh at themselves: ‘Perhaps we will collectively learn to lighten up, not get so bent out of shape, and learn to laugh at ourselves a little more.’ I was reminded of it when I read the Zapiro cartoon in Mail & Guardian yesterday.

    The TV show ran for nearly 15 years, from 1951 to 1965. Every year the NAACP protested, but every year the show continued. Then, without explanation, CBS withdrew the show, in 1965. What happened? In 1965 the Watts riots happened, and sparked the onset of a long, hot summer. The Watts riots were triggered by a petty incident, an encounter between a racist cop and a black motorist. That everyday incident triggered a riot that left 34 persons dead. Many asked: What is wrong with these people? How can the response be so disproportionate to the injury? After the riots the Johnson administration appointed a commission, called the Kerner Commission, to answer this and other questions. The Kerner Commission Report made a distinction between what it called the trigger and the fuel: The trigger was an incident of petty racism, but the fuel was provided by centuries of racism. The lesson was clear: The country needed to address the consequences of a history of racism, not just its latest manifestation. Bob Gibson, the St Louis Cardinals pitcher, wrote about the Watts riots in his book ‘From Ghetto to Glory’. He compared the riots to a ‘brushback pitch’ – a pitch thrown over the batter’s head to keep him from crowding the plate, a way of sending a message that the pitcher needs more space. CBS withdrew Amos ‘n’ Andy after the long hot summer of 1965. The compelling argument that the NAACP and other civil rights groups could not make, was made by the inarticulate rioters of Watts.

    Why is this bit of history significant for us? CBS did not withdraw Amos ‘n’ Andy because the law had changed, for no such change happened. The reason for the change was political, not legal. For sure, there was a change of consciousness, but that change was triggered by political developments. CBS had learnt civility; more likely, it was taught civility. CBS had learnt that there was a difference between black people laughing at themselves, and white people laughing at black people! It was like the difference between blasphemy and bigotry. That learning was part of a larger shift in American society, one that began with the Civil War and continued with the civil rights movement that followed the Second World War. This larger shift was the inclusion of African-Americans in a re-structured civil and political society. The saga of Amos ‘n’ Andy turned out to be a milestone, not just in the history of free speech, but in a larger history, that of black people’s struggle to defend their human rights and their rights of citizenship in the US.

    Can we deal with hate speech by legal restriction? I am not very optimistic. The law can be a corrective on individual discrimination, but it has seldom been an effective restraint on hate movements that target vulnerable minorities. If the episode of the Danish cartoons demonstrated one thing, it was that Islamophobia is a growing presence in Europe. One is struck by the ideological diversity of this phenomenon. Just as there was a left wing anti-Semitism in Europe before fascism, contemporary Islamophobia too is articulated in not only the familiar language of the right, but also the less familiar language of the left. The latter language is secular. The Danish cartoons and their enthusiastic re-publication throughout Europe, in both right and left-wing papers, was our first public glimpse of left and right Islamophobia marching in step formation. Its political effect has been to explode the middle ground. Is Zapiro asking us to evacuate the middle ground as testimony that we too possess a sense of humour?

    If so, Zapiro has misread the real challenge that we face today. That challenge is both intellectual and political. The intellectual challenge lies in distinguishing between two strands in the history of free speech – blasphemy and bigotry. The political challenge lies in building a local and global coalition against all forms of bigotry. The growth of bigotry in Europe seems to me an unthinking response to two developments: Locally, the dramatic growth of Muslim minorities in Europe and their struggle for human and citizenship rights; globally, we are going through an equally dramatic turning point in world history.

    The history of the past five centuries has been one of western domination. Beginning 1491, Western colonialism understood and presented itself to the world at large as a civilising and a rescue mission, a mission to rescue minorities and to civilise majorities. The colonising discourse historically focused on barbarities among the colonised – sati, child marriage and polygamy in India, female genital mutilation and slavery in Africa – and presented colonialism as a rescue mission for women, children, and minorities, at the same time claiming to be a larger project to civilise majorities. Meanwhile, Western minorities lived in the colonies with privilege and impunity. Put together, it has been five centuries of a growing inability to live with difference in the world, while at the same time politicising difference. The irony is that a growing number of mainstream European politicians, perhaps nostalgic about empire, are experimenting with importing these same time-tested rhetorical techniques into domestic politics: The idea is to compile a list of barbaric cultural practices among immigrant minorities as a way to isolate, stigmatise, and frame them.

    But the world is changing. New powers are on the horizon: Most obviously, China and India. Neither has a Muslim majority, but both have significant Muslim minorities. The Danish case teaches us by negative example. To the hitherto dominant Western minority, it presents a lesson in how not to respond to a changing world with fear and anxiety, masked with arrogance, but rather to try a little humility so as to understand the ways in which the world is indeed changing.

    There is also a lesson here for Muslim peoples. The Middle East and Islam are part of the middle ground in this contest. Rather than be tempted to think that the struggle against Islamophobia is the main struggle – for it is not – let us put it in this larger context. Only that larger context can help us identify allies and highlight the importance of building alliances. Perhaps then we – and hopefully Zapiro – will be strong enough to confront organised hate campaigns, whether as calls to action or as cartoons, with a sense of humour.


    * This article comprises the text of talk given by Mahmood Mamdani on receiving an honorary doctorate at the University of Johannesburg on 25 May 2010.
    * Mahmood Mamdani is director of the Makerere Institute of Social Research, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda.
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

    Of elections and diapers in Ethiopia

    Alemayehu G. Mariam


    cc BBC
    In the aftermath of the May 2010 Ethiopian elections, many are left with the question: ‘Where do we go from here?’ writes Alemayehu G. Mariam. Mariam challenges the legitimacy of an election that saw Meles Zenawi reinstated in power with a 99.6 per cent share of the vote, and explores the future direction of the Ethiopian ruling class.


    Some say, ‘You can put lipstick on a pig, but at the end of the day, it is still a pig.’ Others say, ‘You can wrap an old fish in a piece of paper and call it an 'election'. It's still gonna stink.’ Well, one can certainly say that you can stampede throngs of ‘esteemed residents of Addis Ababa’ into the public square and lecture them on how the ‘whole world knows the 4th national election has taken place in a peaceful, democratic and credible manner,’ but at the end of the day a phony election with a 99.6 per cent win is still a phony election. In fact, the spectacular margin of electoral victory claimed by dictator Meles Zenawi is second only to the victory claimed by the late dictator Saddam Hussein who won 100 per cent of the 11,454,638 yes votes in a referendum in 2002.

    For the past year, I have been predicting that the 2010 Ethiopian ‘election’ will prove to be a sham, a travesty of democracy and a mockery and caricature of democratic elections.[2] Without my literary and rhetorical flourish, that is now the exact conclusion of the international election observers. The ‘preliminary statement’ of the European Union Election Observation Mission Ethiopia 2010 stated: ‘The electoral process fell short of certain international commitments, notably regarding the transparency of the process and the lack of a level playing field for all contesting parties.’ The White House issued a statement expressing ‘concern that international observers found that the elections fell short of international commitments. We are disappointed that US Embassy officials were denied accreditation and the opportunity to travel outside of the capital on Election Day to observe the voting.’ Johnnie Carson, the assistant secretary of state for African affairs in the state department told the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs that ‘we note with some degree of remorse that the elections were not up to international standards … The [Ethiopian] government has taken clear and decisive steps that would ensure that it would garner an electoral victory.’ Even Herman Cohen, the former US assistant secretary of state who served as ‘mediator’ in the so-called May 1991 London Peace Talks which resulted in the establishment of the Zenawi regime decried the outcome: ‘This time opposition media and opposition groups were not given fair time on the media and opposition media tends to be suppressed and in that sense I don't think it was a fair election.’

    Only the 60-person African Union (AU) observer team led by former Botswana president Ketumile Masire concluded the ‘elections were free and fair and found no evidence of intimidation and misuse of state resources for ruling party campaigns’. Masire proclaimed:

    ‘The [elections] were largely consistent with the African Union regulations and standards and reflect the will of the people … The AU were unable to observe the pre-election period. The participating parties expressed dissatisfaction with the pre-election period. They did not have freedom to campaign. We had no way of verifying the allegations.’

    With all due respect to Masire, it seems that he made his declaration clueless of the observation standards he is required to follow in the AU Elections Observation and Monitoring Guidelines.[3] If he had done so, he would have known that there is no logical, factual or documentary basis for him to declare the ‘elections were largely consistent with the African Union regulations and standards’. For instance, pursuant to Section III 9 (e) of the guidelines (‘MANDATES, RIGHTS AND OBLIGATIONS OF THE OBSERVERS’), Masire's team had a mandatory duty to ‘observe the political parties and groups as well as the population at large in the exercise of their political rights, and the conditions in which such rights are to be exercised’. Masire by his own admission made no such observation: ‘The AU were unable to observe the pre-election period’. Under Section V (13), the guidelines mandate that ‘AU Observers should ascertain that: … (b) all competing political parties have equal access to both the print and the electronic media (radio, T.V.).’ Masire said his team ‘had no way of verifying’ pre-election complaints, including complaints of unequal access to state-controlled media. Under Section V (B) (d), the AU observers had a mandatory duty to ascertain ‘the campaign process is conducted in conditions of serenity, and that there are no acts of provocation or intimidation capable of compromising’. Masire's team failed to make such inquiries. Under Section B (24), the guidelines mandate: ‘The atmosphere during the campaign should be carefully observed, and among the factors to consider in this regard include … (iv) persistent or reported cases of human rights violations.’ Masire's team does not appear to be aware of such a requirement, let alone actually make the observation. It is truly regrettable to say of a former African leader that he showed no evidence of having read or understood the numerous mandatory election observation duties set forth in minute detail in the AU guidelines before shamelessly and pathetically declaring the elections ‘were largely consistent with African Union regulations and standards.’


    In his victory speech (an event billed as a public protest against Human Rights Watch for its critical report on the regime), dictator Meles Zenawi boldly stated that he ain't going nowhere. He is staying put where he has been for the past 19 years. It will be business as usual. The political game will be played out on the same 19 year-old zero-sum field, and his team will always win and everybody else will always lose. But there will be a change in style, form, appearance and public relations in the post-‘election’ period.


    ‘Hide the iron fist in a velvet glove. Speak softly and carry a big stick.’ That was the essence of Zenawi's ‘victory’ speech (a.k.a demonstration against Human Rights Watch) on 26 May. It was a grotesquely Churchillian speech. It was Winston Churchill who said, ‘In war, resolution; in defeat, defiance; in victory, magnanimity’. In the ‘election’ battle, Zenawi was resolute. For months before election day, he had threatened to prosecute opposition leaders for their ‘inflammatory’ and ‘hateful’ campaign statements calculated to ‘incite violence’. He even threatened to burn them at the stake if they withdrew from the elections at the last minute and agitated the youth to demonstrate in the streets.[4] In his defeat – that is, the complete loss of credibility that comes from winning an election with 99.6 per cent of the votes – he was defiant. (By the way, he gave a solemn promise to the 0.4 per cent of the people who did not vote for him: ‘I would like to confirm to those who did not vote for us that we will work hard to look into your reasons for not voting for us with the view to learning from them and correcting any shortcomings on our part. We will work day and night to obtain your support in the next election.’ In 2015, the vote will be 100 per cent for Zenawi and his party!) In his 99.6 per cent electoral ‘victory’, he was magnanimous – ‘let bygones be bygones.’ (yalefew alfwal)

    The velvet glove/big stick strategy is based on a simple idea of totally demoralising and humiliating the opposition, hoodwinking the Western donors and simply fooling the people. Zenawi's velvety message was that he ‘does not want to be forced to embark upon the business of tracking down people committing crimes. I would like to appeal to some opposition parties … not to force the Government to take measures against them’. He is still carrying a chip on his shoulder from the drubbing his party got in 2005. The opposition humiliated his party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), in 2005 by wining every seat in Addis Ababa, and now it is their turn to be humiliated. ‘It is to be recalled that in the last election, five years ago, we, the EPRDF lost every seat in the capital due to our failure to achieve our goals.’ Not this time. We won them all. (Hee-hee.) In 2005, the opposition accused him of rigging and stealing the election; well, let them get a load of this in 2010: ‘We all know the destructive role some political parties have been playing so far. [They have] attempt[ed] to mar and discredit the polling process. They have tried to cause delay by instructing their observers to arrive late at the polling stations. They have tried to disrupt the queues, make all sorts of shouts and cries, … [and even] sen[t] in their members with grenades to detonate among people queuing at polling stations … We have also observed successful and unsuccessful attempts by members of some of the opposition parties to snatch away ballot boxes and burn the votes of the people.’

    But there is an olive branch extended to the opposition wrapped in condescending cordiality and paternalism. Now that the opposition has been vanquished, they will be allowed to lick the crumbs off the table (and the shoes of the victors) as long as they keep their tails between their legs. ‘We make this pledge to all the parties who did not succeed in getting the support of the people, during this election, that whether or not you have won seats in the parliament, as long as you respect the will of the people and the country's Constitution and other laws of the land, we will work by consulting and involving you in all major national issues. We are making this pledge not only because we believe that we should be partners … [but also] you have the right to participate and to be heard.’ In other words, we will let you speak, if we want to; and we'll shut you up when we want to. Your political existence depends on our good will, whim and fancy.

    Birtukan Midekssa, the first female political party leader in Ethiopia's recorded history and that country's no. 1 political prisoner had said it all before she was re-imprisoned for life in December 2008:

    ‘The message is clear and this message is not only for me but for all who are active in the peaceful struggle. A peaceful and law-abiding political struggle can be conducted only within the limits the ruling party has set and not according to what the country's Constitution allows. And for me it is extremely difficult to accept this.’

    Now that the ‘election' is over, Zenawi will probably trot out the tired old ‘elders’ to begin reconciliation talks to help him buy time until the dust settles around the ‘elections’ controversy. He may even tantalise some opposition leaders with offers of fancy appointments and positions to divide and neutralise them. He is very good at the divide-and-rule thing, which he has successfully used for the past 19 years. Unsurprisingly, some will fall for his tricks, as history has shown time and again. He will make promises to democratise, uphold the rule of law and all that just to buy enough time for the opposition and the people to fall deeper into the vortex of hopelessness and despair.

    The bottom line for Zenawi's regime is: For the foreseeable future, the opposition will know who the boss is, and if they have any doubts, the iron fist will be unsheathed from the velvet glove and the big stick pulled out to drive that point home. No political prisoners will be released, including Birtukan Midekssa. More will be added. There will be no independent press. Civic society organisations will not be allowed to operate freely. Judges will remain in the back pockets of the ruling regime. Justice, and pieces of the country, will be up for sale to the highest bidder, and on and on. Business will be conducted in the same way it has for the last 19 years!


    The contempt and disregard Zenawi has for the Western donors is exceeded only by his utter scorn for the opposition. He warned the donors with diplomatic finesse: ‘We have seen those we believed were friends and partners behaving like king makers and an appeal court for Ethiopia's politics. Our proud people would still like to extend a warm welcome of friendship and partnership. We say to you: Please give due respect to the decision and the sovereign power of the people to elect their own leaders.’ His strategy in dealing with the Western donors is simple: He is the only game in town. The donors have no alternatives to him because he has wiped out the opposition. The donors want stability above all things and will tolerate anything he does. They don't really believe in democracy and human rights anyway; they believe only in advancing their national interests. They do not have the guts to take any action against him because he will threaten to cut them off and go with the Chinese. In any case, they have never taken any serious actions against him and never will. He regards them as a bunch of hypocritical, forked-tongue, double-dealing and double-talking windbags. America is not going to do anything because of her preoccupation with terrorism in the Horn of Africa. To ease the criticism on the donors, he will give them diplomatic cover by touting that he has achieved ‘double digit economic growth’, built roads, schools and other infrastructure. In any case, if push comes to shove, he will attack them by claiming that they are interfering in the country's sovereignty and affronting the Ethiopian people.

    If truth be told, Zenawi would not be necessarily inaccurate in his view. The US, Britain and the European Union have poured in tens of billions of dollars of aid to support his regime for nearly two decades while pontificating about democracy and human rights endlessly. They took no action when he passed a so-called press law criminalising free speech and the free press. They just moaned and groaned about it a little. They took no action when he passed a so-called civic society law that effectively banned civic organisations. They have taken no action against him despite a nearly two decade uninterrupted record of gross human rights violations and criminality. All they have done is dump the blame on the opposition: ‘There is no viable alternative in the opposition.’ They know full well that the opposition is subjected to daily threats, intimidations, arbitrary arrests and detentions and violence, yet they have mustered the audacity to blame them for being ‘not viable’. As I have argued previously,[5] the Western donors have entered into a conspiracy of silence to see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil of Zenawi.


    It is said that ‘you may fool all the people some of the time, you can even fool some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all the time’. Not so for Zenawi and company on Planet Ethiopia. If you think you have fooled the people for 20 years, you can try and fool them for another five or more. In his speech, Zenawi told the people:

    ‘The voters have given us their support freely and democratically. Women are the real backbone of our organization... The youth of our country who have started to benefit from the ongoing development. We are ready to learn from [our] mistakes … The important point in the election process is not the result of the election. It is not about which party won the election. It is Ethiopia's renewal. The winner is Ethiopia's democracy and all Ethiopians. We say congratulations to all the electorate and to our country's forces of peace and democracy … The residents of Addis Ababa are fully aware of our respect for their decision. I believe that the people of Ethiopia, beyond recognizing the efforts of the EPRDF and voting it into power have unequivocally sent a clear message to the opposition parties in our country…’

    It is all about humility and how they can learn from their mistakes and all of the improvements they will make to earn the trust and confidence of the people and so on. We have heard it all before. No need to recite that litany of lies and false promises. Of course, if Zenawi wants to find out the truth all he has to do is ask the people one simple question: Are they better off today than they were in 2005?

    I have expressed my views on the limitations of the regime on previous occasions:[6]

    ‘The dictators of Ethiopia are trapped in a historical time warp. They have clutched the reigns of state for two decades and ostentatiously display the trappings of political power and wealth. But they have not been able to transform 'bushcraft' into statecraft … In their armed campaign against the Derg junta, decision-making was left in the hands of the few. The few leaders exercised raw, brute power over their followers and the communities they controlled. They silenced dissent and criticism ruthlessly, and leaders who disagreed were marginalised, labelled as traitors and removed. Everything was done in secrecy. Power was understood not as a public duty but as a means of self-enrichment, political patronage and intimidation. Leadership meant the cult of personality. The best they have been able to do is to transform the 'politics of the bush' fighting the Derg into a one-man, one-party state, whose guiding motto is, “What is good for the TPLF/EPDRF is good for Ethiopia!”

    ‘The transition from “bushcraft” to statecraft requires tectonic transformations. Democratic statecraft requires an appreciation, understanding and application of basic democratic principles such as the rule of law, separation of powers, checks and balances and constitutionalism in the governance process. The dictators have little experience with or practical understanding of such principles … They never had free elections in the bush; and it is no wonder that they were totally surprised when they got thumped in the 2005 elections. Upholding the rule of law is absurd to them because they believe themselves to be THE LAW … They scoff at civil liberties and civil rights as Western luxuries because they never lived in a system where the powers of government are constitutionally subordinated to the rights of the individual. In short, it is wishful thinking to expect from them the kind of statecraft necessary for democratic governance.’

    Mr Zenawi and company need to understand a simple fact about elections: ‘Politicians are like diapers. They both need changing regularly and for the same reason.’ Arrrrgh! The thought of poor Ethiopia wearing the same diapers for another 5 years…

    Free Birtukan Midekssa and all political prisoners in Ethiopia.


    * This article was originally published by The Huffington Post.
    * Alemayehu G. Mariam is professor of political science at California State University (CSU), San Bernardino.
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.



    Egypt: Between a pyramid and the Empire State Building

    Khadija Sharife


    cc G C
    Egypt’s majestic legacy of civilisation and empire appears to have lost its shine in the light of its current geopolitical positioning as ‘a brutal but glorified US ‘security guard’ at the expense of Egypt's citizens’, writes Khadija Sharife. Sharife explores the interaction between US foreign policy and this ‘draconian state’, which is ‘conveniently located astride both North Africa and the Middle East’.

    In perhaps his most famous anti-imperialist essay ‘To the Person Sitting in Darkness’, Mark Twain critiques the self-evident truth of American imperial policy in Africa, China and the Philippines:

    ‘Privately and confidentially, it is merely an outside cover, gay and pretty and attractive, displaying the special pat-terns of our Civilization which we reserve for Home Consumption, while inside the bale is the Actual Thing that the Customer Sitting in Darkness buys with his blood and tears and land and liberty. That Actual Thing is indeed Civilization, but it is only for Export.’

    When it comes to the US foreign policy template in the Middle East, Egypt's geopolitical relevance is strictly rooted in the idea of geographically containing the 'Palestinian threat'. It came as no surprise then, when Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak advised Israel to reject Qatar's offer of reconstructing the Gaza Strip in exchange for Israeli recognition of Qatar's political weight in the Middle East. But in doing so, Mubarak’s Egypt revealed its vulnerability as a 'sub-imperial' power already in decline. Simply put, Egypt's draconian state cannot survive Qatar's proposal – normalising free movement of goods and material through Gazan borders religiously sealed by Egypt: Mubarak's regime depends on it. The military aid allegedly providing Egypt with the clout to 'contain' the Gaza Strip has been provided by the US for over three decades, following a tradition that began with the Camp David Peace Accords of 1978. Since then, US military aid to Egypt, estimated at US$1.3 billion annually, evidences Egypt as the primary recipient of US military aid after Israel – on the receiving end of $38 billion.

    Unsurprisingly, US military aid – a strategic 'rent' enabling the Mubarak edifice to capture state power – corresponds with Egypt's 'state of emergency laws', allowing for detention and arrest without trial as well as the use of secretive state security courts. The law, introduced in 1967, was consistently implemented from 1981, bearing witness to the assassination of President Anwar Sadat and Mubarak's rise to the highest office in Egypt. Opacity vehicles such as the extreme emergency law allows for opposition movements like the non-violent Muslim Brotherhood, branded by the state as terrorists, to be removed from Egypt's political canvas. More recently, in the run-up to parliamentary and presidential elections to be held in 2010 and 2011, Mubarak's regime once again cracked down on political protests and opposition parties. The country's main opposition party is banned, while more than 45 members, including the leadership, were detained.

    The aim? To erode potential gains by any opposition party. Mubarak's National Democratic Party (NDP) requires a strong hold over parliamentary seats to facilitate 'legitimate' constitutional changes before the presidential elections. Though US President Barack Obama selected Cairo as his pick to deliver a speech to the 'Muslim World' hubristically titled A New Beginning, more than 80 per cent of Egypt's arms, used to sustain Mubarak's 28-year rule, is supplied by the US, with a US$4 billion endowment fund in the pipelines. If alleged rumours related to high-level meetings bear fruit, this endowment may just be supplied without Congressional oversight. Attending such a meeting in August 2009 – Mubarak's first trip to Washington in five years – was son Gamal, groomed to be the next president, as well as Intelligence Chief Omar Sulieman.

    In that same month, Egypt allegedly discovered a terrorist cell planning to assassinate an Israeli ambassador – a political coup that landed Mubarak the personal thanks of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Just two months prior, Israeli warships and submarines received Egypt’s blessing to use the Suez Canal as a training ground for preparations in attack against Iran. According to an Israeli official quoted in a US Congressional Review, ‘Israel is investing time in preparing itself for the complexity of an attack against Iran. These maneuvers are a message to Iran that Israel will follow up on its threats.’

    Beyond military aid, Egypt also receives bilateral aid earmarked for democracy and governance initiatives via the US Agency for International Development (USAID), currently standing at US$20 million. Yet according to the US-based Carnegie Endowment Center, USAID ‘adopted a policy of only funding those organizations officially registered and approved as NGOs by the Egyptian government’. The notorious 'NGO Bill', drafted by the Egyptian Ministry of Social Solidarity, threatens to eliminate civil society movements in Egypt, following on the heels of the government's brutally restrictive current NGO Law of 2002 which renders the legal status, activities and focus areas, funding, board members and employees subject to the approval of the Ministry. The Ministry must be informed, for instance, of a meeting 15 days in advance, reserve the right to have government representatives attend meetings, reserve the right to dissolve NGOs, imprison or detain deviant groups or individuals, reject application for registration if it is deemed threatening to the public interest and prohibit civil society groups from accessing foreign funding, among other tentacles of repression.

    Though the Obama administration recently expressed disappointment concerning the extension of emergency law, suggesting instead other means of containing 'terrorist activity', the US has turned a blind eye to Egypt's brutal human rights record. According to Abdullah al-Ashaal, a Professor at the American University in Cairo and presidential candidate, ‘if any terrorism arises it is because of the government policies – raising prices, the detention of people and the injustices which are prevailing everywhere’.

    But the terrorist activity alluded to has been justified by Egypt's status as the handpicked geopolitical Arab 'mediator', specifically concerning the democratically elected, US-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, Hamas. As an Arab power of note, conveniently located astride both North Africa and the Middle East, Egypt is able to 'legitimately' quash – and lock in, the threat of movements perceived as a threat to Israel's geostrategic stronghold, and by default, Mubarak's regime.

    Once a majestic civilisation, Egypt has since become a brutal but glorified US 'security guard' at the expense of Egypt's citizens. Mubarak, positioning himself as a modern pharaoh, comforts himself with the mantra informing the great game of empire: 'my enemy’s enemy is my friend'.


    In his essay Imperial America, Richard Haass, then special assistant to President George Bush and a member of the National Security Council, articulated the means through which the US should re-conceive its role from a powerful nation-state to that of an imperial force.

    ‘To advocate an imperial foreign policy is to call for a foreign policy that attempts to organize the world along certain principles affecting relations between states and conditions within them,’ said Haass. ‘Coercion and the use of force would normally be a last resort.’

    The paper, delivered at the Atlanta Conference on 11 November 2000, was the catalyst behind the decision to retain Haass as director of policy planning in the Bush administration's State Department. But the ideology informing Haass' language – clothing hegemonic visibility (especially when sustained through khaki-force) as an undesirable and unsustainable means of empire – was lost on the Bush administration.

    Currently president of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), Haass's ideas on imperial foreign policy alluded to the formula of great empires – those who maintained a forced peace not through territorial acquisition alone, but instead, preferred 'invisible' hegemonic structures. These are located in geostrategic fulcrums which constitute the blueprint of ‘realities’ ie: global systems selectively designed to reinforce the notion of 'self-evident' truths.

    Mubarak should take heed: Though Egypt's location might be a relevant justifying agent, the nature of Mubarak's authoritarian regime reflects badly on the already war-stained US brand of empire-for-export. As such, Mubarak might just be too costly a friend to keep.


    * Khadija Sharife is a journalist and visiting scholar at the Center]]Centre for Civil Society.
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

    A war of words in the new Middle East Cold War

    The Hizbullah trial in Egypt

    Chris Zambelis


    cc Mateus
    The Egyptian Emergency Supreme State Security Court (ESSSC) convicted and sentenced 26 individuals who Cairo accuses of being part of an active Hizbullah cell in Egypt on 28 April. The case, which ‘continues to arouse strong emotions inside Egypt and the wider region, marks the first time Egypt has prosecuted alleged members of Hizbullah,’ writes Chris Zambelis. But it also ‘showcased an underlying subtext behind the dynamic shaping some of the most important trends in Middle East politics today’, a shift in the Egypt’s pan-Arabian allegiances towards Western powers such as the US and Israel.

    On 28 April an Egyptian emergency court convicted 26 people accused of belonging to an active Hizbullah cell in Egypt, only the latest move that reflects a show of Egypt’s support for Israel, the US and other pro-Western regimes. In contrast, the country’s history of pan-Arab nationalism and support for the status quo that included a pro-Palestinian stance raises questions about conflicting tensions within the country. The about-face also advances the theory of a new, Middle East Cold War.

    The latest exchange of blows in the ongoing feud between Egypt and Lebanon’s Hizbullah came on 28 April, as the Egyptian Emergency Supreme State Security Court (ESSSC) convicted and sentenced 26 individuals who Cairo accuses of being part of an active Hizbullah cell in Egypt. Authorities claim the suspects operated on Egyptian soil in late 2008 before their detention between December 2008 and January 2009.

    The announcement of the verdict marked the end of an eight month-long trial characterised by incessant controversy and political intrigue. Egyptian authorities accused the suspects of a host of charges ranging from conducting intelligence activities on ships traversing the Suez Canal to plotting attacks against Sinai tourist resorts popular with Israelis in Sinai. The alleged cell members are also accused of possessing arms and explosives and smuggling weapons and fighters into Israeli-occupied Gaza, where Egypt helps to enforce Israel’s economic and travel blockade of the territory.[1] The case, which continues to arouse strong emotions inside Egypt and the wider region, marks the first time Egypt has prosecuted alleged members of Hizbullah. The trial also showcased an underlying subtext behind the dynamic shaping some of the most important trends in Middle East politics today.

    The alleged members of the cell, which include Lebanese, Palestinians, Egyptians, and Sudanese, were sentenced to prison terms ranging from six months to life. Four of the suspects who remain on the run were tried and sentenced in absentia, and three of them received life sentences. According to the defendants and their defense team, Egyptian State Security authorities extracted false confessions through torture and other threatening methods.[2] Because the trial took place in the ESSSC – an institution founded under the emergency laws set in place following the assassination of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat in 1981 – there was no option for the defendants to seek a higher appeal, as the only remaining recourse is a presidential pardon.[3]

    Hizbullah has been remarkably forthright in admitting to having deployed operatives to Egypt. Specifically, Hizbullah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah acknowledged that Muhammad Yusuf Mansur Ahmad (a.k.a. Sami Shehab), the lone Lebanese suspect in Egyptian custody, is a member of Hizbullah: ‘Our brother Sami is a member of Hizbullah, we do not deny this’.[4] During the trial’s initial hearings, one of the defendants is reported to have shouted in the courtroom, ‘we are at your command Nasrallah.’[5]
    At the same time, Hizbullah scoffed at Cairo’s charge that it had any intention of targeting or inflicting harm on Egypt; Hizbullah maintains that it was and is concerned solely with supporting the Palestinians in Gaza. Hizbullah also disputes Egypt’s allegations that Shehab was part of a 26-man team, insisting that no more than 10 others assisted Shehab in his activities.[6]


    The announcement of the trial’s verdict elicited a bold and defiant response from Hizbullah. Branding the Egyptian court’s decision as ‘unjust’ and ‘political’, Nasrallah reaffirmed the group’s support for the prisoners and its determination to support the Palestinian resistance against Israeli occupation.
    ‘Our brothers are honest mujahideen, not terrorists as they were described by the court … since when is helping the Palestinians in Gaza a crime?’[7]
    In a statement directed to the prisoners, Nasrallah lavished praise on what he described as their commitment to supporting the Palestinian cause. ‘You were prepared to face death for the Palestinian cause and should wear these sentences as a badge of honor’, he said.[8]

    A Hizbullah delegation to the family of Sami Shehab led by Sayyed Ibrahim Amin al-Sayyed, the head of Hizbullah’s political council, rebuffed Cairo’s assertion that Hizbullah posed a threat to Egypt’s security and stability, stating that Shehab and the other prisoners were ‘fulfilling the duty of supporting the oppressed Palestinian people and their brave resistance in the besieged Gaza Strip’.[9]


    The ensuing war of words between the prosecution and defense teams escalated steadily throughout the trial. Since the initial arrest of the defendants, the prosecution—bolstered by official statements out of Cairo and the diligent efforts of official and semi-official media outlets – painted a picture of Hizbullah as an enemy of Egypt. Media outlets closely tied to the regime went so far as to label Nasrallah ‘the monkey shaykh’ and described Hizbullah as ‘the devil’s party’. Other venues attempted to link the group to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, the moderate, democratic and reform-minded movement that represents the strongest opposition to the authoritarian regime.[10]

    Prior to handing down his sentences, presiding judge Adel Abdel Salam Gomaa asked, ‘does supporting the Palestinian resistance include collecting information on Egyptian [interests] in the governorates of North and South Sinai, pinpointing tourist resorts [for attack], renting property overlooking the Suez Canal, making explosives and keeping them with [one of the defendants] in the governorate of North Sinai?’ The judge added that the defendants sought to hurt the Egyptian economy and to destabilise the country.[11]

    The prosecution repeated the regime’s longstanding argument based on the ‘Shi’a crescent’ thesis that the actions of the defendants were part of Iranian designs aimed at undermining Egypt and controlling the Middle East, a theme repeated by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. ‘We will not allow any interference by foreign forces [i.e. Iran] … who push the region towards hell out of a desire to spread their influence and their agenda on the Arab world.’[12]

    The especially strong language coming out of Egyptian officialdom is a form of reprisal against Hizbullah for the latter’s rhetoric targeting the Egyptian stance during Israel’s invasion of Gaza in December 2008, namely Egypt’s decision to seal the border between Gaza and Sinai to prevent an influx of refugees escaping the bombardment and to block the flow of humanitarian aid. Nasrallah castigated Egypt for collaborating with Israel and called on Egyptians to rise up against the regime in a show of solidarity with the Palestinians. ‘Let the Egyptian people take to the streets in millions. Can the Egyptian police arrest millions of Egyptians? No! They cannot.’[13] Nasrallah even addressed ‘the officers and soldiers of the Egyptian armed forces, who are still proud of their Arab roots and continue to oppose Zionism’:

    ’I am not calling for a coup in Egypt, and I am in no position to call for one. But I am calling for generals and officers to ask their political leadership whether it is their devotion to the military, the responsibilities entrusted in them and their rows of medals that prompt them to guard Israeli borders while watching our own people being slaughtered in Gaza?’[14]


    Led by Muhammad Salim al-Awwa, an attorney who also serves as the secretary general of the International Union of Islamic Scholars (IUMS), the defense team built its case based on the premise that the entire trial was essentially a political show by drawing heavily from examples of Egypt’s history of resistance to foreign occupation and support for national liberation movements in the Arab world and beyond. Al-Awwa emphasised that under the rule of President Gamal Abdel Nasser, the Egyptian intelligence services had established the Arab World Unit, a department charged with providing national liberation movements in countries such as Algeria and revolutionary movements across Africa and the Middle East with arms, finance and political support.

    The defendants, according to al-Awwa, were only acting in the tradition of Egypt’s once-proud sense of revolutionary spirit and commitment to defending the oppressed in Palestine and beyond.[15] Al-Awwa refuted charges that Hizbullah was targeting Egypt: ‘[Hizbullah] is not a secret and illegal organization that seeks to destabilize Egypt.’ Al-Awaa quoted Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, a close Egyptian and American ally, on Hizbullah’s role in Lebanon as a ‘political partner and a political force’.[16] The defense added that armed resistance is permitted against occupation under international law and that as a party to a variety of international and pan-Arab legal charters, Egypt is essentially failing to live up to its commitments. To further support his assertion that Cairo’s position toward the defendants amounts to little more than a show trial as opposed to a case based on sound legal or national security grounds, al-Awwa cited statements issued by Mubarak critical of Israel’s occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, as well as Mubarak’s recognition that armed resistance under these circumstances is legitimate.[17]


    To understand the implications of this war of words between Egypt and Hizbullah, a brief look at the recent history of the region is in order. The influence of the brand of pan-Arab nationalism promoted by Nasser (‘Nasserism’) reached its height between the mid-1950s and 1967 as a bitter rivalry developed between Egypt and advocates of the status quo in the Middle East, led by Saudi Arabia and other conservative, pro-Western monarchies. This period is often referred to as the Arab Cold War.[18] Powerful rhetoric, proxy wars, insurgencies, terrorism, coups, and counter-coups characterised the politics of the day. As the de facto leader of the resistance faction in the region, Egypt actively supported revolutionary campaigns across the Middle East under the banners of popular struggle and resistance typical of anti-colonial movements of the day. In this context, undermining Saudi influence was critical to furthering Arab nationalist goals due to the Kingdom’s strong links to foreign powers, including to the United States and the former colonial powers. Today many observers point to a new Middle East Cold War paradigm, essentially an expanded version of previous rivalries between competing power blocs that feature a host of new players. Egypt, this time as a member of the pro-US status quo camp, along with fellow US allies Saudi Arabia, Jordan, other pro-US Arab regimes and Israel, stand against the so-called ‘resistance’ faction led by Iran, Syria, Lebanon’s Hizbullah, and Hamas. Depending on the politics of the day, Turkey and Qatar (through its al-Jazeera news network) may navigate a fine line between both factions.

    Given this background, Egypt’s predicament is that Egyptians tend to identify strongly with the resistance camp, despite Egypt’s alliance with the United States and its cooperation with Israel. Cairo is vulnerable to internal criticism and perceives Iranian and Hizbullah attacks against its positions on the regional and global stage as a serious threat, especially in their potential to embolden domestic political opposition among groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood and other dissenting factions in Egyptian society.


    * This article first appeared in Terrorism Monitor.
    * Chris Zambelis is an associate with Helios Global Inc.
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.


    [1] al-Jazeera, 28 April; al-Masry al-Youm [Cairo], 28 April.
    [2] al-Masry al-Youm, 22 November 2009.
    [3] al-Jazeera, 28 April.
    [4] al-Manar [Beirut], 10 April 2009.
    [5] Menassat [Beirut], 24 August 2009.
    [6] Reuters, 28 April.
    [7] al-Masry al-Youm, 29 April.
    [8] al-Masry al-Youm, 29 April.
    [9] Al-Manar, 29 April; see Terrorism Monitor, 10 April 2009.
    [10] Menassat, 5 May 2009.
    [11] al-Masry al-Youm, 28 April.
    [12] Menassat, 5 May 2009.
    [13] Press TV [Tehran], 30 December 2008.
    [14] Press TV, 30 December 2008.
    [15] Al-Ahram Weekly [Cairo], 25 February – 3 March.
    [16] Al-Ahram Weekly, 25 February – 3 March.
    [17] Al-Ahram Weekly, 25 February – 3 March.
    [18] The term was coined by Malcolm Kerr. For more background on this critical period in modern Middle Eastern history, see Malcolm Kerr, The Arab Cold War: Gamal ‘Abd Al-Nasir and His Rivals, 1958-1970 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971).

    The fight for the full inclusion of everyone

    Sokari Ekine


    cc M T
    Like many people around the world, Sokari Ekine is ‘elated’ by the news that Malawian couple Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, have been pardoned and freed. But, asks Ekine, ‘How can we claim justice has been done when the law used to convict the couple has not been successfully challenged?’ In this week’s round-up of the African blogosphere, Ekine finds her sentiments echoed by others across the continent.

    Two stories have dominated Africa this week – the pardoning of Malawian couple, Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga who were sentenced to 14 years hard labour for loving each other and Africa Liberation Day – May 25th. The day was also the first year anniversary of the tragic death of Pan-Africanist Tajudeen Abdul- Raheem. I will start with two posts which speak directly to the sovereignty and autonomy of post-colonial African states and questions how near to ‘liberation’ are we 50 years after the independence movements.

    Abahlali baseMjondolo Youth League’s Africa Day statement began with a long quotation from Thabo Mbeki’s ‘I am an African’ speech of 1996 (given on the eve of the launch of the South African constitution). They ask what happened to these ideals, and in direct reference to Steven and Tiwonge, ask what happened to the notion of inclusive citizenship:

    ‘What happened to the idea that Africa belongs to all who live in it? What happened to the idea that our heroes should be those that fight for the full inclusion of everyone and never those that fight to exclude some people?

    ‘Right now two Malawian gays have been sentenced for 14 years for coming out. None of the African heads of state have stepped forward to condemn this doing of the Malawi government. When we ask why it seems that the answer is because they all believe that “being Gay is unAfrican”. But there are many Gay people in Africa and therefore it cannot be ‘unAfrican to be Gay’.

    ‘As the Youth of Abahlali baseMjondolo we are sending solidarities to that Gay couple who will face 14 years imprisonment for being who they are, having the courage to be open about who they are and to believe in what they believe in. It is so wrong that innocent people who have harmed no one are sent to jail while the criminals are being protected outside and allowed to continue abusing innocent people.’

    Like many people across the world I was elated by the news Steven and Tiwonge had been pardoned and were free. However two conflicting questions came to mind:

    ‘How can we claim justice has been done when the law used to convict the couple has not been successfully challenged? On the other hand how can we not cheer and feel relieved that Steven and Tiwonge are free no matter what the circumstances?’

    Writing in Black Looks human rights lawyer, Sibongile Ndashe expands on the need to reconcile the ‘triumph of human rights’ against ‘succumbing to international pressure and donor coercion’:

    ‘Stepping outside of Malawi, questions are asked on why neo-imperialism is able to triumph in this manner long after the continent has struggled to free itself from the bonds of colonialism and imperialism.
    ‘Presidential pardons tend to undermine the rule of law, just like amnesties. It makes the law look uncertain. It makes the law look like whatever the donors and the international community say should be the law.The idea that someone can be “asked” to do something when no is not a real option is what makes the situation ugly. This just does not look good on the sovereignty and autonomy front.

    ‘Why do we keep on giving the west a basis to come in and threaten us with aid and make them look like they are here to save brown people from other brown people? Why do we allow the west to continue cleansing itself of its culpability for the conditions that they have made possible to thrive? Why is the west allowed to continue playing saviour here? Who is giving the west a right to intervene and get Tiwonge outside prison? It’s the laws that the legislature have left in the statute books. It’s the laws that are being used to persecute a group.’

    Gukira responds to one of the many attempts by western columnists to ‘explain African Homophobia’ including why they feel the need to explain it in the first place and why they are so angry about it. (Gukira also wrote a second article published in the UK’s Guardian newspaper).

    ‘We might begin with the expression of concern that opens the article, and that strange word “rightly.” I am puzzled at why there is “rightly huge concern and anger in the west” about homophobia. Puzzled because “the west” has been “rightly” concerned about everything in Africa for as long as I can remember: women’s roles, AIDS, polygamy, corruption, disease, hunger.

    ‘Being “rightly” concerned is, as far as I can tell, a full time occupation where Africa is concerned. To be western, Ms. Bunting suggests, is to have “the right” to be concerned and angry about what happens in Africa. 40 years after African’s independence from colonialism, I remain puzzled at what gives “the west” any rights over Africa. And because I am an intellectual, I wonder at Ms. Bunting’s need to posit an autonomous “west” against a knowable “Africa,” even after more than 30 years of scholarship that has emphasized the cross-hybridization of these two spaces.’

    Moving to a slightly different topic, Method To The Madnesscompares the Exxon Valdez oil spill to the oil spills in the Niger Delta:

    ‘Anyone remember that Exxon Valdez spill in the US? Were you wondering how bad that was in comparison to the destruction in the Niger-Delta? Well in 2006…Up to 1.5 million tons of oil, 50 times the pollution unleashed in the Exxon Valdez tanker disaster, has been spilt in the ecologically precious Niger Delta over the past 50 years, it was revealed yesterday.

    ‘A panel of independent experts who travelled to the increasingly tense and lawless region said damage to the fragile mangrove forests over the past 50 years was tantamount to a catastrophic oil spill occurring every 12 months in what is one of the world's most important ecosystems.’

    One of my favourite blogs – African Digital Art posts a video of a ‘broadcast/telly spot for the lauded broadway musical FELA’.

    Finally this week a link to a new blog promoting African Literature - Imagenations Imagenations which along with Bookalholic are two excellent literature blogs. Both are also on Twitter at and


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

    Land investments are wholesale sell-outs for women farmers

    Nidhi Tandon


    cc Lukas
    Uncertainty around food and fuel supply globally has sparked investor interest in the acquisition of large parcels of productive land around the world, for commercial production or long-term investment, writes Nidhi Tandon. But these developments, which effectively take land away from local farmers and in many cases perpetuate ‘environmentally damaging farming methods’, threaten to have ‘serious negative impacts for small farmers, in particular women, who have no say in the political and trade decisions around their lands,’ Tandon warns.

    The multi-fold hike in food and fuel prices in late 2007 came out of the volatility in the financial markets. In the first six months of 2008, mass riots over food shortages and unaffordable prices broke out across the world, from Senegal to Zimbabwe, from Haiti to Mexico, from Bangladesh to Yemen. As a result, economies large and small have become more alert to food security concerns.

    Uncertainty around the future of food and fuel supply has propelled investors to invest in land. A growing number of investors and fund companies are acquiring large parcels of productive land in Africa, Latin America, Central and Southeast Asia for commercial production or long term investment – effectively taking land away from local farmers and in many cases, perpetuating environmentally damaging farming methods. This development threatens to have serious negative impacts for small farmers, in particular women, who have no say in the political and trade decisions around their lands.

    ‘Agriculture will be the next big booming sector. It will be farmers who will be driving the best cars in the world in the next 20–25 years instead of bankers and analysts’. (Jim Rogers)[2]

    ‘The sharp recent rise in global commodities prices, particularly in the energy and agricultural sectors, is … threatening the health of many millions in developing countries. There is also no doubt that these price rises have been accompanied by a corresponding rise in interest from institutional investors in commodities as an asset class. The value of commodity index investments has grown by about 1/3 since the beginning of the year, to more than $250 billion’.(Ben Steil, May 20, 2008)[3]

    ‘We can't reduce poverty if the majority of the landless can't afford to buy land.’ (Lumumba Odenda)[4]

    A portrait of contradictions? The underlying assumption of the first quote (speculators’ hype) is that farmers will earn the kinds of profits that commodity speculators do. The reality presented in the last quote is that many who depend upon the land do not, and increasingly, cannot, own land. As long as financiers and traders profit from a system that pays out to them, they will continue to be the ones ‘driving the best cars’. With financiers and investors moving into long-term lease or outright purchase of enormous plots of land, peasants and small farmers are joining the ranks of the rural landless in ever-growing numbers. Globalisation impacts local land markets and land use; land transaction costs affect food prices; and the combined effect is particularly damaging to women who produce food and who put food on the table for their families.

    This paper examines three issues:

    - What is attracting investors and market speculators into the farm and land sectors;
    - What is at stake for small farmers – and especially women farmers - and long term impacts for food production and food security; and
    - What action is needed to enable women to secure access to natural resource and land assets for current and future generations?


    On 12 March 2010, Kooya Timan travelled 66km to the offices of the Ngorongoro NGO Network[5] in Arusha, and stayed in town overnight so as to take my phone interview for this article the following day. Kooya is a Maasai woman, a mother of five, born and raised in this area. The Maasai are a pastoralist community in northeast Tanzania who depend entirely on natural resources and their cattle for their livelihoods. Maasai women are among the poorest and most marginalised groups in Tanzanian society.

    Kooya grows the staples of kidney beans (maharage) and maize (mahindi) to feed her family. At age 37 she says, (we are)… ‘living the hardest life we have ever lived. The land is poor quality. We lost so many cattle from viral infection[6] and starvation. The children are not going to school.’ Their few remaining cows and goats effectively put this family on a precarious edge. They are living on a starvation diet because the resources they depend upon are being eroded away. Kooya does not have enough land to grow any surplus for the local market. ‘Many women find themselves without homes, and are migrating to nearby towns to look for work’, she says.

    Encroachment on pastoral lands is not a recent development; what is perhaps different is that it is becoming more intensified with globalisation, more difficult to track, and more discriminating against the rights of native peoples. In 1984, Tanganyika Breweries Ltd and its investor partners needed land to grow barley for beer; 10,000 hectares were put aside for the crop at that time. The land encroachment continues today in various guises, with further leasing to third parties for tourism development, conservation, gem mining, or farming. This kind of parcelling out of land among foreign investors and interests is common, and the village councils face a daunting task trying to reclaim lands, or negotiating use rights for local herders and farmers. The Maasai spiritual leaders – the Laibon – are almost entirely excluded from any engagement on behalf of their communities. And the women, needless to say, are voiceless in these matters.

    This region is renowned for its natural beauty. Prime tourist sites include the Ngorongoro Crater, the Olduvai Gorge, and the active volcano in Mount Lengai. Artefacts found in the region indicate that pastoralists have grazed this area for 2,500 years or more. Samwel Nangiria – coordinator of the Ngoro Ngoro NGO network writes: ‘the community lands are being alienated by the government and big companies from Middle East and North America for ‘conservation’ purposes. For the last nine months we have had the toughest time trying to rescue the village land of eight villages that is being alienated by the government to give to the Royal Family from Dubai.’[7] He continues, ‘…in Loliondo, over 300 homes were burnt down, 1,800 people were made homeless and over 100,000 livestock were left without water and pasture. This happened between July–December 2009. One woman was reportedly raped by riot police who were deployed by the government to forcefully evict people from their lands. At the moment we are dealing with an American company alienating a big chunk of land for tourism’. In most cases, land orders are delivered directly from central government. ‘We will not be surprised if the next day we hear that the farm has been sold to a third party and the normal fracas ensues with villagers being evicted. In short, land value in key areas in Ngorongoro has appreciated astronomically of recent and their transferability (occurs) in a matter of seconds’.[8]

    At the World Conservation Union Congress in November 2004, Martin Saning’o, a Maasai leader explained, ‘Our ways of farming pollinated diverse seed species and maintained corridors between ecosystems.’ Yet, in the interest of the new vogue of ‘biodiversity’, more than 100,000 Maasai pastoralists have been displaced from their traditional homelands.[9]

    Kooya Timan has no doubt in that it is women and children who suffer the most. As a member of a pastoral women’s group, she informs me that each member will contribute TShs500 (US$1.50) towards a community meeting in April to send a delegation of women to present their concerns to the minister of natural resources and tourism. An earlier mission by the women to make a presentation to State House was blocked in December 2009. When asked what it is that the women really need, Kooya does not hesitate, ‘We need our voices to be heard at different levels, by our own government but also by networks of women around the world who will support us. We are being marginalised by our government but also by the men in our communities – and yet we women are the majority in our communities. We need a big movement to hold government accountable’.


    Renewed interests in land and farm investments worldwide are a response in part to growing demand for food, water and fuel; in part to the opportunities provided by the speculative market and in part because countries are seeking to secure their own food sources to protect them against future market upswings in food price and availability. The pace of acquiring lands has quickened in the aftermath of the 2008 economic crisis; a global market in land and water rights is being created which has very little connection to domestic agricultural plans.

    Private and institutional investors are seeking ways to diversify their asset bases, including outright purchases or long-term leasing of agricultural lands (the focus of this paper); more extensive speculation on food commodities[10]; and more systemic investments in the entire chain of the field-to-table business. In 2008, agricultural funds made 9.5 per cent return on investment, according to BarclayHedge, while almost every other investment lost money.[11] Financial speculation in commodity futures following the collapse of the financial derivatives markets fostered a ‘commodities super-cycle.’ In 2008 and 2009, speculators seeking quick returns transferred billions of dollars out of equities and mortgage bonds, and invested into food and raw materials. This heated-up speculation in commodities has a worldwide impact on food prices because of the globalised system of food production and the domino effects between different food sectors. The price impact on food importing citizens around the world has been devastating.

    Bilateral and multilateral interests are also shifting attention to political and financial investment in agriculture. Examples include the 2008 International Finance Corporation (IFC) announcement that it would increase investments in ‘agribusiness development’ in Africa, South America and Russia because of new private sector interest in the food sector. Part of its spending will be to bring ‘under-utilized’ lands into production.[12] The term ‘under-utilised’ is often taken to mean small-scale sustenance farming that does not meet the ‘economies of scale’ models promoted by agri-business.

    The Gates and Rockefeller foundations’ partnership with Monsanto to bring an Asian-type green revolution to the African continent will invest $US150 million into an Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa project, which they regard as essential for food security. On its website, the Alliance describes itself as a ‘dynamic partnership working across the continent to help millions of small-scale farmers and their families lift themselves out of poverty and hunger. Alliance partnerships will focus on key aspects of African agriculture: from seeds, soil health and water to markets, agricultural education and policy.’[13]

    Increased support for biotechnology is hidden in these developments. A 2009 report has as one of its main recommendations: ‘…international agricultural research projects with substantial payoffs for a large number of beneficiaries should be given investment priority, particularly genetically modified organisms (GMOs) that offer major potential for boosting agricultural yields and ‘climate proofing’ crops.’[14]

    Josphat Ngonyo, with the Africa Network for Animal Welfare in Nairobi, compared the workings of the Alliance with that of Monsanto, the world’s leading producer of genetically modified seeds. ‘The way that the Gates and Rockefeller foundations have set up AGRA resembles a well-known Monsanto format. AGRA purports to finance and train small and medium sized agro-chemical dealerships, up to the village level, to make sure ‘improved seeds’ have a smooth channel to flow to all farmers across the continent. But Monsanto must police its technology contracts, so its transfer from Monsanto’s labs to farmers is best controlled if the financier has a hand on the seed supply chain in Africa.’ In short, this leads to corporate control of the seed supply, whether or not it is genetically engineered.[15]


    Powerful coalitions of agro-industrial corporations, investment finance and bio-technology research are poised to spring new systems of large-scale controlled farming in countries that are unable to negotiate their own interests – and owning land and seed are the essential cornerstones to this business.

    An UNCTAD (Nations Conference on Trade and Development) 2009 report[16] tracks a revival of old investors and an entry of new investors in agricultural production. Governments with a growing interest in investment in food production abroad are using Foreign Direct Investment, Sovereign Wealth Funds (SWFs) and other contractual arrangements to finance investment. The new investors include those who have not traditionally invested overseas, or they may be cross-industry Trans National Companies such as Daewoo Logistics (Republic of Korea) and ExxonMobil (USA) or private equity funds (such as Palmer Capital/Bidwells from Germany/ UK and Gulamareh Fund, Malaysia). These large-scale farming practices will further erode women’s access to land and their use of land for local food growing and sourcing. And now with the attention to climate change politics, international policies systematically legitimise these processes and value propositions – often to the detriment of women.


    While the emerging picture is still hazy and fragmented, stories from the field indicate that local people are losing access to the very resources upon which they depend for food, water and fuel security. Rural populations whose lives are inextricably linked with local ecosystems are most affected by how control over soil use is defined and realised. While farmers might still live on the land, they may no longer have a say on what is grown or for whom. When these kinds of decisions are taken away from the farmer, you are creating a farmer who is emotionally divorced from the care of the land. We have already witnessed the impact that this kind of ‘alienation’ has had on once-fertile lands across Africa and Asia.

    The FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) estimates that of the four billion poor and hungry, 50 per cent are small holder farmers, a majority of them women, 20 per cent are rural landless, 10 per cent depend on herding, fishing and forestry, and the remaining 20 per cent are urban. The FAO also suggests that women contribute 60 to 80 per cent of the labour used to produce food for household consumption and for sale in developing countries, especially sub-Saharan Africa.

    Despite the broad popularisation of policies that speak to equitable development for both men and women, the reality is that women still systematically receive less extension training, access fewer loans for farm development, product development and marketing right across the board, and are generally voiceless relative to men. For example, of the 150 plus greenhouses that had been distributed among farmers in Dominica in 2009, only four went to women farmers.[17] What factors underpin the continued marginalisation of women’s interests in the farming sector?

    COMMERCIAL FARMING IS PRIORITISED OVER LOCAL FOOD FARMING: Countries that depend upon agricultural income promote commercial (export) agriculture as a means to earning foreign exchange over smaller-scale farming systems that feed the country. This means that government supported initiatives, often dependent upon external funders, ignore or exclude small farmers who do not produce a high acreage of a single marketable crop or product. This also means that multi-cropping, companion cropping or other methods that do not meet this high acreage criteria are systematically ignored. Because many women farm smaller plots of land with a range of plants, they are de facto excluded from any national policy engagement.

    TENURE INSECURITY LEADS TO LOWER PRODUCTIVITY: Africa is a food and commodity-producing continent. 70 per cent of Africans work in agriculture, which provides 50 to 70 per cent of Africa’s Gross Domestic Product – yet farm yields are only one-quarter of the global average. This is less a reflection on land productivity and more on the tenuous nature of land access and security of tenure. Research in Ghana shows that women’s land plot productivity was lower than that of men’s because of their higher level of tenure insecurity, making them less able to invest in land such as through fallowing[18] because they might risk losing the land.[19] Studies have also shown that where farmers ‘own’ the trees that they plant, they are more likely to take a long-term interest in planting more trees. In other words, there needs to be some assurance that the labour invested in the land will secure a return over several harvests.

    FEMALE-HEADED HOUSEHOLDS ARE LESS SECURE: Add to this the fact that there has been a significant increase in the percentage of female-headed households (FHH) in recent years in many African countries. FHHs have a higher dependency ratio; have fewer assets and less access to resources; and tend to have a greater history of disruption.[20] Women in particular, whose formal rights to land are usually tentative to non-existent, with no legal or procedural mechanisms to protect their interests or to provide them with some channel of recourse or compensation, are destined to lose out completely when there is heightened competition for land. These gender differences become more acute when productive resources are eroded, making female-headed households the most vulnerable of the rural poor.

    The trends in land investments exacerbate these underlying issues. With the emerging land investments a new set of challenges emerges for the woman farmer.

    The larger the financial transactions, the more invisible are the concerns of the poor. Small farmers will often hear about decisions around land allocation and what is to be grown long after the deal is done. They have no seat at the negotiation table and are presented with a fait accompli. In other words, women stand to lose tenure and become contract farm labourers with no collateral.

    Land deals are often multi-level agreements between government, banks and financial intermediaries with overlaying and complex levels of legalities over land ownership. As details of the agreements are not easily accessible, farmer associations face difficulties if they want to challenge the terms. The domestic legal rights of the poor do not guarantee that legal recourse might address their issues. On the contrary, international law will often prevail over domestic law – providing additional rights to foreign investors.

    Monoculture or plantation farming that comes with large-scale mechanised agro-investment, further entrenches an agricultural system that is energy (fossil-fuel) heavy and degrades land and water. The system favours chemically-based farming which has already proven disastrous to the long term health of the biosphere (and a major contributor to GHGs). New technologies, GMO seeds and other related inputs are bundled together with financing which places governments and farmers alike in a cycle of debt and dependence on external inputs. This kind of farming is at odds with biological-based multi-crop local input farming that small farm management often entails.

    Infrastructure built around export trade (large-scale irrigation and storage systems, rail, road and port construction) further entrenches the channels of agro-industrial export. Once again, this takes resources and attention away from women farmers whose markets are small and local and who need infrastructure to be built around local trade.

    The traditional roles of women in plant genetic resource management (seed collection, selection and saving) will be silenced and devalued by the biotechnology advocacy of US development policy. The livelihood of seed-saving and production by women could be dismantled in the name of a misguided development agenda more focused on agribusiness incomes in the developed world than by enhancing the capacity for real ownership and control by women. The risks to farmers of fully adopting industrial agriculture in general and GM seeds in particular include:

    - transferring its food and farming decisions to global corporations

    - losing ecological and agricultural diversity as genetically modified crop varieties spread and driving small- and medium-scale family farmers off their land because they cannot afford the expensive inputs, including genetically modified seeds, that industrial agriculture demands.

    Technological and financial solutions to these problems are secondary. The core solutions lie in building alliances, supporting dialogue and solidarity across local and international borders and enabling women to determine their choices, their priorities, their ways of ‘doing and being’ to hold local governments accountable.


    Women want to influence the decisions that affect the lives of their families and communities, as well as their political and economic environments. In order to hold their representatives and governments accountable, women want to be better informed, and to have their own information, experiences and ideas valued and organised into voices for change. The ‘culture of silence’ where women will accept the decisions of male heads of household and male leaders, even if those decisions might have negative implications for them will wear down as women build their own support networks.

    In particular, women need support to both articulate and take action to:

    - resist pressures to turn land and forests away from the food needs of the people towards the production of export crops or bio-fuels because of pressure to sustain a pattern of elite consumption that is clearly unsustainable

    - build solidarity to vigorously protect the provision of Global Public Goods (GPGs), but also vigorously resist pressure to open up National Public Goods (NPGs) to global corporations. The NPGs include, for example, provision of water for household use, energy and electricity for national enterprises, education, indigenous knowledge and cultural expressions, or access to land ‘conserved’ for tourism

    - build capacity to negotiate with technology and investment capital interests. Here the successes of grassroots organisations need to be drawn upon.

    Peasant movements, organic farmer groups, and food movements are taking stands at local and international levels to retain or reclaim control over local production and consumption decisions. The Via Campesina[21] movement, Food Sovereignty movement and urban farming groups are all part of a groundswell demand for healthy local food in many countries – the movement is bringing some welcome critical attention to the global food industry. ‘When I choose to plant a particular bean, it might not be because it grows faster or because it gets me more in the market, I might decide to grow it because it tastes better – that is food sovereignty!’[22] The women war veterans in Zimbabwe have emerged as a food movement since they championed access to land with the aim of increasing food production in households.[23]


    Diversity farming is the most modern ‘technology’ to achieve food security in a changing climate. It is an age-old insurance policy of farming communities to hedge their risks. Food security is going to mean secure land tenure for the producers, biodiversity of food production, and strong direct links between consumers and producers.

    For over sixty years there has been a growth in the dominance of industrial agriculture in the world. That growth has meant concentration and consolidation of land and power into the hands of a few industrial giants, and monocultural production at scale has become the default farming method. It has led to the demise of thousands of small farmers and the loss of land ownership. The decline of small-holder agriculture is doomed to be repeated in the developing world if these land grabs continue and biotechnology advocacy gets more support.


    Land reforms are again high on the international policy agenda, as evidenced by the recent establishment of the (High-Level) Commission for the Legal Empowerment of the Poor.[24] Women possess just two per cent of the world’s land. That is the situation condemned by the FAO. In his report for the UNDP, ‘Empowering the poor through property rights’, Francis Cheneval attributes the situation to the legal discrimination against women in terms of ownership, the predominance of the patriarchal system and the mixing, operated under colonisation, between the dictates of tradition and of formal law. The Norwegian Network on the Legal Empowerment of the Poor, based at the Centre for Environment and Development, University of Oslo has been advocating for rights based approaches to legal empowerment of women in titling and accessing land.

    There are examples where women have taken deliberate measures to register land and secure the commons. A West Bengali group, SRREOSHI has made vested lands available to women’s groups, giving them due entitlement. Along with the entitlement, the land is cultivated by the groups to secure their nutrition and livelihood. This has relieved pressure to search for other livelihood income such as stone-crushing or street work and given them the confidence to participate more vocally in their communities.

    In the Gambia, women are the traditional rice growers. Most of the lowland areas suitable for rice growing were owned by a small number of original founder-settlers. Not having access to enough labour they allowed poor landless farmers, mostly women, to work the land seasonally. Once the season was over, the founder-settlers took the land back. Through discussions with communities, a plan was formulated to devolve land ownership from the founder-settlers to those landless poor farmers willing to participate in its reclamation. From 1997 to 2005, the Lowlands Agricultural Development Programme (LADEP) worked as a catalyst to bring about this change. Individually-owned land was first devolved to the community, which distributed it equitably among those individuals, mainly women, participating in land reclamation. Some 22,000 women now own land definitively, and their children will be able to inherit it.[25]


    This is an arena that requires urgent attention. Smallholder farmers and subsistence farmers stand to be cheated out of their remaining security base as the economic crisis sends investor mercenaries their way. The Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) represents smallholder farmers, pastoralists, hunters and gatherers, and indigenous people across Africa. They urge African leaders to reject what they call ‘the corporate takeover of African land and food production systems.’ AFSA asserts that African governments are not doing enough to protect the food sovereignty, biodiversity, and livelihoods of its peoples.

    As Kooya Timan stressed, ‘We need our voices to be heard at different levels, by our own government but also by networks of women around the world who will support us’.

    We need to stand in solidarity with women who want to hold their governments accountable. Investors come and go. The land has to remain. What happens in ten to 15 years time when the investors cash out and leave? Who will be left to pick up the pieces?


    * Nidhi Tandon is founder and director of Networked Intelligence for Development.
    * This article is published with the kind permission of Oxfam, who will feature it in their Gender and Development journal food issue later this year.
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.


    [1] Ausverkauf in this context means Sell-Out.
    [2] Co-founder of the Quantum Fund and creator of the Rogers International Commodity Index, Jim Rogers is an investor and financial commentator based in Singapore
    [3] Benn Steil, director of international economics with the Council on Foreign Relations statement before the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, United States Senate, May 20, 2008 [4]
    Coordinator, Kenya Land Alliance
    [4] [5]
    [6] Wildebeest calves carry a virus in their nasal mucous that is fatal to domestic cattle – as the wildebeest population grows, the threat to domestic cattle also increases if the Maasai do not constantly move their herds away from Wildebeest grazing areas.
    [7] Email communication and phone conversation with Samwel Nangiria March 12-15th 2010
    [8] Samwel Nangiria, Gaspar Leboy, and William T. Olenasha Unpublished paper
    [9] (May 2008) Resource Based Conflicts in Ngorongoro District: A Draft Report of a Documentation Exercise.
    Mark Dowie (introduction)
    [10]The rocketing price of wheat, soybeans, sugar, coffee - is a direct result of debt defaults that have caused financial panic in the west and encouraged investors to seek ‘stores of value’. These range from gold and oil at one end to corn, cocoa and cattle at the other; speculators are even placing bets on water prices.
    [11] David Walker (19 January 2009) Agricultural Funds reap a rich Harvest in The Wealth Bulletin (accessed December 26th)
    [12] In 2008, the IFC spent 1.4 billion dollars in the agribusiness supply chain, of which 900 million dollars went directly to agribusiness firms.
    [14] International Institute for Sustainable Development: How Might Agriculture Develop in Southern Africa: Making Sense of Complexity
    [15] In 2008, the number of farmers using GM crops increased by 1.3million to 13.3 million – and from 6 countries in 1996 to 25 in 2008
    [16] UNCTAD World Investment Report
    [17] NID training workshop, Dominica 2009.
    [18] Fallowing
    [19] Goldstein, M., and C. Udry. 2005. Landrights and Agricultural Investment in Ghana. Working papers 929. Economic Growth Centre, Yale University
    [20] IFAD, 1999. Assessment of Rural Poverty in West and Central Africa. Rome. August. IFAD. 1999. Human Enterprise Ecology: Supporting the Livelihoods of the Rural Poor in East and Southern Africa, Main Report and Working Paper No. 2. Rome. August.
    [21] Via Campesina describes itself as 'an international movement which coordinates peasant organizations of small and middle-scale producers, agricultural workers, rural women, and indigenous communities'. It was founded in 1992 and was originally based in Belgium but now has its headquarters in Indonesia.
    [22] Farmer woman from Honduras – interview November 2009
    [23] (Mutopo P, Field data, Mwenezi September 2009).
    [25] See (


    GRAIN (2008) Seized: The 2008 landgrab for food and financial security.
    James, Clive (2008) ‘Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2008’ ISAAA Brief, NO. 39. Ithaca, N.Y.: ISAAA
    Dowie, Mark (2009) Conservation Refugees: the hundred year conflict between global conservation and native peoples. Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts
    Draper, Peter, Sheila Kiratu and Tanja Hichert (2009) International Institute for Sustainable Development: How Might Agriculture Develop in Southern Africa: Making Sense of Complexity
    Mutopo, P, (forthcoming) Women`s Access to Land and Livelihoods after Fast Track Land Reform in Mwenezi District, Zimbabwe
    Tandon, Nidhi (2007) Biopolitics, climate change and water security: impact, vulnerability and adaptation issues for women
    Von Braun, J. (2010) ‘Food and financial crises: Implications for agriculture and the poor.’ IFPRI brief prepared for the CGIAR Annual General Meeting, Maputo, Mozambique.

    South Africa: The return of state repression

    Jane Duncan


    South Africans appear to have had their constitutional right to protest suspended during the 2010 World Cup, writes Jane Duncan, following a directive from the country’s police service (SAPS) to municipalities hosting matches. Sceptical of claims that the country does not have the capacity to police marches and the World Cup simultaneously, Duncan asks whether SAPS decision is motivated by ‘the need to remake South Africa's brand in the international media as a land of peace, reconciliation and stability’, or if it reflects, more seriously, ‘an intensification of a recent trend towards suppressing the waves of protest action’ by the Zuma administration.

    The South African Police Service (SAPS) has issued a directive to a number of municipalities not to allow marches for the duration of the 2010 World Cup. How many have received it is unclear.

    This ban came to light when a civil society march for quality public education, scheduled to take place on 10 June to Constitution Hill in Braamfontein, was banned last week. The Anti-privatisation Forum (APF) also planned to march to protest against aspects of the World Cup and general service delivery issues, but their march was banned too.

    A snap survey conducted at the end of last week of other municipalities hosting World Cup matches revealed that a blanket ban on gatherings is in operation. According to the Rustenberg municipality, ‘gatherings are closed for the World Cup’. The Mbombela municipality was told by the SAPS that they were not going to allow gatherings during the World Cup. The Cape Town City Council claimed that it continues to accept applications for marches, but indicated that it 'may be a problem' during the World Cup period. According to the Nelson Mandela Bay and Ethekwini municipalities, the police will not allow gatherings over the World Cup period.

    Why this wholesale suspension of the constitutional right to protest? According to Johannesburg Metro police, the police do not have the capacity to police marches and the World Cup simultaneously. Yet Gauteng SAPS spokesperson Eugene Opperman has denied the existence of a ban, telling the Mail & Guardian newspaper that ‘there’s been a miscommunication. People are saying that there’s a total ban on marches, but this is not the case’.

    Given the weight of the evidence, it can be concluded that the ban does, in fact, exist. How high up the source of the banning directive goes is anybody’s guess.

    The argument about a lack of police resources is not a credible reason to justify such a ban. Only under a state of emergency can derogable rights like the right to assembly, demonstration and picket be suspended, which lend credence to the argument made by the education march's organisers that there is an undeclared state of emergency in force for the duration of the World Cup.

    The talking heads of the security establishment are divided on whether an actual threat to the security of the World Cup exists. But what they agree on is that – to the extent that there is a threat – it will not be homegrown but imported. This makes the SAPS' determination to usurp municipalities' decision-making about gatherings difficult to understand. In fact, their actions imply that protest action is being seen as a national security threat rather than a traffic management concern mainly.

    It should also be noted that there is no provision in the Regulation of Gatherings Act for gatherings to be prohibited because the police do not have the resources to police marches. This omission is for good reason, as it prevents more manipulative administrations from deciding, for self-serving reasons, to starve the relevant police structures of resources, and then ban protests against its own performance on the ground of lack of capacity.

    In any event, if the police are struggling with resource constraints, then the government has only itself to blame. In 2006, an ill-advised restructuring of the SAPS led to a reduction in the number of police involved in crowd management, and led to de-skilling, in spite of the fact that the number protests had nearly doubled from 2005 to 2006.

    At the time of the restructuring, the Institute for Security Studies warned that the police should anticipate an escalation of protest action over the World Cup period, and plan accordingly.

    If they have done their homework, the police will be aware that mega-events like the World Cup tend to become lightening rods for a range of hopes, fears and discontents, all seeking expression in the international media. They would also be aware that internationally, the police have been forced to acknowledge that contestations around mega-events are a contemporary reality, and that outright repression of dissent is not an option.

    The Government Communication and Information System has identified the mega-event as a ‘communications opportunity of a lifetime’, as the eyes of the international community will be firmly fixed on South Africa for the duration of the Cup.

    But many who are unhappy with the huge expenditure on the World Cup, and local service delivery issues generally, recognise the same possibilities: As one aspirant protestor put it, ‘We will have access to an international stage. Don’t think that we won’t use it.’ They will want to use the event to focus media attention on the simmering discontent in the country, the extent of which was brought home once again by a quality of life survey released last week by TNS Surveys.

    One trade union official, keen to mobilise protests during the World Cup, related some informal discussions with the police. They argued that South Africa’s image had taken a beating recently, with international images of the xenophobic attacks, violent service delivery and the soldier’s invasion of the Union Buildings grounds beamed out across the world. The police reasoned that the ban was justified to prevent negative messages from even finding their way onto the streets in the first place, leading the unionist to ask wryly, ‘Does this mean that we should ban democracy?’

    The SAPS could well be motivated by the need to remake South Africa's brand in the international media as a land of peace, reconciliation and stability.

    As if this censorship of dissent around the World Cup is not a bad enough reason, a consideration of the facts suggests even deeper reasons for the ban.

    The argument about a lack of resources does not explain why social movement marches have been banned, using the World Cup as the excuse, since March this year. The Ethekwini Municipality initially banned a march in March, apparently citing the World Cup as a reason. In fact, Durban activists have been reporting on police threats of bannings as early as the end of 2009.

    Marches have been banned in the troubled Vaal region since March, not on the pretext of the World Cup, but in an attempt to contain rising struggles against poor service delivery. According to the Chief of Traffic and Security, ‘The MEC for Gauteng Community Safety, has instructed that no permission for marches in Gauteng should be granted until further notice. This instruction is given by the MEC due to the volatile situation in the townships.’

    Then in April, a march planned by the Public and Allied Workers Union of South Africa in Vanderbijl Park for 5 May was banned. In spite of the fact that the Vaal is off the beaten track in relation to the World Cup, the banning took place in response to a directive sent on 29 April by the Sebokeng Cluster of SAPS to the station commanders of all police stations in the Cluster, which reads as follows: ‘By the directive of the Sebokeng Cluster, Major General DS de Lange you are hereby informed that no authorization must be given for marches until the end of the World Cup 2010.’

    An ill-understood shift in policing culture seems to be taking place. Activists in several cities complain that they are finding it increasingly difficult to march. Police are slow to respond to applications, and are obstructive in meetings to negotiate conditions. When they impose unreasonable conditions or even ban marches, they are generally reluctant to put their reasons in writing.

    With the local government elections looming, the World Cup must be a blessing in disguise for beleaguered municipalities facing the wrath of angry residents. They can now ban marches with impunity, using the World Cup as an excuse; hence their eager embrace of a directive that usurps their own powers and functions.

    Seen in this light, the ban could be seen as an intensification of a recent trend towards suppressing the waves of protest action that have engulfed Jacob Zuma's administration.

    If this is a correct reading of the ban, then we have a much more serious problem on our hands than a misguided, but ultimately time-bound bout of censorship. It unsettles the well-worn assertion of many political analysts that Jacob Zuma’s administration is more open and tolerant of dissenting views than the Mbeki administration.

    Many activists in the cities where the ban is in effect say that they have all but given up on notifying municipalities, and are marching anyway. Add the ‘shoot to kill’ approach, the moves towards militarisation of the police, and the beefing up of security capacity for the World Cup into the mix, and we have a problem waiting to happen.

    Do the SAPS understand the implications of their actions? If TNS’ survey is correct, and levels of discontent have reached dangerously high levels, it could take one incident where an over-stressed policeman – ill-trained in crowd management – shoots to kill in an 'illegal' protest, to spark a social explosion.

    Many South Africans who lived through the horrors of apartheid resist using the word 'repression' too lightly, and for understandable reasons. But if one considers the definition of repression by social movement theorist Charles Tilly as ‘any action by another group that raises the contender’s cost of collective action,’ then we are, in fact, seeing the rise of state repression.

    Furthermore, social movement research analysing volatile situations over a period of two centuries, has shown that repression is an ineffective way of containing mass dissent. Ironically, it can fuel an intensification of mass protest, as 'injustice frames' are created around the state, strengthening the resolve of protestors to remove the state.

    Repression can also lead to grievances being driven underground, pursued by leaders who may become as belligerent as their oppressors. In some countries, the end result has been the creation of terrorist groups. So the solution creates the problem.

    Which way South Africa goes is, to an extent, in the hands of the SAPS, and if recent indications are anything to go by, our future is not in safe hands.

    Feel it. It is here – the return of state repression.


    * This article first appeared on the South African Civil Society Information Service.
    * Professor Jane Duncan is Highway Africa Chair of Media and Information Society, School of Journalism and Media Studies at Rhodes University.
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

    World Cup 2010: Fifa's gordion knot

    Khadija Sharife


    cc Shine 2010
    South Africa's 2010 World Cup 'feel good' factor is addictive. At taxi ranks, street bazaars and tea-rooms, South African citizens everywhere are filled with elation - and pride. Just sixteen years ago, within living memory, non-white South Africans were deprived of basic human rights by the brutal apartheid regime. From stadiums – completed in advance to fulfill Fifa's (International Federation of Association Football) insistence on a six month ‘buffer zone', to airports and other infrastructure, South Africa has fulfilled Fifa's requirements to the tee. But, writes Khadija Sharife, all is not well.

    South Africa's 2010 World Cup 'feel good' factor is addictive. At taxi ranks, street bazaars and tea-rooms, South African citizens everywhere are filled with elation - and pride. Just sixteen years ago, within living memory, non-white South Africans were deprived of basic human rights by the brutal apartheid regime.

    From stadiums – completed in advance to fulfill Fifa's (International Federation of Association Football) insistence on a six month ‘buffer zone', to airports and other infrastructure, South Africa has fulfilled Fifa's requirements to the tee.

    The LOC has also paced expenditure concerning the FIFA-approved budget of US$423 million (aout R3 billion), having used just 32 per cent by mid-April.

    Yet all is not well.

    Just eight weeks to the Cup, South Africa held more than 355,000 unsold tickets. Due to Fifa's preference of marketing tickets online, just under 40,000 were purchased in Africa 21 days prior to the event – a situation caused by Africa's overall lack of telecommunications infrastructure. Meanwhile, in South Africa, the initial problem, that of a nation too poor to purchase tickets was mitigated when the government subsidised tickets.

    ‘We know our fans are poor,’ stated the LOC Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Danny Jordaan. ‘So we have decided to accommodate them.’

    Unfortunately, subsidisation eroded the government's main revenue stream from the event. Group tickets selling for US$20 and final match tickets for US$150, were described as the cheapest tickets in World Cup history. A further 120,000 were earmarked for free distribution, mindful of the average monthly income (US$250) – for those that have employment in the formal sector.

    Contrast this to Germany's successful 2006 World Cup, injecting 1.5 per cent growth to the economy.

    ‘Germany's Organizing Committe budgeted for the sum of US$659 million. The Organizing Committee made a profit of US$237.5 million, partly due to the near-capacity sales of match tickets that resulted in US$31.1 million in additional and unexpected income,’ revealed Dr Udesh Pillay, editor of Development and Dreams.

    Nor is tourism, the secondary source of revenue, estimated to pump 0.4–0.7 per cent growth into the economy, providing previously assumed gains.

    According to Jordaan, tourism forecasts initially pegged at half a million in 2003 has now been reduced in estimate to maximum 350,000, with Fifa's hospitality (hotel and ticket) agent, Switzerland-based Match AG, dumping 450,000 pre-booked rooms, one third of the total, on the market. Allegations against Match – securing the tender by Fifa, without a bidding process, reveal the company's exploitation, marking up services by 30 per cent. As one tour operator informed a local newspaper, ‘US$30 000 (R224,000) licensing fee to Match as well as a 20 per cent surcharge, plus 10 per cent on each ticket it bought for resale.’

    Match AG is primarily controlled by Byron PLC, the ‘official accommodation provider for six previous world cups’.

    Related company Match Hospitality, exclusively managing hospitality packages, counts Blatter's nephew Philippe, as one of its shareholders via Infront Sports and Media corporation.

    Though SA's Cup is similar in financial structuring, 60 per cent of Germany's Cup (including 12 stadiums) was financed through private clubs and other private sources, shifting a considerable portion of deferred taxes off the shoulders of citizens.

    ‘Let's be clear,’ stated Fifa General Secretary Jerome Valcke, ‘The World Cup in South Africa has no financial problems for Fifa,’ referring to the already guaranteed US$3.3 billion generated in pre-Cup activities, chiefly commercial i.e.: Television and marketing, rights.

    Fifa allegedly retains 94 per cent of total profits, with the entities main costs limited to travel and award money for participating teams. This mounted to US$811 million for Germany's 2006 Cup, with Fifa receiving US$2.19 billion in profits.

    Revenue streams of host countries, subject to FIFA's ‘franchising’ – whether developing or developed, reveal a financial gordion knot: not only are organising committees locked out of commercial rights, but the main benefits of hosting the Cup are largely intangible and assumed – that is, benefits projected from tourism, construction (financed by host-countries) and the perceived future enhancement of launching host countries on the global map.

    What price did South Africa pay to host the World Cup?

    According to Pillay, estimated expenditure for new stadiums totalled US$1,346.9 billion: Cape Town at US$366 million with a capacity of 68,000, Durban, US$334.2 million (70,000 seater), Mbombela, US$105 million (45,000 seater), Polokwane, US$92 million (45,000) and Nelson Mandela Bay, US$154 million (48,000). Upgraded stadiums including Manguang, Joburg's Ellis Park and Soccer City, as well as Rustenburg and Pretoria, received a further US$294.8 million.

    And stadium-investment is well above the US$105 million (R818 million) initially earmarked for stadium infrastructure, an increase of 750 per cent.

    Cape Town's Athlone Stadium, the preferred choice of the province to host matches, was marginalised when then-Fifa representative Valcke, revealed that the Fifa did not approve. Gert Bam, director of sports and recreation, stated the province's unanimous choice to site the matches in poverty-ridden Athlone would ‘turn the city around, it (would) impact on this tale of two cities...’

    But this was not to happen.

    According to Fifa ‘A billion television viewers don't want to see shacks and poverty on this scale.’

    Karen Schoonbee and Stefaans Brummer, co-authors of ‘Player and Referee: Conflicting interests and 2010 Fifa World Cup’, documented how the LOC ‘Fifa's agent’ bypassed the ‘opportunity to leverage development of an underdeveloped area’, in favor of building the R4.5 billion stadium, hosting eight semi-final matches. Revamping existing stadiums to fulfill 'state-of-the-art' requirements in Athlone would have cost R1.1 billion.

    ‘That thing is going to be a white elephant because Newlands rugby is not going to move there and soccer unfortunately is never going to attract games where that stadium is going to be full,’ stated former head of recreation and sport, Rod Solomons.

    Meanwhile, Durban's Moses Mabhida Stadium, scheduled for seven matches and built at a cost of R3.1 billion, and is pegged as one of Africa's only stadiums capable of hosting most Olympic requirements within one facility. The stadium - soon to be downgraded to 56 000 seating capacity, was constructed a stones throw away from Kings Park Stadium, host to the Sharks rugby team, with a seating capacity of 50,000. The Sharks rugby has indicated that it will not consider shifting base, rendering stadium sustainability a headache for both the Cape and Durban municipalities. To generate forced viability, Durban City Manager, Mike Sutcliffe – who recently admitted the City would struggle to finance the operating costs of the stadium in the long-term, stated that Kings Park would be torn down.

    Yet Fifa's agenda was not simply limited to utilising 'world-class' stadiums, but also to have matches located in the best areas of South Africa.

    Jordaan however claims that the US$4.5 billion of public funds (US$2.2 billion/stadiums and US$2.3 billion related infrastructure) invested in the event will 'trickle down' through job creation and development. Yet of the 22,000 Cup-related jobs made available to citizens, 70-80 per cent are subcontracted positions, offering wage rates of US$1-2 per hour, while construction companies reported pre-tax profits of 54–142 per cent.

    The debt itself is compounded by the global economic recession eroding potential tourist revenue; five major currency crashes boding ill for debt, and negative perceptions of the country ranging from crime (leading to UK's marketing of 'Kevlar Vests' for tourists, despite the government financing a further 41,000 police officers and ramping up on security for the duration of the Cup), to The Economist's identification of South Africa as the 'riskiest' of 17 emerging economies.

    Fifa's Cup erodes rather than aids SA's political economy. Vice President, Jack Warner effectively lied when he stated that the Fifa paid taxes in host countries. Fifa's 'tax-free bubble', following amendments categorising Fifa's activities as 'diplomatic' via the Revenues Law Amendment Act 20 of 2006, guaranteeing Fifa 17 provisions underpinning 'supportive financial environment', as well as free services ranging from safety and security, healthcare, transport, communications, intellectual property and marketing, control-zones for specific km, amounting to as yet unknown costs.

    According to the Act: ‘The Act creates a ‘tax-free bubble’ around FIFA-designated sites so that profits on consumable and semi-durable goods sold within these areas will not be subject to income tax; neither will VAT be applied.’ The tax bubble extending 'diplomatic status' to Fifa, includes all Fifa-related vehicles and subsidiaries and associated entities.

    This includes the stadiums, the Fifa-designated exclusion zones, training sites, public viewing venues known as 'fan parks', VIP areas, media centers – such as the International Broadcast Centres, and official tournament parking areas.

    The entity refuses to provide accreditation to journalists who may question the financial gordion knot underpinning the event.

    Fifa remains the 'owner' of events, and as such, holds the mandate to dictate most activities including suppliers – irrespective of inflated costs. Even tents, food and flowers are to subject to unrestricted imports. Match spokesperson Peter Csanadi recently came under fire for destroying practice fields while constructing German-made marquees – a justified purchase due to the 'lack of sufficient quality tents' made in South Africa.

    ‘The unaccountable structure they've installed is honed to deliver the game to the needs of global capitalism - with no checks or restraints. Just cheques,’ said Andrew Jennings, investigative journalist and co-author of Player and Referee.

    Fifa has already cashed in on the highest ever pre-Cup profits. And when the crowds have gone, and the excitable nature of the spectacle has died down, it is unlikely that the World Cup, designed, in the words of Jordaan to 'reintegrate South Africa into the global community', will benefit citizens beyond the notion of identity.

    The question however is whose identity was served by the mega-event – South Africa or Fifa's?


    * This article first appeared in ChinAfrica Magazine.
    * Khadija Sharife is a journalist and visiting scholar at the Centre for Civil Society.
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

    Challenges for integration

    East African Community: A people, market or state-driven regionalisation project?

    Edward Oyugi


    cc Wikimedia
    As the third phase of East African Community integration takes shape, Edward Oyugi provides an in-depth look at the history of efforts towards regionalisation, the concepts and actors behind them, and the challenges going forwards.


    A formal interest in the unfolding events in the realm of international politics brings to the immediate fore two overlapping if not mutually inclusive tendencies: On the one hand, there is an increasing drive towards a robust revitalisation and a steady proliferation of regional integration efforts[1]; on the other – particularly within the historical framework of post-Cold War era – there is the erratic and sometimes violent fracturing of national entities into irredentist sub-national claims, variably shaped by the potential for internecine conflicts.

    Whichever of these historical trends captures the real spirit of the time remains a moot question. It is moot because the riptide of globalisation-fragmentation of national entities increasingly seems to go hand in hand. It is, however, necessary to observe that the two tendencies are not necessarily mutually exclusive. In fact, in one way or another, they enjoy mutual interpenetration, particularly in a sense that betrays strategic overlap and mutual embeddedness. To be sure, they all serve the social forces, the strategic interests of which either conflate or repel each other as these inform the historical character and logic of neo-liberal globalisation.

    The grudging though steady return of and compulsion towards regionalistic thinking among the political elite in the Eastern Africa region is undoubtedly one very important trend in contemporary international relations. On a worldwide scale/level it rides on the wave often and is increasingly being referred to as the new regionalism.[2] This wave is mainly, if not exclusively, characterised by an ever-increasing:
    - geographic scope
    - demographic diversity
    - historical fluidity and
    - a complex mixture and variety of driving forces and actors in the re-integration project.

    We need to understand this process as a critical response to and a possible principle of order, in a world precariously globalising under the impetus of a mono-hegemonic sway of neo-liberalism. This is now changing. And the Obama presidency may usher in a new era of multilateralism and multi-polarity which might introduce a brand new element in the process, character and social content of regional integration in general and East African Community integration in particular.

    Appreciating the historical import of the new forms of regionalism in general and East African re-integration in particular, requires that we take a fresh but decisive look beyond simple state-centric notions of regional integration and instead strive to bring other non-state actors into a more innovative focus and analysis; an analysis that should inform a deeper appreciation of the significance of the role that non-state actors should play in giving the historic drive towards regionalisation a truly local rationale and historical impetus.

    We have in mind a wide range of heterogeneous linkages and interactions among commercial and sub-national actors. Their individual or combined agenda for regional compacts may not always sit well with the mundane aspirations of the popular masses of the geographic region in question. To be sure, it all depends on where we feel comfortable to place the milestone. Our point of departure, however, is that the complexity and over-determination of the processes of contemporary regionalisation calls for the relearning of old lessons, reassessment of analytical perspectives, the re-invention of political-economic players and an ever-changing balance of social/historical forces.

    The East African regionalisation experience is taking shape and, at the same time, experiencing all manner of hiccups within a historical context that is extremely complex: The cumulative crisis of capitalism is characterised by the creeping in of multipolarity in international relations as a welcome sequel to the Bush-era militaristic uni-polarisation of world politics.

    The process is accompanied by the decline of US hegemony and the associated discrediting of the Washington consensus. The accompanying grudging retreat of the market forces is more than likely to provide an occasion for regional authoritarian states moving into the vacuum, occasioning the resurgence of state interventionism, which is more than likely to monopolise and re-bureaucratise the regional integration agenda and process. This would be unfortunate. But the signals are there for many of us to see. Should this materialise, it would amount to the irony equivalent to giving Dracula the keys to the bloodbank of our popular sovereignty.

    Recent intergovernmental experience does not provide us with any hope for a bottom-up integration process. There are no good and appreciable examples of how to construct a regionalisation agenda from a popular foundation. If anything, the impetus to a regionalisation process that cannot produce a truly people-driven regionalisation agenda but instead a deliberate up-scaling of tribal fragmentations – at the national level – that keeps some of our leaders in the region in power. Ordinary people in the East African region, despite colonial effort to create an extractive market in the region did not exhibit the kind of intra-regional hostility characterising the present-day top-down regionalisation efforts that make Migingo and Vanga interstate conflicts deny us any hope of ever becoming a strong and proud regional compact. We need less of such incidences if we are to look forward to a successful regionalisation.


    The contemporary wave of regionalistic tendencies in international relations need no longer be understood as distinct and peremptory alternatives to the national projects with their patriotic/nationalistic overtones. To be sure, it is better explained as an instrument supplementing, enhancing or protecting the role of the nation state and the attendant governmental capacity in a world of unequal interdependence, rather than supplanting or negating the yet-to-be-exhausted spirit of national sovereignty and the attendant competing patriotic claims on it.

    The conceptual toolbox for understanding regionalism or regionalisation is adorned with a wide range of notions and analytical instruments; each one capturing the different nuances of the process and thereby raising some of the most nagging questions such like: As nation states, in their proto-typic characterisation, continue to experience a strategic deficit in the capacity to effectively engage with the challenges of the national question of national democratic construction, are they, at the same time, being called upon to ‘pool sovereignty’, or are they being required to expand their jurisdictional limits in order to accommodate and possibly neutralise the adverse effects neo-liberal character of globalisation?

    Are we merely being called upon to upscale the strategic implications of the unfinished agenda of the national question at the present national level discourse, or are we being driven by the lure of a fad the historical implications of which we still have to fathom? Whatever the case might be, it is important to ask: Which social forces are driving either of the tendencies? Is regionalism supplanting, supplementing or substituting multilateralism at the global level?

    Answers to the above questions, exhaustive as they might seek to be, will still beg for more.

    As a result one may proceed to ask: On what levels or for what reasons are regionalistic impulses stimulated. Is it:

    - At intrastate or extra-state levels?
    - At national, sub-national or at international levels?
    - As response to external challenges or driven by domestic demands.
    - In pursuit of Regionalism or as an act of regionalisation?
    - For regional coherence or regional identity?
    - For purposes of International cooperation or in pursuit of regional integration?
    - The instrument of state strategy or driven by market forces or
    - Re-drawing of tribal boundaries for larger conflation of ethnic hegemonic projects by regional leaders who have exhausted ethnic-hegemonic practices at the national levels?

    It is crucial, at this stage, to distinguish processes underlying regional initiatives from those associated with and informing the act of regionalisation. The distinction, though ambiguously tenuous and uncertain in its descriptive capacity, is important in several ways; the most important one being that of explicating the intriguing and complex dynamics of contemporary variety of regional groups and the political-economic terrain of the geographical spaces they occupy.

    Regionalism, for purposes of this presentation, is a state-driven project tendentiously designed to reorganise a particular regional space along agreed-upon economic and political interests. It is mainly driven by the configuration and balance of forces in the individual nation states.

    In a more specific sense, it refers to a body of values and objectives that are aimed at initiating, sustaining or modifying the commonwealth of a people occupying a particular regional space.[3][ By nature, it embodies the urge by any set of actors to reorganise their political-economic lives around the geopolitical demands of a given regional space. It’s a product of instrumental state policies geared towards a strategic enlargement of national sovereignty in favour of broader and collective interests of the collaborating nation states and in the image of the ruling interests. Regionalisation on the other hand implies the vicarious act of convergence and integration of non-state interests in the areas of culture, market and cross-borderer civic /interactions into the regional project. Further it stands for a broader concentration and release of national and sub-national energies around regional political economic interests, ranging from environmental conservation and manpower development to trade.

    In order to avoid the uncritical use of rigid theoretical postulates geared towards explaining the logic and historical dynamics behind the steady growth and expansion of regional organisations, it is necessary to maintain some measure of practical open-mindedness. This will facilitate methodological accommodation of the state-society dynamics necessary for explaining new forms of regionalisations; particularly those that provide the much needed platform for constructive engagement with forces of undemocratic globalisation sited in the WTO, Davos, G8, etc. This, it is always hoped, will help stem the tide of marginalisation of any given region and its political-economic institutions and at the same time undermine the centre-periphery structures located within the framework of the unevenly globalising world.


    From a Functionalist theoretical perspective, dominant during the inter-War period, and which arose from a strong concern about the obsolescence of the State as a leading force in social organisation, in general and as a critical driving force in international relations in particular, the East African variant of regionalism has tended to place on front burner self-interest of nation-states that realists see as a motivating factor.

    Instead of focusing on common interests and needs shared by states in general but also by non-state actors in a process of regional integration, functionalism places a distinct premium on civic interconnections and wirings of non-state constituencies across national boundaries. Triggered by the strategic erosion of state sovereignty and the increasing weight of sub-national interests, its roots can be traced back to the liberal/idealist tradition that started with Kant and went as far as Woodrow Wilson's ‘Fourteen Points’ speech. (Rosamond, 2000)

    As a pioneer in globalisation theory and strategy, functionalism argued that the benefits of functional agencies among nation states would be the basis of attracting loyalty of the citizens of the various states to the integration agenda. Until then, states had built authority structures upon a principle of territorialism. Such state state-theories were built upon assumptions that identified the scope of authority with territory (Held 1996, Scholte: 1993, 2000, 2001). Aided by methodological territorialism (Scholte 1993), Functionalism proposed to build a form of authority based in functions and needs, which linked authority with civic needs built around supra-territorial concepts of authority. Such authority transcended the typical conflation of the constitutive state authorities.

    According to functionalism, regional integration – the collective governance and material interdependence (Mitrany, 1933:101) between states – develops its own internal dynamic as states integrate in limited functional, technical, civic and/or economic areas. At the moment we have, at the state level, international agencies would meet human needs, aided by cross-boarder exchanges. It assumed that the benefits rendered by the cross-boarder functional agencies would attract and stimulate the participation of respective populations in a given region and, at the same time, expand the common areas of integration. There are strong assumptions underpinning functionalism:
    1) That the process of integration takes place within a framework of human freedom
    2) That knowledge and expertise are currently available to meet the needs for which the functional agencies are built
    3) That states will not sabotage the process.

    Complementary to functionalist perspective of regional integration is neofunctionalism, which, in practice, reintroduces territorialism in the functional theory but downplays its global dimension. It can be said that, in this particular respect that neofunctionalism is simultaneously a theory and a strategy of regional integration, building on the work of David Mitrany which focuses on the process of integration among states, i.e. regional integration; initially starting with the integration of limited functional or economic areas and gradually and systematically expanding into domains that promise a more binding glue to the integration process. It so happens that the partially integrated states tend to experience increasing momentum for further rounds of integration in related areas. This ‘invisible hand’ of integration phenomenon was termed ‘spill-over’ by the neofunctionalist school. Although integration can be resisted, it becomes harder to stop integration's reach as it progresses.[1]

    According to neofunctionalists, there are two kinds of spill-over: Functional and political. Functional spill-over is the interconnection of various economic sectors or issue-areas, and the integration in one policy-area spilling over into others. Political spill-over is the creation of supranational governance models, as far-reaching as the European Union.


    East Africa as a region is characterised by the following features:

    Historical and natural factors endow it with a high level of integration in several areas and in a pattern decisively influenced by the colonial interests of western capitalist expansion.

    Initially and particularly in the pre-colonial era the region was relatively symmetrical in economic terms. Colonialism, neo-colonialism and now neo-liberalism have, as was to be expected, subjected the region to the usual unequal economic underdevelopment – concentrating powerful economic institutions and production and distribution activities in such sectors as agriculture, manufacturing, trade, transport and communication in national economies enjoying the most favourable conditions for extractive-capitalist exploitation.

    The region is rich in cross-border cultural/ethnic commonalties that pre-dispose it towards a natural gravitation towards closer integration of the most vital spheres of life.

    The use and exploitation of Lake Victoria promises potential benefits of cooperation among the riparian regional communities but also portends conflicts around the international use of the attendant resources.

    The East African Community Phase I was a colonial project. The colonial history of the Eastern African states is rather heterogeneous. Whereas it was constructed on a relatively terra firma of linguistic relatedness, ethnic and sub-ethnic cross-boarder relationships and singularity of colonial agenda, it leaned, at the same time and with a precarious weight, on a hollow reed marked by the underlying pre-colonial social formations around proto-nationalist tendencies. The post-World War One dispensation that ushered in and provided for a unified British control of the regional (colonial, territorial and mandatory) entities gave the region a foretaste of an externally driven experimentation with regional integration. A host of common services provided the relatively solid ground on which the regional body built its fledgling political and economic institutions.

    Built on unequal sovereignty and subjected to unequal colonial-capitalist under-development, the regional economy gravitated around Kenya’s one-upmanship in the institutional consolidation of market forces and substitutive industrial development. If colonial interests had been the political-economic site for the institutional organisation of the East African Community Phase I, the same interests, though strategically morphed into a new imperialist instrument would, later on, turn into a prime site for the reorganisation of the balance of social forces required to sustain and, if possible, outlast the historical limitations of the colonial project.

    Thus the post-colonial efforts aimed at the deepening of the East African community agenda became a strategic victim of social class-formation manoeuvres by the sub-national elites, cutting their milk teeth in primitive accumulation of political-economic resources. Wrestling with the unique character of the challenges of national ruling class formation necessitated the need to operate within the narrow framework of a sheltered home turf under the sovereignty of a nation state. In Kenya where a powerful ruling class was already cutting its milk teeth, consolidating tribal hegemony around Kenyatta’s presidency, the threat to a deeper regionalisation gained in reality and imminence.

    Much later, the post-colonial dynamics of regionalisation in East Africa would later be over-determined by a host of factors ranging from:

    - The institutional crystallisation of the hegemonic authority of the neocolonial agents as an emerging social class mandated to re-organise the postcolonial political economy in favour of continued dependency on metropolitan interests
    - Domestication of ideological reflexes of the cold war
    - Emergence of neopatrimonial states in the region as internal cleavages began to threaten, with considerable seriousness, the status quo built on the proto-hegemonic rule of the first generation leadership.

    Together, these factors produced the historical conditions under which the East African Community Phase II found its provenance. Over-politicisation of the regionalisation agenda and unrealistic reliance on Westphalian anachronism pre-disposed individual state elites towards an obsession with the politics of absolute sovereignty which detracted from a strategic appreciation of synergy that would drive the regional economy under its own flag of interdependence.

    The left-leaning governments of Tanzania and Uganda under Mwalimu Julius Nyerere and Milton Obote respectively provided a convenient handle for the Kenyan based rightwing clique caballed around Charles Njonjo of Kenya to scuttle the project before it could claim local-community ownership. For Kenya to play its strategic role for Western monopoly capital, seeking to extend and consolidate a stronghold over a wider market from a safe ideological distance, it was strategically necessary to isolate it from the ideologically unwieldy, if not potentially hostile, East African community by dismantling the cooperation and having an easy time controlling member states individually, using Kenya as a strategic base. The upshot was that the East African Community phase II was condemned to die in the hands Kenya's rightwing agents of neocolonial interests; so that the 1st Republican rule under Kenyatta would leave an indelible hegemonic mark on the Kenyan postcolonial history.

    The return of regionalism in East Africa – in the way of East African Community Phase III – has been materialising under a completely different international dispensation. For many observers, it hit the ground with deliberate pace that, for all practical purposes, reflected a powerful unity around a widely shared commitment to and justifiable nostalgia for a worthwhile project, previously undermined in its infancy by neocolonial machinations and now pressing for a third round of historical legitimation.

    Yet, deep in the recess of popular memory of the East African people, East African Community Phase II had bequeathed member countries a seriously anaemic legacy: Mistrust, uneven economic development, a new configuration of strategic interest of an increasingly uni-polarising world around hegemonic United States of America. Tanzania's role as a frontline state, in the interim, had already drawn the East African country away from its erstwhile neighbours and, as a result, launched it on gravitational path towards the South as an emerging political-economic centre of gravity in Africa. As a SADC member, Tanzania is negotiating its return to the East African Community Phase III, wearing a tentative phase and with an understandable schizophrenic bearing: On the one hand it seems to relish the prospect of benefiting from updated historical ties with the neighbouring states; yet the legacy of a frontline state role, born of heroic engagement with decolonisation behind its southern boarders, beguilingly draws it into the SADC arrangement – yet not necessarily away from a close collaboration with her East African neighbours. To be sure, it has been a relationship dogged more by strategic neglect rather than rancour. Sceptics may, however, cavil. With the cold wind of neoliberalism blowing over the process of re-integration and as regionalism emerges forcefully as an integral part of the world trading environment, there has been an on-rush of market-friendly actors; each competing for a piece of the action through which the defining features of the East African community project will be etched in the historical consciousness of the people of the region.

    It is important to take note of the fact that during both the East African Community Phases I and II, the level of integration was unevenly high in a limited number of areas – particularly in transport, migrant labour, trade, education etc. In these and other areas critical to the regional political economy, Kenyan actors in most of the above areas were dominant and therefore the region could best be analysed along centre-periphery lines. The structural pattern of Kenyan dominance developed mainly out of the colonial unequal underdevelopment of the region. The resulting unmistakable display of economic capacity differences led to asymmetrical integration of the national economies into the then unviable regional project.

    Over time, three main categories of external forces have shaped the regional political economy and regionalism in East Africa: During, the colonial period it was the work of colonial capitalist expansion organising cheap labour and the colonial market for industrial goods from the metropolitan economy. Immediately after independence and particularly at the height of the Cold War, the superpowers and their local agents played a leading role in giving political-economic content to the neo-colonial regionalism agenda; and at the return to the new regionalism, the multilateral financial institutions and bilateral donors and the power sites of the Global North have insinuated their neoliberal interest into the regionalism project. The veneer of a rich and popular dialogue that is purported to have accompanied the East African states' recapture of domestic policy terrain alongside other non-state actors lost it gloss even before the regional project got off the ground. Regionalisation from below remained a far cry from what was actually happening. Even the superficial engagement of the East African Business Community can hardly justify the community's claim of a popular rebirth.

    The fundamental principles and objectives driving the process of East African regionalisation are as sound as they are aimed at addressing some of the problems which caused the demise of East African Common Services Organisation (1961-66) and the East African Community Phase II (1967–1977). The areas designated for cooperation such as:

    - Trade liberalisation and development
    - Investment and industrial development
    - Standardisation, quality assurance, metrology and testing
    - Monetary and financial cooperation
    - Infrastructure and services
    - Development of human resources
    - Science and technology
    - Agriculture and food sovereignty
    - Environment and natural resources management
    - Tourism and wildlife management
    - The private sector and civil society
    - Legal and judicial affairs
    - Enhancing the role of women in socio-economic activities
    - Free movement of persons, labour, services, right of establishment and residence etc
    - Regional customs union

    lend themselves to easy implementation, provided that the organisation of the Community and the functional distribution of its organs are brought to proper alignment with the historic challenges facing the peoples of the region.

    For instance, the proposed Sectoral Councils, as the main vehicles for the implementation and monitoring of the regional development programmes, need not mimic the SADC arrangement, particularly given the unique history of the East African regionalisation effort. More innovative thinking needs to inform their composition and functioning in order for them to facilitate effective multi-jurisdictional regional processes. Only then will the day-to-day business of the community be conducted against an institutional backdrop of institutional arrangements that are intrinsically subject to constant negotiations by and re-invention of popular forces in the East African societies.

    Such popular forces can only add value to the regional project if they can risk taking value position on the tricky issues of privatisation, liberalisation and the giving of free reign to the market forces that are itching to re-colonise the regional space. Again, only then and then alone can the Northern muscle-flexing through the totems of post-modern colonisation be kept within harmless limits. If they remain a direct replication of the national governance structures, they will have difficulties shaking off some of the national sovereignty overhangs that are more than likely to arrest the process of regionalisation and consign it into the national political muddle of merely enlarged national state bureaucracies and thereby upset the East African project. In fact, the people of East Africa are yet to witness the practice of political and institutional imagination in the materialisation of some of the critical organs of the community. The community must remain alive, drawing its breath from the vital organs of its grassroots communities.

    In constituting one of the cardinal organs of the community – the Regional Legislative Assembly, one or two of the member states have been treating their citizens to a charade reminiscent of medieval feudal lords rewarding their satraps with undeserved sinecures under a thin veneer of popular consensus among party-political actors. For Kenya one can have solace in the realisation that ‘if one's only tool is a rungu[4], everything would seem to look like the head of an enemy’. A less partisan approach to nominating individuals with the desired credentials would have signalised the kind of good will with which the national political elites accord the regional project.


    Intractable challenges face the community. In order to translate the fundamental principles and objectives informing the re-integration of the East African countries into a viable community of regional economic interests, member countries will need to overcome the temptation to over-bureaucratise the re-integration effort at the expense of the imperative and principle of subsidiarity. Membership overlaps between COMESA (Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa) and SADC, like in the case of Uganda, withdrawal of Tanzania from COMESA in favour of SADC and the intensifying competition between the two treaties will soon shake out into an unpredictable re-alignment of regional and sub-regional forces, rendering their coexistence a precarious eventuality. But before this happens, a much more transparent and popular conversation needs to precede the re-integration process. The entailed discourses cannot be the monopoly of state bureaucrats and their partisan reflexes. Non-state actors need effective engagement with the process.

    Several years of effort to avoid membership overlap in order to find a clear division of labour and possibly improve the framework for intergovernmental cooperation in the region have come up against intractable challenges; most of it touching on collective reluctance to cede some non-critical elements of national sovereignty to the imperative of regional solidarity, leave alone federation.

    To what extent the newly reborn East African Community will embed its institutional and strategic interests sustainably within the COMESA framework, particularly with Tanzanian's sentimental gravitation towards SADC, remains a litmus test for organisational viability of the regional body.

    Unlike SADC which has been organisationally restructuring its confederational operations around sector protocols that are supposed to guide the direction that its future regionalisation will take, COMESA and its East African community subset seem to be lagging behind. Even in even in a creative mimicking of SADC's experiences, the shared watercourse systems protocol around Lake Victoria, through a regional/local ownership of LAVEMP– a World Bank funded programme, aimed at addressing sustainability problems afflicting development efforts by the riparian communities, is still saddled with a myriad of teething problems.

    There is no doubt that a high economic growth scenario is a necessary but not sufficient condition for a sustainable regional development. If this condition were to be met, it would be necessary that the results of such high economic growth be available for the majority of the people of the region, without any artificial bureaucratic manipulation. The alternative would be marked by increasing polarisation, not only between intra-state sections of society, but also between member states.

    Interestingly, though, civil society entities located in and engaging with the member states are reaching out for common agenda across national boundaries and forming networks and regional platforms which are in need of the required capacity to address pressing regional social development issues.

    The Law Societies of the member countries, the business community, civil society networks eg., the still-born NGOSEA and many other cognate initiatives are pertinent cases in point.

    Base societal forces are also seeking institutional engagement with the regionalisation process. Entry-points are far and apart. The few opportunities that occasionally open themselves up are many times clogged by bureaucratic state-centric procedures that leave little room for civic engagement with the process of regionalisation.

    The East African Communities organisation for Management of Lake Victoria Resources (ECOVIC), an international NGO based in Mwanza, was launched in 1998. At local governmental level, regional cooperation is being improved through activities of Lake Victoria Regional Local Authorities Co-operation (LVRLVC). Trade unions in the three countries, however, remain oblivious to the regional labour issues and are hardly waking up to the challenges associated with trans-boundary labour issues and problems, particularly those that chain labour against mobile capital.

    Regional sites of democratic action from where to engage critically with WTO, Debt problems, MAI, Free Trade Agreement (FTA) etc, (as the latter are busy writing the constitution of a single world economy in the true image of the interest of the corporate North) are just beginning to take shape in the efforts of a few NGO networks beginning to address some of the sticky issues emerging from the Coutonou (ACP-EU) process. A strategic conflation of such engagements on both national and regional sites will need to be stimulated and strengthened in order to drive the process of regionalisation from below and in full awareness of the precarious agenda of free-market zealotry.

    With the broad masses of the people getting bored with the antics of the democracy discourse and their national governments increasingly losing control of the institutional levers of sovereignty, their only hope for a dignified citizenship may seem to be tantalisingly embedded in the ambiguous folds of a regional concertation of national and sub-national interests. This will bring the agenda of cross-cultural competence into high relief, consigning the debilitating tribal fetishes, which have become dangerous pegs on which the backward forces in the individual nation states hang their hegemonic flags, into a regional irrelevance; and thereby provide an opportunity for the emergence of a progressive and economically powerful humanity around the shores of Lake Victoria and along that of the Indian Ocean.


    * Edward Oyugi is executive director of the Social Development Network.
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

    [1] Regionalisation in a Globalising World, a comparative perspective on Forms, Actors and Processes, edited by Michael Schulz, Fredrik Doderbaum and Joakim Ojendal.London, 2001
    [2] Ibd, 2001
    [3] For a more informed discussion on the topic, see Marianne H. Marchand: North American Regionalisms and Regionalisation in Regionalisation in a Globalizing World, London 2001


    Bull, H and Adam Watson, The Expansion of International Society, Oxford, Clarendon Press,1985
    Clapham, C Africa and the International System: The Politics of State Survival, Cambridge University Press,1996
    Cable, V and Henderson (eds)Trade Blocks? The Future of Regional Integration, London: Royal Institute of International Affairs,1994
    Kofman, E and G. Youngs (eds) Globalisation: Theory and Practice, London: Pinter,1996
    Nye, Joseph Pan-Africanism and the East African Integration, Cambridge, Mass, Cambridge University Press, 1965
    Nyongo,A (ed)Regional Integration in Africa: Unfinished Agenda, African Academy of Sciences, 1990
    Omae, Kenichi, The End of the Nation State: The Rise of Regional Economies, London: Harper Collins, 1995
    Oman, C, Globalisation and Regionalisation: The Challenge for Developing Countries, Development Centre of the Organisation of Development Cooperation and Development, Paris, 1994
    Schulz, F, Fredrik Soderbaum and Joakim Ojendal (eds), Regionalisation in a Globalising World: A Comparative Perspective on Forms, Actors and Processes, London, 2001


    Maina Kiai to head International Council on Human Rights Policy

    ICHRP: Change of direction


    Maina Kiai, former Chair of the National Human Rights Commission of Kenya, will succeed Robert Archer as Executive Director of the International Council as of 15 July. Kiai will bring to the Council a tremendous reputation as an advocate of human rights in Kenya, and formidable communication skills. He will contribute a new voice and fresh energy to the Council's direction.

    Speaking Truth to Power

    A celebration of the life and ideas of Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem


    Presentations and readings from his book ‘Selected Pan-African Postcards’ with Dr Ama Biney, editor, and Dr Patricia Daley.

    Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem's Pan-African postcards demonstrate his steadfast commitment to Pan-Africanism and his vociferous belief in the potential of Africa and African people.

    Date: Thursday 17 June 2010
    Time: 5.30–7pm
    Place: Rhodes House, South Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3RG

    All welcome

    Sokari Ekine nominated for Nigerian Blog Awards


    We're proud to announce that Sokari Ekine, one of the writers behind Pambazuka News’ weekly ‘Blogging Africa’ column, has been nominated for two awards for her wonderful blog, Black Looks – ‘Best political blog’ and ‘Best theme’. Join us in supporting her by casting your vote at the Nigerian Blog Awards!

    Comment & analysis

    African refugees in Indonesia: An uncertain future

    Savitri Taylor and Brynna Rafferty-Brown


    cc Simminch
    The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) Indonesia is working alongside its partner organisations to ensure the wellbeing of African refugees and asylum seekers in Indonesia, write Savitri Taylor and Brynna Rafferty-Brown. But do the displaced receive the support they need and do they have reason to be optimistic about their future stability?

    There were 1773 asylum seekers and 798 recognised refugees registered with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) Indonesia at the end of 2009. 107 of these individuals (50 asylum seekers and 57 refugees) were from Africa. They were mostly male and came from Algeria (1), Burundi (1), Cameroon (2), Cote d’Ivoire (4), Democratic Republic of the Congo (11), Egypt (2), Guinea (15), Liberia (1), Sierra Leone (3), Somalia (65), Tunisia (1) and Western Sahara (1).

    As part of a research project examining the impact on asylum seekers of Australia’s border control cooperation with Indonesia, our field researchers in Indonesia interviewed 59 asylum seekers and refugees in 2009. They also interviewed 50 Indonesian government officials and others who interacted with asylum seekers in Indonesia in a variety of ways from enforcing border control to providing support. This article sets out what we learned about the experiences of our seven African interviewees (all Somali and Muslim).

    We interviewed six Somali men and one Somali woman. The youngest, Issa, was 19 and the oldest, Mustafa, was 60. The others were aged in their 20s or early 30s. At the time of the interviews, they had been in Indonesia for between one and five years. Five had entered Indonesia via an international flight into Jakarta. The other two had arrived by boat. At least half had had contact with people smugglers. Issa, whose extended family paid for him to be smuggled out of Somalia after the death of his parents, was abandoned in Jakarta by the smuggler in August 2007. He lived in the streets and slept in mosques for a month and a half before running into an Indonesian army officer who told him that UNHCR might be able to assist him.

    Indonesia is not a party to the UNHCR 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees or the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees. However, Indonesia cooperates with UNHCR by allowing it to maintain a presence and, pursuant to its own mandate, to conduct refugee status determinations in respect of asylum seekers in Indonesia. In addition, the Indonesian Immigration Directorate General issued a Directive in 2002 which states, among other things, that ‘the status and presence of aliens holding Attestation Letters or identification cards issued by UNHCR as asylum seekers, refugees or persons of concern to UNHCR, must be respected’. All our Somali interviewees had been recognised as refugees by UNHCR Indonesia, in most cases approximately one year after making a claim. Thankfully, as with the majority of our interviewees, no Somalis reported having experienced any problems with Indonesian police or other officials after receiving UNHCR documentation.

    Asylum seekers (and for that matter recognised refugees) in Indonesia are not accorded the right to work. If authorised by UNHCR, its Indonesian implementing partner, Church World Service Indonesia (CWS) can presently pay a monthly living allowance to asylum seekers identified as having specific needs, such as children. Other asylum seekers are left to look after themselves for the most part, though UNHCR’s implementing partner can provide assistance in life threatening or similar emergency situations. Pursuant to an arrangement between the Australian government, the Indonesian government and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), asylum seekers intercepted by Indonesian authorities en route to Australia or New Zealand are referred to IOM for material assistance. However, other asylum seekers in Indonesia usually do not qualify for assistance from IOM. Asylum seekers who do not receive assistance from UNHCR or IOM can find themselves in quite straitened circumstances unless they have brought a lot of money with them, receive money from family overseas or manage to work illegally. Mustafa, who waited three years for UNHCR recognition, was forced to live in the streets and sleep in mosques during that time.

    Once recognised, refugees assessed as being ‘needy’ are provided with a ‘monthly subsistence allowance’ (MSA) by UNHCR through CWS. The monthly allowance is just over Rp1,000,000 for a single person. In the case of families, the allowance is Rp1,000,000 for the head of the household and approximately half that sum for each additional family member. The MSA is supposed to cover all basic living expenses including accommodation costs. An extra amount is included in the allowance to cover the special needs of children under five, the elderly and pregnant or lactating women.

    All our Somali interviewees were under the care of CWS at the time of interview. They all lived in Jakarta, even though CWS also has a centre in Bogor and allows refugees to choose where they live. The majority of refugees who choose to live in Jakarta are, in fact, African. Refugees of other nationalities usually choose other locations, not least because Jakarta is one of Indonesia’s most expensive cities.

    Given that basic accommodation in Jakarta can cost anything from Rp500,000 per month upwards and food and other necessities cost more than elsewhere, it is unsurprising that only two of our Somali interviewees (the youngest and the oldest) thought that the MSA was adequate. The situation of Mahmud, the only married person among our Somali interviewees, was particularly difficult. He was supporting his Indonesian wife and their four-year-old child (also an Indonesian citizen under its law) on a single MSA because neither his wife nor his child qualified for an MSA themselves. Mahmud was also unhappy about the fact that he couldn’t enrol his daughter in kindergarten because he couldn’t obtain a birth certificate for her. We were not told whether the obstacles to obtaining a birth certificate were bureaucratic or financial. We suspect a bit of both.

    Mahmud, Munir, Abdo and Munawar lived in the same cheap boarding house (kost) in Jakarta. It had an outside bathroom and no kitchen. Mustafa and Issa also lived in basic kost accommodation. However, Aisha rented a house with her parents, older sibling and that sibling’s children.

    Abdo told us he ate two meals a day, eating only noodles or bread when he was running low on money. He said: ‘Normally I’ve got nothing left by the 20th of the month. Once I get to that stage I look for additional money from friends. But if I borrow money then I’m always in debt, which isn’t nice either.’ Mahmud and Munir also found it difficult to make their MSA last the month and sometimes had to go into debt with stall owners or borrow money from friends. Munawar was slightly better off than the others because he occasionally worked as a translator for CWS earning Rp50,000 per hour worked. However, he still found his income insufficient for his day-to-day needs.

    When asked about access to health care, our interviewees told us that CWS paid for treatment at a local health clinic or hospital as required. Mustafa was actually the only Somali interviewee who seemed to suffer from on-going physical ill health. This took the form of headaches, vomiting and an upset stomach, which he managed by eating bland, soft food. He also needed medication for a foot wound he had acquired in a jungle in Somalia. Abdo told us that he went to the hospital almost every month, but described his condition as stress-related. He explained, ‘If there aren’t any activities at the CWS centre, then I don’t have anything to do, I just sleep. That’s what makes me stressed.’ At other points in the interview he said, ‘I feel depressed because I can’t do anything here. I can’t work even though I’m still young’ and ‘Here I feel like a dead person because I can’t do anything.’

    Regrettably, many of the weekly programs and services offered by CWS Jakarta have been withdrawn due to low participation rates. Most refugees have to travel for at least an hour, either through the maze of Jakarta’s public transport or on the slightly more expensive motorbike taxis, before reaching the CWS centre in central Jakarta. Understandably, most choose not to spend their MSA on more trips in to CWS than is absolutely necessary (i.e. once a month to collect their MSA).

    Many Somali refugees live in the same area of Jakarta and have friendships with one another. However, none of our Somali interviewees spoke of friendships with refugees of other backgrounds. Most did not have friendships with locals either, though they felt generally positive towards Indonesians. Of our Somali interviewees, Issa seemed to have created the strongest links with locals. He trained regularly with the local soccer team and often met up with friends at the mosque for prayers and Qur’an study sessions. At the other end of the spectrum, Abdo thought that he received suspicious looks on public transport because he was black and believed that the best way to stay out of trouble was not to get involved with locals. Abdo’s sense of being regarded suspiciously may well have had foundation. According to employees of CWS and of UNHCR’s previous implementing partner, Pulih, their physical similarity with Nigerians has in the past led to Somali refugees having occasional problems with the police because Nigerians in Jakarta have the unfortunate reputation of being involved in the illegal drug trade. However, both organisations worked hard to educate the police and seem to have succeeded.

    Although our Somali interviewees felt safe in Indonesia, they shared a common desire to be resettled anywhere where they could start a new life. On the other hand, their optimism about achieving that outcome varied considerably. At one extreme, Issa, who had been in Indonesia for two years, was confident that things would work themselves out. At the other, 30-year-old Mahmud and 22-year-old Munir, who had been in Indonesia for five and four years respectively, spoke of having lost their futures. Lamentably, their pessimism seems entirely justified.


    * Savitri Taylor is senior lecturer of law at the School of Law, La Trobe University.
    * Brynna Rafferty-Brown was research officer, School of Law, La Trobe University at the relevant time.
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

    Plugging Africa's leak

    The development paradigm and illicit financial outflows

    Karly Curcio


    cc Amalthya
    Every year billions of dollars of potential development capital are drained from Africa through holes in the continent’s ‘bottomless bucket’ as a result of illicit financial outflows, writes Karley Curcio. Greater transparency and oversight of financial dealings is the only way to curb this monetary drain, which restricts the majority of ordinary people’s access to capital, Curcio argues.

    Foreign aid programs continue to pour funds into what seems like Africa's bottomless bucket. Illicit financial flows out of Africa are twice the amount of foreign aid into the region. Between 1970 and 2008, according to a study by Global Financial Integrity (GDI), illicit flows from Africa totalled at least US$854 billion, and could reach as high as US$1.8 trillion when taking into account missing data from certain countries and other conduits of illicit flows not captured in the study.

    Although US$1.8 trillion is already an incredible volume of illicit outflows, the actual figure could be higher still. This figure grows if we account for untraceable money generated by smuggling, violations of intellectual property rights, trade in narcotics and other contraband goods, human trafficking, sex trade and other illegal activities.

    Illicit flows have been a consistent and crippling problem in African countries. The Global Financial Integrity study found that illicit funds from the continent have continued to ratchet upwards every decade since the 1970s at an average rate of 12 per cent per year. In fact, Africa is a net creditor to the world – it ‘gives’ back to the world through illicit capital flight at least twice, and in some regions thrice, the amount of capital it receives in external assistance. No wonder, then, that this staggering loss of capital seriously hampers Africa's efforts at poverty alleviation and economic development, decade after decade.


    Traditional policy interpretations of ‘capital flight’ do appropriately account for the debilitating effects of the money leaving these countries – money that these countries desperately need to build economic and political foundations. But this antiquated approach does not recognise that banking institutions in the developed world facilitate the absorption of illicit funds.

    Illicit flows must be curtailed through a two-pronged approach, which recognises that both developing and developed countries must do their part in addressing the problem. While developing countries, like those in Africa, currently lack the governance and transparency to effectively regulate and control these outflows, equally at fault are the jurisdictions – mostly developed countries and their Western banking institutions – that not only absorb these illicit funds without hindrance, but actually solicit them through ‘private investment’ banking services. Emerging markets need to implement sound economic policies and improve governance. But developed countries also need to ensure that the financial institutions that absorb these flows are subject to stricter oversight and operate in a more transparent manner.

    The drivers of illicit financial flows vary from country to country, but overall transparency in the global financial system would significantly curtail all forms of outflows, by making it harder for tax cheats and other corrupt individuals to siphon off funds from the country. If retained by the region, the astonishing US$854 billion estimated to have flown out of Africa would be enough to not only wipe out Africa's total outstanding external debt of around US$250 billion (as of December 2008), but it would also provide around US$600 billion for poverty alleviation and economic growth.

    Development aid to Africa won't be effective as long as these illicit outflows continue to grow. Sub-Saharan African countries experienced the bulk of illicit capital leaving the continent, with the West and Central African region registering the largest outflows. The top five countries with the highest outflows were: Nigeria (US$240.7 billion), Egypt (US$131.3 billion), South Africa (US$76.4 billion), Morocco (US$41.0 billion) and Algeria (US$35.1 billion). Estimates indicate that Africa lost around US$29 billion per year from 1970-2008, of which the sub-Saharan region accounted for US$22 billion. On average, countries like Nigeria that export oil lost capital at nearly US$10 billion per year, far outstripping the US$2.5 billion per year lost by the group of countries exporting non-fuel primary commodities. Indeed, these numbers indicate that much of the wealth generated by oil-exporting African countries does not trickle down sufficiently to benefit the nation's population.

    In developing countries that do not or are unable to implement genuine economic reform and better governance, economic growth brings more opportunities for individuals to accumulate illegal wealth and transfer that wealth abroad. In periods where illicit outflows accelerated, oil prices increased, and so did opportunities to mis-invoice trade. In fact, two methods often used to siphon money away from legal and traceable markets involve the under-invoicing and over-invoicing of exports and imports, respectively.


    The current development paradigm isn't working. Poverty rates continue to stagnate and even rise, and countries such as Somalia, Sudan and Zimbabwe continue to struggle as failed states. In fact, the political and economic foundations that typically underlie stable and prosperous countries are absent in most African countries. According to the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), US$348 billion is needed to meet the goals by 2010 and US$529 billion by 2015. If illicit financial flows are not curtailed, Africa and its donors won't be able to meet these goals.

    Policy measures must be taken to address the factors underlying illicit outflows and also to impress upon the Group of Twenty (G20) the need for better transparency and tighter oversight of the international banks and offshore financial centres that absorb these funds. Global Financial Integrity recently launched the G20 Transparency Campaign to enable people around the world to take action on the problem of illicit financial flows. When the G20 meets in Canada this June, this problem must be at the top of the agenda.

    Reform of this shadow financial system through greater transparency is in the best interest of not only African countries seeking economic growth, but also the interests of developed countries. Curtailing illicit flows would improve the effectiveness of aid and help graduate African countries from aid dependence to a path of sustained economic development.


    * This article was originally published by Foreign Policy In Focus.
    * Karly Curcio is a junior economist at Global Financial Integrity.
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

    Kenya: 36 reasons why we needed a new constitution

    Cyprian Nyamwamu


    cc O D
    The issues of Kadhi’s courts and abortion are being presented as issues central to the debate on Kenya’s Proposed Constitution, writes Cyprian Nyamwamu, but in reality there are several others. Nyamwamu compiles a list of 36 reasons why Kenyans supported the draft of a new constitution.

    i. Parliament’s power to amend the Constitution had been abused for many years and this has thrown the nation into untold suffering. Kenyans wanted to exercise their sovereignty either directly or through elected representatives in a parliament which had both the national assembly and the senate. Kenyans had a problem with the concepts of the supremacy of parliament instead of the supremacy of the constitution and, with the doctrine of the sovereignty of the state instead of the sovereignty of the people. These two concepts were important for us to locate where power inheres, who donates power, and to make it clear that the state and its institutions are a creature that is not an end but a means to an end; to create an environment where the human being (citizen) shall enjoy his or her rights as an individual, as a community, group and as the collective of the people of Kenya. The rights and freedoms of each single human being and in his or her collective is the basis and justification for establishing the state. Kenyans finally won this fundamental intellectual battle and therefore secured the right and solemn political act of constitution-making to themselves, even though the political class has always usurped this duty and primordial political power. It is on this basis that the National Convention Executive Council (NCEC), a non-profit citizen’s movement, went to court in 2004 to secure the right to a referendum on the Constitution to ensure that in future Parliament did not arrogate itself the power of making or fundamentally altering the structure of governance the people of Kenya chose.

    Original synthesis based on the reports of several civil society organizations including the Citizens Coalition for Constitutional Change (4Cs), NCEC, Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC), Center for Law and Research International (CLARION), Youth Agenda and the Ecumenical Justice and Peace Commission (EJPC), by Cyprian Nyamwamu, Ndung’u Wainaina, Kepta Ombati, and Mugure Gituto, on behalf of NCEC (2005).

    ii. The president had unfettered powers to appoint ministers and assistant ministers, nominate MPs and military bosses, and appoint judges, the attorney general (AG), ambassadors, permanent secretaries, parastatals chiefs, provincial commissioners and district commissioners (DCs) of his choice, without parliamentary vetting or approval. In most cases, sycophants and individuals who needed to be in jail were allowed to run ministries and important constitutional and public offices.

    iii. The one-party dictatorship which was de facto since 1966 but became de jure in June 1982 revolted all patriotic Kenyans. This is how the 1982 coup became inevitable. The Mlolongo tragedy of 1988 within the Kenya African National Union party (KANU), as the only political vehicle to participate in politics and governance, made it urgent that Kenya be established as a multi-party democracy. But then again the repeal of Section 2A without making a democratic constitution with checks and balances, separation of powers and devolution was not going to do it. So Kenyans demanded a multi-party democratic state as a basis of building a democratic, just, cohesive and inclusive state. Former president Daniel Arap Moi said that multi-partyism would bring about chaos and indeed because he controlled all instruments of the state, he presided over ethnic clashes. Not a single DC – because DCs chaired the district security committees – was ever arrested for failing to secure Kenyans. The Akiwumi report, of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry on Tribal Clashes in Kenya, is replete with stories of how the state was used to hurt the nation, kill Kenyans and destroy our economy so that Moi and KANU could remain omnipresent and all-powerful to a fault.

    iv. The military and the police force (instead of service) were not regulated through the constitution and therefore were largely instruments of the president lacking in civilian/constitutional oversight. This is how many assassinations, ethnic clashes, detentions without trial, the Wagalla Massacre and other gory occurrences of state terrorism were sustained.

    v. A minority president who could be elected with as little as 27 per cent would form government without the requirement to form a coalition government. This electoral system and constitutional standard, based on the first-past-the-post system, ensured that Kenya was always ruled by a constitutional dictator who used the electoral system to rig the elections in favour of his party and use the courts to ensure that petitions never saw the light of the day. Kibaki’s petition against Moi’s rigging in 1997 was not concluded until now.

    vi. Corruption and misuse of office had become rampant because there were no checks and balances in place. The Goldenberg scandal, Anglo-leasing, land grabbing, asset stripping of parastatals and all the documented theft (in the Auditor and Controller General reports) all happened because of the impunity with which the neo-patrimonial state was and is founded on. The patron-client system run by kitchen cabinets punished those who were critical of the ruling party and rewarded sycophants. Impunity had taken root to the core. This was so especially because ministers were both members of parliament and members of the cabinet, hence holding the executive accountable was always a mere intention.

    vii. Detention without trial, torture and state terrorism continued unabated as it has now been documented in the Nyayo torture chambers case, Kamiti, Naivasha, Shimo La Tewa, Manyani, Wagalla Massacre and other infamous cases of state terrorism against its own citizens. This is because the presidency cannot be held to account for the security of Kenyans. Kenyans were brought to courts at 7pm in the evening to be tried after being starved for as many as 21 days, forced to eat their own feces and drink urine to stay alive.

    viii. Kenya’s Bill of Rights was made with the interests of the colonialists at heart. The bill of rights is so weak and totally unjust because the rights and freedoms there in are subject to state security, public health, public morality and public order considerations. Kenyans wanted an expanded and supreme Bill of Rights which included socio-economic, cultural, special categories and group rights.

    a. Capital punishment remains a major concern for Kenyans as it remains in the statute books and the constitution did not make it illegal. Sadly the proposed constitution does not outlaw capital punishment but empowers Parliament to repeal the penal code to repeal it this sentence (see Article 26(3));

    b. Extra-judicial killings and incarceration in police cells for more than 24 hours, arbitrary arrests and harassment of Kenyans – especially the youth by the police and incarceration in remand prisons are serious violations of rights;

    c. The violation of the people’s right to privacy is a major concern;

    d. Denial of basic rights like education and health care to poor people in slums and far-flung areas like in Pokot, Turkana, Mandera, Marsabit, etc;

    e. The fact that Kenyans cannot assemble freely, demonstrate and petition their government without being harassed and taken through malicious prosecution is a major concern. There are Kenyans like Kalembe Ndile who, before his election in 2002 to Parliament, had nine concurrent cases in court. These violations make Kenyans wonder whether they belong to the government. Are Kenyans the property of their government? Hon. Michuki’s March 2006 confession that the government is like a serpent that if rattled shall strike adds to the need for the overhaul of the Constitution so that when a minister orders the police to invade private property and to destroy property, such a minister can then be arrested, tried in a court of law and jailed.

    ix. Ethnic clashes, assassinations, tribalism and threats to national security had become the way of life and the president and security organs could not be held to account for the security of the nation.

    x. Dual citizenship was never provided and Kenya was missing out in a big way both politically and economically.

    xi. Academic freedom continued to be violated since the freedoms of citizens to disseminate academic ideas remains fettered under the current Constitution and violation of rights is rarely punished since the acts establishing universities are themselves draconian.

    xii. Citizenship remained a major problem. Kenyan women could not and still do not confer citizenship to their children if the husbands are not Kenyan. This is constitutional discrimination.

    xiii. Kenyans were very concerned about and lamented the tyranny of the provincial administration and the Chiefs Act. This governance system remained and remains oppressive because of the decentralisation system of governance instead of the system of devolution which empowers the citizens to establishe democratic governments that are accountable to them. Kenyans wanted a devolved system of government where they controlled both political power to make decision and elect government at a sub-national level as well as control economic power and resources that could be applied to transforming the lives of Kenyans with the aim of securing the basic rights, opportunity and security of every single Kenyan.

    xiv. The AG’s arbitrary powers of nolle prosequi, or powers to discontinue charges or a trial, that has been abused so often remains a concern to Kenyans since this is used to let the rich criminals off the hook while grandmothers who steal a chicken to feed orphans are sentenced to eight years in prison (as exampled in 2006 in Nyeri).

    xv. Land grabbing and dispossession because land would be illegally given out to the friends of the president including the Mau forest and other gazetted public lands has continued to be a major concern for Kenyans. In fact it has been a source of land-based conflict.

    xvi. Historical injustice going back to the colonisation of Kenya remains unaddressed. Courts could not be accessed by communities or human rights groups in the name of locus standi and because once a title had been issued to an entity it could not be challenged.

    xvii. The issue of 999-year leases (ten centuries of lease) to land allocated under the leasehold (even to foreigners) continues to truly irk Kenyans.

    xviii. Poverty, hunger and marginalisation due to the skewed way of budgeting and allocation of resources have made Kenyans live in abject poverty and marginalisation. Kenyans wanted the budgeting process to be open, participatory, fair and equitable.

    xix. The police who kill with impunity and who cannot be held to account even in cases of extra-judicial killings remain a major concern for Kenya. If the colonial state killed Kenyans with impunity, how can Kenyans, even suspected criminals, be killed without due process being followed?

    xx. Parliament, which was a mere extension of the executive remains too weak and totally without teeth to hold the executive accountable to the people of Kenya. The main problem remains that Parliament cannot pass a vote of non-confidence in the president or government because it would cause MPs to lose their jobs immediately and face a new election.

    xxi. The president can dissolve Parliament, prorogue it and open the sessions at his pleasure since Parliament cannot even set out its own calendar.

    xxii. The Kenyan judiciary has become a system of subversion to justice. The judiciary lacks independence because the judges are appointed through a system that the president controls. Due to this the judiciary is largely captured by the executive and therefore judgments sometimes are given under duress or after judges have been bribed to deliver these judgments in favour of cronies of the presidents.

    xxiii. A corrupt judiciary that also lacks financial independence has denied Kenyans justice. According to the 2009 economic survey, there are about 840,000 cases pending in the judiciary with others running back as far as 1983. Kenyans demanded a judiciary that is open, transparent, independent and progressive to secure the rights of Kenyans and check the executive and the legislature.

    xxiv. The civil service works at the pleasure of the president and hence largely serves the interests of the president and his friends, not the people of Kenya.

    xxv. The electoral commission that would be composed of the ruling party stalwarts to help the incumbent to rig the election was reformed under the Inter Parties Parliamentary Group (IPPG) reforms of 1997, but only as a gentleman’s agreement. Kibaki defied that gentleman’s agreement and created a commission composed of nearly 95 per cent of his friends or loyalists. This became a major source of national chaos in the 2007 presidential elections dispute.

    xxvi. Lack of directive principles of state policy: this led to institutionalized marginalization through discriminatory policies such the Sessional Paper No. 10 of 1965 on African Socialism and its Application to Planning in Kenya.

    xxvii. Skewed budgeting in favour of the President’s region which leads to tensions and suspicion, hence making elections a life or death affair

    xxviii. The idea of the winner-takes-all electoral system, in which a mere 33 per cent of mandate translates to 100 per cent of power, has created the ‘it is our time to eat’ political psyche that is responsible for the cut-throat competition in politics. This political system has undermined the unity of the nation and national cohesion has been vandalised extensively.

    xxix. Nepotism and tribalism in the civil service has become a feature due of the winner-takes-all political system. That ministers operate with impunity is due to the fact that Parliament does not vet the appointees to state offices.

    xxx. Women were marginalised and excluded due to the lack of an affirmative action policy in the Constitution; if included this could lift the status of women so that they could meaningfully participate in decision-making organs of the state.

    xxxi. The youth are totally ignored and marginalised in politics, economics, social and cultural sectors as well as legally and structurally. Although constituting 56 per cent of the population, the youth between the ages of 18-35 years have no say whatsoever in politics and governance and therefore lack avenues of influencing state policy.

    xxxii. Persons with disability, minorities and pastoralists needed affirmative action and special policies since they remain marginalised. There has been a call for an equalisation fund and other constitutional mechanisms to ensure that persons with disabilities (PWDs) and minority communities also have a place in the representative organs of the state.

    xxxiii. Workers rights continued and continue to be violated because of the weaknesses of the industrial court whose decisions are not final but can be overturned by the High Court. A minister can declare workers’ right to a strike illegal even when workers’ bodies have exhausted the channels of industrial negotiations.

    xxxiv. Borrowing without parliamentary approval has led to Kenyans borrowing up to about Ksh2 trillion and paying back up to Ksh4 trillion to date, where most of these debts are dubious and have gone to line the pockets of the rich, mighty and the powerful of the state since independence. For example, Kenya has borrowed up to Ksh11 billion to extend the railway line but not a single meter of rail has been built since independence. A fertilizer factory allegedly built in Changamwe in the 1970s has cost Kenya billions to date and continues to be paid for but no such factory exists.

    xxxv. Gerrymandering of constituencies and arbitrary creation of districts without regard for the rule of law lead to skewed representation and political tyranny. This has led to serious ethnic tensions in Kenya. In 1998, KANU won about 36 per cent of the national vote but had 51 per cent of Parliament while the combined opposition won about 64 per cent of the vote but controlled only 49 per cent of Parliament. This minority rule has invited serious questions about the electoral system in Kenya and the power to create boundaries and constituencies by bodies controlled by the presidency. This phenomenon is now called gerrymandering.

    xxxvi. National days that could be created under presidential decree; the power to direct the national currency, stadiums, schools, public roads and streets; award of national honours and recognitions, and all those acts that continued to entrench monopolisation, personalisation, manipulation and instrumentalisation of power by the president made
    Kenyans demand constitutional and popular participation of Kenyans. They too must participate in naming and deciding how to award honour and recognition as a national resource.

    These 36 points formed the basis of the national mobilisation and demand for constitutional reforms in Kenya. The proposed Constitution has extensively responded to each and every one of these concerns. Lately the clergy have minted new matters arising from the national consensus on reforms, namely the question of the justice of Kadhi’s courts and the issue of abortion – how it should be declared illegal in clear and unequivocal language. While it is the right of all Kenyans to raise new issues as the process goes on, it is the responsibility of the vanguard of the reform movement to remind Kenyans that these issues were never and are not at the core of the clamour for constitutional reform. Indeed, the proposed Constitution now provides for the right to life to an unborn baby unlike under the current law where unborn fetuses do not have a right to life. Similarly, the whole call for separation of state and religion is dangerous because this is premised on the quest for a secular state in Kenya. Such a secular state will totally devastate the arguments of Christians and our nation’s heritage of harmonious, symbiotic and indeed complementary state-church relationships.


    * Cyprian Nyamwamu is a governance strategist and chief executive officer of the National Convention Executive Council.
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

    The ‘Yes’ camp has it right

    Why voting ‘No’ in Kenya's referendum is not a good thing

    Samuel N. Omwenga


    cc T Maruko
    As debates rage over the proposed new Kenyan constitution, the dichotomy of ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ is being forged amongst referendum voters, writes Samuel N. Omwenga. Omwenga critiques the ‘No’ camp’s motivation for rejecting the new proposals – does it have the interest of Kenyan society in mind, or simply that of a select few?

    As Kenyans living in the diaspora, we have followed with keen interest efforts to revamp our constitution, going back to the first major draft effort by the Constitution Review Commission of Kenya in 2002 through the Bomas days when we felt fairly optimistic that a new constitution would surely be passed and made the new law of the land. For reasons well documented and therefore not necessary to repeat here this did not come to be, but thanks to a dogged determination by Kenyans that a new constitution we must have, we are now in round two of this fight for a new constitution and a new Kenya. This pits those reflecting the public’s long thirst for a new constitution, namely the ‘Yes’ camp, against those who would rather have the country stuck in the past without constitutional reforms, namely the ‘No’ camp.

    It goes without saying which of these two camps should prevail come 4 August 2010 as this is a matter of common sense, particularly given the ‘No’ camp has yet to articulate a single plausible reason why Kenyans should defeat the proposed constitution. To be sure, the ‘No’ camp has advanced various reasons in support of their untenable position to just say ‘no’ but even a cursory examination of these reasons clearly reveals none of them is plausible.

    For example, the ‘No’ camp recruited as its ally members of the church leadership – and note not church membership – who have more recently become extremely vocal that they do not support the proposed new constitution. To the best we can tell, these leaders claim they are opposed to the draft because, according to them, it guarantees abortion on demand. This is simply false. The proposed new constitution does not guarantee abortion on demand and to the extent abortion is being advanced as an issue or reason to oppose passage of the constitution, it is as disingenuous and fake an argument or reason as any can be for a number of reasons: First, abortion ought to be a matter between the individuals directly faced with the issue and their doctor, or at most their immediate family too, but nobody else, including the government.

    However, to the extent our government – like other governments before it – has chosen to address this issue, it has always made abortion illegal except where performed ‘in good faith and with reasonable care and skill … upon an unborn child for the preservation of the mother's life’, according to Section 240 of the Penal Code. The right to life language in the proposed constitution simply modernises Section 240, which has been in the books unchanged for more than 80 years, by continuing to make abortion illegal ‘unless, in the opinion of a trained health professional, there is need for emergency treatment, or the life or health of the mother is in danger, or if permitted by any other written law’, as expressed in Section 26 of the Proposed Constitution of Kenya, passed by Parliament in April 2010. The church leadership is therefore clearly misleading the public by saying the new Constitution enshrines abortion on demand when it clearly does no such a thing. Not even reading together Section 26 and Section 43 of the proposed constitution (ensuring good health for all Kenyans) can one find even a remote basis to advance the false position taken by the church that the new constitution supports abortion on demand. The abortion argument is therefore untrue and has only been raised in efforts to scuttle the constitutional review process for the benefit of a handful, when passage of the proposed constitution is desired for the benefit of all Kenyans.

    Second, the ‘No’ camp is now advancing another religion-linked reason for their untenable position and that is the inclusion of a provision regarding Kadhi courts in the new constitution, which the ‘No’ camp is now peddling as good enough reason to defeat the draft. This Kadhi argument is a classic red herring brazenly being advanced by the ‘No’ camp to confuse the uninformed public about what the Kadhi issue really is in the hopes that confusion will aid in their destined-to-fail efforts to defeat passage of the new constitution. Just like the abortion issue, the Kadhi argument being raised by the ‘No’ camp against the proposed new constitution is disingenuous and fake. This is because the Kadhi provision is nothing new in the Constitution of Kenya and neither is it anything new in our country’s history; indeed, the underlying reason for the express inclusion of the Kadhi courts in the present constitution predates our independence. This inclusion is so firmly grounded and an intricate part of our history that those wishing to now suddenly challenge it are either ill-informed and ignorant, which I doubt, or they are pulling no stops, including using the Kadhi issue, to confuse and divide the public on religious grounds in order to reach their stated goal of denying Kenyans a new constitution – neither of which says anything good about this group.

    Third, some of the church leadership, and by extension the ‘No’ camp, have questionable credibility as to the true reasons they are suddenly so vocal in opposition to the proposed constitution, particularly in their focus on abortion. As was recently widely reported in the media, a US-based anti-abortion group known as the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) bragged that it is donating ‘tens of thousands of dollars’ to help defeat Kenya's proposed Constitution.[1] The question to be asked is how much of this money have the so-called church leaders received from these and other foreign groups to advance these groups’ interests, as opposed to advancing the interests of Kenya? Asked differently, to what extent is the so-called opposition to the new constitution, by church leaders and others, informed by their core moral and principled beliefs as opposed to monetary influence by groups like the ACLJ? As I pose these questions, I am reminded of the axiom: If it quacks like a duck, waddles like a duck, it is probably a duck.

    In sum, the opposition to the new constitution by the church, or by the ‘No’ camp for that matter, is spurious at best and something more serious at worst, but given the enormity of the issue at hand – namely creating a new Kenya – one would hope those in the ‘No’ camp and the church leaders would reevaluate and join the ‘Yes’ camp. Doing otherwise serves no known or plausible public interest.

    To be sure, no one is saying the new constitution has to be passed without dissent or opposition; far from it. As in any republic, healthy debate is desirable, and indeed, necessary for effective discourse in policy formulation. However, dilatory and propaganda tactics intended not to inform but to confuse and to defeat good public measures should never be mistaken for debate. It is clear those in the ‘No’ camp are engaged in dilatory and propaganda tactics intended to defeat passage of the proposed constitution in Kenya. As for genuine debate, we have indeed debated the new constitution vigorously since 2002 so anything that has to be said about it has; anything major that has to be included in it is; and anything not included in it is not by consensus among those tasked with spearheading the process, namely parliament, guided by the Committee of Experts.

    That the president and prime minister have both endorsed and are therefore firmly in the ‘Yes’ camp on passage of the new constitution, is indicative that enough has been said and done about the proposed new constitution and now it must simply be a matter of formality before passage by way of the referendum; technically not necessary but is nonetheless part of the process which must be honoured but not abused. For this reason also, namely the mutual support of the proposed constitution by Kibaki and Raila, one need not read further writing on the wall to determine where this process is headed. But for the sake and unity of the country, perhaps those in opposition need to pay attention to this writing on the wall to finally determine why theirs is an exercise in futility, and therefore abandon their quest and join the rest of the country in saying ‘Yes’ to the new constitution.

    For those still recalcitrant and intent on denying Kenyans a new constitution, there is good news and bad news for them. The bad news is, it is unfortunate we still have these characters amongst the Kenyan political class, as we have gone through so much. The good news is, Kenyans are far more informed and sophisticated today than in any other time in our history, so they are quite capable of identifying the antics of those intent on denying them a new constitution. Given the top leadership in the country is for passage of the new constitution, this is as good as done and one wonders why these characters still search for ways to defeat this irreversible momentum. They seem nonetheless intent to go down this path of clear defeat and perhaps would not if it wasn’t for blind ambitions not at all related to passage of a new constitution in Kenya, in which case all we can do is to be curious about how these same individuals will behave in the new Kenya after passage of the new draft.

    There is time to do the right thing, however, and one hopes those on the ‘No’ camp have not mistakenly taken the view, as the character Mulili did when he declared in playwright Francis Imbuga’s ‘Betrayal in the City’, that it is better never than late, when the opposite is the wisdom.


    * Samuel N. Omwenga is a lawyer.
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.


    [1] The Daily Nation, online, 1 May 2010.

    Advocacy & campaigns

    SADC Lawyers Association statement on Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza

    SADC Lawyers Association


    SADC Lawyers Association condemns the conviction and imprisonment of Steven Monjeza Soko and Tiwonge Chimbalanga Kachepa and welcomes the decision of the President of Malawi to pardon the two individuals.

    The Southern African Development Community Lawyers Association (SADC Lawyers Association) wishes to commend the State President of the Republic of Malawi, Professor Bingu wa Munthalika, for pardoning Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga who were convicted of bugery and indecent acts by males and sentenced to 14 years imprisonment by a Malawian Magistrate Court.

    We are gravely concerned about Malawi’s apparent desire to continue to implement laws that are discriminatory and violate individuals’ rights to freedom of expression and conscience and status and, are, therefore, unconstitutional. The country’s courts have a duty to enforce the constitutional guarantee of equality before the law and ensuring protection against discriminatory laws. It is sad to note that African countries such as Malawi continue to persecute their own people for having a different sexual orientation when most European countries, from whom we inherited this law have long abolished any criminalization of homosexuality. In addition, the international human rights system has long recognized the rights of gay people and the need not to discriminate against them because of their sexual orientation. The United Nations Human Rights Committee has asserted that reference to “equal and effective protection against discrimination on any grounds such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status” in Article 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights includes the right to non-discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. (Human Rights Committee: Views of 31 March 1994, case of Nicholas Toonen v. Australia, Communication Number 488/1992).

    It is, therefore, unacceptable that Malawi continues to maintain in its penal statutes provisions that impinge on the rights of its citizens and encourage intolerance amongst the population citing tradition, morality and religion.

    The language that was used by the Magistrate in passing sentence, in our view, casts doubt on the fairness of the trial and the impartiality of the court in dealing with the case. The Magistrate referred to the marriage as “bizarre” and that the two men were “seeking heroism” by getting married publicly and not showing remorse thereby “corrupting the mind of a whole nation.” These are highly opinionated statements that draw reservations about lack of prejudice on the part of the presiding Magistrate.

    The imposition of a maximum sentence was, in our view, without justification in terms of the law sentencing must be humane. We observe that the Courts in Malawi have not imposed maximum sentences even for more serious offences such as rape, defilement and armed robbery.

    In denying the two men bail in December 2009, the same Magistrate also stated that he could not grant the couple bail because “the public out there was angry with them”. Such pronouncements can only help to endanger the lives of the two men at the hands of a few unguided elements in society. We are also concerned that in sentencing the pair, it appears that the magistrate was more concerned about setting an example than in taking all relevant circumstances in the interests of justice. Also, public pronouncements by persons in high political and religious offices condemning the two while the trial was pending could only have served to undermine the independence of the Court.

    The couple was also subjected to compulsory medical examinations to determine their “gender” and whether they had had sexual intercourse. We strongly condemn this as an invasion of the couple’s right to privacy and security of the person as enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

    We urge the Government of Malawi to repeal Sections 153 (a) and (c) of the Penal Code that are being used to discriminate against homosexual people in the country and infringe on their rights. The criminal law must conform to the standards set by the Constitution. It should be pointed out that a State that has ratified international and regional hman rights treaties must ensure that their domestic legislation does not contravene these regional and international obligations to which States voluntarily bind themselves. Constitutions by their very nature exist, among other things, to protect minorities and vulnerable groups from majorities.

    In addition, we encourage judicial officers to be temperate and exercise restraint in the use of language so that they may instill confidence in members of the public in the independence and impartiality of our courts.

    Issued for and on Behalf of the Southern African Development Community Lawyers Association
    By Thoba Poyo-Dlwati
    Vice-President, SADC Lawyers Association
    1st June 2010.

    SAMWU statement on release of Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza



    Following the release of gay couple Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza, who were initially sentenced to 14 years imprisonment in Malawi, the South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU) has issued a statement celebrating the pardon granted by President Bingu wa Mutharika but demanding greater steps towards the eradication of legislated homophobia and the desire to suppress human rights.

    Reports over the weekend indicated that President Bingu wa Mutharika of Malawi had granted an unconditional pardon to the two gay men who had been sentenced to 14 years imprisonment for admitting that they were involved in a same sex relationship. The release of Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 20, and Steven Monjeza, 26, was as a result of international outrage from a very wide range of organisations including trade unions, faith based organisations, and human and gay rights campaigning groups. The Secretary General of the United Nations reflected these concerns in a meeting with the president and this too seems to have helped to bring about the pardon. As one of those organisations that joined with others to condemn the action of the Malawian authorities, we are of course delighted that the pardon has been enacted, and we hope that Steven and Tiwonge are left in peace in order to be able to recover from what must have been a traumatic ordeal.

    However, we note with some trepidation that the President of Malawi has said that the pardon was given on humanitarian grounds and did not reflect a change in government attitude towards homosexuality, and that current repressive legislation would stay in place.

    It has been estimated that Malawi is one of 37 African countries that maintains legislation and practices that discriminate against homosexuals. This clearly indicates that there is much to be done across the continent to challenge and change, what is essentially in many countries, colonial homophobic legislation that contradicts the human rights of a section of the community. The silence of the African Union and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) on this matter has been deafening, as have many of the ‘progressive’ voices that we would normally associate with the defence of human rights.

    We appreciate that there is a need for much public education on homophobia, and especially on the clauses that outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa. Perhaps many of our own citizens do not fully understand its importance, and why it is necessary to guard against all forms of discrimination before they fatally impact upon us, as did xenophobia so starkly in 2008. The enemies of working class unity know only too well how to exploit the differences that exist within our ranks. Let us all take decisive action now to ensure that we have a unified response to all attacks on the human rights of all.

    As a union we commit ourselves to ensuring that our own members understand the importance of challenging homophobic actions and sentiment, but we also think that our national political leaders must speak out and defend our constitution. They must also be encouraged to argue for its enshrined principles. Human rights are supposed to be universal and indivisible, to protect everyone regardless of nationality, country of residence, creed, gender, colour and sexual orientation. We all have a duty to ensure that we do not make exceptions and remember that an injury to one is an injury to all!

    Congratulations are due to all those who campaigned for the release of Steven and Tiwonge, to have secured their release when homophobia is rearing its ugly head across the continent is a significant achievement, and one that we must be ready to replicate elsewhere. Two steps forward and one step backwards is still a step forward!
    For further comment contact:

    Steve Faulkner,
    SAMWU’s International and Equality Officer
    Cell: 0828175455

    Issued by:
    Tahir Sema.
    South African Municipal Workers' Union (SAMWU) of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU).
    National Spokesperson.
    Email: tahir.sema
    Office: 011-331 0333
    Cell: 0829403403

    People's voices must be heard in climate negotiations


    The World People's Movement demands that United Nations climate change negotiations be inclusive, transparent, and equitable, and include the proposal expressed by the World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth (Cochabamba, Bolivia, April 20–22).

    In April 2010 more than 35,000 people from 140 countries gathered in Cochabamba, Bolivia and developed the historic Cochabamba People's Agreement a consensus-based document reflecting substantive solutions to the climate crisis. We, the undersigned organizations, both participated in and/or supported this historic process.

    Reflecting the voices of global civil society and the agreements reached in 17 working groups, the Plurinational State of Bolivia made an official proposal, comprised of the core components of the Cochabamba People's Agreement, to the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA) under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Since then, the accord has gained support and recognition by various nations and regional bodies including ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance of Our Americas) and UNASUR (Union of South American Nations).

    We are therefore deeply concerned that the new text proposed in the AWG-LCA as a basis for climate change negotiations does not reflect any of the main conclusions reached in Cochabamba.

    The Chair and the Vice Chair of the AWG-LCA (from Zimbabwe and the United States respectively) have instead incorporated all of the proposals of the Copenhagen Accord, which does not even have the consensus of the United Nations.

    We urge the UNFCCC to embrace the conclusions reached by social movements, indigenous peoples and international civil society in Cochabamba. It is both undemocratic and non-transparent to exclude particular proposals from the negotiations, and it is imperative that the United Nations listens to the global community on this issue critical to humanity.

    We call on all countries in the United Nations, and in particular the President and Vice-President of the AWG-LCA, to include the core conclusions of the Cochabamba People's Accord in the negotiations in the run-up to Cancun. These life- and earth-saving proposals include:

    1. A 50% reduction of domestic greenhouse gas emissions by developed countries for the period 2013-2017 under the Kyoto Protocol, domestically and without reliance on market mechanisms.

    2. The objective of stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations at 300ppm.

    3. The need to begin the process of considering the proposed Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth to reestablish harmony with nature.

    4. The obligation of developed countries to honor their climate debt toward developing countries and our Mother Earth.

    5. The provision of financial resources equal to 6% of GDP by developed countries to help confront the climate change crisis.

    6. The creation of a mechanism for the integral management and conservation of forests that, unlike REDD-plus, respects the sovereignty of states, guarantees the rights and participation of indigenous peoples and forest dependent communities, and is not based on the carbon market regime.

    7. The implementation of measures for recognizing the rights of Indigenous peoples must be secured in accordance with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and applicable universal human rights instruments and agreements. This includes respect for the knowledge and rights of indigenous peoples; their rights to lands, territories and resources, and their full and effective participation, with their free, prior and informed consent.

    8. The incentivizing of models of agricultural production that are environmentally sustainable and that guarantee food sovereignty and the rights of indigenous peoples and small-scale farmers.

    9. The protection and recognition of the rights and needs of forced climate migrants.

    10. The promotion of the establishment of an International Climate and Environmental Justice Tribunal.

    11. The consideration of a World Referendum on Climate Change that allows the people to decide what will be done about this issue, which is of vital importance to the future of humanity and Mother Earth.

    We demand that the conclusions established by the World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, which protect life and Mother Earth, be incorporated into the negotiating text during the negotiations in Bonn, Germany, from May 31st to June 11th, 2010.

    There cannot be an equitable, transparent, and inclusive negotiation process, nor true solutions to the urgency of the climate crisis, if the AWG-LCA negotiating text ignores the voices of the peoples of the world that the negotiators should be representing.

    Books & arts

    Africa's Liberation: The Legacy of Nyerere

    Edited by Chambi Chachage and Annar Cassam

    Pambazuka Press


    Pambazuka Press is pleased to announce the publication of ‘Africa's Liberation: The Legacy of Nyerere’. Edited by Chambi Chachage and Annar Cassam, the book includes contributions from leading commentators, those who worked and fought imperialism alongside Nyerere, members of a younger generation – and Nyerere in his own words.

    Contributions from: Emeka Anyaoku, Ana Camacho, Horace Campbell, Seithy Chachage, Nawal El Saadawi, Ng'wanza Kamata, Faustin Kamuzora, Helen Kijo-Bisimba, Chris Maina Peter, Salma Maoulidi, Marjorie Mbilinyi, Neema Ndunguru, Haroub Othman, Mohamed Sahnoun, Issa G. Shivji, Vicensia Shule

    Edited by Chambi Chachage, Annar Cassam

    The death in 1999 of Julius Kambarage Nyerere, the first president of Tanzania, left a cavern in the consciousness and conscience of the people of Tanzania and Africa. Nyerere was not simply a player on the national terrain. He was a Pan-Africanist and an internationalist – in thoughts, writings and, crucially, in his practice. A giant of the liberation movement, Nyerere spoke out loud against injustices across the world. A decade later, his words, actions, achievements and shortcomings have acquired a sharper focus and relevance to our world.

    This book includes contributions from leading commentators, those who worked and fought imperialism alongside Nyerere, members of a younger generation – and Nyerere in his own words. Their writings reflect on Nyerere and liberation, the Commonwealth, leadership, economic development, land, human rights and education. Above all, they are a testament to the growing recognition of the need to rekindle the fires of African socialism to which Nyerere was deeply committed.

    Edition: First Edition

    Audience: Activists, campaigners, NGO-workers, academics, journalists, commentators

    Format: Paperback: £12.95

    ISBN-13 978-1-906387-71-6

    Format: Adobe PDF: £9.95

    ISBN-13 978-1-906387-72-3

    * Africa's Liberation: The Legacy of Nyerere is available on the Fahamu Books & Pambazuka Press website.

    Celebrating Mwalimu Nyerere: The epitome of servant leadership

    Dauti Kahura


    A reading of Pambazuka Press’s new title, ‘Africa's Liberation: The Legacy of Nyerere’, edited by Chambi Chachage and Annar Cassam, prompts Dauti Kaura to reflect both on the legacy of the late Mwalimu – ‘a towering African leader who will always be remembered and missed for his cracking wisdom, unwavering commitment to African causes’– and the state of leadership on the continent today.

    Julius Nyerere passed on over a decade ago, 15 years after giving up state power, but that has not stopped his admirers from continuing to churn out texts to celebrate his successes, failures and ‘mistakes’, sometimes interpreted as mitigation for his excesses and obvious weaknesses.

    Nyerere was, and remains, a towering African leader who will always be remembered and missed for his cracking wisdom, unwavering commitment to African causes, and his forthrightness and moral stature as an individual.

    Reading ‘Africa’s Liberation: The Legacy of Nyerere’ leaves me with the impression that we are not yet done with romanticising the teacher-turned-president-turned-statesman and founding father of the United Republic of Tanzania. Perhaps we are still nostalgic and so easily caught up in the grips of the past, a symptom of loss of faith and interest in the present or future, as the late British historian Edward Hallet Carr would put it.

    The death of decent leadership on the African continent could be the other reason why Mwalimu still stands as a beacon of honest, upright, unpretentious rulership even in his death, despite his monumental mistakes, which his admirers and loyalists often gloss over.

    The fact that since quitting in 1984 as president and his passing away in 1999, no African leader – apart from Madiba (Nelson Mandela), the living legend – has neared Nyerere’s intellectualism, robust political leadership, humility and political decency is a testament that Nyerereism will still be with us for a very long time to come.

    At about the same time he was retiring, a new crop of African leaders was fermenting in the trenches of Luwero Triangle, the highlands of Ethiopia and what was to later become Eritrea. Beginning in the 1990s, there was a lot of pregnant hope and excitement on the African continent that Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, Meles Zenawi and Isaias Afwerki would be the new breed of leaders, champions of newly found and fought for democracy and therefore shun institutional corruption, demagoguery, political chicanery and life presidency.

    Many hoped that the new leadership would inspire a new reawakening among the people of Africa, bring hope in a continent where kleptomaniac tendencies among the ruling political barons was and is the order of the day. There was palpable joy as people looked forward to ushering in a new century with new leadership that promised to elevate Africa to the echelons of enlightened political leadership.

    By the time Nyerere was passing on, just on the eve of the 21st century, there were already telltale signs that all was not well in African leadership. This trio that had been joined by two other rebel leaders, the strict and disciplinarian Rwandan Paul Kagame and the late ludicrous Laurent Kabila, who had been helped in overthrowing Mobutu Sese Seko. To date, these leaders, perhaps with the exception of Kagame, have not lived up to their expectations and have dashed the hopes of many Africans at home and in the diaspora.

    So Nyerere must remain the focal point and fulcrum from where to adjudge Africa’s enlightened political leadership that, although troubled by both external and internal forces of imperialism, neocolonialism, failed home-grown social policies such as Ujamaa and the role of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), remained sober and true to his people of Tanzania.

    Suffice to say, if Nyerere was alive today he would probably be sorely perturbed by some of his country’s policies on some of his greatest ideals that he lived for. The East African Community (EAC) is one such passion. Yet, in the whispered corridors of power, it is being alleged that it is actually Tanzania’s government that is forestalling the speedy integration process of the region.

    The fact that Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), a party that was central to Nyerere’s political life, still runs the country like it did in the 1980s, refusing to democratise enough and to live up to the ideals of pluralist politics, and hence clings on to dinosaur politics of yore and of monolithic structure, would certainly disturb Mwalimu.

    The widening chasm between the haves and the have-nots, the apparent primitive accumulation of capital and the marketisation of goods and services, which Nyerere in his sometimes naïve ways sought to tame, would greatly impinge on his conscience. Although institutional corruption also existed during Mwalimu’s tenure, in latter day Tanzania, just like in many African countries, it has now firmly grown roots and is spreading.

    The late Professor Haroub Othman, a fellow Tanzanian, had said Nyerere was not a saint. But that has not stopped the Catholic Church from religiously adopting the founding president for the cause of sainthood. A deeply committed catholic, Nyerere’s religious life, which he did well to be subtle about, is one that is not known to many people.

    In the late 1960s and after the Arusha Declaration, Nyerere went about nationalising many of the foreign companies and institutions. But one of the organisations that he deliberately sidestepped was the Catholic Church. None of their properties reverted to the state and they continued running their schools, hospitals and other church-affiliated development projects unperturbed.

    The fact that both the political and religious world is seeking to canonise the former statesman is a clear sign that Nyerere, in his own different ways and despite his many foibles, affected these two worlds immensely.


    * This review was originally published by The Star (Tuesday 1 June 2010).
    * ‘Africa's Liberation: The Legacy of Nyerere’ is edited by Chambi Chachage and Annar Cassamwill and published by Pambazuka Press.
    * Dauti Kahura is a journalist who occasionally writes for The Standard.
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

    'Welcome to Lagos' and other adventures

    Imruh Bakari


    Countering Wole Soyinka’s fierce criticism of BBC documentary ‘Welcome to Lagos’, Imruh Bakari, offers a different reading of the three-part series about the lives of marginalised slum-dwellers: Where Soyinka sees people depicted as ‘noble savages’, Bakari is impressed by portraits of ‘self-assured and articulate’ individuals with a sense of social agency that prevents them from being cast as victims.

    Wole Soyinka’s ‘attack’ on the BBC in response to the portrayal of Lagos in the three-part television documentary Welcome to Lagos has been widely reported. Since then commentaries have been circulated on ‘Nollywood’ and ‘Animated/Artistic Tanzanian Love Story – Is this A Reflection of Reality?’ about an animation by a European filmmaker.[1] I do not know if the animation was screened in Tanzania, or even Africa for that matter, but on the Internet it was posted one year ago.

    All of this for me is very interesting, with equal portions of frustration, and indeed déjà vu. Not long ago the Tanzania Bunge stopped its usual business to discuss Darwin’s Nightmare – a film released some three years earlier and which virtually no one in Tanzania had seen, but which the Bunge was asked to ban, and even arrest the director. In all of this I find some reconciliation in the words of the late Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem, ‘Don’t agonise! Organise!’

    So my first comment on the Soyinka ‘attack’ is coated with a sense of irony. My immediate question is: What does Soyinka or any African expect of the BBC? Are we not aware that the BBC, like Al Jazeera, Sky, CNN et al, are doing what they are set up to do? That is to make programmes for their audiences; programmes that they can sell within the global television market. Ultimately, they make programmes that conform to and reflect their preferred editorial position. That is not always bad or derogatory, sometimes it is simply informative. Here however, two issues come into being. One is about perspective and the other is about ownership. Interestingly, Soyinka’s response addresses the former and ignores the later.

    The three films in the Welcome to Lagos series looked at the lives of marginalised slum-dwellers (the contemporary, urban ‘swamp-dwellers’) and informal entrepreneurs who make up a substantial part of Lagos life. The films look at the lives of specific people against the background of the initiative to transform Lagos into an efficient modern city comparable to London or New York, as was the wish expressed by one of the interviewees. This person happened to be the commander of the paramilitary force charged with moving the squatters, their illegally erected structures and the undesirables from the streets to make way for the planned urban renewal.

    Nothing wrong with that, except that the methods used are the usual wreck-and-destroy tactics carried out with the usual familiar zeal. Ironically the commander is a trained dancer and choreographer who conducts classes in traditional dance in his off-time. Equally ironic are the various characters that live under the cloud of a threat that will arrive at anytime. There is the graduate in agricultural science who scavenges blood from the abattoir and processes it into fertiliser. There is the would-be hip-hop star who scavenges on the rubbish dump to get money to record his music, make a music video, and take his publicity photos. And there are others.

    What is most significant is the intelligence of these people, their resilience and their irrepressible optimism. Is this what is referred to by Soyinka as ‘noble savagery’? Perhaps that could be a reading, but in my view the idea of noble savagery can only be sustained if the individuals being portrayed are seen as victims without any sense of social agency. This is not so in these films. In fact, all of the people featured are self-assured and articulate.

    In Soyinka’s BBC interview about the programmes, his main contention seemed to be that the title ‘Welcome to Lagos’ gave the impression that the programmes were about Lagos as a whole. A reasonable point, but that is what a title should do. It should invite irony, interest and provocation. So what really is the contention? Should it not really be about ownership?

    In the last few months the BBC has featured a significant number of programmes about Africa. This was not some benevolence, but part of the planned schedule leading up to the World Cup in South Africa. As a result, British audiences were able to view a range of programmes: ‘Lost Kingdoms of Africa’, ‘The [Desmond] Tutu Talks’, ‘Building Africa: Architecture of a Continent’, ‘Hugh Masekela: Welcome to South Africa’, ‘The History of Safari’, and ‘African Railway – TAZARA’; and there may have been others. All of these programmes would have been at least two years in the making. How many would be screened by any African broadcaster? More importantly, where in Africa are comparable programmes being made?

    This of course brings us to the comments on ‘Nollywood’ and the issues of the animation programme. If Nigeria can boast making 200 films a day, and virtually none are worth seeing all the way through, what good is that to Nigeria or Africa? Well, before it is construed that I am an enemy of Nollywood, my provisional response is that Nollywood proves the need (if proof was ever needed) for African images and stories. By its own ‘success’, it also demonstrates some of the critical requirements for a viable and productive film/media industry. Piracy and low quality reinforce inferiority, and in no way offers a viable alternative to the BBC et al. Yes, Nigeria can produce Amistad, and it can be a success, but there are certain preconditions that have to be met.

    In this regard, Femi Osofisan, the Nigerian writer, is implicitly appealing for a respect for excellence and professionalism, not cheap celebrity and glamour money. His is the recognition of the need for broadcasters and governments to stop pillaging creativity. Rather, to invest in and to nurture intellectual and creative resources. If this were to happen there would be no need to worry about the producer of ‘Tanzania Love Story’ turning up as ‘the manager of a grants project for theatre arts in Tanzania’.

    In the end, global exchanges are a necessary part of human activity. It is the terms and conditions that matter. Hollywood owes much of its success to the work and innovation of ‘foreigners’. Bollywood owes its global influence to the Indian Diaspora. Nollywood’s persistence is in its appeal across the African continent and among Africans across the diaspora. What distinguishes Hollywood and Bollywood is their underlying professionalism and their insistence on excellence and responsive institutions. There are no miracles, just hard work and vision.


    * Imruh Bakari is a lecturer in media, film and communication at King Alfred’s College at Winchester and is co-editor of African Experiences of Cinema.
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.


    [1] wanazuoni

    Emerging powers in Africa Watch

    Africans in Yiwu, China’s largest commodities city

    Adams Bodomo and Grace Ma


    In this paper, Adams Bodomo looks at how Africans are received in Yiwu and in Guangzhou, which contains the largest community of Africans in China. Bodomo argues that because of the relatively negative reception of Africans in Guangzhou compared to the more efficient and civil treatment of Africans in Yiwu, Yiwu is fast overtaking Guangzhou as the best place for Africans to thrive in China.

    China is not only fast establishing itself as a superpower on the African continent, it is also fast establishing itself as the locus for the establishment of Africa’s newest diaspora: the African diaspora in China. For Africans in China, the moral then may said to be: we are here because you are there! Indeed, there are more Chinese in Africa than there are Africans in China - in the proportion of roughly two million Chinese in Africa to five hundred thousand Africans in China, including traders, students, teachers, diplomats, sportsmen, and many other professionals.

    Africans can be found in major Chinese cities such as Hong Kong, Macau, Guangzhou and Beijing. There are already numerous academic studies and journalistic reports about Africans in Guangzhou (e.g. Bertoncello and Bredeloup 2007, Li Zhigang etal 2008, Le Bail 2009, Bodomo 2009, 2010, and numerous reports in Le Monde, SCMP, New York Times, etc) but very little about Africans in other cities (but see Bodomo 2007 for Hong Kong, Bodomo and Silva 2010 for Macau, Bodomo 2009 for Chongqing, among others).

    In this paper we demonstrate that, besides the well-known presence of Africans in Guangzhou, the next most prominent presence of African traders in China is in Yiwu, Zhejiang province. In section two, we first describe the Yiwu location, its environment, and particularly its rise from a rural area to become the world’s largest commodities city. In section three we then describe the African presence in this large trade city where its market of commodities extends over one kilometer. This African presence is not limited to trade activities in that market, it also involves an unusual freedom of worship at the largest mosque in China and in many churches dotted throughout Yiwu. In section four, we do an in-depth qualitative study of one African life in Yiwu to complement the broad brush painting we did in section two. In section five, we compare the way Africans are received in Guangzhou and in Yiwu and argue that while Guangzhou was the first to entertain Africans and indeed boasts the largest community, it is losing a golden opportunity to Yiwu to become a model international multicultural trade city because of the way its law enforcement officers maltreat Africans.

    Yiwu: from a small Zhejiang village to the world largest commodities market

    The idea of Yiwu is an idea that should be borrowed by major countries with vast expanses of land in which different products are manufactured in far flung areas of the country. In the 1980s, the Chinese government came up with the brilliant idea that since many products are manufactured all over this vast country, perhaps it would be best to assemble reasonably large quantities of these commodities in one city located relatively in the middle of the country. This gave birth to the world’s largest commodities market. No one knows exactly the political decision that favoured the choice of Yiwu, but Yiwu it was. Yiwu is in the middle of nowhere, yet relatively well accessible from nearby major cities. It is two hours by air from Guangzhou, one hour by bus from Hangzhou, arguably China’s most beautiful city, and it is just a 40 minute taxi ride from Jinhua city, where China’s largest African Studies Institute is located.

    The African presence in Yiwu

    As mentioned earlier, most Africans in Yiwu are traders, so their lives revolve around the commodities market. The market itself is located on ChouZhou Bei Lu (ChouZhou North Road) and the following field note excerpt indicates how large it is and which parts are mostly frequented by different groups of Africans:

    “Yiwu’s international trade city is located at ChouZhou Bei Lu and includes six sections or divisions. The items of trade include almost every conceivable manufactured item, but particularly jewelry and ornaments, toys, artificial flowers, building materials like keys and locks, electrical appliances, and so on. So far, only Sections One, Two, and Three of the mammoth market are open for business while the rest are still under construction. African Arabs and people from the Horn of Africa are mostly found in Section One. On the other hand, Section Two attracts many Africans from Sub-Saharan African countries such as The Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Burkina Faso, and Kenya. This is because Section two mainly contains building materials and other kinds of hardware that these Africans come to buy. The booming housing market and general building construction in many Sub-Saharan countries is the main reason why many household electrical items and appliances, even including items as minute as electric sockets and nails, are bought and sent back home to Africa. On the whole, as in Guangzhou markets, it is very hard to pin down these businessmen; it always requires a lot of research techniques and people skills to succeed in getting them for an interview during their peak buying seasons.” (Bodomo’s Field Survey Diaries: Dec 11, 2008)

    Life in Yiwu for Africans is mostly about trade, but not exclusively. Community bonding activities such as eating and praying is an important part of life beyond the mammoth kilometer long market. The following excerpt from our field diaries illustrates life beyond trade for Africans in Yiwu.

    “We (Prof Bodomo, Jiang Jun and I) departed from Jinhua at 9:00 am, and arrived in Yiwu 40 minutes later. It was Friday that day, a day of Muslim worship. Therefore, after checking into our hotel, we immediately took a taxi to the mosque. We learnt from the taxi driver that there were many traders from the Middle East and Africa, and they would go to the mosque at 1:00 pm on Friday when many people would literally mob them like superstars in order to distribute advertisement fliers and business cards with all kinds of information to these African traders. Many of these traders are frequently found at the Mahéde Restaurant located in Downtown Yiwu. As there was still some time, we first visited the Mahéde Restaurant located specifically at No. 235, Chouzhou North Road. This restaurant was not large, but very exquisite. It is situated opposite to other restaurants such as the Tajima Herder Restaurants and Al-Arabia Restaurant, all of them being obviously Arab restaurants. There were several guests dining in the Mahéde Restaurant. Meanwhile a few Arabs were sitting outside in front of the restaurant, among who was a man from Mali, who had been living in Yiwu for one and a half years. This man told us he knew of a Malian restaurant and also a Ghanaian restaurant, though he didn’t know the exact location. He too was on his way to the mosque after the meal. We looked around and found that there were quite a few more Arab restaurants in the neighbourhood, which were said to be livelier at night. After lunch, we drove to the mosque at the Bay Village. The mosque was located on the Riverside Road. We were still far away from the entrance to the mosque, but our car could not move an inch, the reason being that this large mosque, the largest in China, was already so crowded. We got out of the taxi and walked along the crowded pedestrian market. In the pavement there were many stands selling roasted lamb, all types of medicinal capsules, and many Muslim accessories. Business appeared to be really brisk. Despite the burning sun with temperature as high as 36 degrees Celsius, people still came in droves. Inside the compound of the mosque, were many flashy cars in the parking lots. Muslims of all colours and from different countries came into this mosque. It seemed that we had just landed in a foreign country. There were South, West, and East Asians as well as Africans and Chinese, a vivid illustration of globalization in progress in Yiwu, which was only twenty years ago a forgotten village in Zhejiang province. The worship finished at 1:30 pm, and there were anywhere between six or seven thousand people pouring out of the mosque. On both sides of the gate, there were many people distributing their business cards. I talked with a Muslim from Nigeria whose first name is Jibril (surname omitted). Jibril’s son now does business in Yiwu and he, Jibril, just came on a brief visit. He told me Africans did not live together in an Africa Town-like place in Yiwu, as Chinese often do in Africa and elsewhere, but they do indeed live very close to the International Trade Center. I also went up to three women in veil talking on the street, one from Somalia, and the other two from Guizhou, China. The Somalian woman had just been in China for only three months, but she succeeded in sustaining simple communication in Chinese with the Chinese ladies from Guizhou, who like her are also Moslems. Her elder brother does business in Yiwu and she came to him, and now she was learning Chinese. She told me in Yiwu there is a school specializing in teaching foreigners Chinese. The two Guizhou girls came to Yiwu with their families to take part in the booming trade. Here was a situation in which people from all over the world met in Yiwu and made friends, a fact which touched me a lot.” (Ma Enyu’s Field Survey Diaries: May 15, 2009)

    From the above then, the African presence in Yiwu revolves around the international trade market, restaurants, and places of worship, particularly at the largest mosque in all of China.

    An In-depth Interview with Wufei

    The foregoing section comprised a broad brush painting of the life situation of Africans in Yiwu. But what is also needed is an in-depth focus on how a particular African or groups of Africans are living their lives in Yiwu, focusing on their experiences, opportunities, constraints, and aspirations. Luckily for us we found one in Wufei (surname omitted) from Ghana.

    Wufei’s office is located in Chengxin first district. Wufei came to China from Ghana in 2007 in order to learn Chinese, and ended up living and working in Yiwu, where he started a small shipping company (name omitted). He used to be a journalist, and is a relatively fluent speaker of English, Spanish, and Portuguese. He first learnt Chinese at Zhejiang University, and was at the time of the interview pursuing a course in Chinese at Zhejiang Normal University on part-time basis. During his stay in Zhejiang, he realized that business was flourishing in Yiwu, and interestingly for him he noticed that many traders from his country came to Yiwu to procure goods. According to him some 70-80% of Ghana’s manufactured goods are imported. A major constraint for African businessmen in Yiwu, as in many parts of China, probably with the exception of Hong Kong and Macau, is the inability to sustain communication in English with their Chinese trading partners. Realizing that newly arrived businessmen from Africa (who don’t speak Chinese) needed his services, he took advantage of his knowledge in Chinese and created a business out of it, providing services such as translating and interpreting business transactions, finding accommodation for his fellow Africans, and so on. This is how he ended up starting a small company; he even rented a warehouse to store these traders’ goods and shipped goods to Ghana on their behalf. The business opportunity is so good that he usually ships about 10 containers a month to Ghana. Now his company employs as many as 15 people, six Ghanaians including himself, with the rest being Chinese. Wufei said he is so successful in his Chinese sojourn that he has become somewhat of a celebrity among his fellow Ghanaians in China, and some in places as far away as Shanghai and Hong Kong would call him up for all kinds of assistance. He believes he is warm-hearted and aspires to help whoever needed his help.

    How Africans are received in Guangzhou and Yiwu

    The euphoria of the African presence in Guangzhou and in China as a whole seems to have died down. As early as 1997 when I (the first author) arrived in China, Africans were attracting photo-taking crowds more than creatures from other parts of our planet. I was always embarrassed when I was called out from among my Chinese and Western friends for photos at the Windows of the World in Shenzhen and at Tianxiu market in Guangzhou way back in the early 2000s. But no more! The African presence is now well-established in Guangzhou and other major cities, and Guangzhou people have learnt to trade with them, though I am not sure if they have fully accepted them in their city. For one thing, unlike the Nanjing incidents of 1988 when Chinese students rose up against their fellow African students, there is no general public outcry against Africans in Guangzhou. On the contrary, Guangzhou businessmen find Africans as avid business partners and happily trade with them. Africans are very well-received by their Chinese business partners.

    On the contrary, the state law enforcement officers in Guangzhou paint a different picture and it is where we draw a contrast with Yiwu. In recent years, beginning with the Olympics in 2008 there have been incessant complaints from Africans in Guangzhou about how hard it is for Africans to get visa renewals in that city. Often they are told to go to Hong Kong or Macau or even to go back to their home countries for simply doing visa renewals, while other foreigners from Europe and America do not have this problem. Indeed, Africans resident in Yiwu and other parts of China do not experience this problem to the same degree as Guangzhou Africans do. Worst, it is only in Guangzhou that Africans are asked to carry their passports with them at all times. The message at the entrance of Canaan market in Guangzhou says all foreign “friends” must carry passports but in reality it is Africans who are overwhelmingly stopped, interrogated and usually harassed. Even restaurants are not safe havens for Africans; the police follow them into these ethnic enclaves to ask them rather rudely about their immigration status, and arrest them at the least opportunity. I doubted these reports until I experienced it at first hand as shown from this field notes excerpt:

    “Today, I arrived from Hong Kong with Dr Grace Ma to research an article on the role of food and food-making venues as elements and spaces that shape the identity of Africans in China as they form new communities.

    We met up Raymond - a young Ghanaian who usually serves as our field guide, and we went to the ‘Africa Bar’ located at No 56 Bao Han Street, Xia Tang YueXiu District, Guangzhou. Hardly did we settle in to eat at around 7pm than about six policemen (about four men and two women) barged in and literally invaded the restaurant. What they did in the next 20 minutes shocked me and my fellow Africans beyond words.

    They just went from table to table, ignoring Chinese-looking people, like my colleague, Dr Ma, and just picked out every African-looking person on each table and rudely demanded to see their passports. They shouted at the top of their voices for my fellow Africans and I to show the latest versions of our visas to them.

    In all of my 50 years of life, apart from at border check points and immigration counters, this was the first time I was asked to show my passport in this rude and barbaric way.

    This police rudeness and verbal brutality were beyond my imagination. You would think that it was a flashback to apartheid South Africa before 1994!

    I had to interpret from English to French for two Congolese women who could only communicate in French to these uneducated barbarians unleashed onto the streets of Chocolate city to harass Africans going about their normal business. The story of these women was this...they were eating (and as anyone would know we Africans use our fingers to each our fufu and other starchy foods in soup) and how could they just demand in a minute to show their passports - they would first have to wash their hands before dipping into their pockets for their passports. According to them, in any case, why harass people taking their dinner and start shouting at them as if they were presumed to be overstaying their visas and thus criminals?
    The police won’t listen. Their thug of a leader unleashed by the Guangzhou authorities to harass Africans came up and shouted: “Give me your passports”. After terrorizing these two ladies until they inspected their passports they went to the next table, repeated the same rudeness and arrested a Ugandan lady who explained in vain that her passport was left back in her hotel.

    In my case, they came up and flipped through my Ghana passport for a very long time (I have many visas from around the world, and I am a permanent Hong Kong resident) and ended up with a loud stupid question: “Do you live here?” I also replied “no” in a very angry and defiant mood against this naked racial profiling and discrimination, and asked them “Why would I live illegally in Guangzhou when I am a permanent resident in Hong Kong?” They hesitated a bit, looked again at my passport, spoke some Chinese to each other, threw it back to me, and left our table, heading off to their next victims!

    Africa-China friendship? What friendship?” (Bodomo’s Field Survey Notes: Dec 10, 2009)

    It is hard time more exposure of such naked brutality is carried out by researchers, human right activists, and even progressive government and law enforcement officials, because as a result of such incidents, Africans in Guangzhou seem to be having a hard time living in Guangzhou and were it not for the lucrative business in the city they would start to find other places to live.

    This is in sharp contrast to the situation in Yiwu, where both ordinary Chinese and the Chinese law enforcement agencies treat Africans with more respect, dignity, and civility. Of course, Yiwu Africans also experience constraints in their Chinese sojourn but these are not different from what any foreigner living in China would experience: linguistic misunderstandings, cultural differences, and even having to put up with socially unacceptable practices like spitting profusely. But Yiwu Africans, in most cases, are treated respectfully by Zhejiang law enforcement officers. Civil liberties are well respected. For instance, freedom of worship among these Africans seems to be one of the highest in China. There may be a number of reasons why this difference is there. One, it may be that Africans who number less than 30,000 in Yiwu can be contained easily. Two, most of the Africans in Yiwu are from the Magbreb region of Africa, while most Africans in Guangzhou are from Sub-Saharan Africa. My fellow West Africans in Guangzhou report that even the brutal Guangzhou police treat Arab Africans more respectfully than Black Africans. But, third, and more importantly, the difference, we propose here, is due to the differences in efficiency and fairness on the part of Yiwu law enforcement officers such as the police and immigration officials. We propose here that, partly as a result of these differences in treatment, and also if Yiwu gets more developed into an international trade centre, it may overtake Guangzhou as a model residential city for Africans and many foreign businessmen from developing parts of the world, such as West Asia and Latin America. In that sense then, Guangzhou is missing an early opportunity as a model multi-racial business city in China.


    China is now the locus of Africa’s newest diaspora. Africans can now be found living in most major Chinese cities, with Guangzhou having the largest African community. But while Guangzhou boasts the largest African community, Yiwu, once a village in Zhejiang province that has now risen within the last 20 years to become the world’s largest commodities city, is quietly shaping the best African trading community in China. The Yiwu state law enforcement officers appear to be more efficient, professional, less corrupt, and more racially-tolerant than the Guangzhou law enforcement officers as far as African experiences are concerned. As a result, the African community in Yiwu is living more harmoniously with its Chinese hosts than the African community in Guangzhou is experiencing.

    This is clear evidence for the role state law enforcement officers can play in shaping harmonious migrant-indigene relations or otherwise. More importantly, the way Africans are treated in China would most likely have important consequences for the way Chinese would be treated in Africa, and ultimately for general Africa-China relations. So it is important for African and Chinese governments to put in place business-friendly and racially tolerant immigration laws to facilitate, not just freedom of movement, but indeed freedom of living and working in peace and dignity in each others’ countries.

    Le Bail, Helene. 2009. Foreign Migrations to China’s City-Markets: the case of African merchants. Asie Visions 19.

    Bertoncello, Brigitte and Sylvie Bredeloup. 2007. The emergence of new African “Trading posts” in Hong Kong and Guangzhou. China Perspectives, No.1, pp 94 -105.
    Bodomo, A. B. 2010. The African trading community in Guangzhou: an emerging bridge for Africa-China relations. China Quarterly 203.

    Bodomo. 2009. Fresh faces for future Africa-China relations: A note on the experiences of newly-arrived African students in China on FOCAC funds. Paper read at the Symposium on Reviews and Perspectives of Afro-Chinese Relations organized by the Institute of African and West Asian Studies/Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, October 13, 2009, Beijing, China

    Bodomo A. B. 2009. Africa-China Relations in an Era of Globalization: the Role of African trading communities in China [全球化时代的中非关系:非洲在华贸易团体的角色]. WEST ASIA AND AFRICA 《西亚非洲》. 2009 Vol 8, Pages 62-67.
    Li Zhigang, Xue Desheng, Michael Lyons, and Alison Brown. 2008. Ethnic enclave of transnational migrants in urban China : A case study of Xiaobei, Guangzhou. (paper draft).


    * Prof Adams Bodomo is chair of the Department of Linguistics and Director of the African Studies Programme at the University of Hong Kong (HKU). Dr Bodomo has done pioneering work on 21st Century Africa-China studies, with a particular focus on the African Diaspora in China. His research in the area of Africa-China Studies, diasporan, and migration studies have been featured in major academic journals and magazines such as China Quarterly, China Review, West Asia and Africa, and Pambazuka. He is currently finishing up a 300-page book manuscript titled, We Are Here Because They
    Are There: The African Presence in China and its Consequences on Africa-China relations. He can be reached at [email protected]

    * Dr. Grace Ma is Head of the Center for African History and Culture at the Institute of African Studies, Zhejiang Normal University. She has spent nearly one year studying Africans in Yiwu and Guangzhou. She can be reached at [email protected]

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

    Highlights French edition

    Pambazuka News 148: Les logiques de la Françafrique après 50 ans d'indépendances


    Zimbabwe update

    Chinese Communist Party delegation meets with Mugabe, Tsvangirai


    A delegation of the Chinese Communist Party officials in Harare for a three-day visit at the invitation of the ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe has met with him and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai. The delegation signed a memorandum of understanding on Monday with ZANU-PF Chairman Simon Khaya Moyo and hailed the close ties between the two countries, sources informed on the meeting said.

    Friction in government over IMF monitoring proposals


    The MDC and ZANU PF parties in the coalition government are reported to be divided over how to respond to an International Monetary Fund (IMF) proposal for a ‘staff monitored program’ that will allow the institution to directly monitor projects that it is funding. A Voice of America report says ZANU PF is opposed to the concept, arguing it would erode the country’s independence, while those in the MDC are embracing the idea.

    Weekend violence reported ahead of constitutional outreach


    The MDC has accused ZANU PF supporters of embarking on an orgy of violence against its members, in various parts of the country, including an abduction, an arson attack and a disrupted rally. In Manicaland, Makoni South MP Pishai Muchauraya was also summoned to appear in a Buhera court on Friday, for allegedly making statements that were ‘derogatory to the office of the President’, before the 2008 elections.

    Women & gender

    Burkina Faso: Young girls at risk as they join exodus to cities


    Migration in search of work has long been common in Sourou Province, northern Burkina Faso, but the trend is increasingly for younger girls to join the exodus, according to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the NGO Terre des hommes (Tdh). “Migration is after all a method of survival,” Herman Zoungrana, head of Tdh’s protection programme in Burkina Faso, told IRIN. He said traditionally after the harvest people would fill up their granaries then set out to find work until the next planting season.

    Côte d'Ivoire: Zero tolerance of FGM/C


    Progress on a "Zero Tolerance" national campaign in Côte d'Ivoire to eliminate female genital mutilation or cutting (FGM/C) by the end of 2010, has been slowed down by health and education infrastructure, aid groups said. Since the campaign began, 180 villages in Marandallah prefecture, in the north-central Worodougou region, no longer practise FGM/C and the aim is to double this by the end of the year

    Egypt: Women between injustice of law and injustice approval by community

    New report by the Land Center


    This report is the number "80" of series of economic and social rights that addresses some of the manifestations of violence against women in legislation and the Egyptian laws, which takes place as a result of the gap between law making and enforcement. The report contains an analysis of this gap and the reasons that led to the occurrence.
    The first section deals with the manifestations of violence, its types, causes and consequences, presenting stats for crimes of violence against women in the last period, of the latest report of land center, on violence against women in Egypt (2009) entitled "Violence against women in Egypt murder, kidnapping, sexual assault and dumping of balconies the normal punishment against women killed 301 women in 2009 ". It is witnessed through the monitoring that- for sorrow- there are (256) cases of assault against women, whether sexual assault, murder, beatings, neglect leading to death. The most regretting cases are the cases of murder and death, which amounted to (129) incident, which means that half of the abused women have been murdered, which was an indicative of the increasing cruelty and violence towards women, which lead them being killed.

    Section II deals with Law of Political Rights and practice for women, which begin with the definition of the concept of political participation and the reasons for the low political participation of women in Egypt. And it addresses the development of women's political participation in international conventions and the constitution, which is, in theory, a good position, where women have the right, in the law and the constitution, to exercise of political life and share. However, this doesn't take place.

    Then, the report moves to handle the volume and nature of women's political participation in: unions, municipalities, local councils, the judiciary and the legislature (both houses of parliament) and political parties. For example, we find that over the past years, the number of women who succeeded in gaining seats in the membership of unions have not exceeded the 10 cases, although the trade unions with a membership of nearly 3.9 million members in 24 union ''according to the census the CAA in 2000''. In addition, greater percentage of women's membership in the Union of Professional Education 28.4%, followed by the union agricultural occupations by 17, 7%, then the trade union rate of 16.1%, and reached the number of women in trade unions 26 thousand in 1981 and rose to 36 in 1999, but the proportion of the total contribution declined from 25% of the total members in 1981 to 17% in 1999.

    It has also been witnessed that women's membership in local councils in Egypt has a dramatic declines in recent years; it has been representing approximately 10% in 1983 down to 2.1% in 1992 and then rise in the 2002 elections to 4.2%, and then in the 2008 election was the number of women who won seats in local councils or elected by acclamation in 2335 a woman by 4.4% of the total members of local councils.

    Although the number of women serving in the ministries and the parliament has increased in recent years, but the number is still small representation to a large extent in the judiciary. In 2003, the sole judge in all courts of the Egyptian judiciary was Tahany Jabali. She was appointed by presidential decree in the Constitutional Court. The Supreme Council of Magistracy for women does not allow work for women as judges in criminal courts. In 2007, the Council chose to eliminate the top 31 women to serve in positions of judges of family courts. Despite the criticism of the decision by religious conservatives, however, was the appointment of women under the presidential decrees and still they are continuing struggle in their work.

    And recently the Constitutional Supreme Court's decision on 03/14/2010 permitted the appointment of women judges in the State Council, after a controversy continued for months.

    The report wonders if the prominent of the judiciary, who are representatives of justice, are allowed to take discriminatory decisions against women, as this decision would be contrary to the text of Articles 2.40 of the Constitution that stipulates that all Egyptians are equal in terms of rights.

    The report stated that since the Parliament of 1957 (which saw the first participation of women) and even the Parliament of 2005 (current), the total females who won a parliamentary seats were 144 women only, of whom two women were Syrians (during the period of unity between Egypt and Syria), 125 of them won the election and 19 were appointed.

    The report presents the case of Dr. Shahinaz Nagar, the resigned representative from the district of Menial. The resignation was approved by the council of the Egyptian people, after she had submitted a request to accept the resignation of the Council, without giving specific reasons. "

    As for the political parties, we find the contribution of women in party work is still very limited, if not absent. We find that women's membership in different parties does not exceed 3% in some provinces, and not more than 15% in the governorate. And although the programs of the Egyptian political parties - in their different beliefs - stated the need to provide the proper climate that helps women to exercise their freedom and rights, practice of parties still goes on in the opposite direction to massage.

    At the end of this part, the report provides an analysis of the gap between the law that gives women the right to participate in political life and the reality in which diminishing participation of women in political life in surprising, and is considered as a big gap between the law and its application, a gap that the report provides an analysis of it at the end of this part.

    The third section talks about Women and the labor law. It provides an overview of the current situation of women in the labor market, where it states that about two-thirds of women work in the developing world in the informal economy, most of them work in the farms and houses, streets, and is characterized by irregular work insecure and weak protection, wages, and even at work official women remain less likely than men to get equal pay for equal or different forms of protection, even though most of the legislation that promote equality in wages and opportunities for decent work.

    In addition, percentages of women are almost equal to percentages of men in most countries of the world; while the percentage of women 40 women per 100 men in the Middle East countries, and unemployment rate in this region among women are nearly 16.5%, and women are usually paid less than men.

    The number of women forms about 60% of the working poor living on less than one U.S. dollar a day, who number around 550 million people, the percentage of women workers, about 40% of the workers in the world, who number about 2.8 billion workers. But in Egypt there are more economic activity rates for women 20%, while reaching the same percentage for men was 73.8%, at the same time depriving the women working in the agricultural sector of the legal protection of the text of the Labor Act No. 12 of 2003, despite the fact that more than 70 % of the agricultural activity is based on the work of women.

    Then report speaks for women's rights to equality, decent work, and also rights of women in Egyptian law.

    Then, the report makes a presentation to the current situation of rural women, and to the Labor Code, and it refers to the exclusion of women workers in the agricultural sector from legal protection. It states that the Egyptian Labor Law excludes women workers in agriculture from protection of the law, although they deserve the most care because of the deterioration of working conditions in agriculture, where they were ousted from the scope of its application, and thus leaving these women work under the poor operating conditions, in terms of deterioration of their situation and their rights to fair wages, vacations, social and health insurance and union action (Article 97). On time when most women in Egypt work in agriculture, in spite of multiple claims to amend the provisions of the law to protect women's rights and workers in the agricultural sector, the Egyptian government did not heed all proceedings launched by several civil society organizations

    The report also provides a case study of some of the girls working in reaping the fruits. They are seasonal unorganized labor that does not have any rights, after analyzing the gap.

    Section IV talks about women and personal status law in Egypt, where the personal status of women in Egypt are derived from Islamic law, which sets the rules of marriage, divorce and inheritance. This differs from the rest of the legal structure of the Egyptian legal system which is based on French civil law. Although the Government has amended some of the worst materials, in terms of lack of redress for women in personal status law, women still face discrimination. The report mentioned some forms of discrimination against women in law, where it illustrated: early marriage, and the legacy of women and submitted in each of the size of phenomena and to the legal protection available, and the actual reality of the application of the law as it presented a study of some cases and finally provides an analysis of the gap

    We find that pertaining to respect to early marriage, we find that the data of the general census of the population in 2006 indicated that about 11% of females in the age group (16-19 years old) are currently married or have been married.

    The official statistics indicate that the rate of 2.18% of the girls in the period from 2000 2002 married at an early age, while the rate was 3.40% in the period from 1980 to 1985, the researcher said that the rate of early marriage in urban areas up to 5.9% while it is in the countryside 3.26% and the proportion is in Upper Egypt to 9.28%, while up to 9.16% in Lower Egypt.

    That 26 thousand children suffering from family disintegration as a result of divorce of their parents, explaining that divorce leads to the disintegration of the family, which required a change in personal status laws and raising awareness of the ramifications of divorce in Egypt in order to spare the suffering of these children whose parents are divorced.

    The report then continues to enumerate the causes and consequences of early marriage and harmful effects and legal protection available, which is evident of weakness and disproportionate to the offense committed against those little girls, causing all the damage that girls live the rest of their lives suffer from.

    As for inheritance, women in the community do not have the audacity to claim the right to inheritance as a respect for customs and social traditions, even if the customs and social traditions deny women their natural right and legitimate.

    We also find that in rural communities, customs and traditions are stronger than law. In addition, social attitudes towards women who resorts to court, complaining about a request to her heirs, is seen as a rebel and is liable to be pre-accused, whispered, defected and accused of breaking the tradition. In addition, there is the fear of women and their desire not to the disintegration of family members or causing any conflict between them, let her waive her right to claim her inheritance right. The sad and disturbing fact is the division of the inheritance between brothers and the girl who is still "single" or small doesn't have any share. This means they must live with the brothers, and to be patient on these social conditions and when she gets older, she finds no share for her. Also the report points out the need to pass a law that women's right to inheritance and to punish anyone who prevents them from getting it.

    The end of this section provides an analysis of the gap between law and practice that result in women live life free from safety and deprived of their rights

    Section V of the report speaks on women and the Penal Code, through illustrating the phenomenon of spousal abuse, and female genital mutilation.

    The report makes it clear that, according to demographic and health survey in 1995, which included 14 779 women, it was found that 42-46% of married women are illiterate and women with primary education are subjected to beatings. Also, 14% of women with higher educational levels have been beaten in their marriage.

    And that one of every three married Egyptian women has been beaten at least once since her marriage.

    And 45% of them were beaten by the husband at least once in the previous year, and 17% of them were beaten at least three times in the previous year. And 39% of the latter group needed medical care because of the beating, and one third of women who are beaten are beaten during pregnancy.

    As for the circumcision, it is usually embedded in the roots of the customs and traditions of the Egyptian people. Habits and traditions are stronger than law in most cases. It is impossible to change the traditional practices that dominate the view and direction. Despite the efforts of the authorities, NGOs and international agencies to eradicate the phenomenon of "female circumcision "in Egypt; the phenomenon is still this topic usually widespread and it is still performed at all levels. There are many doctors who still commit this act, even after the criminalization. Report speaks about the extent of this phenomenon in Egypt, the violations, and the legal protections available. The practice was illegal because it lies under the penalty of criminalization according to the Penal Code which involved the crimes of three counts of crimes is
    o physical abuse or injury induced
    o indecent assault
    o the exercise of the medical work without a license

    The report also provides the view of law in the process of circumcision conducted by the doctor, and the United Nations position of the circumcision.

    And the report, in the conclusion, shows a comprehensive analysis of the gap between law and enforcement, and the role of society, customs and traditions in the creation of this gap, then expanding it through adherence to this customs and traditions. Moreover, there is the absence of will to change, especially that women in the society do not have the audacity to claim their rights under the law because it conflicts with the law of customs and traditions

    The solution will come only by law, and with the parallel strategy of social and cultural change concepts, and this strategy should take all directions, beginning of the clergy in the villages, because their words are heard, even more than the Grand Mufti, in addition to NGOs, small villages, where you should begin this strategy from the bottom base so the highest, in order to achieve a real change in society.

    At the end of the report, a number of recommendations has been submitted to relating to each section of the report separately, and, then, it presents a vision of how to achieve the recommendations in this topic, where it requires cooperation of all official and unofficial blocs in their respective fields so that we can implement the recommendations and achieve their objective.

    Address: 76 El-Gomhuria St. 8th floor, flat no 67, beside El-Fath Mousque, El-Azbkia, Cairo

    Tel: +202-27877014 - Fax: +202-2595557

    Email: [email protected][email protected]


    Global: Accessing the Pill: Every woman counts


    Contraceptives should be taken out to women at their homes. Health Centres should be use to store these contraceptives but not act as distribution centres. Most healthy centres are far located from some people and only access them when there is a very serious illness. Most people even fail to get transport to access these centres when they are sick so image! Can such women access healthy centres for contraceptives which seem to be luxurious?

    Namibia: HIV women sue over forced sterilisation


    Three women in Namibia are suing the state for allegedly being sterilised without their informed consent after being diagnosed as HIV positive. The women say the doctors and nurses should have informed them properly about what was happening. The rights group representing them, the Legal Assistance Centre, says it has documented 15 cases of alleged HIV sterilisation in hospitals since 2008.

    Uganda: Women demand answers and action from ICC


    With the first Review Conference of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) under way in the Ugandan capital Kampala, women are crying out for justice for gender-based violence inflicted upon them during the civil conflict in the country’s north. "Women who were raped, those who were once abducted and have since come back with children, as well as those who have lost property during this conflict are all crying out for some form of justice," says Jane Adong, Legal Officer of the Hague-based Women’s Initiative for Gender Justice (WIGJ).

    Human rights

    Africa: Human rights situation in parts of DRC extremely serious


    The human rights situation in key parts of DR Congo remains extremely serious, according to a report by UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions Philip Alston. The expert warned that killings, rapes, mutilation, village burnings and displacement would continue to take place unless civilian protection measures are urgently improved.

    Cameroon: 4,000 children sexually exploited in Cameroon annually


    Four thousand children are exploited sexually every day in Cameroon, according to an investigation by the Coalition, "Let's Protect our Children". The Coalition organizes an advocacy campaign against the exploitation of children for sexual purposes, Pastor Blaise Kemogné, one of the organizers of the campaign, told PANA.

    DRC: Human rights activist found dead in Kinshasa


    A leading rights activist in the Democratic Republic of Congo has been found dead in the capital, Kinshasa. Floribert Chebeya's body was discovered, partially clothed, on the back seat of his own car. Rights group Amnesty International says oppression of activists in DR Congo is growing.

    Egypt: Extension of law becomes an emergency


    The government's decision to renew Egypt's longstanding Emergency Law has drawn furious reactions from opposition figures and rights advocates. While government spokesmen say the law will only be used against terrorism and drug trafficking, critics say it is aimed primarily at stifling political dissent. Egypt voted in elections to the upper house of its parliament Tuesday with many denied the right to contest because of the Emergency Law.

    Somalia: UNICEF calls for release of child soldiers


    As reports warn of an alarming rise in the recruitment of child soldiers in Somalia, UNICEF and the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict are calling on all parties to put an immediate end to this criminal practice.

    Uganda: ICC to investigate allegations of army atrocities


    The Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Luis Moreno-Ocampo, said on 3 June the ICC was assessing information accusing the Ugandan military of war crimes and atrocities committed in the 20-year civil war in the north of the country.

    Zimbabwe: End persecution of activist group


    Civil Society organizations, including Global Witness, Human Rights Watch, and Partnership Africa Canada, have condemned the state-sponsored harassment and intimidation of a Zimbabwean nongovernmental organization, the Centre for Research and Development (CRD). The group has been instrumental in exposing ongoing human rights abuses in Zimbabwe's notorious Marange diamond fields.

    Zimbabwe: No hope yet for the homeless


    In Hopley Farm, a resettlement camp about 10km south of Zimbabwe's capital, Harare, Simon Dhewa's chicken coup has been converted into a bedroom for his three daughters, the eldest of which also uses it as a venue for her commercial sex activities. The 20-year-old is the sole bread winner for her 45-year-old widowed father, her two sisters and two brothers. The residents of Hopley Farm have nicknamed her "chicken".

    Refugees & forced migration

    DRC: UNICEF warns a lack of funding hinders efforts to assist displaced


    Nearly 1.9 million people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) – half of them children – continue to live away from their homes after having been displaced by armed conflict, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has reported, adding that a lack of funds was hindering efforts to continue assisting them.

    Libya: Eritrean refugees and asylum seekers are the invisible people on this planet


    We have seen great tragedy these days where around 80 Eritrean asylum seekers who departed to claim asylum in Italy, perished in the sea. Only five of them survived to tell the tragedy. They floated on the deep seas for more than 20 days on 12- meter rubber boat with no rescue.

    Western Sahara: Refugee Film Festival joins independence struggle


    During the 1960s, when decolonization movements were sweeping the world, it was joked that after achieving independence a country had to do three things: design a flag, launch an airline and found a film festival. Western Sahara has a flag but no airline and despite a 35 year struggle has yet to achieve independence. The closest it comes to its own film festival is the Festival Internacional de Cine del Sahara (known as FiSahara), the world's most remote film festival, which had its seventh annual gathering this week in a refugee camp deep in the Algerian desert.

    Social movements

    Global: Canada’s foreign aid community risks losing strong voice for world’s poor


    CIDA funding to the Canadian Council for International Co-operation (CCIC), Canada’s pre-eminent coalition to end global poverty, is in doubt. A critical and well-respected voice for the world’s poor risks being silenced if funding to CCIC is cut off. CCIC’s three-year contract with CIDA ended on March 31, 2010. Two months into a three-month temporary extension of CCIC’s contract and no word yet from CIDA on the contract’s renewal. In July, CCIC will start operating with no CIDA funds.
    For Immediate Release – June1, 2010

    CIDA Funding to CCIC Threatened

    Canada’s Foreign Aid Community Risks Losing Strong Voice for World’s Poor
    CIDA funding to the Canadian Council for International Co-operation (CCIC), Canada’s pre-eminent coalition to end global poverty, is in doubt. A critical and well-respected voice for the world’s poor risks being silenced if funding to CCIC is cut off.

    CCIC’s three-year contract with CIDA ended on March 31, 2010. Two months into a three-month temporary extension of CCIC’s contract and no word yet from CIDA on the contract’s renewal. In July, CCIC will start operating with no CIDA funds.
    “Unfortunately, it’s hard not to see de-funding as yet another example of the ‘political chill’ message this government has been sending to the development community,” says Gerry Barr CCIC’s President and CEO. “What we’re experiencing here is punishment politics. Speak out against government policy and risk losing your funding.”

    CCIC has a long history of development work and CIDA funding and collaboration. Established in 1968, CCIC has been monitoring and analyzing federal policies on foreign affairs, aid, trade and peacebuilding. CCIC regroups approximately 90 Canadian non-profit organizations working both in Canada and overseas. Among them are religious and secular development groups, professional associations, co-operatives, labour unions and groups devoted to literacy, education and youth.
    CCIC has given notice of layoff to all but 8 staff and has taken steps to liquidate its resources, including selling its office space, in order to meet costs associated with severance and near-term operations.

    “This is extremely disappointing news,” says Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada. “De-funding CCIC would mean that the government is shutting down diversity. Without a diversity of voices you will have weakly-debated public policy increasing the likelihood of bad public policy.”

    “This would be a loss to the development community,” says Jim Cornelius Executive Director of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank and CCIC member. “CCIC is a strong advocate for the world’s poor. Here in Canada, the development community looks to CCIC for leadership on issues of trade, aid and humanitarian assistance.’
    “We call on CIDA to continue its support for CCIC,” says Robert Fox, Executive Director of Oxfam Canada and a CCIC member. “CCIC is exactly the type of organization CIDA should fund. Aid policies and programs will suffer if CCIC is not doing what it does best – analyze, critique and advocate for the world’s poor.”

    Gerry Barr, Jim Cornelius, Robert Fox and CCIC’s Chair of the Board Karen Takacs are all available for interviews.
    For more information contact:
    Katia Gianneschi

    Media Relations

    Canadian Council for International Co-operation

    613-241-7007 ext. 311

    [email protected]

    The attack on the LPM Continues - 5 More Arrests in Protea South


    On the night of 3rd June 2010, the police went from door to door with an informer in the shacks of Protea South, Soweto. They arrested five members of the Landless People’s Movement (LPM). Three of the people that they arrested are children of Maureen Mnisi, chairperson of the LPM in Gauteng. The other two are her neighbours. Since the current wave of repression began when the LPM was attacked in Protea South by the Homeowner’s Association on 23 May 2010 two people have been killed. One was shot dead by the Homeowner’s Association in Protea South and one was shot dead by the police in eTwatwa. Other people have been beaten, shot, arrested and threatened with having their homes burnt down. Two people have had their homes burnt down in eTwatwa. There are now seven LPM members in jail in Protea South and thee LPM members in jail in eTwatwa.

    Emerging powers news

    Emerging Actors in Africa news round-up


    In this week's roundup of emerging actors in Africa news, Industrial and Commercial Bank mulls acquisitions in Middle East and North Africa, France pushes for African presence on UN Security Council, presidents of Seychelles and South Africa set to visit India, and Kenya reaps billions from Sudanese separation plan.

    Building Africa: Where's The United States?
    If the United States wishes to maintain its strategic interests in the East Africa region, it must seek to better engage with the continent’s emerging regional structures. This will require policymakers to move beyond the confines of military strategy and to embrace a more holistic approach to economic and security policy in the region. Read more

    Sovereign wealth rewrites old-world rules
    Sovereign wealth funds -- national vehicles created to grow state wealth for the future -- have long experience investing in exotic and lesser-known lands. To these funds, many of which originate in what the West calls the "frontier" region, it's a local market. Read more

    Changing economy opens door wider for Africa investors
    Since the turn of the century, several irreversible shifts have taken place in the global economy. One such adjustment, which has been accelerated by the recent global financial meltdown, is the rise to prominence of the south.
    In a recent speech, World Bank president Robert Zoellick declared the end of the ‘Third World’, saying such crude divisions are no longer applicable within an ever more multipolar world economy given the dramatic rise of markets throughout Asia, Africa and Latin America in the course of the past decade. Read more

    Hedge fund hungry for Africa
    HARBINGER Capital Partners, the US hedge fund operation run by billionaire Philip Falcone, plans to boost investment in African resources as companies compete for some of the world's biggest mineral deposits.

    Read more

    Weak euro makes Africa investment cheaper
    A top African economist says the weak euro and Greece's budget crisis are making African countries cheaper places to invest. Read more


    CAD Fund to boost footprint in Africa
    The China-Africa Development Fund (CAD Fund), China's largest private equity (PE) fund focused on African investments, has kicked off its second-phase of fund raising to raise $2 billion over three years CAD Fund has teamed up with Chinese companies for investments in Africa and is largely a financial investor. The fund does not hold controlling stakes in any project and limits its holdings between 10-50 percent . Read more

    China, kingpin in Africa, turns to Mideast
    China is negotiating with the Persian Gulf state of Qatar to sell an additional 10 million tons of liquefied natural gas a year, on top of the 5 million it already buys.
    This is part of Beijing’s drive to establish strategic energy links with Middle Eastern states as it has done in mineral-rich Africa over the last few years, challenging U.S. dominance of the oil-rich strategic region since World War II. Read more

    China firms urged to invest in Africa
    Government officials on Friday urged more Chinese companies to invest in Africa's agricultural and manufacturing sectors to help the continent improve its economic structure Read more

    Zambia: Luanshya mine to create 1,000 more jobs
    China Non-Ferrous Metal Company’s Luanshya Copper Mines (CLM) is set to recruit 1,000 employees in readiness for the beginning of production at the Muliashi open pit mine, taking the total number of workers to more than 3,000.
    CLM also plans to make an additional investment of more than US$150 million to rehabilitate infrastructure at Luanshya Copper Mine this year. Read more

    Mozambicans Complain against Chinese employer
    Mozambican workers involved in building the new international passenger terminal at Maputo International Airport have accused their Chinese employers of violating Mozambican labour legislation and of physically assaulting them. Read more

    ICBC mulls acquisitions in Middle East and North Africa

    Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the world's most profitable bank, on Monday said that it will consider the acquisition opportunities in the Middle East and the North Africa to further blueprint its expansion strategy, sources reported.

    Read more

    China's struggling soccer program won't field a team in the 2010 World Cup
    When teams from 32 nations gather for the World Cup in South Africa this month, one country will be most conspicuous by its absence: China. Read more


    South African president and Sharma to review IBSA pact
    India and South African conglomeration will give a fresh impetus to the proposed preferential trade agreement during the upcoming visit of South Africa President Jacob Zuma beginning Wednesday.
    Read more

    Indian and South African CEOs Forum to be re-launched
    The India-South Africa CEOs Forum was re-launched during the visiting South African President Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma's interaction with the Indian industry in Mumbai on June 3. Read more

    Trade issues to dominate Zuma visit
    South African President Jacob Zuma is in India on his first state visit to Asia since he took office in May last year. The three-day visit would focus on deepening strategic partnership between the two countries. According to officials, strengthening and broadening of economic and commercial interaction between the two countries; expansion of South-South interaction with a view to strengthen the voice of the developing world and its capacity to address the needs of its people are on the agenda. Read more

    Rossell Tea scouts for Africa properties
    Faced with the high price of tea garden acquisition in India, Rossell Tea is looking at possible acquisitions in Africa. Read more

    India to discuss security ties with Seychelles
    India will discuss greater security and economic cooperation with Seychelles during discussions with its President James Alex Michel who arrived here on Tuesday. Read more

    CII to take business delegation to Ghana and Burkina Faso
    India's largest business chamber Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) is taking a large delegation to two countries in west Africa this week, officials said Tuesday. Read more

    Rights group appeals for African detainees' release
    Civil rights group, People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Monday appealed to the Indian government to release a dozen Africans held in detention centre in Delhi. The detainees have threatened to go on hunger strike from June 1. Read more

    Other Emerging Actors

    France sees business opportunities at Africa summit
    France will attempt to claw back some economic influence in Africa as it welcomes some 40 government leaders to a summit that will for the first time include the heads of top French companies. Read more

    With Europe's influence waning in former African colonies, France looks to China's example
    China's investment in Africa has increased so much in recent years that some Africans fear a new form of colonialism.
    Now, France, one of the continent's old colonial masters, is looking to Africa with outstretched hands, working to imitate China and step up its own investment there. Read more

    France says Africa must be on UN Security Council
    French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Monday Africa should be represented on the U.N. Security Council, promising to back reforms when France takes the helm of the G8 and G20 groups of big economies next year. Read more

    Presidents of Seychelles and South Africa to visit India
    India will play host this week to President James Alix Michel of Seychelles and President Jacob Zuma of South Africa, who will be here on State Visits for talks aimed at further improving their relations with India Read more

    Kenya reaps billions from Sudanese separation plan
    Kenya is tapping billions of shillings in new investments from what is emerging as an early harvest of the fruits of the looming birth of Africa’s latest independent state — South Sudan.
    East Africa’s largest economy has emerged as the major beneficiary of the expectation that Southern Sudanese will choose independence in January — sparking a race among foreign governments with the financial muscle to develop infrastructure that the new state will require to trade with the world.

    Read more

    World Cup 2010: Climate change fouls and goals
    South Africa, where the Fifa Football World Cup is to kick off 11 June, has introduced cleaner transportation, while Brazil is planning ecological stadiums for the championship it will host in 2014. But these and other initiatives clash with the countries' overall environmental performance. Read more

    Dubai Chamber eyes new investment opportunities in Africa for its members
    In preparation to host the 4th Common Market for Eastern & Southern Africa (COMESA) Investment Forum in 2011, Dubai Chamber organized today at its premises the first ever COMESA Workshop, aimed at highlighting the investment opportunities and enhancing the economic cooperation between Dubai and COMESA. Read more

    AngloGold to cut Australian exploration on Profit Tax
    AngloGold Ashanti Ltd., the world’s third-largest gold producer, will cut its exploration spending in Australia if a proposed tax on mining profits is approved. Read more

    Blogs, Opinion and Dates

    Why China and India Need Each Other
    Recent rumblings that the Indian government is making it difficult for Chinese companies to export telecom equipment to Indian operators (or may even issue an outright ban on security grounds) is just the latest development in a two-step-forward, one-step-back dance that China and India are trying to master, albeit awkwardly. Read more

    Global Insider: Russia's Stake in Africa
    In late May, Russia announced that it would invest $1 billion in uranium exploration in Namibia. In an e-mail interview, Raksha Maharaj, a director at South Africa-based Emerging Market Focus, explains Russia's renewed interest in Africa.
    Read more

    China International Fund's New Bellzone-Kalia Guinea Deal
    Last week China International Fund, the murky Hong Kong real estate, construction, and investment company, hit the news again with a confirmed report that CIF had signed a preliminary agreement to finance $2.7 billion in infrastructure connected with the development of Australian company Bellzone's proposed $4.45 billion Kalia iron ore mine in Guinea. A $40 million feasibility study still needs to be done before the deal goes forward.

    Read more

    Trade With Africa Or Lose Out
    A leading British think-tank has warned that many of Africa's traditional partners, especially in Europe and North America, risk losing global influence and trade advantages to the emerging powers in Asia, Africa and South America unless they recognise the greater strategic role that African countries are playing in international affairs. Read more

    Under the framework of the South Africa-India inter-governmental bilateral agreement on co-operation in the fields of science and technology signed in 1995, a new programme of cooperation was agreed on for the years 2008 to 2011. Read more

    Africa’s bad image turns away global investors
    The tarnished image of African countries, including Kenya’s in the global arena still gets in the way of attracting investors to the continent. Read more


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

    Elections & governance

    Burundi: Ex-rebel leader Agathon Rwasa quits elections


    Five opposition candidates have withdrawn from presidential polls in Burundi due to take place on 28 June. They include the former rebel leader Agathon Rwasa, who was widely thought to be the key challenger to the current President Pierre Nkurunziza. All had called for the resignation of Burundi's electoral commission following local polls last month, which they say were fraudulent.

    Burundi: Opposition alleges election fraud


    The first in a series of elections has brought simmering discontent with Burundi's electoral commission to the boil. Just over a week after the May 24 communal elections, five opposition presidential candidates have demanded the resignation of members of the National Electoral Commission and announced that they will boycott the presidential poll scheduled for June 28.

    Kenya: Government releases Sh553m for voter education


    The voter education on the referendum has received a shot in the arm after the government announced the release of Sh553 million to the Committee of Experts, ending weeks of bickering between the two parties. The money is not in the budget, but has had to be reallocated from other ministries and will be regularised in next week’s budget, which will cater for all constitution review needs.

    Madagascar: EU to extend aid suspension


    The EU will extend next week the suspension of 600 million euros of development aid to Madagascar for 12 more months for failing to return to democracy after a March 2009 coup, a draft statement showed. The European Union, the island's largest donor, suspended the aid last year in response to the army-backed overthrow of Marc Ravalomanana's government.

    Nigeria: Lawmakers back changes to succession rules


    Nigeria's parliament approved a constitutional amendment on Thursday on transferring presidential powers, aimed at avoiding a repeat of a crisis when the late President Umaru Yar'Adua fell seriously ill last year. Under the amendment, when the president is absent or unable to discharge his duties, he must inform parliament that he is handing over power to the vice president. If the president fails to send a letter within 21 days, parliament can designate the vice president as acting president by a majority vote.


    Global: Ban declares end to 'era of impunity'


    More than one decade after the International Criminal Court (ICC) was set up, a new “age of accountability” is replacing the “old era of impunity,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has underlined. Twelve years ago when world leaders gathering in Rome for its establishment, “few could have believed, then, that this court would spring so vigourously into life,” Mr. Ban said at the first-ever review conference of the ICC held in Kampala, Uganda.


    Africa: A changed Africa 'still needs our help to grow'


    Five years ago, the Commission for Africa argued that supporting the continent’s quest for growth and development was not only a moral imperative but also enlightened self-interest. As the finance ministers of the Group of 20 leading nations meet this week, Nicholas Stern argues for the need to recognise that the futures of the rich world and Africa are ever more closely intertwined.

    Africa: African rice gets a status upgrade


    Africa's indigenous rice varieties are to be granted 'elite' status by scientists in the hope that they will play a central role in making farmers' crops more resilient. Elite rice varieties are recognised to be high-yielding and include Asian rice, which has sometimes been improved with individual traits taken from lower-yielding African rice. Now scientists have shown that African varieties are resilient and high-yielding in their own right.

    Africa: Despite recovery, Africa needs more jobs, says ECA


    This year Africa’s economies will generally perform better than in 2009. According to the just-published Economic Report on Africa, the continent’s average growth rate will reach 4.3 per cent, up from less than 2 per cent last year — a period marked by devastatingly bad performances worldwide following the global economic slowdown.

    Africa: Nations turn to South Africa for agricultural expertise


    African nations are increasingly turning to South Africa to improve their own agricultural production and skills, according to industry group Agri SA. About 20 countries from across Africa have approached Agri SA, South Africa’s largest farmers’ association, seeking to recruit commercial growers or learn skills from their neighbor on the continent’s southern tip.

    Africa: Replace aid with trade, rich countries told


    Rich countries need to change the way they deal with Africa, shifting from aid to trade if they are to avoid losing ground to the emerging economic players of Asia and South America, a top think-tank has said. In a report by the Royal Institute of International Affairs at London’s Chatham House analysing Africa’s small but evolving influence, the Western perception of Africa as a hopeless case was challenged, painting the continent rather as home to a billion people and up to 40 percent of the world’s natural resources.

    Global: Cautious welcome for new UK aid commitments


    Aid analysts have welcomed some of the international development priorities of Britain’s new coalition government, particularly the commitment to stick to the previous government’s pledge to boost aid spending to 0.7 percent of national income by 2013. But they also worry that the independence and impartiality of aid may be eroded under a new “coherence” push.

    Global: Developing nations can help global recovery: W.Bank


    Giving developing countries a bigger say in global economic governance could help the world economy recover more quickly from the crisis, the World Bank said on Friday. The Group of 20, bringing together the world's top developed and emerging economies has emerged as the leading global forum, representing over 80 percent of the world's economic activity, but over 170 poorer countries feel left out.

    Global: Doubts over global economy return as G20 meets


    Leading policymakers expressed concern on Friday about the health of the world economy even as they closed ranks behind the euro zone's efforts to tackle a debt crisis that has rattled global markets. Speaking before two days of talks bringing together the world's top 20 developed and emerging economies, South African Planning Minister Trevor Manuel said he could not think of a more challenging time than the present for the Group of 20.

    Global: ILO discusses global employment challenges


    The International Labour Organisation (ILO) opened its 99th annual conference, with a focus on employment issues following the global economic crisis. A statement by the ILO, stated that the conference, ending 18 June, would deliberate on a number of issues affecting employment opportunities and workers' well-being globally.

    Global: World Bank urges Africa to lift trade


    African countries are not doing enough to address the infrastructure backlogs hampering trade and regional economic integration World Bank chief economist for Africa Shantayanan Devarajan said. Devarajan is in South Africa to consult with policy makers and civil society organisations on a new World Bank strategy for Africa.

    Kenya: Political economy analysis


    How can donors contribute to governance reform in Kenya? What role can they play in strengthening state-society relations in particular? This report, published by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad), makes recommendations for Norway’s strategic approach to governance in Kenya based on a political economy analysis of the country. More focus on state-society relations is needed, particularly at local government level. For example, donors could support CSOs that represent the interests of local groups. Systematic learning, analysis and social dialogue should also be emphasised.

    Health & HIV/AIDS

    Africa: Experts convene to discuss impact of influenza


    African health ministers and representatives of international agencies have gathered today in Marrakesh, Morocco, at a meeting organized by the United Nations and its partners to discuss the impact of influenza on the continent. “We know that influenza has a significant impact on morbidity and mortality throughout Africa, but unfortunately, we don’t have a great deal of data that shows this,” said Keiji Fukuda, Special Adviser on Pandemic Influenza to the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO).

    Africa: Mining industry is making TB epidemic worse


    The presence of a large mining sector in African countries is a strong influence on the severity of a country’s TB epidemic, especially in countries with a high HIV prevalence, and more needs to be done in the mining industry to control TB, a new Oxford University-led study has found.

    Global: Laboratory monitoring of ART could be cost-effective for many countries


    Laboratory monitoring to determine when to switch to second-line treatment may be cost-effective for many countries and could substantially improve life expectancy, April Kimmel and colleagues reported in a modelling study using 1999 to 2008 data from the Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire) published in the advance online edition of the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes.

    Lesotho: 630,000 children to be immunized against measles


    The United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) is giving $646,000 to immunize hundreds of thousands of children in Lesotho, the Southern African country which since January has been grappling with a deadly outbreak of the disease.

    South Africa: Green light for increased HIV testing


    An amendment to the Health Act allowing counselors to draw blood for HIV testing will see more people being tested. Head of the Southern African HIV Clinicians Society, Dr Francois Venter said unclear policy on whether counselors could test for HIV meant there were less people allowed to conduct the testing and less people being tested.

    South Africa: Patients with higher BMIs have reduced risk of death and TB


    HIV-positive individuals who are obese or overweight are less likely to die or develop tuberculosis than people with HIV who are of normal weight, South African investigators report in the online edition of AIDS. “Our findings show a clear protective effect…of increasing BMI [body mass index] on both all-cause mortality and incident TB [tuberculosis] in a South African cohort”, comment the investigators, “person with obese and overweight BMI have a significantly decreased risk of both mortality and TB.”

    South Africa: World Cup HIV prevention plans fall short


    The excitement over the FIFA World Cup is not just about football, it's also about the party. Large quantities of alcohol are sure to be consumed as foreign football fans rub shoulders with locals, and inhibitions are likely to fall away. The World Cup has long been associated with boom times for the sex trade, but in a country where one in five adults is living with HIV, the price of throwing caution to the wind and having unprotected sex with a local, let alone a sex worker, could be extremely high.

    Uganda: When do we tell children they are HIV positive?


    A Ugandan draft policy recommending that HIV-positive children be informed of their status by the age of 10 has drawn mixed reactions from health workers. The previous policy required parental consent to tell children under the age of 12, but the new policy allows health workers - with the support of parents and guardians - to disclose HIV status after the child has been prepared and an assessment of their ability to understand and deal with the condition has been made.


    CAR: Education for nomadic families


    Fatima Yadik, a mother of 12 and grandmother of 18, recently settled in the Central African Republic town of Yaloké after 60 years with her nomadic community. Her camp of Peuhl nomads was attacked by bandits who killed all the men and stole their cattle. Peuhl people are often targeted by bandits because of the relative wealth of their livestock. Fleeing to safety, Ms. Yadik and her family joined the growing number of nomadic peoples across Africa’s interior who are escaping poverty and insecurity in the countryside in favour of life in towns and cities.

    Swaziland: Free education becomes a reality


    At sundown, Thulani Gama tells his 10-year-old twin siblings to collect firewood while he grinds corn for their supper. At sunrise, he wakes the twins and tells them to wash. Without breakfast, all three children begin their hour-long walk to school in rural Swaziland. Thulani, 13, is the head of his small household. He and his siblings Samkelo and Samkelisiw look after one another since, like many parents, their widowed mother left home to look for work in Mbabane, Swaziland’s capital. Thanks to a new programme supported by UNICEF and the Government of Swaziland, Thulani and his siblings are now able to attend school.


    Burundi: How religious leaders fuel homophobia


    Religious leaders and organisations have greatly fuelled homophobia in Burundi. These are the findings of a report titled Religion and homophobia, released recently by the Movement for Individual Freedoms (MOLI), a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) organisation in Burundi.

    Malawi: Couple could face further harassment


    Amnesty International has warned that a Malawian couple given a presidential pardon following their conviction of “gross indecency” and “unnatural acts” could face further harassment unless the law is changed. Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga were released from prison on 29 May 2010 after President Bingu wa Mutharika pardoned them on humanitarian grounds.

    Malawi: Gay couple risk re-arrest


    While the two Malawian gay men Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga have been granted a presidential pardon on “humanitarian grounds”, annulling a 14 year sentence for “gross indecency and unnatural acts”, speculation is mounting on the exact conditions of their release.

    Uganda: Museveni says Ugandans 'opposed to homosexuality'


    President Museveni has said Ugandans are opposed to homosexuality because it is not part of African culture. Speaking to Christians who gathered to mark the Uganda Martyrs Day at the Anglican shrine in Nakiyanja, President Museveni castigated Europeans for imposing what he called western culture onto African countries.


    Africa: Indian Ocean Commission launches agro-ecology project in Mauritius


    The Indian Ocean Commission (COI) on Tuesday launched the "Agro-ecology" project, which is a regional initiative for the adaptation of small-scale agriculture to climate change in the Islands of the Indian Ocean, PANA reported. The COI is comprised of five member countries -- Mauritius, Madagascar, Reunion, Comoros and the Seychelles.

    Africa: Nigeria's agony dwarfs Gulf oil spill, but US and Europe ignore it


    The Deepwater Horizon disaster caused headlines around the world, yet the people who live in the Niger delta have had to live with environmental catastrophes for decades

    Cote d'Ivoire: Trafigura accused over toxic waste


    Dutch prosecutors have accused multi-national oil trading firm Trafigura of illegally exporting hazardous waste to Ivory Coast in 2006. The allegations came at the start of a trial in which the firm is accused of breaking Dutch export and environmental laws and forging official documents. Tens of thousands of people in Ivory Coast said the waste made them ill.

    Global: Activists protest Energy Strategy consultation in Brussels


    Activists have staged a protest at the Energy Strategy consultation in Brussels The protestors, led by Friends of the Earth Europe, gathered peacefully outside of the meeting where they demanded an end to the World Bank's financing of fossil fuel projects. Outside the building, the protestors held signs, chanted, and put on several acts of street theater, including handing out mock contracts for coal and a "black comedy" representation of the World Bank's continued financing of dirty energy

    Global: Fouls and goals for climate change at World Cup


    South Africa, where the FIFA Football World Cup is to kick off Jun. 11, has introduced cleaner transportation, while Brazil is planning ecological stadiums for the championship it will host in 2014. But these and other initiatives clash with the countries' overall environmental performance. The first FIFA (International Federation of Association Football) World Cup to take place on the African continent will leave a carbon footprint more than eight times greater than the 2006 World Cup in Germany, according to a study conducted in February 2009 at the request of the South African government and the Norwegian embassy in that country.

    Global: World Environment Day


    World Environment Day, commemorated on 5 June since 1972, is one of the ways in which the United Nations focuses world attention on the environment and encourages political action. Since its inception, hundreds of thousands of people from countries all over the world have mobilized for individual and organized environmental action. Activities involve all sectors of society – governments, non- and inter-governmental organizations, businesses, industries, civil society, media and schools.

    South Africa: New coal plant seeks emission credits for "cleaner" coal


    On the heels of winning a $3.75 million loan from the World Bank, South African utility Eskom is now seeking carbon credits from the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism. Environmentalists are outraged that one of the largest coal plants in the world could receive public funds from both the World Bank and the CDM.

    Land & land rights

    Botswana: Bushmen take government to court over water rights


    Kalahari Bushmen are taking the government of Botswana to court over its refusal to allow them access to a water borehole on their land. The case is due to be heard at Botswana’s High Court in Lobatse on 9 June 2010.

    South Africa: South Africans fight eviction for World Cup car park


    For six families living in derelict changing rooms next to one of South Africa's official training venues in Cape Town, the prospect of the football World Cup has turned from a dream to a nightmare. The families who comprise 24 people, half of them children, are facing eviction to make space for the parking area next to the Athlone Stadium which has been upgraded to the tune of 406m rand ($53m, £36m) to bring it up to Fifa standards.

    Food Justice

    Global: FAO report says global food prices fall


    A report by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said Thursday that international prices of key food staples dropped in the first five months of this year. The report stated that the development was driven largely by plummeting prices of cereals and sugar. It said: "The FAO Food Price Index' the average of commodity prices, including meat and dairy, averaged 164 points in May, down from 174 in January and subst antially less than its peak of 214, reached in the spring of 2008."

    Nigeria: Fallout from Niger food crisis


    Stocks of millet and sorghum in northern Nigeria's markets are dwindling as traders buy them up to export across the border to Niger, where some 10 million people face food insecurity. Grain merchants from Niger head to Dawanau market in Kano - West Africa's largest grain market – to buy truck-loads of millet and sorghum, locally known as Guinea corn, to bolster declining food stocks.

    Media & freedom of expression

    Africa: FAJ hails World Congress outcomes


    The Federation of African Journalists (FAJ), the African regional organisation of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), have welcomed the conclusions and outcome of the 27th World Congress of the IFJ, held from 24th - 28th May, in Cadiz, Spain.

    Angola: Censorship shrouds journalist’s killing


    On January 8, while Angola was hosting the African Cup of Nations, the country made worldwide headlines after a deadly attack on the Togolese national soccer team, which left a coach and a journalist dead. With international attention turning to the story, a shroud of state censorship and self-censorship by the Angolan media obscured the factual circumstances of the attack and its aftermath

    Ethiopia: Independent media gagged around elections


    Last week's Ethiopian presidential election result was no surprise, with Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's governing party winning nearly every seat. Harassment and intimidation of voters and journalists, and the absence of a free, independent media was behind this smooth victory, report Human Rights Watch and the International Press Institute (IPI).

    Zambia: Post newspaper, editor in chief convicted over contempt of court charges


    On 3 June 2010, The Post newspapers and its editor in chief, Fred M’membe were found guilty of one count of contempt of court, a charge arising from an opinion article authored by United States of America-based Zambian Law Professor, Muna Ndulo and published by the newspaper on 27 August 2009. However, presiding Magistrate Simausamba reserved sentence to 4 June 2010. Meanwhile, M’membe’s lawyer, Remmy Mainza said the case in which his clients were convicted of was a misdemeanor which attracted a sentence of six months or a fine. He prayed to the court to give his clients a non- custodial or suspended sentence because the two were first offenders who had no track of a criminal record.

    Conflict & emergencies

    DRC: 19 killed in rebel attack


    At least 19 people including five soldiers killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo's volatile east after the Hutu rebels attacked an army post, the army reported. About 150 fighters from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) rebel group staged a pre-dawn attack Wednesday on a military position in Nord-Kivu province, Vianney Kazarama, the army spokesman in the region said.

    Kenya: Bumper maize harvest contaminated by toxins


    There is growing alarm among Kenyan farmers about a government announcement that 2.3m bags of maize were unfit for human consumption. Health experts say the maize contained high levels of lethal aflatoxins, which have killed at least one child. The government has pledged to buy and destroy the contaminated maize.

    Libya: Executions of foreigners are condemned


    Human rights campaigner group Amnesty International has condemned the reported execution of 18 people in Libya. The 18, some from Chad, Egypt and Nigeria, were executed on Sunday in Tripoli and Benghazi, Libyan media reported. Amnesty International said they feared the accused had not had fair trials.

    Somalia: Civilians killed in fighting


    At least 17 civilians have been killed after Somali government forces, supported by African Union peacekeepers, launched attacks against fighters from al-Shabab, the armed anti-government group, in Mogadishu. Among the dead are six women and a family of five whose home was destroyed by shelling, Ali Muse, the head of the city's ambulance service, said on Thursday.

    Somalia: Troops fight al-Shabab militants in Mogadishu


    Clashes between Somali government forces and Islamist militants have killed at least 28 people and wounded about 60 in the capital Mogadishu. The fighting appears to be the start of a government offensive using troops trained in Ethiopia, analysts say.

    Sudan: Government shelves peace talks with JEM


    The Sudanese government has said it will no longer engage in peace talks with the Justice and Equality Movement (Jem), Darfur's main anti-government group, saying instead its leaders will be prosecuted. Ghazi Atabani, chief negotiator of the talks, said mediators had been notified of the government's decision.

    Internet & technology

    Ghana: Boy, 12, wins Google top prize


    A 12-year-old Ghanaian student Kwabena Asumadu has been crowned the national winner of the Doodle 4 Google 'Love Football' competition. The competition was for students to design a Google Doodle - the interpretation of the Google logo, around the theme 'Love Football'. Asumadu is now one step closer to being a global winner and will have his logo uploaded on the Google Ghana homepage - - for a day. For his prize he would receive a laptop, dongle, printer and a framed copy of his winning doodle.

    eNewsletters & mailing lists

    South Africa: Israel/Apartheid Connections

    AfricaFocus Bulletin May 31, 2010 (100531)


    "Polakow-Suransky puts Israel's annual military exports to South Africa between 1974 and 1993 at $600 million, which made South Africa Israel's second or third largest trading partner after the United States and Britain. ... He puts the total military trade between the countries at well above $10 billion over the two decades." - Glenn Frankel in review of new book "The Unspoken Alliance". Polakow-Suransky's book The Unspoken Alliance: Israel's Secret Relationship with Apartheid South Africa (, is hardly the first to outline the open secret of Israel's military relationship with apartheid South Africa (see books listed below). But it is certainly the most well-documented and will arguably be the most influential.

    Fundraising & useful resources

    Call for entrants: RFI Discoveries Award 2010


    France’s international public service radio station RFI (Radio France Internationale) has launched this year’s Prix Découverte RFI (RFI Discoveries Award). Since 1981 RFI has organised this award for singers and musicians which is open to entrants living in Africa, the Caribbean and the Indian Ocean islands
    France’s international public service radio station RFI (Radio France Internationale) has launched this year’s Prix Découverte RFI (RFI Discoveries Award). Since 1981 RFI has organised this award for singers and musicians which is open to entrants living in Africa, the Caribbean and the Indian Ocean islands* (see full list of countries below).

    The jury consists of a panel of music professionals, headed up by a well-known artist. In the past Jacob Desvarieux, Salif Keita and Youssou N’Dour have contributed to the selection process. The award has helped many artists on the path to international success, including Tiken Jah Fakoly, Didier Awadi, Tcheka and Amadou & Mariam. The winner of the 2009 edition was the young Senegalese artist Naby.

    This year, the prize for the winner will be a cash award of 7,000 euros + an artist development grant of 11,000 euros + a tour in Africa + a concert in Paris + concerts at major French festivals including Musiques Métisses d’Angoulême and Jazz de Coutances.

    The competition closes on 30 June 2010.

    To enter and for full terms and conditions visit: or contact RFI Direction de la Communication, 116 avenue du Président Kennedy 75016 Paris-France [email protected] Tel: 33 1 56 40 51 92

    *Applicable countries:
    Africa: South Africa, Algeria, Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Côte-d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Malawi, Mali, Morocco, Mauritania, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Uganda, Republic of Congo, Rwanda, São Tomé and Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Zambia, Zimbabwe
    Indian Ocean: Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius and Seychelles
    Caribbean: Dominica, Haïti and St Lucia

    Please send your applications directly to RFI and not to the Arterial Network.

    The New Path: African Forum for Intellectual Thought

    Call for articles


    The NEW PATH: AFRICAN FORUM FOR INTELLECTUAL THOUGHT is published quarterly by the African Research and Resource Forum (ARRF) and provides a forum for innovative thinking about our common future and about how we need to tackle the most intractable problems facing Africa today – focusing on Eastern Africa. The editor invites your articles (opinion and analysis) for the June 2010 edition. This edition of 'New Path' will cover Elections management in EAC Member States: Focus on upcoming elections in Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania
    The NEW PATH: AFRICAN FORUM FOR INTELLECTUAL THOUGHT is published quarterly by the African Research and Resource Forum (ARRF) and provides a forum for innovative thinking about our common future and about how we need to tackle the most intractable problems facing Africa today – focusing on Eastern Africa.

    NEW PATH provides Eastern Africa with an opportunity to discuss African issues, aimed at a broad audience, from the perspective of rigorous intellectual thought and inquiry, so as to shed imaginative light on African affairs, both past and present. It is erected on the foundation of editorial independence, and the promotion of original and rigorous thinking on alternative paths for effecting fundamental change in Eastern African politics and governance, economic development capable of eliminating mass poverty, and contemporary trends in our arts, culture and humanities.

    The editor invites your articles (opinion and analysis) for the June 2010 edition. This edition of 'New Path' will cover the following area:

    Elections management in EAC Member States: Focus on upcoming elections in Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania

    Please send us your articles of not more than one thousand (1,000) words to: [email protected] This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or [email protected] This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it by 11th June 2010.

    Honoraria: ARRF will pay modest honoraria for the published articles

    Courses, seminars, & workshops

    Human Rights Advocates Program, Columbia University

    2011 Application


    The application for the 2011 session of the annual Human Rights Advocates Program (HRAP) at Columbia University is now available. We would like to ask you to disseminate this announcement to eligible human rights activists and organizations. The application is available online. This web-based format is the only version of the 2011 application.

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