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    Pambazuka News 491: Diamonds: Burden or boon?

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    Highlights from this issue

    – Khadija Sharife explores the diamond industry
    – Al-Shabab a product of context, says Yohannes Woldemariam
    – Cameron Duodu pays tribute to Basil Davidson, journalist and historian
    – Caroline Ifeka on AFRICOM, the kleptocratic state and under-class militancy
    + more

    – Maurice Namwira discusses human rights activism in the DRC
    – Oluwole Onemola calls on fellow Nigerians to challenge politicians
    – Chi Mgbako on the Rwandan government's use of genocide legacy
    + more

    – Horace Campbell on the social sciences as a military battleground
    + more

    – Anti-xenophobia campaign launched

    – Camilla Toulmin's 'Climate Change in Africa' reviewed

    – Amira Ali's poem 'Speak no more – let us just make music'ANNOUNCEMENTS: Judgment on Nyayo house torture victims
    ZIMBABWE UPDATE: ‘War vets’ want members to be apolitical
    AU MONITOR: CSO recommendations on peace and security
    WOMEN & GENDER: Uganda ratifies Women’s Protocol
    CONFLICT AND EMERGENCIES: Resurgent Nigeria violence leaves 7 dead
    HUMAN RIGHTS: Bushmen lose right to Kalahari water well
    REFUGEES AND FORCED MIGRATION: Somaliland clashes displace thousands
    SOCIAL MOVEMENTS: Africa Youth Forum 2010
    EMERGING POWERS NEWS: Emerging powers news roundup
    ELECTIONS AND GOVERNANCE: Nigeria’s Senate moves poll forward
    HEALTH & HIV/AIDS: AU Summit urged to uphold health committments
    EDUCATION: 2010 Distinguished Africanist Awards
    LGBTI: ECOSOC opens the UN to LGBT voices
    DEVELOPMENT: Bullish about Africa’s agricultural future
    ENVIRONMENT: Eco-Lens at Durban International Film Festivals
    LAND & LAND RIGHTS: DRC Gold mine to displace 15,000
    FOOD JUSTICE: Niger on the brink of collapse
    MEDIA AND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION: Calls to make journalism safer
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    Diamonds: Burden or boon?

    Khadija Sharife


    cc Wikimedia
    ‘Given the context of blood diamonds, the real conflict rests not with militias mining diamonds’, but with ‘the battle to control markets and pricing’, argues Khadija Sharife, in an assessment of the structure of the international diamond industry. For developing country governments ‘at the helm of diamond-producing economies, corporate control over diamond markets means limited choices and fewer opportunities to collect equitable revenue from diamond resources’, says Sharife.

    The issue of ‘blood diamonds’ has once again made the news: Farai Maguwu, director of Zimbabwe’s Mutare-based Centre for Research and Development (CRD), languishes under the long arm of Zimbabwe’s law, on alleged charges related to his research on Zimbabwe’s Marange mines. According to a confidential 44-page report produced by investigators mandated by the Kimberley Process, an international scheme designed to prevent the sale of ‘blood diamonds,’ diamonds at Marange are being mined under the direct surveillance of the military, and alleged violations include forced labour, torture, beatings, and harassment.

    Are Zimbabwe’s diamonds, 300,000 carats of which were approved for sale by the Zimbabwe High Court in April 2010, even worth the effort, given that massive volumes of gem quality diamonds are stockpiled with controlled release to prevent value from plummeting? In context, ‘blood diamonds’ officially contribute less than one per cent of the global trade – a largely unnecessary one per cent given the massive volume of stockpiled diamonds.

    For De Beers, founded in 1888 by colonialist explorer Cecil Rhodes and born from the carbon-rich soils of South Africa, however, ‘price-fixing’ the value chain has always been crucial to the survival and growth of the diamond market. By 1941, more than 90 per cent of the world’s diamonds were produced in Africa and controlled by De Beers. While diamonds represent a perceived development vehicle for several southern African countries such as Botswana, Namibia, Angola and South Africa, stockpiles held by major players dominating the industry, including Russia’s Alrosa as well as other developed diamond producing nations such as Canada and Australia, determine the state of the market and the value.

    According to the WDC, pre-recession about US$13 billion in rough diamonds were produced each year, with 65 per cent of diamonds being of African origin and valued at US$8.5 billion. An average 70 per cent of diamonds are utilised for cutting, drilling, grinding and polishing, while diamonds of gem quality – a specialty of Botswana, the world’s highest producer by value – are directed toward the jewellery industry, worth in excess of US$72 billion prior to the recession. The world’s primary diamond producing countries are Angola, Botswana, South Africa, Namibia, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Russia, Australia and Canada, while Belgium and Israel count amongst the world’s leading cutting and polishing centres.

    The process through which De Beers apportions rough diamonds is accomplished through ‘sightholders’ – persons or corporations approved by De Beers as ‘Suppliers of Choice,’ listed thereafter on the Diamond Trading Company’s (DTC) roster, and eligible to participate in ‘sights.’

    Diamonds are classified in 12,000 different categories based on a variety of criteria, ranging from diamonds suitable for industrial purposes, to those with slight (S) and very slight (VS) inclusions or rents and clouds, and thereafter priced accordingly.

    The DTC group hosts ten sights each year in the UK, South Africa, Botswana and Namibia, usually once every five weeks, disposing of De Beer’s rough diamonds sourced from African nations as well as Canada. DTC sightholders – the company’s sole customers – handle more than 75 per cent of the world’s diamonds and are renowned as leading diamantaires (master diamond cutters and manufacturers), assessed against the DTC’s Sightholder Criteria, and based on expertise and excellence for fixed contract periods. The present three-year period ends in 2011.

    South Africa’s DTC, for instance, hosts 15 sightholders; Botswana, 16; and Namibia, 11.Not all countries are equally present in the diamond pipeline or value chain, extending from exploration and mining, to sorting, cutting and polishing, manufacturing and retailing. A diamond of gem value mined in Botswana may be locally sorted at Gaborone’s US$83 million sorting centre – the largest in the world (originally housed in the UK by De Beers for close to a century) – before travelling to India, where it will once again be sorted according to the four cardinal C’s of the industry: Colour, cut, clarity and carat.

    Despite Belgium, Israel and the UK traditionally acting as diamond capitals or diamantaires of the world, these days the most crucial stage of the value chain has returned home to India, one of the British empire’s original sources of diamonds, which is armed with tax incentives, and a tremendously talented skill set. It is no wonder then that 11 out of 12 diamonds are cut and polished in the country. The process of beneficiation adds 66 per cent in value to diamonds: Sorting 15 per cent; polishing, 12 per cent; polished dealing 6 per cent. A further 33 per cent is added during the jewellery manufacturing period of asset transformation, another field that India has begun to specialise in. But the real mark-up is evidenced in the leap from manufacturing to retail, appreciating by almost 50 per cent in value, from 166 per cent to 320 per cent.

    Africa produces some 65 per cent of the industry’s rough diamonds. Most, if not all, can be classified as free from the UN definition of ‘conflict diamonds’ as ‘diamonds that originate from areas controlled by forces or factions opposed to legitimate and internationally recognised governments, and are used to fund military action in opposition to those governments, or in contravention of the decisions of the Security Council.’

    Launched in January 2003, the voluntary ‘soft law’ of the Kimberley Process and the accompanying Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPSC) are designed to distinguish conflict diamonds from those legitimately mined. The Kimberley system was endorsed by the UN General Assembly, the UN Security Council as well as major diamond entities and producing countries. Under the umbrella of this system, diamond-producing countries are allowed to become members on application.

    There has, however, been criticism levelled at the self-regulated mechanisms of the Kimberley Process, including the lack of auditable tracking systems that ‘fingerprint’ diamonds from source to end-destination, and the vacuum related to codes of conduct. For many observers, the Kimberly System is fundamentally flawed because it identifies perceived corruption as behavioural on the part of states. But the causes are systemic, rooted in the opaque and secretive nature of the global financial architecture, devoid of corporate country reporting and mandatory information exchange.

    Though De Beers dominated the diamond industry for many generations, a new power player has since emerged following a confluence of events. The centre – previously De Beers – no longer holds, due in part to the terms of the European Union’s anti-trust lawsuit, effectively preventing De Beers from stockpiling. This was a swift departure from previous policies, forcing the company to exercise restraint over production.

    These days Russia’s 90 per cent state-owned Alrosa threatens to unravel the last vestiges of De Beer’s legacy as a cartel through stockpiling – some three million carats each month (2009) locked in a vault – until the global economy, and demand, begins to peak again.

    In reality, the Soviet Union has long been a producer of one-carat diamonds, though the ideological institutions of the Cold War prevented Russia from directly marketing diamonds to elites and newlyweds in US consumer markets. Instead, a secretive development agreement was negotiated between De Beers and the Soviet Union, to engage in a ‘single channel’ directed and operated by De Beers from London, to prevent the collapse of diamond marketing efforts.

    At that time De Beers had a near monopoly of the distribution and sales of gems and diamonds on the world market. ‘A single channel,’ stated Oppenheimer, ‘is in the interest of all diamond producers whatever the political difference between them may be.’

    Russia’s response to anti-trust legislation has drastically differed from De Beers. While the former continued to produce en masse, declining just 1.9 per cent, the latter decreased production by 91 per cent. Debswana, for instance, the joint venture between De Beers and the Botswana government and the world’s largest producer by value, closed three mines, putting 4,500 people out of work. In 2009, production was halved to approximately 17.1 million carats, with 2010’s production planned at 60 per cent of normal output, or 20 million carats.

    Stockpiling at Gokhran – Russia’s stockpiling agency – began in December 2009, as a response to the continued decline in consumption. According to the head of Gokhran, Vladimir Rybkin, their current budget, tagged at US$1 billion (RUB 30 billion), will be used to continue stockpiling during 2010 – though to a far lesser degree than 2008 and 2009. Alrosa’s US$1 billion three-year yield of stashed rough is now being presented to potential investors despite Rybkin admitting that the real value was ‘a state secret.’ Rybkin originally claimed that for those ‘diamonds bought in 2008-2009, we shall not sell them during this or the following year. They will probably reach the market in 2012 or 2013.’

    Both Alrosa and Gokhran are directly controlled by Russia’s Ministry of Finance. By 2009, the company had surpassed De Beers as the world’s largest producer, stealthily placing itself in the driver’s seat by possessing the means to flood markets and undercut ‘price stability.’ But Alrosa is not about to bust the market wide open. ‘If you don’t support the price,’ stated Alrosa spokesperson Andrei Polyakov, ‘a diamond becomes a mere piece of carbon.’

    To this end, Alrosa has begun marketing diamonds to financiers as an investment, marketing gems under long-term contracts to the world’s cutting and polishing centres such as Belgium, Israel and India, as well as engaging partner country Angola to purchase 30 per cent of the country’s production in order to keep diamonds from flooding the market. Though the market for wholesale polished diamonds had decreased from US$21.5 billion (2008) to US$12 billion (2009), consumption – aided in large part by India and China – is once again picking up.

    More than 60 per cent of the world’s diamonds are still consumed in the US, though China, and India have begun to develop consumer markets, targeting the middle and upper income groups. China’s burgeoning middle class, for instance, is similar in demography to that of the US’s entire population – some 300 million people – with 40 per cent of brides in major Chinese cities such as Beijing and Shanghai receiving a diamond engagement ring. The Diamond Administration of China (DAC) claims that the country has overtaken Japan as the world’s second largest diamond market, behind the US. China’s trade in polished diamonds rose by 16 per cent in 2009, to a high of US$1.52 billion while the Shanghai Diamond Exchange (SDA), one of 28 bourses worldwide, still in the maturing phase, rose by 30.7 per cent. Unlike India, China levies a four per cent value-added tax on imported diamonds, down 13 per cent from 2003.

    This suggestion follows the advice of the World Federation of Diamond Bourses (WFDB). ‘Very few countries where diamond trading is thriving levy a value-added tax or import tax on diamonds traded in exchanges,’ stated then-President Shmuel Schnitzer. The SDA, China’s only bourse, intends to become the world’s fifth largest exchange by 2013. South Africa’s bourse, meanwhile, in a country with a history that developed almost parallel to the diamond industry, is less healthy due to the alleged lack of rough supplied to the bourse by De Beers, which controls over 90 per cent of diamond production. In 2008, the exchange accessed just three per cent of rough, seven per cent short of the minimum requirements, forcing the nascent beneficiation industry to halve from 3,000 to 1,500 people. While South Africa remains one of the world’s leading producers by volume, the bulk of small rough are sent to India, with only larger stones remaining in the country. According to South Africa’s department of minerals and energy, De Beers had agreed to assist the new bourse, created in 2007, with technical skills and assets.

    Africa’s newcomers such as the Shrenuj India Group, De Beers diamond sightholders since 1982 and recently approved as a sightholder for Debswana, have already made in-roads toward developing local industries.

    India’s cutting and polishing talents are perceived as legendary, and with a low cost of labour, India currently ‘handles the equivalent of 55 per cent in terms of value and 92 per cent by volume,’ says Shrenuj’s group general manager, Pranava Bhargava. ‘The great part about Botswana,’ he continued, ‘is the strong and stable democracy.’

    As the world’s largest producer by value, with a labour force that speaks English and is educated, Botswana holds great appeal. Bhargave claims that developing the capacity of downstream industries is a priority through ‘training and transferring skills to people so that they can develop ancillary businesses of their own or gain employment in the industry.’

    Just as some diamond producing countries, like Botswana, are moving toward the higher end of the value chain, other mobile economies (this time multinational) such as Graff Diamonds, Harry Winston and Tiffany’s – the iconic creators of the ‘blue box’ engagement rings – are moving backwards, toward the sorting, cutting and polishing states. Tiffany’s in-house unit, Laurelton Diamonds, for example, oversees cutting and polishing investments in South Africa, Belgium, China and Mauritius, which together produced 50 per cent of Tiffany’s diamonds in 2009.

    Meanwhile, for those developing country governments at the helm of diamond-producing economies, corporate control over diamond markets means limited choices and fewer opportunities to collect equitable revenue from diamond resources. Most African countries have a net negative rate of national savings relative to GNI.

    For each percentage point increase in dependence on extraction of natural resources for export the country’s GNI decreases by nine per cent against the real recorded gross domestic product,’ claims human rights attorney Richard Spoor. ‘South Africa’s growth has been negative by this calculation. We are selling off our national resources at prices that are lower than their real value.’ In sum, says Spoor, ‘revenue is small due principally because the state has to date not received value for our mineral assets. Gold, coal and diamonds were acquired by large monopolies.’

    According to Spoor, the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Royalty Act, coming into effect on 1 April 2010 after a six-year delay, may improve revenue from mining, which contributed just 0.4 per cent to the economy in 2005. The legislation requires mining corporations to pay royalties proportional to the profitability of gross sales minus allowable costs and deductions, ranging from between 0.5–7 per cent. The Act was suspended during 2009 by the then finance minister Trevor Manuel to grant mining corporations relief from the recession.

    Meanwhile, diamonds retain their cachet as fashion statements and tokens of love, testament to the enduring impact of a good marketing campaign As far back at the early 1940s, over 80 per cent of diamonds were purchased by young males in a bid to romance females. This has not changed, with diamonds big and small remaining the ‘surprise’ of choice for engagement rings, birthdays and other special memories. NW Ayers, the advertising firm credited with coining the pay-off line, ‘Diamonds are forever’ for their client De Beers in 1947, stated at the time: ‘We are dealing with a problem in mass psychology. We seek to... strengthen the tradition of the diamond engagement ring – to make it a psychological necessity.’ Given the context of blood diamonds, the real conflict rests not with militias mining diamonds, but rather, the battle to control markets and pricing, and the war for greater expansion throughout the diamond pipeline, from dust to diamantaire.


    * This article first appeared in The Thinker, July 2010.
    * Khadija Sharife is a journalist, visiting scholar at the University of KwaZulu-Natal Centre for Civil Society (CCS) and contributor to the Tax Justice Network.
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

    Somalia: Al-Shabab, extremism and US allies

    Yohannes Woldemariam


    cc S W
    The rise of Al-Shabab in Somalia must be seen in the context of decades of mismanagement, dictatorship and abuse, writes Yohannes Woldemariam. Following Ethiopia’s US-backed intervention in 2006, the ascendancy of Somalia’s moderate UIC (Union of Islamic Courts) was blocked and some 300,000 people were displaced, in the wake of which ‘the Al-Shabab extremists triumphed as a hegemonic force’ from within the UIC. And as the dust settles on last week’s Kampala bombing, Woldemariam contends, the governments of US allies Ethiopia and Uganda are once again seeking to capitalise on the tragedy for their own ends, ‘with Obama playing right into it’.

    The emergence of Al-Shabab in Somalia is not an accident. It stems from many decades of mismanagement, dictatorship, regional and international abuse. Superficially, one expects Somalia to be a unified entity because all Somalis speak a common language and are not plagued by ethnic differences as in many parts of the post-colonial world. Yet Somalia was always beset by deep clan cleavages even as Somali elites fantasised about the notion of a ‘Greater Somalia’ and made it their mission to unite all Somali-speaking peoples. This included Somalis in neighbouring states: the Ogaden region in Ethiopia, the Issas in Djibouti and the Somalis who inhabit the area known as the Northern Frontier District of Kenya. The Horn of Africa was of course faced with the same arbitrariness of borders inherited from colonial rule, where there were cultural links with people across borders.

    Notion of 'Greater Somalia' marked in yellow on map

    But the project of an ethnically homogenous state by embracing neighbouring Somali minorities was a non-starter and contrary to the African charter of respecting colonial boundaries. Hence, Somali irredentism pitted it against Kenya and Ethiopia, worsening in particular its historic enmity with Ethiopia. The tension between the two countries provided one of the openings for the Soviet Union and the United States to use these nations as proxies in the geopolitical games of the Cold War. The Horn of Africa of which Somalia is a part became much like Afghanistan, Vietnam and other hot spots of that era.

    Ethiopia and Somalia waged two major wars, including one that involved Cuban troops in 1977–78. A combined force of Ethiopians, 15,000 Cubans, 1,500 Soviet advisors and weaponry broke the back of the Somali army. This defeat was the beginning of the end of a functioning Somali state. It was followed by a protracted civil war in the 1980s, culminating in the disintegration of the country. Clumsy US and UN involvement in the 1990s made an already bad situation worse. Clan-based warlordism replaced the centralised dictatorship of Mohammed Said Barre, who ruled Somalia from 1969 to 1991. After the fall of Barre, Somaliland and Puntland became two separate, relatively stable but unrecognised entities. In fact, in late June 2010, Somaliland held the only election in the region which met international standards. Opposition candidate Ahmed M. Maha Silanyo won the election, defeating incumbent President Dahir Riyale Kahin. In contrast, anarchy had reigned in southern Somalia and the Mogadishu area for at least the last two decades.

    For the most part, the US disengaged after the death of 18 of its marines and the downing of two Black Hawk helicopters in 1993. The gruesome scene in October 1993 – with pictures of a dead American soldier being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu and dubbed the ‘CNN effect’ – is a fixture in the memory of many Americans. It influenced the Clinton administration’s decision to withdraw US troops from the country. Somalia became of renewed interest only after 9/11 out of concern that it would be a breeding ground for global jihad and a hide out for Al-Qaida elements.

    There were 14 unsuccessful top-down attempts for a centralised government in Somalia between 1991 and 2010. The current Transitional Federal Government (TFG) led by Sharif Sheikh Ahmed is the latest mutation of these trials. Most Somalis view Sharif Ahmed as an Ethiopian puppet, but Hillary Clinton had called him the ‘best hope’ for his country. He barely controls two blocks in Mogadishu and only because of the protection of approximately 3,000 Ugandan and 2,000 Burundian troops representing the ill-conceived AU Mission In Somalia (AMISOM). The Ugandan, Burundian and Ethiopian intervention is deeply resented by Somalis of various political persuasions. The justification for their presence is ostensibly to keep peace, but there is no peace to keep in Somalia. Uganda and Ethiopia really need peace within their own borders before pretending to bring peace to other lands. Among several insurgencies within Ethiopia is the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), which is waging a perennial struggle for self-determination for the four million or so ethnic Somalis. It has claimed thousands of lives and is being called ‘the other Darfur’ by some observers. Since the 1980s, Uganda’s northern region has also been ravaged by a murderous group known as the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

    The primary reason for Ethiopian intervention is its vested interest in a weak and disintegrated Somalia. It also benefits from American financial, military and political support by positioning itself as an ally in the ‘war on terror’. Ethiopia receives the largest amount of American aid of any country in sub-Saharan Africa. Similarly, Uganda and Burundi are intervening to garner support from the United States when they don’t even share a common border with Somalia.

    In return, the US keeps mum when these leaders rig elections or change constitutional clauses to enable them to extend presidential terms. It is a Machiavellian game all around.

    If one were genuine about peace, Ethiopia would be among the last countries in the world to be encouraged to send troops to Somalia. Yet in 2006, it intervened in Somalia with American support and pre-empted the ascendancy of the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), who were relatively moderate Muslims and had managed to establish a modicum of order for the very first time in 15 years. From the ranks of UIC, the Al-Shabab extremists triumphed as a hegemonic force. Ethiopia officially withdrew in 2009, but only after experiencing a quagmire which plunged Somalia into deeper chaos, displacing 300,000 Somalis and causing disarray for a grassroots movement that had seemed promising before it was nipped by Ethiopian intervention. And this official withdrawal notwithstanding, Ethiopian troops still make periodic incursions into Somalia at will.

    Given the predatory nature of the governments of Burundi, Ethiopia and Uganda – which are essentially military dictatorships or de facto one-party control – little faith can be placed in them for enhancing regional stability in the Horn region. Current Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki is also believed to have stolen the presidential election from Raila Odinga (who happens to hail from the same ethnic group as Barack Obama's father), who is now prime minister in a shaky power-sharing government. Yet the country is an ally in security matters in the region and therefore immune from any serious US scrutiny.

    In 2006, the Bush administration provided intelligence to Ethiopia in support of the invasion. It also used military facilities in Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya to launch air raids and missile strikes against Al-Qaida suspects at several sites in Somalia in 2007 and 2008. The air attacks killed several dozen Somali civilians and injured hundreds more, and they made US backing for the invasion highly visible. These periodic airstrikes are continuing under the Obama administration. The killing of Somali civilians only serves to drive Somalis into desperation and extremism. AMISOM is not any better. There are credible reports that it is responsible for civilian deaths and other excesses.

    In the aftermath of the Kampala bombings, Obama said that Al-Qaida is racist and doesn’t care about African lives. No sane person would dispute that. However, the real question is whether Obama cares about African lives. If he truly does, why would he meddle and prop up dictators like Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, dictators who wilfully sacrifice their soldiers and the lives of innocents for some foreign exchange dollars? Not surprisingly, both Zenawi and Museveni are already positioning themselves to argue for expanded intervention and to milk the Kampala tragedy, with Obama playing right into it. Ironically, Al-Shabab will also welcome the escalation and regionalisation of the conflict in the hope of bolstering its waning domestic support base as ordinary Somalis become weary of the heavy-handed repression by the movement.

    Relying on Ethiopia, Uganda and Burundi for keeping peace in Somalia is like sending Indian soldiers to occupy and pacify the Pakistani tribal areas. It is an oxymoron. It undermines the moderates and helps the extremists. The willingness of the United States to endorse interventions is rarely matched by a commitment to a comprehensive effort of securing peace. With the quagmire in Afghanistan and Iraq, there is hardly any political will in the US to effectively deal with the complexities of the issues in Somalia. Somalia does not need intervention and further militarisation by self-serving neighbours. A possible starting point for rebuilding Somalia could be to use the money that is being wasted on AMISOM to assist the Somali people and the nascent democratic experiment in Somaliland in light of the severe democratic drought in the region.


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

    Basil Davidson, Africa thanks you

    Cameron Duodu


    cc Isawnyu
    Basil Davidson wrote so passionately about Africa it was assumed he was an African, writes Cameron Duodu, paying tribute to the late historian, whose work ‘enriched the world's understanding of Africa’. Davidson was ‘not only an inspiration to progressives inside academia, but was an important resource for African leaders themselves’, says Duodu, at a time when the majority of ‘histories’ depicted Africa as ‘a land full of barbarous peoples “until the whiteman came”’.

    Basil Davidson has died in England aged 95.

    Why should that concern me as an African?

    Well, soon after my country Ghana gained its independence in 1957, thoughts that we had never been exposed to, in our missionary and government schools, began to sneak into our consciousness.

    For instance, one black American historian/artist called Earl Sweeting, arrived in Accra and tried to interest us in a series of colourful post-cards he had drawn that carried such ‘provocative’ titles as ‘Africans teaching the Greeks mathematics’; ‘Africans teaching the Greeks medicine’; and ‘Africans teaching the Greeks philosophy.’

    As editor of the monthly magazine, Drum, I was approached not by Sweeting himself but by his wife, a thin, husky-voiced African-American lady, to run an article on Sweeting's work. I was quite keen to do it, but unfortunately, Sweeting said he had left the books that would support his claims in the US. As a hard-boiled journalist, this sounded like a self-serving excuse, and I stalled the lady by saying that it wasn’t possible for me to do anything until I could verify his statements independently.

    I wasn’t happy to stall them, for I wanted – emotionally – to accept Sweeting’s claims. But intellectually, I was apprehensive that if I ran his claims, which stood on its head the orthodox view that almost everything we knew about civilisation was to be traced to the Greeks, I would become a laughing stock, at least in academic circles.

    My caution was, however, not baseless: Even as I was trying to find ways of making sense of Sweeting’s work, the American magazine, Newsweek, got hold of some of his postcards and made fun of them in a derisive article entitled, ‘If you have no history, write one!’

    That, fortunately, did not deter Ghana’s ruling party, the Convention People’s Party (CPP) from commissioning Sweeting to paint some very beautiful murals that greeted visitors to the CPP Headquarters in Accra, with the themes he was so keen to propagate – the Greeks sitting at the feet of African savants, acquiring knowledge. It was to take 30 years or so for Martin Bernal to publish ‘Black Athena’ (published by Rutgers University Press (1987) ISBN 0-8135-1277-8) and provide the intellectual substance that conclusively supported the ideas in Sweeting’s postcards.

    Meanwhile, very soon after my encounter with Earl Sweeting, friends of mine studying history or archaeology at the University of Ghana, Legon – among them the late Chris Hesse (who became Ghana's High Commissioner in Zimbabwe) Annan Cato (former Ghana High Commissioner in London and Jimmy Anquandah, now Professor of Archaeology at Legon – began to talk excitedly about a writer called Basil Davidson, who, they said, was writing the ‘real’ history of ancient Africa.

    These discussions were done in hushed tones – almost as if they were discussing contraband – because the firm line Legon at the time (an institution mainly staffed by Britons, of course) was that any touting of African historical greatness stemmed from ‘charlatan’ sources.

    The historical tradition taught at Legon in those early days was largely predicated upon the view, expressed by a respected British historian and philosopher, David Hume that:

    ‘I am apt to suspect the negroes and in general, all the other species of men (for there are four or five different kinds) to be naturally inferior to the whites. There never was a civilized nation of any other complexion than white, nor even any individual eminent either in action or speculation… Not to mention our colonies, there are Negroe slaves dispersed all over Europe, of which none ever discovered any symptoms of ingenuity; tho’ low people, without education, will start up amongst us, and distinguish themselves in every profession.’

    But Hume‘s pronouncement was a blatant lie. For a Ghanaian, Anton Wilhelm Amo, an Nzema (a sub-group of the Akan people of Ghana) had, even before Hume wrote in 1753, established himself in Germany as one of the great thinkers of his time.

    Amo was born in Awukena, near Axim, in 1711. When he was only about four years old, he was taken to Amsterdam by the Dutch East India Company. There, he was given as a present to Anthony Ulrich, Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, to whose palace in Wolfenbüttel Amo was taken. Treated as a member of the Duke's family, he was educated at the University of Halle. He finished his preliminary studies in 1729 – a mere two years, his dissertation being: ‘The Rights of Moors in Europe’.

    Amo then moved to the University of Wittenberg, where he studied logic, metaphysics, physiology, astronomy, history, law, theology, politics, and medicine. He also acquired six languages (English, French, Dutch, Latin, Greek, and German). He gained his doctorate in philosophy at Wittenberg in 1734. His thesis was ‘On the Absence of Sensation in the Human Mind and its Presence in our Organic and Living Body.’ That was a full 21 years before David Hume made his ignorant remark quoted above.

    Amo achieved more: He returned to Halle as a lecturer in philosophy and was made a Professor in 1736. In 1738, he wrote his second major work: ‘Treatise on the Art of Philosophising Soberly and Accurately’. Ironically, the Wikipedia biography of Amo states that Amo, writing 15 years before Hume published his racist views, ‘developed an empiricist epistemology very close to that of philosophers such as John Locke and David Hume’. So Hume might well have been influenced by Amo’s work, whilst condemning Amo’s race!

    If David Hume could be excused for not knowing any better, the same cannot be said of the famous British historian, Hugh Trevor-Roper (Professor of History at Oxford university and author of ‘The Last Days of Hitler’), who stated in 1963 – in terms that suggested that the world had stood still since David Hume’s days – that ‘perhaps in the future, there will be some African history to teach. But at present there is none’.

    It can be seen from the foregoing that when Basil Davidson published his ‘Old Africa Rediscovered’ [Victor Gollancz, London, 1959] and it fell into the hands of my student friends in the Ghana of the early 1960s, they were handed an intellectually revolutionary weapon. They changed the central themes of African history from: When Europeans first came to our continent; what they did once here; and the ‘benign’ changes they wrought in the lives of the ‘savage’ natives they came to find – to: What great civilisations existed on African soil at a time when the people of many European countries were still clothed in skins.

    The recommendation of my student friends induced me to buy ‘Old Africa Rediscovered’. Reading that book was like being knocked on the head with a hammer! A soft hammer, however, that benignly scraped away part of one’s brain cells and replaced them with new, vibrant ones that ensured that one maintained a sane attitude to the world thereafter. For how could the finely balanced society in which I was brought up, and which had survived slavery, ethnic wars, famine and pestilence, be dismissed as ‘barbarous’ by ‘historians’ who did not even speak my language?

    The history I had been taught in school, in such textbooks as ‘A Short History of the Gold Coast’, by W E F Ward, talked endlessly about wars between, say, the Ashantis and the British, or the Ashantis and other Ghanaian ethnic groups. I still remember two names from that type of history – Kwadwo Otibu and Kweku Aputae. They seemed to have cost their people a lot of blood and yet for absolutely nothing, as far as I can remember!

    It appeared from such ‘histories’ that Africa was a land full of barbarous peoples ‘until the whiteman came’. Then the whiteman endured a lot of troubles, but succeeded in stamping out such evils as ‘human sacrifice’, ‘panyarring’ and ‘slavery’ (which incidentally, was carried out only by such slave raiders as ‘Samory and Babatu’ or some Ashanti Kings.)

    The role of the whiteman in the slave trade – in building boats specifically meant to transport as many slaves as possible from Africa to overseas destinations; in bringing to Africa iron chains, leg shackles, handcuffs, branding irons, neck-irons and other instruments specially designed and forged in Europe and then brought to Africa – were conspicuous by their almost total absence from the history we learned.

    But even more shocking – from a backward glance – was the dearth of information about relevant African empires such as Ghana, Mali, Songhai, Mossi, Zulu, Xhosa, Matabele, Great Zimbabwe, Bakongo and others which had not only impressed visitors with their wealth, but were immensely resilient because they had somehow evolved highly advanced social intervention mechanisms that enabled their peoples to survive war, disease and famine, and to even resist – temporarily, alas! – the guns and cannons with which the whitemen often announced their arrival.

    Most of these books, such as the aforementioned ‘Old Africa Rediscovered’, ‘The Search For Africa’ (ISBN: 978-0-85255-714-3 Published by James Currey, Oxford,1994) Black Mother (Victor Gollancz, London 1961) and many others, can be found on the Internet.

    Basil Davidson began to fill in the gaps for us. Each book – he wrote more than 30 – was a revelation. Then, in 1984, he crowned his research into the history of Africa by using the powerful medium of television to link the past and the present of the continent. In a production called simply, ‘AFRICA’, he and my very good friend, the late, erudite television producer, John Percival (whom I worked with in producing the documentary, ‘Rich Man, Poor Man’, for BBC Television) brought the continent alive for viewers of Channel 4 TV in Britain.

    John Percival gave me advance copies of the tapes of the AFRICA programmes before they were televised, and I had an absolutely marvellous time running them and digesting the information. Basil Davidson had come full circle in my mind. When I attended the premiere of the series in London, I had the unique honour of meeting Father Trevor Huddleston, another pioneer historian of Africa, whose book, ‘Naught For Your Comfort’, was the first book to present to me, a vivid description of the oppression blacks were living under in apartheid South Africa.

    So much has Basil Davidson’s work enriched the world's understanding of Africa that one scholar, Barbara Ransby (community organiser and co-founder of the Ella Baker-Nelson Mandela Centre, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA, who teaches history at De Paul University, Chicago) has accorded Davidson this supreme accolade: ‘I assumed he was an African or of African descent!’

    Barbara Ransby wrote:

    ‘I first encountered the writings of Basil Davidson when I was an undergraduate student at Columbia University in the early 1980s. I had already been a political activist and organiser for several years before returning to college… I was told right away by my professors that in order to be an objective scholar, one had to be totally divorced from one’s subject emotionally and in every other way. The prescription for quality scholarship was what has been termed by Parker Palmer and others as “bloodless objectivism”.

    ’I thought to myself how could I ever write about the struggles of oppressed people without infusing my own passions and strivings into my work? … How could I research and write about movements for liberation in the so-called Third World, without revealing my partisanship and forfeiting my credibility?

    ‘Fortunately, Basil Davidson offered me a way out. Although we never met, he was one of a handful of scholar-activists who offered me an alternative model of what and who a radical intellectual could be, and demonstrated to me that political activism and good academic work were not mutually exclusive…’

    Davidson was a major influence on a whole generation of young scholars who wanted to research African history more out of solidarity with progressive forces on the continent, rather than as a result of some vague interest in an exotic dissertation topic. Writing in the 1950s and 1960s, at a time when Africa herself was in the throes of a revolutionary struggle against colonialism, Davidson’s early work was not only an inspiration to progressives inside academia, but was an important resource for African leaders themselves. Ransby wrote:

    ‘It is unclear to me whether his relationship with and respect for leaders like [Amilcar] Cabral grew out of his research, or whether his research was inspired by his personal relationship with African revolutionaries. In any case, those interests and experiences became inseparable over the years and are reflected in Davidson’s writings…

    ‘When Davidson began his research and writing on Africa, racist Tarzan movies were the main channel through which most westerners experienced Africa… One of the myths that Davidson’s powerful book, ‘The African Slave Trade’ (James Currey 1961) effectively debunks is the notion that sub-Saharan Africa really had no significant history before the Europeans arrived…Basil Davidson gave us a very different image; one which belied the racist myths which had permeated academic discourse as much as popular culture…

    'I must confess that, after reading some of his work and initially knowing nothing about Davidson, the man, I assumed he was African or of African descent, largely because he wrote with such honesty and compassion about his subject… I was surprised to learn otherwise.’ (Published in Race and Class October 1994)

    Basil Davidson was born in Bristol, England, on 9 November 1914 and died on 9 July 2010. His writing ability and the discipline that saw him through 30 books is all the more amazing because he left school at the early age of 16. His first break came when, after editing some obscure publications, he was appointed to be a correspondent of The Economist magazine in Paris. Whilst travelling around Europe for the magazine, he learnt several European languages. So when the Second World War broke out in 1939 and he joined the British army, he was considered excellent material for the British wartime secret service, the ‘Special Operations Executive’ (SOE).

    The SOE sent him to Hungary, from where he also worked in the Balkans. He was captured by the Italian allies of Hitler. Luckily for him, the British had also captured some minor Italian royal duke in Ethiopia and a prisoner swap was arranged whereby Davidson was exchanged for the duke. Davidson ended the war as a Colonel, decorated with the Military Cross, the 3rd highest medal for British officers.

    However, after the war, the brave and extremely intelligent Davidson was passed over for any official position in Britain, because officialdom had tagged him as a ‘dangerous fellow traveller’ mainly because of his association with Tito and other European communists who fought against Hitler. The British embraced the wartime heroism of these leftists and exploited it to the full. But once the war was over, they just became Cold War undesirables. Even when Davidson was offered an appointment outside the UK – as a UNESCO editor in Paris – British officials vetoed the appointment.

    Thrown on his own resources as a journalist once again, Davidson described accurately, the rise of apartheid in South Africa, and was promptly listed as a ‘prohibited immigrant’ to South Africa. He turned his attention to the racists in Central African Federation, as well as the Portuguese territories in Africa – Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique and Angola. He faced hostility everywhere imperialism reigned. Once, he was invited to stay with a police commissioner whom his family knew – even as the man's office was in the process of ejecting him from the (then) Tanganyika (now Tanzania). He politely declined to become the guest of his ‘enemy’!

    His books on Africa contain exquisite, clearly-written quotes that show no ambiguity about where he stood. One is this:

    ‘There is a false myth [Davidson wrote] that surrounds this majestic [Egyptian] civilization. Visiting Europeans refused to believe that Africans indigenous to inner Africa could have created it. They would rather us believe that this city was created in its own bubble, apart from the rest of Africa and its people. But, the evidence shows that the main migration toward the Nile River and Egypt was from the African communities of the Sahara. Some evidence of this includes the fact that even the Egyptian Pharaohs are painted as black in surviving artwork. [emphasis added]. Many [ancient] Egyptians were reddish-pink in colour, showing a mix of the indigenous people and the Nubians. The Pharaohs built temples which were absolutely African, obviously to impress the southern Africans. . . The Greek explorer Herodotus described the scene most accurately when he said that the various races in the world were ‘different but equal.’

    Another valuable quote is this:

    ‘While searching for gold, white explorers first saw a city in the heart of Africa built of stone hundreds of years ago …These kingdoms were as good and well governed as the European medieval ones. Evidence shows that earlier records prove that other outsiders admitted this about Africa, proving that racism is a relatively new concept…The mutual respect between black and white, which once existed, was also destroyed [by racism]. Science has given us a new look into Africa's history ... It debunks the preposterous myth of the inferiority and sub-human status of the African people.’

    And finally, this judgement on perhaps the most controversial issue in African history: in the ‘balance’ of what might be called the ‘profit and loss’ account of the Atlantic slave trade, who does bear the greater responsibility for the heinous crime against humanity that slave trade was: Europe or Africa?:

    Judge Basil Davidson: ‘Africa and Europe were jointly involved [in the slave trade]. Yet it is also true that Europe dominated the connection, vastly enlarged the slave trade, and continually turned it to European advantage and to African loss.’

    No wonder it was assumed by some that Basil Davidson was an African! Africa thanks him. May he rest in peace. Our condolences go to his wife Marion, and their three sons.


    * Cameron Duodu is a journalist, writer and commentator.
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

    Of fallen and persecuted journalists

    Dibussi Tande


    cc Unnamed
    The arrest of three journalists in Cote d’Ivoire for publishing a leaked report on alleged corruption in the coffee and cocoa trade, and the death of Pius Njawe, Cameroonian journalist and founder of newspaper Le Messager, are among the key stories covered in this week’s round-up of the African blogosphere.

    Global Voices Advocacy raises the alert about three journalists arrested in Cote d’Ivoire for publishing an leaked report on alleged corruption in the coffee and cocoa trade:

    ‘Three journalists from [Le Nouveau Courrier] have been arrested since Tuesday July 13th for publishing a leaked report on alleged corruption in the cocoa and coffee trade in Côte d'Ivoire.

    ‘The three journalists – Editor Saint Claver Oula, publisher Stéphane Guédé and managing editor Théophile Kouamouo – were arrested by plain-clothes police on public prosecutor Raymond Tchimou Fehou’s orders and taken into custody after refusing to reveal their sources during a surprise visit at the Nouveau Courrier's offices. That morning Le Nouveau Courrier had published the first instalment in a series that was to last the whole week on the embezzlement investigation into 30 people in the coffee and cocoa national industry. According to Le Nouveau Courrier, these alleged policemen didn't have a search warrant but they carried out a search of all the computers at the newspaper's offices, looking to seize the original documents of the investigation that were to be published in subsequent days. During the search a computer was removed and criminal police superintendant Maxime Gogoua and other police officers pointed their guns at members of the staff.’

    Women’s Rights writes about the use of rape as weapon of war in the Congo:

    ‘There's been a lot written about the use of rape as a weapon of war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Now, the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative has found a 17-fold increase in the number of civilian rapes. Rape as war has become rape as culture. Nicholas Kristoff has written about this in Liberia, and now it's happening in the Congo.

    ‘Researchers surveyed over 4,000 women who sought treatment at one of the hospitals in the Eastern part of Congo, the ground zero of rape. They found that while war rapes were declining, civilian rapes had increased dramatically: 17-fold. Not doubled, nor tripled, nor even quadrupled, but increased 17-fold. We don't even have a special word for that sharp an increase.

    ‘The researchers speculate that the increase is the result of men who have left rebel groups, but have not given up their war raping ways, and a general cultural acceptance of sexual violence. As a former United Nations official explained, violence societies beget violent societies and this won't be corrected in a single generation.’

    Mtoto wa jirani warns that the inability or unwillingness of African tech leaders to be true leaders may kill technology innovation on the continent:

    ‘Instead of supporting the growth of upcoming tech projects in Africa, tech leaders are “busy” nursing their pet projects, which, in my opinion, are not any making positive impacts in Africa!

    ‘On roles, Africa’s tech leaders should be focusing their efforts on nurturing new talent and innovations that not only aim to advance technology in Africa, but also aim to help Africa and its peoples in some way. For any techie, this should be a priority. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Most leaders would rather spend their time and effort hopping from one conference to the other talking about the issues in the tech space and doing nothing about them!

    ‘How many projects, people or talent have you nurtured? Have you brought them to the same success level as your own pet project? Or is it not a priority in the context of technological advancement in Africa? Let’s visit your email inbox. How many unreplied messages do you have (especially the ones explicitly asking for your help)? How many have you replied superficially? How many have you followed up?

    ‘Unless we change our attitudes and behaviors to more positive influences, this current worrying trend WILL kill the growth of African technology.’

    Writing in The Huffington Post, Omoloye Sowore of Sahara Reporters focuses public attention on the largely ignored oil spills in Nigeria:

    ‘The story line sounds familiar. A big oil company (in this case ExxonMobil) leaks vast amounts of oil, pollutes the waters (in this case the Atlantic Ocean) killing the fish, local industries and any hopes of a rapid clean up.

    ‘It's time the world paid attention. I've been reporting this story since ExxonMobil decided to import a 30-year-old leaking oil platform to Nigeria from Angola, a platform even Angola's government regulators rejected! I'm no businessman, but that doesn't exactly sound like a good investment.

    ‘But just as BP has handled its oil spill disaster off in the Gulf of Mexico, ExxonMobil and the Nigerian government are handling things incredibly poorly too. In fact, they're trying to act as if this spill hasn't happened. American media outlets have been denied access to Nigeria. The government has imposed a 50-mile media blackout around the spill site -- from land, air and sea -- so no one can get close and see the disaster first hand. My sources tell me that ExxonMobil officials have been bribing local Nigerian officials in the hope they can "make it all go away"...

    ‘Here's what ExxonMobil and the government in Nigeria don't want you to know. They don't want you to know this 30-year-old platform is still leaking at least five thousand of barrels of crude a day. They don't want you to know that they can't fix the leak (sounds familiar again doesn't it?) They don't want you to know that if the current pipes break further before they can fix the platform, it will release 60 to 100 thousand of barrels of oil a day.’

    Over at Destination: South Africa, Canadian journalist Anjali Nayar whose World Cup blog chronicled her journey by bus, car, bike, foot and plane from the Ivory Coast (passing through Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon) to South Africa, reviews her three-month odyssey:

    ‘Over the last week in South Africa, the street-side stacks of flags, jerseys and side mirror Speedos have more-or-less cleared out. After weeks of solid sales, the demand for stockpiles of cheap Chinese-made World Cup goods is over.

    ‘A few days after the relatively 'ugly' final between the Netherlands and Spain, life has pretty much returned to normal in South Africa. Airport queues are thinning, schools are back in session, and in the workplace, people are re-directing their time to Facebook...

    ‘As I deflated my soccer ball for one last flight home (with the entrails of a bic pen), I reminisced about all the people and places I had crossed over the last three months. It took an epic journey to learn about what soccer means to Africa, but also to learn about what the game means to me, personally…

    ‘I loved every minute of the drive, the discipline, and the intense competition. And when I saw the golden glitter shining down on the Spanish team, I could feel their elation, their victory, because I've felt it before.

    ‘But on this trip I also learned the joy of when there aren't any rules, any sidelines or any teams. On my trip, whatever nonsense happened during the day, I always looked forward to getting out there on the grass or dirt and just playing.

    ‘I played with some of Africa's big stars, like Roger Milla, and many more people, who despite big dreams will never make it out of the ghetto. It's a journey, which has given me (and I hope you) more insight into the African continent, the continent I've called home for the last four years.’

    Agendia Aloysius pays tribute to Cameroonian journalist Pius Njawe who died in a car accident in the United States:

    ‘I lack words here. The heart breaking news was too harsh to be true, too bitter to swallow. I do not even know where to start or end. I did not want to believe Njawe was dead. But yes, he was killed. Yes, Njawe was killed in a ghastly car accident in the US state of Virginia in the afternoon of Monday July 12, 2010.

    ‘Njawe was in the US attending the convention of Cameroon Diaspora for Change CAMDIAC-USA. As a freedom fighter, Njawe died in the course of doing what he liked most. Struggling for the emancipation of Cameroon and Cameroonians... Njawe dedicated all his life for the development of Cameroon. He fought relentlessly for the freedom of the press and mankind. He was an opinion leader, a human rights activist... He is said to have been arrested 126 times and imprisoned thrice in his 30 year career. Njawe was the first ever and youngest Cameroonian to dedicate his life to freedom of the press and human rights. This is why at 22, in 1979 he was already a publisher of a newspaper, Le Messager. This newspaper has turned out to be Cameroon most vocal media outlet...

    ‘It was Le Messager that did the most detailed coverage of 1984 abortive coup d’état. It was Le Messager that extensively covered the 1990 university unrest and political turmoil, it was Le Messager that spearheaded the coverage of all elections in Cameroon and their controversies. It was Le Messager that covered in detail, the massacre of university students in 2005, 2006 and 2007 in Buea, Yaoundé and Douala... It was Le Messager that spoke against the modification of the constitution to cancel presidential term limits. The list is endless, and all these were under the directorship of the indefatigable Pius Njawe...

    ‘There is no doubt, absolutely no doubt that certain quarters will be rejoicing in Cameroon. A contingent of neo-colonial administrators left for Paris on the eve of Njawe's death to celebrate the colonial master's national day. No mincing of words here. Yes, they will be happy.’


    * Dibussi Tande blogs at Scribbles from the Den.
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

    US foreign policy and Ethiopia

    Steel vices, clenched fists and closing walls (part I)

    Alemayehu G. Mariam


    cc A H
    It seems the concern for the liberation of the oppressed injected into US foreign policy is merely a muted growl from a seemingly ‘toothless and clawless (paper) tiger’, writes Alemayehu G. Mariam. Mariam voices the frustrations of those in Ethiopia who lay witness to the empty human rights rhetoric of US foreign policy makers, and urges the US to back up its big human rights talk with big human rights action in the country so to avoid its descent as a silent witness to the crimes of dictatorship.


    Teddy ‘The Rough Rider’ Roosevelt, the twenty-sixth president of the US, had many faults, but one of them was not an inability to distinguish between talk and action. The old warhorse understood that ‘Rhetoric is a poor substitute for action, and we have trusted only to rhetoric. If we are really to be a great nation, we must not merely talk; we must act big.’ Roosevelt believed the US should ‘Speak softly and carry a big stick’. Exactly a century later, appeasement seems to be the hallmark of US foreign policy, at least in dealing with the world’s thugs operating gangsterdoms disguised as governments. The new American slogan appears to be: ‘Talk big about human rights and watch from the sidelines with folded arms as thugs and gangsters clamp their peoples’ heads in steel vices, punch them in the gut with clenched fists and hang, draw and quarter them behind closed prison walls.’ Has the mighty eagle turned clucking chicken?


    In his inaugural speech, President Barack Obama extended an open hand to the world’s thugs clad in the robes of state: ‘To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.’ In July 2009, in Ghana, President Obama artfully told Africa’s ‘strongmen’ that they have been driving on the wrong side of history for so long that they are headed straight for history’s dustbin:

    ‘Development depends upon good governance. That is the ingredient which has been missing in far too many places, for far too long. That is the change that can unlock Africa's potential… History offers a clear verdict: governments that respect the will of their own people are more prosperous, more stable, and more successful than governments that do not… No person wants to live in a society where the rule of law gives way to the rule of brutality and bribery. That is not democracy, that is tyranny, and now is the time for it to end… Make no mistake: history is on the side of these brave Africans [citizens and their communities driving change], and not with those who use coups or change constitutions to stay in power. Africa doesn't need strongmen, it needs strong institutions.’

    In July 2010, almost exactly a year to the week of President Obama’s Ghana speech, US secretary of state Hilary Clinton gave a speech in Poland on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the founding of the Community of Democracies (an intergovernmental organisation of democracies and democratising countries with a stated commitment to strengthening and deepening democratic norms and practices worldwide) and singled out Ethiopia along with Zimbabwe, the Democratic Republic of Congo and others to warn the world that ‘we must be wary of the steel vice in which governments around the world are slowly crushing civil society and the human spirit’. She cautioned that the ‘walls are closing in’ on civic organisations, human rights advocates and other nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) that press for social change and shine a light on governments' shortcomings. She pointed out: ‘Last year, Ethiopia imposed a series of strict new rules on NGOs. Very few groups have been able to re-register under this new framework, particularly organisations working on sensitive issues like human rights.’

    In December 2009, Secretary Clinton delivered a speech in which she set out the basic human rights principles undergirding US foreign policy in the age of thugs and gangsters masquerading as political leaders:

    ‘Throughout history and in our own time, there have been those who violently deny that truth. Our mission is to embrace it, to work for lasting peace through a principled human rights agenda, and a practical strategy to implement it… [There are] many who hold power and who construct their position against an “other” – another tribe or religion or race or gender or political party. Standing up against that false sense of identity and expanding the circle of rights and opportunities to all people – advancing their freedoms and possibilities – is why we do what we do… We stand for democracy not because we want other countries to be like us, but because we want all people to enjoy the consistent protection of the rights that are naturally theirs… But it is crucial that we clarify what we mean when we talk about democracy, because democracy means not only elections to choose leaders, but also active citizens and a free press and an independent judiciary and transparent and responsive institutions that are accountable to all citizens and protect their rights equally and fairly… Human rights, democracy, and development are not three separate goals with three separate agendas… We have to tackle all three simultaneously with a commitment that is smart, strategic, determined and long-term. We should measure our success by asking this question: Are more people in more places better able to exercise their universal rights and live up to their potential because of our actions?’

    Secretary Clinton outlined the four pillars of the Obama administration’s approach to ‘putting our principles into action’. She declared that US policy is founded on ‘a commitment to human rights [which] starts with universal standards and with holding everyone accountable to those standards, including ourselves’. Accountability means ‘that governments take responsibility by putting human rights into law and embedding them in government institutions; by building strong, independent courts, competent and disciplined police and law enforcement’. Second, ‘we must be pragmatic and agile in pursuit of our human rights agenda – not compromising on our principles, but doing what is most likely to make them real. And we will use all the tools at our disposal, and when we run up against a wall, we will not retreat with resignation or recriminations, or repeatedly run up against the same well, but respond with strategic resolve…’ Third, Clinton pledged to ‘support change driven by citizens and their communities. The project of making human rights a human reality cannot be just one for governments. It requires cooperation among individuals and organisations within communities and across borders’. Finally, she announced the US ‘will widen [its] focus. We will not forget that positive change must be reinforced and strengthened where hope is on the rise, and we will not ignore or overlook places of seemingly intractable tragedy and despair’.


    Secretary Clinton said the acid test for the success or failure of US foreign policy is whether ‘more people in more places are better able to exercise their universal rights and live up to their potential because of our actions?’ By this measure, US policy in Ethiopia has been a total, unmitigated and dismal failure. The evidence is overwhelming and irrefutable. Meles Zenawi, the poster child of African dictatorships, has not only ‘closed the walls’, he has also sealed the roof and nailed shut the doors and windows on Ethiopian society. Opposition leaders are threatened, intimidated, jailed and killed. Civic society organisations are criminalised, decertified and cut off from funding sources. Political prisoners fill the country’s jails. The country’s first and only female political party leader in history, Birtukan Midekssa, remains imprisoned for life on the ridiculous charge that she denied receiving a pardon in 2007 for her kangaroo court conviction on trumped up charges the year before. Ethiopia ranks at the top of the most corrupt countries in the world despite billions in US and Western aid. In the 2010 Failed States Index, Ethiopia is ranked 17 out of 177 countries (Somalia is ranked as the most failed state). There is no freedom of speech or of the press. Journalists and human rights advocates are harassed and arrested. Independent newspapers are shuttered. Even the one-hour daily radio broadcasting service of the Voice of America (VOA) has been jammed by Zenawi’s explicit orders for the past several months in a flagrantly provocative act. Zenawi accused the VOA (the official international radio and television broadcasting service of the US government broadcasting in 44 languages), and by implication the US government, as the voice of hate and genocide in Ethiopia. Zenawi said the VOA has ‘copied the worst practices of radio stations such as Radio Mille Collines of Rwanda’. According to Zenawi, the VOA has become the VOI (Voice of Interhamwe).

    As to the third pillar of American foreign policy (‘change driven by citizens, civic society organisations and their communities’), the evidence is flabbergasting. According to a recent report of the ‘Ministry of Justice’ of Ethiopia, there were a ‘total of 3,522 NGOs (non-governmental organizations) registered before the country introduced the new law, [and] only 1,655 have so far been able to reregister while the rest (nearly 50%) vanished’.[1] The ‘ministry’ further reported that ‘out of the total 1,655 NGOs, which so far are able to be reregistered, 218 have changed their names while 17 shifted from their previous objectives to other objectives’.

    Did US actions help promote free and fair elections? Zenawi’s allied party won 99.6 per cent of the parliamentary seats in May 2010. Zenawi chafed publicly at the loss of the 0.4 per cent and pledged resolutely: ‘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.’ No doubt, in 2015, the vote will be 100 per cent for Zenawi and his party! The European Union Elections Observation Mission (EOM), The White House and the US Department of State were aghast at the results and bleated: ‘The elections fell short of international commitments.’ They could not quite bring themselves to say the ‘r’ word: Rigged!

    Are more Ethiopians today better able to exercise their universal rights and live up to their potential because of US actions? (Just a rhetorical question.)


    Some people cynically and pejoratively characterise US human rights declarations in its foreign policy as hypocritical ‘cheap talk’. They argue that the US would rather cluck about democracy, freedom and human rights in the abstract than do something concrete to help protect it in societies suffering under dictatorships. I disagree. American talk is not cheap because America talks with its taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars. Since 1991, American taxpayers have shelled out $3.2 billion in humanitarian assistance to Ethiopia.[2] Zenawi’s regime has received $26 billion in development aid from the West during the same time, the lion’s share coming from the wallets and purses of hard working American taxpayers.[3] Without American tax dollars bankrolling the dictatorship in Ethiopia, it could not last even a single day.

    I will concede that American talk is cheap for the dictators in Ethiopia. For them, America is all bark, and no bite. The lofty words of President Obama and Secretary Clinton go in one ear and exit clean through the other. The US can moan and groan, gripe and grouse about human rights violations in Ethiopia, but its bark is no more threatening than the growl of a toothless and clawless (paper) tiger. ‘They ain’t gonna do diddley-squat. Let the Americans talk until they turn blue in the face,’ the dictators cackle. But America’s colour is not just blue; it is also red and white. Ethiopia’s dictators see only the blue that signifies American vigilance, patience and perseverance against injustice. They don’t know what the red and white signify. It’s time to let them know the real meaning of the colours in the stars and stripes, President Obama! And if I may add, sir, it is more effective to ‘speak softly and carry a big stick’ when dealing with Africa’s tin pot dictators.



    * 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.



    Electoral politics in Africa

    Zaya Yeebo


    cc A H
    With a focus on the role of ‘free and fair elections’ in promoting democracy, Zaya Yeebo takes a look at how electoral politics are shaping up across the continent. ‘The important consideration for the state, the media, civil society and political parties,’ says Yeebo, ‘is to work within an African framework, and for international supporters and interlopers to recognise the local reality, and not impose conditions based on geopolitical and economic interest.’

    In modern democratic systems of representative governance, elections are periodic contests which determine the next set of rulers in a nation state. In many ways, the notion of a free and fair election is subject to numerous interpretations and like most political concepts is always contentious. In essence, elections should be held in an atmosphere which is ‘free from the clouds of traditional claims to political legitimacy based on perceived roles played in the independence struggle’ and by extension free from colonial underpinnings or used as a cover for the protection of colonial and neocolonial interest.


    Why are some countries able to organise ‘free and fair elections’ while others are not? What constitutes a ‘free and fair’ election? Is a ‘free and fair elections’ simply the absence of obvious and overt rigging or a reflection of the maturity of the political institutions; or a process which is judged by the citizens to be fair, honest, and reflects the will of the people?

    The importance of elections lies in their traditional importance and to some extent in the way they promote or truncate democracy. As a tool of democracy, elections should be the only basis for choosing a government or representatives of the people. It appears that discussions about having free and fair elections always assume certain certainties enumerated as ‘global norms’.

    But within these global norms, certain facts begin to emerge which I believe are African specific. The widely held assumption that conducting a ‘free and fair elections’ is tantamount to having a democratic system of government is sometime overstated. Indeed, recent events have shown that this may not always be the case.

    Secondly, such discussions always tend to ignore economic and social factors such as economic mismanagement, levels of poverty; unemployment, ethnicity (tribalism) and why elections tend to widen, not bridge the ethnic divide in some African countries (e.g. Kenya in 2007; Ghana in 2008).

    However, the importance of conducting free and fair elections can never be overstated. The post election violence witnessed by Zimbabwe, threats of violence in South Africa, Ethiopia in 2005, and Kenya in 2007, are constant reminders of the need for ‘free and fair elections’ whose results are incontestable, and are respected by all citizens and institutions of democracy (e.g. including political parties, civil society groups, and the security forces).

    The notion of a free and fair elections have become even more prominent as countries have through the years, failed to conduct elections in a manner that could stand the test of a free and fair election. This problem is not African specific, and should not be treated it as such. In Asia, Latin America, and Europe and even in the United States of America, the conduct of elections has been subject to various contestations.


    Elections are the basis of ‘representative democracy’ and one of the many, but acceptable means of choosing and deselecting leaders in a democratic society. In past and recent African history, elections have become the mechanism for the transition from colonial rule to independence. In the military dictatorships of West Africa, elections became the basis for transition from military to civilian rule. Even when regimes have come to power through armed struggle (as was the case in Rwanda, Angola, Mozambique and Uganda to mention a few), elections are often used for legitimising the role of the victorious guerilla army.

    It has always been perceived that an election with observers who give their seal of approval is always a ‘successful one’, but organising free and fair elections requires more than a mass of election observers, whose presence, though reassuring, could also be used to mask undemocratic and unfair results – as in the case of West African transitions from military dictatorships to civilian regimes. Popular democracy must create the basis for frequent democratic ways of changing the political leadership of a country; the promotion of a democratic culture, based on tolerance and respect for diverse views and opinions.

    The popular will of the people, expressed through popular democracy must be the foundation of any political system built on the rule of law and respect for human rights. This requires the active and responsible role of civil society and other mass movements. Elections form a core component of such a democratic society, recognising that elections on their own do not lead to fundamental change, but are part of a process that will lead to the strengthening of national institutions and democratic processes. Elections are therefore important democratic processes.


    The political economy of African states, particularly, their colonial origins can provide a window to understanding why Africa is prone and vulnerable to elections malpractice and disputes. There is sometimes a conscious attempt to deny the impact of colonialism and now neocolonialism in certain events in Africa. Elections cannot be one of them.

    Electoral politics in post-colonial African states is very much linked to the character of the post-colonial state as the basis for the primitive accumulation of capital and for amassing economic power and wealth. In other words, the character of the post-colonial African state encouraged a winner takes all mentality to competitive electoral politics and by extension, the violation of the rules of democratic engagement, particularly political succession. The ethnicisation of politics in Africa has also contributed largely to the above.

    In the anti-colonial struggle, ethnicity became an important factor as the colonial elite from different ethnic groups jostled for power and influence through anti-colonial independence movements. As colonial edifices collapsed, some politicians and activists found comfort as tribal warlords, with no discernable ideas about nation building, except to protect the land, economic resources and power they either grabbed or inherited from the departing colonial power. Reflecting this view, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) notes that ‘ethnic followers vote along ethnic lines, believing that their “sons and daughters” can best act as gate keepers to protect their ethnic interests, if voted into power.’

    Ethnicity has been a key driver in elections with political leaders whipping up ethnic emotions among the electorate thus being the precursor to violence. This situation is not endemic to Kenya. Indeed, it is an African problem. Ethnic conflicts have played themselves in various forms in countries such as Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Uganda and Sudan. What most conflicts in Africa illustrate is the character of neocolonial state as one dominated by the largest ethnic groups, allowing these groups to use resources and sometimes state power to disadvantage their opponents opposition political parties.


    Democracy, it is said, is expensive business, and nowhere is this reflected more than at election time. Elections are expensive; both at the level of maintaining democratic Electoral Management Institutions and supporting political parties. In situations of severe poverty and deprivation as witnessed in Africa, individuals also become susceptible to manipulation and fall prey to financial inducements from politicians. Undoubtedly, poverty makes the electorate susceptible to monetary influences and therefore remains a severe impediment to organising free and fair elections in Africa. This is also related to the high cost of electioneering on the continent and elsewhere. Both the cost of maintaining the electoral administration and the high cost of electioneering are impediments to free and fair elections.

    Related to this factor is illiteracy, which poses its own problems, e.g. how are electoral regulations or the use of ballot papers to be explained to illiterate voters. In short, the limitations, indeed the imperfections of electoral administration must be realistically set against the problem of underdevelopment and the economic crisis of the state. In general however, geopolitical considerations can also influence the perceptions of an election as being free and fair. For instance the 2008 elections in Ghana were organised within the shadows of monumental flaws in Nigeria, Zimbabwe and Kenya, and political upheavals in Guinea and Mauritania. The need for an African success story meant that similar flaws in Ghana could have been overlooked.


    In the African context, free and fair elections imply that an election is conducted under electoral processes and systems that are open, transparent and in a climate in which political parties and candidates are free to campaign openly and without inhibition or fear of reprisals from the party in power.

    While elections in and of themselves do not lead to a democratic dispensation, it is widely accepted that countries which are able to hold free and fair elections, where the winning party is accountable and promotes good governance, accountability and expresses the popular will of the people, and where civil society is vibrant and free from state manipulation, are also able to deliver effective welfare services.

    The right to participate in an election is always guaranteed by the Constitution, which provides the institutional framework for free and fair elections. It is therefore incumbent that the Constitution clearly defines the parameters under which an election is held: Timing, conditions, voter register, role of political parties and independent election monitors from civil society and political parties.

    Various regional and global institutions have attempted to set out a framework for ensuring that elections are free and fair. For instance, as part of its mandate, the United Nations (UN) continues to provide electoral assistance as part of its efforts to promote free and fair elections in Members States. The Africa Union considers elections as the sole and legitimate ‘basis of the authority of any representative government and constitute a key element of the democratization process’. Article 4 of the Constitutive Act of the Africa Union therefore provides that: ‘Democratic elections should be conducted: (a) freely and fairly; (b) under democratic constitutions and in compliance with supportive legal instruments; (c) under a system of separation of powers that ensures in particular, the independence of the judiciary; (d) at regular intervals, as provided for in National Constitutions; (e) by impartial, all-inclusive competent accountable electoral institutions staffed by well-trained personnel and equipped with adequate logistics.’

    In line with this approach, the Africa Union also requires that ‘every citizen and political party shall accept the results of elections proclaimed to have been free and fair by the competent national bodies as provided for in the Constitution and the electoral laws and accordingly respect the final decision of the competent Electoral Authorities or, challenge the result appropriately according to the law.’


    For a nation or government to organise free and fair elections, certain institutional mechanisms should be in place. Political architecture and institutional support ensures that citizens are free to elect and be elected under rules and regulations that are clear to all contesting parties, that political parties are not only aware of these rules, but willing to abide by them in the spirit of democratic elections and fair play. Some of the institutional and political mechanisms are discussed below.


    The role of Independent Electoral Management Bodies (EMBs) or Electoral Commissions is crucial to the outcome of an election. The electoral body should derive its powers and mandate from the Constitution. This will include administering and implementing laws regarding the registration of voters; overseeing the actual conduct of elections, supervising the ballot and the count; promoting transparency at all levels and being accountable to the public and parliament where one exists. The EMB should also actively advocate the open participation by all political parties and the public; and provide voter information and civic education to raise awareness of electoral laws and governance issues to help the populace make an informed choice. But most important of all, its role is to ensure that elections are conducted in conformity with the laws of the country.

    In Africa, overwhelming evidence points to the fact that elections run by independent electoral bodies are more successful, and the results respected. In countries where election results have been respected, the state has ceded greater responsibility to the electoral administration such as the IIEC in Kenya, or the Electoral Commission in Ghana. A functioning and accountable Electoral Management Authority (eg the Interim Independent Electoral Commission in Kenya) is therefore essential to managing a free and fair electoral process. In the same way, in the absence of administrative clarity and the political will on the part of the Electoral Commission (EC) to enforce the rules, elections results will always be viewed with suspicion by the populace. In such an atmosphere, groups who feel swindled and abandoned by the electoral process will resort to non-democratic forms of protests.


    In addition to the institutional mechanisms for managing elections, civil society organisations – here defined to include non-governmental and faith based organisations, trade unions – play a very significant role in promoting free and fair elections.

    For example, in the period leading to an election, they provide civic education, creating awareness of the democratic and electoral processes and sometimes in reassuring a restive public. In recent elections in Kenya, civil society has led the advocacy for electoral reform, arguing for more effective mechanisms to ensure free and fair elections. Kenya civil society continues to engage with democratic institutions to advocate for mechanisms for a free and fair elections.

    During an election, civil society continues to play this role as elections observers and/or monitors, ensuring that rules laid down by the electoral body are followed, and that the election meets local and international standards of objectivity and fairness. In most countries, civil society organisations are active in pre-election periods, when they undertake civic education, promote awareness of the electoral process and promote public debates between candidates – government and opposition.


    To what extent are election observers key to a ‘free and fair election’? In most cases, it is acknowledged that the sole purpose of election observation is firstly, to help reduce irregularities, and also offer impartial advice to election officials where necessary. Some election observers have stayed within these professional boundaries. As the Kenya Domestic Observation Forum (KEDOF) report noted: ‘Election observers are not supposed to interfere in the electoral process and have no authority to change, improve or correct any shortcomings, or to request changes during the election process’. Thus, ‘observer missions are, strictly speaking, mandated to collect verify information concerning the election process, to analyse the observations and then, after the elections, to publish their findings’.

    Allowing observers to monitor an election has become part of the accessory of any election. An election where these observers are barred is considered fraudulent from the beginning. The activities of these supposedly ‘neutral’ election monitors have become an important part, first as a way of validating an election, and secondly, as a legitimising exercise. In Africa, no election is thought to be free and fair without a horde of foreign election observers. There are two types of election monitors: international and domestic. International election observers or monitors usually comprise international organisations, regional organisations (e.g. Africa Union), and international organisations (e.g. the Commonwealth) groups outside the host nation.

    The role of international election observers or monitors was given a significant boost by the United Nations when in October 2005, the UN 20 international democracy organisations signed on to the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation. This declaration encourages countries to allow for both international and domestic election observation. In most African elections, the presence of international observers reassures the weak opposition and politicians that the process will be free and fair. A review of the Ghana elections of 2008, noted: ‘The large and visible presence of foreign media, and diverse groups of international observers including the EU, the carter centre, the Africa Union, the Pan African Parliament the Commonwealth and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) contributed to increased public confidence in the process as well’. The role of foreign observers are usually complemented by domestic elections observers.

    Domestic observers also play a similar role. In the 2008 general elections in Ghana, and the 2007 elections in Kenya, local election observers contributed immensely to managing peaceful elections. But more than that, those observers can help to reduce or deter fraudulent election practices. Domestic election observers usually involve non-governmental organisations. Domestic election observers have a longer history of election observation in Africa than international observers. In South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana and Senegal, domestic observers have been essential to successful elections. Experience in Africa and Asia has demonstrated that domestic election monitors have certain advantages over their international counterparts.

    In both Kenya and Ghana, domestic organisations are rooted in the society, have a longer history of engagement and have cultural advantages (e.g. language) over their international counterparts, most of whom to tend to be election junkies or tourists. Domestic election observers also have the advantage of lessons learned over a long period of time.


    The role of civic education in promoting a free and fair election cannot be downplayed. Democracy requires informed participation of the electorate, but before this can happen, and to lessen conflict and confusion about the democratic process, citizens must remain informed and engaged. The electorate in any given situation needs knowledge, information and understanding of the competing political forces to make informed decisions about policy choices and avenues to voice their concerns. Civic education is the process by which the public is made aware of social and political rights and responsibilities, as well as the principles and practices of action. Civic education is used to create awareness of the various issues posed by politicians and candidates during an election, but more than that it, empowers voters and community actors with the tools, information, mobilisation skills and understanding of the political dynamics necessary to influence change during the electoral process.

    In some countries, this role is reserved for government-approved institutions with the mandate to provide impartial civic education and awareness to the general public (e.g. Ghana), in others, this role is reserved for the Electoral Commission (e.g. Kenya). Civil society organisations also provide civic education to large segments of the population using various creative methodologies. Civic education enables various interest groups – both state and non-state actors – to engage in a non-partisan education of voters using various methodologies, ranging from seminars and discussions to plays, poetry and drama. Civic education creates awareness of the electoral process, allowing political parties and competing candidates to set out their policies, thereby helping the electorate to make an informed choice.

    Elections remain the key avenues for changes of the guard. But this requires an institutional framework within the context of the country in question. Sometimes, ‘global norms’ are not enough and can overlook local realities. The important consideration for the state, the media, civil society and political parties is to work within an African framework, and for international supporters and interlopers to recognise the local reality, and not impose conditions based on geopolitical and economic interest.

    Kenya presents a lesson for other African countries, having organised more elections than many African countries. There are lessons to be learned. This can inform the election management authorities in planning for 2012. Kenya has the institutional capacity to organise and promote free and fair elections, however, some of the conditions enumerated above, are crucial to the process. In the case of Kenya, and in most countries, political will is usually in short supply. This needs to be addressed in preparation for 2010, if the country is to organise free and fair elections that will serve as an example to other African countries.


    * A version of this paper was presented at the Civil Society Conference in Nairobi, 10–11 May 2010.
    * Zaya Yeebo is programme manager for the UNDP Civil Society Democratic Governance Facility. He writes in his own capacity.
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

    AFRICOM, the kleptocratic state and under-class militancy

    Caroline Ifeka


    cc US Army
    The ‘War on Terror’ has provided US-NATO commands in Stuttgart and Brussels with justification for securitising ‘dangerous’ West African Muslim states, writes Caroline Ifeka. But competing with China to control strategic resources from oil to subterranean water around the Sahara and Sahel, they’re also quietly manoeuvring leases to exploit resources vital to US and EU capital accumulation. The principal cause of youth militancy around ethnicity and Islamic reformism in these regions, says Ifeka, is the ruling classes’ failure to share the rental incomes from – traditionally – community-owned resources. Community capacity building and restoration of a sense of agency and ownership rather than the militarisation of development, says Ifeka, is better strategy for diminishing discontent and building trust in democracy among the youth.

    The aim is no longer to transform the world, but (as the heresies did in their day) to radicalise the world by sacrifice. Whereas the system aims to realize it by force.
– Baudrillard (2002: 10)


    West Africa was of secondary military-economic interest to the US in the mid-1990s, compared to North Africa (Libya) and the Horn of Africa, but continuing difficulties in Middle Eastern oil supplies encouraged the US to seek petroleum providers elsewhere – the Caucasus, the south Atlantic ocean, and West Africa’s oil rich Gulf of Guinea states, especially Nigeria. Twenty years ago China was just beginning to prospect in West Africa for business and construction contracts, and so was not viewed then as a serious contender for access to and control over important African resources as oil and gas (Obi 2008). Today, nearly 750,000 Chinese are resident in Africa; 300 million emigrants to Africa may be planned (Michel and Beuret 2009: 4-5). The terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre on 11 September 2001 opened US eyes to the strategic advantage of relatively ‘safer’ West and West-Central African, especially Nigerian, sources of high quality crude oil rapidly transportable across the Atlantic ocean to refineries in populous cities on the North American eastern industrial seaboard. This major shift in US policy regarding West Africa took place at a time when arms sales by the world’s top arms exporters – the US, Russia and Germany – rose by a further 22 per cent between 2005-2010 (Norton-Taylor 2010).

    Since 2001 renewed religious riots, outbursts of alleged ‘terrorism’ in the Sahara-Sahel and northern Nigeria, and militant threats to African oil exports have spurred the US to establish US African Command (AFRICOM) in collaboration with NATO’s Special Forces (Keenan 2009). From 2006 onwards the US has carried out military and naval exercises in selected African states, including the Cape Verde archipelago proximate to oil blocks off Senegal, targeted for leasing to US multinational corporations (MNCs). AFRICOM was fully operational from 2008 (AFRICOM 2009; AFROL 2009a).

    The Pentagon appears to be intensifying plans in 2010, partnering with selected West African states (e.g. Senegal, Cape Verde, Ghana, Cameroon, Sao Tome and Principe, Mali, Niger), for further military exercises, training programmes and sales at discounted prices of modern fighter aircraft, automatic machine guns, and possible robotic aerial vehicles (US AFRICOM 2010). AFRICOM has in view certain locations in northern (e.g. Kano, Bornu, Bauchi, Yobe, Jos, Kaduna states), and southern Nigeria, principally the Niger Delta core oil producing states (Bayelsa, Rivers, Delta) as well as Lagos, the country’s sprawling commercial capital – estimated population 15 million, headquarters of MNC oil corporations, banks, and major Nigerian companies as Dangote Ltd and new light industries in partnership with Chinese companies.

    Militarisation is taking place in selected West African states whose pre-industrial economies are still geared, as in the colonial era, to export raw materials with little value added to the advantage of Western and Asian industrialised economies. For example, partial modernisation in Nigeria reflects the country’s status as a rentier state relying on oil revenues (Karl 1997). Its late emergence in the 1970s as West Africa’s potential industrial power was aborted by a military regime in the mid-1980s, following pressure by international financial and trade institutions (e.g. International Monetary Fund, World Bank, World Trade Organisation) that West African states remove tariff barriers on consumer and light industrial goods. An emerging Nigerian working class largely lost its economic base in factories producing clothing, shoes, matches, iron and steel products, buses, lorries, etc, that fostered class identity and action.

    Abortive economic modernisation in Nigeria, and Francophone Sahelian states such as Niger and Mali, seems to have sustained perceived ‘traditional’, i.e. customary community values and identities. Until recently, when mobilising in political protest subalterns did so, by and large, through religious or ethnic, rather than class, identities (c.f. Laclau 1977: 155 ff). Many dissident youth movements based on ‘customary’ ethnic and/or religious identities have a long tradition in rural communities; they seek to reclaim land, water, resource management, rental incomes, and to purify ‘governance’ in favour of just land reform and resource distribution (Parker & Rathbone 2007: 91ff) Yet militant groups may also be referred to locally by globalising tags that suggest community familiarity with struggles elsewhere; for example, northern Nigerian communities nickname Islamic fundamentalists ‘Taliban’ or ‘al-Qaeda’, indicating (hearsay) knowledge of the US ‘War on Terrorism’. Equally, there are stories of politically alienated educated young males training in al-Qaeda camps, though the 25 December 2009, Nigerian (‘Detroit’) suicide bomber’s field training appears inadequate.

    When resisting repression, youth coalesce around kin-based ethno-religious and clan identities that cohere around two dominant poles – ‘us, small people’ (clients) and ‘them, big men’ (patrons/godfathers) (Ifeka 2001b, 2006; Smith 2007). The ‘people’/’power’ opposition draws on a repertoire of customary representations and practices (e.g. initiation rituals, war gods, charms against bullets, juju ‘medicine’, language, religious texts, shrines) that authorise subaltern militant organisation. More recently, since the return to democracy in 1999, the growth of poverty and shared meanings of suffering, and on-going political violence between rulers and ruled, is contributing to a revival of representations of class identity and consciousness that elderly working men, peasant farmers, traders, teachers and petty clerks knew in the 1970s.

    Adopting a political economy approach, I disaggregate that over-used neoliberal concept of ‘the people’ into social classes; that is, groups differentiated by their unequal relationship to the means of production (capital) and power as owners/workers, but who yet express their socio-political worlds through customary institutions of patron-clientship. For example, subalterns and rulers construct the social formation in terms of unequal relations of power expressed in terms of relations between client (subordinate) and patron (dominant)– almost everyone is a patron and/or a client to someone else. Clientelistic relations cross cut but do not erase economic class divisions: For instance, on one level ministers and senior civil servants in command of the state and its revenues are the top patrons or men of mega-power, those lacking such access are their clients, but on another level middle ranking civil servants, company administrators, junior army officers are themselves patrons to many lesser others. Thus, power relations between patrons and clients defined in terms of upward and downwards informal and illicit flows of money/services constitute the country’s ‘real’ political economy (Joseph 1987; Ifeka 2001a, 2006, 2009; c.f. Laclau 1977). Fundamentalist religious movements or ethnic nationalists may draw on a mix of ‘traditional’ cultural symbols as well as those of economic inequality (‘big’/‘small’ men) to express under-class frustration and a strong desire, backed by force, for cleaner, more just governance with improved ‘dividends of democracy’ for the masses.

    Read the complete article here [PDF].


    * This article first appeared in ACAS Bulletin 85: US militarization of the Sahara-Sahel: Security, Space & Imperialism
    * Caroline Ifeka is an honorary research fellow in the Department of Anthropology, University College London.
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

    Al Shabaab meets the Devil



    Gado's latest cartoon…


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


    Kenya: Judgment on Nyayo House torture victims


    On 21 July, when ruling on a case where 21 victims of torture at Nyayo House had approached the High Court for justice, Lady Justice Hannah Okwengu found the State agents culpable of having violated human rights and fundamental freedoms with impunity. While the victims filed the case way back in 2004, it was a vindication that even if the wheels of justice grind slowly, they still deliver justice and reparations to those afflicted by human rights abuses. The Judgment is a citadel for the defence of human rights in Kenya in many ways.
    On 21 July, when ruling on a case where 21 victims of torture at Nyayo House had approached the High Court for justice, Lady Justice Hannah Okwengu found the State agents culpable of having violated human rights and fundamental freedoms with impunity. While the victims filed the case way back in 2004, it was a vindication that even if the wheels of justice grind slowly, they still deliver justice and reparations to those afflicted by human rights abuses. The Judgment is a citadel for the defence of human rights in Kenya in many ways.

    First, the Judgement notes that victims suffered many and diverse forms of human rights abuses, which are all prohibited by the Constitution of Kenya. The victims were tortured, treated cruelly, inhumanly and punished in degrading manner. They were further denied the rights to food, water, health, and also the right to a fair trial some of which are in the current Constitution and some are not, thereby extending rights other than those cited.

    Second, the Judgement found the victims’ case as legally-sound even through they lacked medical records, which did not in any way render such claims baseless since their affidavits, proved that butcherous State officials presided over the mayhem. Indeed, it was the AG with the ‘burden of proof’ to show that the violations did not occur.

    Third, while Section 74 of the Constitution of Kenya prohibits torture, inhuman treatment, and also degrading punishment, it does not define those acts. The Judgement was progressive by relying on regional and international human rights treaties to define these acts and thereby found a legal ground for the victims’ case. The Judgement placed on the executive arm an obligation to comply with the international treaties that Kenya has ratified. Consequently, this Judgment sets a more progressive precedent and jurisprudence in the discourse of human rights in Kenya.

    Fourth, the attempt by the AG to thwart justice by requesting the court that the case be referred to the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) was flatly denied and defeated. The Judgement stated that the applications and demands were beyond the jurisdiction of the TJRC and further the same body cannot bring about the relief being sought. Indeed, Lady Justice Okwengu argued that it would be an abuse of the court process for the court to allow the cases to be referred to the TJRC when such cases were so close to determination.

    Fifth, more attempts by the AG to scuttle the case by invoking the Public Authorities Limitations Act, which limits the period under which the government could be sued (maximum 3 years) was also thrashed out. The Judgement found that the victims had no way of suing government until after the 2002 General Elections, which ended Moi’s and Kanu’s reign. It is only after, that victims have had a legitimate access to court and justice was within reach.

    Sixth, the victims were granted compensation from the government ranging from 1 million to 3 million per victim. This Judgement showed that even if some of the alleged and mainly malicious charges (such as sedition or being members of an unlawful society) and that some of these cases were withdrawn midway through the years by the AG invoking nolle prosequi, or the victims having served their sentences fully, they still had to be compensated for the aforementioned crimes against human dignity.

    Finally, the Judgement found agents of the executive arm of government totally culpable and hence was sending a clear message to the executive arm about impunity. To date, the judiciary remains subservient to the executive arm, but the Judgement indicates that some members of the Judiciary can become more emboldened to the struggle for enjoyment and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Kenya.

    In conclusion, the Judgment was read when Kenya is on the verge of a major turning point in its history: the pending referendum on the Proposed Constitution. Unlike the current Constitution, the Proposed Constitution obligates the State, its officers, and all persons (including private companies) to respect, protect and promote fundamental freedoms, human rights, and human dignity. For example, the Proposed Constitution seeks to change the governance structure by providing for: a) separation of powers amongst the three arms of government; b) for a comprehensive and enforceable bill of rights and fundamental freedoms; and c) ensuring that powers of nolle prosequi shall never be invoked and/or abused without consent of the court. Therefore, it is obvious that for these victims, for ourselves and for our future generations, we have to VOTE YES!

    Comment & analysis

    Impunity in the DRC: Defending human rights

    Maurice Namwira and Emma Pomfret


    Some five years after the assassination of Pascal Kabungulu, formerly secretary general of DRC human rights group Héritiers de la Justice, Maurice Namwira, the organisation’s executive secretary, discusses activism, impunity from justice and Héritier’s work with Christian Aid with Emma Pomfret.

    In a nation that has experienced three decades of brutal dictatorship, followed by almost 15 years of war, Christian Aid’s partner organisations in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) live and work against a backdrop of poverty and a legacy of endemic corruption.

    The recent armed death threat against Emmanuel Lubala Mugisho, president of leading Congolese human rights organisation Héritiers de la Justice, once again brings into sharp focus the enormous risks many take through their courageous work in the DRC.

    The violent attack, the latest incident in a long-established trend of targeting human rights activists and journalists, happened just a week after the murder of Congolese civil liberties activist Floribert Chebeya, and less than five years since the murder of Héritier’s late secretary general, Pascal Kabungulu.

    On 31 July 2005 Kabungulu was assassinated in his home in front of his family for his knowledge of illicit gold mining in Kamituga, South Kivu, for his help in exposing the use of rape as a weapon of war in eastern Congo, for his persistent defence of human rights and for his documentation of serious human rights abuses in the DRC. He shares the fate of a long line of human rights defenders and journalists who have been attacked as a result of their efforts to help build the rule of law and accountability in the DRC.

    Indeed, Héritiers de la Justice has a long record of documenting human rights abuses. It denounced those committed by former dictator Mobutu Sese Seko when the country was Zaire, and later by former president Laurent Kabila and the current government, headed by Kabila's son, Joseph. It has also documented serious abuses committed by the armed groups which have terrorised eastern Congo since civil war broke out in 1998.

    The film 'Weapons of Impunity' tells the story of Pascal Kabungulu's assassination and the impunity that still surrounds his case, as well as the courageous efforts of Congolese civil society actors to challenge this culture and help establish the rule of law in the DRC.

    A military tribunal, initially set up to investigate Kabungulu’s death in November 2005, was suspended and, as is often the case in the DRC, those responsible have never been bought to justice.

    ‘The often dangerous work of our Congolese partners makes a unique and essential contribution to the country’s fragile state-building process,’ says Jacques Miaglia, Christian Aid’s country manager in the DRC.

    ‘Organisations like Héritiers de la Justice are dedicated to helping communities to rebuild their lives and futures through raising people’s awareness of their civil and human rights, defending those rights, documenting abuse, and strengthening accountability and transparency at all levels of governance.

    ‘Christian Aid calls on the UK government, the EU, and other international donors in the DRC to support an independent enquiry into the death of Chebeya and the reopening of judicial proceedings relating to Kabungulu’s murder.

    ‘We also want to see those responsible for the attacks against Lubala to be identified and held to account. Such efforts would significantly contribute towards ending the corrosive and pervasive culture of injustice in the DRC.’

    Sadly some of the people interviewed in the film have since been killed (Serge Maheshe, Radio Okapi journalist), but Maurice Namwira, executive secretary of Héritiers de la Justice, is here to tell the story and continue the struggle for justice.

    Maurice Namwira
    PAMBAZUKA NEWS: Five years on from the assassination of Pascal Kabungulu, how would you say the political climate has developed for civil society and human rights activists in the DRC?

    MAURICE NAMWIRA: After the assassination of Pascal we have seen that the number of activists killed hasn’t stopped or slowed down despite the denunciations, alerts and demands made by human rights organisations.

    PAMBAZUKA NEWS: What are the main means of organising people when it comes to activism in the DRC?

    MAURICE NAMWIRA: One of the principal means of organising people is by networking at all levels, from the bottom up and through actions such as awareness-raising work with all the different social classes (civilians, soldiers, civil servants, religious leaders, students, politicians, etc) in order that they know their basic rights and freedoms, and human rights education in schools and with various social groups to help people to understand the existing mechanisms for enforcing respect for human dignity.

    It is also very important to maintain an open dialogue with authorities about their responsibilities to protect and promote human rights and their duty to guarantee universally recognised fundamental freedoms.

    Finally, it’s vital to invite the political authorities in the DRC to work towards establishing a legal framework which guarantees the rights of all and the welfare of the people.

    PAMBAZUKA NEWS: ‘Weapons of Impunity' is a powerful title to describe the attempts of those in power to instil fear and keep voices silent. How would you describe the way in which this 'impunity' operates and the challenges it presents for activists seeking to establish the rule of law?

    MAURICE NAMWIRA: In various ways, even the authorities at all levels sometimes admit now and then to the existence of the problems of insecurity, impunity, abuses by the army and police and the threats and attacks against human rights defenders. These problems are well known by all Congolese people. What is so far missing to bring about the change we seek (an end to impunity) are effective measures on the ground and at the different levels of power that will definitively eradicate impunity, for example the re-opening of judicial proceedings for Pascal Kabungulu’s case, which is in suspense since 2006 – this is the same for the murder of journalist Didace Namujimbo … here are many other similar cases. Until such measures are taken, those responsible for these crimes remain unpunished and free to commit new crimes.

    PAMBAZUKA NEWS: Civil society, naturally, has a very important role to play as a country moves forward. How would you say Héritiers de la Justice is viewed among ordinary Congolese?

    MAURICE NAMWIRA: What is meant by an ordinary Congolese? We are all equal before the law. There aren’t those who are ordinary and those who are special. It is this differentiation that often causes problems to our people, when some people think they're ordinary and others special. People trust the work of human rights defenders and because of this we are often consulted for advice or assistance when they have problems.

    The fact that many compatriots base their hopes on the work of human rights defenders became very clear following the deaths of activists and journalists such as Pascal Kabungulu, Maheshe, Didace Namujimbo, Floribert Chebeya, Muhind, when the public spoke out to expose these heinous murderers, demanding justice and an independent investigation so that the truth be known.

    PAMBAZUKA NEWS: In addition to documenting human rights abuses, it seems that one of the key objectives of Héritiers de la Justice is to work towards establishing the rule of law in the DRC. When it comes to tackling impunity, debate rages in countries like Kenya about the rule of external institutions such as the International Criminal Court (ICC). In your view, is justice something to be sought internally, or should Congolese also look outside their country?

    MAURICE NAMWIRA: This is true and cannot be questioned in light of the testimonies of our local communities. This can also be seen through the proven results of the work we have carried out with support from Christian Aid. From 1998 to 2007 Christian Aid supported Héritiers de la Justice’s extensive human rights and peace education programme in schools.

    We should remember that the Congolese are not isolated from the rest of the world. What Congo is living through today has been experienced elsewhere and the lessons learnt have helped others to build a new world which puts the welfare of the collective at the centre. These states – which are now stable and have already gone down the difficult path Congo is on today – should help Congolese leaders to strive towards developing a culture of excellence, respect for the common good and an equitable distribution of wealth. This must be done without forgetting to put into place projects that will have visible impacts in fighting poverty and other causes of human rights violations.

    PAMBAZUKA NEWS: Do you have links with other civil society and activist organisations across the region facing similar struggles?

    MAURICE NAMWIRA: The situation for human rights defenders in the Great Lakes region is not an easy one as they are misunderstood as being the enemies of politicians. Government leaders need to recognise that civil society organisations and human rights defenders are advocating for and, like them, striving for the well-being of our people, even though our approaches may differ. For it is said that things come to light through the clashing of ideas.

    Thus all the present threats should give way to cooperation and a positive collaboration to go beyond selfish interests in favour of the general, public interest. This misunderstanding is sadly the cause of the cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment suffered by the human rights defenders in the Great Lakes region who are wrongly threatened, arrested and killed.


    * Maurice Namwira is executive secretary of Héritiers de la Justice.
    * Emma Pomfret is Christian Aid’s Africa editor.
    * Interview conducted and transcribed by Emma Pomfret, with questions by Alex Free.
    * Héritiers de la Justice is a longstanding partner of Christian Aid.
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.


    [1] Héritiers de la Justice website:
    [2] Pascal Kabungulu, obituary in the Guardian, 24 August 2005,
    [3] Letter to President Kabila, 7 September 2005, Re: Assassination of Pascal Kabungulu Kibembi, Executive Secretary Héritiers de la Justice (from AI, Christian Aid, HRW and Frontline Defenders),

    Nigeria’s politics: This shoe does not fit

    Oluwole Onemola


    cc Satanoid
    Nigeria needs to draw upon its own political and organising traditions and not simply mimic Western models, writes Oluwole Onemola. Not only does this ‘shoe’ not fit, Onemola argues, trying to put it on has allowed exploitative politicians to enrich themselves to the complete detriment of the people they represent. But, the author stresses, ‘[t]hey are not the corrupt ones, we are, because we have let them plunder away at our national pride unchallenged, with only the faintest of castigations.’

    ‘Let's walk our own walk, and stop following the path of others…’ The politics of our fatherland amuses all around the globe as the ridicule of the world. Because they call it democracy, we do the same. Because it works for them, and that country praises it, we should not deceive ourselves. This shoe does not fit. A Cinderella story does not await us somewhere down the line, but we still stubbornly insist on not yet counting our losses.

    Why don’t we all just call it a night, peel off our political costumes and stop trying to parody the politics of the West, so we can return back to our roots, back to the truth that will always be there waiting for us – like a faithful but annoying friend with an I-told-you-so grin – back to an era when the government still believed in working for the people, and the people were not so easily consumed by undeliverable campaign promises from crooked politicians, because their election bribes in sealed envelopes caused amnesias so strong that the struggles and failures of the past were easily forgotten.

    Why do we keep insisting on jumping on the wrong bandwagon when the evidence from the failure of a decade-long experiment called the 1999 constitution clearly shows that our system of governance is flawed because it allows one political party and its most influential members to gain, and to do so excessively, to the detriment of the population at large and the so-called opposition parties.

    This is not democracy. Our leaders are not popularly elected. No, they are shabbily but surely enforced on us by the forces that are, and the powers that be, that insist, and have always insisted – due to the absence of a revolutionary mindset in our people– that Nigeria will not thrive. They insist, because we do not tell them otherwise, that the once-great giant of Africa will not rise. They mock us because they believe that we are too preoccupied with our own internal dissent to realise that we are almost so far gone – almost at the point of no return – and they pompously await no retribution.

    And as they wait and mock us, they also laugh at us. They laugh at us because the south rises up against its northern brothers and sisters, ignorantly proclaiming ‘We are not one!’ But they do not stop there; they strike up religious resentment in the form of riots that make Muslims antagonise Christians in Nigeria, and vice versa. And please, because we claim to know so much from the very little we have picked up about ourselves, from the history of our fathers that they so begrudgingly offer us, let us continue to delude ourselves into believing that these complications in our country are unrelated and that these symptoms should show us that as diverse as we are, we should not be forced to share the same land mass, the same federal institutions and the same great identity – Nigerian. We are blind, and they make it so, because they know, and soon we will all come to realise, that it is for this very reason – our diversity – that the world at large fears us, because we are larger than life, great in number and strong, because we are different.

    Our indolence should not stand. The answers to a greater Nigeria do not lie in the hearts and minds of a nameless and unforeseen future, it lies in the power and potential of the present. They are not the corrupt ones, we are, because we have let them plunder away at our national pride unchallenged, with only the faintest of castigations. We have gradually, but surely, fallen in line with the penny-pillaging policies of our oppressors. We are not Sweden, Nigerians, so why do we praise the captors of our futures like we suffer from a sorry case of Stockholm syndrome?

    When they come to our workplaces, like sycophants and fanatics we greet them with our heads bowed low, like we just love acknowledging that we have the best tormentors ever. When they come into our schools and other once prestigious institutions of learning, we honour these same men and women with accolades that they do not merit. When we see them when strolling down our unsightly streets, as their convoys pull past with soldiers holding kobokos that tear indiscriminately at the skins of our brothers, we rush away to avoid being whipped, without stopping to ponder at the inhumanity of the situation. And most disturbing of all, when they step into our mosques or churches, we give them cushioned front seats, like they should stand first in a line for the righteous.

    We can claim that others have tried, and they have failed, so they now rest in the earth under our feet. But does our fear reward the efforts of those who have either sacrificed their lives or dedicated it towards this endeavour? Should the lives of the Saro Wiwas and the Fawehinmis of our time, and those past, be rewarded by cowardice? Or should we put the names and faces of these men, these warriors, up on pedestals as the emblems of our cause – a free and fair Nigeria?

    Sad as it may seem, the Nigeria of today would please our most notorious dead, or alive, dictators. It would do so because we claim that progress has been made on many fronts since our return to democracy, but an overwhelming majority of our families still go to bed hungry every night amid the inflation of our currency, and the lack of opportunities presented to the masses to enable them to further themselves. Even the archaic methods such as kidnapping and murder we still use to stifle political dissent these days should make us understand that the ‘good life’ in Nigeria is just a façade, and beneath any mask or costume lies the real deal – the real face of our nation – that patiently waits to reveal itself.

    Now, with all this presented, we can choose to still try on other people’s shoes, hoping, just hoping, that this will be the pair to take us where we want to go. Or, like all great nations today have done, we can discard our ill-fitting shoes and fashion for ourselves our own pair, or many, so that as we walk and work towards the great future that so steadfastly awaits us, we will do so with the full understanding that our hands made these shoes, and fairytale or not, a generous story awaits us.


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

    Manipulating the memory of the Rwandan genocide

    Chi Mgbako


    cc Wikimedia
    With Rwanda’s presidential elections scheduled for August, Chi Mgbako looks at the country's post-genocide government and argues that the Kagame administration is using the memory of the genocide to hold onto power. Highlighting the government’s censorship of the media and its alleged involvement in silencing the opposition, Mgbako argues that such actions trivialise the memory of those who lost their lives in the genocide and questions how this will help Rwanda achieve national unity.

    The Rwandan government has made remarkable strides in infrastructure, the economy, healthcare, and gender equity in political representation, but their continued attack on independent thought and criticism is disheartening and dangerous.

    As the August presidential election looms, it is important not only to hail Rwanda’s success but also to ask hard questions about government abuse of authority.

    The Rwandan government uses charges of ‘genocidal ideology’ and ‘ethnic divisionism’ to attack independent critics and often seems more concerned with political survival than with lasting reconciliation, manipulating the memory of the genocide for political gain. If the Rwandan government is truly committed to promoting unity and fostering long-term reconciliation they should encourage enlightened public discourse about the social construction of ethnicity in Rwanda and stop oppressing political opponents, independent civil society and journalists.

    My work years ago as a young lawyer-in-training focusing on post-genocide Rwanda sparked my career in international human rights law. For several years, I visited Rwanda on human rights research and fact-finding trips and authored reports based on my fieldwork. This tiny, beautiful, ghost-filled country, where 800,000 people were slaughtered while the international community watched, has stayed with me.

    On my first trip to Rwanda seven years ago, I visited a genocide memorial site housed in a church an hour outside of Rwanda’s capital. At Ntarama church, roving gangs of genocidaires killed 5,000 men, women, and children seeking sanctuary inside the church. There are places made of stone that carry human memory, that remember where we have been and what we have suffered. I walked into Ntarama church and was confronted with the strong, sad, unrelenting human memory of anguish.

    The church remained exactly as it had been following the 1994 attacks. There were holes in the ceiling from grenade fragments, blood splattered on the walls, bones and skulls scattered on the floor among the rubble, sandals, clothes, and children’s books. I remember the light from the setting sun entering the church through the grenade holes in the ceiling and settling on the bones that glowed golden and lonely. One of the survivors of the attack said he only lived because the bodies of the dead and dying poured on top of him, like rain. In the trips that followed, I would meet many more survivors who shared similar stories of the struggle to live during those horrifying hundred days.

    It is with these images and stories lingering in my mind that I remain mystified at the ease with which the Rwandan government manipulates the memory of the genocide by using the charge of genocidal ideology to stifle opposition and buttress its own power. As the election draws near, the government has been implicated in recent attacks on journalists and political opponents and their advocates, including the imprisonment and later release of US lawyer and International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda defense counsel Peter Erlinder and the ban of two independent newspapers, Umuvugizi and Umuseso.

    Although the government has denied recent allegations of abuse, including participation in the murder of Umuvugizi editor Leonard Rugambage and the attempted murder in South Africa of the exiled former army chief of staff Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, the authoritarian tendencies of Rwanda’s ruling party are not a new phenomenon. In 2004, following the 2003 elections in which the government was implicated in the forced disappearances of opposition figures, a parliamentary commission issued a scathing report accusing civil society, independent journalists, opposition politicians, human rights defenders, churches, schools, and international aid organisations of harbouring ‘genocidal ideology.’ I researched and co-authored a report condemning these actions and interviewed a junior Rwandan government official who conceded that ‘genocidal ideology’ had become code for overt criticism of government policy. The parliamentary commission report was shocking in its lack of strong evidence to support such serious charges in a country struggling to realise lasting reconciliation.

    Following the release of the 2004 parliamentary report, Rwandan human rights defenders accused of genocidal ideology fled the country fearing for their lives. Many lived in exile in Kampala, Uganda, under the protection of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, until being granted political asylum in Europe and North America. I interviewed several of them, brave individuals who had strong records of advocating for genocide survivors’ rights.

    International human rights defenders are also not immune to the government’s acrimony. One prime example was the government’s treatment of the late great Alison Des Forges, who before her untimely death last year was widely regarded as one of the foremost experts on the Rwandan genocide. Her criticisms of the government’s increasingly authoritarian streak resulted in the government officially banning her from the country in 2008, despite her unquestionable courage in attempting to draw international attention to the impending genocide. As the government persists in levelling charges of genocidal ideology with abandon, independent critics continue to flee the country.

    Rwanda’s ‘genocidal ideology’ and ‘ethnic divisionism’ laws fail to strike an equitable balance between safeguarding freedom of speech while protecting citizens against incitement to violence and discrimination. Instead, these laws silence journalists, politicians and citizens who peacefully advocate political views that differ from those of the ruling party. The government uses these ill-defined crimes and manipulates the memory of the genocide to solidify its power and oppress alternative political viewpoints under the pretence of advancing national unity.

    These actions trivialise the genocide and do not honour the Rwandan dead.


    * This story first appeared on
    * Chi Mgbako is clinical associate professor of law and director of the Walter Leitner International Human Rights Clinic at Fordham Law School in New York City.
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News

    Refused publication: Letter to London Review of Books


    cc P A R
    Following the publication of racist references to migrants in South Africa in a London Review of Books blog by R.W. Johnson, a collection of writers, academics and publishers demands a public apology.

    20th July 2010

    To the Editor,

    With its stress on its own 'depth and scholarship and good writing' and its 'unmatched international reputation', the LRB has a responsibility to maintain high standards if it is to retain its enviable position of having the 'largest circulation of any literary magazine in Europe'.

    We find it baffling therefore that you continue to publish work by R.W. Johnson that, in our opinion, is often stacked with the superficial and the racist. In a particularly egregious recent post on the LRB blog, 'After the World Cup' (6 July 2010), Johnson, astonishingly, made a comparison between African migrants and invading baboons. He followed this with another between 'local black shopkeepers' and rottweilers. He concluded with what he presumably thinks is a joke about throwing bananas to the baboons.

    In the particular arena of football, some fans do not need to be encouraged to produce racist abuse. Across Europe for many years, black players have been spat at, subjected to racist chants often including references to monkeys or apes, and have been the focus of monkey chanting noises during matches. Neo-Nazi groups have also been known to use football matches as target areas for recruiting new members and promoting their racist practice. (How ironic that when Johnson does decide to write about ‘Football and Fascism’, 11 July 2010, he produces a piece about Italy that reveals the dearth of his knowledge.)

    While South Africa has made great strides, overturning the racist politics of the National Party, it still has a long way to go in combating the racism that thrives among certain communities and individuals. Elsewhere, in the UK for example, this is no time for complacency about attitudes to race. Although British National Party leader, Nick Griffin, may have been humiliated at the recent General Elections, his party now has two MEPs. Let’s not forget that young black men in this country are seven times more likely to be stopped and searched than young white men, and they comprise a disproportionate number of the prison population.

    Whilst it might be unfair to pick on a man for his inability to be funny, we believe that it would be wholly wrong to stay silent when he resorts to peddling highly offensive, age-old racist stereotypes that the LRB editorial team deems fit to publish. (Indeed, we note from the comments that at some point the post was edited – and yet, in our opinion, it remained an appalling and racist piece of writing.)

    We were relieved on Monday 19 July when, finally, the post was taken down. However, we remain appalled that it was published in the first place and appalled that it remained up for 13 days. Several of the comments beneath the post pointed out some time ago that the piece was clearly racist and yet the LRB still chose to leave it online. It is not good enough to remove the post – apart from its URL which, we note, ends ‘coming-of-the-baboons’ – and expect this nasty episode to be forgotten. We would like to know why it was published in the first place and we would like to read a public apology.

    It is of deep concern to all of us that the LRB could be so impressed by R.W. Johnson that his racist and reactionary opinion continues to be published in the magazine and now in the blog too. And there we all were thinking the LRB was progressive.

    Yours sincerely,

    Diran Adebayo, writer & academic, Lancaster University
    Patience Agbabi, poet
    Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, journalist & writer
    Candace Allen, writer, journalist & broadcaster
    Cristel Amiss, coordinator, Black Women’s Rape Action Project
    Baffour Ankomah, editor, New African
    Nana Ayebia Clarke, publisher, Ayebia
    Pete Ayrton, publisher, Serpent’s Tail
    Sharmilla Beezmohun, deputy editor, Wasafiri
    Benedict Birnberg
    Professor Elleke Boehmer, University of Oxford
    Professor Patrick Bond, University of Kwazulu-Natal
    Victoria Brittain, writer & journalist
    Dr Margaret Busby OBE, publisher & writer
    Teju Cole, writer
    Eleanor Crook, sculptor & academic, University of the Arts
    Fred D’Aguiar, writer
    Dr David Dibosa, academic
    Kodwo Eshun, The Otolith Group
    Gareth Evans, writer, editor, curator
    Katy Evans-Bush, poet
    Bernardine Evaristo MBE, writer
    Nuruddin Farah, writer
    Professor Maureen Freely, writer & academic, University of Warwick
    Kadija George, publisher, Sable LitMag
    Professor Paul Gilroy, London School of Economics
    Professor Peter Hallward, Kingston University London
    M John Harrison, writer
    Stewart Home, writer
    Michael Horovitz, poet
    Professor Aamer Hussein, writer & academic, University of Southampton
    Professor John Hutnyk, Goldsmiths
    Dr Sean Jacobs, The New School
    Selma James, coordinator, Global Women’s Strike
    Gus John, associate professor, Institute of Education, University of London
    Anthony Joseph, poet & novelist
    Kwame Kwei-Armah, playwright & broadcaster
    Candida Lacey, publisher, Myriad Editions
    Alexis Lykiard, writer
    Firoze Manji, editor in chief, Pambazuka News
    Shula Marks, emeritus professor, School of Oriental & African Studies
    Professor Achille Mbembe, University of the Witwatersrand & Duke University
    Dr China Miéville, writer & academic,
    Professor David Morley, University of Warwick
    Professor Susheila Nasta, editor, Wasafiri
    Courttia Newland, writer
    Dr Alastair Niven OBE, principal, Cumberland Lodge
    Dr Zoe Norridge, University of Oxford
    Dr Deirdre Osborne, Goldsmiths
    Lara Pawson, journalist & writer
    Pascale Petit, poet
    Caryl Phillips, writer
    Dr Nina Power, Roehampton University
    Jeremy Poynting, managing editor, Peepal Tree Press
    Gary Pulsifer, publisher, Arcadia Books
    Michael Rosen, poet
    Anjalika Sagar, The Otolith Group
    Richard Seymour, writer & activist
    Dr George Shire, reviews editor, Soundings
    Professor David Simon, Royal Holloway
    Lemn Sissay MBE, writer
    Keith Somerville, Brunel University
    Colin Stoneman, editorial coordinator, Journal of Southern African Studies
    George Szirtes, poet & translator
    Dr Alberto Toscano, Goldsmiths
    Professor Megan Vaughan, University of Cambridge
    Patrick Vernon, chief executive, The Afiya Trust
    Professor Dennis Walder, Open University
    Verna Wilkins, writer & publisher, Tamarind Books
    Dr Patrick Wilmot, writer & journalist
    Adele Winston
    Professor Brian Winston, University of Lincoln
    Dr Leo Zeilig, University of the Witwatersrand

    Please note: Institutions are named for identification purposes only.


    * The London Review of Books subsequently apologised for the blogpost.
    * In a Guardian article entitled 'Writers and academics protest over "racist" LRB blogpost', Gary Younge has covered the reaction to R.W. Johnson's letter.
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

    Kenya's draft constitution: 'Clearing the Air'

    InformAction Kenya


    cc Demosh
    Narrated by Maina Kiai, the film 'Clearing the Air' is a short film about Kenya's draft constitution designed to stimulate debate and discussion among Kenyans in the run-up to the 4 August referendum.


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

    Advocacy & campaigns

    Unite as One - One Africa

    Launch of anti-xenophobia campaign


    1 am 1 of a million South Africans who Says YES to: humanity, peace and unity Says NO to: racism, ignorance and violence I promise to confront ignorance with knowledge; prejudice with tolerance; and isolation with the outstretched hand of generosity. I will * celebrate the common humanity of people and our shared heritage as Africans * recognise and protect the human rights of all people living in South Africa, no matter their language or country of origin * attempt to prevent any acts of xenophobia -- intolerance, intimidation or violence; and to report to the police if any person violates the rights or safety of another. Sign the petition here

    Pan-African Postcard

    AFRICOM, academia and militarising Africa

    Horace Campbell


    New initiatives at the United States’ Department of Defense indicate that the militarisation of the social sciences is high on the agenda of its forward strategy for fighting wars, cautions Horace Campbell. With academics being encouraged to produce intelligence on Africa, ‘[i]ndependent and progressive scholars and activists must intensify the peace work so that there is a new social science infrastructure that can work hand in hand with the revolutionary foment that is brewing’ on the continent says Campbell.

    The Washington Post investigation of the militarisation of the United States society and the centrality of intelligence agencies in the government is of interest to Africans and those in support of peace, demilitarisation, and reconstruction.

    Those from the peace movement who have been exposing the criminal activities of contractors that were involved in water boarding, rendition and other illegal acts wondered why it is at the present time the Washington Post has come out with this exposé, ‘Top Secret America’.

    This series started out with an expose on ‘A hidden world, growing beyond control’. The second instalment entitled ‘National Security Inc’, explored the world of private contractors working for the military. In the third we were exposed to the numerous organisations and fronts that do military work. Under the heading ‘The secrets next door’, the journalists explore the alternative military geography of the United States. These articles brought out the expansion of the government national security structure since September 11, 2001 (9/11).

    Those from the peace and justice movement know full well that this exposure of the semi-fascist infrastructure of the Bush inheritance comes from the protracted works of those who wanted to dismantle the military industrial complex.

    ‘Top Secret America’, written by reporters Dana Priest and William Arkin, reveals that since 9/11, there has been top-secret machinery employing 854,000 persons from 1,271 government organisations and 1,931 private firms.

    Africans and peace loving people will not be surprised by this information, but what comes out clearly is the billions of dollars spent on psychological warfare. In the area of psychological warfare, Africans have borne the brunt of the disinformation and distortion of the realities of plunder and exploitation in Africa.

    More importantly, these articles failed to link this world of billions of dollars to the network of white supremacists in the media, the military, the corporate structure and in the university


    From the estimated hundreds of thousands of contractors involved in the privatisation of national security works, the peace movement in Africa is particularly interested in the implications of these revelations for our goal of dismantling the US Africa Command (AFRICOM).

    What this investigation reminded us is that in order to grasp the full dangers of AFRICOM, it is necessary to go beyond the documents and statements of the Department of Defense and to follow closely the outsourced work that is being deployed to private contractors.

    Outsourcing fed the neo-liberal paradigm of reducing the hands of government and strengthened the neo-conservative forces internationally by the deployment of financial resources to prop up a right wing semi-fascist agenda.

    Under the Bush administration this outsourcing and world of private contractors exploded, so that whether it was the PEPFAR initiative on Aids or research on global warming or the understanding of African cultures, a new world of contractors has exploded in our midst.

    While the press reports have zeroed in on the well known private contracting firms such as General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, SAIC, Blackwater (now renamed Xe), Lockheed Martin, Halliburton (subsidiary of Kellogg Brown and Root (KBR) and DynCorp, it is important for African social justice activists to follow the evolution of an organisation such as Military Professional Resources Inc so that there is a clear understanding of the current names of these entities so that they can be exposed.

    Whether called MPRI or DynCorp, these militarists are expanding in Africa while those who are resisting AFRICOM follow information from the web platforms of the US Africa Command. In particular, Nigerian scholars need to penetrate the relationship between Dyncorp and the militarist elements in that society. From Liberia to Rwanda and back to Sierra Leone, these contractors have been deployed to ensnare Africans in the fight against the fictitious war on terrorism.

    It is becoming clearer from the new initiatives at the Department of Defense that the militarisation of the Social Sciences is very high on the agenda of the US forward strategy for fighting wars. Initiatives such as the Human Terrain Systems and Project Minerva that go beyond DynCorp and the other ‘training programs for the African military show that there needs to be an analysis of the role of academics.

    Under the Human Terrain Systems, the Pentagon has funded anthropologists to be embedded assets in the War on Terror. Statements from the American Anthropological Association have denounced this militarisation of anthropological knowledge and reminded the younger generation of how the Pentagon had mobilised anthropologists in Project Phoenix in Vietnam to mobilise local information for assassinations. These old instincts of the defense and intelligence bureaucracies are now at work with the announcement of Project Minerva. This is an explicit effort to support social science research on topics of interest to the military. We have been informed through the internet that one of the innocent sounding research programmers of the Project Minerva is entitled ‘Climate Change, State Stability, and Political Risk in Africa.’ So, one can see that under innocent sounding headings such as climate change and state stability, the military is seeking to build up data for future wars in Africa.

    In deciphering the layers of these hundreds of thousands of contractors and militaries, one comes across the Africom Intelligence Knowledge Development directorate (IKD) based at the Royal Airforce Base Molesworth, England.

    The existence of this AFRICOM centre in England to analyse, produce, disseminate, and develop intelligence knowledge on Africa is an indication of the strength of those forces in the peace movement in the US and Africa that opposed AFRICOM.

    The network of organisations of concerned US and Africa based organisations opposed to the role of the AFRICOM has been very effective in delegitimising the rationale for the development of the US Africa Command. It is the existence of this widespread opposition to AFRICOM that has forced the military to seek cover in front organisations of the Pentagon, including the so-called think thanks concerned with security and strategic studies, such as the Heritage Foundation, the Rand Corporation, the American Enterprise Institute, the Cato Institute, among others.

    Most of these front organisations are dominated by white supremacists from the Cold War era who recycle old conceptions about Africa. The intellectual weakness of these front organisations can be seen in papers and books such as ‘Africa beyond the Bush Years: Critical Challenges for the Obama Administration’.

    It is precisely because of the marginalisation of these fronts with billions of dollars that the Pentagon has sought to make alliances with those who study Africa in Britain and Europe. In the light of the existence of AFRICOM, IKD and other such fronts in Europe, one can now penetrate the new social science thrust for certain British Africanists to grasp the medium term potential of their work to undermine reconstruction and peace in Africa.

    African scholars within the progressive network of scholars have already raised alarm about the Nairobi Report and the dangerous assumptions about social science work in Western institutions. Genuine scholars who have become ensnared by the Nairobi Report should read the book, ‘Spies for Hire: the Secret Role of Intelligence Outsourcing’ by Tim Shorrock. These genuine scholars would then have to decide if the Nairobi Report is simply the groundwork for another form of outsourcing that could feed into the AFRICOM need to analyse and produce up-to-date information on African countries.

    We know in the US from the activist work in the American Anthropological Association how anthropologists have been subcontracted to do work for the Pentagon in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the African Studies Association in the US, it is the Association of Concerned African Scholars (ACAS) section that has been consistently opposed to the militarisation of African studies. Scholars such as David Wiley and William Martin have written extensively on the project of the Pentagon and the establishment of the National African Language Resource Center. The same ACAS infrastructure exposed the National Security Education Program (NSEP) and the endangerment of researchers who genuinely want to work with African scholars and institutions.

    Within the leadership of those scholars involved in the Nairobi Report, there is no track record compared to that of ACAS. Instead within the ranks of the leadership of those involved in this new platform for research on Africa are those scholars whose main occupational tasks have been to cover up genocide and colonial crimes in Africa. So, when Caroline Elkins came out with a book, ‘Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of British Gulags in Kenya’, the same British Africanists used so-called prestigious British journals to dismiss it and downplay the important claims for reparative justice.

    These scholars who defend colonial rule and its neocolonial manifestations in association with their networks across Belgium, France, Portugal, Israel, and the US continue to reproduce the psychological warfare against Africans about failed states and the need for ‘good governance’ in the ‘fight against poverty’. Once these imperial scholars place their stamps of intellectual authority on concepts such as corruption, ‘conflict resolution’, instability, terrorism, poverty, resource curse, ‘politics of the belly, public/private partnerships’ and structural adjustment, thousands of younger scholars are lured into this network to justify the plundering and looting of Africa.


    Interestingly, only this week, one of the high priests of the Africanist enterprise wrote that in Eastern Congo, ‘$1 billion in gold is being extracted and exported annually. Yet, because the government lacks control over the territory, the revenue for the national treasury last year was a mere $37,000.’ What Paul Collier the Oxford scholar could not do was to link the absence of government tin the DRC to the Ronald Reagan philosophy that ‘government is the problem.’

    Collier has been one of the pillars of neoliberal economics in Africa that reinforced the traditions of dehumanisation and murder passed down from King Leopold to Mobutu and the international humanitarian do-gooders who assist in the export of those billions of dollars.

    African scholars who have written on the looting of Africa and exposed the real objectives of structural adjustment programmes have made it difficult for Western social science to find a firm base in Africa. As Tade Aina pointed out at the last African Studies Association conference, it was the pedantic work of African scholars that exposed the fallacy of the structural adjustment, the sophistry of bringing prosperity and development to Africa.

    Scholars such as Jimi Adesina are also exposing how the UN effort to deal with social protection does not address the real foundation of exploitation and poverty. Adesina pointed out that none of the societies that transformed themselves – Malaysia, Korea, Finland or Barbados – were able to do so on the basis of policies relating to poverty alleviation. There have to be rigorous programmess for social transformation in the society.


    When Chester Crocker and the Reagan administration attempted to use African scholars to support the apartheid regime and rogue elements such as Jonas Savimbi, it was a vibrant organisation of the peace movement that discredited Chester Crocker and front organisations for the military that called itself the United States Institute for Peace (USIP). The Obama administration has been unwilling and unable to dismantle this manipulation of peace to serve the interests of war makers so that the USIP is still in the hands of neoconservatives. Obama has surrounded himself with supporters of the semi fascist infrastructure that is being exposed in ‘Top Secret America’.

    One can see the glimmer of a new social movement growing within the Pan-African world and within the peace movement to expose the Pentagon and the expansion of US militarism. Those committed to the dismantling of imperialism must monitor the Pentagon and their contractors and myriads of subcontractors that populate the second rate institutions fabricating terrorism in Africa.

    Social science work from scholars such as Abdi Samatar exposed how the US fabricated terrorists in Somalia. Africa is reaping the results of this massive investment to ensure that this region of the Indian Ocean is militarised. It is from the experience of the fabrication of terrorism and the militarisation of political spaces in Africa that one can grasp the conditions that led to tragedies such as the recent bombings in Uganda.

    The vision of peace in societies such as Uganda and Somalia can only be realised by a changed policy toward Africa. Current US policies toward Africa privilege leaders such as Yoweri Museveni and Meles Zenawi who benefit politically from the global War on Terror. An alternative policy rooted in genuine support for health care, anti-racist education, information communication for liberation, and religious freedom will make a break with the old Africanist mischief that reproduces white supremacy, domination, and exploitation.

    IKD and the old fronts of the defense establishment depend on second-rate academics. Independent and progressive scholars and activists must intensify the peace work so that there is a new social science infrastructure that can work hand in hand with the revolutionary foment that is brewing in Africa.


    * Horace Campbell is a teacher and writer. His latest book is 'Barack Obama and 21st Century Politics: A Revolutionary Moment in the USA', published by Pluto Press.
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

    World Cup 2010: A reflection

    Hard bodies, race and power in the world

    L. Muthoni Wanyeki


    The World Cup has come to an end and the vuvuzelas have gone quiet, leaving us to pause and reflect on South Africa’s month under the floodlights on the big sporting stage. L. Muthoni Wanyeki looks back on the competition and the respite it provided from the daily stresses life presents, whilst contemplating what the games have left South Africa and the rest of the world to move forward with into the future.

    So the World Cup is finally over – the memory of the final game now forever linked with East Africa with the grisly bombings in Uganda that resulted in 76 deaths.

    Our hearts go out to the families of those murdered and injured in the bombings.

    A lot could be, has been and will continue to be said about the bombings.

    But I do not want, today, to focus on them.

    Or the security risks posed to all of us by Al Shabab’s hold on southern Somalia.

    Or even the human rights risks now posed to people of Somali descent who may be unjustly targeted by the necessary regional response to Al Shabab.

    I want to go back to the World Cup.

    Terrorism, counter-terrorism, the constitution and parliament’s remuneration can hold.

    We all deserve a break; the World Cup provided much-needed and welcome relief from the insanities that mar our day-to-day existence.

    To confess: I never played soccer growing up.

    My knowledge of the game is rudimentary at best.

    But that doesn’t shame me, certainly not when by far the bulk of the game’s global audiences swill back beer – looking anything but athletic – and clearly enjoy the game only in that ironically vicarious masculine sense.

    That is, simply knowing about the game – its players, their every move and their team’s every move back to the beginning of time – somehow instils the sense that they could be players too.

    Never mind that they haven’t kicked a ball about since high school and would probably keel over huffing and puffing if they even tried.

    No worries, even though it annoys me that there’s no female team sport that’s watched to the same extent (presumably for the same reason: that female team sports obviously do not provoke that same sense of vicarious masculinity).

    Irony and annoyance aside, I watched the World Cup – not to live vicariously, but because I find the social dynamics around it endlessly interesting.

    Not just in terms of masculinity (and no, I don’t mean admiring the players’ super-fit bodies), but in terms of race and power in the world, and what the game shows us about differences in access to power.

    I’m usually unrepentantly racially nationalistic in terms of whom I support – generally shifting loyalties from any sub-Saharan African team to any North African team, to any southern team (Brazil!) and, finally, if the worst comes to worst, the European team with the most black players.

    This World Cup, however, clearly I had to shift my support strategy.

    The sub-Saharan African teams went down like flies – but Ghana, at least, did not disgrace us by letting the Americans win. (The Americans and soccer? Please!)

    The North Africans were nowhere to be seen. Brazil went out. (What?)

    And the European teams with black players fell one after the other – England, France, Italy. It was all very strange.

    But France’s response was hilarious: the captain asked to see the president.

    The president met with the entire team.

    One would have thought, upon reading the French newspapers, that the French had lost a world war; patriotic angst about the state of the nation prevailed.

    The only spark of humour in the whole fiasco was provided by a French entrepreneur who imported 50,000 of the now infamous vuvuzelas from China and made a small fortune.

    He said he wished he’d imported a million – and planned to do so in the future.

    Not only for football but because, as he put it, the French ‘love to strike’ and the vuvuzelas would be perfect accoutrements for demonstrators! I laughed.

    Which brings us to the vuvuzelas themselves – that oh so African touch to the World Cup, made in China like so many oh so African things nowadays.

    I liked the Germans because they had a mixed-race player – half German, half Ghanaian – whose brother played for Ghana. Very cool. (This is why the constitution must pass; with dual citizenship we’ll have no more of this business about our runners decamping to the Emirates or elsewhere – they’ll be able to run elsewhere for money and run here for our glory.)

    But I wanted Spain to win – they were the most ‘southern’ team left.

    Finally, of course, comes the aftermath in South Africa.

    Was the $5 billion reportedly invested in hosting the World Cup worth it?

    Will the new infrastructure be used? Most commuters claim the new train’s too expensive, and whether the new stadiums will prove sustainable is up in the air.

    Will the exposure of South Africa pan out into the future, not just in terms of tourism revenue but other investments?

    Did hosting the World Cup make a difference beyond generating a reported feel-good factor between black and white and other South Africans?

    Especially as that feel-good factor clearly did not extend to other Africans; Zimbabweans and other migrants are on high alert following threats of renewed attacks on ‘foreigners’ (a euphemism for other Africans).

    Time will tell. But the lessons for us are there. Sobering lessons: those who do the work don’t necessarily make the money, and more moral ones: referees’ decisions can be respected and properly challenged when wrong (the English goal that never was).

    Even in intense competition, players can follow the rules – and suffer the penalties when they don’t.

    Enough said.


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

    Books & arts

    The elephant in the room

    Review of ‘Climate Change in Africa’

    Jamie Pitman


    Camilla Toulmin’s recent book, written with ‘agency and intelligence’, is commendable for its ‘statistical insight’ and the ‘perceptive linkages’ it makes ‘between seemingly separate aspects of climate change’, writes Jamie Pitman. But by pinning hopes on market-based solutions for tackling climate change without explicitly acknowledging the role of capitalism in creating the problem, Pitman concludes that ultimately the book is ‘an exercise in “reformism”’.

    With the efficiency of a certain British advertising campaign, Camilla Toulmin’s ‘Climate change in Africa’ does ‘exactly what it says on the tin’. The book avoids writerly flourish and rhetoric to deliver a nuts-and-bolts analysis somehow shoe-horned into a tight 150 pages. Six of the nine chapters are given over to a particular aspect of climate change (water, food, forests, cities, conflict and carbon markets), each delivering a wide-ranging overview and ending with a brief prognosis that often identifies those areas where the author finds some hope for the future.

    Toulmin avoids making the necessary articulation of facts and statistics overly dull by granting her readers with a degree of both agency and intelligence to unpick some important and recurrent themes. Not least of which is the part world leaders and corporations have played in subordinating Africa to their own interests. Even with her tendency for understatement, Toulmin exposes the injustice that underpins the costly price Africa will pay for events for which they are the least responsible. Sadly, many readers of the book – and indeed this review – will hear the echoes from slavery, colonialism and onwards to the rigged markets of global capitalism (to which Africa is still waiting for her invitation) loudly reverberating. One is reminded of the movie poster that proclaimed ‘your murderers come with smiles’.

    I should stress that this assessment is my own and, however warranted, is just the sort that the writer carefully avoids. Instead, Toulmin continues with her factual reporting and analysis, interweaving sometimes seemingly disparate consequences of climate change (such as the choking effects to female emancipation or causing barriers to education) whilst punctuating the bleakness with rays of optimism. Paradoxically, one of these ‘rays’ actually adds to the bleakness. This is because Toulmin pegs much hope on the 2009 Copenhagen climate change conference, which is now widely acknowledged to have been a failure (the director of Greenpeace UK called it a ‘crime scene’). World leaders accepted the importance of a two degree cap or ceiling on further temperature rises, the significance of which Toulmin stresses in the book – but the leaders failed to ratify this accord. There are also many other planks, similarly and depressingly unconstitutionalised, on which Toulmin had laid much weight (most notable of these were the trajectory of future emissions, their proposed peak and reduction levels – and all of this was further compounded by the absence of a prospective timetable to address the neglected points).

    In draining this one stream of hope (Copenhagen and the political process) that Toulmin frequently refers to, it is difficult to endorse any of the remaining trickle. Whilst camel’s milk or fishing (see chapter 4) might provide some palliative effect or easing to particular problems, it would be naive to think that they are fundamental solutions, which is not to say Toulmin pretends otherwise. However, the collapse of any faith in the political process (admittedly, with the benefit of post-Copenhagen hindsight) leaves Toulmin’s assessment with just one strand of hope and that is in the carbon markets.

    Toulmin begins her advocacy of the potential that the carbon markets might hold for Africa from the second page of the introduction. Also in the introduction, Toulmin outlines a Rawlsian theory of distributive justice (John Rawls was an American political theorist) to illustrate the obstacles that Africa and others in the 53 least developed countries (LDCs) face around the negotiating table. The theory uses the example of a child (a metaphor for the developed nations) dividing up his or her birthday cake at their own party. Left to their own devices, the child would generally cut themselves a disproportionately large slice first – leaving the other guests (the LDCs) to fight over the remainder. However, if the child is told they must cut all the other guests a slice off before their own, the birthday boy or girl is much more likely to be meticulously fair to ensure that they themselves don’t lose out. Toulmin offers this analogy up as the template from which future negotiations should be premised (the future now resting on the climate summit in Cancun, Mexico at the end of 2010).

    Personally, I find the idea of carbon markets being a panacea for Africa, the LDCs or indeed anywhere else to be deeply flawed. Firstly, there is the utopian notion that members of the G8, the Bretton Woods institutions (the IMF, World Bank and the WTO) alongside the multinational corporations (MNCs) will voluntarily surrender their own dominant positions to the poorest nations. This would not only be unprecedented, but would also signal a complete reversal of all the empirical lessons history has to offer us.

    Let us suppose for a moment that the assembled leaders of global capitalism were somehow gifted with some degree of humanity and selflessness (once again to the contrary of all the past evidence and in opposition to capitalist ideology), resulting in the LDCs being given an equal or even favoured voice at the next climate summit in Cancun. A pure market mechanism would invariably drive the unit price of carbon down as Africa’s 53 sovereign countries fought for their piece of the market.

    Even if the price was valorised (this is when a price is set at a fixed amount), Toulmin repeatedly refers to the corruption that is rife inside many African governments, so there would be no guarantee that this new flow of capital would ever be redirected into the sort of state-funded schemes that might create employment, infrastructure or any such measures that might improve the lives of the people.

    Thirdly, if we accept the argument that Africa’s unconditional entry into the global market could be her saviour precisely because of the speed at which capitalism drives development (a la Dambisa Moyo), it surely follows that carbon markets could be the undoing of this. This is because rather than promoting the sort of rapid industrialisation underway in India or China, carbon markets would actually deter it. The result of this would be replacing the reliance on one lot of crumbs from the developed countries table (aid) for another (carbon).

    Finally, there remains the legitimacy of carbon trading itself. Carbon trading was dreamt up in the late 1980s when the developed nations realised that breakdown of the Eastern Bloc also meant that the industrial output of those eastern European countries would also decline. Consequently there would be a large and sudden reduction in global emissions. Not only would this allow the developed countries to continue polluting by paying the former communist countries for the privilege, it allowed them to increase their emissions by the same amount their new trading partner had previously emitted. Carbon trading not only provides a free market get-out clause for the global North but could also be a recipe to make things worse.

    ‘Climate Change in Africa’ attempts to merge being light enough to slip into your trouser pocket whilst dealing with one of the most starkly pressing and serious issues facing humankind. This difficult balancing act necessitates the no-nonsense, lean style of prose mentioned earlier. My first criticism of the book is a result of this.

    Whilst commendably compact, I fear ‘Climate Change in Africa’ might not be suitably engaging enough to serve as an introduction or a ‘reader’ to the uninitiated – a function the book’s size suggests it is appropriate for. The concentrate of facts, figures and case studies can leave one feeling as though they are reading through the pages of a government or other officially commissioned study. Essentially, it is a very dry read perhaps of most use to a student or journalist searching for facts and figures from which to make their own analysis.

    My second criticism is more fundamental. Toulmin’s struggle to be succinct does not excuse the reluctance to name and shame the role of the market within the essay. Capitalism becomes the ‘elephant in the room’ – forever lurking in the background, rather than ever being explicitly mentioned. This omission is particularly obvious when Toulmin details the plight of African farmers – who have not only struggled against the WTO’s skewed import/export reforms, but are now having to compete against commercial giants (like Monsanto), who can afford to take measures against the effects of climate change.

    From this perspective, Toulmin’s book becomes an exercise in ‘reformism’ – that is trying to find answers to Africa’s climate change problems within capitalism itself, despite the defining role the system has played in both the situation Africa finds itself in today and in creating the climate change phenomena itself. For this reason, I can only recommend ‘Climate Change in Africa’ on the narrow merits of its statistical insight and the perceptive linkages Toulmin makes between seemingly separate aspects of climate change. Unfortunately, those of us who not only want to join the dots, but who also want to be able to see the bigger picture, might be better off looking elsewhere.


    * Climate Change in Africa by Camilla Toulmin is published by Zed Books (London/New York) and is priced £12.99/$22.95. ISBN: 9781848130159.
    * Jamie Pitman is a politics and economics student at Ruskin College, Oxford. In what seems like a previous life he was a docker and then a carpenter.
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

    Letters & Opinions

    Xenophobia isn't only a South African problem

    Response to ‘Xenophobia redux’

    Megan Redmond


    I've never been anywhere that is free of discrimination against one or other group of people, writes Megan Redmond.

    I agree that xenophobia is not a South African problem. It is everywhere. I've lived in a few countries and travelled to many and I've never been anywhere that is free of discrimination against one or other group of people.

    In the UK refugees and immigrants are scapegoated, using the same arguments and are also used politically – particularly around election times and times of economic difficulty and the media ramp it all up to sell sensational stories. People here also have and do die of xenophobic attacks, though not on the same scale.

    It is also institutionalised though steps have been taken to address this and there is consistent activism around these issues. Perhaps where there is greater inequality there is also more violence? Perhaps at times of greater economic uncertainty there is more scapegoating?

    My concern about South Africa is personal and I would dearly like it to flourish for the benefit of all.

    The economic system in South Africa is brutal and the wealth gap unforgiveable but materialism is driven I think partly by fear of how vulnerable you are if you don't have the means to protect yourself through the Security Industrial Complex that is thriving, so even people who have access to credit are living on that and are more economically precarious than they appear and therefore not so secure in themselves or the world.

    The psychological well-being of South Africa as a nation needs attending to on a deeper level than what World Cup mania can deliver. Material NECESSITIES are vital for life but over and above that self esteem is built on deeper things such as shared community, culture and value for all people.

    Nationalism runs very deep and people who are living in comfort express the same nationalist sentiments about recent migrants not belonging, though they don't necessarily act on them in the same way that some of the poorest people have but it is all part of the same thing and all share responsibility. (I have more controversial things to say but will save for another posting as I don't want to do harm in any way at a time like this) I think it is a nationalism that runs seamlessly through South African society pre and post 1994 and to me it is a rigid, ugly phenomenon. I live in the UK and since the violence of 2008 I am gradually becoming more and more distant from many of my friends in SA, who are from all sections of society, because our opinions are poles apart on all these issues.

    Telling the truth with a capital T

    Response ‘The June 16 uprising unshackled: A black perspective’

    Gcobani KaNgcibi


    Nelvis Qekema’s bold article helps dispel some of the ANC’s myths about its role in underground movements and June 16, writes Gcobani KaNgcibi.

    Thanks for bringing forward such informative articles. June 16 is one of the most important days in our calendar in SA.

    This is one of the most powerful articles I have read in a long time. It dispels all the lies peddled by Jacob Zuma & ANC, about working underground with students.

    What I like about this work, there are references where one can verify these facts. We have not forgotten how the Tombstone at the grave of Hector Pieterson, June 16’s 1st victim, was vandalized by night. ANC offered to erect a new one only to put its own colors and emblems of ANC instead of the clenched fist of the BCM and ‘one azania one nation’ slogan that was there before.

    One does not need a degree to work out who were responsible for vandalism in the first place. Thanks to Mr Qekema for being bold in telling the truth with capital T.

    We all said ‘never again’

    Response to ‘Forget the ICC: Let Africa revive its traditional justice systems’

    Kennedy Akumu


    Let's say no to impunity and start taking responsibility for our acts, writes Kennedy Akumu.

    I agree partially with your views, but appreciate the intellectual thrust. However, we need to ask ourselves as Africans hard questions and be true to ourselves. We have watched over the decades as our dear leaders become vampires and almost rendering generations extinct like dinosaurs, this all with IMPUNITY.

    Second these leaders if they had the balls should have not ratified or acceded to the Rome Statute, at least none has come out to say they were forced.

    When Rwanda Genocide occurred we all said never again. We watch as hundreds of women are raped in DRC, we watch in Zimbabwe as over 20,000 Ndebeles were allegedly killed for being Ndebeles...the list is endless, but it has to be put to an end.

    NO to Impunity, lets stop seeing double and ghosts and start taking responsibility for our acts!

    Lessons from the ‘Art of War’

    Response to ‘Forget the ICC: Let Africa revive its traditional justice systems’



    Stephen looks to ancient Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu to explain the structure of justice in Africa.

    It is extremely difficult for westerners to acknowledge the highly advanced structure of justice in Africa. It reminds me of a passage from Sun Tzu's Art of War...

    According to an old story, a lord of ancient China once asked his physician, a member of a family of healers, which of them was the most skilled in the art.

    The physician whose reputation was such that his name became synonymous with medical science in China, replied, ‘My eldest brother sees the spirit of sickness and removes it before it takes shape, so his name does not get out of the house.

    ‘My elder brother cures sickness when it is still extremely minute, so his name does not get out of the neighborhood.

    ‘As for me, I puncture veins, prescribe potions, and massage skin, so from time to time my name gets out and is heard among the lords.’

    African Writers’ Corner

    Speak no more – let us just make music

    Amira Ali


    This poem speaks to and responds to historical, psychological, cultural and social forces that shape the identity and culture of the people of African descent. It pays homage to the black Jazz music legends, who during the back-to-Africa movement and the Harlem Renaissance period fostered a body of music through an identification with Africa, albeit through a construct of Africa and an imagination which fell short and resorted to mimicry of their white counterparts. More often than not, the African identity is objectified to a form of concept that expressed more of African primitiveness. Similarly, this identity tension, at times, echoing some of the body of music that emerged out of that time, plays out in everyday relationships between the black diaspora and Africans – a body of soundless and sound-full subjectivities.

    But if only we would deconstruct this discourse through the music of poetry. This piece sings to that deconstruction.

    Found, again after five

    hundred many years of


    of ancestry


    found, again after many


    let us unveil to

    as if the eternal moment


    pieces and links

    of stitched fabric notes

    on top of the hours

    shaded memories

    of hundred pharaohs,

    let us long to rise

    and in our place abide,

    void of

    black and blue

    of being theirs,

    obeying thoughts of river

    to flow into open gates,

    I fixate on seeing

    and hearing you;

    avoiding night hours

    that has lost so much, already,

    you, spinning out of self

    do you see, hear me

    in stillness of time

    beyond invisibility,

    flow, choose to where I flowed out of,

    make a place next to me,

    just be quiet

    to the soundless voice

    of memory

    that speaks no more,

    mystery remains but

    I am here

    breathing together; like you

    opening to gifts of the sun

    journeying-to-find-earth of sorts

    yes, I am like you

    so, desist

    objectifying my identity to

    an unidentified form of concept;

    construct-less jungle beats

    that express misconstrue primordiality

    reality'ing-less my existential-ity,

    undress from the philosophized

    dogma of Berlin-ized,

    historicized & subject-icized

    facile image-ized,

    Afro-cized, the rest is just a mirage.

    Like soundless voices that used to tell,

    over & over & over

    of undecipherable


    of memory,

    of time spaced

    in the price of life,

    come, blow into unknown sounds

    to opening flowers

    of my interior,

    paint over margins

    that strain-fully muddle our image

    into a-word, world

    of confined-ed-ness,

    instead, make our space inside

    as if millions of suns

    were arranged inside,

    sound, the ecstatic horn bursting like suns

    soak'in our chest

    fill'in notes of music that belong

    in the warmth of our chest,

    blow into the horn

    our existence

    to tunes of resistance of now-full-ness,

    interrupt'n time

    to revolt'n space-full

    music-form of resistance,

    intervene'in insatiable souls

    of fragmented-ness,


    evanescing the time

    spaced in sinful-ness,

    build'in statements

    of love beyond concepts,

    anchor me as I'll anchor you,

    come to this temple of beatific-ness

    to the few that find the path

    to obscure imagery

    expression-less of that

    to express-more of us

    more than less;

    let us go naked and dance

    distance'in the world

    of construction-ness

    to paint naked to

    less-reductional beats

    of sax-o-phone-ness,

    from the sweetness

    of the belly rising

    notes-full-of-pearl drops

    breath'in into our imagination

    of two worlds

    penetrate'in-to the heart,

    kiss the music

    the mouth touching the lips

    feeling on the surface

    the taste of lips he wants,

    to taste the truth he wants,

    blow unknown sounds

    into interstices

    of magical notes that

    distances the world of

    fictional mimic'in

    to imagery music'in,

    indistinguishable from music, when we join

    continual, eternal dream of

    one note of unexpected magic,

    to recognize me, fill me

    with heartful-ness imagery

    mergin'in mine with yours

    pieces of a lunar


    with an ordinary dreamy poet

    lost in vision

    of notes that turn the heart over,

    making spaces of euphoric fusion

    of our aesthetic


    of shadows,

    invasion of

    mine with yours

    to turn into stars each night.

    Come, let us improvise,

    intrude on

    the locus of culture

    that dances

    to performances,

    let us

    merge like the two seas

    brought together

    with time & space,

    pretext'd pulse

    of third space,

    blow'in-to the world to awaken, to


    our renaissance'd

    time and space

    in language

    that speaks to our soul,

    beyond beats

    that strain our chords of music

    let us debate-less

    drunk'in metaphorically poetic space

    with laughter'd breath.

    In silenced music

    let us leave this world,

    move'in closer

    to moon-trips,

    to hear in stillness

    musical notes of beloved-ness,

    let us live in the soul

    find'in our feet

    naked in the glory

    of our splendid past,

    submerse'in naked

    in ancestral remember-ance,

    let us just make music

    of expressions of

    our world

    of now and

    in remember-ance.


    * This poem is also available as an audio recording [mp3].
    * afro'disiatic © 2010
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

    Highlights French edition

    Pambazuka News 155: Crise alimentaire au Sahel : les fausses solutions


    Zimbabwe update

    'War vets' want members to be apolitical


    An organisation representing former freedom fighters says it wants its members to be apolitical and is fighting to have this included in the new constitution. The Zimbabwe Liberation Platform, ZLP, a liberal organisation that claims to be “a progressive section of former independence war fighters championing democracy and social equality” told The Zimbabwean that war veterans needed to regain their independence to avoid being manipulated by selfish politicians.

    Constitutional outreach on verge of collapse


    Constitutional outreach members from all the ten provinces, with drivers and technicians included, are threatening to down their tools due to poor working conditions and a breach of agreements by COPAC. Barely a month after the launch of the Constitutional Outreach, aimed at coming up with a new constitution under the auspices of the Constitutional Parliamentary Committee, threats of its cessation are growing everyday as problems mount.

    MDC Ministers in London to woo donors and investors


    Three cabinet ministers from the two MDC formations, plus Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, were in London addressing two separate meetings that sought to woo investors and donors to help with Zimbabwe’s economic recovery. The ministers were accompanied by their permanent secretaries and other senior civil servants from their ministries.

    African Union Monitor

    15th AU Summit: CSO recommendations on peace and Security


    At the end of the AU civil society pre -summit meeting organized by the African Union Commission in collaboration with the Economic, Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC), we as civil society and peoples’ representatives from across the continent welcome this opportunity to jointly reflect on the condition of the continent, the issues facing it and the developments since the last Summit, to arrive at a common position from which to communicate substantive recommendations to Heads of State and Government, Permanent Representatives, Peace and Security Council and Foreign Ministers. It is our hope that such forums and spaces, which are indicative of our commitment to a people driven African Union will continue to be encouraged.
    Recommendations of Civil Society Organizations on Peace and Security ahead of the 15th African Union Summit
    Imperial Royal Hotel, Kampala –July 2010

    At the end of the AU civil society pre -summit meeting organized by the African Union Commission in collaboration with the Economic, Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC), we as civil society and peoples’ representatives from across the continent welcome this opportunity to jointly reflect on the condition of the continent, the issues facing it and the developments since the last Summit, to arrive at a common position from which to communicate substantive recommendations to Heads of State and Government, Permanent Representatives, Peace and Security Council and Foreign Ministers. It is our hope that such forums and spaces, which are indicative of our commitment to a people driven African Union will continue to be encouraged.

    In light of the year of Peace and Security in Africa, we commit ourselves to the African Union’s vision of making peace happen on the African continent. In pursuance of this therefore we make the following notations and recommendations;

    Recognizing that over the past two decades, our continent has witnessed a number of severe, protracted, intra/interstate as well as cross boarder conflicts with devastating human and economic consequences.

    Noting that women and children bear the brunt of both direct and indirect effects of conflicts across the continent.

    Acknowledging the challenges in resolving protracted conflicts in most African states such as Sudan, Somalia, Democratic Republic of Congo to mention but a few.

    Aware that failure to transform these conflicts poses a great threat to peace and security in neighboring countries and the entire continent.

    Noting in particular the commitments made by the Heads of State and Government of the African Union on 31st August 2009 in Tripoli to deal once and for all with the scourge of conflicts and violence on the continent, especially through committing resources towards conflict prevention, peace making and post conflict reconstruction.

    Understanding that the important theme of this year’s summit cannot be fully realized in a state of insecurity, anarchy and lawlessness.

    On Sudan
    That in the next 6 months leading up to the referendum, AU and the broader international community should redouble efforts to ensure that the proposed referendum is devoid of intimidation, is free and fair and meets international standards.
    That all South Sudanese be allowed to vote during the referendum irrespective of wherever they are resident.
    That the outstanding border and other issues in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement be determined prior to the referendum.
    That during and after the referendum, the Sudanese Government, AU and IGAD working in collaboration ensure that the protection of citizens rights as enshrined in the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights is protected regardless of the outcome.
    The AU and UN must ensure that UNAMID focuses its efforts on its core mandate of the protection of civilians and securing humanitarian access as robust implementation of the mandate is crucial for provision of humanitarian assistance and protection.

    On Somalia
    Civil society strongly calls for Member States of the African Union to develop a clear comprehensive road map towards the rebuilding of the Somali State especially the institutions of governance with a role given to all stakeholders.
    The Member States of the AU/IGAD/International Community should continue to support political and reconciliation processes between the Transitional Federal Government and opposition groups within the framework of the Djibouti Peace Agreement (DPA) and ensure community involvement in the process.
    The AU should call upon member states and the international community to support the implementation of IGAD’s November 2008 Nairobi Declaration to sanction war profiteers, spoilers of peace process through imposition of travel ban, assets and funds freezing on key leaders and their associates and other entities.
    AU should call for the removal of the restriction on IGAD frontline states to undertake sea and border blockages to curtail flow of arms and resources to Al-Shabaab.
    Member states of the AU well strengthen AMISOM by mobilizing and deploying the ideal 20,000-troop strong force and review the mission’s mandate to that of peace enforcement.

    On Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

    1. The AU should encourage the government of DRC to fight against impunity for on going and continual violations of human rights as well as strengthening of local justice mechanisms to ensure accountability for crimes committed during the conflict.
    2. Call for the protection of civilians and human rights activists through improved security, peace, and justice, which are pillars of stability in Africa.

    In General
    The AU should Urge and ensure that Member states open up the space and opportunities for CSOs to provide early warning of impending crisis as provided for in the Peace and Security Council Protocol under CEWARN and the Livingstone Formula.
    The AU should strongly urge Member states to ratify and implement UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women’s Peace and Security as well as African Charter on Human and Peoples Right and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa.
    The AU should ensure that annual PSC-ECOSOCC consultation with the ECOSOCC cluster on Peace and Security as stipulated in the Livingstone Formula commences in 2010 as part of the proclamation of the Year of Peace. Further The Peace and Security Cluster of ECOSOCC should be supported to organise Strategic Conflict and Peace Assessments in each of the sub region with a view to informing policy decisions of the Union.
    That the AU should apply relevant sanctions on member states that fail to comply with the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Good Governance. Specifically, Niger Military Juntas should be made to keep to the transition timeframe and ensure transparent, free and fair elections.
    To ally electoral violence AU should ensure that all Member State ratify and implement the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Good Governance within the Year of Peace.
    Economic Empowerment is crucial in conflict zones and post conflict reconstruction and rehabilitation, we urge the AU to take full measures to partner with CSOs and private sector to establish developmental projects and organize training programs to build the capacity of youth and women in conflict zones and establish projects that will cater for the needs of the communities and hence create jobs and achieve economic growth and stability.

    Africa: Shift, engage, share and speak: Youth make their voices heard


    They are huddled together in a group in the midst of an animated discussion to which each has something to contribute. Eager to make her point is Barbara Kyomugisha. At just 24 years old, Barbara is a single mother living with HIV. The contribution she makes towards this discussion is first hand. To her, the affordability of health services is just as important as accessibility in addressing the rates of maternal mortality in Africa.

    Women & gender

    Africa: African Women’s Leadership Institute

    19th – 25th September, 2010


    AMwA will be holding a West African Sub Regional African Women’s Leadership Institute (AWLI) on the theme, “Building African Women’s Leadership to Address Long-Term Forced Migration”, that is scheduled to take place from 19th – 25th September 2010 in Accra, Ghana. The countries from which young women will be selected to participate in this AWLI will be from Anglo-phone West African countries. The deadline for the receipt of applications for this unique and exciting training programme is 30th July 2010.

    Africa: Uganda Ratifies the AU Protocol on the Rights of Women



    Solidarity for African Women’s Rights (SOAWR) coalition joins Women First (the Ugandan Women’s Rights Coalition to welcome and congratulate the Republic of Uganda for depositing its instrument of ratification of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa at the opening of the 17th Ordinary Session of the Executive Council of the African Union, at Munyonyo, Uganda, 22 July 2010. Uganda becomes the 28th member state of the African Union and the third East African Community Member to ratify the Protocol on the Rights of Women after Rwanda and Tanzania.
    Press Statement
    Thursday July 22, 2010

    Uganda Ratifies the AU Protocol on the Rights of Women

    Solidarity for African Women’s Rights (SOAWR) coalition joins Women First (the Ugandan Women’s Rights Coalition to welcome and congratulate the Republic of Uganda for depositing its instrument of ratification of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa at the opening of the 17th Ordinary Session of the Executive Council of the African Union, at Munyonyo, Uganda, 22 July 2010. Uganda becomes the 28th member state of the African Union and the third East African Community Member to ratify the Protocol on the Rights of Women after Rwanda and Tanzania.

    This would not have been possible without the close partnership between the government of Uganda, Ugandan Women’s Civil Society Organisations and the Uganda APRM National Governing Council. We commend all their efforts to ensure ratification of this Protocol and applaud the collaboration between the three line ministries in charge of the ratification: Gender, Justice and Constitutional Affairs and Foreign Affairs.

    SOAWR calls on the government of Uganda to continue the partnership with the Ugandan Women’s Rights Coalition to popularize the Protocol and put into place a process and mechanisms that will guarantee that the Protocol is translated into laws, policies and services that will promote and protect the rights of women in Uganda.

    We also urge the government to dedicate adequate human and financial resources that are required for the rights provided therein to be realized and enjoyed by women.

    Given the leadership that the government and the people of Uganda have demonstrated in upholding women’s rights, including being the first country to appoint a female vice president and adopting the affirmative action policy to boost women’s participation in politics and decision-making at all levels, we are confident that the Protocol will be implemented to become a force for freedom for all women in Uganda.

    Finally, we express our gratitude to all SOAWR members across Africa who have supported the Ugandan Women’s Rights Coalition in their advocacy efforts towards the ratification of the Protocol by Uganda.

    Solome Nakaweesi-Kimbugwe, Akina Mama wa Afrika/SOAWR; Tel. +256772 463 154 / +256-752 463 154
    Faiza Jama Mohamed, Equality Now/SOAWR; Tel. +254 722 805 539
    Mary Wandia, Oxfam GB / SOAWR, Tel. +256 757 413 917
    Norah Matovu-Winyi, FEMNET / SOAWR Tel; +256 772 825 829 / +254 729 571 544

    Ghana: Ignorance on abortion law means death


    Unsafe abortions account for more than one in 10 women who die in pregnancy in Ghana, according to new research by the US-based Guttmacher Institute, with ignorance of the law and inadequate facilities partly to blame, say health authorities. Abortion was declared legal in 1985 for women who have been raped, in cases of incest, or where the pregnancy will cause the mother physical or mental harm, but decades on, only 4 percent of women are aware of the law, according to 2009 government health statistics (based on 2007 data).

    Kenya: Focus on fistula


    It is both preventable and treatable, but obstetric fistula plagues the lives of thousands of women in Kenya every year, leaving them incontinent and ostracized. Here are some reasons why: Information deficit
    Lack of reproductive health education means there is widespread ignorance of the basic facts about fistula - a tear in the birth canal caused by prolonged obstructed labour, or by sexual abuse, surgical trauma, gynaecological cancers and related radiotherapy treatment. According to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), there are 3,000 new cases per year in Kenya, with about one to two fistulas per 1,000 deliveries.

    Zambia: Call for 50% female candidates in poll


    With women having achieved little in terms of representation in decision-making positions in Zambia, a national women’s lobby group is hoping to change this in the 2011 general elections. While Zambia's electoral process may have built-in obstacles that hinder the meaningful participation of women as candidates, the Zambia National Women’s Lobby Group (ZNWL) wants to change this through a campaign dubbed "50 percent of women and men in leadership for equitable development."

    Zimbabwe: ICC must prosecute Mugabe youths' rape campaign


    The International Criminal Court must probe alleged crimes against humanity after Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe’s youth militia launched a campaign of rape during 2008 elections, a campaign group says. Witness statements by rape victims, vetted by a team of international lawyers, suggest the ruling ZANU-PF unleashed “sexual terror” against women who supported the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), it said.

    Human rights

    Botswana: Bushmen lose right to Kalahari water well


    San bushmen in Botswana have lost a court case to allow them to re-open a vital waterhole in the centre of the Kalahari desert. Diamonds were found in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, traditional home to the bushmen, in the 1980s - and the government asked them to leave.

    Ethiopia: No internal civil society submissions to UNHRC review


    In its report to the Human Rights Committee, the government of Ethiopia states that “to promote the operation of charities and societies and to ensure their transparency and accountability, a Proclamation for Registration and Regulation of Charities and Societies has been issued and is effective now.” This proclamation helped Ethiopian authorities strangle the country’s independent human rights organisations.

    Gambia: Global Day of Action


    Amnesty International is calling on the Gambian government to end its widespread use of arbitrary detentions and torture as activists worldwide stage protests against the authorities' appalling human rights record on 22 July, the country's national holiday known as "Freedom Day".

    Global: Columbia to host human rights defenders

    2010 Human Rights Advocates Program


    On Monday, August 30th, the Institute for the Study of Human Rights (ISHR) at Columbia University will welcome 10 human rights activists as the 22nd cohort of the Human Rights Advocates Program (HRAP). The intensive HRAP curriculum is defined by academic coursework, skills-building workshops and networking opportunities with the human rights communities in New York and Washington, DC. By the time the advocates complete the program in mid-December, they will have acquired the knowledge, skills and connections necessary to further develop themselves as human rights professionals and their organizations back home.

    Global: Left out twice: Living with HIV and disabilities


    "I'm a woman with a disability. I am HIV-positive and I am on ARVs (antiretroviral drugs). My life is very hard." These were the first words Immaculate, a 52-year-old landmine survivor in northern Uganda, said to me when I met her in May. "It took long for me to declare my status. I felt I should just die," she said. Margaret is another Ugandan with HIV who also has an amputated leg from a landmine accident.

    Global: The Netherlands: Do not deport Somalis


    The Dutch government should immediately halt all plans to return Somalis to war-torn Somalia, Human Rights Watch has said. The Dutch authorities have announced their intention to deport, between now and October 2010, at least eight Somalis whose claims for asylum have been rejected. The first deportation could take place as early as July 24. The plan is contrary to UN refugee guidelines, which advise against all deportations to south-central Somalia.

    Kenya: Man shot dead by police in Nairobi forced eviction protests


    Amnesty International has urged the Kenyan authorities to investigate the death of a market trader reportedly shot dead by police during a protest against forced evictions in a Nairobi settlement. Jackson Maina Kihato, 74, was killed on Monday after he tried to complain about the police beating a woman during demonstrations in Kabete NITD. Protests have continued in the settlement since an estimated 1,000 people lost their homes and market stalls in a mass forced eviction on 10 July.

    Rwanda: Call for independent autopsy of murdered critic


    Rwanda's government should allow independent experts to carry out an autopsy on a murdered opposition politician, Human Rights Watch says. The US-based group says there are discrepancies in the official account of Andre Kagwa Rwisereka's death.

    Sudan: Darfur JEM rebels sign deal to stop child soldiers


    A Sudanese rebel group has signed an agreement to allow the UN access to its bases to check children are not being recruited as soldiers. The Justice and Equality Movement (Jem) told the BBC it had been trying to protect children since the beginning of the seven-year conflict in Darfur.

    Refugees & forced migration

    DRC: Guterres calls for 'proportionate' international aid to Equateur province


    High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres has been in Kinshasa as part of a three-day visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo to draw attention to the plight of Congo's displaced people and the need to ensure humanitarian access to them. Guterres who travelled to Equateur province in western DRC, said that his agency was getting ready to re-establish a presence in the region to help the internally displaced as well as prepare for the return of refugees.

    East Africa: UNHCR apologises to Uganda over comments on Rwandan refugees


    The UN refugee agency apologized Tuesday to the Uganda government after it claimed it was involved in the forced repatriation of some 1700 Rwandan refugees last week, RNA reports. Uganda’s minister for disaster preparedness and refugees, Tarsis Kabwegyere, said Tuesday afternoon that UNHCR has privately apologised for its inaccurate statements.

    Somaliland: Clashes displace thousands


    Several thousand people in northern Somalia have been displaced in recent weeks by clashes between Somaliland troops and a new rebel group, according to local and UN sources. The armed group is called Sool, Sanaag and Cayn (SSC) after the regions it hopes to “liberate” from the government of Somaliland, a northwestern region which unilaterally declared independence in 1991. No country formally recognizes Somaliland’s statehood.

    Social movements

    Africa: Africa Youth Forum 2010


    From 17 to 19 July 2010 in Uganda, more than 120 delegates from across the continent, joined by President of Uganda Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and other participants, attended the African Youth Forum (AYF) in the city of Entebbe, near Kampala, the capital. The Forum is the first-ever official gathering of young people in conjunction with the 15th African Union Summit, taking place 25–27 July in the capital.
    From 17 to 19 July 2010 in Uganda, more than 120 delegates from across the continent, joined by President of Uganda Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and other participants, attended the African Youth Forum (AYF) in the city of Entebbe, near Kampala, the capital.

    The Forum is the first-ever official gathering of young people in conjunction with the 15th African Union Summit, taking place 25–27 July in the capital. The Youth Forum focused on the theme ‘Maternal, Infant and Child Health: African Youth Call for Action’. Additional topics included HIV/AIDS, youth rights, climate change and access to a quality education for all.

    The Forum’s call for action will be presented to Heads of State/Government attending the AU Summit.UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Mia Farrow was a speaker at the Forum, which was organized by UNICEF in collaboration with the Government of Uganda, UNFPA and other partners. One can access to online discussion on Speak Africa, on Facebook, and on Twitter. The Forum was also recorded and has been made available online on UStream, as has the Final Communique.

    Emerging powers news

    Emerging Powers in Africa News Round-up


    In this week's emerging powers in Africa round-up, a big shift in trade relations is taking shape across Africa, China's Liu Zhenmin meets AU Chairman Ping, India targets more links in Africa’s food supply chain, World Cup lends South Africa confidence to unite continent, and NGOs slam EU-Brazil plans to develop biofuels in Africa.


    Big shift in trade relations taking shape across Africa
    Africa’s total merchandise trade with non-African developing countries surged from $34-billion in 1995 to a material $283-billion in 2008, making this category of trading partner the continent’s fastest growing, a new United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) study shows. It also shows that China’s role as a trade and investment partner has underpinned much of the expansion. Overall, the contribution of non-African developing countries to Africa’s external trade increased from 8% in 1980 to 29% in 2008. In fact, Africa’s trade with all developing countries, including intra-African trade, actually surpassed that of the European Union (EU) for the first time in 2007, indicating a marked increase in the importance of develop- ing countries to Africa’s merchandise trade patterns. While the EU remained Africa’s largest trade partner, its share of trade declined from around 55% in the mid-1980s to below 40% in 2008.However, as a source of foreign direct investment in Africa, non-African developing countries’ share rose more modestly, from the 12% level recorded between 1995 and 1999 to 16% between 2000 and 2008. This investment was mostly directed towards natural resources, but there were also significant investments into infrastructure, as well as finance, agriculture and light manufacturing. The report, which was unveiled by Unctad secretary-general Read More

    China surpasses US as world's top energy consumer
    China is now king of the world in energy consumption, surpassing the U.S. years ahead of forecasts in a milestone that left the Asian giant immediately rejecting its new crown. Sensitive to its status as the world's biggest polluter, China has long pointed fingers at developed nations in climate change talks and resists any label that could increase international pressure for it to take a larger role in curbing greenhouse gas emissions Read more

    China in Africa

    China is 'not that big a force in Africa'
    China is among the most active investors in Africa, but developed countries still account for most foreign direct investment (FDI) into the continent, according to the 2010 World Investment Report. South Africa - and not China - was the biggest emerging market investor in Africa between 2006 and 2008 with $2.6 billion (R19.3bn) of average annual FDI flows. China invested $2.5bn in Africa between 2006 and 2008, a fraction of its overall investment outflow Read More

    Evan Osnos chats to a young Chinese Pharmaceutical Researcher selected by his company to join an agricultural project DRC. The young scientist informs Osnos that the project is aimed at growing rice to ship back to China. But more than that he indicated that project was prestigious because it made his company look good and patriotic in the eyes of the local Chinese officials Read More

    During a meeting between the respective the Kenyan trade minister and his Chinese counterpart, both sides agreed to review the outdated Bilateral Trade Agreement to reflect the current situation in Kenya and china where the two are members of various trading blocks. Trade between the two countries has been growing very fast, but it is heavily in favour of China. In view of this several measures were discussed to rectify the situation including exchanging Trade and Investment related information, participating in Trade Fairs and Exhibitions in each other’s countries Read More

    Tanzania bows to Chinese investor over setting up new state airline
    Tanzania is to set up a new state airline to replace the ailing Air Tanzania Company, bowing to pressure from Chinese investors who are refusing to take over debts incurred by the airline over the past four decades. The formation of a new airline, to be announced after the end of the national parliamentary session, was at the centre of prolonged negotiations with Hong Kong-based Sonangol International, which have taken about three years Read More

    Assistant Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin Meets with African Union (AU) Commission Chairman Jean Ping
    On July 21, 2010, Assistant Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin, as special envoy of the Chinese government, met with African Union (AU) Commission Chairman Jean Ping on the sidelines of the 15th Ordinary Session of the Summit of the African Union (AU). Liu said that China is ready to work with AU to continuously keep closer bilateral coordination and cooperation in major international and regional issues, expand pragmatic cooperation in all areas and push forward China-AU friendly ties Read More

    New Refinery Planned for Lagos Free Trade Zone
    Nigeria is a place where many more deals are announced than are ever completed. But July saw progress towards the construction of one of three new Nigerian refineries expected to reduce imports of refined petroleum products, a costly and ironic feature of the oil-rich nation's economy. The memorandum, signed in May 2010, proposed the building of three refineries at a total cost of $25 billion dollars. Not surprisingly, it's in the bustling economic engine of the country, Lagos, that concrete details of funding of a public-private partnership to build a refinery have emerged. The eight billion dollar refinery will be located in the southeastern state's Lekki Free Trade Zone, and NNPC Executive Director in charge of Engineering and Technology, Billy Agha, commended Lagos State Governor Babatunde Fashola for incorporating an oil and gas project into the LFTZ Read More

    Concerns over Chinese Investment and Working Conditions
    Chinese investment in African countries comes with few strings attached – which is exactly what concerns civil society organisations. During the Annual Bank Conference on Development Economics (ABCDE) held last week various members of African civil society organisations expressed concern about the terms of China’s increasing activities on the continent. The World Bank conference, organised with South Africa’s treasury department, ran from June 9 to 11 in Cape Town, South Africa. ‘‘Zambian civil society agrees that international finance is needed for development and it should not matter whether the assistance comes from Europe or China,’’ said Stephen Muyakwa, an agricultural economist in Zambia and chairperson of the Zambian Civil Society Trade Network Read More

    Rhino Farms in China: Stimulating Illegal Trade, Fuelling Demand for Rhino Horn
    As Asian demands for rhino horn medicine continue to keep rhino poaching syndicates in business, an alarming report has revealed that China is likely “farming” rhinos for horns – a practice that is poised to further invigorate the demand for rhino horn and drive wild rhinos ever closer to extinction Read More

    China to Assist in Bridging Entrepreneurship Gap
    The Office of the Special Adviser to the President on Relations with Civil Society (OSAP-CSR) has initiated fresh steps to explore the various opportunities which China is providing through its Economic and Commercial department. The office is seeking to build a stronger partnership with China in the area of entrepreneurship and skill acquisition to help in the implementation of its economic development drive for the actualisation of the country's push to become one of the major economic forces in 2020 Read More

    China avoids condemnation of ICC’s fresh move against Bashir
    The Chinese government appeared to move to a more neutral position regarding the International Criminal Court (ICC) arrest warrant issued for Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir. On Monday, the Hague Tribunal added genocide charges to the counts against Bashir which already included war crimes and crimes against humanity for his alleged role in orchestrating the conflict in Sudan’s western region of Darfur where hundreds of thousands are believed to be killed and millions displaced. When the warrant was originally issued last year China was among the leading countries to criticize it saying it will complicate peace efforts in a nation which has suffered from chronic instability. It has also sought to convince western members of the UN Security Council (UNSC) to adopt a resolution to freeze the indictment under Article 16 of the ICC statute. This time, China’s tone was much more reserved, and did not directly address the issuing of the warrant. Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang in reaction to the genocide charges said: "We hope relevant sides will listen to the African Union, the League of Arab States and countries concerned, and play a constructive role in maintaining peace and stability in Sudan and the region" Read More

    Nigeria's refinery project to create 7,000 jobs: official
    An estimated 7,000 jobs will be created in Nigeria's southern Bayelsa State when a refinery is built there in a joint project with China, state oil officials said. State-run Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) said in a statement that the Bayelsa refinery is one of three to be built across the country with a total installed capacity of 750,000 barrels per day.The three 'Greenfield Refineries' will be located in Bayelsa, the commercial capital Lagos and central Kogi state, the statement said Read More

    India in Africa

    Indian investment to Ethiopia reaches $5 billion
    Indian investment to Ethiopia has reached a record of $ 5 billion in 2010, up from $ 300 million five years ago. A 24-member Indian investors’ team is in Ethiopia on a business trip, which aims at assessing business opportunities in the country Read More

    Nagarjuna Fertilisers plans African foray
    Indian Compnay Nagarjuna Fertilisers and Chemicals, the flagship company of the Nagarjuna Group, plans to set up an urea manufacturing plant in Nigeria. This would be Nagarjuna Fertilisers’ first foray into Africa. Though the plan is in a nascent stage, the company plans to invest about Rs 5,000 crore. For this, it would set up a joint venture (JV) with a local partner. The plant would have a one million tonne capacity. The African countries want India investors to invest in agriculture and allied fields. Gas, critical for urea production, is available aplenty. “There would be scope to sell the produce domestically or import to India,” said K S Raju, chairman of Nagarjuna Group Read More

    'Independent' Gupta daily will back government
    Atul Gupta, the politically well-connected computer tycoon behind South Africa's latest daily newspaper, declared that The New Age would be independent but "broadly supportive" of the government. The Indian-born head of Sahara computers, who has interests in mining, aviation and property, revealed that investors in the title to be launched in September included the Times of India - the world's biggest English language newspaper. The New Age was the product of two years of feasibility studies and his team would avoid the mistakes that had seen other titles like This Day and The Weekender close their doors, he said Read More

    Punjab’s African plot
    Jagjit Singh Hara’s 50-acre farm in Kanganwal village in Jalandhar leaves him with little time for anything else. Still, he has taken time off to make a trip to the Pasteur Institute in Kasauli, Himachal Pradesh, to get himself inoculated against yellow fever before he sets out to scout for land in Africa Read More

    India targets more links in Africa’s food supply chain
    Trade between Africa and Asia is booming like never before, and it’s no surprise that India will again have a substantial presence on Africa’s Big Seven food and beverage expo (AB7) to be held at the Gallagher Convention Centre in Johannesburg on July 25-27, 2010. The Indian companies have returned en masse for this year’s event and will install an even larger Indian Pavilion at AB7 to showcase new products and services. Visitors can expect to find tea, coffee, spices, rice, maize and cashew nuts amongst the many other familiar favourites from this country’s producers Read More

    In Other emerging News

    Why China Wins Africa Game
    From the southern tip of their own continent and across to Latin America, Asia’s two rising and aspiring powers are set to compete for supremacy and the mantle of superpower status. But it’s in between these two points that the biggest competition between China and India is set to unfold. Forget Central Asia—Africa is the scene of the next ‘great game.’ The reason why the two will zero in on Africa is simple—both have burgeoning, resource hungry populations and rapidly growing economies. If they are to have any chance of sustained competition with developed Western economies, they will need access to the rich natural resources that Africa can provide. China already looks to have a significant edge on its rival, with two-way trade with Africa set to top $100 billion this year, compared to about a third of that between India and Africa last year Read More

    World Cup Lends South Africa Confidence to Unite Continent
    When it comes to trading partners, African countries have long looked beyond their neighbors. And when inadequate infrastructure makes transporting a car across the continent about triple the cost of importing it from Japan, it's not hard to understand why. Hosting the World Cup has given the continent's largest economy a huge shot of confidence, which the government and South African companies are expected to parlay into a bigger role reshaping trade and investment across the continent Read More

    NGOs slam EU-Brazil plans to develop biofuels in Africa
    EU and Brazilian leaders are set to announce a new “triangular co-operation” initiative, under which they will aim to work together in some of the world’s poorest countries, but NGOs say the duo’s scheme is self-centred and will simply make conditions worse. But as EU and Brazilian officials prepare to start studies on how best to develop bioethanol, biodiesel and bioelectricity projects in Mozambique – already a leading African producer of biofuels – environmental groups say the initiative will simply serve to displace people from their land and exacerbate food shortages Read More

    South Africa’s Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has kicked of its promotion of Energy, Engineering and ICT with a trade mission to Shanghai led by senior executives. Consul-General of Shanghai and Commissioner-General of the South African Pavilion at Shanghai Expo Mr. Khumalo explained As South Africa develops, there are opportunities for companies in related sectors ranging from raw materials to energy exploration. The theme of the South African Pavilion is Ke Nako! It’s Time: The Rise of the Modern Economy. By this we mean it’s time for you to find out about the opportunities which await you in South Africa Read More

    Beijing gazumps New Delhi
    The Lagos State government, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and the China State Construction Engineering Corporation signed an US$8 billion deal this month for a 300,000 barrel-per-day oil refinery and a liquefied petroleum gas refinery that will produce 500,000 tonnes a year in the Lekki Free Trade Zone. Lagos will provide land and infrastructure for the project; the CSCEC will provide 80% of the finance and the NNPC will raise the rest. This plan, however, worries India's companies in Nigeria, especially ONGC Mittal Energy (OMEL), the consortium created by New Delhi's state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation and the Mittal Group. OMEL had sought assurances of support from the NNPC and the Nigerian government in December last year for its plans to build a refinery in the Lekki Free Trade Zone but the deal has gone awry Read More

    Brazil's poverty makes its aid donations both natural and surprising
    Brazil's emergence as one of the world's biggest providers of help to poor countries is forcing a rethink. China's growing, and rapacious, interest in Africa's natural resources has now been well documented, but Brazilian investments are not that far behind. The country's official aid budget has tripled in the last two years. Brazil is also dramatically increasing its diplomatic corps, and opening a string of new embassies across the continent. As the Economist recently noted, its total development spending could be about $4bn a year, which roughly matches the spending of traditional donor countries such as Canada and Sweden. Like China, Brazil does not impose western-style conditions on recipients, but its aid is focused more on social programmes and agriculture than the infrastructure projects that China is using to extract Africa's raw materials. Brazil is also interested in buying up African commodities and in creating markets for its "green" ethanol and business opportunities for its powerful agricultural lobby Read More

    Brazil's foreign-aid programme
    In search of soft power, Brazil is turning itself into one of the world's biggest aid donors. But is it going too far, too fast? ONE of the most successful post-earthquake initiatives in Haiti is the expansion of Lèt Agogo (Lots of Milk, in Creole), a dairy co-operative, into a project encouraging mothers to take their children to school in exchange for free meals. It is based on Bolsa Família, a Brazilian welfare scheme, and financed with Brazilian government money. In Mali cotton yields are soaring at an experimental farm run by Embrapa, a Brazilian research outfit. Odebrecht, a Brazilian construction firm, is building much of Angola’s water supply and is one of the biggest contractors in Africa Read More

    Pick 'n Pay to open more stores in Zambia
    South Africa's Pick 'n Pay will open seven stores in Zambia in the next five years as the country's second biggest grocery retailer builds its presence in the continent. Pick n Pay, which on Tuesday opened its first store in the copper-rich southern Africa nation, will spend $25 million over the period. The Cape Town-based company has embarked on an expansion drive in the rest of the continent and plans to also launch operations in Mozambique and Mauritius in a bid to offset slack demand at home Read More

    Blogs, Opinions, Presentations and Publications

    South-South versus North-South preferential trade access: Different countries, same outcome?
    China announced a zero tariff treatment to 95% of products imported from the least developed African countries having diplomatic relations with China (i.e. those that do not recognise Taiwan). This tariff removal is being phased in with 60% of imports to be tariff-free from 1 July 2010, and the whole 95% of products to be tariff-free by 2013. By 2013, the tariff exemption list will have been expanded from its initial 478 products in 2006, to 4,700 kinds of products. As part of its official interpretation of the measure, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce states its purpose to be to “further open market access to Africa and to increase the competitiveness of African export.”However, Africa has been the beneficiary of similar preferential access agreements with similar aims from other countries. The United States of America (USA) implemented the African Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA) in 2000, and the European Union (EU) created Everything but Arms (EBA) in 2001. In order to assess the potential impact of China’s free access agreement, this article considers the degrees of success achieved by existing trade agreements, the make-up of trade between Africa and China and finally, Africa’s potential to develop an export-oriented manufacturing sector Read More

    Asia's rise and the economic implications for Europe, the UK and Africa
    Overseas Development Institute (ODI) hosted a one day event exploring the implications of Asia's economic rise for Europe, the UK and Africa and how they might forge closer economic ties to mutual advantage Presentations Available Here

    Dr. Suresh Kumar argues that India can play a vital role in strengthening Africa’s development by collaborating with Indian partners to take advantage of benefits in scientific agriculture Read More

    Chinese aid and investment unlikely to pull Africa out of its predicament
    The news that Kenya has received Sh980 million from China as part of a continuing technical co-operation agreement is music to those who believe that external aid will pull Kenya out of poverty. But EGARA KABAJI argues It is, however, important to reflect on the true implications of external aid to Africa before we start celebrating. Africa’s experience with aid has, to say the least, been disastrous. Trillions of dollars have been poured into Africa for the past half a century, yet the continent has remained poor, ravaged by abject poverty and desperation Read More

    Resurgent Continent? Africa and the World
    To mark the launch of the LSE IDEAS Africa International Affairs Programme this Strategic Update considers the opportunities and the challenges facing the continent Articles available here

    BRICs: Aid and Investment and Impressions from the West
    Emerging economies such as Brazil, China and India have always been recipients of foreign aid from Europe and North America since the end of the Second World War and were the subjects of global development projects that often failed to bring BRICs and similar economies out of poverty and create sustained and viable growth. Brazil, China and India managed the economic crisis in 2008-2009 with temporary recessions during the global economic crisis, and were the first countries to see solid growth in 2010. As the US and EU struggle to manage their economies, countries like Brazil and China seek to invest in many developing nations, as well as give aid to many of those countries that have lost aid from the West or have political divisions with Western donor countries that often tie aid policy to political relations with their leaders Read More

    China Bashing & Foreign Investments in Africa
    Who exactly defines, asserts, defend and protect continental Africa's best interests? Why are too many Africans aping, and regurgitating acerbic criticisms of China by America and European nations, western nations who have in fact, had 600 years of dominating Africa? Western nations which have enjoyed unbridled and unmitigated monopoly of African human and material resources? Paul I. Adujie asks Why would Westerners ignore all the “evils” reeking off China's clothes, when the bell tolls for Westerners? But, the same Westerners are trepidations and stampede to warn Africa off, of, Chinese pungent undemocratic ways, and perverse-putrid human rights abuses, only now, because China is giving the Westerners a run for their money in Africa? Western self-interests of course! In China's forays into various African nations, Westerners finally have a fidelity challenge. Let the competition begin! Read More

    Podcasts, Reviews and Interviews

    Liberians divided over Chinese investment plan
    China is set to make one if its biggest overseas investments, in the west African nation of Liberia. It’s promising to spend $2.6bn developing an iron ore mine. It’s hoped the project will create 3000 jobs in a country struggling to recover from years of war. Dan Nolan reports from the mine site, about 150 kilometres north of the capital, Monrovia Watch Here

    When China met Africa
    Reviewing Deborah Brautigam’s lates book The Dragon’s Gift: The Real China in Africa Story, Solange Guo Chaterland, a PhD candidate at Sciences Po in Paris. Focusing her PhD thesis on ethnography of Chinese engagement in Zambia from the 1990s until today, provides an insightful and compelling analysis by recognising that the book is an attempt to dig beneath the headlines and the hype which have blurred the boundaries between fact and fiction in order to provide a systematic and empirical account of what Chinese aid and state-sponsored economic engagement in Africa are, and what they are not. But more than this Ms Guo Chaterland challenges Brautigam around the complexities of state theory, which the reviewer feels the book lacks a convincing theory of the state Read More

    Africa-India cross border mergers increase
    Is Africa the next frontier for Indian business? To discuss, B Muthuraman, Vice Chairman, Tata Steel, part of The Tatas which has been in Africa since 1977 and today they make revenues of over USD 600 million from Africa and hope to reach one billion in two years and Manoj Kohli, Bharti Airtel, the guy who has just betted USD 10 billion on the continent. Mr Kohli has just today returned from a 20-day tour of 15 African countries participated in an exclusive interview with CNBC-TV18 Read More

    China: Outsmarting the West in Africa
    China's interest in Africa is frequently portrayed simply as that of a rising economic power seeking natural resources. In an interview with Inter-Press Service (IPS) Deborah Brautigam argues that this portrayal misses the full complexity of business relations between China and the continent Read More


    * Sanusha Naidu is research director of Fahamu’s Emerging powers in Africa programme.
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

    Elections & governance

    Nigeria: Senate moves presidential vote forward to January


    Nigeria's Senate has voted to move up general elections to January, pressuring President Goodluck Jonathan's ruling party to resolve a split between the mainly Christian south and majority Muslim north. The House of Representatives must still approve the new election rules after the Senate decided on Wednesday to change the constitution to allow for a January vote in the world's eighth-largest oil exporter. Senators voted through a proposal to hold the general election "not earlier than 150 days and not later than 120 days before the expiration of term of office," of either the president or a state governor.

    Nigeria: Wole Soyinka to launch new political party


    Nigerian Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka has announced plans to launch a new political party after years of harshly criticising corruption and mismanagement in the oil-rich nation. In brief comments at an event to commemorate the renowned writer’s 76th birthday, Nigeria’s only Nobel laureate said he hoped to form a party of “progressives” to contest elections expected early next year.

    West Africa: Border dispute referred to UN World Court


    The West African countries of Burkina Faso and Niger have submitted a dispute over their common border to the United Nations International Court of Justice (ICJ) as part of a wider agreement by the two States to resolve the situation peacefully. In a joint letter, the ICJ – which is also known as the World Court – has been asked to delineate the border between the two nations from the Tong-Tong marker to the start of the Botou bend.

    Zimbabwe: ZANU-PF says 2011 election is inevitable


    Zanu-PF says there is “no reason” for Zimbabwe not to hold elections in 2011, but analysts believe the polls could be much later over demands for more reforms to guarantee a free and fair vote. President Robert Mugabe, 86, was forced into a power-sharing pact with rivals Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara more than a year ago after a crisis over a 2008 national election that local and foreign observers say was marred by violence and vote-rigging.


    East Africa: Burundi most corrupt bribe index shows


    Burundi is east Africa's most corrupt nation according to an anti-graft watchdog, while Kenya, which usually tops Transparency International's (TI) annual list of graft-prone countries in the region, was third. Burundi and neighbouring Rwanda were included in the East African Bribery Index survey 2010, commissioned by TI-Kenya for the first time this year.

    East Africa: Rwanda has negligible corruption - Transparency


    Incidents of bribery in Rwanda are negligible, anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International says. Rwanda, which has been striving to rebuild itself following the 1994 genocide, was by far the least corrupt country in East Africa. Rwanda and its neighbour Burundi were included in the East African Bribery survey for the first time.


    Africa: Agriculture records 5 pc growth rate despite challenges


    Despite the various challenges confronting the agricultural sector in Africa, most countries in the continent have recorded a five per cent agriculture growth rate in the last 10 years, according to the Executive Secretary of the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), Monty Jones. 'Actually when you look back in the last 50 years, a number of African countries were exporting their agricultural produce; somewhere along the line, we saw a drop in agricultural activities and it was stagnant,' Jones told journalists during a news briefing on the sideline of the fifth African Agriculture Science week.

    Africa: Bullish about the agricultural future


    Suddenly, after 20 years of relative neglect, African agriculture is a hot topic, with a substantial growth in production and a new interest among major donors in funding the sector. That is the message emerging from a series of seminars now taking place in London looking at the constraints and opportunities facing Africa’s farmers.

    Africa: Civil society groups call for removal of trade barriers


    Participants at the on-going Fifth African Agriculture Science week, which entered its third day on Wednesday, want all the stakeholders including political leaders to develop func tional policies that will encourage more intra-Africa trade. The participants, who include civil society groups from within and outside Afric a involved in agriculture, farmers group and non-governmental organizations, said existing protocol on free movement of goods and persons, particularly in ECOWAS countries and other Regional Economic Communities (REC), needed to be fully implemented.

    Africa: Rapid losses of native livestock threaten food supply


    Urgent action is needed to stop the rapid and alarming loss of genetic diversity of African livestock that provide food and in come to 70 per cent of rural Africans, according to an analysis presented at a gathering of African scientists and development experts here.

    Congo: France to write off 645.7 million euro debt


    The Congolese Minister of Finance, Budget and Public Portfolio, Gilbert Ondongo, and the French Ambassador to Congo, Jean-François Valette has signed an agreement under which France will write off Congolese debts of 645.7 million euros (or 424 billion FCFA), a French official statement said. France, which has pledged to write off all of Congolese debts, will write off 33 1 million euros of the total amount under the present arrangement while furthern egotiations for more debt relief will continue.

    EAst Africa: EAC shelves plan to pool and share custom taxes


    The East African Community (EAC) has allowed governments to run their custom services individually, ending weeks of uncertainty over the possible impact of the planned common tax collection on members’ revenue targets. The formation of the common market on July 1 had provided for a common revenue team to collect customs taxes from the entry points such as sea and airports and sharing it out among the five member state

    Global: Time for UN to recognize human right to water and sanitation


    Since the second half of the 1970s, and in particular since the first major world conference on water (organized in 1977 by the United Nations at Mar del Plata, Argentina), world leaders have been aware of the scale of the problems concerning access to water of sufficient quantity and quality, and of the risks associated with growing shortages and degradation of the supply. The Mar del Plata conference set out the basic facts and made water one of the top issues on the international political agenda. And yet the ‘water crisis’ has continued to worsen

    Health & HIV/AIDS

    Africa: AU Summit urged to uphold health committments


    117 African Health, Social Development, Gender Based, Human Rights Organisations, and Trade Unions have written to the July 2010 15th African Union Summit of Heads of State holding in Uganda - urging governments to uphold, improve and urgently implement African and global health and social development financing commitments.
    117 African Health, Social Development, Gender Based, Human Rights Organisations, and Trade Unions have written to the July 2010 15th African Union Summit of Heads of State holding in Uganda - urging governments to uphold, improve and urgently implement African and global health and social development financing commitments.

    In a letter to be submitted this week to Ambassadors of African governments to the AU, African Ministers, and Heads of States, the organisations have expressed grave concern at recent well reported statements by senior officials of some African governments that “governments have other competing priorities besides health”, with some reportedly going as far as stating that Presidents should be advised to drop the Abuja Commitments to allocate 15% of national budgets to health, and also requesting that references to the it be deleted from conference documents and outcomes.

    Just 15% of Budgets to Health No Longer Sufficient to Overcome Africa’s Health Challenges: Improved Per Capita Investment in Health, and Improved Investment in Social Determinants Also Crucial.

    Importantly, the organisations while outlining details of over 6 million African deaths annually from just 5 preventable, treatable or manageable MDG health issues – Maternal and Child Mortality, HIV, TB, Malaria - and millions more suffering and dying from other causes – have also underlined that just allocation of 15% of budgets to health will not be adequate to overcome Africa’s health challenges.

    Alongside poor percentage allocation of budgets to health, the organisations have highlighted that - "at present, 34 African countries are investing less than the World Health Organisation recommended minimum package of $40-$45 per capita in health. These include 27 African countries investing less than $20, and 15 countries investing as little as $2 - $10 Per capita on health which is insufficient to meet a combination of diverse health challenges."

    African governments at a regional average of $34 per capita currently invest significantly less than other regions with best health indicators such as Europe, the Americas and Pacific, which invest regionally an average $1,374 - $1,546 per capita in health. Some individual countries in these region’s invest as much as between $3,000 and $6,000 per capita in health.

    In addition the organisations are calling for separate but integrated improved investment in social determinants such as clean water, sanitation, sustainable use of environment and nutrition. Proactively and preventively dealing with health problems caused by unsafe water, poor nutrition and poor environmental policies, will free limited health budgets to deal with more serious and complex issues.

    The organisations are therefore calling on African governments to improve from the 2001 Abuja commitment of only allocation of 15% of budgets to health; to implement a more comprehensive health, population and social development formula described as 15 % Plus - which includes improved per capita investment; improved investment in social determinants such as clean water and nutrition; as well as better percentage allocation of budgets to health.

    Coordinator of the Africa Public Health Alliance and 15%+ Campaign Rotimi Sankore stated:

    “The primary objective of governments should be to ensure the well being of all citizens. $2, $4 or $6 per capita is barley enough to buy a bottle of Aspirins, talk less of providing of Reproductive, Maternal or Child Health, or treatment and prevention of HIV, TB and Malaria. At present some countries with huge health burdens can meet the Abuja 15% target while still investing less than $10 per capita in health. "

    "Percentages alone can be misleading. African governments therefore need to improve on the 2001 commitments by also improving Per Capita Investment to at least the WHO recommended minimum package of $40 per capita.”

    “There is also no point giving people medicines, to swallow with unclean water. Neither can medicines cure malnutrition, which is a leading cause of mortality especially amongst infants. These social determinants which cannot be included in health budgets, but which have a huge impact on health are therefore of great importance. A situation whereby as low as only 35% to 60% of citizens in some countries have access to clean water is unacceptable.”

    “As well as being a fundamental human right, investment in health and social development will boost healthy life expectancy beyond the low African average of a mere 45 years, increase productivity and in turn boost economic growth.”

    The letter to the AU Summit underlines examples of middle income countries such as Costa Rica and Cuba, where the achievement of Millennium Development Goals has been based on a combination of this formula of improved per capita investment in health; improved investment in ensuring almost 100% coverage of clean water, sanitation, nutrition and sustainable use of environment; aggressive public health preventive measures including almost vaccination 100% coverage; and training and retaining needed numbers of health workers.

    Global: AIDS prevention: Love smart, play safe


    When Omar, an 18 year-old Moroccan college student, fell in love with his classmate Salma, he felt nervous about broaching the use of condoms with her. It was his first time having sexual relations and he feared that she might question his fidelity. “I was afraid she would be angry if I suggested we use a condom,” he said. “I was afraid of losing her – so afraid that I thought of giving up the whole idea of using a condom.”

    Global: Starting ARV treatment early reduces deaths - Study


    A New England Journal of Medicine study has revealed that early initiation of antiretroviral treatment could reduce death rates and the Tuberculosis incidence.

    Kenya: Citizens' right to affordable drugs in hands of court


    Kenya’s Constitutional Court is due to set a date on Jul 22 for a hearing on the application against the Anti-Counterfeit Act of 2008, of which clauses pertaining to medicines have been suspended pending the court’s decision on whether the law violates the right to health and life.

    Kenya: HIV strain among gays same as strain in heterosexuals


    Because of societal pressure and the criminality associated with men who have sex with men (MSM) in Kenya, Omondi Maina* married a woman. This is despite being involved in a homosexual relationship for the last 10 years. And Maina is not the only gay man in Kenya having sexual intercourse with both a homosexual man and heterosexual woman. New research has found that the strain of HIV among gays in Kenya is 100 percent similar to the HIV strain found in heterosexuals in the country. It is unlike the clearly defined strains of HIV found among homosexuals and heterosexuals in most countries.

    South Africa: AIDS funds fall flat


    Global funding for AIDS efforts fell flat during last year’s economic meltdown, ending a six-year streak of annual donation increases, according to new analysis released this week. Overall, financial support for international HIV/AIDS assistance fell more than 1 percent to R64,2 billion (US $7.6 billion) in 2009, from R65 billion (US$7.7 billion) the previous year, according to a report from Kaiser Family Foundation and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS. The report measured donations from the Group of Eight most industrialized nations, European Commission and other donor governments to low- and moderate-income countries, and noted difficulties interpreting real value as reporting cycles and currency fluctuated.

    South Africa: Female condoms missing during World Cup


    Female condoms have been widely celebrated as an answer to putting reproductive health and HIV protection in the hands of women. Yet, the South African government fell far short of its promise of distributing 7.5 million female condoms during the World Cup, with only 1 million finding their way into the hands of consumers. On the other hand, male condoms were available in high numbers - 565 million - though even these were 20% fewer than expected.

    South Africa: KZN to go ahead with controversial circumcision clamp


    KwaZulu-Natal is committed to a massive male circumcision drive using all available medical methods including the controversial Tara Klamp, according to Health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo. Circumcised men are up to 60 percent less likely to get HIV than uncircumcised men, according to studies.

    South Africa: Massive leap forward for HIV prevention


    In one of the biggest advances in HIV prevention in decades, a vaginal gel containing an antiretroviral drug has been proven to protect almost four out of 10 women from HIV. A study of almost 900 HIV negative women from KwaZulu-Natal found that there was a 39% lower HIV incidence rate in the group that used the gel containing tenofovir. This ARV-containing gel (known as a microbicide) could save over 800,000 lives and prevent 1.3 million new HIV infections over the next two decades in South Africa alone, according to statistician Brian Williams.

    South Africa: Tackling TB in HIV patients


    In just ten years the HIV/Aids infection rate in South Africa has jumped from one per cent of the population to one-third. Seventy per cent of HIV patients are also infected with tuberculosis, which is now the biggest cause of natural death in the country. But doctors say better treatment and education could wipe out the completely curable infection altogether. Al Jazeera's Rosie Garthwaite reports from Khayelitsha township.

    Southern Africa: Malawi records 25,000 cases of measles, 120 deaths


    Over 25,000 cases of measles and 121 deaths have been recorded since the outbreak of the highly-contagious disease was reported in Malawi in February. Director of Preventive Health Services, Dr. Storn Kabuluzi, said the disease was still spreading but government was doing all it could to contain it.

    Uganda: Fixing Africa's sanitation will reduce child mortality


    For African countries to achieve the Millennium Develop ment Goals (MDGs), it is important to prevent deaths resulting from diarrhoea, which is the biggest killer of children in Africa, said Yunia Musaazi, East African policy adviser for Water Aid. 'Everyday, 2,000 African children die from diarrhoea. These deaths are preventa ble by providing safe water and maintaining sanitation,' said Musaazi, one of the panelists drawn from civil society organi sations across Africa.

    Zimbabwe: 80% of young men targeted in circumcision drive


    A big effort is under way to circumcise 80% of young men in Zimbabwe after a study four years ago found that the operation reduced the chance of contracting HIV by 60%. Yet the procedure is still not widely available across sub-Saharan Africa, where HIV prevalence is high, the International Aids Conference in Vienna was told.

    Zimbabwe: Pregnant teens shun treatment for fear of stigmatisation


    At a local maternity clinic in one of Bulawayo’s high density suburbs, midwives are at pains to explain to a pregnant 15-year-old girl why she must be tested for HIV before she gives birth. But the teenager, who lightly beats her chest in an effort to pacify what seems like a painful cough, will not hear of it. She is afraid that her worst fears will be confirmed as she already suspects she could be HIV-positive.


    Africa: 2010 Distinguished Africanist Awards


    Professor N’Dri Assie-Lumumba and Professor Tukumbi Lumumba-Kasongo were awarded, each separately and for their respective scholarship, the 2010 Distinguished Africanist Award offered by the New York State African Studies Association (NYASA) on March 27, 2010 at NYASA’s Annual Conference at SUNY Binghamton on the theme of "GLOBAL-AFRICA, GLOBAL-ASIA: Africa and Asia in the Age of Globalization."


    Global: ECOSOC opens the UN to LGBT voices


    On 19 July 2010, the UN's Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) withdrew consultative status from one NGO (General Federation of Iraqi Women) and suspended two others (Interfaith International and Centre Europe-tiers monde or CETIM), each for two years. However, the issue that dominated the ECOSOC meeting was a draft decision the US submitted, which sought to grant consultative status to the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC). Statements in support of the US proposal dominated the lengthy discussion, with only Egypt and Russia speaking aginst it. At the request of Saudi Arabia, the US proposal went to a vote and was adopted by a comfortable margin (23 in favour, 13 opposed, 13 abstentions).

    Global: World Directory of LGBTI and allied organizations launched


    ILGA is launching a world Directory of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex organizations accessible through its website This service which lists ILGA member groups as well as non members also includes trade unions, women’s or human rights organizations in an attempt to create bridges with NGOs which are not working specifically on LGBTI rights but include or support this agenda. ILGA’s membership includes for example the city of Barcelona and Amsterdam or multi-million member global trade union Public Services International.


    Africa: Eco-Lens At Durban International Film Festival


    Filmmakers are key agents in keeping a watchful eye on not just on social and political issues but on environmental abuse that often slips unobtrusively into our daily lives. A number of films at this year’s Durban International Film Festival conscientise us about the need for integrated approaches to development, and the threats to human ecology and environmental balance.
    Filmmakers are key agents in keeping a watchful eye on not just on social and political issues but on environmental abuse that often slips unobtrusively into our daily lives. A number of films at this year’s Durban International Film Festival conscientise us about the need for integrated approaches to development, and the threats to human ecology and environmental balance.

    With genetic modification shifting global food production increasingly further from nature, Scientists Under Attack is an important exposure of the influence of big corporates in the active suppression of information and how scientists must put their careers on the line just to bring you the truth about what you consume.
    Carlos Franciso's American Foulbrood looks at the crippling effects of a deadly disease on African honey bees and its possible impact on food production in South Africa.

    When the water that comes out of your taps turns to flame you know something is wrong - the highly entertaining Sundance Jury Prize Winner Gasland explores the shocking consequences of massive natural gas drilling across the USA. Koundi and the National Thursday is an intimate look at life inside a small village in the forests of Cameroon and how this communal society is negotiating the demands of globalization and the search for uniquely African solutions.

    Questions about urban development are raised in The Battle for Johannesburg and When The Mountain Meets Its Shadow. The feature film Altiplano is set against mercury poisoning of a community from a local factory.

    Two films very much emphasise positive developments for our consideration.
    In multi-award winning Waste Land we witness the creative production that results when art and poverty collide at the world’s largest rubbish dump in Brazil. The collaboration with catadores, who make a living picking recyclable materials, deals not only with important environmental and social issues, but restores dignity to a group of people tossed aside by society, like the garbage with which they work. The 4th Revolution: Energy Autonomy systematically and engagingly outlines the tantalising possibility of switching to 100% renewable energy sources in the next 30 years.
    Such films provide a proactive approach to the challenges and indicate that another way is possible.

    The Durban International Film Festival, which is principally funded by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund (NLDTF), takes place from 22nd July to 1st August. See for more information.

    The Durban International Film Festival is organised by the Centre For Creative Arts (University of KwaZulu-Natal) with support by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund (principal funder), National Film and Video Foundation, KwaZulu-Natal Department of Economic Development and Tourism, HIVOS, City Of Durban, German Embassy of South Africa, Goethe Institut South Africa, Industrial Development Corporation, Commonwealth Foundation, KwaZulu-Natal Department of Arts and Culture, and a range of other valued partners.

    Land & land rights

    DRC: Huge gold mine to open, displacing 15,000


    Mining firm Randgold Resources says it is to begin mining Africa's largest undeveloped gold deposit - in eastern DR Congo. The mine will require the re-location of 15,000 people, but Randgold says the project has the support of the government and the local community. The mine is thought to have a reserve of about 320 tonnes of gold, it says.

    North Africa: Algeria allows farmland leases for first time


    Algeria has adopted a law which will allow private firms for the first time to lease state-owned farmland but it also imposed restrictions on foreign investment. Gulf investors have shown an interest in Algerian farmland, part of a global trend for countries with large cash reserves to try to secure food supplies by targeting farmland abroad.

    Food Justice

    West Africa: Niger on the brink of collapse


    In Niger 90% of the population depend on Agriculture. But with last year’s rain failure, the country is facing a catastrophic food crisis. Concern Worldwide, an international aid agency, is tackling the crisis by providing drought resistant seeds, distributing cash through mobile phone technology and using local food markets to provide aid. All this makes for a unique approach towards humanitarian aid.

    West Africa: The Sahel's nutrition revolution


    Food shortages and high rates of malnutrition have long been a reality in the Sahel, but the understanding of malnutrition has drastically changed since the prolonged drought in the early 1970s. "Food and nutrition used to be seen as one, so the response to malnutrition was through food security; we started talking about nutrition security relatively recently.

    Media & freedom of expression

    Africa: Calls to make journalism safer


    The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and some 37 journalists' unions and association are pressing government leaders attending the 15th African Union Summit in Kampala, Uganda, to make safety of African journalists a priority for the African Union. In a letter to AU leaders the unions, led by the IFJ African regional body the Federation of African Journalists, welcomed the declaration by African leaders to designate 2010 as the "Year of Peace and Security in Africa".

    Cote d'Ivoire: Jailed trio charged; ailing reporter on hunger strike


    Three journalists were formally charged after refusing to reveal to Ivory Coast's state prosecutor their sources for a corruption story based on a document leaked from the prosecutor's office. The journalists could face up to 10 years in prison. Managing Editor Stéphane Guédé, News Editor Théophile Kouamouo, and Editor-in-Chief Saint-Claver Oula of the daily Le Nouveau Courrier were charged with "theft of administrative documents," defense lawyer Désiré Gueu told CPJ. The three are expected to be transferred from police custody to a prison in the commercial city of Abidjan pending trial, he said.

    Guinea: Radio journalist stabbed by armed men


    Colleagues of a radio journalist who was attacked by unknown assailants on 16 July 2010 are suspecting the military of being behind the attack. "Mansaré must have been a victim of an action carried out by persons hostile to his reports possibly, it is a settlement of scores," according to a colleague of Mansaré who spoke to the Media Foundation for West Africa's (MFWA) correspondent in Guinea on condition of anonymity.

    Nigeria: Kidnapped journalists released


    The four journalists and their driver who had been abducted on 11 July 2010 by gunmen in Aba, Abia State, in southeastern Nigeria, were released on 18 July at about 1:30 am (local time) by their captors. The chairman of the Lagos State Council of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Mr. Wahab Oba, said they were dropped off by the gunmen at a bush path in Ukpakiri in the state and had to wait till about 6:00 am before walking to the local market where they met an unnamed community leader who took them to a police station. He said the sum of N3 million (US$20,000) was taken from them.

    South Africa: Markets and media worry over information bill


    South Africa's parliament is considering an information bill the government says will better protect secrets but critics fear could hamper access to market-sensitive data and muzzle media investigations. The Protection of Information Bill sets guidelines for classifying state information as well as creating a legislative framework for the government to combat espionage and other hostile activities.

    Swaziland: Swazi journalists threatened with death


    On 21 July 2010 Swazi traditional authorities threatened Swazi journalists with death if they continued to write stories considered by the authorities as undermining the country's leadership and system of government. The death warning came from Prince Mahlaba, brother to King Mswati III and also a member of the King's advisory council, the Swazi National Council Standing Committee (SNC), which is a highly influential body in Swazi politics.

    Zimbabwe: Journalists denounce licensing requirements


    Journalists and media organisations have denounced the move by the Securities Commission of Zimbabwe (SEC) to register financial journalists as securities investor advisers in terms of the Securities Act of 2004. In terms of Statutory Instrument 100/200 which put into force the Securities Act, financial journalists are required to pay a license fee of $2 000 by 31 December 2010. Media practitioners argue that this would result in over-regulation of media practitioners. Media organisations argued that financial journalists who report and analyse securities such as stocks, bonds, bills and others are already accredited by the statutory Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC).

    Conflict & emergencies

    Africa: Mediating peace in Africa: Securing conflict prevention


    How can the African Union's mediation and conflict prevention mechanisms be strengthened? This seminar report assesses the evolving African peace and security architecture and presents five key recommendations for its future development. It argues that the AU's partnerships should be strengthened, mediation work institutionalised, early warning systems established, lesson-learning institutionalised and that civil society should become more involved in mediation processes.

    Nigeria: Resurgent violence leaves 7 dead


    Resurgent violence on the outskirts of Nigeria's central city of Jos has left seven persons dead and 10 others injured, the official News Agency of Nigeria reported. The report said several houses were also burnt in the attack on the sleepy and mountainous ville of Maza, in the Jos Nioorth council area.

    Somalia: Heavy fighting close to president's palace


    Although this morning started with relative serenity, residents in Mogadishu’s eastern districts witnessed some of the most intensive confrontations in the past months. Clashes between fighters loyal to Al-Shabaab, the most radical Islamist group opposing the Transitional Federal Government, and the pro-government forces that included the peacekeepers serving the African Union Mission in Somalia, Amisom, have been extremely heavy in the last three days.

    Somalia: IGAD army chiefs write up deployment details for AU approval


    Defence chiefs of staff of the Inter Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) have finalized a detailed plan on the deployment of 2,000 troops to Somalia, according to a press release issued in Addis Ababa. It said at the end of their three-day meeting, the military chiefs and architects from member countries of the East African grouping deliberated on the creation of a central command for Somali security forces; who should contribute what and how many of the troops; when they should be ready for deployment; how and when the African Union (AU) should provide the logistics the forces need; and the establishment of a Joint Command.

    Sudan: Post-referendum fears for Southern Sudan


    The January 2011 referendum in Southern Sudan will mark a turning point for the region and could see the formation of Africa's newest state, but how will the south fare after the vote? A report commissioned by the non-profit organization Pact Sudan and conducted by the London School of Economics in several of Southern Sudan's states (Eastern Equatoria, Greater Bahr el-Ghazal and Upper Nile), highlights issues that pose a threat to peace and security in Southern Sudan.

    Sudan: Strengthen civilian protection in Darfur - UN


    Intensified fighting between the Sudanese government and rebel forces in 2010 has caused many hundreds of deaths and mass displacements in Darfur and should prompt the United Nations to ensure that international peacekeepers strengthen protection for civilians, Human Rights Watch said today. The UN Security Council is expected to renew the mandate of the Darfur peacekeeping mission in late July 2010.

    Internet & technology

    East Africa: 3rd Uganda National Internet Governance Forum


    The third National internet Governance forum was held in Kampala on 14th/July/2010 at Imperial Royale Hotel. It was organized by I-network, CIPESSA and WOUGNET in collaboration with Uganda Communications Commission(UCC) and the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MoICT). Its purpose was to prepare for the forthcoming East African Internet Governance forum scheduled for 11th to 13th August 2010.

    eNewsletters & mailing lists

    Africa: Multilingual education pays off

    AfricaFocus Bulletin Jul 20, 2010 (100720)


    "Africa is the only continent where the majority of children start school using a foreign language. Across Africa the idea persists that the international languages of wider communication (Arabic, English, French, Portuguese and Spanish) are the only means for upward economic mobility. .. [But] New research findings are increasingly pointing to the negative consequences of these policies ... We recommend that policy and practice in Africa nurture multilingualism; primarily a mother-tongue-based one with an appropriate and required space for international languages of wider communication." - Adama Ouane, Director, UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning

    Courses, seminars, & workshops

    2010-2011 African Humanities Program Fellowship Competition

    American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS)


    The African Humanities Program at the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), with financial support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, announces competitions for:
    • Early career postdoctoral fellowships in Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania,
    Uganda, and South Africa
    • Dissertation completion fellowships in Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Uganda (there are no dissertation fellowships in South Africa)
    Both fellowships provide one year of support for research and writing to scholars based on the continent and affiliated with institutions of higher learning in Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, and South Africa. Scholars working in any humanistic discipline normally supported by the ACLS are encouraged to apply.

    Global: Peace and Conflict Studies: The Foundation Course

    University of Peace


    The University for Peace (UPEACE) is pleased offering the online course on “Peace and Conflict Studies; The Foundation Course”. This is a 10 weeks course, from 4 October to 10 December 2010. The course will be delivered by UPEACE faculty members: Dr. Amr Abdalla and Dr. Victoria Fontan. This course is offered for 3 academic credits or for a UPEACE training certificate. It focuses on understanding the complex and interconnected challenges to peace, as well as the need for different approaches to meeting these challenges.

    Southern Africa: Practical financial management for NGOs

    Getting the basics right



    Mango's mission is to help NGOs working around the world to strengthen their financial management and accountability. We are widely respected as the leading specialists in our field and recently received one of the UK's most prestigious awards at the Annual Charity Awards 2009. This particular course provides a practical introduction to financial management for managers and finance officers of small to medium sized NGOs. It covers ‘the building blocks’ of financial management: keeping accounts, financial planning, internal control and financial monitoring. The course is 5 days long and non-residential, and will be offered to NGO staff in South Africa and Zambia during August and September 2010. We are also offering a few scholarships to poorly-resourced local NGOs - more details here

    Southern Africa: Strategic financial management for NGOs

    Managing for financial sustainability



    Mango's mission is to help NGOs working around the world to strengthen their financial management and accountability. We are widely respected as the leading specialists in our field and recently received one of the UK's most prestigious awards at the Annual Charity Awards 2009. This particular course is aimed at senior managers and those responsible for strategic management, including maintaining the financial continuity and security of their NGOs. The workshop focuses on strategic financial management challenges, such as financing strategies for sustainability, building reserves, financing core costs and managing donor relationships. The course is 5 days long and non-residential, and will be offered to NGO staff in South Africa and Zambia during August and September 2010. We are also offering a few scholarships to poorly-resourced local NGOs - more details here


    Human Rights and Conflict Transformation: The Challenges of Just Peace

    9th Berghof Handbook Dialogue


    The latest and 9th Berghof Handbook Dialogue, entitled: "Human Rights and Conflict Transformation: The Challenges of Just Peace". (Edited by Véronique Dudouet and Beatrix Schmelzle. Berlin: Berghof Conflict Research, 2010.) Contributors to this Dialogue aim to go beyond the divide and polarising language of “peace versus justice” in order to gain a clearer understanding of the potential – and limits – of bringing together human rights and conflict transformation in specific contexts.

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