Pambazuka News 509: Post-election crisis in Cote d'Ivoire
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Highlights from this issue
WOMEN AND GENDER: Urgent need to end political violence against women in Zimbabwe, says report
HUMAN RIGHTS: UN stifled 2004 report on Ivory Coast death squads
REFUGEES AND FORCED MIGRATION: Urban refugee women depend on ingenuity for survival
EMERGING POWERS NEWS: The latest edition of the emerging powers newsletter
ELECTIONS AND GOVERNANCE: Egyptian president should dissolve Parliament, says Independent Coalition for Elections' Observation; AU backs talks not sanctions in Ivory Coast
CORRUPTION: Bribery charges filed against Cheney
DEVELOPMENT: What role does Sudan’s external debt have on a possible succession?
HEALTH AND HIV/AIDS: New test to transform TB treatment
LGBTI: Public threaten to lynch suspected homosexuals; LGBTI members harassed in Zimbabwe
ENVIRONMENT: Talks end in Cancun with compromise
LAND AND LAND RIGHTS: Senegal in land lease talks with Saudi Arabia
MEDIA AND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION: WikiLeaks exposes a wake up call for the powerful
CONFLICT AND EMERGENCIES: Sudan government says SLA a target
INTERNET AND TECHNOLOGY: In search of a low-bandwidth Skype
PLUS…e-newsletter; Fundraising and Useful Resources; Courses, Seminars and Workshops.
A critical look at the Ivorian post-election crisis
All too soon, an unpleasant but familiar scenario is brewing in African politics: An incumbent has lost power through constitutionally-organised elections supervised by the international community and declared to be free and fair, but has decided not to give up power.
This time it’s not Zimbabwe or Kenya, but Cote d’Ivoire. But certainly, the orchestrator of the plot is following the bad example set by the African Union (AU) and exploiting a loophole which still exists in spite of the negative experiences in Zimbabwe and Kenya. The situation in Cote d’Ivoire, therefore, again exposes the weaknesses in the AU and Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) position on collective recognition and the urgent need for review.
Cote d'Ivoire has been a divided country since a 2002 failed coup attempt by the Patriotic Movement of Cote d'Ivoire (MPCI). The coup evolved into an armed rebellion which resulted in the MPCI retaining control in Bouake and Korhogo and extending its authority over the northern half of the country. The genesis of the coup is related to previous attempts, through the introduction of the concept of ‘ivoirite”, to sideline Alassane Ouattara from contesting as president on the grounds of him not being a pure-blooded Ivorian.
THE ELECTION RESULTS AND ISSUES ARISING
Following a series of peace talks which resulted in a number of agreements being signed to return peace and democracy to the embattled state, elections were finally held in October 2010. The elections, though, could not produce an outright winner. According to article 36 of the Ivorian Constitution, a run-off had to be held - which produced a winner in Ouattara.
The results of the run-off were supposed to have been declared by the independent electoral commission within two days after counting the results. Quite dramatically, on the day the results were to be announced, Gbagbo’s representative grabbed the results and tore it into shreds in the presence of the international press. Obviously, the results were not in Gbagbo’s favour.
With the deadline for declaring the results past, a constitutional crisis was to be created which would have given opportunity for Gbagbo to play his tricks again. But the electoral commission boss was bold enough to leave the precincts of the electoral commission and go to a safer place in a hotel to announce the results. Soon after the results were announced, Gbagbo went to the Constitutional Court, which decided to turn the results around and declare Gbagbo the winner. But the international community would have none of that. It began to give recognition to the government of Ouattarra and to send him messages of congratulations.
What is ironic though is that the AU and ECOWAS did not send messages of congratulations. What the AU did, as usual, was to express ‘deep concern’ and to send Thabo Mbeki to engage in mediation between the two sides. ECOWAS, on its part, also issued a statement, noting that, ‘In the prevailing circumstances, ECOWAS strongly condemns any attempt to usurp the popular will of the people of Côte d'Ivoire and appeals to all stakeholders to accept the results declared by the electoral commission.’
Then, in Mwai Kibabi style, Gbagbo quickly organised a swearing-in ceremony at which he took the opportunity to take a swipe at the international community and Ouattara. He is quoted, among others, by the BBC as saying, ‘You think that you can cheat, stuff ballot boxes and intimidate voters and that the other side won't see what is going on.’ This was a calculated act for Gbagbo to entrench himself in power and to establish his position as an indispensable negotiating power.
INTERPRETATION OF GBAGBO’S ACTIONS
According to the Lomé Declaration for an Organisation of African Unity Response to Unconstitutional Changes of Government, Gbagbo’s actions amounts to an unconstitutional change in government. The Declaration provides that an unconstitutional change in government is deemed to have occurred when one of the following events takes place:
i) a military coup d’etat against a democratically elected Government;
ii) intervention by mercenaries to replace a democratically elected government;
iii) replacement of democratically elected governments by armed dissident groups and
iv) the refusal by an incumbent government to relinquish power to the winning party after free, fair and regular elections.
The African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, a treaty adopted by the 8th session of the African Union Heads of State and Government Assembly in 2007, but yet to come to force, adds a fifth criterion under its article 23(5). That is where ‘[a]ny amendment or revision of the constitution or legal instruments, which is an infringement on the principles of democratic change of government.’
This is interpreted to refer to acts of incumbents changing the terms of elections to cover a third or indefinite term in office. A good example is what happened in Niger when Mamadou Tandja doctored the constitution to enable him to run for a third term and which resulted in his overthrow.
In the event of unconstitutional change of government, the AU is expected to issue a condemnation of the act, which amounts to non-recognition of governments in international law. Recognition in general refers to a unilateral act acknowledging the existence of a government or state by another state or government or international organisation. Recognition by a state or government is a political act, which does not necessarily take into account the legal context in which a state or government comes into being. However, when it comes to international organisations, recognition follows certain laid down principles and norms agreed to by the organisation, either in its constitutive treaty or another document, be it a declaration, decision or resolution. Thus non-recognition means that the government that purports to be in existence is not in existence, legally speaking.
The next step is for the AU and ECOWAS to recognise the government de facto. De facto recognition means that the new regime is still deemed illegitimate, but because it is the one that is in control of the country at that moment, it needs some form of recognition while the situation is being monitored to see how the change in government would affect the peace and stability of the country.
The AU and ECOWAS would then ask the government to return the country to constitutional rule within a particular time-frame, that is, six months. An added rule is that the de facto regime should not take part in the elections it would organise to return the country to constitutional rule. This rule was applied to Moussa ‘Dadis’ Kamara in Guinea, who took over the reins of power in Guinea in December 2008 following the death of Lansana Conte.
When talking about recognition by states, usually two types of recognition may run concurrently. De facto recognition may be given to the government that usurped power while de jure recognition, or recognition according to law, is given to the ousted regime which may decide to form a government in exile. With time, de jure recognition may be withdrawn from the ousted regime and given to the de facto regime. This usually occurs where the de facto regime is able to attain effective control of the state, and the people generally succumb to, or approve of its authority; and, thirdly, where the new regime generally abides by international law and treaty and other obligations of the state. At this point, the ousted regime withers away.
The AU and ECOWAS, however, generally do not accord de jure recognition to ousted regimes. An exception was the case of Ahmed Tejan Kabbah of Sierra Leone who, though ousted in a military putsch by the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council, continued to be recognised as the legitimate government by the AU and ECOWAS while in exile in Guinea.
In most cases, however, the AU and ECOWAS will simply condemn the act and ask the new regime to return the country to constitutional rule. This approach, however, is considered a major weakness in using the tool of recognition to end unconstitutional changes in government in Africa.
What has happened in Cote d’Ivoire is not a case of a coup d’etat. It involves the refusal of an incumbent to give up power after losing an election. If the AU and ECOWAS reaction to coups d’etat has not proven effective, it has been worse with this scenario.
There are two examples to guide us: the situation in Kenya and Zimbabwe.
In both situations, the call for a return to constitutional rule is rendered practically impossible as it is not able to resolve the following questions, among others: Should the illegitimate government also be given six months to re-organise elections? Would organising two elections within six months not pose too much of a burden for a developing country? Can there be guarantees that the de facto government will not be allowed to take part in the elections again? Can there be guarantees that a puppet would not be groomed to take over?
Perhaps without expecting such questions to arise, or without anticipating such a scenario and without any clear-cut guidelines to follow, power-sharing was adopted as an ad hoc or stop-gap measure. One may call it ubuntu, but it is certainly unAfrican to share power in that manner. We need to place the discussion in its proper legal context and simply describe it as an unconstitutional act and a slap in the face of the right of a people to self-determination.
According to articles 31 and 32 of the Constitution of Cote d’Ivoire, sovereignty resides in the people and they determine, in the exercise of that sovereignty, the sole right to elect their own leaders through free and fair elections: suffrage is universal, free, equal and secret.
What Kibaki did in Kenya, Mugabe in Zimbabwe and now Gbagbo in the Cote d’Ivoire was and is illegal and unconstitutional. In the case of Kenya, the constitution had to be amended to create the position of Prime Minister for Raila Odinga, who should have been the legitimate leader of Kenya. A similar situation occurred in Zimbabwe. Clearly, Gbagbo is exploiting this loophole. And the scenario is likely to repeat itself in other countries if the loophole is not plugged now by the AU and ECOWAS.
In light of AU failure to successfully deal with unconstitutional changes in government, particularly in relation to incumbents refusing to leave office, it is suggested that the AU changes its approach of granting de facto recognition to illegitimate regimes to granting de jure recognition to the legitimate government.
This is a more effective way of using recognition as a tool to end unconstitutional changes in government in Africa and help entrench democracy and the use of the ballot box as the sole legitimate means to effect change in government. This way, the AU and ECOWAS would move away from seeing recognition as a formal acceptance of a fact to a process based on value judgments that reflect the emerging norm of democratic governance in Africa.
The AU should therefore team up with ECOWAS to give immediate de jure recognition to Ouattara, as other international organisations such as the UN and EU have done.
It should also impose immediate sanctions on the de facto regime, in this case, Laurent Gbagbo’s regime, instead of waiting for over six months before doing so.
The AU, through its Peace and Security Council, should apply the provisions of the Protocol Relating to the Peace and Security Council of the African Union, entered into force on 26 December 2003, as well as the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance.
Among others, it should resort to Article 14 which provides as follows:
2. State Parties shall take legislative and regulatory measures to ensure that those who attempt to remove an elected government through unconstitutional means are dealt with in accordance with the law.
3. State Parties shall cooperate with each other to ensure that those who attempt to remove an elected government through unconstitutional means are dealt with in accordance with the law.
‘In accordance with the law’ refers to the constitution of the country in question. And according to the Ivorian Constitution of 2000, a duty is placed on every person living in the national territory to respect the constitution, the laws and the regulations of the republic.
The AU and ECOWAS should avoid the situation in Togo where Faure Eyadema was left to go free even though they condemned the usurpation of power by Eyadema as a ‘military coup’ and the constitution of Togo considers a coup as high treason. Thus, instead of letting the laws of Togo prosecute Eyadema and the military officers that brought him to power, they allowed him to stand and win the elections and thereby legitimise an illegitimate act.
It is worth noting that Cote d’Ivoire is a State Party to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and it has gone to the extent of recognising the Charter as applicable in its constitution. The Charter should therefore be made to apply to Cote d’Ivoire. In this regard, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights should immediately meet in an emergency session and issue a resolution condemning the act, as it has done in other situations of unconstitutional change in government.
The AU and ECOWAS - and their relevant organs - should do everything possible not to let the illegitimate regime obtain any form of legitimacy. They should refer the case to the UN Security Council for sanctions to be imposed on the Gbagbo regime. Every second wasted will allow Gbagbo to gain some foothold and some form of legitimacy. The reaction should be swift and decisions made, in line with the suggestions made above, executed with alacrity.
Thabo Mbeki does not have the magic or the diplomatic acumen to find a successful solution to the problem. His ‘quiet diplomacy’ approach to the Zimbabwean situation did not help and partly contributed to the power-sharing quagmire that Zimbabwe finds itself in today. His previous attempts in the Ivorian crisis were not commendable either.
Hopefully, there will not be another power-sharing agreement. As noted above, the power-sharing agreement is unconstitutional, illegal and also not an effective, workable solution. It will rather plunge Cote d’Ivoire into more difficulties and may see an eventual secession of the northern half of the country.
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* Dr Kwadwo Appiagyei-Atua is a senior lecturer in the Faculty of Law at the University of Ghana, Legon. He is a lecturer and consultant in public international law and international human rights.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Cote d’Ivoire: Laurent Gbagbo must respect voters’ wishes
Cote d’Ivoire has been suspended from the West African regional group known as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). This was after the outgoing president, Laurent Gbagbo, defied international pressure and his country’s Independent Electoral Commission and declared himself president, following the presidential election run-off of 28 November 2010.
ECOWAS backed Alassane Ouattara, a former prime minister, who was named winner of the vote by the electoral commission, with 54.1 per cent. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, who is chairman of ECOWAS, told reporters after a meeting of West African heads of state in the Nigerian capital, Abuja: ‘Elections have been held and somebody [Ouattara] has won, so he has to take over. The votes of the people must count.’
Alassane Ouattara’s claim to the presidency is also supported by the United Nations, the European Union, the US and France.
Gbagbo’s former prime minister, Guillaume Soro – who has resigned as Gbagbo’s prime minister and has accepted the same position in a rival cabinet formed by Ouattara – has accused Gbagbo of carrying out a coup to retain power.
‘If the combined efforts from the national and international community cannot convince Laurent Gbagbo to leave power, it will be the responsibility of my government to take all the required measures to make sure the verdict of the poll is respected,’ Soro said. In other words, be prepared for war.
This is extremely sad, especially to me and many Ghanaians, for Cote d’Ivoire is a second natural home for us. It is the only country in the world where I can step into a taxi and be able, straightaway, to speak to the driver in my own tongue. 150 years of the division between us caused by colonial boundaries mean little, I found out there.
Indeed, once when my little 8-year-old son was separated momentarily from the rest of the family during a shopping spree in Abidjan, and found himself lost, he was able to take a taxi to where the family’s host worked – a huge international bank – and get him to come down, while the taxi driver waited patiently! Not a hair on his young head was harmed, and he did it all without being able to speak a word of French.
I’ve often wondered, in retrospective terror, how the taxi driver had the goodness of heart not to worry about getting paid for his fare but waited for the matter to be sorted out.
That was the wonderful country that Cote d’Ivoire that was. Its people were generally friendly and open, and its ability to attract tourists was unbeatable.
Once, Air Afrique, the much-lamented African route-master, invited me to be its guest. Camped at the Hotel Ivoire, we went to a new tourist attraction each day.
The one I most vividly remember is the ‘adults only’ beach resort at Assouinde, where a hotel called Jardin d’Eden provides everything that one can imagine being offered in the real Garden of Eden – good surfing, tasty prawns skewered in the shell, cold beer – it was indeed heaven.
But Cote d’Ivoire was living on borrowed time. When its first president, Felix Houphouet-Boigny, finally died in December 1993, he had ruled for over 40 years. One of his fiercest opponents had been a college lecturer called Laurent Gbagbo. He stubbornly defied Houphouet, endured persecution and stood against Houphouet in the first multiparty elections held in 1990.
This doggedness endeared Gbagbo to those who aspired to live under a democracy in Cote d’Ivoire. When Houphouet-Boigny died at the age of 85, Gbagbo watched with interest as Houphouet’s party, the Democratic Party of Cote d’Ivoire (PDCI) tore itself apart in a succession race. It was the former finance minister and substantive president of the National Assembly, Henri Konan Bedie, who emerged on top.
Among Houphouet’s appointees who lost out to Bedie was Alassane Dramane Ouattara, whom Houphouet had appointed prime minister after plucking him back home from the IMF (International Monetary Fund – where Ouattara was a deputy managing director) to put him in charge of the (Central) Bank of West Africa, before appointing him prime minister.
Bedie, however, soon began to dig his own political grave.
He embarked upon a policy of Ivoirité which was plainly tribalistic. The policy sought to deprive people who were born in and had lived in Cote d’Ivoire, but who had one or two parents born in a neighbouring country, such as Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal or Niger, of their Ivorian citizenship.
It was an unjust policy, for apart from the fact that most of the people affected did not know their ‘ancestral’ homes too well, it also negated the enormous contribution they had made to the wealth of Cote d’Ivoire, mainly with their labour on cocoa and coffee farms, saw mills and timber yards.
The absurdity of the policy was amply demonstrated when Ouattara, who had been deemed fit enough to be appointed prime minister, was told, in July 1999, that he was a ‘foreigner’ (from Burkina Faso) and therefore the electoral code did not allow him to participate in the forthcoming presidential election.
The absurd and cruel nature of Ivoirité cooked Bedie’s political goose, for there were many soldiers, artisans, technicians, teachers and civil servants who found their civil rights nullified overnight in the country of their birth. In December 1999, a group of soldiers toppled Bedie. They appointed General Robert Guei, who, they believed, was in sympathy with their sentiments, to be president. Guei was supposed to organise free elections and hand over power to whoever won.
But Guei had also been bitten by the xenophobic bug, and he too prevented Ouattara from contesting, on the same grounds as Bedie had done, namely, that Ouattara was a ‘foreigner’. However, Guei allowed Gbagbo to contest, believing that Gbagbo was a weakling against whom he could rig the election.
Guei duly announced that he had won. But Gbagbo was having none of it, and inciting Ivorians to take to the streets in their thousands, chased Guei out of power.
Gbagbo announced himself president. Everyone heaved a sight of relief, hoping that Gbagbo, who had been in opposition for so long, would rule as a genuine democrat and organise free and fair elections in which the Ivorian people’s voice would truly carry the day.
But instead, Gbagbo resurrected the self-same ethnocentric policies that had brought Bedie and Guei to grief. Ouattara and his supporters resisted violently, and Gbagbo had to enter a series of alliances of convenience with Ouattara, which always seemed built on sand. Eventually, the pretence at cooperation between the two men was torn away, and they launched a full armed conflict against each other in 2002.
This conflict split Cote d’Ivoire in two: Gbagbo and his acolytes reigned in Abidjan, in the south, while Ouattara’s supporters, calling themselves ‘The New Forces’, held sway in the north, with their capital at Bouake.
Africans, French and other world leaders tried to mediate and reunite the country. At each negotiated ‘agreement’, Gbagbo did not hide the fact that he wanted to have the upper hand, or nothing. Ouattara indulged him, waiting for the definitive presidential election that would expose Gbagbo as a regional, not a national leader. Gbagbo, knowing that he would lose, postponed the election five times!
The current crisis was caused by Gbagbo when, after finally agreeing to hold the election in November 2010, tried to steal it. Those who had eyes to see could have observed that before the election, there was much trouble over the ‘identity cards’ that were to be used in registering voters. The reason? To try and prevent ‘foreigners’ from voting! ‘Déjà vu, déjà vu’ was how one saw it.
But although he eventually gave in on the identity-card issue, Gbagbo cleverly ‘booby-trapped’ the election result announcement mechanism beforehand. Somehow, he had got the UN and everyone else involved in organising the election to take their eyes off the ball, while he inserted a harmless-looking provision in the electoral regulations, providing that after the Independent Electoral Commission had collated the results, they would be passed on to the Constitutional Council (a body he had packed with his minions) which would ‘certify’ them. A mere formality, right?
Wrong! Whereas the Independent Electoral Commission announced that in the decisive second round of the presidential election Ouattara had obtained over 54 per cent and Gbagbo less than 45 per cent in the final run-off, and that Ouattara had therefore won, the Constitutional Council claimed that some of the votes cast for Ouattara in the northern part of the country were ‘invalid’ and that when these ‘invalid’ votes were taken out of the total number of votes cast, Gbagbo got 51 per cent of the votes! So it was Gbagbo who had won.
Meanwhile, the Electoral Commission was denied access by Gbagbo’s gendarmes to national radio and television. Indeed, Gbagbo, acting with ‘malice aforethought’, shut down almost all the media in the country and made it impossible to text by mobile phone! He also closed the country’s borders.
Gbagbo next swore himself in as president. Ouattara too got himself sworn in as president. The spectre of Kenya, Zimbabwe and Togo – where similar post-election debacles had occurred – beckoned.
What has happened is a clear case of an incumbent using the apparatus of the state to steal an election, while the international players – the UN, the AU and ECOWAS, as well as France, the US and the European Union – are reduced to watching in disbelief and calling unanimously on Gbagbo to show statesmanship and step down.
But will they unite in imposing realistic measures that will make Gbagbo give up his brazen attempt to steal the election?
I find it troubling that the UN in particular (which has 9,000 soldiers in Cote d‘Ivoire) and the other actors in this bizarre Ivorian theatre of the absurd could not have gathered enough intelligence on the ground to detect Gbagbo’s intentions beforehand, and have allowed him to reach a position where he may succeed in stealing the election.
If they had had an idea of what he was planning – and they should have – they could have checkmated him before he could bring the country once more to the brink of civil war.
For instance: what did they think the enormous brouhaha over the identity cards was all about? Answer (in case they still don’t get it): to deprive Ouattara’s supporters of the right to vote. Why would Gbagbo want to do that? Answer: Because he knows the demographic profile of Cote d’Ivoire well enough to realise that it offers Ouattara an inbuilt majority of votes, if voters follow the laws of ethnicity. And as everybody knew, Gbagbo had not scrupled to use the ethnic card, which cuts both ways.
When the results were being delayed, what did the international observers think was happening?
When an Electoral Commission official was physically prevented from announcing one set of results, by the simple act of a Gbagbo supporter whipping the papers out of his hands and tearing them to pieces in full view of the media and the public – what did that portend or signify?
It is not good enough for officials entrusted with ensuring that elections are carried out peacefully in a volatile situation – such as the Ivorian one – to take the ‘good faith’ of the main actors, especially the incumbent government, for granted.
Any blood that is shed – and God forefend none is shed – will be upon the heads of many bureaucrats who saw and heard Gbagbo but were fooled by his snide smile, without being able to penetrate into his psyche to get the true meaning of why he smiles so much.
Now, the human fire extinguishers have all been making a beeline for Cote d’Ivoire. The most high profile of them is ex-president Thabo Mbeki of South Africa. He has experience of the ways of the Ivorian actors, for he managed to get an agreement between Gbagbo and ‘The New Forces’ to come into operation in 2004.
However, the ink was hardly dry when it began to fall apart. So it will be a miracle if Mbeki can find a way through the current impasse and give Cote d’Ivoire another chance for peace.
But all these people, well-meaning as they are, must realise that Africa is now ripe for mature politics, which means someone must lose so that another may win. That is the rule in democratic politics and those who can’t accept it must leave the field.
Does Gbagbo think that America’s racist groups were enamoured of Barack Obama’s victory in November 2008? They were not, but they remembered the civil war their country had once fought, and realised that it was a case of accepting Obama rule or going to the barricades. Gbagbo has imbibed enough politics from his leftist friends in France and Europe to comprehend this simple rule, and he must be made a pariah in the world unless he respects the votes of his country folk and steps down forthwith.
One man’s insatiable lust for power should not be allowed to summon the vultures of civil war to come and hover over Cote d’Ivoire once again, hungry as ever, for the flesh of our African brothers and sisters. Africa must unite to deny these vultures the usual diet that the greed and stupidity of some African politicians so often lays out for them to feast upon.
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* Cameron Duodu is a journalist, writer and commentator.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Hope and caution in Somaliland
Three months after the presidential elections, where are we?
Steve Kibble and Michael Walls
On 26 July 2010, Somaliland swore in its fourth president, Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud ‘Silanyo’, leader of one of the former opposition parties, Kulmiye, after an election declared free and fair by international and domestic observers. The decisive election result and the peaceful handover of power from the previous regime under ex-President Riyale marks an opportunity for Somaliland to take further its steps towards democratisation – and for many in Somaliland to gain the international recognition they crave and believe they deserve. President Silanyo visited the UK in late November and many supporters of Somaliland inside and outside the diaspora were keen to ask what the vision was to take Somaliland towards development, further democratisation and of course recognition as an independent sovereign state.
In 1991 Somaliland unilaterally declared the restoration of the independence they enjoyed for several days in 1960. This represented an end to the territory’s allegiance to a greater Somalia. In the late 1990s, Somaliland’s political leadership declared a commitment to representative democracy, and local body elections in 2002, a presidential election in 2003, and parliamentary elections in 2005 all contributed to this process, though not without problems and obstacles.
Somaliland held presidential elections on 26 June 2010. These elections were postponed on a number of occasions from 2008 onwards, but when an outside-brokered six-point agreement was signed on 30 September 2009, there was the basis for the appointment of a new National Electoral Commission (NEC), the establishment of a viable electoral timetable and the cleaning up of a corrupted registration system. This marked a major turnaround from before the agreement, when political infighting and NEC incompetence had made agreement on voter registration and an election date impossible.
The elections went ahead despite concerns over security, the relevance of which were graphically illustrated by a shootout between alleged political Islamists and police in Somaliland’s second city Burao in early June. That action appeared to have dismantled a well-planned anti-Somaliland operation. Just before election day, the Islamist organisation al-Shabaab based in (South Central) Somalia warned Somalilanders against voting – ‘advice’ Somalilanders ignored by turning out in large numbers. Security considerations had led some international organisations to adopt a ‘hibernation’ mode or to send staff out of the country. The bombings in Kampala a month later illustrated the fragility of the security situation, while also underlining the fact that, increasingly, Somali insecurity extends beyond Somali borders.
All parties stressed their commitment to respecting the verdict of the electorate and they explicitly repeated this commitment to the international observer mission. All parties stressed and observed the need for peace, as did many religious leaders and elders. Parties adhered to the Code of Conduct agreement that campaign rallies be held on separate days. The run-up to the election provided an opportunity for youth, and particularly young women who are otherwise more socially constrained, to enjoy the occasion, giving a carnival atmosphere.
BACKGROUND TO DEMOCRATISATION
Many African states struggle to reconcile traditional social institutions with the precepts of nation-state democracy within previously colonial borders. Somaliland offers similar contradictions, not least through clan politics, yet such contradictions also suggest possible resolution. Despite increasingly autocratic government moves until July 2010, socio-political norms that emphasise the importance of negotiation and compromise have averted a number of crises in recent years, while cautious and fully engaged external interventions have, in marked contrast to efforts in southern Somali areas, been successful in supporting this process. One can point to some successful interventions in situations where the dynamics of Somaliland have been understood and the complexities of who is an insider and who is an outsider have been at least partly comprehended.
The Republic of Somaliland unilaterally declared independence from Somalia in 1991, after a civil war caused the collapse of the dictatorial Siyaad Barre regime. While the southern areas of Somalia have endured endemic conflict, interspersed with unsuccessful periodic, peace conferences, the north-western territory of Somaliland embarked on a home-grown process of reconciliation and state-building, largely escaping the pressure of outside-brokered and lavishly-funded interventions aimed at establishing a government for the whole of the erstwhile Republic of Somalia.
Much of the process of democratisation has been enabled by an overwhelming public desire to avoid a return to conflict and an accompanying urge to win international recognition (although yoking the two has also proved problematic). The nascent state remains weak and poorly-funded, but has paradoxically enjoyed a degree of legitimacy exceeding that of many African and other governments. However, until the recent elections, the institutionalisation of a system that combines elements of traditional ‘pastoral’ male democracy in the context of the Westphalian and Weberian nation-state seemed to be starting to unravel. In its place a personalised ‘securocratic’ approach was gaining the upper hand, with a concomitant fear of debate and criticism. This intolerance of dissent is at odds with Somali tradition more generally and can be seen as a legacy of the Siyaad Barre regime. However, it remains to be seen how deeply embedded it is as we move into the era of a new government and a promised more open, transparent society rethinking its engagement with outsiders as well as internal policy.
Many look to the new government for the implementation of new approaches to overcoming the previous stasis in the arenas of justice, further democratisation and development. There are a number of questions that will determine fundamentally the ways in which traditional institutions interact with the norms of nation-state democracy. Clan will continue to play a significant yet dynamic role in the political realm, while external actors, from private, public and non-governmental sectors, must also expand their involvement.
On the first day of the new regime, they delivered on a pledge to abolish the unpopular security committees. Originally established to address urgent issues of security in the wake of the civil war, these committees had been permitted to imprison without trial and they lay outside any due judicial process. A new National Security Board has been established instead, with a mandate that embraces the security of the country, defence of its borders and the fight against terrorism.
There has as yet been no effect on other parts of the judicial system from this policy change. The judiciary remains ineffective and subject to executive pressure arising from its lack of independence. It is also alleged to be corrupt and non-professional with untrained clerks acting as judges. A seasoned observer described the system as ‘a hell of a mess which will take a lot of cleaning up. It’s still based largely on judicial practice under Siyaad Barre – i.e. who has the most money wins’.
The position of women has been another key element in the fight to further and deepen democratisation and Kulmiye has as well as its clan base, majority support among women, youth, civil society and diaspora. We spoke to key activists on the subject, and they cautiously welcomed the increase in female cabinet ministers from 5 per cent to 20 per cent but pointed out this still only means two ministers and an assistant minister. (We can note however that the cabinet has shrunk in size). There is also a woman commissioner on the Human Rights Commission. The new (female) minister for labour and social affairs is, unlike her predecessor, more open to dialogue with civil society. Women’s groups welcomed these developments, with the umbrella network Nagaad sending government an advisory paper on gender issues. However, women’s groups are also looking for much greater progress, which still appears distant. There is, for example, little noticeable movement on key issues such as proposed 30 per cent quotas for women in parliament.
There has also been movement on a much-improved relationship with civil society. A new NGO Act defining roles and responsibilities for non-governmental organisations as well as giving them legal protection was signed into being, while a number of new ministers have civil society backgrounds. These include one of the female cabinet members, Zam Zam Abdi, now minister of education and formerly executive director of the Committee of Concerned Somalis (CCS) and ex-chair of the human rights network SHURONET. The new minister of planning was himself a founding member of the NGO Somali Relief Association (SOMRA) in the UK in the early 1990s, and spent the past few years working with the private sector hawala (money transfer company), Dahabshiil. Early in his new ministerial role, he held his first coordination meeting with the UN and international NGOs and presented new guidelines for aid coordination. In addition, there is the promise of forums for domestic civil society to engage with government and to monitor performance, including input into the budgetary process.
Before the elections, the (then shadow) foreign minister spoke of taking a far more nuanced approach to Somaliland’s neighbours, including pursuing reconciliation with Somalia and Puntland, as well as with other Somali groups and neighbours in the Horn in general. This necessarily requires that Somaliland address specific sensitivities on the question of recognition, on which neighbours remain the key.
In a recent talk in London, one of the authors of this editorial floated the concept of ‘incremental recognition’ in which we suggest that Somaliland leaders engage in confidence-building measures, such as pursuing the possibility of greater engagement with regional bodies such as the IGAD forum (Intergovernmental Authority on Development). The premise is that this would allow Somaliland themselves to assume a more active and self-directing role in the pursuit of recognition, setting modest incremental objectives that are nevertheless achievable and should one day lead to a situation in which full recognition becomes a mere acceptance of an ipso facto condition. Such an approach would contrast with past tendencies to emphasise recognition as a one-stop solution requiring a single, substantial policy shift on the part of other nations.
Since taking office, there has been an unexpectedly positive presidential visit to Djibouti in which President Silanyo was awarded red carpet status as if he were a recognised head of state. The long closed Somaliland liaison office was also reopened, marking a shift from the rocky relations between Djibouti and the Riyale regime. It may be that this change is linked to the new fibre optic cable coming into Somaliland via Djibouti. A number of government advisers themselves have links with Djibouti, and there were accusations within Somaliland that the agreement had favoured Djibouti against Somaliland interests.
Having initially viewed the new Somaliland government with suspicion, Ethiopia also hosted a Somaliland delegation led by Mohamed Abdullahi Omar, the new minister of foreign affairs. In so doing they indicated a willingness to work with the new administration. Hargeisa has also seen a visit from the new UN envoy, apparently at the invitation of the Norwegian Refugee Council.
However, relations with Puntland have continued to be tense, with the contested sovereignty of areas of Sanaag and Sool complicated by recent accusations from Puntland that Somaliland was harbouring and indeed promoting the ‘terrorist’ Mohamed Said ‘Atom’. Puntland forces had clashed with Atom in the mountainous area of Galgala, and accused Somaliland variously of sending militia to fight alongside him and of sheltering him when he fled. The Somaliland account inevitably differed from this, with senior politicians declaring Atom a terrorist and insisting that the two territories were cooperating over terrorism. These claims were repeated to us when we spoke to the Somaliland president and the minister of foreign affairs in London in November, who suggested that the dispute was essentially between the Puntland administration and local clan groups.
There were some early disagreements between the incoming Somaliland government and the media, with the most high profile being suspension of the right of the popular Somali cable broadcaster Universal TV to work in Somaliland. The reason given was that Universal had consistently ‘treated Somaliland unfairly’. Much more recently, the chief editor of YOOL daily newspaper was threatened by ministers and security personnel for unfavourable coverage. The editor of the daily newspaper ‘Waaheen’, which belongs to Ahmed Hussein Essa (a long-time politician with good insider knowledge but with a combative past inside Kulmiye), was arrested for publishing articles that accused some of the government institutions of nepotism, although he was released on bail after a few days. So far, the new administration has not resorted systematically to the measures of the prior regime, which had a tendency to lock up perceived opponents including journalists. To this point, the government has shown a willingness to discuss disputes, helped by the fact that the new media spokesperson is an ex-journalist. However, there is a significant need for work on fully institutionalising the freedom of the media.
Despite this recent activity and some promising moves, commentators and people on the streets see little evidence of a unifying vision behind the new government. In the five months since taking power the concentration appears to be on reshuffling the institutions and getting rid of supposedly corrupt civil servants, while creating new agencies such as the Anti Corruption Commission. Essentially some charge that Kulmiye did not have a plan for governing. This line holds that they concentrated too hard on winning the election on an anti-government platform and, despite the high expectations of the population, they are now weighed down by the day-to-day job of governing. A popular joke asks whether ‘change’ meant ‘change of ministers and staff’. One commentator opined that the president seems to be overwhelmed and that he lacks the stamina for the job, relying instead on others to do the work for him.
It is still too early to tell whether such criticism is well-founded. The early months of the presidency have seen considerable advance as well as areas of disappointment.
There is nevertheless ample evidence of general donor goodwill. In September, the US assistant secretary of state for African affairs announced a new policy on Somaliland that would see ‘aggressive’ engagement with the administration there, as well as that in Puntland. This is part of a ‘dual track’ strategy which will see the US continue to support the Mogadishu-based Transitional Federal Government, but which will also result in an increase in direct aid to Somaliland. The British ambassador to Ethiopia, a Danish minister, the Swedish ambassador and the UN envoy to Somalia all also confirmed increased aid to Somaliland and there has been some talk of direct budget support for the Somaliland government. If implemented, this would mark a significant shift in donor engagement with Somaliland, contributing materially to the process of incremental recognition mentioned above. However, these discussions are yet to result in action.
Finally, Somaliland has a significant potential opportunity at the present time given the impending expiry of the mandate of the Transitional Federal Government in the south. With the TFG representing an obstacle if Somaliland is to extend the depth and breadth of its formal engagement with the international community, negotiation over their future offers a leverage opportunity for both Somaliland and those amongst the international diplomatic community who would like to see a change in the nature of that engagement.
The new Hargeisa government will need to be far more clear-sighted and long-term in its vision to obtain not just outside support but sustained momentum for democracy and development. Civil society too can play a material role in seeing that Somaliland continues down a road in which the transition from discursive to representative democracy continues to advance the needs of the wider population, not just of a political elite.
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* Steve Kibble (Progressio) and Michael Walls (UCL) were joint coordinators of the 26 June 2010 international election observers in Somaliland.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Obiang: The sham humanitarian
Abena Ampofoa Asare
This past October, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) suspended a three million dollar research prize funded by Teodoro Obiang, one of the world’s worst dictators. Shamed by an open protest letter signed by over 60 leading global activists, UNESCO was compelled to distance itself from a man who has long ruled Equatorial Guinea with an iron fist. Precisely how a leader cut from the same cloth as Idi Amin, Omar al-Bashir, or Nicolae Ceausescu came to finance a UN prize in the first place is a truth stranger than fiction.
For the past three decades, Obiang has proudly presided over one of Africa’s most devastating humanitarian and political disasters. With a per capita GDP comparable to Portugal or Korea, Equatorial Guinea’s national income is the highest in sub-Saharan Africa - and yet over 60 per cent of the population struggle to live on less than a dollar a day. Since oil was discovered in 1995, President Teodoro Obiang’s family and close associates have grown fabulously wealthy, while the majority of the population remain mired in poverty.
The kleptocracy in Africa’s only Spanish-speaking country is neither a secret nor a surprise. Although respected international advocacy organisations including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International regularly condemn the injustice and violence of Obiang’s government, it took an outraged letter from exiles, backed by international heavyweights including Mario Vargas Llosa, Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, John Polanyi, Desmond Tutu and Graça Machel, to persuade UNESCO that the Teodoro Obiang Nguema life science prize was ‘inimical to [its] mission’ and ‘an affront to Africans everywhere who work for the betterment of our countries.’
This is the strangeness of Equatorial Guinea’s plight. No matter how many dubiously-funded multimillion dollar houses Obiang’s son buys in Malibu, California, how many dissidents are tortured and killed in Malabo prisons, or how many human rights exposés are published in the world’s leading publications, when Teodoro Obiang travels to the United States, France, and the UN, he receives a red carpet reception - as long as he promises to do better.
OBIANG’S ACE IN THE HOLE
Part of this maddening paradox is the result of Equatorial Guinea’s massive oil reserves, which, according to one US Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations report, have created an ‘increasing capacity to buy diplomatic influence’. The extent to which oil resources distort Equatorial Guinea’s global standing is evident in the most recent UNDP Human Development Index. More than any other country in the world, Equatorial Guinea’s abysmal figures in health, education, and other social indicators are masked by its oil-bloated national income. When national income is removed from the human development index calculations, Equatorial Guinea’s ranking plummets.
Similarly, oil wealth critically lubricates the country’s bilateral relationships. Last year, a thorough Human Rights Watch report analysed the schizophrenic US government relationship with Equatorial Guinea in terms of the American oil addiction.
Alongside a number of excellent journalistic exposés, the US State Department itself annually condemns Equatorial Guinea in the strongest language. The most recent report listed torture, killings, unfair labour practice, child trafficking, and other abuses among the country’s troubles. John R. Bennett (ambassador from 1991-1994) refuses to have his picture hung in the US Embassy in Malabo, a building owned by a known torturer. Similarly, Frank Ruddy, ambassador during the Reagan administration, vocally criticises his government’s continuing relationship with a man he describes as a thief, a tyrant, and a thug.
Despite far-ranging and high-placed criticism, the thawing of the US government’s relationship with the Obiang administration has steadily continued. Pressured by the US oil industry, George W. Bush quietly renewed state ties with this noxious regime in 2000 and today the US is Equatorial Guinea’s single largest investor. Despite hopes to the contrary, President Obama’s administration has not altered the country’s course. A chilling 2009 photograph documents Barack and Michelle Obama smiling broadly with Teodoro Obiang and his wife; this picture is prominently displayed on the Equatorial Guinean government website.
A recent article in the New York Sun described the US government’s continuing support for Equatorial Guinea as a source of growing tension between Barack Obama’s ‘human rights absolutists’ and Clintonian ‘pragmatists’ who think it wiser to ‘nudge [Obiang] toward reform’ than to ‘wag an accusatory finger’. The Sun quotes lobbyist and former Clinton advisor Lanny J. Davis, a man currently on Teodoro Obiang’s payroll to the tune of $2.5 million, explaining that ‘it is in the interests of the US as well as those who care about democracy and human rights to take up President Obiang on his request for help to implement his reform program.’ This perspective ignores the lessons of Equatorial Guinea’s long political history. Depicting Teodoro Obiang as a credible reformer or oil companies as entities able to ‘nudge’ a dictator toward human rights responsibility is at best naïve and at worst a highly strategic blindness to Equatorial Guinea’s troubled past.
The all-powerful pull of crude oil is not the whole story. Teodoro Obiang’s evasion of pariah status is also linked to his ability to deftly manipulate reform rhetoric (with the help of an army of highly-paid lobbyists in the US and Europe) to circumvent the international community’s moral opprobrium. Meanwhile, the Equatoguinean people continue suffering under this repressive regime. In the most recent outrage, Obiang’s regime executed four men without a fair trial in August. A Malabo citizen named Robert, quoted in a 2009 Christian Science Monitor article, said it best. ‘The president is just lying to the international community so people will think that he is [improving] democracy and that he is [having legitimate] elections…It is a game so he can benefit.’
GAMING THE SYSTEM
Over the past 30 years, Obiang has perfected a formula of publicising small rhetorical capitulations to good governance ideals while leaving the architecture of his state’s repression entirely unchanged. In 1979, after propelling himself into power by assassinating his uncle, Obiang publicly promised to restore the struggling country to democracy and received UN technical and financial assistance in return. Thirty years later, Equatorial Guinea’s long-awaited democracy remains elusive. During the 2008 legislative elections, the authorities arrested a leader of a banned opposition party. He was later found dead in his prison cell in a suspicious ‘suicide’. In the 2009 presidential elections, Teodoro Obiang prevailed with 95 per cent of the vote in an election where soldiers manned all the voting stations, ballot boxes were not sealed, and independent election observers were prohibited.
The gap between Teodoro Obiang’s reformist rhetoric and the reality of entrenched injustice is even more striking in the administration’s maneuverings around Equatorial Guinea’s oil revenues. In 1997, Obiang inaugurated the country’s first National Economic Conference, where the president loudly proclaimed its intention to be transparent and rational in oil revenue. The conference recommended that the government create an independent agency, accountable to the parliament, to audit the state’s revenue streams and expose corruption and irregularities. More than a decade later, this agency does not exist. Again in 1999, the UNDP consulted with the government to draw up a plan for addressing transparency and institutional capacity-building. This plan also never made it off the paper.
In his 2010 Cape Town Global Forum speech, Teodoro Obiang again pledged to standards of oil revenue transparency by touting his burgeoning relationship with the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), the global oil-monitoring agency, as evidence of a five-point reform program. In reality, Obiang has been executing the same evasive dance with the EITI as with earlier accountability efforts. In 2007, Obiang applied for Equatorial Guinea to be recognised as an EITI Candidate, meaning that in two years, the country would be expected to progress toward basic standards of oil revenue transparency. When little progress had been made in the allotted time, the president applied for an extension. The EITI board refused the extension request and revoked Equatorial Guinea’s status as a candidate country, essentially throwing the country out of the monitoring program. Just two months later, Teodoro Obiang was boasting in Cape Town about his efforts to seek EITI candidacy, again. This type of disingenuousness is the hallmark of Teodoro Obiang’s rhetoric of reform; as one Global Witness campaigner dryly noted ‘transparency doesn’t take ten years’.
This dynamic has long been a part of Obiang’s politics. In 2002, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights decided to end its special monitoring of Equatorial Guinea because of allegedly improved conditions. However, the outgoing special representative vocally disagreed with the lessening of human rights scrutiny. In his resignation letter, Gustavo Gallon Giraldo boldly stated that ‘unfortunately, nothing has changed in Equatorial Guinea’. What had changed, he speculated, was the composition of the Commission, which ‘endorsed facts and statements that are at odds with reality’. Exploiting this gap between rhetoric and reality is at the core of Teodoro Obiang’s global public relations campaign. In the June 2010 speech at the Cape Town Global Forum, Teodoro Obiang’s manipulation of reform rhetoric was on display as he urged the international community to ‘turn the page’ on Equatorial Guinea.
The president’s first step in avoiding responsibility is to acknowledge the country’s woeful situation, and then quickly attribute the problems to the colonial and early independence history. The fact that he himself has been at the helm for the past three decades, and has managed oil-engorged coffers for the past fifteen years, is irrelevant in his accountability assessment. ‘This is about developing a country that started from nowhere,’ he gravely informs international investors. By invoking an exceptionally bleak history, Obiang casts his efforts, however meagre and incomplete, as credible nation-building. After all, if ‘nothing’ existed prior to his leadership and Equatorial Guinea was ‘nowhere,’ then any improvements, however small, are recast as positive gains rather than shameful underachievement.
Next, Equatorial Guinea’s president waxes eloquent about his tireless efforts to combat ‘mindsets rooted in underdevelopment’ and ‘habits…such as corruption, illiteracy, tribalism, political opportunism and on and on.’ This shameful circular reasoning describes the nation’s underdevelopment as a force rooted in the country’s people, rather than as an injustice done to them during the past three decades of state violence and neglect. Deriding a national ‘habit’ of illiteracy is supremely cynical given that the wealthy Obiang administration’s public education expenditures are a quarter of the sub-Saharan average. By naturalising underdevelopment, this oblique analysis deftly shifts responsibility again - this time to the country’s people.
Continuing on, Teodoro Obiang entreats the international community to ‘remember that Equatorial Guinea is a relatively young nation, inexperienced… we must take into account that we are a country only 42 years old,’ the president reminds his audience. This framing could well be described as a hardship exemption based on claims of backwardness and inefficiency. If conditions are not improving quickly, says Teodoro Obiang, the world should just sympathise with the poor Africans muddling about at the ‘new’ work of nation-building. After all, they can only do so much. By plying disheartening stereotypes of African underachievement, Obiang thwarts demands for basic human rights and real reform.
Finally, Obiang proudly notes his generous response to Hurricane Katrina, the Tsunami, the famine in Niger, the Nigerian pipeline explosion, the volcanic eruption in Cameroon's Victoria Peak, and the explosion of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. But regardless of how much money he doles out to humanitarian causes - or how earnestly he trumpets his desire to ‘partner with the world’s democracies’, Teodoro Obiang can never be counted as a good global citizen.
The longer the international community focuses on Obiang’s resources and rhetoric at the expense of a hard-nosed assessment of his policies, the bleaker the future for Equatorial Guinea.
Academic experts like Alicia Campos Serrano have warned that Teodoro Obiang’s repressive policies, unchecked, will be the foundation for future instability and greater hardship for Equatoguineans. By developing a single-sector oil economy, Obiang’s administration has gutted the country’s agricultural sector in favor of lucrative oil production. But as the people of Nigeria, Angola, or Sudan can verify, you cannot eat oil. The country’s lagging agricultural sector and increased urban migration have created a host of new problems. Serrano describes the company towns that have risen up around the country’s oil industry, many of which keep more than 50 per cent of oil workers’ salaries. She describes an ‘exponential’ increase in the trafficking of women and children to these areas. Serrano also highlights the political cost of Obiang’s exploitation of the national economy and the huge personal profits he has garnered. A series of reported assassination and coup d’état attempts in Malabo suggest that scores of mercenaries and challengers wait in the wings for their turn to benefit. The president’s repression can contain this erupting violence for only so long.
By appropriating the language of human rights reform Teodoro Obiang has been able to whitewash Equatorial Guinea’s social devastation and political repression as post-colonial African development. As long as powerful members of the global community continue to avert their eyes to the gap between Obiang’s rhetoric and his policies, they will be unable to pressure either his government or subsequent leadership to prioritise the human rights, security, and development of the Equatoguinean people. By undermining the moral authority of international governance mechanisms, the free pass given to President Obiang paves the way for further abuse in Equatorial Guinea and anywhere else where dictators act with impunity.
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* Abena Ampofoa Asare is a contributor to Foreign Policy in Focus and a doctoral candidate at New York University's History Department. Her dissertation focuses on transitional justice and human rights in Ghana. She can be reached at aaa310[at]nyu[dot]edu.
* Recommended citation:
Abena Ampofoa Asare , "Obiang: The Sham Humanitarian" (Washington, DC: Foreign Policy In Focus, December 2, 2010)
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Human rights, livelihoods and Ubuntu for the 21st century
The celebration of Human Rights Day across the world will be meaningless without interrogating the significance of peoples’ rights in relationship to human livelihood and peaceful co-existence among humans and between humans and planet earth in the 21st century. Such interrogation should be geared towards unravelling the implications of new phenomena for our collective humanity in the 21st century. These phenomena include the Western conception of human rights based on exclusions and hierarchies, biotechnology and robotics revolution, genetic perdition and cloning, capitalist plundering of the earth, as well as the dehumanisation of human beings by neo-liberal capitalism.
Following the devastating war associated with the capitalist depression of 1929-1945, an international organisation, the United Nations, was formed with a mandate to promote world peace. There were four salient objectives outlined in the UN Charter: 1) to maintain world peace and security; 2) to protect the fundamental human rights and uphold the dignity and equality of all humans; 3) to create a forum for cooperation in solving international problems and in providing respect for international law; and 4) to promote freedom, advance human progress and achieve better standards of living.
In 1948, the UN agreed to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which codified a common universal standard for the upholding of human dignity. Today, 10 December 2010, 62 years after the declaration, it is important for all people to reflect deeply on the meaning of human dignity in the 21st century. We want to remind our readers that the challenges of the moment demand that, in tandem with the ideals of Ubuntu, we elevate the new principle of the collective rights of human beings in the 21st century. The principle of Ubuntu which is now emerging as a core organising principle links humans to each other, to nature, and to the universe. It is this concept of shared humanity that we want to reflect on today so that we can promote an inclusive concept of peace, human dignity, and human rights.
THE UN DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS
The idea of an international organisation such as the League of Nations had been shattered by military aggression, racism and xenophobia in Europe. Just as the US is now making mockery of the UN Charter, so the Germans and the Italians scuttled the idea of respect for national sovereignty and mutual respect. Africans remember vividly the Italian invasion of Abyssinia and the use of chemical and biological weapons against Africans by the fascist Benito Mussolini of Italy. The attempt to create an international organisation to settle disputes among nations took shape only after the debacles of fascism, war, capitalist depression, the Nazi Holocaust, and the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The genocide and mass killings of the Second World War had emanated from the genocidal mindset that had been celebrated as ‘development and progress.’ During the carnage of war the international momentum for peace gained force in the UN Charter, the Convention on Genocide, and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR). Despite the limitations of the implementation of the core elements of this declaration, it is important to state that oppressed peoples recognised the UDHR as a mobilising tool for the expansion of human and people’s rights. In the present environment of torture and the so-called global war on terror, the onslaught of austerity measures against people’s economic and cultural rights, and the general conflation of human rights with the rights of capitalists, it is important to expose the hollowness of Western human rights campaigns. Hence, we want to restate the importance of all the articles of the UDHR, but especially articles 1, 5, 22, and 25.
NO ONE SHALL BE SUBJECTED TO TORTURE
Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: ‘No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.’ Yet, capitalist torture is visited upon the majority of the citizens of the planet. Capitalist torture stretches from the sweatshops of Asia and the illegal mining fields of Eastern Congo to the toxic environmental pollution in the Niger Delta and the cancer alleys of New Orleans, as well as the threat of human incineration and denial of livelihood through global warming and biological colonisation of peoples of the Third World. To quote the former Irish president Mary Robinson, climate change now constitutes ‘the biggest human rights issue of the 21st century.’ International institutions such as the IMF, the World Bank, the WTO and their capitalist allies lobby against the collective rights of working people as much as they do against governments’ collective will to solve such pressing problems as global warming. They align with governments to violate labour laws and prevent environmental protection that could guarantee ordinary people’s rights to habitable environments.
This torture is supported by an information war to insure that citizens are dumbed down so that they do not get up and stand up for their rights. The right to information as a basic right is now being highlighted by the intense campaign against Wikileaks. This campaign against information freedom and democratic access to information underlines the vulnerability of the ruling classes and the reality that they are now retreating from the basic liberal principles of the system of capitalism. In order to maintain this social system, a vast military machinery has been deployed by the USA to prop up dictators and torturers around the world. This international support for torture and inhuman treatment has meant that the leaders of the USA openly celebrate torturing humans. In his book, ‘Decision Point’, former US President George W. Bush boasted of giving orders for water boarding. Water boarding is torture. Torture is a violation of international law. But George W. Bush was simply giving voice to the opposition of the principles of the rights of human beings. It is the same US government that spends millions of dollars hypocritically promoting human rights and fighting terrorism.
This celebration of the dispensation of torture and inhuman treatment in the 21st century by the same government that had violated Africans’ human and people’s rights in the name of fighting communism in the 20th century underlines the reason why all of the governments of Africa (except one) oppose the establishment of the US Africa Command. This hypocrisy of the US must be denounced on this international day for human rights.
Western concept of human rights and democracy has been premised on the liberal concept of property rights, which for centuries included the right to own, dehumanise, and exploit fellow human beings. In the United States the liberal agenda of the rights of individuals has been to reinforce and extend the right of absolute private property. This meant that those who had the right to absolute private property could dehumanise others and designate them less than human. It was for this reason that the USA designated African peoples as three-fifths of human. It required a major war for the US constitution to recognise Africans as full humans.
Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: ‘All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.’ This article no doubt was framed with the understanding of the Western concept of property rights which had legalised enslavement and claimed slaves were not equal humans with their European slave holders. The slave holders owned and commercialised the rights of enslaved persons, including their right to life. This is not only a question of the past. Those who want to patent life forms in the 21st century seek to give the right over life to profit-driven corporations. As sought by the intellectual property rights regime of the World Trade Organization, just about everything will be made into a commodity and corporations should have the right to patent life forms. There will be a new hierarchy of humans. In this context, select individuals and corporations would exercise the right to own the abstract and biological properties of things, such as genetic materials. They would monopolise the right to exclude others humans from freely using the products of the corporations’ patented genetic materials.
Digital technology now permeates the world with major implications for the concept of human rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was written before the era when biotechnology rapidly moved from a purely academic field for research to a corporate forum. This year, Craig Venter announced that he had produced ‘synthetic’ life. For more than two decades the legal infrastructure of the USA has been preparing humans for this moment when capitalists could play God. In 1987, the Patents and Trademark Office (PTO) of the USA laid the basis for transnational corporations to grab new powers when the PTO decided to reverse its position regarding patenting and issued a ruling that all genetically engineered multi-cellular organisms (including animals) could be patented. The ruling excluded human beings however, due to the fact that the 13th amendment forbids human slavery. But the invention of ‘artificial’ life raises new issues for our common humanity. Jeremy Rifkin had reflected on this challenge when he noted, ‘genetically altered human embryos and fetuses as well as human genes, cell lines, tissues, and organs are potentially patentable, leaving open the possibility of patenting all of the separate parts, if not the whole, of a human being.’
Thus, the international human rights day should be seen as an opportunity to strengthen the articles of UDHR and all local and international legal tools that could be used to confront the challenges posed by property rights rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Samir Amin in his book, ‘The Liberal Virus’, demonstrates how the intellectual property rights regime, especially in the field of agriculture could lead to the decimation of a billion poor people. This magnitude of this challenge reinforces the question of what constitutes human rights in the 21st century.
EVERYONE HAS A RIGHT TO SOCIAL SECURITY
Article 22 of the UDHR states that: ‘Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.’ Though this article was not gender sensitive enough as evident in the use of ‘his’ in reference to men and women, the main point we want to highlight here is that the economic and social-cultural dimensions of rights are as important as the political rights. But in the dominant Western conception of human rights, the individual rights of capitalists to accumulate wealth (at the expense of the economic, social, and cultural wellbeing of human beings) are touted as though those were the essence of the totality of human dignity, peace, and freedom. This is especially evident in this era of capitalist depression when austerity measures are being imposed by the IMF, undermining the rights of workers and ordinary people to defend their socio-economic wellbeing. Today, the right to organise by women, students, workers, ordinary folks, and same gender loving persons remain core elements of international human rights agitation. One part of the commitment that could be made on this day of the celebration of international human rights is to study and expose these capitalist corporations instead of diverting attention through window-dressed studies on poverty alleviation that do not get to the roots of the problem.
At this juncture, we want to highlight article 25 of the UDHR. The first part of this article states that: ‘Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.’ Only the effects of the austerity measures as a response to the crumbling capitalist mode of economic organisation/re-organisation say it all: article 25 cannot be realised under the present mode of economic organisation. Realising the social and economic rights of humans requires a new social system in the 21st century.
The ruling classes are vulnerable on so many fronts, so they want people to forget the articles of the UDHR. The task of organising, educating, and mobilising people to this reality is becoming urgent but is confronted with the sophisticated propaganda machine that has been deployed by the generals and high priests of capitalism who make people fight against their own economic and social rights through the demonisation of the ideas of social collectivism.
EXTENDING RIGHTS IN THE 21ST CENTURY
In Africa, working people supported the UDHR as a document to use for mobilisation. In 1948, when this document was written, most African countries were under colonial rule. In the process of achieving their independence, Africans wrote their own Charter on Human and People’s Rights. Throughout the anti-colonial struggles, African intellectuals and human rights activists refused to accept the Western concept of human rights that excluded the question of self determination. These activists exposed the intellectual deformity that was manifest in the international campaign of powers that supported apartheid while championing human rights.
The African Charter on Human and People’s Rights which came into force in 1986 recognised that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights did not cover people’s collective rights, especially the right to self determination. The limitations of the UDHR were even clearer in terms of the rights of women. In 1979 the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) was instituted as an attempt to repair one of the limitations of the UDHR. Thirty-one years after this convention, the US remains a non-signatory to it. The reproductive rights of women and their right to bodily integrity have taken the question of human rights beyond the state, church, patriarchal family forms, and conservative women. The battles over reproductive rights have brought into focus the fact that human rights cannot be separated from the rights of women and the right to healthcare. This is even more so in the context of the debate over the provision of universal health care in the United States. The healthcare industry and their allied politicians have so commercialised healthcare that not only was government intervention to provide universal healthcare coverage for tens of millions uninsured Americans denied, the over 200 million citizens who have health insurance are tied up in rigorous procedural complications designed to deny them access to the coverage they pay for while maximising profits for the health insurance companies. It is on the question of the reproductive rights of women that religious fundamentalists have now emerged as negative forces in the struggle for human rights. These fundamentalists mobilise ideas about tradition to reinforce patriarchal domination over women. The oppression of women is also linked to the oppression of same gender loving persons. Even some of the leading human rights advocates in Africa have been silent on the extreme anti-human statements that have been propounded by so-called ‘radical’ leaders in Africa. Within the rank of religious organisations, the most profound work is needed to challenge the anti-human position of those who would oppress same gender loving persons. Human rights in the 21st century must be extended to protect all human beings against all forms of torture and dehumanisation, whether in the name of religion and tradition or through the invisible hands of capitalism and neo-liberalism.
UBUNTU AND 21ST CENTURY HUMAN RIGHTS CHALLENGES
Those who organised for the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights worked hard to oppose dictatorship yesterday. Today, the new tasks require new thinking and new forms of organising. The task of re-humanisation and healing are linked to new modes of thinking and new forms of consciousness. At the time of the 1948 human rights declaration, Western governments gave themselves the prerogative to decide who is human and what is right. This was most evident in South Africa, where in the same 1948; the principles of apartheid were entrenched. Since the end of formal apartheid in 1994, international capitalism has sought to entrench a new global apartheid based on the kind of class structure that defends 1 or 2 per cent of the population. The towering challenges that confront humanity in the 21st century – environmental crisis, the crises of the capitalist mode of economic organisation, militarisation of the earth, and crises arising from the binary and hierarchical conception of human being – are now enough to take the veil of Western ideation of human and property rights off the face of our collective humanity. One of the central ideas I put forward in my book, ‘Barack Obama and 21st Century Politics’, is that a new concept of social collectivism (Ubuntu) must be the basis of economic, social, and political organisation if humans are to survive the challenges of the 21st century. As we celebrate international human rights day, we want to reiterate here that we cannot separate the question of human rights and Ubuntu – our linked humanity and our peaceful coexistence with planet earth – in the 21st century if we must have international peace and security.
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* Horace Campbell is a teacher and writer. Professor Campbell's website is http://www.horacecampbell.net. 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.
Ethiopia's tangled web of lies
Alemayehu G. Mariam
‘Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive,’ said Sir Walter Scott, the English novelist and poet. It looks like the US of A is really in a pickle, tangled in a web of lies, deceit and diplomatic chicanery about its role and involvement in the 2006 invasion of Somalia by the dictator in Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi. The truth about the ‘fantastic Somalia job’ (invasion), as the crown prince of Abu Dhabi called it, is now coming to light in the diplomatic cables acquired by WikiLeaks, the organisation dedicated to publishing sensitive documents from anonymous sources and whistleblowers.
David Axe (Wired.com), citing WikiLeaks cables, last week argued that the US had actually hired Zenawi to ‘do its dirty work' in Somalia. Axe wrote:
‘It was an off-hand compliment during a January 2007 dinner [the month following Zenawi's full scale invasion of Somalia] meeting between Abu Dhabi crown prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, plus staff, and then-U.S. Central Commander boss General John Abizaid.... “The Somalia job was fantastic,” Al Nahyan interjected…At the time of Al Nahyan's comment, the dust was just settling from Ethiopia's Blitzkrieg-style assault toward Mogadishu. Some 50,000 Ethiopian troops…had cut a bloody swath through the lightly-armed forces of the Islamic Courts Union…Washington certainly had a motive to get involved in Somalia…Already with two escalating wars on its own plate, the U.S. was in no position to openly lead its own large-scale attack on Somalia. It'd have been far simpler to simply sponsor somebody else to do the dirty work. Enter Ethiopia…All the same, evidence was mounting that the U.S. had played a leading role in the Ethiopian invasion. Journalists only strongly suspected it, but Abu Dhabi prince Al Nayhan apparently knew it for certain, if his praise of "the Somalia job" was any indication…Today, U.S. Special Forces continue to target terrorists in Somalia. There are arguably more of them than ever, thanks in part to the botched Ethiopian invasion. “We've made a lot of mistakes and Ethiopia's entry in 2006 was not a really good idea,” U.S. diplomat Donald Yamamoto said in March.’
BLOWBACK AND PLAUSIBLE DENIABILITY
There appear to be two parallel cover stories invented from the beginning to explain US involvement (and alternatively, non-involvement) in Zenawi's invasion of Somalia. The first story is that Zenawi presented the US with a fait accompli (done deal) to invade Somalia. The US advised against such an invasion, but reluctantly supported it after it became clear that Zenawi's decision was irreversible. The second is what may be called the ‘throw-Zenawi-under-the-bus’ story. If there is a blowback on the US from Zenawi's invasion because of high civilian casualties, other humanitarian disasters or prolonged stalemate, the US could simply dump the entire blame on Zenawi and claim plausible deniability. In other words, ‘Zenawi did it on his own. The US had nothing to do with it. The US advised him not to invade. Blame Zenawi.’ The straight story is that the US not only supported the invasion, but was actually snagged into supporting the invasion by the clever, calculating and cunning Zenawi.
The available evidence suggests that Zenawi had been spinning his own web of deceit and lies to entangle the US in a Horn war in 2006 for two purposes: 1.) to ingratiate himself with the US and panhandle for more aid handouts, and 2.) effectively deflect criticism of his miserable human rights record in the aftermath of the stolen May 2005 elections.
In the run up to the Somali invasion, Zenawi was facing withering criticism and condemnation for his massive repression, massacres of hundreds of unarmed protesters and jailing of nearly all the opposition leaders, independent newspaper publishers, civil society leaders and human rights advocates in the country. By the Spring of 2006, an unprecedented bill was introduced in the US Congress to cut off aid to Zenawi unless he improved his human rights record. Zenawi clearly understood that significant American support was essential for the very survival of his repressive regime. Zenawi was also keenly aware of American obsession, fixation and preoccupation with Al Qaeda in the Horn. Zenawi calculated that if he could seduce and snag the US into an invasion of Somalia by presenting himself as an ‘Al Qaeda Hunter in the Horn’, he could have the best of all possible worlds. He could make best friends for life with the US and forever forestall any actions that could result in a cutoff of US aid to his regime.
The evidence suggests that to accomplish this objective Zenawi concocted ‘false intelligence’ to entice the US into supporting his invasion of Somalia by essentially sounding the siren call that will always catch America's attention: ‘The Jihadists are coming!’ On 6 June 2006, six months before the full-scale invasion that led to the siege of Mogadishu and one month before a small contingent of Zenawi's troops were sent to defend the Somali Transitional Federal Government (TGF) in Baidoa, former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Herman Cohen, who incidentally facilitated Zenawi's takeover of power in Ethiopia in May 1991, shared an illuminating and well-informed insight:
‘Also, there are friends in the region, like the Ethiopians, who probably are feeding false intelligence about terrorists being hidden and that sort of thing, because the Ethiopians are deadly afraid of Moslem control and also they have their own Moslem problem among the Oromo ethnic group in Ethiopia. So they want to keep the Islamists out of power, and they will bring the U.S. into it, if they can.’
By early Summer of 2006, former Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer, who advised the US secretary of state and the under secretary for political affairs on African matters, was quietly working behind the scenes to facilitate the invasion of Somalia and spinning a web of lies and deception to conceal the nature of US involvement. By mid-July 2006, the die had been cast and the initial invasion of Somalia had occurred when Zenawi deployed a contingent of his troops to prop up the TGF.
In the preceding weeks, Frazer was priming the diplomatic circles and mollifying world public opinion by claiming that while the US does not support an invasion of Somalia, it will not allow the ‘disintegration’ of the TGF by jihadists and will ‘rally’ to support Zenawi if he were to invade.
A confidential UN cable obtained by Human Rights Watch indicates that in a conversation with UN officials in June 2006, US Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer noted that the situation in Somalia was 'uncertain’. According to the notes, she presented the view that Eritrea had stepped over the line and that Ethiopia viewed Eritrean action in Somalia ‘as tantamount to opening a second front against Ethiopia’. Frazer's best-case scenario was that the ICU and TFG would engage in dialogue; the worst-case scenario was the expansion of the ICU throughout Somalia and the disintegration of the TFG. Frazer noted that the latter scenario would have a major negative impact in the Horn and that the US and IGAD would not allow it. She allegedly expressed the view that while the US feared an Ethiopian intervention could rally ‘foreign elements’, the US would rally with Ethiopia if the ‘Jihadists’ took over.
By mid-December 2006, less than two weeks before Zenawi fully unleashed his ‘blitzkrieg’ on Somalia and rumbled into Mogadishu, Fraser was setting the propaganda stage to convince the world that jihadists were provoking an Ethiopian attack. The New York Times reported on 14 December 2006 that Frazer ‘said that diplomatic and intelligence officials believed that the Islamists could be trying to provoke an Ethiopian attack as a “rallying cry for support” to their side.’ On 27 December 2006, just as Zenawi's troops were storming through the desert to Mogadishu after capturing the strategic town of Jowhar 90 miles to the north, the US State Department endorsed the invasion by declaring that Islamist forces were creating ‘genuine security concerns’ for Ethiopia.
US State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos said: ‘Ethiopia has genuine security concerns with regard to developments in Somalia and has provided support at the request of the legitimate governing authority, the Transitional Federal institutions.’
All along, the US had been working quietly with Zenawi providing training and military aid in manifest anticipation of the Somalia invasion. The invasion deal was sealed on 4 December 2006, when General John Abizaid, Commander of the United States Central Command (CENTCOM), met with Zenawi in Addis Ababa on what was billed as a ‘courtesy call to an ally’. Following Zenawi's invasion of Somalia three weeks later, it became clear that the ‘courtesy call’ was actually ‘the final handshake’ to go forward with a full scale invasion. On 8 January 2007, a little over a week after Zenawi's troops had triumphantly captured Mogadishu, Somalia's capital, USA TODAY reported:
‘The U.S. and Ethiopian militaries have “a close working relationship,” Pentagon spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Joe Carpenter said. The ties include intelligence sharing, arms aid and training that gives the Ethiopians “the capacity to defend their borders and intercept terrorists and weapons of mass destruction,” he said. There are about 100 U.S. military personnel currently working in Ethiopia, Carpenter said.’
Two weeks earlier on 24 December 2006, as heavy shelling and air strikes were directed at ‘jihadist’ forces in border areas and the town of Beledweyne was being bombarded, Zenawi had described his decision to invade Somalia using almost the same words as the Pentagon. In a televised address Zenawi said, ‘Ethiopian defense forces were forced to enter into war to protect the sovereignty of the nation and to blunt repeated attacks by Islamic court terrorists and anti-Ethiopian elements they are supporting.’
By August 2007, Zenawi's troops were bogged down in Somalia and the human cost was proving to be horrendous: Tens of thousands of civilians had died and over 870,000 Somalis had been forced to flee their homes in Mogadishu alone. By then, Somalia could only be described as ‘as one of the worst humanitarian situations in Africa.’ The US could see a huge blowback heading its way; it was time to take cover. Fraser did not blink once when she threw Zenawi under the bus. She said it was all Zenawi's fault. On 6 September 2007, TIME Magazine reported:
‘But, as U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer has said, Washington opposed the invasion of Somalia. “We urged the Ethiopian military not to go into Somalia,” said Frazer last month. “They did so because of their own national-security interests.”’
This version of events, contrary to a common perception that the invasion was backed or even initiated by the US, is supported by accounts of a November 2006 meeting in Addis between Meles and the then head of US Central Command, General John Abizaid. Sources from both sides relate that Abizaid told Meles he was ‘not allowed’ to invade Somalia, adding Somalia would become ‘Ethiopia's Iraq’. (An official in Washington disputes the precise language, but confirms the essence of the discussion.)
Fraser repeated the same story line on 12 February 2008 when she told Newsweek Magazine:
‘We told them [Ethiopia] that they should not go in. Once they went in absolutely we had to try to assist them and the [Somali] transitional federal government, which had invited them in. We support the transitional federal government and its decision to ask the Ethiopians to assist them.’
The web of lies and deception had come to a complete circle in late 2007, and the ‘fantastic Somalia job’ had managed to create a grotesque theatre of death and destruction throughout Somalia.
THE JIHADISTS ARE COMING
As many of my readers are aware, I have written extensively on the illegal invasion of Somalia on a number of occasions. I will reference three columns that I wrote on the issue. On 28 November 2006, a month before Zenawi's tanks ‘blitzkrieged’ their way into Mogadishu, I wrote a column entitled, ‘The Jihadists are Coming!’, arguing that Zenawi had fabricated the Somali jihadist threat to deflect attention from his dismal human rights record and repression and to buy the good will and diplomatic support of the US:
‘But the whole jihadist business smacks of political fantasy. It's surreal. Mr. Zenawi says the Somali jihadists and their Al Qaeda partners should be opposed and defeated because they are undemocratic, anti-democratic, oppressive and authoritarian. The jihadists don't believe in human rights and do not allow political or social dissent. They are fanatics who want to impose one-party rule, and do not believe in a democracy where the people elect their representatives. Duh!!! Has Mr. Zenawi looked at the mirror lately?’
On 2 October 2008, in a column entitled, ‘The End of Pax Zenawi in Somalia’, I questioned whether the military effort to impose ‘Zenawi's Peace’ on the Somali people had finally collapsed:
‘The situation in Somalia has turned Code Red. Things are deteriorating very fast for Zenawi's troops. The Al-Shabaab "jihadists" have taken over Southern Somalia, and are ravenously eyeing Mogadishu. It is no longer "hit-and-run" guerrilla warfare. It is capture-and-stay…Zenawi's forces are in full "strategic retreat" to Mogadishu. After nearly two years of intervention and occupation of Somalia, there are no signs of success; and an anniversary of total failure in the quicksand of Somalia awaits Zenawi this coming December. Could this be the end of Pax Zenawi in Somalia?’
On 3 November 2008, I followed up with another column entitled, ‘The 843-Day War’, based on a systematic content analysis of Zenawi's public statements, and laid out the intricately fabricated sophistry Zenawi had used to justify his invasion of Somalia. I concluded:
‘It appears Zenawi completely underestimated the insurgents and the Somali people and overestimated the military prowess of his troops. He really did not know the Somalis as much as he thought he knew them. He underestimated their resolve to fight a force that had invaded and occupied their country.’
UNMITIGATED CATASTROPHE IN SOMALIA
Perhaps there is nothing surprising about disclosures of the use of deceit and trumped-up intelligence by the Bush Administration to justify a proxy preemptive attack on a shattered nation that presented no credible threat to the US. The tragedy is that by the time Zenawi had announced his decision to pull out his troops by December 2008, Somalia had become an ‘unmitigated catastrophe’. According to Human Rights Watch:
‘In 2008 the human rights and humanitarian situation in Somalia deteriorated into unmitigated catastrophe. Several thousand civilians have been killed in fighting. More than one million Somalis are now displaced from their homes and thousands flee across the country's borders every month. Mogadishu, a bustling city of 1.2 million people in 2006, has seen more than 870,000 of its residents displaced by the armed conflict.’
Someone, someday will be held accountable for all of the crimes against humanity, and the Almighty one committed in Somalia. The fact of the matter is that Zenawi would never have invaded Somalia except with the blessing and full support of the US. He is too cunning, too calculating and too sly to invade Somalia all by himself and at the explicit and strong disapproval of the US, as it has been claimed by Frazer. It is interesting to note that the US has never condemned Zenawi's invasion of Somalia, despite protestations that the US had strongly advised against invasion and warned Zenawi that ‘Somalia would be Ethiopia's Iraq’. Suffice to say that the story of the Somali invasion of 2006 is akin to two spiders spinning their webs to entangle each other and suddenly finding themselves in the middle of a hornet's nest.
On 12 March 2010, former US ambassador to Ethiopia, Donald Yamamoto, said, ‘We've made a lot of mistakes and Ethiopia's entry in 2006 was not a really good idea.’ He did not clarify the nature of the ‘mistakes’. Could it be that it was ‘not a really good idea’ because the US was exposed as a not-so-silent partner in the outsourced invasion of Somalia? Or could it be that it was a mistake because the hired gun botched the Somalia job? Perhaps the US still supports Zenawi to the hilt because he did and continues to do such a ‘fantastic job in Somalia’.
As they say, ‘Truth is like the sun. You can shut it out for a time, but it ain't goin' away.’ Well, it looks like Wikileaks is slowly lifting the curtain on the funny business the US and Zenawi have been doing in the dark all these years.
RELEASE ALL ETHIOPIAN POLITICAL PRISONERS.
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* This article first appeared on the Huffington Post.
* Alemayehu G. Mariam is professor of political science, CSU San Bernardino.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.
 See ‘Shell-Shocked: Civilians Under Siege in Mogadishu,’ Human Rights Watch, Vol. 19, 12(a), August 2007, p. 22, fn. 63.
 Human Rights Watch, ‘So Much to Fear: War Crimes and the Devastation of Somalia,’ December 2008, p.19
Haitian diary: SOPUDEP and local organisation
Thousands of words have been written about Haiti in the past 12 months, covering everything from the NGOisation of the country, the politics of humanitarian aid, endless questions and discussion on what happened to the millions of dollars donated by individuals and countries, the horrendous conditions in the camps where some 1.2 million IDPs (internally displaced persons) are forced to live, and in particular, women and children, hundreds of whom have been raped, trafficked to the Dominican Republic and forced into prostitution to survive. In addition to the earthquake, Haitians have had to live through another devastating hurricane and now cholera, which as of today has affected 30,000 people. And to add to the frustration and anger, we can add an election, which by all independent accounts was fraudulent and farcical. As I write, protests calling for the annulment of the elections are planned this afternoon. If one is to judge from the many radio phone-ins, people are angry and concerned that the much-hated René Préval will announce his preferred candidate, Jude Celestine, as the new leader, despite the fact that so far the majority of votes appear to be for ‘Micky’ Matterly and Madam Manigat – but all of this can change in a moment.
One of the stories least reported has been the one about Haitians organising for themselves, particularly stories presented within a framework of feminist organising and movement building. This is one woman’s story of how she, her family and the people in the various communities in which she works came together collectively to care for each other’s needs and how that struggle has become the foundation of a new movement of the poor for change in education and the material lives of women and men – a struggle for dignity. Their personal and collective humanitarian response was completely off the radar of NGOs, international institutions and the Haitian government. Even Save the Children, whose office is located right next to the school, did nothing to help SOPUDEP. However, ultimately this was an aside for Rea. What was important was that those who needed help of whatever kind received it and, beyond that, the struggle for dignity and self-determination for the poor people of Haiti.
A mere five minutes passed between the death of one of the schoolteachers and the life given to Rea and her teenage daughter – one of three children.
‘I was in the school when it happened and I cannot describe the horror around me. The school was empty and did not fall, but the neighbourhood collapsed. Five people were crushed to death just meters from me when one of the outer walls of the school grounds collapsed. My first responsibility was to my family, so I had to get home, but the streets were chaotic. People were panicking and screaming. I had to run home ten kilometers through those streets to find my family. The phones weren’t working. It was horrible.’
Once it was established that Rea’s family were all safe – a house just five minutes walk from Rea’s own home collapsed – she set about caring for the many in her community and whereever she was needed. Everyone was in shock, but there was no time to think about what had happened as people were injured. Many people – students, families knowing about her community work – flocked to Rea’s home and at one point there were some 60 people in her home. People feared to sleep indoors so they removed all the mattresses, blankets, pillows – whatever they could find – and spread them outside. It was January and freezing cold during the night but anything was preferable to being inside. Rea said it took her months before she stopped waking up with nightmares of being crushed. Even now one wakes up and gives thanks that you made it through the night. I too find myself staring at the ceiling every night and wondering which part would collapse first and how I would get out.
The first day after the quake, Rea went to the shop were she usually bought the school supplies and asked if they would give her credit as she needed to buy food. They told her to take whatever she needed and not to worry. As much food as possible was collected and everyone in the house – the children, students, guests and neighbours – set about making food packs. They worked all night making the packs, which they then distributed to anyone on the streets during the day. As donations from friends of SOPUDEP and organisations such as the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund (HERF), the Haiti Action Committee, Sawatzky Family Foundation (SFF) began to arrive, Rea was able to buy more food and medical supplies and continue the distribution. Food which was only being given to women and mostly bags of rice were available for those prepared to queue for up to 4 hours. Rea said she did not have the time to queue for 25lbs of rice and preferred to go and buy it with whatever money she had to hand. Besides, fights often broke out with people tired and hungry and everyone trying to push their way forward. The military would then beat the women and children. In total, food and water were distributed to 31 centres by Rea’s team.
In addition to financial donations, SOPUDEP received a lot of medical supplies, which were taken to the various mobile clinics which had been set up in camps and other locations. Though the number of recipients decreased over time, the food collection and distribution lasted for three months. At a point in time Rea realised this dependency created out of a crisis could not continue. They would forever be in a state of oppression and remain in the clutches of NGOs, beggars in their own land.
No one ever knew when money would arrive, which meant any kind of systematic planning was impossible. It was like waiting for the tooth fairy to arrive and besides what humanitarian aid was being distributed was not reaching Rea’s community. It was all too ad hoc to be sustainable.
The next money she received was a sum of US$3,000, and she began to think of another way. Instead of buying food she would deposit the money in the bank and start a small micro-credit saving programme. It took courage and was a huge risk because people were hungry, but, determined to create some degree of sustainability and stability, in a moment she made up her mind. A meeting was called and the idea put to the 21 women with whom she had been working over the past months, and though there were doubts they trusted Rea. The micro-credit scheme Fanm SOPUDEP AN AKSYON (SOPUDEP Women in Action) began with US$3,000 and 21 women.
I was surprised when I heard Rea had started a micro-credit scheme as there were so many negative reports on such schemes, which rather than enhance and empower women end up impoverishing them even more. So I was interested to find out more about the SOPUDEP scheme, whether it was working and why it worked and I will write about this later after meeting with the various women’s group.
Rea’s philosophy is that each individual has to take responsibility for themselves and the notion of something for free is neither healthy nor sustainable. Both the school and the women’s project are framed within the idea of personal and collective responsibility. Education in Haiti must be available for all and everyone encouraged to attend, and no one is turned away from SOPUDEP because they cannot pay. However, everyone is asked to try to contribute something when they can, even if it is 5 gouds or helping in the school somehow (US$1 equals approximately 40 gouds). The school operates two sessions – the main one in the morning and an afternoon session for those who have never attended schools, both older children and adults.
The elections are a distraction. Leaders have the power to bring change but no one believes any leader will do anything for the poor. Everyone I asked about Jean-Bertrand Aristide wanted him back because they believed he was one leader who could change their lives for the better. Right now the only way is for communities to reach out to each other and create alliances, which is what SOPUDEP is beginning to do. Rea’s vision is one I share. We cannot fix Haiti, but we can fix our community and help others fix theirs. Eventually as all these communities build alliances among themselves, they will become strong and then maybe begin to fix Haiti.
Since the earthquake there has been an increase in the awareness that communities have to help each other and work together. People are not only more determined to improve their lives and that of their community; they truly believe it is possible. Two more schools for the poor have come under the umbrella of SOPUDEP – one in Bobin with 250 students, children and adults, and one in Boucan Lapli with about 60 children. The main school, which started in 2002 with 182 children from Petion-Ville, presently has 486 students.
I have spent two days at the school with the freedom to roam. I came across a class whose teacher was absent and I ended up teaching English for 45 minutes followed by the students giving me a lesson in Kreyol. Now I have been asked by them to teach the same class for the next couple of weeks till they break up for holidays. The school is truly like family. Since the micro-credit scheme, parents and school staff have all been encouraged to open savings accounts. The children are continuously greeting and kissing Madam Rea. Her office, which she shares with the accountant and office manager Billy Bataille, is a constant hive of activity with women coming to deposit their repayments, students wanting things fixed or asking advice from Madam Rea or Billy. Outside the office, women clean beans and rice in preparation for tomorrow’s food – the door is always open. Yesterday Rea opened a suitcase of books she had bought with donations from a partner school in the US. She now has some 15,000 books (mostly in French, so more Kreyol and English books are needed), which have to be indexed and will form the school library. A volunteer teacher from the US has promised to take on the task.
SOPUDEP nevertheless faces many challenges. The building survived the earthquake but remains in disrepair. All the external walls of the compound collapsed, along with most of the surrounding buildings, with the exception of the Save the Children building. The building housing the school dates back to the Duvallier days and was always structurally superior to others in the neighbourhood. All the classrooms are open to the elements as there are no windows. There is no water and since the earthquake, no electricity. Recently a group of NGOs met to discuss how to control the spread of cholera within the country’s 22,000 schools. The idea is to hold training sessions for district heads and some school directors on precautions to take. Many schools are already doing this, but a more coordinated effort would improve the situation. However, as Rea pointed out, we can do all we can in the schools but what happens when the children return to their homes where they are reliant on standpipes and no sanitary facilities? The majority of people are unemployed, yet there are masses of rubbish and rubble to clear – the solution seems quite simple really.
Through donations, SOPUDEP has purchased a piece of land in Delmas 83 and has so far managed to build the fencing wall. It will take six months to build but all that depends on how quickly they can raise the money needed to complete the project. I find it sad that an organisation like SOPUDEP, which is real and which has a history, has to rely on small donations from international friends and parents to survive. If they are not deserving of more sustained support then I wonder who is.
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* Sokari Ekine is the author of the award-winning Black Looks blog.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Youth, leadership and nonviolence
A global education imperative
In the early hours of Tuesday 30 November 2010, a group of students at Viphya Private Secondary School in the city of Mzuzu in northern Malawi fought one another, and destroyed school property worth millions of kwacha. Police came to the scene just before dawn and arrested 54 students, 17 of them girls, according to Zodiak Broadcasting Station. It is not clear what caused the violence, but school authorities have dismissed suggestions that it stemmed from frustrations to do with poor sanitation, lack of entertainment, and poor diet, according to The Nation newspaper (1 December 2010). The violence that erupted at Viphya Private Secondary School on this night raises questions of the type of education offered to young people in Malawi, Africa and around the world. Of pertinence here is the concept of global education, celebrated around the world the week of Monday 15 November ending Friday 19 November. The theme for this year was ‘Peace and Nonviolence for the Children of the World’.
I spent one afternoon that week with students of Maghemo Secondary School, in the northern district of Karonga, near the Malawi-Tanzania border. Our discussion was guided by the question of what the term ‘global education’ meant, and why the theme, ‘peace and nonviolence’, was relevant to Malawi and to the world.
This was the first time I was interacting with Malawian secondary school students in a discussion setting probably since I left secondary school back in 1989. I had no idea what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised. The students were in the mood for more questions and discussion; I had to be prised away from the classroom so as to go and attend to other duties that had brought me to the lakeshore district of Karonga in the first place.
What did these students understand by the term ‘global education?’ I asked. ‘An education about the entire world,’ they answered. How about ‘peace and nonviolence’? ‘Settling issues without resorting to violence,’ came the answer. These are students who are ‘glocally’ conscious. They know about world wars and current wars around the world, and they know about sensitive issues affecting Malawians today. In their questions about peace in Malawi, they wanted to know how the controversy surrounding the quota issue in university selection could be settled using nonviolent methods.
Malawi’s president, Professor Bingu wa Mutharika directed early in 2010 that selection of students into Malawi’s two public universities should be based on a quota for each of the country’s 34 education districts. The directive was seen as controversial, and triggered a massive debate in Malawi. It was welcomed by Malawians who felt that university selection favoured specific districts and disenfranchised others. But it angered Malawians who feared that the quota system would deny high scoring students a place in the university in favour of students who did not score as highly, but made the quota for their district.
Equally troubling to the students who came to the meeting at Maghemo was the manner in which the ruling party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), was using the state broadcaster, the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation, in unfairly campaigning for the president’s brother, Professor Peter Mutharika, for the 2014 presidential elections. Were there nonviolent methods that could be adopted to address these problems, they wanted to know.
These students were aware of the role of nonviolent action in recent Malawian politics, including the role played by pastoral letters issued by Catholic bishops. On 8 March 1992, Malawi’s Catholic bishops issued a pastoral letter addressing political and social problems in Malawi, under the one party government of the Malawi Congress Party and then life president Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda. The letter opened the floodgates of pent up frustrations, which forced out Dr Banda and his party in the 1994 elections. It was a largely peaceful, nonviolent transition from dictatorship to multiparty democracy.
At least one of the students at Meghemo knew about Mahatma Gandhi, the man whose philosophy of Satyagraha gave the world the concept of nonviolence that guides peaceful mass action in various parts of the world today. They knew about how violence is too often the first rather than the last resort. They listed religious, emotional, political and gender violence, and expressed the conviction that they, as students, had a role to play in teaching nonviolence to their colleagues and to their communities. They promised to start a peace club, whose name would come from the word for ‘peace’ in one of the languages spoken in their area.
If there is one thing that ought to inspire and give hope about the future of Malawi, it should be the sight of young Malawians engaging with the difficult issues of the day. I met these young Malawians barely two days after party youths in the capital city, Lilongwe had threatened violent action against a Malawian journalist who had asked President Bingu wa Mutharika questions they deemed to be ‘tough’ upon his arrival from a state visit to India and the G-20 summit in South Korea. The president arrived at the Kamuzu International Airport on Monday November 15, and held what Sunday Times columnist Raphael Tenthani termed a ‘press rally’, a blend between a press conference and political rally.
The journalist, Mike Chipalasa of Blantyre Newspapers Limited, had asked the president questions about fuel shortages that had gripped the country in the president’s absence, and about a recent pastoral letter issued by the Catholic bishops. The letter was seen by supporters of the ruling party as critical of the government. The party youths had ignored the president’s own encouragement to reporters gathered at the Kamuzu International Airport, to ask any question they wanted. Even as the party youths and dancing women murmured and booed Chipalasa before he finished his questions, the president urged him on, saying, ‘let him continue.’ The party youths descended on Chipalasa after the function and threatened to beat him up. It took the intervention of the police who appeared on the scene and led Chipalasa to safety.
Columnists writing in Malawian newspapers in the wake of the airport incident were unequivocal in expressing their shock and disappointment. For many Malawians the whole episode brought back unsavoury memories of an era gone by when party youths became a law unto themselves in full view of the police and political leaders. There was a time when police officers were harassed by party zealots, with utter impunity. For a moment, it appeared as if Malawi was on the verge of backtracking to those sad years. Another columnist, Brian Ligomeka, noted that the Malawi Police Service needed to be thanked for stepping up to the fore and asserting their responsibility to protect and restore order. Equally poignant was Tenthani’s question as to why the police arrested no one. Chipalasa himself expressed gratitude for the police action, saying it saved him from an unknown fate.
Contrasting the police action on Monday 15 November with the impunity of the past, one notices a relative distinction in the way the Malawi Police Service view their role in a supposedly ‘democratic’ dispensation. Relative because one would have expected the police to not only prevent an act of violence, but to also apprehend whoever was threatening the violence, as Tenthani argued. But it’s a distinction nevertheless, in that this time around the police seemed to have had the sense and professional judgment to be proactive and prevent violence.
Malawians have been waiting for statements at party and government levels setting the record straight as to whether or not the kind of conduct displayed by the youths in full view of their leadership will be tolerated. Failure to set the record straight here would be interpreted by some as condoning political violence. Columnist Levi Kabwato mused in his Sunday Times column of 21 November that ‘the DPP is essentially the UDF (United Democratic Front), at least they share the same DNA.’ It is up to the respective parties to respond and correct that perception, or keep quiet and leave no one in doubt. The advice from Tenthani, in his ‘Muckraking’ column tellingly titled ‘Tame the rascals’, was timely: ‘if left untamed party youths can mar a leader’s otherwise clean legacy.’
Will it be enough to tame the youths and redirect them toward peaceful, nonviolent expressions of their views and beliefs? Or is there more that needs to be done before things revert to the dreaded past? What obtained during the era of UDF’s rule, when party youths went wild beating up opposition politicians with impunity, was not new. It was merely a perpetuation of what had obtained during the one-party regime. Youths were given the role of unthinking demagogues who guarded the ill reputation of their erstwhile masters and mistresses with reckless abandon. The airport ‘press rally’ incident tells us there is no guarantee that those days are irretrievably gone. They could come back.
One thing we might want to do as a nation to effectively curb this tendency is to go beyond proselytising about peace and nonviolence. We seem to know little, as a nation, about the psyche that makes this kind of conduct possible. It is imperative to analyse this phenomenon by studying it, and the perpetrators too, carefully. Rather than further demonise youths who seem not to know the difference between sycophancy and critical thinking, we need to engage them in a discussion on what it means to have a free press, and to advocate freedom of expression. These are lessons that seem to have fallen by the wayside since 1992 when the bishops opened our eyes.
This ought to be a broader, national discussion on what kind of leadership we envisage for Malawi’s future, as University of Malawi political scientist Dr Blessings Chinsinga suggested in his Sunday Times column of 14 November, one day before the airport incident. Dr Chinsinga’s call is worth repeating: ‘…there is an urgent need for a leadership revolution in all spheres of life. We need new leadership that is motivated by an ethos of trust, honour, integrity and service.’ Dr Chinsinga believes that this kind of leadership does not happen on its own accord; it needs to be propagated through proper training. He wrote that our university campuses were devoid of a ‘culture of critical engagement’, reduced to ‘welfarism’. The effect of this was being seen in youth wings of political parties, which Dr Chinsinga said ‘require an urgent reorientation of their role in politics.’ He went on to call upon youth wings to exercise autonomy so as to develop their leadership potential to the highest levels of their parties’ political structures.
What I saw at Maghemo Secondary School on 17 November gave me hope that whereas ‘critical engagement’ might indeed be dead on university campuses in Malawi, there are Malawian secondary school students ready and eager to seize the opportunity and claim their rightful place. But this will not happen on its own. It will need the support of discerning teachers, parents, the entire educational system, and the wider Malawian community. It will need learning lessons from Malawian, African and world events, with an emphasis on global social justice. The events at Viphya Private Secondary School on the morning of Tuesday 30 November happened two weeks after the commemoration of Global Education Week with its theme on peace and nonviolence for the young people of the world. Although one small isolated incident, the Viphya school violence might be instructive for schools in Malawi and elsewhere in discussing prospects for peace and nonviolence education.
While visiting India in early November, President Bingu wa Mutharika paid his respects at Mahatma Ghandi’s resting place. He was honoured with a bust of Gandhi, and was given copies of books written by Gandhi. This was a pivotal moment of the state visit, and should have a bearing on how Malawi can promote Gandhi’s ideals of peace and nonviolence. Gandhi’s genius was that nonviolence requires more courage and discipline than violence. Gandhi led a nonviolent revolution that drove the British out of India, and won independence for his country. Peace and nonviolence is also what Martin Luther King Jr, Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, among others, have preached and practiced. It is what uMunthu teaches. The Chichewa proverb, ‘Nkhondo siimanga mudzi’ (war does not build a village) – offers a Malawian perspective on nonviolence. Global education is a good starting point for peace and nonviolence for the children of the world.
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* Steve Sharra is a Malawian, and holds a PhD in Teacher Education from Michigan State University. He recently completed a 3-year term as visiting assistant professor of Peace and Justice Studies in the Department of Philosophy at Michigan State University.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Intellectual property: Pharmaceuticals, public health and subtle exploitation
John Christensen and Khadija Sharife
If China is the factory of the world, then India is the pharmacy of the world, exporting over 60% of production to the developing world, most noted for supplying generic ARV medicines. Courtesy of India's generic drugs, such as CIPLA's (2001) triple fixed dose combination tablet (FDC) - approved by the WHO, prohibitive costs of $10 000-15 000 per person each year were reduced to $350, further decreasing to $140 annually.
Then came 2005, signifying the deadline of the transition period for compliance by low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) to the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Agreement (TRIPS), designed to protect the 'intellectual property' rights (IP) of Big Pharma. Prior to TRIPS, drugs were considered 'basic needs'; countries were better able to formulate systems structured to serve socio-economic needs. Unlike many developing countries in the position to develop local industries, India did not buckle to the pressure exerted by systemically powerful nations eager to penetrate 'public health' markets.
Post-2005, India continued its attempt to manouver, as smoothly as possible, the jagged edges of TRIPS's draconian IP rule-of-law: In 2007, India's High Court ruled against the Swiss pharma giant Novartis, refusing the company right of patent for a modified version of an existing drug - an old IP move feigning 'innovation', designed to prolong patent life.
By 2008, 96 of 100 countries purchased generic ARVs from India, with Indian products comprising 80% of donor-funded developing country markets, and 87% of total purchase volumes. In Africa, just 7% of ARVs are Western patented medicines, while more than 90% are generic drugs, chiefly produced by Indian corporations.
The drastic cost difference between the two has often been packaged as one formulated to recoup costs of research. Big Pharma claims that generic companies - manufacturing existing medicines, are able to bypass these costs.
Yet, as has been frequently noted, such claims cannot withstand scrutiny. As MIT Professor Rebecca Henderson noted in a Pfizer newsletter over a decade ago, "Research has been, in general, largely funded by the American taxpayer, and in the past has resulted in products that have revolutionized medicine."
In 2003, Médecins Sans Frontierès (MSF) documented in a letter to Robert Zoellick U.S. Trade Representative, ahead of CAFTA negotiations: 'MSF was able to pay between 75% and 99% less for generics than the government of Guatemala paid for originator drugs. For example, the price of the ARV d4T (40mg) from Bristol-Myers Squibb was $5,271 per person per year compared with just $53 per person per year from a generic manufacturer.'
Ironically, some 80% of Western ARVs are purchased in developed countries, rendering developing markets in continents like Africa, almost irrelevant. South Africa, of course, was in the eye of the storm when 39 drug companies brought suit against the government for including generic medicines in the legal framework of the Medicines Act. In April 2001, the companies withdrew their suit following intense engagements on the part of the government, and especially, national and international civil society resistance, notably the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC). But the rumble began long before that, evidenced in the 'Battle of Seattle' (1999) when as many as 100 000 protestors took to the streets, challenging the structural injustice of globalisation.
India's own shining progeny - Fareed Zakaria, would describe the protests that helped give birth to global change as, 'anti-democratic'. According to Zakaria, those who protested were 'rich and privileged'. (The rest, we beg to differ, could not afford the plane tickets.)
Yet beyond the obvious public health genocide caused by the greed of pharmaceutical corporations, intentionally holding developing governments hostage (according to the Doha Declaration, 'The TRIPS agreement does not and should not prevent members of the WTO from taking measures to protect public health'), there exists another more subtle form of exploitation:
IP constitutes the most substantial class of intangible assets - geographically mobile sources of vast corporate income that remain difficult to financial evaluate via arms length transfer pricing. This is especially true concerning transactions between subsidiaries of the same corporation. More often than not, intangible assets are shifted to secrecy jurisdictions such as Delaware, specialising in IP holding companies that provide 100% tax exemption on royalty income - one of several tax holidays.
Big Pharma corporations like Pfizer, Novartis, Glaxosmithkline, - as well as over 60% of Fortune 500 multinationals, all maintain entities in Delaware, taking full advantage of ring-fenced legal and financial opacity tools. In addition to banking secrecy and zero disclosure of beneficial owners, Delaware allows for parent companies to establish holding companies within two days, producing nothing, conducting no economic activity in the state, and generally hosting just one shareholder (the parent company). Such entities, allowing the parent company to pay the newly created entity a 'fee' for use of IP, serves as a passive conduit converting taxable income to passive non-taxable profit. The entity's sole purpose is to own and 'manage' laundered income generated from IP.
Intentionally weak and easily circumvented global rules regulating trade facilitates considerable leeway to exploit - and misprice, the value of intangible assets. A Pfizer patent, for instance, may be worth $100 million or a $10: by and large, the company internally determines the value of IP, imputing a 'market price'. Intra-company trading, accounting for 60% of global trade, is 'governed' by arms length transfer principles, a system endorsed by the OECD, itself comprised of the world's systemically powerful 'developed' countries. The OECD acknowledges too that intangible assets are 'one of the most important commercial developments in recent decades'. Intra-company mispricing not only distorts and manipulates the proposed neoliberal concept of the market (as most efficient allocator of price and resources), but simultaneously drains developing countries of sustainable tax revenues.
More recently, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), secretly drawn up by an ad-hoc group of rich countries beginning in 2008, and endorsed by US President Barack Obama in March 2010, seeks to further lock down any loopholes diminishing the all-encompassing power of the IP kings. This includes vehicles such as 'borders measures' concerning any TRIPS-related goods imported, exported or 'in-transit'. Vessels passing through rich countries carrying generic goods for poor countries - irrespective of whether such goods are legal at source and destination jurisdictions, may be held up for seemingly as long as the intermediary nation deems fit. Such systems certainly promote a kind of socialism - but only for the uber-wealthy. Meanwhile, the poor are forced to pay with their wallets - and their lives.
Thanks to the system underpinning TRIPS, arms length transfer pricing, and the like, IP kings not only make a killing from patents but from secrecy jurisdictions too.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* John Christensen is an economist and the director of the Tax Justice Network (TJN). Khadija Sharife is the southern Africa correspondent for The Africa Report and visiting scholar at the Center for Civil Society (CCS), based at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal.
* This article was first published in The New Age (7 December, p. 12).
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Africa’s failings and the global system
RFI: Would you say that you’re among the pessimists who regard the five decades of African independence as five lost decades?
SAMIR AMIN: I’m not a pessimist and I don’t think that these have been five lost decades. I remain extremely critical, extremely severe with respect to African states, governments and the political class, but I’m even more critical about the global system, which is responsible, to a great degree, for Africa’s failings. You know that colonisation which we brag about today has been a historic catastrophe. At the time of the end of its colonisation, there were nine Congolese educated to university level in the Belgian Congo. After 30 years of Mobutu’s regime – one of the vilest regimes ever – this figure grew to hundreds of thousands. In other words, the worst African regime was 3,000, 5,000 times better that the wonderful Belgian colonisation. It’s important to remember these things.
RFI: When you point the finger at a global system in large part responsible for Africa’s position today, what specific criticism are you directing at this system?
SAMIR AMIN: At the time of Africa’s independence, Africa was, and remains today, the ‘soft belly’ – the most vulnerable part of the global system. And a vulnerable part of the global system is condemned by the logic of this system to be exploited. The overexploitation in Africa is primarily in the grabbing of the continent’s natural resources. In other words, Africa is useful for the global system in the sense that it is a source of fabulous natural resources. A useful Africa is an Africa without Africans. For the global system, the African people are too much. They’re not part of these fringe workers, save immigrants, who are themselves exploited. What’s interesting for imperialism – to call it by its contemporary name – are the natural resources of Africa. And why is Africa vulnerable? Because after having gained their independence, African countries have not been sufficiently engaged – at all – in a path of rapid industrialisation. I say the opposite to what is generally said: ‘Industrialisation? It’s for later on. Africa is not ready for industrialisation.’
This used to be said about China 50 years ago. This used to be said about South Korea. These are exactly the countries who industrialised, who industrialised in a purposeful way, who today represent the world’s emerging countries. Africa is 50 years behind. Within this 50-year delay, there’s an important responsibility among the political class. But the weakness of this class of leaders – the fact that they have accepted the status of client for the West – does not diminish the responsibility of the Western countries.
RFI: Is there not a risk in this of putting these countries in the position of victims? Today’s leaders in Africa are political players.
SAMIR AMIN: Of course they’re political players! These are the subaltern allies within the global system, so they have as much responsibility as their patrons. But their patron has as much responsibility as them. Let’s take a simple question, that of corruption, because everybody talks about corruption and it’s true that a good number of African politicians are corrupted to the extreme. But those who corrupt them are not less responsible.
RFI: Let’s look back at history. 1960 was the year of independence for a number of African countries. Others got their independence earlier, but 1960 was an important year for many francophone African countries and certain anglophone ones. Where were you during that period?
SAMIR AMIN: I was in Africa. I’d been in Egypt, in my country, between 1957 and 1960. In September 1960, I went to Bamako. I think it was even the day on which independence was proclaimed, or the day after. So from the beginning, I’d made the choice of wanting to put my modest abilities at the service of the development of the new Africa, the independent Africa.
RFI: How did you find that independence day?
SAMIR AMIN: I experienced it with a lot of passion and hope. Having regained their independence, these countries were finally going to be able to engage in a development worthy of the name – that is to say quickly, in a strong yet just manner – for everybody’s benefit, for the benefit of the popular classes.
I hadn’t chosen to go to Mali randomly. It was because the Malian government – the part which was calling itself the Sudanese Union at the time – had made radical choices, that is to say a choice based on independence, a choice of independence that was not based on rhetoric but which was real, by battling on the ground to gain the largest possible room for manoeuvre and making the history of this party widely one of listening to the popular classes, notably the peasantry. Many conditions were in place for an auspicious start. And this start wasn’t bad, but the country remained extremely vulnerable, not only for geographic reasons – a very big country with a small population at the time (there were scarcely 4 million people), with enormous and uncontrollable borders, without access to the sea, and therefore with all sorts of reasons to be vulnerable.
The drift came soon after, something for which the local political leaders had a particular responsibility because they had created a margin for manoeuvre which they hadn’t used in the best way. The drift towards power – I would not say personal, but the power of an elite and a minority, including personal power – proved very quick.
RFI: There are other countries that made a choice: Guinea and Ghana advocated for economic independence, notably in relation to their former colonisers. In observing these countries at the time, did you perceive all the problems which would develop in the 1970s and 1980s?
SAMIR AMIN: Yes and no. I would not have the audacity to say that I had predicted everything, but I saw fairly quickly the difficulties and the possible consequences and what happened with Mali, and also with Ghana. I was in Ghana and Ghana always gave me a good impression. In other words, despite the difficulties, it had a capacity to recover, something which proved the case, albeit with highs and lows of course. Guinea gave me a deplorable impression from the start – that is to say the impression of an extremely authoritarian government, especially president Sékou Touré, who was a good politician in the sense of knowing how to manoeuvre. He sometimes knew how to make concessions where necessary or things of this nature; he could sometimes negotiate internationally, but he had no political culture, no vision of the real difficulties and demands of development.
The bare minimum of development demands, has demanded and will always demand a certain type of democracy – not in the sense of a blueprint (or of a fixed recipe comprising multipartyism and elections which most of the time prove worthless) – not only within conditions in Africa, but elsewhere too, including in Europe, because you can vote how you like in Europe and the result is as if you haven’t voted at all, and also in the sense of taking the social dimension into consideration. In other words, it demands a democracy associated with social progress – and not disassociated from social progress – and not associated a fortiori with social regression, as is the case at the current time when there are few elements of democracy.
RFI: Do you consider the political failings of these countries as a failure of the ideas that you’ve defended or of the application of these ideas?
SAMIR AMIN: An argument based on ‘these were good ideas but their implementation was poor’ is not my line of reasoning. If the implementation was poor, then the ideas themselves weren’t perfect. I wouldn’t say that they were poor. It could be said that the principles adopted by a certain number of African countries on the dawn of their independence were good, but that’s not enough. You’ve got to go further than that. These ideas need to be translated into sub-ideas – I would say into action points – and then we’ve seen contradictions quickly appear.
RFI: Does Africa have a place in globalisation … which you’ve criticised, or else?
SAMIR AMIN: Africa must find its place. If it must, it will. But this is a bit theoretical. In the short term, Africa remains extremely vulnerable. And as I was saying, in the coming future, Africa remains for the whole world – especially the developed capitalist powers – a source of primary materials, whether this be hydrocarbons, uranium, rare minerals, rare metals (very important for the future), the opening of agricultural land under the expansion of Western, Chinese, Brazilian and others’ agribusiness, the sun (with electricity being transferred long distances) or water. International capital is purely concerned with these opportunities. For international capital, Africa, Africans, don’t exist. The African continent is a geographic continent full of resources. And this is against the idea that Africa should organise, not only to refuse to submit to this looting, but in order to use these natural resources for its own development.
RFI: Following independence, various state leaders tried to put into place approaches to development said to be auto-centred or more independent that the former colonisers: Julius Nyerere in Tanzania, Kwame Nkrumah in Ghana… These approaches didn’t achieve their goals. Today there is a period of complete globalised capitalism. What is there to do?
SAMIR AMIN: These means and these leaders didn’t achieve their goals, it’s true. But nor did the others. At the time there was a lot of boasting about Houphouët-Boigny’s choice to open up Côte d’Ivoire as an unregulated, uncontrolled country. And where’s Côte d’Ivoire today? I think its situation is even worse than Ghana’s. This is to say that, despite everything – the heritage, the positive bits of what Nkrumah did – it’s because of this that Ghana is in a better situation today than a neighbouring country while being comparable with Côte d’Ivoire in assets, agricultural type, natural resources and by size.
RFI: Today, what room for manoeuvre do African states have to find a middle ground?
SAMIR AMIN: This room for manoeuvre is experiencing a rebirth precisely because of the success of the ‘emerging’ countries: China, India, Brazil and other less important ones like South Korea, and, even within Africa, South Africa (the only one on the continent). These countries are already in conflict with Western countries. This was seen during Obama’s visit to Beijing and subsequent visits. And this conflict, which isn’t simply about access to natural resources but also access to markets and to finance, is going to intensify. Equally, this conflict constitutes a guarantee that the growth of the project of military control of the planet by the United States, which is bad at the moment, won’t continue. Even if there are differences, these emerging countries will understand that they have an interest in contributing to this renaissance, to the reconstitution (there isn’t a reconstitution in history), of something like a Bandung – in other words, I wouldn’t go as far as saying a common front, but a broad alliance, even with the most vulnerable countries of the African continent, by means of collectively reinforcing and putting Western ambitions and the looting of the continent on the decline.
RFI: Many African countries are turning to China and India, sometimes as if they were a lifeline for overcoming their problems. Isn’t this a mistake? Won’t the solution instead be to know how to play with different partners?
SAMIR AMIN: Playing with different partners is a dangerous game. At the time of Bandung, many countries – including Nasser’s Egypt – wanted to play on the conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union, playing the Soviet card at times, and the American at others. They lost on both counts. I think that today, a country which engages – let’s say an active diplomacy – which plays a Chinese card one day and an American one the next, would fail in the same way. Conversely, I think that it’s necessary to work towards rebuilding this group of 77 (the 77 are much greater in number today and the group of 77 is called the ‘77 plus China’ within the United Nations). The Chinese offer to many African countries what the West does not: the construction of a huge infrastructure, which is one of the conditions of possible development, of an industrial development, of a development worthy of the name, which isn’t simply a few agricultural products for export under miserable conditions, but rather transport infrastructure, railways, roads. After all, following independence the only example of the construction of a large railway in the history of modern Africa has been Tanzam, which was carried out by the Chinese. Now, alas it isn’t possible that in the race for natural resources, the Chinese, the Brazilians and others would behave especially different, differently from the Western countries.
RFI: Doesn’t Africa risk falling into the same situation but with different partners?
SAMIR AMIN: No, I don’t think so, because the partners are different. The Chinese and the Brazilians are not in the same situation as the United States or Europe. Firstly, they don’t have a project of military control of the planet like the United States. If the United States has a project of military control of the planet, Europe, alas, follows. Europe – with its involvement in NATO – is simply a subaltern ally of the United States. No matter one’s opinion on the nature of their political classes and their choices around economic and social development, neither China, India or Brazil is in the same situation.
RFI: Many observers speak of a period in history for Africa as a kind of second independence, especially for French-speaking Africa. What do you think about this?
SAMIR AMIN: These are great words. We’re in a second wave. It could be better or it could be worse than the first – history is always open. Despite the title of René Dumont’s book, ‘L’Afrique noire est mal partie’, Africa didn’t start too badly. It started off badly in certain respects, with certain plans, and René Dumont was right on this point, on agriculture. But Africa, which didn’t get off to too bad a start in 1960, quickly got stuck, and I hope that what it is being proposed does become a second wave of independence – if we’re going to call it that – for the African continent.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* Samir Amin is the director of the Third World Forum.
* This interview was conducted by Christophe Champin.
* This article was originally published in French by RFI.
* Translated from the French by Alex Free.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.
World Forum for Alternatives: Network of networks
The World Forum for Alternatives (WFA) was created in Cairo in April 1997 at a conference organised by the Asian and African People’s Solidarity Organisation and the Third World Forum (TWF). TWF was itself created in 1972 as an independent organisation of committed thinkers and social activists of Africa, Asia and Cuba (the non-aligned countries). It benefits from having diplomatic status amongst the non-aligned countries).
Samir Amin is the director of TWF. The director of Centre Tricontinental (CETRI, based in Louvain in Belgium), François Houtart, as well as other members of friendly networks from the North (Europe, Japan, USA and Canada) were also invited as participants at the Cairo meeting, and joined the newly established WFA.
The following documents are included with this text:
- The manifesto of the WFA, drafted in Cairo in 1997, which constitutes the charter of this network
- The Bamako Appeal was drafted in 2006 at the first meeting of the enlarged council of the WFA (comprising some 200 participants)
- The current directory of officers of WFA
- The programme of the next session of the TWF/WFA to be held during the World Social Forum in Dakar, Senegal, in February 2011
- A call for financial support.
In January 1999, the WFA organised, in association with Le Monde Diplomatique, the first public event. The conclusions of this meeting have been published in a book entitled ‘Mondialisation des résistances: l'état des luttes 2002’, edited by Samir Amin and François Houtart. It was this event, amongst others, that inspired the creation of the World Social Forum, the first session of which was held in Porto Alegre, Brazil, in January 2001.
WFA is a network of networks which organises its own activities with a view to contributing to the progress of a positive alternative to the dominant capitalist and imperialist system. The programme for the next session of the TWF/WFA to be held in Dakar during the WSF provides more details of the six round-table discussions, and reflects some of the key activities of the WFA. The WFA itself participates as an independent organisation in the World Social Forum.
The WFA held its second, enlarged, council meeting in Caracas in October 2008 in collaboration with the Venezuelan network ‘En Defensa de la Humanidad’. The third meeting of the council will be held in Cochabamba, Bolivia, in August 2011.
Further details of the activities of the WFA are to be found on its website. See also www.thirdworldforum.net
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* Samir Amin is the director of the Third World Forum.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Climate loans threaten rerun of Copenhagen
On Thursday 18 November, International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell promised to stump up funds to ensure developing countries are better heard in climate negotiations. But it is difficult to see how those countries could be any clearer than they were last year at the disastrous Copenhagen climate summit – the problem is that the British government isn’t listening.
At the end of next week, delegates from across the world will start arriving in Cancun for the follow-up to Copenhagen. They do so in the shadow of the World Bank’s announcement of US$270 million for three countries – Bangladesh, Niger and Tajikistan – to help them cope with the effects of climate change, for instance by protecting coastlines and planting crops more resilient to flooding.
These funds will be enhanced by others and ultimately the money comes from developed country governments like that of the UK. The problem is that much of the money will come not in the form of grants but low-interest loans. The total package given to Bangladesh, for instance, is US$624 million, of which 92 per cent comes in the form of loans. Over US$150 million of these loans have come from the UK government.
Why is this a problem? Because it contradicts the main principle which developing countries are fighting for in climate negotiations – that rich countries must not only reduce their emissions substantially but they must also pay for poorer countries to clean up the devastation caused by climate change, not to mention helping those countries to develop in a more sustainable manner now they are denied the ‘cheap development’ which has fuelled wealth in the West.
Instead, offering loans attempts to make developing countries pay twice – first because they are suffering the worst consequences of climate change, but second because they now have to pick up the tab for that chaos when they repay their loans. That’s why developing countries and campaign groups are united that these loans are completely unacceptable.
The developing countries involved in this first tranche of funding cannot be regarded as anything other than very poor. All are defined as low income. Bangladesh already has a high debt – US$23.6 billion and rising, despite the country paying over US$1 billion a year servicing that debt.
Niger owes much less – but only because it received over US$1 billion of debt relief in 2004 after struggling with unjust debts for over a decade. Meanwhile Tajikistan – which was offered a loan but we believe has declined it – is already at high risk of a debt crisis according to the International Monetary Fund.
Forcing these countries to pay for their own clean-up is rather like breaking into your neighbour’s house, causing devastation, and lending them money to get the cleaners in.
UK funds are all channelled through the World Bank, rather than a special United Nations fund that has been created through international agreement. This too is contentious. The UN Fund has a unique bottom-up approach to finance – any country can apply to it, and that country retains a good deal of control over how the project is implemented.
The World Bank, on the other hand, is top-down – selecting which countries should receive climate financing – and hypocritically remains one of the world’s largest supporters of fossil fuel projects. In fact the UK has made the World Bank’s funding even worse than it otherwise would have been; the bank says that the only reason it is giving loans is because the UK has provided its money as capital rather than a grant.
None of this sits well with the pre-election commitments of the governing parties. Liberal Democrat party policy is to ‘support the UN Adaptation Fund’ and to provide ‘grants for communities vulnerable to the impact of climate change without increasing the burden on indebted countries’. Conservative party policy is to ‘continue, as far as possible, to give aid as grants not loans’ and to ‘encourage other donors’ to do the same.
Perhaps it’s little wonder that expectations are being vigorously managed ahead of Cancun. But let’s not pretend it’s because developing countries can’t be heard. Any progress towards a just climate solution depends on rich countries starting to listen pretty quickly.
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* Nick Dearden is director of the Jubilee Debt Campaign.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Carbon sinking: West emits while the Third World sinks?
Maurice O. Odhiambo
From the 17 to 20 November 2010, local communities and indigenous people gathered at Miklin Hotel, East Legon in Accra, Ghana to participate in a consultative meeting to discuss modalities for the development of a grant mechanism for inclusion of indigenous peoples and local communities in country and regional pilots. During the development of the World Bank Forest Investment Programme (FIP) it was identified that the full and effective, continuous participation of indigenous peoples and local communities in the design and implementation of FIP investment strategies is necessary. A dedicated grant mechanism should be established under the FIP to provide grants to indigenous peoples and local communities in country or regional pilots to support their participation in the development of the FIP investment strategies, programmes and projects.
The operational principles and priorities, funding modalities and governance of the dedicated grant mechanism should be developed through broad, transparent consultation with indigenous peoples and local communities (and their designated organisations) across all forest regions, and should build upon lessons learned from existing mechanisms.
Forests, carbon sinking and climate change are intimately intertwined. Forests have regulated the earth’s climate, rainfall, groundwater and soil and regulated air freshness since time immemorial. Their transpiration acts as a regulator of the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide – the world’s forests and forest soils currently store more than one trillion tons of carbon1, twice the amount found floating free in the atmosphere.
While deforestation is responsible for about 20 per cent of greenhouse gases, overall, forests currently absorb more carbon than they emit. The problem, according to scientists, is that this critical carbon-regulating service could be lost entirely if the earth heats up by 2.5 degrees Celsius or more relative to pre-industrial levels – which is expected to occur if emissions are not substantially reduced. Further, higher temperatures, along with the prolonged droughts, more intense pest invasions, and other environmental stresses that could accompany climate change, would lead to considerable forest destruction and degradation.
Interestingly, those campaigning for carbon sinking and REDD+ projects are targeting local communities and indigenous peoples’ lands. Indigenous people have a valid point when they argue that they have every right to develop their own lands for crops just as the Western world has most of their land dedicated to farming
It’s common knowledge that trees and forests help by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and converting it during photosynthesis to carbon, which they store in the form of wood and vegetation, a process referred to as carbon sequestration. Trees are generally about 20 per cent carbon by weight. The overall biomass of forests also acts as a carbon sink with the organic matter in forest soils – such as the humus produced by the decomposition of dead plants.
CENTER FOR EDUCATION AND DOCUMENTATION – INDIA
The concept of Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD) was first discussed at COP 11. India proposed the concept of ‘Compensated Conservation’, which is intended to compensate the countries for maintaining and increasing their forests as carbon pools.
Forest dwelling communities are often blamed for deforestation and degradation of forests, especially due to shifting cultivation. The traditional land rights of many peoples who have lived and tilled the land in some of these official ‘forest’ areas for generations, are not considered. The lack of clear documentation and absence of proper surveys even in the past makes it easier to declare such people to be ‘encroachers’ and face severe problems of evictions, and violence.
Carbon Sink afforestation projects make the forest communities highly vulnerable. With the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and voluntary carbon offsets, payments for environmental services schemes, and increasing prices for commodities such as agro-fuels, palm oil or soya, there is little reason for optimism. As demand for land increases, people are being pushed off their existing territories. If the financial value of standing forests goes up they are increasingly likely to face governments and companies willing to go to extreme lengths to wrest their forests from them.
If the role of forests in climate change needs to be strengthened and the issues of climate change needs to be addressed, the structure of the Forest Department will need to be transformed. Policymakers will need to address both the ecological impacts of climate change on the forestry sector, as well as the social and economic impacts on communities. This will require effective forest management practices and policies as well as understanding the interrelations between communities, government, the private sector, and forestry products.
The global carbon market is dominated by the EU and the US where companies that emit greenhouse gases are required to cut their emissions or buy pollution allowances or carbon credits from the market, under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. Europe, which has seen volatile carbon prices due to fluctuations in energy prices and supply and demand, will continue to dominate the global carbon market for another few years, as the US and China – the world's top polluters – have yet to establish mandatory emission-reduction policies.
What is required is actually an ecosystems approach with a focus on climate justice and the rights and role of local communities. It should also address biodiversity and poverty effectively and challenge the underlying causes of deforestation directly, resolving governance, poverty and land tenure issues.
It is not deniable that climate change is affecting our lives. Nor can one deny that forest degradation in developing countries is adding to the challenge, and that action, particularly concerning the sustainable conservation of forests, is urgently needed. Moreover, carbon trading adds a new dimension to the discourse of climate change, as it widens the possibility for developed nations to assist already vulnerable forest communities to adapt or mitigate their livelihoods – in this way portrayed as destructive. This assistance, amidst a newly-formed carbon trading regime, will undoubtedly render such communities more vulnerable, as their already tenuous rights to forest land might be violated even further by local land-use projects that are implemented by the developed world.
On home ground, countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo, with its expansive forest cover, might increasingly be drawn upon by the UNFCCC to manage its forests in a sustainable manner. More REDD projects will follow, and in this process, forest communities’ livelihoods and rights to land will be violated. It is only now with carbon trade that incentives for the developed world to engage in projects in Africa, that aim to mitigate or adapt to climate change, might reinforce such violation of rights to forest-use.
There should be mechanism put in place for in-country carbon sinking. The trees need to be planted where carbon is being emitted other than asking Third World countries to plant them for carbon trading.
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* Maurice O. Odhiambo, Jamaa Resource Initiatives, PWYP-Kenya.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.
When will South Africa treat women with respect?
I left South Africa temporarily in late August 2010 to pursue a programme on Human Rights with the Institute for the Study of Human Rights at Columbia University in New York. My heart was bubbling with excitement of this new opportunity and yet at the same time I felt that I would miss time with my family and friends and often just for a little while worried about their safety.
A week later I could not believe the headlines about the neatly dressed serial rapist in the Hillbrow area of Johannesburg. He raped 12 women in less than a month – that is too long a time to wait to capture this animal. It felt as though the police followed behind his footstep as though to make sure higher statistics of sexual violence were the prize for the winners – rapists. ‘Who raped the most women today? S’bu did you say 10! I hear Vusi saying 12.’ (Vusi and S’bu are the alleged rapist’s names in Hillbrow.)
The concern from the South African police is nearly zero when it comes to sexual violent crimes. I have had friends harassed many times by police on reporting sexual abuse. A colonel who was asked to comment on the rapist had this to say to a journalist: ‘The statistic is that only one in nine rapes are reported so I think there must be many more than 12 rapes by this rapist.’ If this seems to have elevated the statistics, it would make sense to stop it, right? I did not feel the urgency in that statement and the one that followed. He said: ‘The suspect is targeting young black females between the ages of 19 and 21 in and around the Johannesburg area and more recently in Pretoria.’
The reports of sexual violence in South Africa read like a joke, I have found. I say that because it does not sound urgent or important to raise alarm over the rape of 12 women in less than a month. If you find the articles in the paper you are lucky. Most mainstream media papers do not cover these stories in the headlines. If they do they are sure to disappear within hours of publication with a twist, as with the Jules story of the 15-year-old girl who was gang raped – and then not, and then and then… The stories are no more than 200 words and so it can be hard to find such a small article.
Just to be in touch with the news at home, I found an article by Melanie Nathan that made my body hurt and quiver with pain. She was describing the rapes of women in South Africa and how President Zuma had failed all women and lesbians in South Africa. I felt as though I had washed my hands with blood over the continuous loss of women’s lives to sexual violence in my country. I felt the land filled with blood of those many women lost and some surviving and awaiting justice to be handed down to the criminal. When is the day coming? Why does it take so long? We did well with the World Cup courts, was that just for the world to see and now the true colours of our country come out? Is that the reason the media is being threatened, so we cannot tell the truth of our women in our country being raped, killed and abused with no recourse of the perpetrators?
The sad thing is that the article not only about the lives of two women but more: One who just took her life because she could not take the pain of seeing her perpetrators anymore and the other a survivor waiting her day in court. Well, that is if the police arrest the men who raped her, whom she sees frequently roaming the streets. The two represent the life stories of many other women who have been tortured and raped.
My bones are weak, though my mind is strong and I want to say that it is a fact that stories about issues that affect and violate the rights of women are not as sexy, therefore they do not make the news headlines.
I recall the media’s attention in the last couple of years in South Africa; Zuma and the rape allegations, Zuma and the Schaiks, Thabo Mbeki and the arms deal, Schaiks release from jail due to ill health and that he had to be at peace with his family and whatever happened to the woman who made the shower head popular? I guess she ceased to exist in the media, another woman done wrong…
So the many women who suffer today and wonder when their voices will be heard with continued fear for their lives, live on in South Africa. The research to be launched in March 2011 by Gender Links and MRC just gives the tip of the whole iceberg in South Africa. Daily, women fear of being raped and touched inappropriately over and over; this is enough torture just thinking about it – and then it has happened. The worst fear that kills a person is not being able to tell whether you are being raped in your mind or it is really happening over and over. And when you do wake up, you realise that you were never asleep, and the rapists laugh in your face. That is the fact of South Africa and for a country of such young democracy it is paining and beyond imagining.
We are to reach the decade to celebrate the decade’s mark and we must stand together and keep strengthening the women’s social movements further from the cores of our communities. The number of women who hold these countries and states together such as the care workers, doctors, nurses, teachers, scientists, sisters, mothers and grandmothers must stand together again and rip this evil’s roots out for good. Sixteen days is not enough and let’s make it 365 days and weed these criminals out of our communities and find alternatives for security for all us and be able to read better stories of our children growing up in a safer community.
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* Glenda Muzenda is a 2010 Human Rights Advocate from South Africa at Columbia University.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.
‘Odinga should apologise over anti-gay statements’
The careless and highly inflammatory remarks about homosexuals made by Prime Minister Raila Odinga have understandably led to outrage among civil society and gay rights activists in Kenya and in the diaspora.
At a public rally at Kibera, Odinga ordered the arrest of all gay couples in the country because ‘it is madness for a man to fall in love with another man while there are plenty of women (in Kenya)’ and ‘there is no need for women to engage in lesbianism when they can bear children’.
Odinga further stated that the new Constitution forbids same sex relationships (which is not true - while the Constitution forbids same sex marriage, it is silent about same sex relationships).
What is evident from Odinga’s speech is that he has very little knowledge about homosexuality. First of all, people are not attracted to persons of the same sex because there is a shortage of people of the opposite sex.
Sexuality is not a supply and demand issue - psychologists will tell you it is innate and some people are just wired to be gay.
There are, of course, extreme situations, such as prisons, where men will have sex with other men. But even in those situations, the men practising homosexuality are not technically gay and would not consider themselves to be so. There are also gay men and women who choose to be celibate, so, technically, they do not engage in any form of sex, but they consider themselves to be gay.
The Prime Minister’s views on women’s bodies were even more disappointing. The assumption that their main role is to produce babies is highly insulting, not just to women, but to all Kenyans who voted for a new gender-sensitive Constitution that views women as more than just reproductive machines.
But perhaps the most frightening aspect about the Prime Minister’s statements were that they were being uttered at a time in our country’s history when hate speech has been officially recognised as a punishable offence, and when the country is embarking on a brave new era of tolerance, accountability and equity.
Even more scary is the fact that his inflammatory words have the power to lead to violence. In an interview with the BBC’s Network Africa, David Kuria of the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya said that the order by the Prime Minister might be construed as another opportunity by police officers and others to blackmail homosexuals and extort money from them. Even though there is no law that defines homosexuality as a crime in Kenya, Odinga’s statements might be construed as a prime ministerial directive (much like the presidential directives Moi used to issue) and lead to violence against gays.
Keguro Macharia, a US-based academic, wondered whether gender is now replacing ethnicity to create new divisions among Kenyans. ‘At a moment when Kenya is struggling to develop strategies to apprehend and try those responsible for inciting ethnic-based violence, it is surprising that Raila feels emboldened to incite gender- and sexuality-based violence,’ he wrote on the Concerned Kenyan Writers google group site.
Even worse, says Macharia, in a country where policing is often understood as a community affair and where public lynching is tolerated both by the police and the public, the call to arrest gays by none other than Odinga sanctions discrimination and violence.
‘Even more troubling,’ he notes, ‘the Prime Minister has implicitly suggested that there are different standards for citizenship, and that sexuality is one of those standards. Good Kenyans are hetero-nationalist, their bodies bound to serve the nation. Homosexuals, on the other hand, cannot qualify for full or proper citizenship. They are criminals, because they fail to fulfil their hetero-reproductive duties.’
Odinga’s utterances have been construed as hate speech by civil society activists, who are calling for sanctions against him. His words have also led to a flurry of activity on blogs and listservs. Many Kenyans are now wondering whether he will be their choice as the next presidential candidate.
The Prime Minister has issued a statement saying that he did not make any order to arrest homosexuals during his speech. (I would urge him to see the video footage of his speech). Kenyans would have preferred an apology.
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* Copyright © 2010 The Nation. All rights reserved.
* This article was originally published by The Nation
* Rasna Warah is a writer and journalist based in Nairobi and can be contacted at [email protected]
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Human Rights vs Human Wrongs
10th December marks the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948. The Human Rights Day coincides in Namibia with the commemoration of the victims of the resistance to the forced re-location from the ‘Old Location’ to Katutura in 1959. This traumatic event marked a turning point in the emergence of the national anti-colonial resistance, leading to the formation of SWAPO and ultimately to the decision to resort to the armed struggle against illegal foreign occupation.
HUMAN RIGHTS IN HISTORY
The codified enshrinement of human rights dates back to The Declaration of Independence by the then 13 united states of America, proclaimed in 1776. It categorically stated that, ‘all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness’. But the indigenous Indian population in the Americas, as much as the slaves imported from Africa, hardly had any reasons to welcome such noble words resulting from the era of European enlightenment. Their ‘pursuit of happiness’ ended in physical or mental destruction.
Along similar lines, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen adopted after the French Revolution between 1789 and 1791 by the National Constituent Assembly was inspired by a concept of equality, which at the same time excluded the majority of people. The triumvirate of ‘liberté, egalité, fraternité’ did indeed limit the applicability of liberty and equality mainly to the brotherhood of (white) men. This motivated the humanist philosopher Nicolas de Condorcet to declare that, ‘he who votes against the right of another, whatever the religion, color, or sex of that other, has henceforth adjured his own’. Marquis de Condorcet, also a fierce advocate of the abolitionist movement against slavery, became himself in 1794 the victim of the machinery of extinction set into motion by the so-called revolutionaries and exemplified by the guillotine. He left his life as a result of the citoyens’ ruthless efforts to eliminate any opposition to their self-righteous rule.
Both early milestones in the history of the formulation of human rights already illustrate the ambiguities between normative values proclaimed and the political-social realities under the execution of power and the selective application of norms to maintain rule. The rule of law has almost ever since then been the law of the rulers. Despite the US and French declarations, the subsequent expansion of Europe to most other parts of the world, euphemistically labeled as a ‘civilizing mission’, resulted in colonialism and racism culminating in the subjugation of all other people as inferior. If they resisted to such foreign rule, they were eliminated.
The German-Namibian War of 1904 to 1907 is among the early evidences of such practices at the beginning of the 20th century, which produced industrial forms of mass violence and extermination through two world wars, the Holocaust, the Gulag, and the annihilation of civilian populations through the atom bomb, before – and also in response to these traumatic experiences - the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted.
THE POWER OF DEFINITION
The United Nations Declaration was by no means only the result of paternalistic Western visions imposed upon the rest of the world. Adopted by 48 of the UN member states with eight abstentions (the Eastern bloc, Saudi-Arabia and South Africa), the document also incorporated non-European perspectives. It was drafted mainly by a Canadian and a French legal expert, a Lebanese and a Chinese philosopher and Eleanor Roosevelt (widow of the US-President Franklin D. Roosevelt). It came during the 1950s as a handy and opportune point of reference for the emancipation movements from foreign colonial rule in the global South. Advocates of the right of self-determination of people knew how to utilise the normative framework, even though it took in many cases - as we know in Namibia - far too long to achieve the legitimate goal.
The reference to a universally set standard in pursuance of legitimate goals to enforce and protect undivided human rights was however all too often quickly forgotten again by those once in power. Using the human rights in justification of their own ambitions to govern their people (instead of government by the people), the leaders of newly independent countries hardly ever lived up to the standards as defined in the Universal Declaration. Their totalitarian regimes found it more convenient to dismiss the Declaration as cultural imperialism and a Eurocentric hegemonic project. They failed, however, to come up with a better alternative, which would indeed serve people more than the Universal Declaration.
Such selectivity executed by those who hold the power of definition over societies through their political offices is by no means the sole or exclusive domain of the countries skeptical of Western dominance. The West itself hardly missed any opportunity to show that human rights were only a guiding principle when it suited its own interests. The ‘War Against Terror’ serves as an excuse to ignore or violate even the most basic fundamental rights of people, to justify torture, war and what is euphemistically called ‘collateral damage’, meaning the killing of innocent civilians. Xenophobia raises its ugly head even in the most tolerant Western societies, including those in the Nordic countries. In current France the Sinti and Roma (in the ordinary slang referred to as ‘gypsies’) are systematically deported on the grounds of their ethnic origin. These and other scandals do not allow claims to occupy any moral commanding heights. The West has certainly no reason to consider itself as a role model.
But neither has the East or the South. The dismissal of the human rights discourse as Western cultural imperialism has a bad smell when it comes from voices such as those of Mugabe. African governments have hardly reason to pose as alternatives. In neighbouring South Africa, fellow Africans perceived as ‘strangers’ from elsewhere risk their lives. So do Albinos in many African countries, who have reason to fear that they will become the victims of ritual murders. Political or religious motivated massacres are still almost a daily occurrence in several African countries. Gays and lesbians are in many states on the continent intimidated, oppressed and prosecuted, even risking capital punishment or long-time imprisonment. As recently as the end of November this year their advocacy group was denied observer status at the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Women remain the targets of systematic sexual violence and continue to suffer from genital mutilation.
The list of abhorrent scandals violating the most fundamental rights of human beings in African societies could go on. Not to mention the second and third generation of human rights. These include the right to food, to water, to shelter, to clothing, to education and many other basic necessities, available until this very day only to a minority of people on our planet. The origins for these discriminating conditions date back to the same era of enlightenment, which produced not only the noble declarations, but also the expansion of an emerging industrial-capitalist system to the rest of the world and the exploitation of many for the privileges of few. But this should not serve as an excuse for those holding political responsibility in societies, who have been for centuries at the receiving end, to now perpetuate the same class structures and interests under their own governments in the domestic context.
This includes our own Namibian socio-political realities. It should be accounted for by a leadership, supposedly guided by a Constitution, which embraces most of the essentials reflected in the human rights discourse. The Human Rights Day coincides with a cornerstone of our own struggle for liberation and emancipation and reminds us of the price the Namibian people had to pay in their pursuance of dignity and respect leading to self-determination. It was our own Soweto massacre, which is commemorated on the very day and marked a turning point in the history of resistance against foreign occupation and a minority regime guided by apartheid.
The liberation struggle resulting from this experience produced victims and perpetrators on all sides. We have no reasons to romanticise the bloody road to Independence, knowing about all the skeletons in the closet of the liberation movement. Similar to other revolutionary transitions in societies elsewhere, the processes of resistance often turn victims into perpetrators. At the end of such emancipation, the mindset of the new ruling elite is not too different from the one of those replaced in the seats of state power. This does not bode well for the respect and protection of human rights for all. The commemoration of old injustices should not be abused for the legitimisation of new ones. Rather, it should serve as a reminder that the struggle was not only against such injustice but also at the same time for justice. So far, we have not yet come close to this goal.
BACK TO THE ROOTS
At the end, and in conclusion of these reflections, it might be worthwhile to return to the first document of its kind, the US charter adopted in 1776. After declaring the pursuit of happiness as a legitimate entitlement for all, it continued to reason:
- That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,
- That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is in the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
In the spirit of this affirmative attitude to the rights of people, Henry David Thoreau in an essay originally published in 1849 in the ‘Aesthetic Papers’ as ‘Resistance to Civil Government’, claims legitimacy to refuse the authority of the state if this authority is not serving a just cause: ‘Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison.’ In his view, laws have not to be obeyed if they are unjust. He is prepared to accept minor injustices, but if the law ‘is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law. Let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine. What I have to do is to see, at any rate, that I do not lend myself to the wrong which I condemn.’
It seems that 62 years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and in the spirit of its predecessor of 1776, a lot remains to be done to return to these principles and apply them even handedly - everywhere. After all, it is the people themselves who are tasked to take care of their rights.
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* Dr Henning Melber is the executive director of The Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation in Uppsala/Sweden and a member of Swapo since 1974.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Life imitates art in Zimbabwe
In Chinua Achebe’s ‘A Man of the People’, Chief Nanga, a rather interesting character, is described by the narrator Odilli as a man of the people, and indubitably the most approachable politician in the country. He is also Nigeria’s minister of culture in the novel, set in this country. His greatest asset is the ability to be a very good orator and it is little surprise, therefore, that his speeches mesmerise many and he easily gains the trust and admiration of the masses. He got into his position in government in the same way – saying what ‘the leader’ wanted to hear regardless of the negative impact it usually had.
Be that as it may, Odilli tells us that this man simply does not practice what he preaches. For instance, Chief Nanga abuses state resources to build himself private property, some of which he rents out for his own profit. Part of the tragedy is that he is convinced of his entitlement to public resources for personal gain. So he goes back to his ministerial mansion after addressing poverty-stricken masses and sleeps in obscene luxury with no hint of trouble on his conscience.
Through his writing, Chinua Achebe is widely recognised as a more precise political prophet than most of Africa’s political scientists, after Frantz Fanon of course. So prophetic is his account of the political situation that is now familiar in most of postcolonial Africa – particularly in Zimbabwe today – that you would be forgiven for thinking that he had been taken to heaven at some point and shown the future of things to come in Africa.
So, like Chief Nanga, our politicians in Zimbabwe today preach one thing and practice another particularly when it comes to social and economic policies. At one time they had a Health for All by 2000 campaign which, at the turn of the century, some humorously decided to rename Death for All by 2000. And then there was that Vision 2020 – nothing but hot air.
All these campaigns and more have fallen by the wayside even as the government of Zimbabwe attempted to right a colonial wrong of land dispossession by using another – some have even suggested worse – wrong. While many have focused on the violence and human rights abuses suffered because of a chaotic land reform programme in Zimbabwe, there has been little focus on the need to pressure that government into releasing the land audit report.
For as long as that report is deliberately kept hidden from public scrutiny, there simply is no way of hailing land reform in Zimbabwe as a success. This clandestine concealing of a document that is supposed to show how public resources have been shared amongst citizens is solid confirmation of corruption and hypocrisy on the part of the ‘men of the people’ who during the day preached the gospel of ‘one man, one farm’ while in the night helped themselves to multiple farms.
So Frantz Fanon was right after all, the struggle has been betrayed. A secret envy of the wealth the coloniser had amassed for himself guided the aspirations of some comrades as they neatly aligned themselves to become the new ‘white man’, the coloniser. It has become clear, after all, that they were not fighting for social justice, for equality, for the dignity of a people, but for their own selfish interest. These interests are unashamedly couched in ‘empowerment laws’, which are crafted to ensure that only those who sing for their farm from the treacherous hymn book of national betrayal are rewarded.
So, the rich get richer and the poor taste more and more poverty. The poet Dambudzo Marechera observed accurately:
‘Her vision’s scrubland
Of out-of-work heroes
Who yesterday a country won
And today poverty tasted’
If only those we trusted with power could understand that you cannot feed a nation by filling the silos at the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) with rhetoric alone. The struggle for Zimbabwe’s independence was never about accumulation at the expense of the citizens. It was much more than that. But who would have agreed with Marechera when, so early into our independence, he screamed and begged us to ‘lynch those who horde our national dream…’
The so-called custodians of the struggle have remained silent as they refuse to acknowledge the massive accumulation happening around them. Former teachers have become overnight property moguls while government officials have become business entrepreneurs owning countless properties and assets while cherry-picking the best farms for themselves and their relations – mistresses and all!
‘We ignore man's basic nature if we say, as some critics do, that because a man like Nanga has risen overnight from poverty and insignificance to his present opulence he could be persuaded without much trouble to give it up again and return to his original state,’ says Odilli in the Achebe’s book. With recent revelations of the Marange Diamond Fields and the subsequent rush to loot the mineral wealth there, this small passage can help us understand what exactly we are dealing with at this juncture in Zimbabwe.
Most politicians at the centre of controversy in Zimbabwe today rose overnight – or so it seemed – from poverty and insignificance to opulence. The former ruling party, ZANU-PF (Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front), is reported to be getting stronger and stronger as a result of financing from looted diamonds. Hence, to now ask this coterie of avaricious politicians to part with their ill-gotten wealth by going back to their old state is to ask for too much from them. So the nation is held at ransom. That is the height of selfish interest.
And wrapped in that is the how the colonised has successfully become the coloniser by making sure that he has followed – to the letter – all necessary steps to accumulation while poverty springs up on every corner. But the contradictions remain. You hear how the West is evil because they put ‘illegal’ sanctions on Zimbabwe and its hurting the economy is bad. Could it be time now to call this bluff, advocate for the removal of targeted sanctions and see if there will be any reforms from those claiming sanctions – and not their own looting – are what is impeding progress in Zimbabwe?
Of course, no one must get excited at the giant prospect of this clique being removed from power by allegedly progressive forces in Zimbabwe. That is the current temptation – to put hopes, dreams and aspirations of a nation in one person. Unless emphasis is placed on preventing the birth of many more Chief Nangas in Zimbabwe (and Africa for that matter) by strengthening institutions and shaping newer ideologies which are more sincere in their efforts to uplift communities and address critical issues of living, tyranny will always reign.
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* Levi Kabwato is media & communications officer for the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition’s regional office. He is also editor of Zimbabwe in Pictures.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Brazil: Afro-descendents celebrated while racist school book distributed
The competitive society and prejudices generate a violence that must be combated by school. Teaching how to live together is fundamental, knowing oneself first in order to know and respect others in their diversity. The best way to resolve conflicts is to provide forms of searching for common goals and projects, through cooperation, so that instead of fostering the confrontation among opposing forces, diversities are added up in order to strengthen collective building (Jacques Delors, UNESCO, MEC, Cortez Editora, Brasil, São Paulo 1999).
According to Delors, the transmission of knowledge about human diversity, as well as the acquisition of awareness about similarities and the interdependence among all human beings on the planet, constitute fundamental elements of education. However, nearing the beginning of the UN International Year of Afro-Descendants, the Ministry of Education in Brazil (MEC) rejects the consideration of the National Council of Education (CNE), which was grounded on the laws that regulate national education. The deliberation refers to the distribution of the children’s book ‘Caçadas de Pedrinho’ (‘Pete’s Hunting’) by Monteiro Lobato, which was originally published in 1933. It propagates a stereotyped vision about blacks and the African universe, presenting black characters as subservient and of little intelligence, a book in which there are even allusions to animals like the monkey and the vulture when it refers to the black woman character. Passages of the book state: ‘Antie Anastácia, having forgotten her severe arthritis, climbed, just like a coal monkey’.
Black social movements have been demanding substantial action from the Brazilian state in terms of public policies geared towards education about socio-ethnic relations. White social movements and the elite, on the other hand, refuse any and all measures that seek to combat racism and its by-products in Brazilian society. There are also progressive sectors which struggle for the rights of women, gays and indigenous people, but unfortunately they are silent in the anti-racism struggle.
As is predictable in such debate, the researcher, university faculty and CNE adviser responsible for the deliberation, Nilma Lino Gomes, whose intellectual and professional training does not lag behind whites, is mocked in spite of the fact that she acquired her doctoral degree from the University of São Paulo and a post-doc from the University of Coimbra (where she was advised by Boaventura Sousa Santos, currently one of the most prestigious intellectuals in the world). Despite her intellectual trajectory, she has been perceived by racists on duty as an incompetent professional who is practicing reverse racism that only reinforces the obsession for the continuity of racist structures in our society. Monteiro Lobato, who was born in the 19th century and was a firm believer in eugenics, is simply described in mainstream discourses as a classic reference. It is certainly a classic choice of the national elite, which from the heights of their prepotency and arrogance believe that their rights are untouchable and should not be subject to any criticism or consideration.
The MEC has the duty to combat any type of discriminatory situation against any racial group. Hence, what we should consider in this dispute is the fact that the Edict PNBE/2010, established by MEC/FNDE, has established as a goal that ‘the texts must be ethically adequate, and prejudices, moralisms and stereotypes shall not be admitted.’ However, we have a minister who defends the unrestricted distribution of a book that is inappropriate, perceiving it as adequate for the education of children who are fully engaged in the socialisation process.
Considering that the erudite individuals who administer MEC have read Jaques Delors, Paulo Freire, Edgar Morin and so many others whom they love to cite, there may not be any naivety claims from the MEC directing team. Yet they have accepted the favourable deliberation that authorised the purchase and distribution of this book in public schools, whose content goes against the edict established by them. What should be at the centre of this debate is the fact that MEC announces a policy that is in consonance with what is established in the legislation, and also with the demands from organised social movements, on a national and international level, and yet in practice allows the non-fulfilment of its edict.
As it breaks the edict, MEC opens a precedent for other publishers whose work has been excluded for propagating stereotypes to also demand the distribution of the excluded books. Why only Lobato´s racial stereotype? How about if the MEC also distributes sexist literature? How about texts with manifestations of anti-Semitism? Would society react then?
However, for the time being, conservative sectors and/or those at peace with the consequences of racial discrimination in this society once again masterfully seek to invert the debate, in such way that the major problem becomes the so-called ‘reversed racism and the radicalism of black social movements’. What should be at the centre of the analysis is swept under the carpet: the crushing of the goals of combating and dissemination of stereotypes and prejudices in the guidelines established by the PNBE and the MEC.
Let us be really coherent and anti-racist; let us recognise the non-observation of the criteria established in the EDITAL of the PNBE/2010, insist on that issue and demand that the MEC provide a proper response. What has it actually been accomplishing? How much has it invested? And how consistent and effective are their accomplishments, above all in comparison with what the ministry has been investing in other issues of diversity and historically discriminated groups? If the MEC had any respect for us, we would have been informed about the fulfilment of the goals for the implementation of the 26th article of the Guidelines Law and Basis for Education (LDB) (Law # 9394/96).
That legislation refers to the mandatory teaching of Afro-Brazilian history and culture, which meets requirements established in international treaties such as the Convention Against Discrimination in Education (1960) and the Action Plan resulting from the III World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerances (2001), both under the auspices of UNESCO. From the books selected by the PNBE 2010, how many favour gender relations? How many promote positive knowledge about the history and culture of indigenous peoples?
On 17 April 2008, the interview to Brazil Agency, after receiving criticisms of retrocession on the policies to combat racism, the director of the Department of Education for Diversity and Citizenship at the MEC Armenio Schmidt, confirmed the interruption of the distribution of didactic materials and training programmes for teachers in the ethnic-racial area in 2007. According to him, the interruption was only external and it occurred due to a change in MEC´s financial system. For the director, such suspension was justified by the fact that the MEC was in 2007 ‘building a new form of induction to policies as it relates to municipalities, which was the programme of Articulated Action’. According to him: ‘During the last year  really there were no publications and training for teachers. However, in our evaluation, there has been a retrocession, because that is going to enable a new propelling as it pertains to the Law [10.639]. Now states and municipalities will be able to request formation for teachers in their region, and the MEC will produce more publications and in larger numbers’.
In 2010, aside from not perceiving any strengthening of the policy or the reestablishment of the publications and a consistent and systematic training of teachers, we catch the MEC in the act, allowing the distribution of a book whose content propagates stereotypes and prejudices against blacks and the African universe, which is a blatant disrespect of established norms.
Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the current president, in the beginning of his mandate, evinced in the field of education the importance of combating racism, promulgating Law 10.639/03, which as has already been mentioned, altered LBD. The law made mandatory the teaching of history and Afro-Brazilian cultures in basic education. Such alteration was readily attended by the CNE, which under the responsibility of the advisor Petronilha Beatriz Gonçalves e Silva elaborated the national guidelines for the teaching of race relations and Afro-Brazilian history and culture (CNE/CP 3/2004), whose homologation was signed by the minister of education, at that time Tarso Genro. However, even though he counts on the approval of 83 per cent of the population and has during his mandate visited the African continent several times and delivered long speeches about the need for the recognition of the value of Afro-descendants in the formation of our national state, the president closes his mandate by allowing an accentuated decline in the elaboration and implementation of anti-racist policies in the field of education.
If we could recognise in 2003 the fact that the combat to racism, even if timidly, had become part of the Brazilian political agenda, in 2010 we must denounce the lack of commitment with this struggle. – a lack of commitment that may be realised in the accentuated reduction of the budget for education in race relations and by the diminishment of the staff who worked in the General Coordination for Diversity and Educational Inclusion/SECAD/MEC, the secretariat responsible for the implementation of initiatives geared towards ethnic and racial diversity.
We, black citizens who have worked for long years for the election of president Lula, expected more. We expected more both from the president as well as his executive team which administers Brazilian education. We expected at least throughout that during these years the team had understood the far-reaching impact of racism in our society. We expected that they would put forth vehement statements on behalf of the combat of racism in the realm of education, respecting the principles of social justice and regardless of the groups in power. It seems like the promises of partnership and the attending of our considerations were false.
What we may have in response, beyond the silence of the whole secretariat of education, literacy and diversity, is the standing from the minister, who does not see racism in this literary work, positioning himself favourable to its unrestricted distribution, which we know will contribute to the formation of new racist individuals, along with other elements in the everyday school interactions, as has been the case in the past. Unquestionably, the discourse from the minister reflects his own race, class and gender. The most ironic thing is to know that in the 21st century, Brazil is being perceived as a country that advances economically while it conversely regresses in terms of human rights for the black population.
Many admire Monteiro Lobato. I admire Luiz Gama, who used the pages in the press to defend the freedom of the enslaved and stated, summarising our current daily resistance: ‘In fact, I tell you here, affronting the law, that every slave who murders his master is practicing an act of legitimate defence’. Knowledge is the weapon that we have available in struggling to defend our history, our existence, as well as the future of our sons and daughters. This is an unequal struggle, and therefore a dishonest one. But even if many prefer silence, we will proceed struggling and denouncing this perverse form of racism that endures in Brazilian society.
We need your help. If you want to collaborate on behalf of the Afro-Brazilian human rights, please send your protest right now to the following email:
MEC - [email protected]; [email protected];
CNE - [email protected], [email protected]; [email protected]
Brazilian Association of Black Researchers - [email protected]; [email protected]
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* Eliane Cavalleiro has a PhD in education from the University of São Paulo and has published ‘From the Silence of the Household to the Silence of the School: Racism, Prejudice and Discrimination on Children’s Education’ (2000) and ‘Racism and Anti-Racism in Education: Rethinking our School’ (2001).
* The author would like to thank Raquel Luciana de Sousa for assistance with translation.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.
 Such piece was selected by the National Library Program in School – PNBE/2010 for 6 year old children, which aims at ‘summoning publishers to register literary works geared towards children under child´s education (daycare and kindergarden), and for students in their initial years of primary education. The edict asserts that: ‘The texts must be ethically adequate, and prejudices, moralisms and stereotypes shall not be admitted’. (Brasil. Edict PNBE 2010. Brasília: MEC/FNDE, 2010).
 Brazil Agency. Researcher points to retrocession in the policy of combating racism in schools. Available in: http://verdesmares.globo.com/v3/canais/noticias.asp?codigo=216721&modulo=450 Accessed on: November, 2010.
Outside help: The true cost of consultants
This year, as the world political leaders reviewed and discussed the progress so far made in achieving the celebrated United Nations (UN) Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) there has been a lot of media attention paid to the MDGs. Generally, to a great extent, discussions of MDGs often reflect a worldview in which the MDGs are largely taken as a given. For the most part, it is generally portrayed that it is feasible to achieve the MDGs and that their achievement will automatically and most viably benefit the global South. Indeed, the MDGs have attained a status which makes them appear as though they were the absolute truth and that they have an intrinsic nature of being genuinely and purely philanthropic goals – with the rich countries of the global north being the philanthropists with a heart of gold. So, when I read a scathing critique of the MDGs by Samir Amin, a renowned scholar from the global south, I was jolted. Particularly so, by Amin’s revelation claiming ‘Ted Gordon, a…consultant for the CIA, drafted the millennium goals!’ Amin further asserts that the MDGs ‘were not the result of an initiative from the (global) south itself, but were pushed primarily by the triad – the United States, Europe and Japan – and were co-sponsored by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’.
Well, you might be asking yourself, so what if the MDGs were drafted by a CIA consultant and were sponsored by the triad? The relevance to Ugandan and sub-Saharan Africa as a whole is the link between the consultant, the policies (MDGs) and the intended ultimate beneficiaries of the policies (the poor, most of who are in the global south). In my view, the consultant is often on the side of ‘he who pays the piper’, but, I do appreciate that there have been times, though quite rare, when a consultant has differed from ‘he who pays the piper’. If we accept that the MDGs were drafted by a consultant (piper) who is on the pay roll of the CIA, then it is logically legitimate for one to ask the question, who really benefits from the MDGs?
Utilising the example of the MDGs, I would like to put a spotlight on Uganda’s obsession with outside help, usually in form of technical support through a certain kind of external consultants (we-know-what-is-good-for-you kind). Indeed, in most government departments and ministries, Ugandan officials are so keen to be seen as open to being ‘helped’ by outsiders; particularly so, in the eyes of their ‘development partners’ – funders and the financial institutions from which they seek financing (grants and loans). It is often the case that Ugandan government departments will seek ‘outside help’ from external consultants, of the we-know… kind, to ‘help’ them to pinpoint what problems Uganda is facing and how Uganda can go about solving the problems. Is the obsession with these consultants, as policy originators, a healthy one for Uganda? In part answer to this question, I am reminded of a lunchtime banter with highly ranking Ugandan executives, during which one of them joked that in his experience he has never come across a consultant who literally does not have two hands. You see, for the consultant it is always a win-win situation. She comes into your organisation, listens to you, repeats to you what you have told her, and presents to you multiple scenarios, prefixed with ‘on-the-one-hand’ blah, blah, blah and ‘on-the-other-hand’ blah, blah, blah. So, in effect, for each problem the consultant gives you at least two hands (‘on- the-one-hand’ and ‘on-the-other-hand’). In reality, therefore, whoever hired the consultant still has the duty of digesting all the consultant’s findings and then making a decision of which literal hand to adopt. The consultant remains with a very easy way out – ‘I advised them and they chose to ignore my advice’.
Sometimes, in hiring the consultant, government departments neglect to listen to the internal voices emanating from their own people. The internal voices are often consciously or in some cases unconsciously ignored and drowned by the deafening calls of ‘we need outside help from an expert consultant’. Considering that in most cases the consultant will be paid for saying a version of what the ignored voices have been saying all the while, it is fascinating how the ‘new’ ideas from the consultant are taken as a given, and are elevated, just like the MDGs, as the absolute truth. In fact, for a government official, challenging the findings of an expert external consultant can in some cases lead to one losing one’s job.
I am persuaded by those who opine that it might actually be less costly for Uganda government departments to take the time to listen to the internal voices of the people of Uganda and those of Africa in general. Internal listening can be facilitated by effective internal country communication systems, which should include regular face-face-meetings within and between government officials of government departments; between government officials and politicians; between government officials and ordinary persons; etc.
Internal listening can also be facilitated by hiring outside help of another kind of consultant, who appreciates that she does not necessarily know what is good for a particular government department or country, but has the skills to help the department or country to go through a process of self-discovery. Without careful listening to the internal voices, the government of Uganda will most certainly not be able to advance practical and useful policies that will be genuinely embraced by Ugandans at the grassroots.
Considering, as a matter of fact, that it is the norm that consultants will present their findings in the most general and in extremely vague terms that could be interpreted either way, the heavy reliance on external consultants as originators of policies can be detrimental for Uganda and African countries in general. For example, the time that the government spends on building internal consensus on and a common understanding of what the policies actually mean, what activities are appropriate, and how success should be measured, etc is a valuable resource wasted.
Some may argue, this is exactly the state of affairs that is facilitating and hindering the achievement of MDGs, with some of the nations registering major successes and others lagging far behind – they have each interpreted the MDGs differently. I am convinced that those countries that are doing better are those that are listening more to the voices within their own countries. I tend to subscribe to the structuralism point of view that it is pointless to make promises about what a policy is going to achieve without addressing the structural processes that facilitate the sustenance of the current status quo.
In the context of this article, the major impediment is that of insufficient listening, by government to the internal voices within the country. So, whatever brilliant ‘new’ ideas are advanced from whatever literal hand of the consultant, unless the government listens more to the internal voices, the success of implementing the new ideas will only be achieved through an uphill struggle at best, and probably never.
Unfortunately, this seems to be the case with the MDGs. On the one hand, for example, it is proclaimed that the whole world is in unison and is working to reduce extreme poverty and hunger by half; while on the other hand neoliberal policies – such as unregulated capitalism – that promote greed, and were responsible for the financial crisis, are forced upon the poorer countries of sub-Saharan Africa, further pushing the citizens of these countries into extreme poverty.
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* Norah Owaraga is a sociologist and the CEO of Executive Support Services.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Kenya: How funeral announcements tell what tribes we are
There is heavy emphasis on the occupation and place of work of the dead in death and funeral announcements in Kenya, said a columnist, writing in the Daily Nation of 13 September 2009. Only rarely do the writers of those announcements state the deceased’s tribe, she added, but occupations of the relations of the dead are routinely stated. Her reading of the above facts is that occupation is the primary identity in Kenya.
When I read that I felt like laughing for joy, because to state one’s tribe, I believe, is to participate in tribalism, and here was something, albeit a funereal arena, that had defeated tribalism in Kenya.
Before I could laugh for joy, I collected data from funeral announcements in The East African Standard of February to October 2009 and the Daily Nation of October and November 2009 to find out whether it was true that occupation was the salient feature of Kenyan funeral announcements and that tribe had been expunged from the genre. The result of the morbid exercise was staggering disappointment.
Occupation features prominently in Kenyan funeral announcements. But I found out that it does not dominate them. In fact, tribe does.
The Kenyan funeral announcement is nothing but another mountain top from which we Kenyans trumpet our achievements. And since we Kenyans are fiercely ‘corporate’, it is the ‘corporations’ we belong to that visibly brag about their achievements in the Kenyan funeral announcement. But tribe is the ‘corporation’ that shows off most conspicuously there.
The living, I found out, mention their occupations in funeral announcements more than those of their departed loved ones. While the occupations of the dearly departed appeared in 31 per cent of the 72 funeral announcements I analysed, those of their children and relatives correspondingly appeared in 43 and 53 per cent of the announcements. That distribution of occupational information between the two groups does not support the claim that occupation is the primary identity in Kenya. We write occupations in funeral announcements to show off our occupational achievements, and nobody knows what our occupations are before we tell them.
The dead are fewer than their children and relations. It is probable that some of the dead in the 72 announcements did not achieve occupations about which their relations could brag. As a result, the occupations were excluded from the funeral announcements. It was extremely rare for occupations such as farmer to be stated in the funeral announcements. When occupation was mentioned, it was almost certainly a professional occupation. The facts I have mentioned and similar ones constitute a minor explanation for the unequal distribution of occupational information between the living and the dead in funeral announcements in Kenya. The funeral announcement is in our country a platform from where we Kenyans proclaim our occupational achievements. It is not what it is. And we make the most of it.
There are tribally mobile Kenyans, who by adoption, marriage and acculturation have altered their tribal membership. That group, which must be a small and a very unusual group, have achieved their tribal statuses. But most Kenyans, including this author, have done absolutely nothing to acquire their tribal status. Occupation is achieved, in contrast to tribe. Tribe is therefore not something one would ordinarily brag about, with regard to one’s achievements. Being an achievement, occupation is by contrast something about which one usually boasts. But that is not the reason Kenyans include occupation in funeral announcements, but leave tribe out of them.
We Kenyans are ‘corporate’. Even individualists among us are corporate in their individualism. Our individual achievements too are, per force, corporate achievements. When one is bragging about one’s achievements, the corporation is bragging. To state one’s occupation is not only to trumpet one’s own achievements, but also, in ascending order of ‘ incorporation’, the achievement of one’s family, clan, village, district and ethnic group. When Kenyans include occupations in the funeral announcements, they in fact broadcast what their ‘corporate’ groups have achieved. It is likely that identification is the purported function, but the true function is telling other tribes what we have done in the world of work and of which we are proud.
It is eminently true we Kenyans do not mention tribe in funeral announcements. As a matter of fact, however, tribe is the most conspicuous feature of funeral announcements in Kenya. Tribe is given information in the announcements. It need not be stated.
The Kenyan naming system has a huge ethnic component, so the name of the dead person itself tells what tribe to which he belongs. The preferred place of burial for Kenyans is their ancestral land. And to say the obvious, ancestral lands are tribal territories. In four out of five funeral announcements I analysed was place of burial stated. Further, half the funeral announcements went as far as telling the reader the village where the deceased was to be buried.
As the cemeteries of Kenyan towns eloquently tell us, there are Kenyans who are buried outside their ancestral lands. But to be buried in one’s ancestral land is the norm rather than the exception. When the district the deceased is to be laid to rest in is mentioned, it is easy to know his or her tribe. Only in one out of the 72 funeral announcements could I not tell the tribe of the departed.
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* Samuel Abonyo is a statistician based in Smørbukkveien, Norway.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.
25 years of COSATU
Lesbian, gay, transgender, intersex and bisexual people say halala to COSATU!
Lesbian and Gay Equality Project
We as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and inter-sexed people (LGBTI) activists salute the workers of South Africa as they celebrate 25 years of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU). We express our full support to the workers’ struggle for a living wage, decent work and social justice. We express our full solidarity for the workers’ struggle against the inhumane capitalist system that exploits workers, undermines women and marginalises LGBTI people.
We salute COSATU for its role in fighting apartheid, winning the country a new constitution that guarantees equality to LGBTI people. We salute COSATU in winning new labour laws that protect workers and outlaw workplace discrimination. We say VIVA to COSATU for defending democracy and advancing workers’ rights. We say Amandla to COSATU for supporting the struggle for affordable HIV/AIDS treatment! We also are 100% behind the COSATU effort to root out corruption in government and the private sector.
Workers are our parents, our sisters, our brothers. Many workers are also part of the LGBTI community. In COSATU, our LGBTI comrades have a home. In COSATU, we know that we have a principled and dependable ally in the struggle against homophobia and discrimination against LGBTI people in South Africa, Africa and the rest of the world.
As we celebrate 25 years of COSATU, we are saddened by the actions of the South African government in failing to take a principled stand against homophobia. On 16th November 2010, South Africa’s representatives at the United Nations General Assembly voted to exclude “sexual orientation” from a resolution on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions of people. South Africa’s vote violates our Constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
This vote is an insult to the tens of lesbians murdered in our country’s townships in the last few years and to thousands of LGBTI who are facing harassment, attack and discrimination across our continent. This vote endorses the homophobic statements, draft laws and actions being proposed by various governments such as Kenya, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
We therefore call on COSATU to use its anniversary and other platforms to join the global condemnation of this stance of the South African government. We call on COSATU to join the call on government to issue a public apology for this vote and to issue a statement reaffirming equality on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity to all South African Missions abroad.
As comrades in struggle, we call on the COSATU to advance the rights, interests, needs and demands of the LGBTI people, workers and communities in South Africa. We call on COSATU to actively and publicly oppose anti-progressive agendas and attacks on the rights of LGBTI people. We call on COSATU to work with LGBTI organisations to create spaces for LGBTI members within COSATU. We offer to work with COSATU and all its affiliates to advance all the above goals. For all we have said here, we say 100 more years of COSATU!
Halala COSATU Halala!
Phansi homophobia phansi! Phansi xenophobia phansi!
Viva freedom! Viva equality! Amandla Awethu!
* Email: [email protected]
Outraged about brutal murder of young lesbian, Ncumisa Mzamelo
Forum for the Empowerment of Women
Forum for the Empowerment of Women (FEW) a Johannesburg based organization that advocates for lesbians’ rights, strongly condemns the vicious attack of 21-year-old Ncumisa Mzamelo in an apparent hate crime. According to reports, Mzamelo’s lifestyle could have been why she was murdered, dumped in a disused toilet and her body set on fire. The circumstances and the severe brutality of the attack are indicative that the victim may have been targeted because of her sexual orientation. The intersectionality of black lesbians identities continue to put them at risk of being “corrected” of their sexuality. We strongly urge local authorities to investigate this as a hate crime, and urge that they access resources provided by the state and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) sector to prosecute perpetrator/s.
The vicious murder is another troubling example of baseless hatred being carried out to a violent conclusion. As members of this society we have the responsibility to uphold human dignity, freedom and equality as stipulated in the South African Constitution regardless of personal belief systems. It is unacceptable that people who are different, on the bases of nationality, class, gender and sexual orientation still continue to live in fear of being persecuted.
Hate motivated crimes are intended to send a message of intimidation and instill fear, but if we stand together to condemn such acts, we can demonstrate that needless violence has no place in South Africa and will be countered at every turn. All members of this country should be treated fairly and with respect, regardless of the minority group they represent.
“We feel angry that we still have to go through all these shocking and brutal murders that are still happening towards lesbian women. More vigorous law enforcement must be put in place, to prevent, deter, and respond effectively to criminal violence motivated by bigotry and prejudice." said FEW’s Programme Coordinator Phindi Malaza.
While the increase in the number of hate crimes may be partially attributed to improve reporting, the fact that these numbers remain elevated – particularly the significant rise in the number of victims selected on the basis of sexual orientation - should be of concern to every South African.
Hate crimes have an impact far beyond the individual victim they effectively intimidate other members of the victim's community leaving them feeling isolated, vulnerable and unprotected by the law. It is critical for community leaders and law enforcement to send a strong message to the perpetrators and the community.
Police at Bhambayi, New Town C, Inanda are still investigating and no arrests have been made.
Worst, this inhuman incident happened during the International 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children Campaign which seek to make people aware of the negative impact of violence on women and children and to act against abuse
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* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Kennedy 12 Trial: Five Nil to Abahlali baseMjondolo
Abahlali baseMjondolo press statement, Friday, 3 December 2010
Kennedy 12 Trial: Five Nil to Abahlali baseMjondolo
Abahlali baseMjondolo press statement
Friday, 3 December 2010
Today the first five days of the trial of the Kennedy 12 came to an end. The trial will resume in May next year and then, if more time is needed, it will continue again in July.
We wish to begin this statement by thanking all of those people and organisations that have stood by our movement in the difficult times that followed the attack and then this ongoing trial. Your solidarity is much appreciated. There is a saying that when days are dark friends are few. But in these dark times we still have many friends and the solidarity from all of you is deeply appreciated.
The legal process against the Kennedy 12 has been dragged on for far too long. The lives of the 12 accused have been seriously disrupted. They lost their homes in the attack and after they were arrested they lost their jobs. They have spent hard months in Westville Prison - a place that is an absolute disgrace to our society. It has been a very difficult time for their families. We have always tried to get this matter into trial as soon as we could and the state has always delayed and delayed.
We were very pleased that, at last, the trial has started. But we are disappointed that it may now drag on until the middle of next year. The accused will not be able to continue with their lives. Our movement will continue to have to divert its energies to the trial, to the accused and to the people displaced in the attack. For as long as the trial continues the charges will be used by our enemies to discredit our movement. We are also worried about the safety of the accused, of the witnesses, of our leading members in Kennedy Road and of our leaders in general. We are particularly worried about the safety of witness X. We really do feel that the state must take steps to guarantee the safety of this witness.
The trial could not have gone better for the Kennedy 12 during this week. It is now five nil to the Kennedy 12. After five days of the state leading its evidence it has no case against any of the 12. None of the state’s witnesses identified any of the 12 as being responsible for any murder and all of the state witnesses were quickly and clearly shown to be unreliable. They contradicted their own statements, their own testimony and each other’s testimony.
The only fact that has emerged clearly during this week is that the Kennedy 12 are being framed. State witnesses admitted that they were asked to identify members of the safety and security committee and the Mfene Dance Group (and not people that they had seen committing any crime) in the police line up. They admitted that the police had written their statements for them, and told them to sign, without reading them back or giving them an opportunity to interrogate their contents.
After one week of hearing the state’s evidence there is simply no case for any of the 12 to answer. If the trial continues like this our lawyers will just ask the magistrate to dismiss all charges when the prosecution have finished making their case.
However from Monday to Thursday the media coverage of the trial, especially the reporting by SAPA, was disgraceful. They reported and sensationalised the allegations made by the witnesses but then said nothing about the fact that the testimony of those witnesses was entirely discredited during cross-examination. A trial goes back and forth. Claims are made and their truthfulness is then investigated. The reporting on a trial should do the same. It should report the claims that are made by witnesses and then also report on the credibility of those claims after cross-examination. To fail to do this and to only report the allegations that are made is to create an entirely false picture of what has happened in court. As a movement we find ourselves winning, decisively, in the court and at the same time losing, just as decisively, in the media. SAPA's coverage of the trial was so unethical that the Magistrate even had to condemn it on one specific point and to report their journalist to the media Ombudsman.
Anyone who doubts that the reporting has been grossly unfair should compare it against the transcripts of the trial. We challenge the media - especially SAPA to do this. We are publicly requesting that the SAPA editor examine the transcripts and then meet with us to discuss why the reporting was so unfair and what can be done to ensure fairness in the future.
We are not sure if the trial has been reported in this deeply dishonest and unfair way because journalists have been won over by the politicians; if they just share the hatred of the poor (and especially the hatred of the strong poor, the organised and mobilised poor) that is common amongst the middle classes and the rich or if they are just lazy and not doing their jobs properly. However we do note that the reporting was much fairer on Friday.
Some of our comrades are now asking if it was wise for us to mobilise in defence of the media via the Right2Know Campaign. They are saying why must we, who face life-threatening conditions in the shacks every day, invest our own time and money in mobilising in support of a corporate media that treats us and our movement with such bias and contempt. They are saying that yes we have a right to know but we also have a right to know the truth.
In our discussion this afternoon we reaffirmed that we are opposed to all attempts by government to censor the media. However we have also decided that we will not support any media freedom campaign that does not spend the same amount of energy on defending the freedom of the corporate media as it does on:
1. Demanding the democratisation of the media and support for autonomous community media.
2. Making sure that poor people have good support to challenge the media when they report on us and our movements with such reckless dishonesty and bias.
We are very well aware that the politicians do not accept defeats by the organised poor very well. When they lose on one terrain they shift the battle to another terrain. We won our case against the Slums Act in the Constitutional Court and they responded with the attack on our movement in Kennedy Road and the incredible lies that surrounded the attack. The campaign to assassinate the movement’s reputation continues. We fully expect that the state will mount a new attack against us after failing to make any case against the Kennedy 12 in court this week. We do not know what form their next attack will take - it could be more violence, it could be more lies, it could be something new. We are very well aware that their intelligence is always close to us - even standing next to us and listening when we are praying outside the court. We recognise many of their agents, even the cars that they use.
There is no doubt that there was a battle in Kennedy Road in September last year. So far this trial has only shown that the police have tried to frame the accused as being responsible for the two deaths in that battle. It has shed no light on why that battle happened, who started it and who was responsible for the destruction of homes, injuries and deaths. It is good that it is clearly emerging that the police have framed the accused. But a full and neutral investigation is still required so that the real truth can emerge and so that all those who destroyed homes, injured and killed people can be made to fully account for their actions before the society and before the law.
We do not believe that the lower courts were neutral in this matter. They have, clearly, been totally politicised. However, we respect this court and its fair-minded and experienced Magistrate. It has, like the Constitutional Court, been fair. We are very pleased with the work of our legal team and we appreciate the church support that has enabled us to go to court with good lawyers. We will accept any judgment handed down by this court.
We remain committed to a living politics. We remain committed to a people’s politics. We remain committed to the struggle for land and housing in the cities. We remain committed to building the political power of the poor against elites in the state, business, civil society and the media.
- Ms Bandile Mdlalose
Abahlali baseMjondolo Movement SA (Secretary General), 031 304 6420, 074 730 8120
- Ms Zodwa Nsibande
Abahlali baseMjondolo Youth League (Secretary General), 082 830 2707
- Rev Mavuso, Rural Network spokesperson, 072 279 2634
- Mr Mnikelo Ndabankulu, Abahlali baseMjondolo spokesperson, 079 745 0653
Sign-on letter to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Sponsored by AGRA Watch/Community Alliance for Global Justice & La Via Campesina North America
December 7, 2010
Dear Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation,
Although we share a recognition that hunger, poverty, and climate change are inter-related through the medium of agricultural policies, we are writing to express our strong concerns that the Foundation’s approach to these issues—directly and through its Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) subsidiary—is unlikely to adequately address them and may well aggravate their underlying causes.
We note that your activities give a nod to agroecological methods, but believe your grant funding to be heavily distorted in favor of supporting inappropriate high-tech agricultural activities, thereby ignoring the many highly credible and comprehensive scientific studies that confirm the value of small-scale agroecological approaches. We are civil society organizations, farmworkers, farmers and farmer organizations, grassroots groups, health and consumer organizations, environmental groups, scientists, and academics, and we feel it is imperative to call your attention to the following bases for our concerns:
Many of the findings of the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) are of particular relevance to your work in Africa. An unparalleled survey of global agriculture commissioned and funded by the UN and World Bank, the IAASTD was conducted with the participation of more than 400 international scientists and development experts, and approved by 58 governments. The resulting 2008 report frames hunger as a fundamentally social and economic problem and warns that continued reliance on high-tech solutions (including transgenic crops) is unlikely to reduce persistent hunger and poverty and may in some cases exacerbate social inequities and environmental degradation. More importantly, the IAASTD unequivocally concludes that feeding the hungry and protecting the environment will require moving away from resource-extractive industrial agriculture and toward agroecological methods of farming. These results are echoed by UNEP and UNCTAD’s report on Organic Farming and Food Security in Africa and the Rodale Institute’s Farm System Trial (FST) project in the United States. The latter resoundingly established that organic crop yields rival chemical yields in years of average precipitation and surpass them in times of drought and flooding. Furthermore, the FST has proven that organic production is more energy efficient (30% less energy), creates more jobs (15% greater labor demand), and stores vast amounts of carbon in the soil (which industrially-farmed soil is unable to retain). We believe these results are relevant to African agriculture, as well.
Together, such studies provide compelling and definitive scientific evidence that agroecological agriculture has the potential to revitalize rural economies, mitigate climate change and its effects, restore and preserve the environment, eradicate poverty, and provide healthy, culturally appropriate food for all. Yet instead of pursuing this potential, we believe the Foundation is mistakenly funding an antiquated thrust to industrialize agriculture in Africa—including chemical fertilizers, pesticides, monocropping of “improved” and genetically engineered (GE) crop varieties, further deregulation of trade, and regulatory frameworks that will privatize seed—which science and historical precedent indicate will come at the expense of the hungry, small farmers, consumer health, and the environment. Patented agro-chemicals, seed, and GE products are both environmentally harmful and expensive. Combined with the aggressive expansion of intellectual property rights, which facilitate corporate rather than farmer control of inputs, corporations stand to gain far more than small farmers. Similarly, trade liberalization in recent decades has been catastrophic for small farmers. Ultimately, this package will drive many small-scale farmers into debt, off their land, and into urban slums with no employment opportunities—a recipe for increased corporate profits and hunger, not food security.
We also find the Foundation’s involvement in GE research and development and lobbying for its use in Africa to be particularly problematic and misguided; indeed, GE is a largely problematic science. Considerable independent research demonstrates some of the risks GE poses to the environment, agricultural systems, and human health, while many consequences still remain insufficiently researched (often due to pressure from the biotech industry). Yet in spite of known and unknown threats, the development, commercialization, patenting, and distribution of GE seed continue at an alarming pace, with little or no public knowledge or participation. The merits of GE as a technology are also unproven. Evaluation of research and actual productivity in commercial operation has shown that there have been no intrinsic increases in yield and further that any gains in productivity of GMO crops have been short termed at best. In fact, genetic contamination of indigenous varieties poses an enormous threat to already declining biodiversity—the foundation of resilient traditional and organic farming systems that promise real solutions to contemporary problems.
To reach our shared goal of a future without hunger, we believe the Foundation should direct its funding to agroecological research and programs and provide assistance to farmer organizations, governments, and international institutions in support of agroecological agriculture in Africa. Scientific research has proven their superior potential, and now you are positioned to contribute to their expansion. For your efforts to be successful, however, the Foundation must listen to the voices of small farmers, farmer organizations, consumer groups, and other civil society organizations in Africa who will be most impacted by your work and who are most familiar with their own problems and how best to solve them. To date, the extent of your consultation and collaboration with Africans has been limited to those who belong to elite strata of society or are involved in only large-scale projects, while just three individuals control the issuing of AGRA grants.
Instead, your funding decisions and strategies should be determined through a real and open consultation with African communities and farmer organizations in accordance with the principles of food sovereignty—a framework being embraced throughout the world which asserts the right of peoples to define and control their own food and agriculture systems. To increase accountability, the Foundation should consider contributing to grant makers independent of governments and foundations such as the trust fund being considered by the United Nations under the auspices of the Committee on World Food Security, which would then issue grants to farmers and projects.
At this time when food issues and growing world hunger are becoming central international concerns, increasing numbers of people in the US and across the globe are mobilizing to strengthen local food systems and transform the currently dysfunctional global food regime. We urge the Gates Foundation to rethink its role in the efforts to eradicate hunger and to work in collaboration with people on the ground in order to bring about a world that will better provide for future generations. We will be watching your work with great interest, as well as continuing to support the self-determination of African peoples on these issues.
African Biodiversity Network – Kenya
African Centre for Biosafety – South Africa
Africa Network for Animal Welfare – Kenya
AGRA Watch/Community Alliance for Global Justice – Washington
Agricultural Missions, Inc – New York
AS-PTA Agricultura Familiar e Agroecologia – Brasil
Big Carrot Natural Food Market – Canada
Biowatch South Africa – South Africa
California Food & Justice Coalition – California
Canadian Biotechnology Action Network – Ontario
Cascadian Edible Landscapes – Washington
Center for Food Safety – Washington, D.C.
CIP Americas Program – Mexico Corner House – UK
Cumberland Countians for Peace & Justice – Tennessee
Edible Plant Project – Florida
Family Farm Defenders – Wisconsin
Farmworker Association of Florida – Florida
Food Chain Workers Alliance – California
Brandworkers International – New York
Center for New Community – Illinois
Coalition of Immokalee Workers – Florida
Comité de Apoyo a los Trabajadores Agrícolas – New Jersey/Pennsylvania
International Labor Rights Forum – Washington, D.C.
Just Harvest USA – California
Northwest Arkansas Workers’ Justice Center – Arkansas
Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York – New York
Restaurant Opportunities Centers United – New York
United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1500 – New York
Warehouse Workers for Justice – Illinois
Food Democracy Now! – Iowa
Food First – California
Food for Maine’s Future – Maine
Food Systems Integrity – Massachusetts
Friends of the Earth International – Uruguay
Gaia Foundation – UK
GMWatch – UK
Grassroots International – Massachusetts
Green Belt Movement International, Europe – UK
GREEN Foundation – India
Growing Power – Wisconsin
Hilltop Urban Gardens – Washington
Indaloyethu Environmental Cooperative – South Africa Institute for Sustainable Development – Ethiopia
International Society for Ecology and Culture – California
Kenya Biodiversity Network – Kenya
Kenya Debt Relief Network – Kenya
La Via Campesina – North America
Lia BD Consulting – Washington
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns – Washington, D.C.
National Family Farm Coalition – Washington, D.C.
Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance – Maine
Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility – Oregon
Organic Consumers Association – Minnesota
People-Centered Development Forum – New York
Pesticide Action Network North America – California
Partners for the Land & Agricultural Needs of Traditional Peoples – West Virginia
Practical Action – UK
Safe Alternatives for our Forest Environment – California
South African Freeze Alliance on Genetic Engineering – South Africa
Save Our Seeds – Germany
Say No to GMOs! – Texas
Second Chance Foundation – NYC
Slow Food USA – New York
Sustainable Living Systems – Montana
Sustainable West Seattle – Washington
Third World Network – Malaysia
Thirdworld Investment Gateway Trust – South Africa
Uganda Environmental Educational Foundation – Uganda
Washington Biotechnology Action Council – Washington
Washington Fair Trade Coalition – Washington
WhyHunger – New York
Witness for Peace NW – Washington
World Family – UK
AGRICULTURE AND DEVELOPMENT EXPERTS
(Institutional affiliation provided for identification purposes only)
Will Allen, Founder, Growing Power
Ann Anagnost, Department of Anthropology, University of Washington
Philip Bereano, Technology and Public Policy, University of Washington
Peter Bohmer, Economics and Political Economy, The Evergreen State College
Patrick Bond, Howard College, University of KwaZulu-Natal
Jay Bost, Interdisciplinary Ecology, University of Florida
Lawrence Busch, Center for the Study of Standards in Society, Michigan State University
Javier Souza Casadinho, Reviewer, IAASTD
Ignacio Chapela, Associate Professor, UC Berkeley, Senior Researcher, GenØk: Center for Biosafety, Norway
Lim Li Ching, Lead Author, ESAP report, IAASTD
Barbara Dinham, IAASTD Reviewer
Caroline Faria, Department of Global and Sociocultural Studies, Florida International University
Maria Elena Garcia, Comparative History of Ideas, Jackson School of International Studies, University of Washington
Martha Groom, Conservation Biology, University of Washington
Bothell Joan Dye Gussow, Nutrition and Education, Teachers College, Columbia University
Elizabeth Henderson, Organic Farmer, Genesee Valley Organic CSA
Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, Lead Author, IAASTD
JoAnn Jaffe, Dept. of Sociology and Social Studies, University of Regina; Review Editor, IAASTD
Lucy Jarosz, Geography, University of Washington
Kristie Knoll, Organic Farmer, Knoll Farms
Jeanne Koopman, African Studies Center, Boston University
David Korton, Co-chair, New Economy Working Group
Frances Moore Lappé, Small Planet Institute
Gary Littlejohn, Review of African Political Economy
Kristen Lyons, School of Social Science, University of Queensland
John Madeley, Author, Beyond Reach?
Charito P. Medina, Lead Author, ESAP (IAASTD)
Dave Muehleisen, Sustainabilty and Justice Planning Group, The Evergreen State College
William Munro, Political Science, International Studies, Illinois Wesleyan University
Douglas Murray, Center for Fair and Alternative Trade, Colorado State University
Raj Patel, Center for African Studies, UC Berkeley; School of Development Studies, University of KwaZulu-Natal
Shailja Patel, Author, Migritude
Devon Pena, American Ethnic Studies, Anthropology and Program on the Environment, University of Washington
Ivette, Perfecto, George W. Pack, School of Natural Resources and Environment, University of Michigan; Lead Author, IAASTD
Vanaja Ramprasad, Lead Author, IAASTD
Wayne Roberts, Author, The No-Nonsense Guide to World Food
Carol Thompson, Northern Arizona University Abby Wilkerson, Food Studies, George Washington University
Noah Zerbe, Government and Politics, Humboldt State University
Read the letter online.
Political instability impeding Zimbabwe’s macro-economic recovery
On 29 January 2009 Zimbabwe stopped using its own inflation-ravaged currency, replacing it with a multi-currency regime dominated by the US dollar. The initiative cured the inflation challenge and brought about some stability. However, economic and human development indicators remain in the negative, largely due to the continued extreme polarisation and political instability that has been sustained under the power-sharing government of ZANU-PF (Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front) and the two MDC (Movement for Democratic Change) formations.
In April this year, UNICEF’s ‘Child sensitive social protection in Zimbabwe’ estimated that 78 per cent of Zimbabweans are absolutely poor, while 55 per cent live below the food poverty line. This means some 6.6 million people, including 3.5 million children, suffer from chronic hunger. The United Nations estimates that about 770 mothers die in every 100,000 live births in Zimbabwe. Amnesty International this week revealed results of research carried at a community of 5,000 on Hopley Farm, south of Harare, which shows that an unusually high number of babies recently died in that community due to a lack of basic health facilities.
At a time when most people in the world are experiencing advances – for instance, the world average life expectancy from 1970 to 2010 increased from 59 to 70 years – for Zimbabwe, due to political strife, life expectancy has fallen gradually to the current 47 years. Recent statistics from the United Nations ‘Human development index report’ for 2010, combining health, education and wealth indicators, show that Zimbabwe is the least developed country, while Norway is the most developed.
The slow progress that was beginning to be experienced under Zimbabwe’s power-sharing government is now under threat as talk of coming elections has revived extreme polarisation and renewed political tensions. Indications are that fresh elections may fail to restore the political stability necessary for economic recovery and growth. Only last week Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri publicly stated that if elections are held in 2011 then only a result in which President Robert Mugabe is the winner will be acceptable. Such blatant partisan statements reveal the extent to which our police force is compromised, and, therefore, the depth of political instability.
It is a waste of time to talk of any meaningful socio-economic development in Zimbabwe in the absence of a solid foundation of political stability. This is why it is absolutely necessary for SADC (Southern African Development Community), the AU (African Union) and other international players to assist Zimbabweans to freely express their will as to who should govern them and to have that will respected. It is political instability, rather than the largely symbolic targeted travel restrictions and asset freezes for President Mugabe and his inner circle, that is responsible for Zimbabwe’s economic malaise. To ignore this and focus on phantom ‘sanctions’ as the major issue is to play political football with the lives of millions of Zimbabweans.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.
I am proud of Naija
The year was 1914. The Right Honourable Frederick John Dealtry Lugard, 1st Baron of Abinger in the County of Surrey, British soldier, explorer of Africa, able colonial administrator whose present duty was to hold fort for His Majesty King George V, in the part of Africa known as the British Protectorate on the Niger River, sat at his desk in a most gloomy mood. He pulled at his long curvy, moustache, adjusted the collars of his well-starched and ironed jacket as he affectionately fingered the button of his medal of honor. Where was he going to start? This assignment was so completely new to him. In fact it was out rightly difficult, if not impossible. Lord Lugard pondered on these thoughts as sweat drizzled down his forehead. His servant ran to him and wiped his brows with the immaculate white silk towel. Sensing that his master needed more, he ran to the back of the Victorian style house, filled the imported silverware bowl with cool water from the dugout well and ran back to dab The Right Honourable’s face with a thick towel. If only all his subjects were like this his servant, Lugard pondered as he raised his head to let the strong black arms holding the towel firmly massage his neck. He felt a bit more relaxed as he snapped his fingers. ‘Tan Sa!’ the servant screamed as he saluted and hastily fled from the study, bulging stomach in front and oversized, over-starched khaki shorts noisily tailing after. The problem with them is that sometimes they pretend they are with you, but you should hear the things they say when you are not there. Anyway, back to the issue at hand.
What was he to do? The natives in this part of His Majesty’s British occupied territories were giving him so much trouble. He had never had it so rough. Not in anywhere he had been assigned to as a colonial administrator. And he has been to quite a few places. As a representative of the British East African Company in 1890, he singlehandedly crushed the Ugandans, and secured British predominance of that area, bringing an end to all civil disturbances. He has always been a good soldier and was not afraid of blood. After he had proven himself in dealing with the natives in other parts of Africa, he was commissioned by the British government and sent to West Africa to raise a native force to protect the interest of Britain from the French, in the area known as Lagos and its surrounding hinterlands. He was an expert in raising natives to fight against themselves and to fight others – that was the highpoint of his career, he thought.
The case that bothered Lord Lugard now was different, radically different from the divide and rule, quench and kill, conquer and dominate approach that had worked for him all these years. This time he needed to unite. Yes, he needed to bring a bunch of the crude natives together for the simple reason that it was going to be easier for the government of Britain to administer it as one colony. In that way, all the natural resource being taken from this part of the world could be easily tracked and traded. It was also going to cost the British government less in the form of human and material resources sent from the home country to administer the often unruly natives. What is more, more tax will be generated for the central government and there will be harmonisation in the development of infrastructures such as railways and harbours, needed to transport the raw materials from the colonies to the mother country. It was a highly profitable but very complex task.
Lord Lugard rose and went to where he kept his leather-bound manuscripts. He needed to consult with some of the colonial papers to know how his predecessors and contemporaries had handled the huge task of amalgamating large tracts of land filled with ignorant and often hostile pagans. As he reached to pull the Indian files from the top of the cabinet, he felt her fingers. No, he actually smelled her first, but did not want to turn. He wanted her to hold him from behind as he knew she would. If he had turned, that would have spoiled the moment. She held his neck and squeezed tight with those tiny little fingers of hers. What makes her think that she can ever make him scream half as much as he would often pretend to. Lord Lugard smiled wryly and looked at his wife. She was growing old and frail so quickly, all part of the stress of living in this part of the world.
‘What is tearing out the heart of my beloved?’ she asked in her Irish tinged accent.
‘My love, would that I was instructed by her majesty to conquer all of these territories all over again. I would have considered myself most favoured of the King, for that would have been a matter of iron and blood alone; but to unite these strong headed and stiff necked pagans and mohamedans. I suspect I am being set up for failure, my dear one.’
Flora smiled in her self-assured way. Nothing ever seemed to bother her or make her feel incapable. Even when the uncivilised native women tugged at her wide brimmed hat or her long flowing gown during church service, she will just smile and try to say something in their language, making them bend double, screaming with laughter and baring their tobacco or whatever stained teeth, while clapping their hands in glee. That sight infuriated Lord Lugard.
‘So what name does my beloved have for his new country?’
The question seemed to come from nowhere.
‘Did I hear you say name, my most adorable one?’ Lugard could not make any connection between the problems he had to solve about organising some ignorant bunch of natives and giving a name to the place.
‘The Royal Niger Company Territories, of course,’ came the response. ‘Is that not what this part of the British Protectorate on the Niger River has always been called?’
‘There lies the genesis of your problems, my darling one. You cannot use such a bogus, official title for the new mandate you have been given. Give it a beautiful name, something classy and likable. A short easy to pronounce thing, very British and English, polished and interesting, and I promise you, Great One, that all the other issues will gradually fall in place.’
‘With due respects my dear, I do not know what a name has to do with the herculean task of organising these rebellious groups of people. I perceive that you trivialise my mandate.’
Lord Lugard was getting upset. He had always respected his wife’s rare combination of brilliance and humour, but in this case she was taking things too lightly.
‘Not to offend you my heart, but think of the Scriptures. Did they not admonish that “you cannot put new wine in old wineskin, for then it will burst”?’
The Holy Book. That got the Imperial Administrator’s attention. He loved the things of the Lord and believed that indeed it was the divine directive of the Most High unto the English to civilise the rest of humanity, especially of the barbarous African tribes. Flora Shaw was a Sunday school teacher, she knew the good book much more than him by every standard.
‘You remember Abram? God had to change his name to Abraham so he could fulfil his divine mandate. And Sarai to Sarah, both of them, ever before they manifested their calling. Call this place something nice first, and you can at least think clearly enough to strategise and know how to start your administrative duties. For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh.’
She made sense. She always does, that daughter of a Crimean war veteran and grand-daughter of the famous colonial governor of Mauritius, George Shaw. In her own rights, a successful journalist, in fact, the only female reporter to cover the Anti-Slavery Conference in Brussels. Flora believed in colonialism and imperialism with all her might – she had once written that it was the only solution to bring employment to the less privileged among the British people. Regarding South Africa, she wrote that ‘What English supremacy demands is …increased white population.’ She viewed the African people as uncivilised, and therefore, inferior to Europeans, stating that the African’s role lies solely in assisting as a servant and worker to advance European’s economic goals. In short, Lord Lugard knew he could not have married a much better partner as an imperial administrator himself.
‘And what name might my fair lady suggest we re-brand The Royal Niger Company Territories with? I would think Central Sudan. Is that not what the geographers and travellers call it?’
‘I know those map carriers and travellers would rather call this area by that name, but is not the area closer to the Nile basin also known as Sudan? My love, I have been thinking of this for a long, long time, almost twenty years. In fact, the very first time I came by this part of the world, I knew it was only a question of time before His Majesty would rather merge the territories together for easy governance.’
‘Interesting, then. The whole idea of an amalgamation took me by surprise.’ Lugard snorted, still angry and even resentful for being asked to unite rather than conquer as before.
‘I would say “Nigeria” my dear. Just say it and feel how it rolls off your tongue.’
‘Nigeria,’ Lugard said, with his brows slightly raised.
‘There you go – quintessential British, classic English. Nothing like it, even the uncivilised natives will be proud of that name!’ exclaimed Flora as her blue eyes gleamed with delight and she clasped her hands, shaking them as she always did when excited.
‘Come here, you sweet little beauty,’ Lugard drew Flora close to his chest and dug his head into her rich chestnut-coloured hair.
Fast forward to 2010. Almost 100 years later. Lord Lugard and his wife had long gone to join the other deceased imperialists, wherever they might be resting. The natives were now a little bit more civilised. They had imbibed the ways and manners of the imperial masters; driving cars, dressing like the Europeans, singing like the Europeans and –what is more – you should listen to them as they speak in the Queen’s English. Indeed most of them can never be heard speaking in their backward, tongue twisting languages and dialects. They chastised their children to speak only English.
Indeed the natives liked the name Nigeria, just as Dame Flora Shaw – bless her soul – rightly predicted. Even the current wife of the president shares the same title ‘Dame’ with the deceased first lady of Nigeria. No, the natives did not wear oversized and over-starched khakis anymore to serve their masters as before. But in the blazing heat, they wore suits and tie to work and called their civil service the White Man’s Work in their various dialects: ‘Oru oyibo’ in Igbo, ‘Osise Ijoba’ in Yoruba, but that is for the few who cared to speak the language.
Everything is going as expected, except for some still rebellious natives, the uncivilised lot who would rather still go by their archaic and arcane grammar. They had corrupted the beautiful name ‘Nigeria’, filled with Her Imperial awesomeness, to a worthless, Africanised version known as ‘Naija’. You should see as their bloated lips hang open, then twist to the left, then to the right as they pronounce ‘Naija’, so uncultured, so uncivilised. The sound of it is just so out of the jungle. Nothing close to what the Queen would be proud of. But those are the rebellious few. The stand of the government is still very much along the lines of the imperial wishes. The minister of communications has issued a decree – pardon me – a declaration or warning of some sort of. All of the uncivilised folks must be brought under the rule of Her Imperial Majesty, I beg your pardon once more, the demands of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. She has declared the word ‘Naija’ to be offensive to the civilised ear: ‘We have to stop the word because… if we don’t put a stop to its usage now, it will continue to project us wrongly.’ Yes it will continue to project the people now inhabiting The Royal Niger Company Territories as rebellious, ready to fight for their land, their rights and their humanity, not like Lord Lugard’s servant, dressed in Khaki and running helter skelter to please his white master. The people must not be permitted to use their language or dialect as a part of the national vocabulary for it is barbaric, unsophisticated, vulgar, uncultured, coarse, and rough-edged, to say the least. The people must be thought to shape their lips, straighten it out, suck it in if possible, to be as thin as the Brits, and in a little sweet voice with the correct intonations and properly acceptable English syntax pronounce ‘Nigeria’, so that they can remain in the good books of their present, sorry former colonial masters. Long live Naija!
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* Chika Ezeanya is a PhD candidate in the Department of African Studies at Howard University in Washington DC. Her debut manuscript was shortlisted for the 2010 Penguin Publishers Prize for African Writing.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.
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Ireland a 'failed state'?
Global: UN official calls for greater attention to justice for women
Access to justice for women is often not given enough attention in both national and international judicial systems, a United Nations official has said, adding that the newly-created UN entity for women will play an important role in promoting justice for women especially in post-conflict situations. 'Justice for women is still an afterthought,' said Anne Marie Goetz, the Chief Advisor on Governance, Peace and Security of the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) at a news conference at UN headquarters to highlight a report by the Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice, an international non-governmental organisation, on gender issues at the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Senegal: Experts focus on Fistula at international event
A new set of priorities for the global fight against obstetric fistula will be in focus as specialists from around the world gather to discuss ways to eliminate the preventable childbirth injury. 'There are more than 2 million women living with obstetric fistula in the world, yet there are not enough skilled surgeons to operate on them,' says Dr. Serigne Gueye, a leading fistula expert and one of the organisers of the Third Annual Conference of the International Society of Obstetric Fistula Surgeons (ISOFS) that will take place in Dakar from 7 to 9 December.
Sierra Leone: Searching for solutions to maternal mortality
The Western African country of Sierra Leone is gradually emerging from a protracted civil war, which poses unique problems for mothers-to-be. In 2009, Amnesty International named the maternal mortality rate in Sierra Leone a 'human rights emergency', which at 1/8 is one of the highest in the world. But recent changes in policy and support from NGOs like Life for African Mothers have increased the potential for markedly improving maternal and child health.
South Africa: Gender body names and shames firms
The Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) has taken a hardline stance against Great Basin Gold, among the firms that tried to wriggle out of a summons to explain the slow pace of gender transformation in their operations. In an unprecedented show of strength, the CGE threatened legal sanctions against the gold mining company should it fail to make an appearance before the commission.
Tanzania: Mass FGM ceremonies planned
While Tanzania outlawed female genital mutilation (FGM) in 1998, mass FGM ceremonies are still going on, in particular in the November-January season. Activists expect over 5,000 girls to be cut 'this holiday season'. The government of Tanzania passed a law prohibiting FGM in 1998 and yet reports indicate that during the current holiday season, about 250 girls have already been cut and over 5,000 girls are at risk of being genitally mutilated in Tarime district of Tanzania’s Mara Region alone.
Uganda: 120 Sabiny girls circumcised
Some cried. Some were confused. They looked on in disbelief as a local female surgeon tried in vain thrice, probably using a very blunt knife, to cut off a girl’s clitoris. Once cut, the girl was pushed aside. Then seven other girls were circumcised. The eight are part of over 120 girls who have been mutilated in Sebei region since the Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) season kicked off in Sebei in eastern Uganda. The government passed a law prohibiting FGM in December 2009 but nobody in the FGM areas seems to care.
Uganda: Farm schools engage women and men in violence prevention
Studies carried out in the north of Uganda point towards a strong correlation between food insecurity and incidences of violence. Unable to feed their families, men often turn to risky coping behaviours like alcohol or drug abuse, while women may resort to sex in exchange for food and other goods. Disagreements on how to manage limited household food supplies frequently escalate into violence as well. The Food and Agriculture Organisation's Farmer Field and Life Schools initiative aims to help address the root causes of gender-based violence.
Zimbabwe: Political violence against women in Zimbabwe
A report by Idasa (Institute for Democracy in Africa), the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) and the Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU) recommends that there is an imperative need to end political violence generally in Zimbabwe, and the risks to women (and the families that they care for) require urgent attention by the government and the political parties, not least for the purpose of promoting non-violent elections. It also states that indications about the extent of politically motivated rape require urgent attention from the government.
Africa: UN stifled report on Ivory Coast ‘death squads’
The United Nations Security Council suppressed a 2004 secret report detailing the abuses of Ivory Coast death squads for fear of disrupting the nation's fragile 'peace process' and upsetting the government of President Laurent Gbagbo. This revelation proves especially damning in light of the country’s current electoral crisis marked by the resurrection of these Gestapo forces that have brutalised the opposition, as Gbagbo, who was defeated in the recent Presidential runoff a few weeks ago, refuses to cede power. The report was suppressed at the insistence of South Africa’s former president, Thabo Mbeki, who was heavily involved in peace negotiations and has recently returned in the same failing role.
Kenya: Judge suspends statement taking on Kenya chaos
The process of statement taking from security chiefs has been suspended, meaning the Kenya chaos case will now be filed without their testimony. Judge Kalpana Rawal put the process on hold Tuesday to await the outcome of an application filed by the security bosses' lawyers at The Hague. The lawyers want assurances from the ICC that any evidence provided by their clients will not be used against them as the court's prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo puts together his case on post election violence.
Madagascar: US expresses concern over human rights
The United States is worried about a 'considerable deterioration' in press and other freedoms in Madagascar. A sharply worded critique by the US Embassy expressed concern about 'the constant harassment of political dissidents and journalists' on the Indian Ocean island. The statement also referred to reports of arbitrary arrests and mistreatment of suspects linked to a failed military mutiny last month.
Namibia: Impunity at root of human rights problems
The NamRights 2010 human rights report for Namibia notes that experience has 'strongly shown' that a systematic disregard for the democracy, human rights and good governance principles, rather than the absence of the law, constitutes 'the biggest root cause of the multitude of the interrelated, intertwined and interdependent civil, cultural, economic, environmental, political and social problems afflicting the Namibian people.' The report covers the period between 10 December 2009 and 10 December 2010. However, it is only an interim report deliberately released for the purposes of marking the 62nd Anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).
Zambia: Al-Bashir invite draws criticism
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has expressed concern that Zambian President Rupiah Banda invited indicted Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir to participate in a regional conference scheduled for 15 December. Group spokesman Reed Brody said a majority of human rights groups across Africa have expressed displeasure over the invitation. 'We are hoping that this report is not correct and, if it is, we are hoping that the president of Zambia will eventually think better of it.'
Zimbabwe: The experience of violence by Zimbabwean women
African democracy institute Idasa, with the Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU), the International Centre for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) and the Women's Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ) have conducted research on Zimbabwean women's views on transitional justice, looking at how women in that country have been affected by the elections, the inclusive government, transitional justice mechanisms and law enforcement, amongst other topics. The research was based on a survey of more than 2,000 woman, as well as discussion groups on the research finding.
Egypt: The risks to migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers in Egypt and Israel
In this 90-page report, Human Rights Watch called on Egypt to halt the use of lethal force against border crossers and all deportations of persons to countries where they risk persecution or ill-treatment. Israel should halt forced returns of migrants to Egypt, where they face military court trials and possible unlawful deportation to their countries of origin. Both countries should respect the rights of persons seeking asylum.
Global: Urban women refugees need ingenuity for survival
Making ends meet is often difficult and dangerous for refugees living in cities, where paying rent and buying food can be a daily struggle and finding work is complicated. Most host countries do not allow refugees to work legally, so people find themselves forced to take jobs that pay 'under the table'. Refugees with no legal protection risk exploitation and abuse by their employers. Until recently, the international community has largely overlooked the needs of refugees in urban settings. Today, more than half of the world's 10.5 million refugees live in cities and towns, as compared to one-third who live in camps.
Kenya: Stop deportations to war-torn Somalia
The Kenyan government should immediately stop deporting Somali nationals to war-torn Somalia and make a public commitment to protect and help them, Human Rights Watch has said. The Kenyan authorities deported almost 300 Somalis to south-central Somalia on 15, 29 and 30 November 2010, in violation of international law. Credible sources and witnesses to the deportations on 29 and 30 November told Human Rights Watch that police in the Kenyan border town of Liboi used pickup trucks to drive 130 Somali asylum seekers back to the Somali border.
Nigeria: Simmering tensions cause new displacement in the 'middle belt'
In early 2010, unresolved conflicts and simmering tensions between different social and ethnic groups led to renewed displacement in the city of Jos in the heart of the 'middle belt' region of Nigeria. As in the rest of the country, no clear figures on the number of internally displaced people (IDPs) were available for this latest incident of violence. Ad-hoc local registration exercises have hinted at the scale of displacement, but many people sought shelter and support from family and friends and so were not counted, says a December report form the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre.
South Africa: Deadline for Zimbabweans won’t be extended
The 31 December deadline for Zimbabwean immigrants to apply for the necessary permits to allow them to stay in the country will not be extended, Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has said. Zimbabweans in South Africa who attempted to register for business, study or work permits after the deadline would not be processed, she said, speaking in Pretoria after meeting representatives of the Zimbabwe Stakeholder Forum.
South Africa: Low standards at De Doorns safety site
A report into conditions at the De Doorns safety camp, set up to house victims of xenophobic violence in the Western Cape town, has found that conditions did not meet international guidelines for disaster victims. 'Too often have the narratives surrounding the xenophobic attacks in De Doorns centred around the causes of the attacks, which has inadvertently lent some legitimacy to the an underlying opinion that xenophobic violence is justified in some cases, for some causes. This, in turn, seems to have given rise to the sentiment that the victims of these xenophobic attacks are not entitled to the same rights and assistance as other disaster victims.'
South Africa: Photo gallery shows unseen side of human trafficking in South Africa
The International Organisation for Migration in South Africa has launched 'Spaces, Places & Faces...the Unseen Side of Human Trafficking' a virtual photo gallery containing photographs with accompanying narratives that capture the trafficking story in pictures. The gallery features true stories and pictures of four women who became victims of human trafficking in South African after being deceived with offers of a better life by their traffickers.
South Africa: Violence, exploitation fail to dissuade female migrants
The findings of an ongoing study being conducted by the Domestic Workers Research Project (DWRP) at the University of the Western Cape confirm that migrant domestic workers suffer arduous working conditions for low wages and are often sequestered behind their employers’ high walls, cut off from family and friends for long periods. 'The regulations that they lay down for you is not to bring anyone on the premises. I felt sometimes like I was in a prison cell,' said Hester Stephens, president of the South African Domestic Workers and Allied Workers Union (SADSAWU).
Yemen: Agencies scramble to help stranded migrants
The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and humanitarian partners are scrambling to help over 3,000 African migrants stranded at the Yemeni border with Saudi Arabia, where 30 migrants have died in recent weeks. 'We are seeing a dramatic increase in migrants needing help,' IOM Senior Operations Officer Bill Lorenz said in a press release on 3 December. 'Over the past week, the number of migrants being referred to IOM has jumped to about 76 a day.'
South Africa: Up to 500 people left homeless in Cape Town fire
Abahlali baseMjondolo Western Cape press statement
'We do not accept that shack fires are natural disasters. Shack fires are the result of the social abandonment of the poor. We will continue to politicise shack fires and we will continue to fight for our full social inclusion in this society.'
Abahlali baseMjondolo Western Cape press statement
Wednesday, 08 December 2010
Up To Five Hundred People Left Homeless in the QQ Fire Last Night
The fire that raged through the QQ Section shack settlement in Khayelitsha last
night has destroyed up to 100 shacks leaving as many as 500 people homeless.
Most people have lost everything including ID books, work clothes, school
uniforms, medication and family photographs.
The community built and run crèche has also been destroyed.
We are appealing for immediate help for the people who have been left destitute
in this fire. As a movement we are struggling for justice and not charity but
in a time of crisis we embrace the generosity of others.
It is rumoured that this fire was started by a self-organised electricity
connection. Our movement has been organising around the questions of
electricity and fire in Durban for many years. Our position is that:
1. The major cause of shack fires is the fact that shack settlements are not
electrified and therefore, as a matter of urgency, all shack settlements must
2. When the state fails to electrify shack settlements or simply refuses to
electrify them at all then people have a right to electrify their own shacks.
However it is essential to draw a clear distinction between badly made and
dangerous connections installed in an ad hoc manner and well organised, well
made and safe connections. A well organised community structure can electrify a
We do not accept that shack fires are natural disasters. Shack fires are the
result of the social abandonment of the poor. We will continue to politicise
shack fires and we will continue to fight for our full social inclusion in this
society. That means that while we fight for land and housing we are also
demanding the immediate electrification of all shack settlements as a matter of
extreme urgency. Where the state fails to respond the shack fire crisis
adequately – and an adequate response must include immediate electrification
– we will encourage all communities to organise their own connections in a
collective, disciplined and safe manner. Neither the struggle for justice nor
the self organised responses to surviving injustice can move forward without
proper organisation. We are encouraging all communities to democratise their
settlements and to elect accountable and recallable leadership outside of party
structures so that the collective, bottom up and responsible self management of
settlements and the struggle for the full right to the city for all can be
For updates and comment from QQ section please contact:
Mr. Qona 076 041 0057
Mbongeni 076 981 6945
Mzonke 073 256 2036
Abahlali baseMjondolo, together with with Landless People's Movement (Gauteng),
the Rural Network (KwaZulu-Natal) and the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign,
is part of the Poor People's Alliance - a national network of democratic
membership based poor people's movements.
South Africa: Will Cosatu stand the test of time?
As workers celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), the whisper of 'back to basics' is gaining momentum, writes Ebrahim-Khalil Hassen. 'COSATU faces significant challenges in its continued long-term role. These challenges include an older union membership, new forms of economic activity that make organising difficult as well as a more fluid environment with a multiplicity of voices on public policy issues. Thus, COSATU needs new forms of membership that it can utilise to mobilise sections of the working class that it has not traditionally organised.'
Latest Edition: Emerging Powers News Round-Up
In this week's edition of the Emerging Powers News Round-Up, read a comprehensive list of news stories and opinion pieces related to China, India and other emerging powers.
Wal-Mart's Africa strategy
In the next 25 years, analysts believe the consumer market in Africa will take off. When it does, Walmart wants to be ready to seize the day. This week, Wal-Mart Stores (WMT, Fortune 500) announced a cash offer for a majority stake in the South African retail company Massmart Holdings, Ltd. The offer is scaled-back from the roughly $4 billion that Walmart wanted to pay in September for the entire company. Instead, Wal-Mart offered over $2 billion for 51% of Massmart shares. "It's part of their international expansion strategy," says Chuck Cerankosky, an analyst with Northcoast Research. "They want to enter markets that show a great deal of promise of developing a strong consumer sector."
South Africans left divided as Walmart muscles its way in
The world's biggest retailer already has tills ringing across the Americas, Europe and Asia. Now the sprawling Arkansas-based discount megalith Walmart is trying its luck in Africa. South Africa's labour movement is bracing itself for its biggest campaign since its anti-apartheid heyday as it faces up to the likely arrival of Walmart – a company notorious for its anti-union tactics, with annual sales worth three times the country's budget. Only South Africa's Competition Commission now stands in the way of the US multinational entering Africa in the latest stage of a conquest of emerging markets that has already reached Mexico, Brazil and China.A week ago, the board of a local superstore group, Massmart, accepted Walmart's offer of 16.5bn rands (£1.6bn) for 51% of the company. "We are not opposing the Walmart bid," says Mike Abrahams, of the Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers' Union (Saccawu), which has 70% of Massmart's South African staff as members. "We are running a campaign for centralised bargaining and we want Walmart to sign up to it."
African diplomats fearful of US-China relationships
African embassy officials, including a South African, are afraid that relationships between the United States and China will hamper Chinese funding to the region, according to a leaked cable from the US Embassy in Beijing. The cable, released by WikiLeaks on Sunday, is one of the latest in the organisation's streaming release of over 250 000 leaked diplomatic cables. It was created on February 4 2010, and was classified as "confidential".
Leaked US cable says China has 'no morals' in Africa
The United States thinks China is a "pernicious economic competitor with no morals" whose booming investments in Africa are propping up unsavoury regimes, according to a leaked diplomatic cable. The frank assessment by the US assistant secretary of state for African affairs, Johnnie Carson, was among the latest revelations in thousands of documents released by whistleblower website WikiLeaks. "China is a very aggressive and pernicious economic competitor with no morals. China is not in Africa for altruistic reasons," Carson said in a February meeting with oil executives in Nigeria. "China is in Africa for China primarily," he said, according to a confidential February 23 cable written by the US consul-general in Lagos.
African Union cries foul over skewed investment trends
The African Union Commission President, Jean Ping, Tuesday decried the skewed trend in the flow of international investments, in which most African countries were ignored, despite the insinuation that Africa was receiving the highest share of Chinese investments. Speaking just as the EU-AU Summit ended here Tuesday, Ping said African countries received the slightest share of the global foreign investment inflows despite their overall determination to improve governance, fight corruption and introduce privatization.
2. China in Africa
South Africa: Chinese embrace the union
When Karl Yan moved to South Africa last year to work at a Chinese factory, the last thing he imagined was that he would end up joining the local union. Yan, a skinny, bespectacled 24-year-old from a small town near Shanghai, is a shop steward for South Africa's clothing and textile workers union. He recently attended a union conference in Cape Town where, as the only Chinese delegate, he stuck out like a sore thumb — but he was a big hit with his South African comrades, who posed with Yan for photos and taught him their liberation dances. In China, all unions are controlled by the state and they do little to help workers. South Africa's unions, in contrast, are powerful forces that influence national politics and often disrupt production in factories. These clashing work ethics meet in the industrial town of Newcastle, in northeastern South Africa, where there are scores of factories owned by Chinese and Taiwanese businesses. The South African union is now embroiled in tense negotiations with the factories because many don’t pay the legal minimum wage.
Textile firms fume over China rival
The textile industry is seething over the accreditation of a Chinese company by the SA Bureau of Standards (SABS). Marcus Varoli, the chairman of Mediterranean Textile Mills, said yesterday that the granting of a certificate of approval by the SABS and the Department of Trade and Industry (dti) to a Chinese textile mill for work wear fabric, in turn being imported for use in the mining industry, undermined efforts to revive the textile sector. “By giving a Chinese textile mill an SABS stamp of approval on their fabrics, you are taking jobs from South Africa to China. It gives a bigger opportunity for China to enter South Africa,” Varoli said. He said this decision would harm the sector further and give Chinese companies an advantage over local ones.
China in E Cape farming deal
China will cultivate fruit on 500 hectares of land in the Eastern Cape, the province's development corporation (ECDC) said on Tuesday. "Eastern Cape's abundant agricultural land has seen China survey the province for farming business opportunities to supplement its scarce land resources," spokesperson Ikhona Mvaphantsi said. The Yebo Africa Trading Hall (ATH) in Shangai, China, has entered into an agreement with the Alfred Nzo district municipality to use land in the area for pomelo citrus fruit cultivation. The ATH is an entity formed by Chinese businessmen to facilitate trade between Africa and China, and is set to open its doors for trade in March 2011.
China and Africa sign Hangzhou Declaration
Today, 43 African countries government and Chinese 500 over enterprisers signed Hangzhou Declaration in Hangzhou Zhejiang; deepen bilateral trade cooperation fellow relationship. They are trying to expand and deepen cooperation to promote Africa to become the emphasis region of China "going out" strategy under the rules of equality, mutual benefit, and double win. In the history, the economy and trade cooperation of China and Africa has a very long time. Since 1959, they had started economic activities. While in the twice Touchroad Africa investment summit forum, there are more than 100 African investment projects reached and implemented. The Hangzhou Declaration signed this time is the political promise that each African national government and Chinese government and enterprisers set up better relationship.
I B Kargbo of Sierra Leone leads Africa’s delegation in Beijing
Sierra Leone’s Minister of Information and Communication and Government Spokesman, Hon. Alhaji Ibrahim Ben Kargbo was on Wednesday 8th December, 2010 appointed Spokesman and leader of Africa’s delegation to The “Ministerial Workshop on Information Highway Construction for Developing Countries” organized by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and the Ministry of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China. The workshop which is hosted by the Academy for International Business Officials (AIBO) in Beijing attracted 13 Ministers of Information and Communication Technology and 12 senior officials from North, South, East, West and Central Africa.
Largest Ever Greater China Products Exhibition Opens in South Africa
Ever wonder about the ways massive amount of products from China make it to Uganda, Nigeria, or South Africa? (Not counting China's initial sourcing--or some might say ravaging--of materials from the continent). Sourcing fairs, for one. The largest ever "Greater China-products exhibition" launched today in Johannesburg, South Africa, further solidifying Africa-China business ties.
China backs talks to resolve Cote d'Ivoire's election disputes: spokeswoman
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said Monday that China hopes political parties in Cote d'Ivoire can settle election disputes through legal procedures and political dialogue. "(China) hopes the relevant parties in Cote d'Ivoire can give top priority to the national and public interests, remain calm and restrained, and resolve disputes through legal procedures and political dialogue to maintain its national stability and solidarity," spokeswomen Jiang Yu said in a press release.
Zimbabwean trains held in China over debt
A Chinese firm has frozen the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ)'s locomotive order over a US$27 million debt derailing plans by the country's sole railway operator to rejuvenate the struggling parastatal. The grounded NRZ is currently on recovery path after close to ten years of nose diving presumptively due to mal-administration and vandalism. China North Railway Company (CNRC) had initially received a US$3 million deposit fee from the NRZ in the purchase of locomotives in a deal valued at US$30 million. The CNRC then indicated that it would only make delivery to the NRZ upon the full payment of the money.
Why Africa must make China a priority development partner
Don’t lynch China; there are good things it is bringing to Africa’s extractive industry,” argues Muthuli Ncube, vice President of the African Development Bank. Addressing a group of journalists attending a workshop in Tunis recently, Prof Ncube said that whereas Africa mostly looked to development partners from America and Europe, China was worth considering because it was biased towards improving infrastructure in the countries it is doing business in.
3. India in Africa
First India-Ethiopia joint ministerial commission meeting opens
The first India-Ethiopia Joint Ministerial Commission Meeting is taking place in New Delhi, India on December 1 and 2, 2010. The Ethiopian delegation is being led by Hailemariam Desalegn, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Ethiopia. The delegation will also have two State Ministers, namely, Ahmed Tusa, State Minister for Trade and Ahmed Shide, State Minister for Finance and Economic Development. According to a press release the Indian Embassy sent to WIC today, senior government officials including the Director General in charge for Asia, Ambassador Mahdi Ahmed Gadid as also Director General in charge of Ethiopian Investment Agency, other senior officials of various ministries and departments of the government would be participating in the deliberations.
4. In Other Emerging Powers News
Tanzania plans $2bn hydro plant with Brazil
Tanzania is planning with Brazil to build a power plant estimated to cost $2-billion that could transform east Africa's second largest economy into a net exporter of electricity, a senior official said on Wednesday. Foreign Affairs Minister Bernard Membe and other officials held talks with their Brazilian counterparts in Sao Paolo in September on the construction of the proposed 2 100 megawatt (MW) Stiegler's Gorge hydro-power station. "The power plant to be constructed using Brazilian technology would generate excess power that could be exported to the east African and southern African power pools," Aloyce Masanja, director general of Tanzania's state-run Rufiji Basin Development Authority, told Reutes.
Brazil eyes out South Africa for biofuels growth
Brazil says its interested in buying agricultural land in Southern Africa to use as a source of biofuels on the African continent, specifically in South Africa. That’s according to the country’s deputy minister for foreign trade, Welber Barral, who spoke to Business Day in Sandton. A Brazilian trade mission has arrived in South Africa to explore investments and to strengthen ties. With far reaching agricultural agreements focusing on the development of alternative fuels already in place in Angola, the country believes that further development opportunities are possible.
SA and Brazil aim to expand trade by $1bn in 2011
Latin America’s largest economy, Brazil, is expected to become one of South Africa’s top-20 trading partners, said a top South African official on Wednesday. The countries aim to boost bilateral trade by $1-billion over the next 12 months. Trade has grown from about $500-million in 2000 to a peak of $2,5-billion in 2008, but dropped sharply during the global recession. In 2010, it rebounded to $1,76-billion. Despite growth over the last decade, Brazil is still only South Africa’s 32nd export partner.
Brazil to help African, Asian countries in satellite-based forest monitoring
Brazil will provide technical assistance to help tropical countries improve their forest monitoring capabilities, according to an official with the South American country's satellite agency. Carlos Nobre, head of the Earth System Science Center at the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), said Brazil will share "knowledge and technology" on its leading satellite-based deforestation monitoring system with countries in Africa and Southeast Asia.
Banco do Brasil Seeks Vale, Petrobras Advice on Africa
Banco do Brasil SA is talking to Vale SA, Petroleo Brasileiro SA and other Brazilian companies with operations in Africa about its expansion in the continent, said Antonio Bizzo, head of Europe, Middle East and Africa at Latin America’s largest bank by assets. Government-controlled Banco do Brasil is also drawing on the experience in Africa of construction companies such as Camargo Correa SA and Odebrecht SA, Bizzo said. The lender is still in talks with Banco Bradesco SA and Banco Espirito Santo SA to determine details of a joint holding company that will buy stakes in banks on the continent, he said.
Gazprom, Namcor to Acquire Part of Tullow’s Gas Field in Namibia
OAO Gazprom, the world’s largest natural gas producer, and Namibia’s state-owned oil company, Namcor, plan to buy part of Tullow Oil Plc’s Kudu field off the African nation’s coast. Gazprom and Namcor plan to set up a joint venture that will hold 54 percent in the gas field, Boris Ivanov, head of the Moscow-based company’s international exploration and production unit, said in Gazprom’s corporate magazine. Tullow will hold 31 percent and Itochu Corp. the remaining 15 percent, he said.
Tata Steel may form alliance to bid for Riversdale
Tata Steel could team up with an Indian metals company or a miner to make a counterbid for Riversdale Mining, in response to Rio's $3.5 billion (about . 15,750 crore) bid for coal-rich Australian miner Riversdale. Tata Steel is gearing up for a battle to control the Australian-listed miner that owns large coal mines in Mozambique and has become a target for global mining majors such as Anglo-American and Rio Tinto, said three people connected with the issue.
China sourcing loses charm for Indian cos
China's manufacturing costs are reaching levels that are now forcing some companies that source products from the land of the dragon to reduce such sourcing and manufacture these in India more economically. Watch and jewellery major Titan Industries, which sources watch components from China, said it plans to restrict such sourcing and instead make additional investments in its manufacturing facility in Tamil Nadu. Similarly, it is now cheaper for Dell to supply PCs from India than from China, especially to countries in the Middle East, Africa and the CIS countries.
India has potential to be leader in green technology: Ramesh
As he heads for crucial negotiations at UN climate change meet, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh has said India has the potential to become a world leader in green technology especially in nuclear energy. Trying to put across the message at the global platform that India need not always be seen as a recipient of technology, Ramesh said, "I have been saying repeatedly that challenge of climate change is god-sent opportunity to Indian business to become world leader in green technology.
EU pact won’t be tighter against drugs
India and the European Union (EU) have agreed that the comprehensive bilateral trade agreement being negotiated by the two will not result in an intellectual property regime that restricts the ability of Indian pharmaceutical firms to export generic or off-patent drugs by being far more stringent than the TRIPS regime of the World Trade Organization.
Russia willing to assist Sudan in obtaining debt relief: envoy
The Russian government informed Sudan that it is prepared to help it obtain debt relief from external creditors, its special said today. "Sudan is a friendly country, and Russia is ready to consider positively the problem of Sudan’s debt, and also to raise the question of cancelling Sudan’s debt to the international community," Russian special envoy to Sudan Mikhail Margelov told Russian news agency (RIA Novosti).
Engen buys Chevron’s Réunion, Malawi, Zambia assets, more to follow
South African downstream petroleum marketer Engen announced on Wednesday that it had concluded three deals to acquire some of the sub-Saharan Africa and the Indian Ocean Islands assets previously owned by petroleum giant Chevron, of the US. The deals will see Engen entering the new territories of Réunion and Malawi, while strengthening its presence in Zambia.
Raw export rise flies in face of beneficiation calls
Despite strident calls for greater job-creating beneficiation, South Africa’s raw material and intermediate exports collectively increased by nearly 20% in the first six months of 2010. A 53-page study of sectoral trends, just released by the research department of the State-owned Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), shows that raw material exports rose by 6,8% and intermediate goods by 12,8% in the first half of the year. Overall, these primary goods intensified their dominance by combining to account for virtually three-quarters of South Africa’s exports in the six months to June 30.
Zille leads Cape group on Mideast trade trip
In an effort to boost trade, investment and tourism relations between the Middle East and the Western Cape, Premier Helen Zille is leading a business delegation to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia. Her delegation includes finance, economic development and tourism MEC Alan Winde and agriculture MEC Gerrit van Rensburg. The seven-day visit, which started today, comes after the successful bilateral discussions between Ms Zille and ambassadors representing countries in the Gulf region in November last year. The ambassadors of Saudi Arabia and the UAE subsequently invited Ms Zille and a provincial delegation to visit their countries to explore strengthening bilateral relations.
Zuma in Mexico to enhance relationships
President Jacob Zuma will begin his visit to Mexico on Wednesday, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation said on Wednesday. The visit, to deepen bilateral relations between the two countries, would end on Friday, spokesperson Clayson Monyela said in a statement. Agreements in the area of crime prevention and justice were expected to be signed. Zuma would hold talks with his counterpart Felipe Calderon Hinojosa on the sidelines of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP16) in Cancun. South Africa would host COP17 in Durban in 2011.
South Africa cancels R1,1bn Cuba debt, unveils credit package
A debt of R1,1-billion owed by Cuba for diesel engines bought from South Africa during the 1990s was cancelled on Tuesday, the Presidency said. "It is not as if Cuba could not repay the debt. The problem is that it was becoming a hindrance to trade and economic development between two countries," Trade and Industry minister Rob Davies said in a statement issued by the presidency. "South African businesses demanded cash in advance because the Export Credit Insurance Corporation of the DTI could no longer insure Cuba's orders as it had exhausted its credit limit," he said.
W Cape Should Be Part Of African Growth
The Western Cape can be a forerunner in the new African growth narrative and a natural springboard into the African West Coast if it harnesses opportunities for trade and investment in Africa, according to the Western Cape Investment and Trade Promotion Agency (Wesgro). Wesgro CEO Nils Flaatten and Jacyntha Maclennan, senior manager of Wesgro IQ, the agency’s intelligence unit, spoke about seizing African growth opportunities during a presentation on exploring the African continent held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) in collaboration with Ernst & Young yesterday.
SA fudges China’s push for Nobel boycott
SA HAS found a neat diplomatic solution to avoid embarrassing China, deciding to send a low-level diplomat to tomorrow’s Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo, Norway, for the award to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo. SA has in the past caved in to China’s demands to refuse a visa to SA for the Dalai Lama, but will not join a growing list of states boycotting the ceremony at China’s behest. With the ambassador to Norway, Beryl Sisulu, back home "on compassionate grounds" until next year, SA will be represented by embassy charge d’affaires Marida van der Westhuizen-Nel. Department of International Relations and Co-operation spokesman Clayson Monyela denied Beijing had influenced SA’s decision to send a low-ranking envoy to the ceremony.
Federation of Sudanese Workers Trade Unions Stresses Necessity of Activating Relations of All-China Federation of Trade Unions With Africa And Arab World
The General Federation of the Sudanese Workers Trade Unions (GFSWTU) stressed the need to activate relations linking China, Africa and the Arab world with regard to Trade Unions, saying China is the largest economic partner and would be so reliable in achieving the demanded economic development. This came when a high-level delegation of All-China Federation of Trade Union (ACFTU) visited the premises of the GFSWTU where it was received by the Executive Office, headed by Prof. Ibrahim Ghandour.
5. Blogs, Opinions, Presentations and Publications
For South Africa’s workers, a Chinese-supplied job comes at a price
Call me Raymond, he says. He doesn’t want his real name known. He knows he could get into serious trouble for the illegally low wages that he pays his workers. Raymond grew up in China, found it too fiercely competitive, and came to Africa in search of easier opportunities. Now he owns a clothing factory, toils long hours and makes a steady profit – but only because he violates the law by paying below the minimum wage. “Here the people work too slowly,” he complains. “Even if they could get more money, they would rather drink beer or something.” Raymond is one of dozens of Chinese entrepreneurs who own clothing factories in Newcastle, an industrial town in an impoverished rural region of South Africa. With unemployment at nearly 60 per cent in the surrounding region, the factories have a steady supply of workers – but they’ve been condemned by unions for ignoring the wage laws.
China Can Help Africa Escape Colonial Legacy
Last month, some observers groaned loudly after a shooting incident at a Chinese-run coal mine in Zambia. They accused China of just being interested in exploiting Africa’s resources. But I always believe that time will tell if Chinese presence is good for Zambia and the whole of Africa. I was 10 years old when I saw a color film for the first time. It was not in a movie house. It was shown in a basketball field in a village in northern China. It was a documentary film about the groundbreaking ceremony for the Tanzania-Zambia Railway (TAZARA) in 1970. In the film, people were beating drums and dancing like the steps of a rhinoceros, powerful and spontaneous. It was also the first time I saw men and women dancing together, which was what impressed me most.
Algeria: American general visits
US Army Africa Commander Major General David R. Hogg has praised the 'leading' role of Algeria in fighting terrorism in the Sahel region. Speaking at a 6 December press conference after his two-day visit to the country, the US military official lauded the 'impressive progress' that has been made. 'AFRICOM and the Algerian armed forces are co-operating, and that is the objective of the visit. We are here to discuss what we can learn from one another,' Hogg emphasised.
CAR: Fair elections key to stability
General elections in the Central African Republic (CAR) next year will be a crucial step towards restoring stability to the country through a democratic process, but the polls must be free, fair and transparent, the United Nations envoy to the African nation has told the Security Council. 'The UN and our international partners have provided considerable technical and financial support to the Independent Electoral Commission entrusted with the implementation of the electoral process,' said Sahle Work-Zewde, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General to CAR.
Egypt: Elections a comedy against the background of rights violations
The parliamentary elections in Egypt have seen the large victory of the ruling National Democratic party (NDP), amidst massive frauds reported by election monitors and the withdrawal of the main opposition parties in the run-off. According to prominent Egyptian political analysts, the NDP’s candidate selection process was marred by internal discord and suffered lack of sophistication, as the party allowed almost 800 candidates for 508 seats, with many candidates competing against each other in 'open constituencies', while preventing party members whose candidate applications were unsuccessful from leaving the NDP to run independently.
Egypt: President should dissolve Parliament
'Serious challenges now strongly surround the legitimacy of the People's Assembly if it is formed according to the announced results of the parliamentary elections held on November 28 and December 5,' says this statement from the Independent Coalition for Elections' Observation. 'The elections were full of widespread violations that brought Egypt at least 15 years back. The elections were held in a political environment characterised by restrictions on public freedoms in a manner that does not allow for free and fair elections.'
Eritrea: Djibouti sees Eritrea President as 'lunatic'
The Foreign Minister of Djibouti, in talks with the US Embassy, called President Issaias Afwerki of neighbouring Eritrea 'a lunatic'. He also revealed Eritrea opposes any real Somali peace talks. According to US Embassy wires leaked by Wikileaks, Djibouti's Foreign Minister Mahamoud Ali Youssouf in April 2008 widely distrusted the government of neighbouring Eritrea.
Ivory Coast: AU backs talks not sanctions
The African Union does not favour sanctions for now over a disputed presidential election in Ivory coast and will instead stick to quiet diplomacy, the Union's top security official said on Sunday. A row over who won an election on 28 November has left Ivory Coast, the world's top cocoa producer, in a state of paralysis with the president and his rival running parallel administrations, and many people fear an outbreak of violence. World leaders and regional bodies have recognised opposition challenger Alassane Ouattara as winner of the election on the basis of results from the election commission, which were backed by the local UN mission charged with certifying the vote.
Ivory Coast: Rival Ouattara tells Gbagbo to leave
The man widely recognised as winner of Ivory Coast's disputed presidential poll has said incumbent Laurent Gbagbo must concede power to allow for talks. A spokesman for Alassane Ouattara said he did not oppose dialogue but no talks could take place until he was recognised as president by everyone. The African Union has suspended Ivory Coast while Mr Gbagbo stays in office.
Sudan: Former rebel SPLM backs independence for south
The governing party in southern Sudan - the SPLM - has for the first time publicly backed independence for the south, ahead of next month's referendum on the issue. The statement is at odds with the terms of a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of civil war with northern Sudan. In that deal, the SPLM and the north's governing party, the NCP, agreed to work for unity.
Zimbabwe: Tsvangirai says no election without referendum
Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has said that elections could not take place in his country without reforms and a constitutional review, despite President Robert Mugabe's threat to call one next year. Tsvangirai formed a power-sharing government with Mugabe after disputed 2008 elections, and both promised to work together to reform the Constitution and organise a referendum to approve it before new elections.
Kenya: Corruption costs government dearly
The Kenyan government has said it could be losing nearly one-third of the national budget to corruption. Finance ministry officials told a parliamentary committee the losses could be nearly $4bn (£2.5bn) a year. They said individuals were taking huge sums meant for development projects.
Mali: Graft pauses Mali health aid
Three projects fighting malaria and tuberculosis in Mali have seen their international funding suspended as government found 'evidence of misappropriation and unjustified expenditure'. This was reported by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the world's dominant financier of programmes to fight these diseases.
Nigeria: Bribery charges filed against Dick Cheney
Nigeria has filed charges against former US Vice-President Dick Cheney over a scandal involving a former subsidiary of Halliburton energy firm. The case, brought by the country's anti-corruption agency, centres on engineering firm KBR, which admitted bribing officials. Cheney's lawyer has called the allegations 'entirely baseless'. Cheney was Halliburton's chief executive before becoming vice-president to George W Bush in 2001.
Zimbabwe: WikiLeaks documents show illicit diamond deals
The illicit diamond trade in Zimbabwe has led to the murder of thousands, enriched those close to President Robert Mugabe and been financed in part by the central bank, according to US documents on WikiLeaks. In the classified documents that date from before the unity government came to power, US diplomats cite a well established British mining executive as saying those close to Mugabe, including his wife, 'have been extracting tremendous profits' from the Chiadzwa mine in the eastern part of the country.
Africa: EU-Africa’s summit plans left in tatters
The build-up to the 29-30 November Africa-EU summit in Libya often felt like two continents perfecting their best laid plans. In the end, constant deviation from the script highlights why Europe-Africa relations require smaller, firmer steps rather than big, oversized strategic ambitions. The conference adopted a modest focus - investment, jobs creation and economic growth – but was dodged at every turn by assorted thorny issues, including Europe’s perceived economic bad-faith.
Nigeria: UN seeks development ‘synergies’ along border
United Nations officials have launched development efforts to help communities affected by a Nigerian-Cameroonian boundary settlement that saw several border modifications, including Nigeria’s transfer to Cameroon of the oil-rich Bakassi Peninsula. At the request of both Governments, the UN country teams (UNCTs) in the two nations met during a meeting chaired by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative for West Africa Said Djinnit in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, to identify ways to create development programme synergies along the border, including in Bakassi and the Lake Chad area.
Sudan: Dividing the debt
This paper contributes to ongoing discussions about the role of Sudan‘s $35 billion in external debt obligations – both for a unified Sudan and a possible Southern secession. First, it examines Sudan‘s existing debt dynamics and the potential eligibility for traditional debt relief and multilateral debt relief initiatives. Second, it outlines potential options for dividing Sudan‘s external debt obligations in the event of a Southern secession.
Zimbabwe: Huge debt burden threat
As Zimbabwe slowly staggers from an unrestrained decade of economic recession, the country’s huge debt burden totalling about US$7 billion in external arrears presents an albatross around the nation’s neck. Figures recently released reveal that of the public and publicly guaranteed debt of US$6,4 billion as of 31 October, US$4,7 billion is in arrears. Put simply, every Zimbabwean owes external creditors US$500.
Zimbabwe: Small scale gold miners seek support
Small-scale gold miners have implored Government to support them to enhance productive capacity to ensure optimal use of the vast claims they hold. The small miners said they had capacity to produce about 1,2 tonnes of gold every month if supported with adequate financial resources and equipment.
DRC: Disease fears due to insecurity
Health officials’ fears that insecurity and a lack of resources could lead to fresh outbreaks of preventable diseases are being proved painfully accurate in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Polio - thought to have been eradicated in DRC five years ago – has made a frightening reappearance in Central Africa. The World Health Organisation has officially recorded 139 cases in the country this year, but poor data collection means many more may have been missed.
Global: New UN-backed rapid test could transform tuberculosis care and control
The United Nations World Health Organisation (WHO) has endorsed a new rapid test for tuberculosis, which it says could revolutionize the way the disease is tackled by providing an accurate diagnosis in about 100 minutes, compared to current tests that can take up to three months. 'This new test represents a major milestone for global TB diagnosis and care. It also represents new hope for the millions of people who are at the highest risk of TB and drug-resistant disease,' said Mario Raviglione, Director of WHO's Stop TB Department.
South Africa: Babies malnourished when they die
At least a third of South African children who died in 2007 were severely malnourished and a further 30 per cent were underweight for age while on average over half were known or suspected to be HIV infected. These and other statistics are contained in the 2010 South African Health Review (SAHR), an annual measure of the country’s health status.
West Africa: New vaccine for mass campaign against meningitis
More than 20 million people will be vaccinated between now and the end of the year in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger as a mass vaccination campaign using a new conjugate vaccine unfolds across West Africa. Manufactured in India, MenAfriVac offers health authorities a powerful weapon against a deadly disease. Meningitis is an infection of the membrane that surrounds the brain and spinal column. It is most prevalent in a region known as 'the meningitis belt', which extends across sub-Saharan Africa from Senegal in the west to Ethiopia in the east.
Liberia: ‘Up Jumps a Girl Into the Book’
The latest UNESCO figures show just five out of ten Liberian women over the age of 15 can read or write. For men it is six out of ten. The West African country now has one of the lowest literacy rates in the world, ranked in the bottom fifteen according to UNESCO. 'Standing before you, my name is Erica. I am nine years old. I go to the Christian Ministry Fellowship international school,' says Erica proudly. Erica is among a new generation of students in Liberia who are being taught to read using new techniques not seen in West Africa before.
Malawi: Students promised more elbow room
The announcement that 5,000 new classrooms will be built thanks to a $140 million World Bank loan would come as welcome news at the Chitowo Primary School – if only the children sitting on the floors, perched on doors and in windows, even taking lessons in the dust beneath trees in the yard could hear it. The school, which offers eight primary classes from Standard One to Eigh in Dedza district, a rural area in central Malawi, is bursting at the seams. It has 1,400 pupils and only five classrooms.
Uganda: Makerere phases out 80 departments
Makerere University has phased out 80 departments following its move to become a collegiate institution next academic year. The 88-year-old institution had 22 faculties, schools and institutes but will now operate under eight colleges and two schools after the University Council approved the recommendations last month. James Okello, the deputy academic registrar in-charge of Senate, said the current structure was overloaded and the new development would help fight red tape, reduce duplication of roles and optimise the available resources.
Uganda: Residents threaten to lynch suspected homosexuals
Security of two suspected gay persons arrested and released from Makerere and Wandegeya police posts in Uganda is a major concern since Mitchell Hall Gradens’ residents, where they were arrested, believe lynching would be the perfect solution to stop their alleged homosexuality. Eye witnesses claim that the two were found engaging in ‘homosexual activities’ at around 10pm on Wednesday 8 December. 'The person who found them, known only as Tamale, called other hall residents and they arrested the two. The mob wanted to lynch them but the Hall security intervened and the two were taken to police,' Adrian Jjuuko of Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum Uganda (HRAPF) stated.
Zimbabwe: Police action at Bulawayo march condemned
'GALZ deplores actions by the Zimbabwe Republic Police against Sexual Rights Centre, members of the LGBTI community and activists at a recent event organised by Musasa Project to mark 16 days of activism in Bulawayo. The uninformed and arbitrary decision to ask these members to leave the event
only serves to reinforce the bigotry and discrimination of sexual minorities at a platform where organisations such as these are working tirelessly to eradicate sexism and its effects.'
STATEMENT ON 16 DAYS OF ACTIVISM EVENT IN BULAWAYO ON 1 DECEMBER 2010
6 December 2010
On 1 December 2010 a group of around thirty sex workers and LGBTI members took part in a march organised by Musasa project in Bulawayo to Mark the 16 days of Activism Against Violence Against Women under the banner of Sexual Rights Centre. After the march, the group gathered at the large city hall, Police ordered the group to leave the venue of the commemorations because ‘homosexual acts are against the law in Zimbabwe, they could not be present at this event.’
GALZ deplores actions by the Zimbabwe Republic Police against Sexual Rights Centre, members of the LGBTI community and activists at a recent event organised by Musasa Project to mark 16 days of activism in Bulawayo. The uninformed and arbitrary decision to ask these members to leave the event only serves to reinforce the bigotry and discrimination of sexual minorities at a platform where organisations such as these are working tirelessly to eradicate sexism and its effects.
Rape and violence of women and children including lesbians and sex workers is on the increase in Zimbabwe and unfortunately the challenges of sexual minorities are not recognised as serious challenges deserving of attention. In situations where such communities stand up to highlight their plight, the police should ensure that sexual minorities freely participate on such platforms that highlight human rights violations.
We also call on the Police to respect and uphold the rights of citizens as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as their actions run contrary to the principles of the declaration.
South Africa: Author's comments spark outrage
Award-winning South African author Annelie Botes recently revealed in an interview with the Rapport newspaper that she dislikes and fears black South Africans. Her comments have sparked outrage and debate. Commentaries like 'Hands off Annelie Botes' by Andile Mngxitama (http://www.mg.co.za/article/2010-12-01-hands-off-anneli-botes) and 'Hiding in a Cave' by Pierre De Vos (http://constitutionallyspeaking.co.za/hiding-in-a-cave/) have led to a discussion about race and racism in the country.
Africa: As world warms, southern Africa swelters
Africa will be amongst the hardest hit regions of the world as the climate heats up, threatening the continent’s food security, experts agree. If global temperatures rise 2.0 degrees C, southern Africa will warm an additional 1.5 degrees to a 3.5-degree increase on average. Such temperatures could be reached as early as 2035.
Algeria: Renewable electricity plan mooted
Algeria will launch a program of renewable energy development over the next 20 years, expected to increase its production of electricity from alternative sources such as solar or wind, Algerian Ennahar newspaper said on Monday. President Abdelaziz Bouteflika on Sunday ordered the government to present to the Council of Ministers in 2011, a 'genuine national development plan of new and renewable energy'.
Global: Climate talks end with modest steps
The world's governments agreed on Saturday to modest steps to combat climate change and to give more money to poor countries, but they put off until next year tough decisions on cutting greenhouse gas emissions. The deal includes a Green Climate Fund that would give $100 billion a year in aid to poor nations by 2020, measures to protect tropical forests and ways to share clean energy technologies.
Global: Indigenous people the missing delegate at Cancun
As nearly 200 delegates gather at the Conference of the Parties in Cancun, Mexico, writer Dennis Martinez points out that Indigenous peoples and their advocates have no official seat among nations, and yet have experienced the worst impacts of climate change. To solve the problem, delegates of the wealthy nations have a climate-mitigation plan of choice - carbon offsets embodied in a program called Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD). But for healthy and stable ecosystems, Martinez finds that it fails to measure up to an overlooked method: continued indigenous stewardship.
Global: Summit ends without solving climate puzzle
A driving force of the UN-led negotiations for years has been the effort to attract the private sector, offering more and more opportunities for business in the still nascent 'green economy'. The inclusion of carbon capture and storage (CCS) systems among the financeable mechanisms for reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases is one example of that trend. But many environmentalists and scientists believe that the carbon market is getting ahead of itself. 'It is a further way of moving away from renewable energies, moving away from mitigation, to some kind of technology that would not solve the problem,' Nigerian Nnimmo Bassey, chair of Friends of the Earth International (FOEI), told Tierramérica.
Global: The equitable sharing of atmospheric and development space
In the quest for an international climate agreement on actions to address the climate change crisis, three aspects have to be the basis simultaneously: the environmental imperative, the developmental imperative, and the equity imperative, says this December policy brief from the South Centre. This formula requires that the different pieces of the climate negotiations be seen and addressed as a whole, in a holistic way. In particular, setting the global goal for emission reduction has to take account of the environmental imperative. A global carbon budget of how much more emissions should be allowed between now and 2050 should be fixed, and also how that budget should be allocated especially between developed and developing countries.
Global: World Bank drawing in climate funds?
A much awaited November report from the UN high level advisory group on climate change finance (AGF) drew criticism for recommending an increasing role for multilateral development banks (MDBs). The noise generated by the report also highlights concerns about the development of a new climate fund hoped to be decided in Cancun, additional trust funds announced at the Bank, and the continued roll-out of the Bank-housed climate investment funds (CIFs).
Senegal: Senegal in talks to lease farmland to Saudi Arabia
Senegal is in talks with Saudi Arabia to lease farmland to grow food of an area nearly four times the size of Manhattan, an official in Senegal involved in the deal told Reuters. Like other wealthy Gulf states Saudi Arabia has been buying farmland in Asia and Africa to secure food supplies after inflation had nearly doubled the price of food in 2008.
Zambia: Saudi businessman plans to invest in fruit farm
A Saudi Arabian investor plans to invest in a 5,000 hectare farm and a fruit-processing plant in Zambia, the African country’s Finance Minister Situmbeko Musokotwane said. The contract will be signed in the next three months for the land, which will be leased, Musokotwane told reporters in Riyadh at a conference today. He didn’t identify the Saudi investor.
Africa: Africa can be food self-sufficient, study says
African nations can break dependence on food imports and produce enough to feed a growing population within a generation despite extra strains from climate change, a study said last Thursday. About 70 per cent of Africans are involved in agriculture but almost 250 million people, or a quarter of the population of the poorest continent, are undernourished. The number has risen by 100 million since 1990.
Africa: Developing countries must ‘double’ food production
Food production will have to increase by 70 per cent to feed the expected world population of 9 billion by 2050, says a report released by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). Agricultural output in developing countries will have to double, the report says. This will have to be done when rural poverty is still widespread across many developing countries.
Mali: Urgent need for improving food security
The urgency and importance of all humans having a right to food security was spelled out by the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights stating that 'everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food...' Inhabitants of Bamako, Mali do not yet benefit from these rights. Mali is amongst the one of the poorest countries in the world. With a population estimated at about 1,8 million people, Bamako the largest city and capital of Mali and it is currently believed to be the fastest growing city in Africa.
Niger: Herders fight the cost of livestock lost
Bacharou Gorel had 300 head of cattle before the food security crisis began in Niger. Today he has only 53 left. From Tilabéri in the west, through the central region of Maradi, and into Diffa in the far east of the country, no region has been spared this massive loss of livestock, according to Harouna Abarchi, from AREN (the Association for the Revival of Livestock in Niger), a non-governmental organisation based in Niamey, the Nigerien capital.
Cote d’ Ivoire: Media regulator bans foreign media from covering political crises
The National Council for Broadcast and Communication (CNCA), a media regulatory body in Cote d’ Ivoire on 2 December 2010 issued a directive banning all foreign radio and TV channels in the country from covering the ongoing political crises in the country. Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA)’s correspondent reported that the CNCA announced the ban in a communiqué read by its secretary general, Félix Nanihio, during a news broadcast on state-owned TV at 20 hours GMT.
Global: IFJ condemns US WikiLeaks backlash
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has condemned the political backlash being mounted against the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks and accused the United States of attacking free speech after it put pressure on the website's host server to shut down the site. The website's host Amazon.com blocked access to WikiLeaks after United States officials condemned the torrent of revelations about political, business and diplomatic affairs that has given people around the world unprecedented access to detailed information from United States sources, much of it embarrassing to leading public figures.
Global: WikiLeaks exposés are a 'wake-up call for powerful regimes', says APC director
The WikiLeaks Cablegate affair is making it clear to governments that they cannot so easily control what is secret and what is not, said Anriette Esterhuysen, executive director of the Association for Progressive Communication (APC), the world’s longest-running online progressive network founded in 1990. If governments respond rationally, they will realise that it is cumbersome and expensive to keep information secret in a connected networked world and that they should only incur this expense when really necessary, she elaborated.
Morocco: Morocco eyes gender equality in media
Moroccan women are acutely underrepresented in the media sector, according to a recent report. National Moroccan Press Syndicate (SNPM) data show that women constitute just 26 per cent of journalists in the country. The SNPM revealed in its 23 November study that 1,755 men hold a professional journalist card from the Ministry of Communication, as opposed to 632 women.
Somalia: Press freedom prize goes to Somali radio station Radio Shabelle
Reporters Without Borders has awarded its 2010 Press Freedom Prize to two symbols of courage, the jailed Iranian journalist Abdolreza Tajik and the embattled Somali news radio station Radio Shabelle. 'This year we are honouring a courageous journalist, Abdolreza Tajik, and a beleaguered radio station, Radio Shabelle,' Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Jean-François Julliard said. 'These laureates work into two countries, Iran and Somalia, where reporting the news is a constant battle.'
South Africa: New Age newspaper finally hits the streets
The New Age newspaper has finally hit the streets, with editor Henry Jeffreys launching into whether it was an African National Congress (ANC) mouthpiece. 'Contrary to popular [mainly the media] opinion - we are not The New Agent,' read a strapline preceding his maiden editorial.
Algeria: Kidnapping, drug trafficking dominate AQIM activities
When the name al-Qaeda is mentioned in the Maghreb, it is often connected to kidnapping, drug trafficking or the robbing of a bank. This link between organised crime and terrorism has become so strong that some experts now claim that rather than committing crimes to finance terrorism, al-Qaeda now uses terrorism as cover for their criminal activity.
CAR: Clash-displaced need urgent help, says UN
Thousands of people who fled a 24 November rebel attack in the northeastern Central African Republic (CAR) town of Birao, Vakaga Province, urgently need humanitarian assistance, says a UN official. 'The whole population, about 8,000, stayed a week in the bush, with no access to drinkable water, no protection from mosquitoes...' said Jean-Sébastien Munie, head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), in the CAR.
Djibouti: Blackwater cleared to kill pirates
The government of Djibouti permitted the controversial private US security firm Blackwater 'to operate an armed ship from the port of Djibouti' and to 'use lethal force against pirates'. The permission was given in February 2009, it is revealed in a cable from the US Embassy in Djibouti, published by WikiLeaks.
Morocco: Many killed in Morocco rains
At least 30 people have been killed in Morroco following torrential rain and floods. The dead included 24 people who were killed on Tuesday after their bus fell into a flooded river near Bouznika city, 40km south of the capital Rabat, police and the official MAP news agency said.
Sudan: Arm militia to contain LRA, say local leaders
Southern Sudan should arm the local Arrow Boys militia to protect civilians in Western Equatoria State (WES) against possible attacks by remnant Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) fighters during January’s referendum on secession, say local leaders. 'We’ve told the government, "Let [the Arrow Boys] be trained and armed, and they will defeat the LRA, and when the LRA dies, the Arrow Boys will give back the weapons",' Western Equatoria governor Joseph Bakosoro told IRIN.
Sudan: Government says SLA a target
Sudan's army has said that rebel leader Minni Minnawi's Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) - the only Darfur insurgent group to sign a peace deal with Khartoum - is now a military target. Any clashes between the army and the SLA would be a severe major blow to Darfur's stalling peace process, with other rebel groups sceptical of Khartoum's willingness to honour any accord they may sign.
Global: Wouldn't you like to have a low bandwidth version of Skype?
Recently launched was a 'bespoke, low-bandwidth version of Skype for use in 120 hardship locations served by UNHCR staff members around the world'. Many newspapers and blogs picked up on it, including Guardian Tech, Mashable, and the LA Times. Many friends directed me to it, knowing that I am always interested in tech developments in Africa. Unfortunately, 'bespoke' (I had to look it up) means designed and produced for particular customers. So that means this version of Skype is only available to UNHCR staff. It will not be available to anyone else for the foreseeable future - even if they live in places with slow Internet access.
Tanzania: Corruption tracker system newsletter available
In the issue, you will find progress on the controversial purchase of radar for Tanzania and an exclusive media investigation linking Tanzania’s politicians to money laundering. There is also an article on corruption and poaching in Tanzania and an exposure of how some government agencies may be flouting the law to engage in questionable commercial dealings.
Global: New manual on human rights-based approach to programming
Harvard School of Public Health and UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, will release a new manual on 9 December on how to apply and promote human rights in all development work - including in humanitarian emergencies and difficult contexts. Designed for use by development workers and others, the manual provides practical tools for designing and implementing a human rights-based approach, and illustrates the benefits of using such an approach in development work.
Judges wanted for child essay contest
Men and women of African descent are wanted to judge essays written by children, aged seven to 16 years, from across Africa and the African diaspora for 'The Annual Essay Contest for Children of African Descent 2011'. Essays are written in English, French, Portuguese, Spanish and Sesotho. Judges wanted for all these languages. See how bright our children are as they tackle such issues as media censorship, biotechnology, corporate front groups and abuse of science, food sovereignty, corporate abuse, racism, ethics and respect.
Visit: 'Essay Contests' at http://www.lornajones.net/
Contact: [email protected] or [email protected]
New reference tool for women human rights defenders
AWID has compiled a useful reference tool for women human rights defenders, in collaboration with the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition. The compilation lists research materials dealing with the security and protection of defenders, resources that women activists can consult concerning their wellbeing and self-care, manuals dealing with how to document and monitor violations of women’s rights, as well as manuals on the rights and mechanisms available to women human rights defenders at risk.
Out of Africa: A night to celebrate short films by Kenyan filmmakers
Submission deadline: 15 December 2010
The Women in Film International Committee is pleased to present 'Out of Africa: A Night to Celebrate: Short Films by Kenyan Filmmakers' being held at Universal Studios, in Los Angeles, California USA, on 5 March 2011.
The Women in Film International Committee is pleased to present 'Out of Africa: A Night to Celebrate: Short Films by Kenyan Filmmakers' being held at Universal Studios, in Los Angeles, California USA, on March 5th, 2011. Through a diverse program of short films, the Women In Film International Committee's 5th short film series will celebrate and support the creative talents of Kenyan/ Kenyan-American filmmakers. Every filmmaker has a unique perspective on their culture and their world. The films selected both narrative and documentary, will provide views into the psyche of these communities and deepen the understanding of Kenyan life, lands, and cultures. The short films shown at this special event are the apexes of an entire evening of artistic expression.
All films in the festival should have representation by someone of Kenyan descent in one of the key filmmaker positions - director, producer, scriptwriter, cinematographer, and/or lead actor. The films can come from any place in the world. Please find a call for entries forms and the submission guidelines attached. Additional details may also be found on the following website: http://wif.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=645&Itemid=443
The Submission deadline is December 15th, 2010. There is no submission fee.
Filmmakers in Kenya may drop off submissions at the Kenya Film Commission (information is in the submission packet). All submissions are to be mailed to Women In Film, Los Angeles. Films’ run time must be between 1 minute and the maximum of 30 minutes. The films are not limited to topic or genre. All entries must either be in English or contain English subtitles. Non-English entries submitted without subtitles or with supplementary printed translations will automatically be disqualified. A filmmaker can submit more than one short film for consideration but you have to complete a separate submission form for each film in order for each film to be considered.
There may be an opportunity for filmmakers to attend the event as guests of Women In Film. Travel is NOT guaranteed. Appointments for travel visas are available at respective U.S embassies between January 20, 2011 to January 31st 2011. ONLY selected filmmakers are to receive invitations letters from Women In Film. Those not selected should ensure cancellation of their appointments.
A filmmaker may submit more than one short film for consideration, but has to complete a separate submission form for each film. Selected filmmakers are required to provide an artist biography as well as promotional stills from their films for the program.
For any questions please contact Emily Butali at [email protected] .
Out of Africa - A Night to Celebrate: Short Films by Kenyan Filmmakers- Produced by Wanjiru Njendu
About Women In Film
Women In Film (WIF) is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping women achieve their highest potential within the global entertainment, communications, and media industries and to preserving the legacy of women within those industries. Founded in 1973, Women In Film and its Women In Film Foundation provide for its members an extensive network of contacts, educational programs, scholarships, film finishing funds and grants, employment opportunities, mentorships and numerous practical services in support of this mission.
About Women In Film, International Committee
The Women In Film International (WIFI) Committee fosters interactive cultural bonds with other countries by discovering, promoting and supporting the efforts of entertainment professionals (especially women), throughout the world. Our programs include panels on co-production, screenings and participation in international film festivals. Networking does not stop at our borders so WIFI also serves as a resource for foreign consulates, film boards, visiting filmmakers and dignitaries.
AfricaAdapt Climate Change Symposium 2011
9-11 March 2011, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
If you are a researcher, policy-maker, donor, NGO or community representative, share your knowledge and experience at the AfricaAdapt Climate Change Symposium 2011. This landmark event is Africa-focussed and free to attend.
AfricaAdapt Climate Change Symposium 2011
Linking Climate Research, Policy and Practice for African-led Development
9-11 March 2011, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
If you are a researcher, policy-maker, donor, NGO or community representative, share your knowledge and experience at the AfricaAdapt Climate Change Symposium 2011. This landmark event is Africa-focussed and free to attend.
Submit a paper to AfricaAdapt on one of these five themes:
1. Roles of local and indigenous knowledge in addressing climate change.
2. New thinking on community-led responses: from local to global.
3. Roles of media and intermediaries in translating, sharing, and advocating.
4. National and international policy: linking policy and practice.
5. Links between adaptation, mitigation and low carbon climate-compatible development.
Deadline for submission 3 January 2011.
Space for creative exchange
This three-day bilingual (French/English) symposium explores evolving approaches, tools, methods and philosophies exploring links between the changing climate and sustainable development across Africa. Come and participate in an exciting space for creative new exchanges and collaboration between African research, media, policy, and community practitioners.
Funding opportunities are available
Visit www.adaptation2011.net to find out how AfricaAdapt can help with your participation costs.
Proposals should be submitted as an abstract, maximum 300 words, by 3 January 2011. A committee comprised of members from the symposium sponsors will assess submissions and draw up a shortlist for extended proposals. Please e-mail abstracts and/or questions by e-mail to: [email protected] Full details can be found at www.adaptation2011.net and www.africa-adapt.net
I & EAR: Audio media literacy, acoustic education and production
A skills training programme for audio media literacy & enhanced communication
‘I & EAR’ is a mobile training programme and adaptable educational service based on a methodology of listening developed through a creative practice by Claudia Wegener (a.k.a. radio continental drift). It assists conceptual development of communication & conversation practices through acoustic education and production.
Summer school on governance and development
Mozambique, 4-8 April 2011
The Mo Ibrahim Foundation in association with SOAS and the Centre of African Studies-University of London is organising a Summer School in Mozambique in April 2011 on the topic of ‘Governance and Development in Africa’. The residential school is for 25 participants who are policy makers, academics, researchers or civil society representatives from any African country who will gain, through this training, new ideas and knowledge on the broad issue of governance and development.
Fahamu - Networks For Social Justice
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