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      Pambazuka News 527: Popular organising: The victory of dignity over fear

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

      Pambazuka News (English edition): ISSN 1753-6839

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

      Highlights from this issue

      ZIMBABWE UPDATE: Zanu-PF militia blamed for village burning
      WOMEN AND GENDER: Reproductive rights violations equal to torture, says paper
      HUMAN RIGHTS: Ugandan gay rights activist wins award
      REFUGEES AND FORCED MIGRATION: Nato leaves migrants to die of thirst and hunger
      EMERGING POWERS NEWS: Latest news about China, India and Africa
      ELECTIONS AND GOVERNANCE: News from Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tunisia and Uganda
      DEVELOPMENT: African FDI growth benefits few, says report
      HEALTH AND HIV/AIDS: Benghazi seeks way out of health crisis
      LGBTI: Organisations condemn murder of Noxolo Nogwaza in South Africa
      ENVIRONMENT: ‘We cannot command nature except by obeying her’
      LAND AND LAND RIGHTS: Videos available from land grabbing conference
      MEDIA AND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION: The 10 tools of online oppressors
      CONFLICT AND EMERGENCIES: News from CAR, Libya, Morocco, Sudan and Tunisia
      PLUS…Internet and Technology, e-newsletters and mailing lists, fundraising, courses and jobs…


      'Walk to work' and lessons of Soweto and Tahrir Square

      Mahmood Mamdani


      cc A M F
      In this presentation to the Rotary International District Conference in Munyonyo, Mahmood Mamdani links events in Tahrir Square to the 1976 Soweto uprisings in South Africa. This is a the full text of the speech.

      In this presentation at the Rotary International District Conference in Munyonyo, Mahmood Mamdani links events in Tahrir Square to the 1976 Soweto uprisings in South Africa. Unity in struggle is one of the common factors. This is a the full text of the speech.

      Those of you who come from outside may have heard of a novel form of political protest in Uganda called ‘Walk to Work’. Both the opposition that has taken to walking and government that is determined to get them to stop walking are driven by the memory of a single event.

      The memory of Tahrir Square feeds opposition hopes and fuels government fears. For many in the opposition, Egypt has come to signify the promised land around the proverbial corner. For many in government, Egypt spells a fundamental challenge to power, one that must be resisted, whatever the cost.

      Matters have reached a point where even the hint of protest evokes maximum reaction from government. So much so that a government, which only a few weeks ago came to power with an overwhelming majority, today appears to lack not only flexibility, but also an exit strategy.

      For civilians, supporters and skeptics alike, the sight of military resources deployed to maintain civil order in the streets has come to blur the line between civil police and military forces as those in power insist on treating even the simplest of civil protest as if it were an armed rebellion.

      If government is losing the coherence and unity that it displayed during the elections, the opposition is beginning to find at least a semblance of unity and vision that had evaded it during election season. If you keep in mind that many in this opposition, many of those who had been in the last Parliament, were complicit in every major turn for the worse when it comes to governance, then you marvel at the nature of this shift.

      How can it be that some of the same opposition that only yesterday saw Parliament as a passport to patronage and licence to pillage, are discovering resolve and moral courage even though there is no election in sight and the times are, if anything, hard? This single thought is the source of contradictory popular notions, both skepticism and optimism, when it comes to politics.

      My purpose today is neither to celebrate the opposition nor to demonise the government. I want to talk about the memory that seems to be driving many in the opposition and haunting many in government. That is the memory of Tahrir Square. It is not too much of an exaggeration to say that the great Egyptian revolution began in Tunis. Where will it end? A decade from now, will we think of it as a local, a continental or a global event? How should we understand its significance today?

      Historians admit that there is no single objective account of any event. The account depends, in part, on the location of the observer. For many in Europe, the events in Tunis and Cairo were evidence that the colour revolutions that began in East Europe with the fall of the Soviet Union are finally spreading beyond the region.

      In East Africa, there was a flurry of discussion after Tahrir Square, mainly in the press. Many asked whether the Egyptian revolution will spread South of the Sahara. And they responded, without a second thought: No! Why not? Because, media pundits said, sub-Saharan societies are so divided by ethnicity, so torn apart by tribalism, that none can achieve the degree of unity necessary to confront political power successfully.

      This response makes little sense to me. For this answer resembles a caricature. Nowhere in the history of successful struggles will you find a people united in advance of the movement. For the simple reason that one of the achievements of a successful movement is unity. Unity is forged through struggle.

      To make this point, and a few others, I want to look at the democratic revolution in Egypt in the context of a longer history, a history of democratic struggle on this continent. I want to begin with an event that occurred more than three decades ago in South Africa. I am thinking of the Soweto uprising of 1976, which followed the formation of independent trade unions in Durban in 1973. Together these two developments inaugurated a new era in the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa. Soweto was a youthful uprising. In an era when adults had come to believe that meaningful change could only come through armed struggle, Soweto pioneered an alternative mode of struggle.

      This new mode of struggle substituted the notion of armed struggle with that of popular struggle. It stopped thinking of struggle as something waged by professional fighters, guerrillas, with the people cheering from the stands, but as a movement with ordinary people as its key participants. The potential of popular struggle lay in sheer numbers, guided by a new imagination and new methods of struggle.

      The significance of Soweto was two-fold. First, as I have already said, it replaced belief in power of arms with the discovery of a greater power, that of a people organised in the face of oppression.
Second, Soweto forged a new unity - a wider unity. Apartheid rule had split South African society into so many races (whites, Indians, Coloureds) and so many tribes (Zulu, Xhosa, Pedi, Venda and so on) by putting each under a separate set of laws, so that even when they organised to reform or remove the law in question, they did so separately. In this context came a new person, Steve Biko, a visionary leader at the helm of a new movement, the Black Consciousness Movement.

      Biko’s message undermined apartheid statecraft. Black is not a colour, said Biko. Black is an experience. If you are oppressed, you are Black. This was a revolutionary message - why? The ANC had spoken of non-racialism as early as the Freedom Charter in the mid-50s. But the ANC’s non-racialism only touched the political elite. Individual White and Indian and Coloured leaders had joined the ANC as individuals. But ordinary people remained confined and trapped by a political perspective hemmed in narrow racial or tribal boundaries. Biko forged a vision with the potential to cut through these boundaries.

      Around that same time, another event occurred. It too signaled a fresh opening. This was the Palestinian Intifada. What is known as the First Intifada had a Soweto-like potential. Like the children of Soweto, Palestinian children too dared to face bullets with no more than stones. Faced with feuding liberation movements, each claiming to be a sole representative of the oppressed, the youth of the Intifada called for a wider unity.

      Even though the Egyptian Revolution has come more than three decades after Soweto, it evokes the memory of Soweto in a powerful way. This is for at least two reasons.

      Embracing violence?
 First, like Soweto in 1976, Tahrir Square in 2011 too shed a generation’s romance with violence. The generation of Nasser and after had embraced violence as key to fundamental change in politics and society. This tendency was secular at the outset. The more Nasser turned to suppressing the opposition and justifying it in the language of secular nationalism, the more the opposition began to speak in a religious idiom. The most important political tendency calling for a surgical break with the past now spoke the language of radical Islam. Its main representative in Egypt was Said Qutb. I became interested in radical Islam after 9/11, which is when I read Sayyid Qutb’s most important book, ‘Signposts’. It reminded me of the grammar of radical politics at the University of Dar es Salaam where I was a lecturer in the 1970s.

      Sayyid Qutb says in the introduction to ‘Signposts’ that he wrote the book for an Islamist vanguard; I thought I was reading a version of Lenin’s ‘What is to be Done’. Sayyid Qutb’s main argument in the text is that you must make a distinction between friends and enemies, because with friends you use persuasion and with enemies you use force. I thought I was reading Mao Zedong ‘On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Amongst the People’.

      I asked myself: how should I understand Sayyid Qutb? As part of a linear tradition called political Islam? Is the history of thought best understood inside containers labelled civilisations; one Islamic, another Hindu, another Confucian, another Christian, or, alternately, one European, another Asian, yet another African?

      Was not Sayyid Qutb’s embrace of political violence in line with a growing embrace of armed struggle in movements of national liberation in the ‘50s and ‘60s? Was not the key assumption that armed struggle is not only the most effective form of struggle but also the only genuine mode of struggle?
      The more I read of Sayyid Qutb’s distinction between Friend and Enemy, that you use violence to deal with an enemy and reason to persuade a friend, the more I realised that I had to understand Sayyid Qutb as part of his times.

      No doubt, like the rest of us, Sayyid Qutb was involved in multiple conversations: he was involved in multiple debates, not only with Islamic intellectuals, whether contemporary or of previous generations, but also with contending intellectuals inspired by other modes of political thought.

      And the main competition then was Marxism-Leninism, a militantly secular ideology which influenced both Qutb’s language and his methods of organisation and struggle. The first significance of Tahrir Square was that it shed the mark of Syed Qutb and the romance with revolutionary violence.
      The second resemblance between Soweto and Tahrir Square was on the question of unity. Just as the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa had uncritically reproduced the division between races and tribes institutionalised in state practices, so too had the division between religions become a part of the convention of mainstream politics in Egypt.

      Tahrir Square innovated a new politics. It shed the language of religion in politics, but it did so without embracing a militant secularism that would totally outlaw religion in the public sphere. It thus called for a broader tolerance of cultural identities in the public sphere, one that would include both secular and religious tendencies. The new contract was that to participate in the public sphere, you must practice an inclusive politics with respect to others.


      * Prof. Mahmood Mamdani is the director of the Makerere Institute of Social Research.
      * This article first appeared in the Daily Monitor.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      Glimpses of the Tunisian revolution: The victory of dignity over fear

      Part one

      Giuseppe Caruso


      cc Teolangthang
      In the wake of Tunisia’s inspiring revolution, Giuseppe Caruso offers reflections on his involvement in a recent ‘solidarity caravan’ to the country.

      ‘You can tear a flower but you can’t stop spring from coming!’
      (An activist in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia)

      The African Social Forum, continental chapter of the World Social Forum (WSF), has convened a solidarity caravan across Tunisia from 1 to 5 April to meet the women and men that ignited the transformations that now affect several countries in North Africa and the Middle East. Dubbed by mainstream media the Arab Spring (though it started in December), the wave of protests started in Tunisia spread like wildfire through Egypt, Algeria, Morocco and on to Yemen, Bahrain, Oman, Saudi Arabia (briefly, or so it seems) Syria and Libya. The Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings and the ousting of their dictators have given a distinctive flavour of exhilaration and hope to the latest World Social Forum held in Dakar from 6 to 11 February.

      Gathering around the vision of Another World is Possible, 70,000 activists from over 100 countries convened in the Senegalese capital for the 9th global convention of the world largest transnational activist network. In the eleven years since its inception, the WSF has gathered over 10,000 civil society organisations and social movements and in excess of a million participants in its global events in Brazil, Venezuela, Mali, Dakar, Kenya, Pakistan and India.

      After the closure of the Dakar event, the WSF International Council plenary meeting was opened by a revolutionary song performed by a Tunisian activist. The song was accompanied by the rhythmic clapping of the moved audience. Following the touching words of an Egyptian activists still shaken by the news of Mubarak’s resignations (coinciding with the closing ceremony the day before), and after a wealth of vibrant remarks by activists from the four corners of the planet that the Arab intifadas had returned hope to a global movement battered by the consequences of the latest global crises, the International Council expressed the unanimous wish to show support to activists in North Africa with a symbolic caravan to the first country to oust its dictator, Tunisia indeed.

      Thirty-four civil society and movements activists from 13 countries and three continents joined the conveners of the African Social Forum. We were hosted by the Union Générale de Travailleurs de Tunisie (UGTT), the largest Tunisian trade union, whose role was instrumental in the success of the Tunisian intifada. What follows are some reflections inspired by my participation in the solidarity caravan.


      The first day the caravan was welcomed by the UGTT. The support given by the UGTT to the revolution enabled it to spread and eventually succeed. The union, while infiltrated by the state and the ruling party, managed to keep alive workers’ aspirations towards participatory economic democracy and those aspirations were key in supporting the demands and the aspirations of the Tunisian revolutionaries. However, it would be misleading to consider it as a coherent body. Its internal complexities, its previous relationships with the regime and its current ideological, political and religious differences, its multiple visions of the future and of the paths to fulfil them make of the UGTT a network of ideas, people and resources that represent the complexities of the wider Tunisian society.

      In Mohamed Ali Hammi square, where the headquarters of the UGTT are located, we were welcomed by trade union, women, human rights and student activists belonging to Association Tunisienne de Femme Democrates, Ligue Tunisienne pour la defence des Droits de l’Homme, Ligue des Auteurs Libres, Union generale des etudiants Tunisiens, Associacion Tunisienne Contre la Torture, Association de Jeunes pour la Continuation de la Révolution, the Student Union and El Taller. We expressed our admiration and solidarity and we offered our support and the promise to carry their stories, their struggles and their aspirations with us and share them in whatever ways we could as our commitment to contribute to imagine and construct a better world, more just and equal, each of us in the places where we live and work. We also explained that we wished to explore the viability of a regional and continental Social Forum in Tunisia to celebrate the revolution and support the transition.

      The most vivid images of that first day, though are of a demonstration of a few thousand people that we crossed path with shortly after leaving the UGTT headquarters. The demonstration that passed in front of the National Theatre paraded in front of us and continued towards the Kasbah where it settled into what became the Kasbah 3 sit-in. It followed the successful Kasbah 1 and 2 that called for the change of the interim governments that followed president Ben Ali’s departure still tainted by members of the previous regime. As I write critical reflections are being developed of the disappointing outcome of Kasbah 3 which demanded the exclusion of the current Interior Minister from the provisional government.

      After mixing and mingling with the demonstrators, pedestrians, café goers and passers-by of the Avenue Bourguiba were returned to their passionate daily activity, political discussion. Hundreds of people, mostly men in the central section and more mixed groups at the tables of the surrounding cafés gathered, as they do daily since January, and groups formed and reformed to discuss the topic of the day, the Interior Minister, the arrogance of the current Prime Minister, the members of the former ruling party still involved in current politics, along with broader ideological, pragmatical and aspirational issues regarding the future of the revolution, the transition process and its goals.

      Those conversations can be breathed everywhere in Tunisia, as I experienced in the following days they impregnate the Mediterranean and the desert breezes. But the perspective over the buzzing Boulevard, as it disappeared behind the bus that took us to our next meeting, was impressive, it looked like an open air forum burst, blossomed, out of decades of repression. Enthusiastic citizens discussed and negotiated their differences, exchanged their experiences, disagreed vehemently, even shouted their frustration and disappointments contributing to give form to their visions and inspiring in each other actions and daily practices towards the establishment of a new society.

      Those receding images of the demonstration, commented by the Tunisian friend with us on the bus, told an important story, despite differences, challenges and the titanic tasks demanding fulfilment, the utmost joy felt by all in Tunisia is that talking politics is indeed fine, that expressing one’s ideas, negotiating them, discussing them, and demonstrating for them is not repressed any more. The demonstrators in Bourguiba Avenue were not only pursuing a very specific political objective, the reinstatement of the former interior minister or at least the replacement of the current, they were also showing their pride at having conquered the right to demonstrate freely.


      The following day we visited Kasserine. On the outskirts, a burnt furniture shop, a smashed police van and a service station, its windows in tatters, welcomed the travellers. We stopped shortly after at the central square, where we introduced ourselves to some of the youth who, literally, made history. The young people we spoke to had friends arrested, beaten, killed during the demonstrations or were themselves hurt and maimed by police and security forces brutality. Seventy of them lost their life in the revolution but that was not enough to stop the tide of change. Today the permanent sit-in in Kasserine demands the jobs, the justice and the dignity those girls and boys died for. No less. And they are prepared, they tell us, to fight more if necessary. They can’t stop now, they owe it to their legitimate aspirations and to the memory of those who died.

      Later, we were received at the local UGTT branch. In a large hall, over hundred people gathered to welcome us. In the intense atmosphere made hazy by the smoke of cigarettes inhaled with anxiety and pain, mothers, sisters, fathers, brothers and friends told us their tragedies, their losses, their suffering, their fight, their hope. In a more intimate setting on the third floor of the big building, we met later with others who lost their beloved and cried for justice, who were tortured and demanded their rights.

      I spoke to a lawyer of the lawyers’ union whose role was instrumental in backing the youth in the streets in the hottest days of the revolution. She was sitting next to me. Considering what I heard, the pictures I saw, the crying that could move mountains she told me she understood my dismay. Few metres to my left the sister of one of the youth killed in January was holding the wet hands of one of us and the mother of another victim of the revolution is drying the tears of another. To my right the lawyer keeps talking, maybe to help us both fight our ghosts. She says that it is not so difficult any more, it wasn’t at the beginning either now that she thinks about it, and it wasn’t throughout. She says ‘once you see death right next to you, you fear no more’. And at the beginning it was not courage, it was despair that moved the bodies of those marching against baton charges and live bullets.

      Fear has not disappeared she adds, ‘fear is with us every single minute of our life’, inflicted on Tunisian people by 23 years of dictatorship and exacerbated by distance and marginalisation. She also tells me about the distance from Tunis and the utter abandonment to which the Western districts have been subjected for decades: ‘only the international press has come here, and now you.’ ‘The Tunisians dislike us deeply, they always did, what you find here around is what the French left. They do not respect us, they do not want us, thankfully there is the Algerian border so close, we get everything from there and cheaper.’

      Later that day I ask a union activist, beaten up by the police and who had to spend days in hospital while the revolution won and Ben Ali departed, how can the fear that paralyses become the fear that can’t be stopped. He told me, he was smiling, that ‘fear is a daily sentiment that has become part of mine and everyone’s life, but fear can be beaten. It is an inexplicable feeling when you face, fight and win your deepest fears.’ There was no emphasis in his voice, as if he were explaining the simplest occurrence in any individual’s existence. Later that evening I repeated to myself those words while I stared in the eyes of the sunset beyond the mountains towards Algeria.


      The revolution started in 2008 in the mining district of Gafsa and discontent increased until the fire that burnt Mohammed Bouazizi ignited the youth first and then the whole country. Recently the fabric of Ben Ali’s authoritarianism was wearing thin and tearing. The regime had become more brutal and less sophisticated, it had become sclerotic and unable to adapt. Its violence and repression, its only way to keep control, eventually doomed itself. It was humiliation that ignited Mohammed Bouazizi. The humiliated dignity of a vegetable seller whose livelihood was destroyed by abusive public officials, was every youth’s and then every Tunisian’s humiliated dignity. His pain was everyone’s pain and the irresistible empathy that his tragic protest generated produced the final outburst which escalated and could not be stopped. The repeated violation of the youth’s sense of autonomy, self-respect and integrity sparked the revolution. When such horizons of personal representations are denied and when lying to oneself about the real conditions of one’s existence becomes impossible the trauma is such that even dying is acceptable and burning oneself up a viable protest.

      In Sidi Bouzid, the expanses of white and purple daisies framed the whitewashed building of the regional hospital. Inside lay a young man who immolated himself to protest against the unjust arrest of his brother. Outside, his mother cried and cried against a background of gardens and olive trees running against the horizon. She held hands as if those hands were his son’s life. Come, she said, see what they have done to us, let people know, let justice, wherever she is, know and ask her to visit this forsaken corner of the world.

      Earlier at the headquarters of the UGTT we met some of those who are striving to channel the revolution towards achieving its goals, who are attempting to transform the sheer power of people into jobs and political influence. The youth not too far, shy and suspicious, tell some of us that some of the people in the big room are not true allies, not honest souls. Some of them were members of Ben Ali’s regime, they still reminded everyone how the union was infiltrated, controlled, repressed.

      Later, in an olive grove, eating a banquet of sheep meat and salads dripping the delicious olive oil of the region, we asked each other with incredulity how we could tell the genuine from the demagogic and the demagogic from the outright false among the rhetoric that seemed to express the same discourses of liberation and the same aspiration to justice and development for all? This was not the first time that youth in sit-ins, in squares far from the ears of trade union leaders told us in whispers to open our eyes to avoid to be deceived. In Kasserine, a group of young unemployed with whom a few of us stopped to discuss demands (jobs) and dreams (a passage to Europe), told us that there was no trust in those who wanted to use the dead girls and boys for their political advantage. Few steps away from us, as in the square of Sidi Bouzid, some of them are on hunger strike until their demands are fulfilled. All they wanted was jobs and they would not have played the politics game.

      We visited, that third day of our caravan also the town of Rgueb were local activists showed us their contribution of blood and life to the freedom of their people. On the bus towards the hotel we compared notes, we talked endlessly. We talked politics, experiences, analyses, theories, anything that could deafen the screams of the dead teenagers shot by snipers a few meters above their heads. I had seen some of the pictures and videos, but it was only when I saw the size of the buildings in Kasserine and Sidi Bouzid that I perceived the magnitude of the atrocity. Snipers shot from positions no more than five metres above the street level. It was not the impersonal videogame-like killing that snipers seem to evoke. Those men and women from the roof could see the eyes of the girls and boys they chose to annihilate.

      We also discussed the role of media and technology in supporting activists. Facebook was in everyone’s mouth, Al Jazeera’s journalists were praised for their courage and dedication (though, some told us, ‘in the long run we can’t forget they are islamists’). But while nobody denied the supportive role of new social media, the general understanding was that though they helped they were certainly not the determining factors pace the international media (perhaps too eager to stress how western technology democratizes the world). Activists in Sidi Bouzid told us something else. They explained to us their sophisticated street strategy. They used cellphones to create zones of pressure and release in lightening-fast succession to disorient the police who ended up running around the town like headless chicken. It was the knowledge of the town down to its tiniest alleyways that won the control of the city, no Facebook or other social media could have been fast enough, they stress, or provided the strength and the courage necessary.

      RAS JBER

      At the refugee camp of Ras Jber we arrive early afternoon on the fourth day. The blazing sun that welcomes us makes the little market, the tents, our bus and everything else sparkle against the yellow sand and the blue sky. It is a beautiful corner of the southern Mediterranean marked now by 150,000 stories of loss since the explosion of the Libyan conflict and by the five thousand souls running from war and persecution without a place to go. We meet the authorities of the camp, the representatives of the Tunisian army, of IOM and UNHCR. They all tell us that while the limitations are common to refugee camps and inevitable in situations of this kind, there is something unique in this crisis, the hospitality of the local population. So impressive the sentiments of hospitality and their logistical skills in distributing, before the camp was even built, food, water, blankets, that two hundred of them have become UNHCR volunteers in recognition of their work.

      Coincidentally, while we were introduced to the hospitality of the people of south Tunisia, the Italian Prime Minister and his delegation met their Tunisian counterparts in Tunis to discuss an agreement on the migrant crisis which involved shutting down Italy and Europe and send back the thousands deluded migrants who thought hospitality was one of the values of a continent that likes to preach to the world cosmopolitan ideals. If those migrants knew that in Italy a debate rages on the extent to which the boats that carry them, in which they risk their lives and die by the dozens, can be shot at to prevent their landing on national shores!

      We roam around the camp, moving from one side to the other to meet with different people. We meet a football player from the Ivory Coast, a group of Nigerians forgotten by their government, and some citizens from Chad and Niger who wonder why all the others are coming and going and they are still there. Later we are told that the availability of funds to repatriate those whose governments are not providing the flights is limited and their processing time longer than anyone would desire. At least they know they will make it home at some point. For the two thousand Somali currently at the camp, there is nowhere to go, though UNHCR is starting the process to assess their requests of asylum.

      At night we stop at a family run restaurant on our (long) way back to Tunis. We share songs, some dance, we eat excellent food and we stare at the sea metres away from our table. At the end the Italian contingent of the delegation can’t find a better way to thank the hosts than sing Bella Ciao and to our surprise not only hand-claps followed our tune but versions of Bella Ciao in many languages. Every activist in the world, someone said, knows the song of the partisan who died for freedom. In Tunisia those words have a special resonance these days.


      A visit of short length can achieve only a sketchy portrait of a gigantic work in progress in which rubbles are moved from one side to the other and new relations and institutions are built in its midst as outcome of multiple tensions and conflicts of which only a few are evident to the superficial gaze of a solidarity traveller often unaware of the specificities of the local cultural and social context. Moreover, during those days driving across the whole length and breadth of Tunisia, life rolled over us at a very fast pace, too fast to be able to take stock. With some distance, images crystallise into coherent tales and tales suggest meanings, inspire analyses, suggest answers to questions and raise questions to answers trying to portrait the building of a new Tunisia.

      A key challenge encountered by many in representing the Tunisian revolution (and more broadly the unrest sweeping through the whole region) has been constituted by banal stereotyping and versions of negative and positive Orientalism. The awed surprise that welcomed the events of Tunisia, and soon after Egypt and the others, was constructed on the widespread misconception about the inability of the people of the MENA region to affect real change and be agent of their own emancipation from oppressive rule. Such misrepresentation is based on limited knowledge and preconceptions, political propaganda, Orientalism and outright racism.

      Ben Ali himself (and Mubarak and the other dictators of the region as well) looked with contempt at his own citizens and considered them too unsophisticated to be entrusted with democracy or any agency over their social and economic destiny. The consequences of his behaviour, his demise, his ousting, his near escape, could be interpreted as a wider warning to the elitist, the racist, the Orientalist. This revolution may have already changed the stereotypes of the submissive, agency deprived, Arab. But as the transition processes develop they may contribute to the elaboration of new democratic practices whose resonance exceeds the national boundaries and make the Tunisian youth rise to the secular Pantheon of historical revolutionaries. And those young activists, more than anything else, feel proud for returning their countries to global history not as dependent or slaves but as empowered actors in the process of negotiating values and institutions of a truly cosmopolitan planet. As an activist in Regueb said ‘we welcome relationships with Western partners’, but, he explained, he has in mind ‘an equal relationship, not one based on charity’ with activists, intellectuals and NGO members rather than governments. He envisaged a horizontal collaboration to build a cosmopolitan project from the ground up, defined while ‘walking’ together rather than a-priori, a-historical projections of conviviality, morality and human nature.


      ‘We want justice, equality, freedom’
      (Women’s rights activist, Tunis)

      It seemed possible at times, in Kasserine and Sidi Buzid for instance, to feel that it was all so clear and simple. Jobs, is what all demanded, and dignity. Dignity and work, though, became more complex tags when unpacked. Then justice was added to the initial demands and retribution for the repression, the killings, the torture. And then development and equality. And emancipation. Emancipations, in fact. It is only by freeing themselves from the many slaveries that bind them that the youth of Tunisia aim at achieving their goals, jobs, dignity, justice, development, democracy. It is for freedom that so many of them lost their lives.

      Freedom from the dictator, from oppressive and exploitative political and economic systems, from ideological hegemonies, from shrewd political manipulations, from the embodiment of class, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sexuality. There are other ways in which their demands are framed, other discourses, other semantic horizons in which their aspirations are articulated. There is one for each interlocutor and context (as it is the case in complex revolutionary networks of ideas, actors and values). Activists in Tunisia know that the same goal needs to be achieved in relation with the multiplicity of discursive and material spaces in which they live. So they talk also of civil and political rights as immediate demands and the rule of law, new fair and transparent electoral laws, institutional openness, right to form political parties and to demonstrate, a responsive government and human rights sensitive police. They demand development and equality and, as the youth I spoke to in the central square of Kasserine, ‘a job and a normal life’. It is the apparent simplicity of this demand that can be misleading. This is not a simple demand, ‘a normal life’ is the most complex of all demands and the difficulties to achieve it does not elude them. The tension between the simplicity of its formulation and the obstacles in achieving it is what motivated the hunger strikers in Kasserine and Sidi Bouzid, they know they are entitled to a normal life and they will get it come what may.


      * Part two of this article is available here.
      * This article was originally published on Giuseppe Caruso's blog.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      Glimpses of the Tunisian revolution: Challenges, transformation and politics

      Part two

      Giuseppe Caruso


      cc Magharebia
      Following on from part one of his article on the Tunisian revolution, Giuseppe Caruso continues his reflections on a recent ‘solidarity caravan’ in the country.


      Some suggested that the youth in Kasserine and Sidi Bouzid are less politically wise than the youth in Tunis. Some suggested that decades of marginalisation from the rest of the country and economic and political privileges in the capital have generated profound social and human imbalances. One consequence of these imbalances, it is alleged by some of our Tunisian interlocutors, is that the youth in the most deprived areas are easier to manipulate and subject to launch themselves in unrealistic and unsophisticated political actions, like the hunger strike demanding immediate jobs to all unemployed the chances of success of which are nil beyond the actual will of local and national authorities. Others observed that the revolution has to avoid reproducing among allies the marginalisation and the elitism of wider society in order to avoid creating an unbridgeable gap between activists on the basis of alleged political and cultural sophistication defined in exclusive terms.

      These reflections raised a related issue, the relative poignancy of the analytical category of ‘the youth’. This category while highlighting the existential ordeals encountered by an entire generation in establishing themselves as active and productive members of a society, in constructing a family and, eventually, contributing to the reproduction of their society, it also obliterates multiple social and individual differences. Age is not enough to understand the dynamics at play in Tunisia. Regional and class imbalances, play a crucial role along social and political capital, culture, ideology, religious convictions and practices, gender and others yet. While the youth in Kasserine stressed repeatedly they did not want to be implicated in political battles played on their behalf by people who they did not trust, in Tunis a member of the student union said instead that they were struggling to ignite a ‘deep social transition’ aimed at ushering ‘a world devoid of capitalism and classism’. He added ‘we revolted against an economic pattern because we want Tunisia for all Tunisians’. It was not all, he saw many Western activists in his audience and he implicitly sent a message across to those who are anxious about the prevalence of religion in the new Tunisian society: ‘as far as religious ideologies are concerned, we say that we won against Ben Ali and we shall win against all dictatorships and totalitarianisms’.

      There is also one further issue to consider along with cleavages, tensions and other differences as they are perceived in among the Tunisian youth. The context of the communication plays a crucial role in formulating the code of the exchange between local activists and travellers. In the square we spoke with some of the local youth. In Tunis a broader audience and a more formal event elicited a more self-conscious performance and defined the agenda of the speaker. While this observation is so obvious to be almost banal, it has large repercussions on the way a visitor is exposed to nuances and complexities of a huge transformative process involving an entire society. On the cultural politics of representation I will say a few more words in the post scriptum to this text. While the range of demands, discourses and ideological frames is so broad and differentiated so too are the political and pragmatic approaches to action for change.


      The debates on practices of change revolve around several alternative or articulated approaches including transitional justice, workers struggles, revolutionary democratic fronts, insurgent practices, civil disobedience, representative politics.

      A member of the student union in Tunis regarding practices of change commented that as union ‘we distinguish political work from union work.’ Further, he said ‘We want to have a political party for the working class’, it would be one of the 51 registered political parties in Tunisia. Such blossoming of political parties witnesses the renewed hope of Tunisians in representative politics and the great differentiation that followed the victory against Ben Ali. A women’s rights and union activist commented that the best way to pursue a democratic and energetic struggle is to ‘create a progressive democratic front to avoid the return of despotism and defend mutual respect and the principles of the revolution.’ In the spirit of connecting the Tunisian struggle with that of people from other regions a UGTT delegation will travel to Brazil to explore ways to form a party like the PT (Worker’s Party). And the representative of the Brazilian CUT reflected on how useful it could be to share the Brazilian experiences in solidarity economy, cooperative, family farming and small business with the local activists.

      While the confidence in the democratic system is widespread, some activists highlight how democratic processes need to rest on strong foundations in order to be successful. The presence of many elements of the former regime, at the level of the districts, regions and indeed in ministries, professional and even sport organisations calls for a continued vigilance. A rather more insurgent strategy of change is articulated by some in the left and among the youth and, some suggest, also among religious activists.

      The role of women in developing, articulating and practising methodologies of change has been greatly influential in the revolution. An activist in Tunis expressed in the following way her take on change and practices of transformation ‘we are for the internationalisation of the revolutions to fight against savage capitalism’. Another woman suggested transitional justice, and another still suggested a combination of long term healing processes with constitutional developments and representative politics. The crucial role of women has been recently acknowledged by the Supreme Council for the Defence of the Revolution which has adopted, on the 11th of April, a law on the election of the constituent assembly whose article 16 established the principle of gender parity in all lists that will be presented for these elections. The importance of this achievement can’t be overstated. As all women’s associations noted, it is a unique opportunity for Tunisia and sets an inspiring example for the entire region.

      Some, mentioning the experiences of transition in Spain, Portugal, Chile and East Europe suggest transitional justice as a longer, more complex and more sophisticated way to deal with prolonged injustice under an authoritarian regime that used abuse, intimidation, harassment, torture and corruption to define relationship of power and distribution of resources. While drafting this report I follow a streaming from Tunis of the International Conference on Transitional Justice attended by some of the people we met in Tunisia. Justice and dignity, democracy and accountability, while resonating of profoundly human components are treated as processes whose length and developments are slow, hardly predictable and involve a wealth of actors whose influence exceeds often the national and the regional boundaries. In the elegant conference hall where practitioners, academics, civil society activists met, welcomed by the education minister of the current caretaker government, mention is made repeatedly to the epochal changes sparked by the Tunisian Revolution and to the difficult tasks ahead. Whereas the dictator has fled, justice has yet to be apportioned, institutions need to be developed and democracy and equality are far from being achieved.


      ‘Nothing has changed, here they are all the same as before, thieves and corrupt’
      (Youth activist in Kasserine)

      The multiplicity of demands, actors and practices is perceived by some as political and strategic fragmentation and a potentially damning weakness. Whereas they achieved a quick and resounding success, the revolutionary forces are now facing a long process of transition full of ordeals and challenges. Such challenges come from the international sphere, from the national context or are indeed internal to the revolutionary front.

      According to some activists, the international agents and institutions of capitalism and imperialism are trying to destroy the Tunisian revolution and set back the advances it has inspired in Tunisia and in the whole MENA region. Moreover, news have been circulated that intelligence services are entering the country to stop the revolution as a trade union member warned the audience in Tunis. The dictatorships of North Africa were widely supported by Western governments who found in those strong men reliable allies and a convincing weapon against the spread of the much feared Islamist movement. But the fear of Islamic radicalism has an internal dimension in Tunisia.

      Islamism’s growing influence and assertiveness not only concerns Western commentators and governments, it does also concern Tunisians who are concerned about the risk of currently minor forces stealing the revolution. As a human rights activist told me: ‘I can understand why Western people keep asking about the risk of Islamization: I live with them and I’m scared by them. I can only imagine how scared people must be who do not know how this people think and act’. A leader of the UGTT remarked, at the meeting in Tunis, that ‘Tunisia is no Pakistan and in no way will it become like Iran. We have a tradition of living in democracy and we know that mosques are places of worship not politics. We are secular and we believe in the rule of law.’

      But Islamism is not the only challenge faced by the Tunisian Intifada. As many activists mentioned, though the dictator has be chased away it is necessary to transform the dictatorship. The people who represented Ben Ali’s power in society are still in their positions as governors, judges, university deans and rectors, even as union leaders. Those networks of power are still not only firmly in control of their positions but closely connected and resisting the changes ushered by the institutionalisation of the revolutionary efforts. They work in the dark, plot, resist and they could launch a full-fledged counter-revolution.

      There are also internal challenges to the revolutionary movement. There exist tensions between those who want to go back to normality and those who want to fight for a full victory of the revolution and the achievement of a larger set of victories. Their opponents suggest instead that the time has come to revert to representative politics through free and fair elections and the work of the constituent assembly. There seem to be several differentiations developing between the once united activists. Now that the main enemy has been defeated, differences have space to flourish. Ideological, political, identity, class, etc. are developing at times in tension with each other and while many consider this a wealth of creativity to be fostered others consider such fragmentation a challenge to the same survival of the revolution as it exposes it to the return of powerful counter-revolutionaries.


      ‘This event, I believe, will change the world like WWII, it will lead to
      all sorts of institutional changes that will change the world.’
      (Women’s rights and trade union activist)

      What do recursive dynamics between demands, political practices, actors, resources and challenges suggest about the visions and the emerging paradigms of development towards a better world emerging in Tunisia? This question sparked engaging conversations among the members of the solidarity caravan and between us and the Tunisian activists we met or travelled with. This question raises issues of global solidarity, development and political models and sets the ground for the cooperation between activists from the four corners of the planet. The joint Secretary General of the UGTT, told us in Tunis about the vision and values of the UGTT: ‘UGTT’s cultural tradition is European and socialist which we influence with new blood.’ He further said that to achieve the international goals of Tunisian workers it is important to establish stronger ties with the international union movement and with unions in South America, South Africa and elsewhere in the global South.

      Just as coherent is the vision of human rights activists of a global democracy governed by human rights and the rule of law. Development for both strands of activist revolves around some version of sustainable growth. Values of cooperation and autonomy underpin the relationship between international partners. Cultural and religious specificities need to be inbuilt in the local instantiations of development aspirations and institutional configurations and all need to be tied to the broader fabric of economic globalisation and global governance. Some of these debates resonate with wider global debates and contribute to their deepening and broadening while linking them to local practices and to the demands and practices of the revolutionary youth. How this broadening and deepening will be influenced by the Tunisian contribution and will influence in turn the vision of the Tunisian transition is too early to see.

      At the same time younger activists than the seasoned unionists and human rights activists are developing visions of better futures and are learning politics the hard way after decades of silencing, terror, repression, fear and hopelessness. They submit their demands to mistrusted government institutions, they understand their failure in generating economic development and political accountability, they scale up, down, sideways their demands and their strategies, they win and lose and they go back to the drawing board. They discuss, deliberate and try again. Messy as such trial and error is, complex as the shifting allegiances and alliances, chaotic as the multiplication of strategies, ideologies, ideas, visions, desires, aspirations, this is what democracy looks like and this process promises the most inspiring outcomes.

      While listening to the praises many articulate of Bourguiba’s policies on education, one had the impression that Tunisian learning achievements are now entering a new phase outside of the classrooms of indoctrination and pedantic learning of useless ‘knowledge’, as doubtlessly illustrated by the high unemployment rate of graduates, and into the streets of relations and struggles, negotiations, differences, mediations. Knowledge, politics, culture, religion, dignity and aspirations, eventually met in the streets, emancipated by schools like jail, freed of the hopelessness of trust in something that is handed by a gracious government and empowered by success and failure, by action and thought, by deliberation and struggle, by trial and error by knowledge as it is, messy, dirty and bloody at times, rather than the sanitized and delusional knowledge imparted by any (more or less) tyrannical regime.

      In these diverse and complex senses, the revolutions in the MENA region may inspire new articulations between culture and religion, society, economy and politics. Such articulations are context specific and neither necessary nor inherent. Unique contributions to the global recipe are given by the Arab Spring as they are given by India, Indonesia, Brazil and the other democracies whose understanding and experience of the relationship between religion, economy and politics is unique rather than dictated by the ideological equation between secularism, liberal economy and democracy, outcome of a unique history that has not been, is not and will not be reproduced anywhere else in the world (pace stagist ideologists).


      Such an understanding of collaborative learning and building of shared visions across national boundaries, calls for solidarity on the basis of a multiplicity of articulations of democracy rather that a support to an uncritical reproduction of a reified (though eminently colonial) model of democracy which is not based on true recognition, does not support autonomy and self-determination (of individuals and communities) and eventually creates dependence and breeds resentment.

      This solidarity caravan and the meeting of the Maghreb Social Forum taking place in Tunisia from the 19th to the 23rd of April contributed to building the political argument for a regional social forum in Tunisia towards the end of the year to commemorate the first anniversary of the revolution and perhaps a World Social Forum in Tunisia or somewhere in the region. Our group expressed to the people we met our interest in linking their struggles with our work around the world and in particular through the work in and of the WSF. We might have used more time to discuss with the activists we met what they thought about the idea of a Forum in Tunisia, about the idea of forum, and about transnational activism. Those and so many other topics are left for the next visit to Tunisia.


      Whereas above I mentioned some of the limitations of international media’s representation of the struggle for recognition, dignity, freedom, jobs, democracy and development by the people of the MENA region, the notes that follow sketchily record the ‘being there’ of the political traveller and its influence on the representation of encounters and contexts in reports such as this one.

      The objective of the caravan as I mentioned above was twofold. On the one hand it aimed at representing and conveying the solidarity of the activists of the International Council of the World Social Forum and, on the other, to look, listen, record and report images and stories of the revolution and the transition that Tunisian people were undergoing. Both goals were fulfilled in haste; hugs and handshakes exchanged briefly; stories told quickly. The non-said, the non-communicated was the greatest part. Allusions and projections constituted the deepest content of the exchanges.

      Urgency travelled with the caravan and at each stop defined the spaces it settled in. Avid picture taking and video shooting, anxious interview recording of witnesses’ accounts, and all around the pain of victims and parents, relatives and friends that surpassed by many orders of magnitude what many of us thought they could express or hope to capture in our pictures, videos and audio recordings. The inevitable superficiality of much of the communication with the dozens of people we met and heard from came with a related limitation, reduced reciprocity. Both partners had to explain a lot to each other and spoke fast. We had to say who we were, what the WSF was, what our individual organisations did and stood for and why we were there. They had to tell us about the revolution, the hopes, the frustrations, the pain, the anguish, the rage, the visions, the dreams, the practices. There were moments nonetheless of deep engagements, but were inevitably exceptions. During the long drives across the country members of the caravans mentioned the deep connections they felt with that particular person, through those quickly exchanged lines, through just a hug or through the touch of the hands of a bereaved mother that cleaned tears from the face of one of us.

      In Kasserine and Sidi Bouzid we listened to a mother crying, to a mutilated young man, to a beaten up boy, to the sister of a heroic brother, she cried, she could not stop. We heard the story of the father of a killed teenager, and of the father of a 16 year old victim, a martyr. The voice of a guy with a broken foot resonated long after we left the room: ‘We gave everything, our blood, our life’. We discussed at length among ourselves our feelings, the impact of those stories and of the pictures of the dead bodies, of the portraits, of the unaware smiles that could not foretell the future. A member of our group, an Italian woman, told me ‘at least we women know how to express what we feel, we cry. Poor you.’ I made a note to self on my diary. Later I asked another woman that I saw crying in that room in Kasserine what she felt, how she found in herself the answer to what she saw, what was she telling herself while she looked at the rolling landscape outside the window. She told me ‘I hate what I saw and I hate how we behaved with our picture taking and all the rest.’ Later, we thought of a zoo and the recursive relationship between anxious display and ravenous voyeurism. I engaged in several such conversations in the following days and I confirmed that many of us tried to make sense of their feelings and their impressions while asking themselves and to each other how to tell the stories they heard and the images they saw without blinding them with their own feelings but without denying a healthy amount of reflexivity.

      There exist troubling implications regarding the ethics of such encounters that are perhaps too numerous and an incomplete list might be all there is space here. Political tourism raises contentious issues about the relationship between the visitors and the hosts and the representation of those relationships. There are also wider issues of context that escape the fleeting relationship to which political tourists are exposed. While heartfelt feelings about the issues addressed are here out of the question, the knowledge of the conflicts at stake might be both limited and oversimplified in symbolic codes that are not more than projections of the foreign observer which are then reproduced in a solipsistic space that while pretending dialogue, indeed reproduces a monologue of images that are selected on the basis of specific interests and emotional sensibilities fully rooted in the eyes of the beholder. Intense communications as many of us described those they established with Tunisian activists might not be a full replacement of long and engaged relationships that might engage and transform be transformative of the simplified symbolic codes and those projections that too often inform short activists’ encounters as the solidarity caravan in Tunisia. Consider also that many of us regularly repeated how little they knew about Tunisia, how ignorant they were of Islam and of the cultural and social dynamics of the region we were visiting, how limited their knowledge was of the pre-colonial, colonial, independence and post colonial histories of Tunisia.

      The performative set in which the panels of testimonies took place, in large meeting halls (two of them had stages and in one case the panel took place ‘on stage’), as in the headquarters of the UGTT where activists, generated further ambiguities and potential misunderstandings (the extent of which we might all be ignorant as we did not have the chance to exchange each others’ perception of ‘the other’). Indeed, wherever we travelled, victims, family members and friends gathered to provide the visitors with a narrative of the revolution and such performances involved multiple projections, not only those by the visitors’ about who the hosts were but also those of the hosts about who the visitors were and what their expectations were.

      I asked a woman, part of our group ‘why are we doing this if it challenges so many of our basic understandings of the ethics of mutually transformative human relationships and activism?’ She replied that ‘this [the activists’, victims’ and parents’ performance in the UGTT headquarters in Kasserine] responds to our own projections and desires about changing the world’. She later added ‘there is too much projection and very little listening’ in the way we interacted with our hosts. In this sense, then, the representations of what we saw and heard (such as this one) might be selective of those aspects that illustrate our ideas on what is necessary to change the world. We may indeed, have even contributed to reinforce the codification of a discourse and its ossification in performances that trap performers away from transformation. Performance of pain and loss to which we cried and reacted in dismay, performances of claims and demands that we applauded, descriptions of causes and effects that we subscribed to and visions that we embraced may have been responded in less than emancipatory ways. Of course, this might well be one further projection in which the assumption is the imbalance of power between ‘us’ and ‘them’ which I think, though, is illustrated if by nothing else by the fact that after the encounters ‘they’ went back to their lives of unemployed or bereaved family members and friends and ‘we’ moved on to our plush hotel and to our drinks by the poolside.

      The speed with which we met people, saw contexts, listened to stories and moved on to the next location to start over, might implicate some attitudes and beliefs that are incongruent with stated and implicit values of our caravan. Speed and connectivity indeed might be squarely positioned within neoliberal social and ideological coordinates. Speed and connectivity were the assumptions on which our caravan was constructed, according to which it is possible to report and represent social struggles through portraits and interviews and those may make the struggles resonate the world over via quick circulation over the Internet.

      There is also, one further risk deriving from the relative fleetingness of the relationships established in the few days of our permanence in Tunisia and from the relative ignorance of social, cultural and historical specificities of the region we visited. One is the risk of legitimising political discourses that we do not fully understand, let alone agree with, that we reinforce projections and imaginations that people have about us but we have no ways to negotiate. It was not always easy for us to understand the subtle politics between our direct hosts and their counterparts in the different places we visited. It was not possible to always understand how we were introduced and how we were described. It was never possible to know how we were perceived and how our relationship with our direct host and guide were perceived to be.

      One further caveat and recognition of the complexities involved in the representation of the revolutionary struggles and the transition that Tunisians are currently undergoing refers to the relationships that we built among members of the caravan, both Tunisians and visitors, only some of whom knew each other previously, and how the long conversations helped crystallise perceptions and thoughts into forms of more or less collectively built representations of what we saw during those days.

      Finally, personal, professional, activist and committed relationships among members of the caravan flowed into each other and challenged the boundaries between the different dimensions. This was undoubtedly one of the most inspiring aspects of the solidarity caravan which allowed us to chat for hours on end during the long transfers on the bus. We did, in fact, spend with each other more time than we spent with the activists we met. We compared notes, we told stories, we exchanged emotions, images, aspirations and visions of individual and global transformation. We talked about ourselves as it is only possible in such moments of shared emotional experience, as only long road journeys can inspire. But we also typed, wrote and shot pictures of the stunning views rolling out of the windows. There was a lot of singing too both on the bus and in a hotel in Gafsa. The performance of Marcel Khalife’s Rita and Fairuz’ Bektob Ismak, among many others, was simply unforgettable.


      * Part one of this article is available here.
      * This article was originally published on Giuseppe Caruso's blog.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      Tunisia: Another country

      Amanda Sebestyen


      cc Magharebia
      In Tunisia, the makers of the first Arab democratic revolution are organising for elections. It is not a passive process. Protests are called almost daily and have kept up momentum towards transforming a country rather than 'just' evicting a dictator who ruled for 23 years. On the sidelines, the old regime and its angry secret policeman are waiting; on the other side, well-financed religious parties will rise if the hopes of a generation are disappointed. Participating in a solidarity tour to Tunisia, Amanda Sebestyen finds a country of dedicated organisers, heights of suffering and generosity, and a dangerous neglect of the deprived heartlands where the uprising was born.

      An old woman in traditional country dress was sitting with her basket on the kerb of the grand Avenue Bourguiba in Tunis, offering me something I couldn't identify. It looked like a bunch of cotton buds, or maybe a rare form of miniature garlic.

      'Qu'est-ce que c'est?', I asked in my school French.

      'Meshmoum,' she said, and again more urgently, 'Meshmoum', offering the bunch to my nose.

      Jasmine! Tunisians take the buds and fix them to dried grasses to make the scent last a long time. I was smelling the Tunisian revolution.

      Next door the Interior Ministry – prime site for the mass movements of January – was ringed with razor wire. But the protest meetings had simply moved a few yards. On the steps of a Belle Epoque theatre, newly released political prisoners were addressing a crowd of men and women constantly breaking into small discussion circles. The chief demand was justice for those who had been killed in the uprising; an end to police impunity; arrest and trial not only for those who pulled the triggers but those who gave the orders. It was a demand I heard voiced with increasing desperation as we reached the heartlands of the interior.

      Our solidarity tour – organised for the World Social Forum and hosted by the Tunisian League of Human Rights and the General Union of Tunisian Workers (UGTT) – arrived in Tunisia midway between Stephen Twigg and Angelina Jolie. The MP was travelling (tourist class, I was pleased to note) with a delegation from the Westminster Foundation for Democracy; the actor, with her entourage, went to the refugee camps on the Libyan border, of which the Tunisian people are immensely – and so justly – proud.

      'We thought that the regime had eradicated every good quality we had', said student organiser Yousef Tlili. 'But when they had taken everything, we found there was one thing left – solidarity... When refugees from Libya arrived in the south of Tunisia there was such an immense burst of solidarity that there are still shortages of medicines and staple foods because people bought them to send south when they heard the refugees needed them. Each refugee that arrived – and there were 140,000 in the first week – was greeted by local people with a bottle of water, some bread and some coffee , giving them dignity. The International Red Cross said they had never seen anything like it.'

      In return, when Tunisians travel to Europe (not fleeing their revolution but taking up one of its new freedoms, escaping the draconian restrictions imposed by Ben Ali and Ghaddafi in return for bribes from Fortress Europe), the response of the EU is to threaten repatriation.

      The fabled hospitality and orderliness of the Tunisians – often mocked in the past by their more explosive North African neighbours, who now find themselves struggling to keep up – was much in evidence on our tour. Half the delegates were paid for by our hosts, who refused to take anything from us.

      Saida Garrachi, of Tunisia's main feminist organisation, the Association of Democratic Women, told us: 'We are inventing ourselves from moment to moment. Unexpectedly, this is "the first revolution of the 21st century". If we succeed we will encourage the rest – if we fail, the opposite. Islamists are active in the regions that were disadvantaged by the old regime, banking on their advanced organisation for the coming elections. This is a very fragile process. We need your international connections and solidarity to stop us skidding off track'. A new Tunisian Party of Labour aims to build democracy without falling into neoliberalism or religious bigotry. Its dedication to legality is amazing.

      As we approached Sidi Bou Zid, the town where the wave of revolution first gathered, I learned that the local union head had been so close to the regime that he'd called on police to arrest our host Fethi Ben Dbek of the UGTT as a dangerous agitator. Now the same man remains in office, though hopefully not in power; his members are waiting till the elections to get rid of him. His sidekick attempted to filibuster our meeting, but could not stand against the extraordinary intensity of feeling in the hall.

      Nejib Beyoui of the teachers' union told us how the revolution began when Mohamed Bouazizi, an unemployed graduate, set fire to himself on 17 December. 'But this was not the first time a young Tunisian had immolated himself. It happened earlier in Monastir [a developed coastal resort], but did not have the same results. Sidi Bou Zid has a long history of oppression. For years there had been different trade union struggles, and peasant farmers also rose up when a promised road was never built by the governor.

      'When Bouazizi burned, there was nowhere to treat his wounds properly. There's only one specialist burns unit, near Tunis. The next day we in the teachers', lawyers' and doctors' unions organised a Support Committee with demands for work and dignity, and for Bouazizi to be transferred to our nearest large hospital at Sfax.

      'We approached the administration which refused to answer. It was market day, and the town was full of people. The police unleashed unbearable clouds of tear gas; the canisters we collected were labelled "Made in USA". For the first two days, we teachers, doctors and lawyers stood in the streets getting gassed and beaten. The Tunisian media were banned from reporting anything, so we contacted France 24 TV and Al-Arabiya.

      'On the second night, young people initiated rolling protests though the different parts of town. A new tactic was to use mobile phones to call on their friends to make a distraction, and draw police away when they got too heavy in any one place. On the third day the governor fled. For 13 days the uprising was in Sidi Bou Zid alone, then it spread through the region via our union branches: Bouzeyen, Regueb, Jilma; and then over to the town of Kasserine.'

      This raises the question of how this revolution actually started. Tunis-based youth activist Ramy Sghaier – one of the main organisers of the Kasbah 2 sit-in which ousted the dictator's party and started to set up a new constitution – was definite on this point: 'I don't actually agree that the Internet was the heart of the revolution. The heart of the revolution was the willpower of all the Tunisian people, not just the young.'

      In Kasserine, known as 'the capital of martyrs', the square is festooned with desperate demands from unemployed graduates on hunger strike. As these – so often veterans of the uprising across the country – lie behind us with their PhDs, MAs and college diplomas laid out beside them, local lawyer Salma Abassi explains:

      'Fifty-two people were killed in Kasserine, 13 in this square. A local factory owner hosted snipers on his roof. We chose non-violence; the government ordered the army to shoot on the young people.

      'We invented the first political slogan of the Arab revolutions: "Ben Ali, degage!". There were no real parties here, the revolution was made by ordinary people and lawyers standing up. I took my three children on all the demonstrations, so they could get the political education I never had the chance to have at their age.

      'But from January till April nothing has happened in Kasserine. The revolution has brought no benefits for us. The National Assembly finally sent us a local representative, but living in Tunis! I am very angry still. '

      In the trade union hall of Kasserine – under pictures of past labour heroes Farhat Hached, assassinated by French settlers, and Habib Achour, twice imprisoned under Bourguiba's regime – a row of families and activists held up photos of young people who were killed. One family after another took the platform. ''The snipers who murdered my child are still not in prison'. 'We have had no compensation'. 'I don't want money, I want justice'. 'There is still no reply from the minister.' A mother, in tears: 'Every time I'm alone, every time I do the housework, I remember'.

      A young man called Nizar Ferchichi read a Manifesto for the unemployed graduates, ending: 'C'est l'agonie, le desespoir, Nous voulons l'espoir, la dignite. This is agony and despair - we want hope and dignity. Our symbol is solidarity. The revolution will continue, right to the end.' Munira Thibia, a small young woman from the poorest quarter, now famous for her bravery said: 'Guests, please take our stories and make them be seen all over the world'. Nizar's friend Nasri Charfeddine wants to start a local radio here, so that at last Kasserine can speak for itself instead of only being spoken about.

      Someone looking like an El Greco painting, tall and thin with huge eyes, makes his way with grace on crutches to the stage. His leg has been lost... Why are British soldiers being given the best prosthetics and medical help, when these nonviolent heroes – of a democracy we all claim to support – are being left to cope on their own? At our next meeting, I find myself standing up and promising to help. Either to bring a medical team here or to bring the injured to good hospitals in England.

      In the week after our visit, ministers visited both Sidi Bou Zid and Kasserine for the first time. (Flattering to imagine that our witnessing might have had any influence). Importantly, 80 per cent of development funds for this year are now to be allocated to the long-forgotten interior regions. Unfortunately at Kasserine the ministers stayed for only three hours, spending part of their time with officials from the former regime. Nasri is facing eviction, as rents rise and promised jobs don't arrive in time or in numbers.

      Meanwhile at Sidi Bou Zid, the unpopular Interior Minister was shouted down by striking policemen, demanding that the few officers arrested for implication in the killings should be released. Police have been have been in a menacing sulk for much of the time since Ben Ali left.

      At the seaside resort of Hammamet, policemen have virtually disappeared since local people stopped paying bribes. Yet I walked around many times at night and the town was utterly safe; a taxi driver explained how everyone looks out for everyone else. People are more philosophical here. 'The new policemen we can trust are still in the barracks being trained, and it takes time to track down the bad old ones and put them in prison.'

      I enjoyed the glorious beaches almost alone, many holiday companies having foolishly cancelled. A local bather taught me the words of Tunisia's republican Hymne Nationale, the stirring Risorgimento march I'd heard so often in buses and halls the length of the country.

      ‘When the people want life, Destiny must surely respond’ - (a sentiment disliked by the fundamentalist 'integristes', some of whom are even shopkeepers in this most unlikely of towns) -‘The night must end, And the chains be broken!’

      On my last day, the Tunisians slowly came out to play. Elderly women in white scarves, boys turning handstands, men selling melons and prickly pears, a female couple walking hand in hand along the sands; they came politely, in dozens rather than hundreds, and we're mad if we don't come back and join them soon.

      This was what Yousef Tlili meant, then, when he concluded his speech on the first day: 'In the course of this revolution I've discovered my country. I've travelled from the mountains to the desert, I've seen parts of my own home town Tunis which I never knew existed... We're discovering our culture; we're discovering the picturesque beaches and extraordinary landscapes which were reserved either for tourists or for "a certain person"....'

      That certain person. Ben Ali's old estate at Hammamet is so huge that you can't even see the palace from the gateway. Now it belongs to the army – or officially to the people. After the elections on July 24 we'll see who really is in charge.

      To help bring community radio to Kasserine:
      [email protected] or [email protected]
      To help bring medical help to Tunisians wounded and disabled in the revolution: [email protected] or [email protected]

      To see international accounts and images of the WSF 'Tour of solidarity with the Tunisian revolution':


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

      South Sudan: Rethinking citizenship, sovereignty and self-determination

      Mahmood Mamdani


      cc RFT
      Reflecting on the context behind South Sudan's exercise in self-determination and the potential sources of political violence following the country’s independence, Mahmood Mamdani explores Sudan's longer-term historical experience – the role of imposed administrative identities under the colonial system, migration, religion, slavery and the emergence of a politicised Islam – and the contemporary challenges around rethinking political citizenship.

      Whatever your point of view, it would be difficult to deny that the referendum on South Sudan – unity or independence – was a historic moment. Self‐determination marks the founding of a new political order.

      Nationalists may try to convince us that the outcome of the referendum, independence, is the natural destiny of the people of South Sudan. But there is nothing natural about any political outcome.

      Let me ask one question to begin with: who is the self in what we know as self‐determination? In 1956, when Sudan became independent, that self was the people of Sudan. Today, in 2011, when South Sudan will become independent, that self is the people of South Sudan.

      That self, in both cases, is a political self. It is a historical self, not a metaphysical self as nationalists are prone to think. When nationalists write a history, they give the past a present. In doing so, they tend to make the present eternal. As the present changes, so does the past. This is why we are always rewriting the past.

      To return to the referendum, the referendum is a moment of self‐determination. Not every people gets this opportunity. Not even every generation gets this opportunity. If the opportunity comes, it is once in several generations. It comes at a great price. That price is paid in blood, in political violence. It is fitting that we begin by recalling that many have died to make possible this moment of self‐determination. Let us begin by acknowledging this sacrifice, which signifies this historical moment.

      I do not intend this talk to be a celebration. My objective is more analytical. Rather than tread on firm ground, I intend to pose a set of questions – not so that we may answer them here and now, but as guidelines to how we may think of South Sudan in the days and months and years ahead. I will begin with five questions:

      One, how should those committed to Pan‐African unity understand the emergence of a new state, an independent South Sudan? What does it teach us about the political process of creating unity?

      Two, as we write the history of self‐determination, how will we write the history of relations between the North and the South, as the history of one people colonising another or as a history with different, even contradictory, possibilities?

      Third, how did the SPLA (Sudanese People’s Liberation Army), historically a champion of unity of Sudan, a new Sudan, come to demand an independent state?

      Finally, now that the SPLA’s political project has changed, to create a new state, this raises a different question: will the South establish a new political order, or will it reproduce a version of the old political order? The old state we know as Sudan? Will independence lead to peace or will peace be but an interlude awaiting a more appropriate antidote to ongoing political violence in Sudan?


      Like the self, unity too does not develop in linear fashion, in a straight line, from lower to higher levels, as if it were unfolding according to a formula. This is for one reason. Political unity is the outcome of political struggles, not of utopian blueprints. Anyone interested in creating unity must recognise the importance of politics and persuasion, and thus the inevitability of a non-linear process

      We often say that imperialism divided the continent. I suggest we rethink this platitude. Historically, empires have united peoples, by force. France created two great political units in Africa: French Equatorial Africa and French West Africa. Britain created two great federations – the Central African Federation and the East African Federation – and it created Sudan.

      These great political units split up, but that division was not at the moment of colonialism, rather, it occurred at the moment of independence. This was for one reason: the people in question saw these political arrangements as so many shackles, and struggled to break free of them.

      Unity can be created by different, even contradictory, means – it can be created by force, and it can be created by choice. This is why we need to distinguish between different kinds of unities: unity through bondage and unity through freedom. This is why a democratic position on African unity is not necessarily incompatible with a democratic right to separation, just as the democratic right to union in marriage is not incompatible with a democratic right to divorce.

      The OAU (Organisation of African Unity) had two provisions in its charter: the sovereignty of all states, and the right of all peoples to self‐determination. Most observers saw these as contradictory. I suggest we revise this judgment in retrospect.

      We need to rethink the relation between sovereignty and self‐determination.

      Sovereignty is the relation of the state to other states, to external powers, whereas self‐determination is an internal relation of the state to the people. In a democratic context, self‐determination should be seen as the prerequisite to sovereignty.

      There are, in the post‐colonial history of Africa, two great examples of self‐determination, of the creation of a new state from a previously independent African state: Eritrea was the first; South Sudan is the second. No state in history has agreed to cessation of a part. Cessation is always forced on a state. This is why we need to ask a question in both cases: how was cessation possible?

      Eritrean self‐determination was the outcome of two important developments, internal and external. Internally, it was the outcome of a struggle lasting nearly four decades, culminating in a military victory over the Mengistu regime, the Derg. Externally, the relevant factor was the end of the Cold War.

      The referendum that followed was notable for one reason. In spite of the close relation between Eritrean and Ethiopian armed movements, the EPLF (Eritrean People’s Liberation Front) and the EPRDF (Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front), and their joint victory over the Ethiopian empire state, the Eritrean people voted overwhelmingly to establish a separate and independent state.

      In South Sudan, self‐determination is the result of a different combination of developments. Internally, there was no military victory; instead, there was a military stalemate between the North and the South. Thus the question: how did South Sudan win its political objective – independence – in the absence of a military victory? Until now, this remains an unanswered question.

      My answer is provisional. In the case of South Sudan, the external factor was more decisive. That external factor was 9/11 and, following it, US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. In my view, it is only this factor, the real grip of post‐9/11 fear, the fear that it will be the next target of US aggression, that explains the agreement of the government in the North to include a provision for a referendum in the South in the CPA (Common Peace Agreement).

      The result of the referendum could not have been in doubt. It would have been clear to anyone with a historical understanding of the issues involved, and of the experience of the process leading to Eritrean independence, that the referendum would lead to an overwhelming popular vote for an independent state in the South. Why then did the power in the North agree to a referendum? My answer is: the agreement to hold a referendum deferred a head-on confrontation with US power.


      Is independence the end of a colonial relationship? This is indeed how one tendency in South Sudan thinks of independence, just as some who called for Eritrean independence spoke of Ethiopia as a colonial master. The analogy is misleading for at least one reason. Whereas the colonial power left the region, North and South will always be neighbours.

      You can leave your marriage partner, but you cannot leave your neighbour. Neighbours have a history, and that history overlaps geographical boundaries. Though North and South are distinct geographies, they have overlapping histories. I would like to highlight key developments in that history.

      The first development was that of migrations, both voluntary and forced. Let us begin with voluntary migrations.

      Here is one interesting example. In the period before Western colonialism, even before the regional slave trade, the Shilluk migrated from the South. From amongst the Shilluk rose the royal house of the Funj, with a sultanate that had its capital at Sinnar. As it expanded, the sultanate raided the South for slaves, mainly for slave soldiers. For reasons that need to be explored further, colonial historians have termed these slave raids the Arab slave trade.

      The Sultanate of the Fuj was the first Muslim state in the history of Sudan. It brought to an end a thousand-year history of Christian states in the North. Sinnar demolished Christian states in the North and inaugurated the political history of Islam in Sudan. Given the conventional understanding that equates Islam with the North and Christianity with the South, I would like us to remember that political power in the North, in Nubia and Beja, was Christian – and that the royal family of the first Muslim state in Sudan came from the South, not the North.

      In contrast, Islam came to the North in the form of refugees and merchants, not royals or soldiers.

      The migrations that we know of better were forced migrations, slavery. The South plundered for slaves from the 17th century onwards with the formation of the Sultanate of the Funj along the Nile and the Sultanate of Darfur in the west. But the slave trade became intense only in the late 18th century when the Caribbean plantation economy was transplanted to Indian Ocean islands.

      The rise of a plantation slave economy has a number of consequences. Prior to it, the demand for slaves came mainly from the state; it was a demand for slave‐soldiers. As slave plantations were developed in the Indian Ocean islands, in Reunion and Mauritius and other places, the demand shifted from the state to the market. The scale of the demand also increased dramatically.

      Nonetheless, most of those enslaved in the South stayed in Darfur and Sinnar as slave‐soldiers. Most of those in Darfur became Fur. Most of those in Sinnar became Arab. They were culturally assimilated – mostly by consent, but the kind of consent that is manufactured through relations of force. For a parallel, think of how African slaves in North America became English‐speaking Westerners – thereby taking on the cultural identity of their masters.

      This little bit of history should disturb our simple moral world in a second way: some of the Arabs in the North are descendents of slaves from the South.

      The second great historical development that has shaped relations between North and South in Sudan is that of anti‐colonial nationalism. The event that marks the hallmark of anti‐colonial nationalism is the Mahdiyya, the great Sudanese revolt against British–Ottoman rule, known as the Turkiyya. Led by Mohamed Abdulla, the Mahdi, this late 19th century was, after the 1857 Indian uprising, the greatest revolt to shake the British empire. With its firm social base in Darfur and Kordofan, the Mahdiyya spread first to the rest of northern Sudan, and then to the Dinka of Abyei. The Dinka said the spirit of Deng had caught the Mahdi.

      Modern Sudanese nationalism begins in the 1920s with what has come to be known as the White Flag revolt. It was spearheaded by Southern officers in the colonial army, and marks the turning point in colonial policy in Sudan, when British power decided to quarantine the South from the North. This is how North and South came to be artificially separated in the colonial period, with permission required to cross boundaries. This kind of separation is, however, not unusual in the history of colonialism – Karamoja too was a quarantined district in colonial Uganda.

      The third point is key: an even worse fate met the people of South Sudan after independence. A state‐enforced national project unfolded in Sudan, at first as enforced Arabisation, later as enforced Islamisation.

      This – rather than the colonial period – is the real context of the armed liberation struggle in the South. For the fact is that it did not take long for both the political class and the popular classes in the South to realise that the independence of Sudan had worsened the political and social situation of the South, rather than improve it.


      The SPLA’s political programme was not an independent South; it was a liberated Sudan. The SPLA did not call for the creation of a new state, but for the reform of the existing state. The demand for a new Sudan was the basis of a political alliance between the SPLA and the political opposition in Khartoum. It was the basis on which the SPLA expanded the struggle from the South to border areas.

      When Garang signed the CPA and returned to Khartoum, over a million turned out to receive him. They represented the entire diversity of Sudan – from North to South, and east to west. They included speakers of Arabic and of other Sudanese languages. Many drew comparisons with the return of Mugabe to Harare. Garang’s return was a shock across the political spectrum, especially to the political class in the North.

      The point of this historical survey of relations between North and South is to underline one single fact: this is not a one‐dimensional history of Northern oppression of the South. True, Northern domination is the main story, especially after independence. But there was a subsidiary story: the story of joint North–South struggle against that domination.

      If the SPLA had participated in the Sudanese elections in 2010, it would most likely have won – whether led by Garang, Salva Kiir or Yassir Arman. The irony is this: precisely when the SPLA was on the verge of realising its historic goal, power in the whole of Sudan, it gave up the goal and called for an independent South. Why?

      Part of the answer lies in the orientation of the political leadership, especially after the death of Garang. The SPLA was a movement with a strong leader – the weaker the organisation, the more difference does the death of one individual make.

      The history of liberation movements in this region testifies to this fact. It should also remind us that it has not been unusual for strong leaders to be eliminated towards the close of an armed struggle. Remember ZANU (Zimbabwe African National Union) and the killing of Tongogara on the eve of victory; the ANC (African National Congress) and the assassination of Chris Hani also on the eve of victory; and the SPLA and the death of Garang soon after return to Khartoum.

      It is worth comparing the SPLA with the ANC. Both were successful in undermining the attempt of ruling regimes to turn the struggle into a racial or religious contest. The ANC succeeded in recruiting important individuals from white population, such as Joe Slovo and Ronnie Kassrell. Similarly, the SPLA included key cadres from the Arab population like Mansour Khaled and Yassir Arman. The difference between them is also important: whereas the line that called for unity, for a non‐racial South Africa, won in the ANC, the line that called for a new Sudan was defeated in the SPLA.

      In both cases, the line representing unity and that representing separation were locked in an ongoing contest thoughout the history of the struggle. This was indeed the difference between the ANC and the PAC (Pan African Congress) in South Africa. In the case of South Sudan, the two lines were represented by the SPLA and Anyanya II, the first calling for a new Sudan, the latter for an independent South Sudan.

      The first letter, S, in SPLA does not stand for South Sudan, but for Sudan. The second letter, P, is spelt in the singular, as People, the people of Sudan and not peoples of Sudan, not in the plural, as many peoples inside one Sudan. The SPLA was founded as a nationalist project, an alternative to other kinds of nationalisms, to Arabism, to Islamism, but also to a separate South Sudan nationalism. The SPLA was a project to reform the state, not to create a new state.

      Garang’s speech at Koka Dam was the most explicit statement of why the future of the South and the North lay together, why political salvation lay not in the formation of a new state but in the reform of the existing state.

      Today, the line calling for independence has emerged triumphant. How did we get to this point?

      I have suggested that part of the answer lies in the nature of political leadership. Another part of the answer lies in ongoing political developments. The key development was the experience of power‐sharing.

      The first power‐sharing agreement in Sudan was forged in 1972, as a result of the Addis Ababa Agreement. It lasted 10 years. It collapsed when no longer convenient for the regime in the North. But it also collapsed because the agreement had little popular support in the North. Why? Because the 1972 agreement reformed the state in the South but not in the North.

      The CPA was built on the lessons of 1972. The key lesson was that power‐sharing had been too narrow. As a result, the CPA called for a broader sharing, ranging from political power to wealth to arms. Still, it remained sharing of power, power‐sharing, between elites, between two ruling groups, the NCP (National Congress Party) and the SPLA. It left out the opposition in both the North and the South. It was power‐sharing without democratisation!


      What would democratisation mean in the present context? Is there a link between democratisation and violence? If so, what is that link?

      I want to begin with two observations, one on political order, and the other on political violence. The first has to do with the link between organisation of the state and maintenance of civil peace in a post‐civil war situation.

      Think of Uganda, 1986. We had just come out of a civil war. The terrain was marked by multiple armed militias, the best known being the UFM (Uganda Freedom Movement) and Fedemo (Federal Democratic Movement of Uganda). The Ugandan solution to this problem was known as the broad base. It was an invitation to rival militias to join the new political order, but on two conditions: first, whether monarchist or militarist, you can keep your political objectives provided you give up your arms; second, you can have a share in political power – a governmental position – provided you give up control over your militia.

      South Sudan too is attempting to create a broad base. But in South Sudan, different members of the broad base have kept not only their arms but also command over their respective militias. Every important political leader in the SPLM has his own militia, so much so that one has to ask: what happens if a leader loses his position within the SPLM? Or loses an election? The obvious answer is: that commander leaves with his militia.

      Take the example of General George Athor, who went into rebellion after losing last April's election to be governor of Jonglei State. He led his militia into rebellion – attacking Malakal in the oil‐producing state of Upper Nile recently. It is a sign of the times. General Athor had contested the election as an independent candidate. But one is tempted to ask: what is to prevent a general who contests as SPLM and loses the election from withdrawing with his militia?

      Most discussion on the question of violence in South Sudan today focuses on the spectre of North–South violence. There is hardly any discussion on violence within the South. Even when internal violence in the South is discussed, it is seen as a consequence of North–South tensions.

      I suggest that we need to look at both internal and external violence, violence within state boundaries and violence between states. Let us begin with some general observations. Political violence in African states is not between states, but within states. The exception is where one state was created from within the womb of another – like Eritrea out of Ethiopia, or Pakistan out of India – or where one political class was nurtured in the womb of another, like the relationship between the EPLF and TPLF (Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front), the Eritrean and Ethiopian armed movements, or the RPA (Rwandan Patriotic Army) in Rwanda and the RNRA in Uganda.

      The first kind of violence abounds in post‐colonial Africa: the Rift Valley in Kenya, Darfur, Ivory Coast, eastern Congo. It is common to refer to all types of internal violence as ‘ethnic violence’. What is the common factor?

      All these cases have one thing in common. All have reformed the central state by introducing elections and a multi‐party system. But elections seem to lead to violence rather than stability. Why? For a clue, I suggest we look at another similarity between these cases of internal violence. None have managed to reform the local state – the local authority – the district authority that the British used to call the native authority.

      As a form of power, the native authority is of colonial origin. Colonialism spread a fiction: that Africans have a herd mentality and that they tend to stay in one place, so Africans have always lived in tribal homelands. This was their justification for why every colony was administered as a patchwork of tribal homelands.

      In actual fact, colonial administrations created homelands and Native Authorities. My research suggests that colonialism began with a programme of ethnic cleansing. Take the case of Buganda where all the Catholics were moved from the centre to Masaka, and Mengo was considered a Protestant homeland. Administrative counties were designated as Protestant or Catholic or, in a few cases, Muslim. The tribe or religion of the chief designated the nature of the homeland he administered. The ethnic cleansing in Buganda was religious; it was tribal elsewhere.

      The Native Authority made an administrative distinction between those who were born or lived in the administrative area and those who were descended from its so‐called original inhabitants. The distinction, in today’s political language, was between natives and Bafuruki. Then it systematically privileged natives over all others.

      The colonial tribe not the same as a pre‐colonial ethnic group. The pre‐colonial ethnic group was not an administrative but a cultural group. You could become a Muganda or a Munyankole or a Langi or a Dinka in the pre‐colonial period. But you could not change your tribe officially in the colonial administration. Colonialism transformed tribe from a cultural identity to an administrative identity that claimed to be based on descent, not just culture. It became a blood identity. Tribe became a sub‐set of race

      Wherever the colonial notion of Native Authority has remained, there authorities define the population on the basis of descent, not residence.

      Colonialism was based on two sets of discriminations: one based on race, the other on tribe. Race divided natives from non‐natives in urban areas. Tribe divided natives from Bafuruki in the rural areas, inside each tribal homeland. The difference was that whereas natives in urban areas were discriminated against racially, natives in the tribal homelands were privileged.

      This administrative structure inevitably generated inter‐tribal conflicts. To begin with, every administrative area multi‐ethnic. Yet, in every multi‐ethnic area, official administration discriminated against ethnic minorities, especially when it come to access to land, and the appointment of chiefs, that is, participation in local governance.

      As the market system developed, more and more people migrated, either in search of jobs or land, and every administrative area became more and more multi‐ethnic. In a situation where the population was multi‐ethnic and power mono‐ethnic, the result was that more and more people were disenfranchised as not being native to the area, even if they were born in the area. Ethnic conflict was the inevitable outcome.

      Africa is littered with examples of this kind of conflict. It is the dynamic that drives ongoing civil wars around the continent: Darfur, Nigeria since the post‐civil war constitution, eastern Congo, Ivory Coast, the Rift Valley in Kenya.

      Will South Sudan be an exception? Will South Sudan create a new kind of state or will it reproduce a reformed colonial state?

      To have some idea, we can look at the period before the CPA was signed in 2005. At the time, there were liberated areas. Since the CPA was signed in 2005, the whole of South Sudan became a liberated area. The fact is that South Sudan became independent six years ago, in 2005.

      Make a comparison between liberated SPLA‐held areas in Sudan with Sudan government‐held areas, also in South Sudan before 2005. Early returns are not encouraging. Structures of power in both areas are the same. Both areas are ruled by administrative chiefs that implement customary law as defined in the colonial period, as a law that systematically privileges natives or Bafuruki, men over women, and old over young. From this point of view, there is no difference between how local power is organised in the North and in the South. Because the local power discriminates actively and legally between different kinds of citizens of South Sudan, it is bound to generate tensions and conflict over time.

      The second type of violence, that between states, is specific to cases like Ethiopia and Eritrea, and Uganda and Rwanda. Will South and North Sudan be an exception?

      For a start, we need to identify the sources of North–South tensions. First, there are the border states which lie within the North or the South but have populations that historically came from both. This is the case in Blue Nile, Nuba Mountains and Southern Kordofan. The border states were politically the most receptive to Garang’s call for a new Sudan. The border states also felt betrayed by the decision to create an independent South Sudan. At the same time, the political class in the border states is exposed to retaliation from the Northern political elite, which is one reason why it may turn to the SPLA for protection.

      The second source of tension is the population of IDPs (internally displaced persons), the population of refugees from the southern war who lived in the North. How many still continue to live in the North? We do not know, but the count ranges from hundreds of thousands upwards. Are they citizens of where they live, Sudan, or of the new state from which they have historically moved, South Sudan? Like Eritreans in Ethiopia, they will be the most likely victims of a failure to think through the citizenship question.

      The third source of tension is in Abyei, where the Misseriya of Darfur and the Ngok Dinka have shared livelihoods and political struggles for over a thousand years. Historically, African societies had no fixed borders; the borders were porous, flexible and mobile. But the new borders are fixed and hard; you either belong or you do not. You cannot belong to both sides of the border. Will the new political arrangement with fixed borders pit the Misseriya and the Ngok Dinka against one another?

      Should the populations of border regions, pastoralists who criss‐cross the North–South border annually in search of water in the dry season, the IDPs who have settled in their new homes – should they have dual citizenship?

      In sum then, there are two major sources of political violence after independence. Possible violence between North and South has three likely sources: border populations, IDPs and peasants and pastoralists with shared livelihoods.

      The second possible source of violence is within the South. It arises from the persistence of the Native Authority as the form of local power that turns cultural difference into a source of political and legal discrimination.

      The solution for the first problem is dual nationality for border and migrant populations in the near future, which could possibly lead to a confederation in the distant future.

      The solution for the second problem is to reform the Native Authority. If South Sudan is organised as a federation, how will citizenship be defined in each state in the federation: as ethnic or territorial? A territorial federation gives equal rights to all citizens who live within a state, whereas an ethnic federation distinguishes legally and politically between different kinds of residents, depending on their ethnic origin.

      The basic question that faces South Sudan is not very different from the one that faces most African countries. Will South Sudan learn from the African experience – of ongoing civil war and ethnic conflict – and rethink political citizenship and the political state in order to create a new political order?

      The future of South Sudan and its people rides on the answer to this question.


      * Mahmood Mamdani is professor and director of the Makerere Institute of Social Research (MISR).
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      Orientalising the Egyptian uprising

      Rabab El-Mahdi


      cc S V
      The narrative of the Egyptian revolution is being distorted by old, Western ways of seeing the Arab world. Rabab El-Mahdi suggests a different narrative.

      Since the beginning of the Egyptian uprising on 25 January a new grand- narrative about this so-called ‘revolution’ -and more broadly, the Arab world - is being constructed by the media (international and local), academics, politicians, and the local elite.[1]

      This narrative appears to be replacing the long held ‘Arab Exceptionalism’ narrative, which held sway for decades and argued that Arabs, because of sociological and cultural reasons are ‘immune’ to democracy and democratisation. While many have criticized this earlier discourse as Orientalist and lacking in analytical rigour, its seamless replacement dubbed as the ‘Arab Awakening’, is being constructed on the very same bases of representation.

      The fundamental pillars of these Orientalist understandings of Arab societies and individuals are based on:

      1. ‘Othering’ - ‘they’ (Arabs or Muslims) are different from ‘us’ (Western, specifically European) who are the normative standard.

      2. Romanticisation and exotisation - this oriental ‘other’ is mystical and mythical.

      As Edward Said explained years ago, Orientalism is not only confined to ‘Western’ depictions of the Middle East -and particularly Arabs and Muslims - but it is also internalised and propagated by ‘local’ elites. As such, in the new grand narrative of ‘Arab Awakening’ both academics and the media (international and local) are appropriating, interpreting, and representing the recent events along the same pillars of ‘othering’ and, ‘romanticisation’, while casting Eurocentric judgments.

      In the case of Egypt, the recent uprising is constructed as a youth-led, non-violent revolution in which social media (especially Facebook and Twitter) are champions. The underlying message here is that these ‘middle-class’ and educated youth (read: modern) are not ‘terrorists’ - they hold the same values as ‘us’ (the democratic West) and, finally, use the same tools (Facebook and Twitter) that ‘we’ invented and use in our daily-lives. They are just like ‘us’ and hence they deserve celebration. These constructions are clear from a quick look at CNN, Time, Vanity Fair and others and their representations of the so-called leaders or icons of this revolution.

      They are all middle (upper) class Egyptians under the age of 30. Most of them have one or more connection to the West, either by virtue of education (Time’s cover feature of seven ‘youth’ included three students from the American University in Cairo), work (Wael Ghoneim, sales manager at Google), or training.

      According to the BBC, Dr Gene Sharp - the author of the ‘Non-Violent Revolution Rulebook’ is ‘the man now credited with the strategy behind the toppling of the Egyptian government’ through activists ‘trained in Sharp’s work’. This same profile of young people similarly monopolised television talk shows in Egypt.

      And while many of these individuals did take part in the uprising - in different capacities - their status as icons of the ‘revolution’ in which the majority of those who participated were of the subaltern classes is both disturbing and telling. This majority have never heard of Sharp or Freedom House, never studied at the American University in Cairo and never worked for Google. More profoundly, they are antagonistic about ‘Western’ influence and presence in Egypt. Thus the class composition of dissent has been cloaked by a new imaginary homogenous construct called ‘youth’.

      In this construct, the media and academic analysts lump together the contradictory interests of ‘yuppies’ (young, urban, professionals of the aforementioned connections and backgrounds) with those of the unemployed, who live under the poverty line in rural and slum-areas. Under this banner of ‘youth’, the ‘yuppies’ and upper middle-class young people are portrayed as the quintessential representative of this uprising.

      Alongside this is the tailoring and reduction of the values, tools, and tactics of the uprising to fit a ‘Western’ and ‘local’ upper-middle class audience. In this regard, two features of the uprising are getting paramount emphasis: non-violence and the use of social media. Obama’s speech following Mubarak’s ousting emphasised the non-violence of the uprising, quoting the word silmiya (peaceful). The media cameras also focused on the placards bearing the same word. This selective focus on one form of tactic functions as the reverse mirror image of the ‘terrorist’ stereotype, hinting of a pernicious fetishisation and exotisation. There is no doubt that the anti-regime demonstrations were non-violent, compared to the state-security use of ammunition. However, by 28 January all National Democratic Party headquarters and most police stations were set on fire.

      This was a clear reaction to the state’s systematic violence against subaltern classes, those who bore the brunt of the regime’s daily torture and humiliation precisely because of their position within the neo-liberal class matrix in Egypt.

      Unlike the middle-class ‘Facebook’ youth, they were not immune to state violence outside the realm of political activism. The exclusion of this part of the story further benefits the narrations of this uprising as a ‘Facebook’ middle-class ‘revolution’.
Such narration is also based on the Orientalist binary of ‘traditional’ versus ‘modern’, and ‘East’ versus ‘West’, with the latter categories seen as supreme.

      Hence, it cannot include the use of molotov hand-bombs, which is ‘violent-traditional’ (read: Oriental) alongside with Facebook, which is ‘peaceful-modern’ (read Western). The ‘educated’, ‘Western’, and ‘exposed’ cosmopolitan Egyptians who are portrayed as the sole agents of this ‘revolution’ cannot torch police-stations, and those who did - the subaltern - should be and are excluded from the picture. The active agents of this narration are not only the media and politicians, but academics and international funding agencies.

      Over the past weeks, there is hardly a day that passes without a visit to Cairo by a state-official, a donor representative, or an international academic - from US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton to political scientist Alfred Stepan. After paying a pilgrimage to Tahrir Square and scheduling a couple of meetings with the cosmopolitan activists of Cairo, they feel re-assured and entitled to propagate the same story about this so-called ‘revolution’ and its agents.

      On the other hand, the so-called right steps up to propagate ‘democratic transition’ in Egypt. Unfortunately, these different parties have the financial, moral, and political power for such narration to prevail. Once again we are witnessing the ‘empire’ painting the picture of the ‘fringe’ and within this fringe the subaltern - ‘the fringe of the fringe’ - are being outcast.


      * This article first appeared at Jadaliyya.
      * Rabab El-Mahdi is an activist and assistant professor of Political Science at the American University in Cairo. She is co-editor of 'Egypt: The Moment of Change' (Zed Press, 2009).
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.


      [1] For an excellent analysis on why the 25th of January does not mark a revolution, see Assef Bayat

      Uprising in Burkina Faso: Why no cameras?

      Tendai Marima


      cc D H R
      Commenting on the Western media’s preference towards coverage of particular uprisings across North Africa, Tendai Marima asks ‘what makes Burkina Faso's crisis so un-newsworthy that it is easily swept under the news pile?'

      When most major international news networks finally caught up with the final climactic moments of the Tunisian revolution, it seemed as though, between racing to get last-minute flights to Tunis and playing catch-up with other news agencies that had been reporting on Tunisia since December, the world's major media players made a collective 'never again' resolution to never or try not to ignore any developing story again. Having gotten over the failure to cover the fall of Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali from day one, Algeria, Libya and Egypt all jostling to take centre stage in popular uprisings were brilliant opportunities for a media that had missed out to cover up. In the end, Egypt proved ripe for revolution and so for 18 days, in spite or in remembrance of 800 civilian casualties, the Egyptian people successfully toppled the Mubarak regime.

      As hundreds of thousands gathered in communal points all over Egypt chanting down Mubarak, to a far lesser extent similar popular protests went down in Cameroon, Angola, Gabon and Burkina Faso. All of these received marginal coverage. Even Côte d'Ivoire was at one point was rightly dubbed 'the forgotten war'. It did not fit the media template of a sexy, tech-savvy, populist revolution, as that which had been constructed of Egypt. Instead Côte d'Ivoire had the uncomfortable but familiar look and feel of a Rwanda genocide-lite. It was a messy, bloody struggle for power between rebel and patriot factions in a country most educated people outside of Africa would struggle to find on a map. Côte d'Ivoire, the world's largest cocoa producer and native home of soccer stars Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou and Yaya Touré has the misfortune of being a country with little global influence and of lesser strategic importance than Egypt or Libya to the (mostly anglophone) countries that have historically determined which international news stories are to be prioritised.

      And now that the French troops have assisted Alassane Ouattara in deposing the resistant Laurent Gbagbo from the presidency, most of the TV crews and cameras have gone. Field correspondents and NGOs continue to file dispatches of fighting in the streets of Abidjan and ongoing atrocities committed in the forests in the western side of the country, but the world's eyes have moved on. Not to Burkina Faso next door, but elsewhere, where more thrilling stories of revolution beckon.

      But what makes Burkina Faso's crisis so un-newsworthy that it is easily swept under the news pile?

      The beginnings of the crisis in the little West African nation parallel events in tiny Tunisia where it took an individual catalyst in a small town to set things off. On 20 February, in an industrial town called Koudougo, bigger than Sidi Bouzid, a student named Justin Zongo was taken into police custody after an alleged dispute with a female classmate. A few days later, Zongo was pronounced dead and according to official police reports, the cause of death was meningitis. His family and friends rejected this and claimed Zongo's death was due to police brutality. This led to a series of protests by students in four towns, Koudougo, Koupéla, Pouytenga and Po, and they were met with violence by the police. In an effort to contain the demonstrations, the government temporarily closed all schools and the national university. Although Compaoré pleaded for peace and national dialogue, a death toll of six protesters sent a different message to the student movement. The Africa Report states that the Association Nationale des Etudiants Burkinabé (ANEB)'s student representative, Mahamadou Fayama, the movement wanted to ‘denounce the climate of terror that the police have created’.

      The student chants of 'Blaise dégage' and 'Tunisia is in Koudougo', urging Compaoré to step down from 23-year rule, spread to junior army officers in the military barracks of Lamizana. On 22 March the courts ruled against five soldiers for assaulting a young designer whom they claimed had made sexual advances towards another soldier's wife. Their disgruntled military colleagues took the streets of the capital, Ouagadougou, and went on a rampage. Although the government tried to assuage the gun-toting military men by pardoning and releasing their counterparts, by the end of March the spirit of mutiny had gone viral. Scores of junior soldiers demanded their salaries, which as yet had been unpaid by the government. The mayor's home was vandalised; in some parts of the capital, market stalls and shops were looted and in the east of the country more soldiers joined the uprising as well as members of the Presidential Guard. Speaking to L'Evénement, a bi-weekly local paper, one soldier expressed a dejectedness at the heart of the mutiny which was likely felt by many soldiers:

      ‘I just returned from Darfur. Our contingent has been deployed since no other country wanted to go, that is to say, 7 km from the Chadian border. This is the corridor for many rebels in both countries. We are the Burkinabe who have managed to secure the area. We have built in less than six months roads, bridges and schools. Everyone congratulated us for that. When we go, people applaud us. The UN congratulated us. That we came home and we do not care about us. First, they are our superiors that cut money from our mission. Following is a mayor [of Ouagadugou] who tells traders deal with us as “military thieves.” You see that, it hurts.’

      So far none of Compaoré's pleas to restore order have worked and the mutiny's snowball effect continues to grow. There are reports that, despite the soldiers' lawlessness in some cities, the youths and some traders have united with revolting army officers. In Koudougo on 18 April, the youths are said to have set fire to the ruling party's local offices, while by contrast in the capital, market traders burnt several government buildings in retaliation for acts of vandalism by state troops. On 23 April it was reported that the soldiers upped their game and seized the southern town of Po, which is home to a state military school where Compaoré himself trained.

      In a more hardened response, Compaoré has reacted to the military-led dissent by imposing a nationwide night-time curfew and firing the whole government, including the army chief. Last week he appointed Burkina's ambassador to France, Luc Adolphe Tiao, as prime minister, while he doubled as president and minister of defence. True to dictator form, Compaoré, like Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, has blamed foreign conspiratorial forces for the unrest and he has gotten rid of everyone else, except the problem, himself and his corrupt system. Appointing himself minister of defence when he is already supreme chief commander of the armed forces adds another fancy title to his name and gives the impression he's a superhuman who can juggle three cabinet roles. But superhuman ability or not, a display of megalomaniac tendencies will not heal the rift between the army and the government, or quieten feelings of resentment among oppositional regiments. If Compaoré's cosmetic changes and payouts to the soldiers prove unsatisfactory, now that the opposition and civil society have called for nationwide demonstrations on 30 April they would do well to join forces with the mutineers and instil some sense of order and discipline so that the ousting of Compaoré and not looting from civilians becomes every protester’s goal. Such a union would ensure the movement reaches the critical mass needed to topple the regime. But should Compaoré restore complete order, the eight weeks (and counting) of nationwide unrest will make it much harder for him to prevent his departure in the future should things escalate again. The continual playing out of mutiny and retaliation on state property signifies a loss of fear of repercussions for damaging state property and it also symbolises a loss of control and authority by the former army captain who has previously used the army to crush unrest like the food riots of 2008.

      This dramatic story of Africa's top cotton producer is deserving of more attention, especially in the context of unrest on the African continent as a whole. All of the protests, from Cape to Cairo, with their own distinct set of local conditions, are linked to food security, economic instability and political dispossession – be it by ballot or dictatorship. There is a widespread feeling of continental discontent, but international and national pundits are so busy putting out possible fires of revolt in 'sub-Saharan Africa' with their analyses that the Burkina uprising has gone by largely unnoticed, and yet in two months mutineering soldiers and youth have stirred up serious trouble for the Compaoré regime – and possibly regionally too. Should Compaoré fall, it will have a significant impact on the fledgling administration of his neighbouring ally, Alassane Ouattara in Côte d'Ivoire, which Compaoré played a key diplomatic role in ensuring.

      In different ways, masses of people are mounting serious challenges to totalitarian hegemonies and the iniquity of global capital that may lead to a new political dispensation, in successful revolutions, and at the very least for all countries, uprisings, including unsuccessful ones, reshape the role of the citizen in a political landscape as an empowered figure. At the level of the collective citizen, mass protests enable people to realise that together they, not their brutal governments, have the potential to become agents and actors of the political and social change they desire. The wider the gap grows between the globe's rich and poor due to increasing food prices or governments selling off land and water resources to Western corporates further impoverishing native people, the more likely popular unrest by an emboldened people will continue.

      Some would be inclined to argue that Burkina Faso has been forgotten because the international media is biased towards representation of Africa south of the Sahara, and the ignoring or misrepresentation of the Rwanda genocide is the most cited example. But perhaps it is more complex than a simple Africa south of the Sahara bias; it's a bias against or in favour of certain African countries that has been constructed through namely, a country's geo-political and economic importance to the West and also through a history of colonial relations in which reader and viewer familiarity and association with former colonies is generated.

      Even for alternative Western and non-Western newcomers to the game, there is pressure to compete with or take the lead over more established anglophone networks for essential and accurate coverage of one event over another. For example, because of its relation to America and France, the attempted return of a former leader, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, exiled in South Africa, to return to the Caribbean island of Haiti was more widely covered than the same attempt, a month before by another former leader, Marc Ravalomanana, exiled in South Africa to return to the tropical island of Madagascar, off the south-eastern coast of Africa.

      Again, compare the near-instant coverage of the 12 April uprising in Swaziland with the delayed coverage of Burkina. With the headquarters of most major South African media in Johannesburg and the regional base of international media agencies like the BBC and CNN, coverage of Swaziland was guaranteed. Manzini, where the 12 April protests took place, is only four hours by road from Johannesburg. Swaziland is a former British colony and so there is a familiar narrative in the anglophone media of the British-educated King Mswati III, whose love of luxury cars, palaces and women is well-known. With a harem of 13 (soon to be 14) wives 'Africa's last absolute monarch', as he's often described, presides over a tiny landlocked kingdom where political opposition is harshly repressed and the traditional divine right of kings is revered. Perhaps if French-speaking Burkina Faso had bare-breasted, grass-skirted women walking around in traditional dress like in Swaziland, the cameras may have raced over from Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire. But seriously, if Ban Ki-moon, Jean Ping and Nicolas Sarkozy were genuinely interested in advancing humanitarian efforts towards peace and democracy in all of West Africa, they could have issued symbolically meaningful statements of condemnation to bring more attention to the protests in Burkina Faso while the struggle for Côte d'Ivoire raged on.

      Similar to Swaziland, the slightest hint of a fallout between the opposition and Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party in Zimbabwe is guaranteed widespread coverage and analysis, whereas the political musical chairs currently being played in Burkina by Compaoré in order to quell mutiny is of little interest to many major international media organisations, including South Africa. To their credit, AP, the BBC, Bloomberg, France 24 and Reuters have consistently filed reports on Compaoré's crisis, but most of these are factual reports littered with the odd in-depth analysis or commentary from key figures or detailed first-hand accounts from ordinary citizens caught up in this political crisis. There are few photographs and little footage coming out of Burkina Faso, so it's difficult for one to get a visual sense of what is happening on the ground.


      The Guardian's 2010 list of most tagged countries confirms to some extent that history of familiarity with a place guarantees coverage. Egypt, South Africa and Zimbabwe got tagged more times than the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) and Sudan. Possibly because of its hosting of the World Cup, South Africa had 547 tags, outranking earthquake-stricken Haiti, which had 436 tags. Egypt had 219, while Zimbabwe had 144 tags, and yet the DRC had a paltry 124 tags, Sudan had 122 and Somalia even less at 113. All three are among the most unstable African countries of 2010 and yet they ranked lower than the World Cup host South Africa. The war-stricken Congo is one of the world's suppliers of raw materials for mobile and computer technology and ironically constitutes just over a fifth of the 604 articles on Apple. This is not a criticism of the Guardian as the paper does provide some of the best and insightful international news coverage, but these tags are unfortunately a skewed quantitative reflection of coverage patterns and the consumerist nature of public interest.

      Saying this with all flippancy intended, the formula is simple. Reports of anti-British and homophobic comments by the African dictator everyone loves to hate, and shark attacks in Sharm el-Sheik make catchy headlines. Never-ending sagas of jungle wars and mass rapes, unless involving powerful countries, do not. Or unless they're packaged as humanitarian causes fronted by celebrities and award-winning journalists like George Clooney and Nicholas Kristof. Their combined interest in the Save Darfur campaign, malaria awareness and referendum for north–south separation ensured Sudan received frequent coverage in the New York Times. Unfortunately, no similar twin-set of movie star and scribe of Clooney's and Kristof's stature have permanently adopted the DR Congo or Somalia as their primary cause. Although one of the aims of international news is to appeal to as broad a global audience as possible, how broad is our interest and genuine our humanity as people if we suffer war and compassion fatigue towards stories on the DRC, Somalia and Sudan?

      But now with all these revolutions and uprisings going on, places like the DR Congo are a distant tragedy. Despite the exceedingly valuable coverage of the uprisings by some news networks, there is an underlying sense of competition within the media to see who can land the best, exclusive interview or provide the most comprehensive coverage. In the face of such fierce competition, taking a few moments in between protest broadcasts to ask the world to remember the 5.4 million (and rising) Congolese dead since 1998 or to take a serious look at Compaoré's megalomanic scheming in Burkina Faso wouldn't be a suicidal gamble with the ratings. Events in Africa and the Middle East shouldn't be placed in competition with each other; what's happening in Nigeria, Syria or Libya can share the spotlight with many other untold or under-reported stories. It’s a question of willingness to pluralise news stories and cover unfamiliar terrain.

      Joy Dibenedetto, a broadcast executive and founder of alternative news site, Hum News, reports that in 2009 research conducted by Hum News found that there are 237 countries or territories in the world, and the world's largest news organisations report from only 121 countries or territories. Out of 237 global locations, 116 are not covered. If true, that's just under 50 per cent of the world's stories potentially out of mainstream media focus – almost 50 per cent. Allow that to sink in.

      While there are very good reasons to be excited about how social media is changing the face of the news, what about those who can't tweet about a parallel rise in grain prices and local discontent in rural Kenya or text FrontlineSMS to say a 14 year old girl has been raped by a soldier in Poa, Burkina Faso, because such a platform for crisis mapping does not exist? And even if it did, would anybody take notice? As digital technology increasingly shapes the future of news, the non-mainstream stories from lesser-known countries off the social media network radar risk becoming further marginalised.

      As necessary as it is to cover unfolding crises in this moment of popular uprisings, perhaps there is also a competition for dominance in coverage of the big revolution stories to present a more racy, more in-depth and more radical story than other media competitors. Perhaps also at this time, covering small protests elsewhere would disrupt and divert resources from the ‘Arab World’s 1848 moment’ narrative being manufactured in the studios and newsrooms of television stations and newspapers as more and more people in the Middle East and North Africa courageously rise up against brutal dictatorships.

      Apart from the many valid and not so valid political and commercial reasons for preferential coverage of some stories over others, its true that 'Africa needs an Al Jazeera of it is own' to tell the continent's forgotten stories. But in addition to that dream is a more crucial demand that can be sooner met, namely that existing international media genuinely commit itself to new ways of telling everyone's stories, all the time, rather than competing to duplicate or better the popular stories.


      * Tendai Marima is a blogger and doctoral scholar at Goldsmiths, University of London. Her research interests include African literature, feminist theory and contemporary black presence in Europe.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      Human tsunamis and the world refugee system

      Tricia Redeker Hepner


      cc Sandy
      The dictatorship in Eritrea results in large numbers of people feeling the country. But once they enter the international refugee system their problems are only just beginning, writes Tricia Redeker Hepner.

      The world's attention is understandably fixed on the post-tsunami nuclear disaster unfolding in Japan and the equally seismic political transformations shaking North Africa and the Middle East. Much speculation swirls around the impact of these events regionally and globally. Will fallout reach the shores of Europe and North America? Will more dictatorships be swept aside by swells of democratisation? What role should the international community and the United Nations play?

      In at least one country, the answer to the first question is clear, if not the second. And the third is another story altogether. The Northeast African nation of Eritrea marks its 20th year of independence next month. But the festivities will be marred by mourning. President Isayas Afwerki remains firmly entrenched in the seat of power, claiming with alacrity to have foretold the groundswell overtaking his Arab neighbors while banning television coverage of the demonstrations and reorganising the military to pre-empt a possible coup.

      Meanwhile, the ripples radiating from the epicenter of his brutal regime are unrelenting, and the fallout has a human face. Tens of thousands of men, women, and children have fled Eritrea in wave after wave of despair. While some of these refugees make it to the shores of Europe and North America, many more do not.

      Last week, two boats carrying 400 Eritreans and Ethiopians from Libya to Italy disappeared in the Mediterranean Sea. Fishermen and the Coast Guard are still recovering the bodies - evidence of what Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi calls ‘the human tsunami’ battering the walls of Fortress Europe. In the Sinai desert, traffickers of multiple nationalities work in tandem with security forces of Egypt and Eritrea to extort, exploit, abuse, torture and execute refugees seeking to cross into Israel, where they are summarily labeled ‘infiltrators’ in a euphemistic avoidance of international responsibilities to protect asylum seekers.

      If refugee flows are a sign of political meltdown, then Eritrea is a level seven nuclear disaster. Figures from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees indicate that Eritrea, with a population of only about five million, has been among the top ten refugee producing countries in the world for the better part of the decade. In 2006, it ranked second in the world. In 2007 only Somalis and Iraqis lodged more asylum applications than Eritreans, and in 2008 the numbers of claims filed by Eritreans exceeded those of Iraqis.

      The reason? Eritrea spends a whopping 20 per cent of its national budget maintaining a military comprised of forced conscripts whose virtually unpaid labour is reinvested in further militarisation of the society and economy. The Constitution has been on ice since 1997, the promise of multi-party elections remains unfulfilled and even North Korea boasts greater freedom of the press. Civil society institutions and competing political parties exist only in exile.

      The list of human rights abuses characterising daily life in Eritrea is longer than the number of international conventions the government has signed. Torture, rape, and execution are commonplace for those who dare put up a fight. The result? Massive flight. ‘Is there a worse country in the world than this?’ mused a Texas lawyer representing one of the hundreds of Eritrean asylum seekers in the US as we reviewed his client's case.

      As an anthropologist who has lived in Eritrea and worked with Eritrean communities in Europe, Africa, and the US for years, I dearly want to defend this country. But the best I can do is to help defend its displaced, abused, and often forgotten citizens. Together with lawyers, Eritrean activists, human rights organisations, UNHCR staff, and colleagues like Magnus Treiber and Barbara Harrell-Bond, I struggle to place the people of this small African country on the global crisis radar. It's a tall order in these days of perpetual disasters and mind-numbing statistics.

      And the statistics on refugees are indeed numbing. The number of people forcibly displaced by conflict and persecution worldwide stood at 42 million at the end of 2008. The total includes 16 million refugees and asylum seekers and 26 million internally displaced people uprooted within their own countries. These figures, of course, hide lots of things, such as the numbers of people removed by development projects like dam-building, by ‘naturaul’ disasters, by the structural violence of poverty, environmental destruction, and by the alchemy of desperation and profits that forces people to migrate and often to sell their bodies and lives into servitude of one kind or another. These figures obviate human experience.

      But human experience is what anthropologists are always after - how to put life and breath and flesh onto the cold bones of statistics; how to illustrate the concrete meanings of political violence and migration policies and practices as people live them. Among such human experiences are those of nineteen members of the elite Air Force of Eritrea who fled to Sudan a couple of years ago, risking the ‘shoot-to-kill’ policy of the Eritrean government - as hundreds of others do every month - seeking to cross the nearest international border.

      In Sudan, they registered with the UNHCR and began seeking both refugee protection and resettlement abroad. Their high-ranking and symbolically significant position as the pride of the Eritrean Defence Forces made them more vulnerable to persecution and punishment by the Eritrean government than many of the 100,000-plus Eritrean refugees in Khartoum. However, some of these men used to be soldiers with the guerrilla movement that is now the Eritrean government. They have scant hope of ever being accepted by the US or Canada - the two largest refugee receiving countries in the world - because under some very broad terms of the US Patriot Act and a similar Canadian law, they are considered ‘terrorists’. This is because they took up arms in an anti-colonial liberation struggle against the Ethiopian government more than 30 years ago.

      Others in the group are young men who were conscripted. Despite their elite positions, their fate was hardly better than most others in the military and their exit signaled refusal of the sort of complicity that makes life more bearable in such conditions. However, these men are also in for a long and treacherous series of legal obstacles due to international reluctance to recognise military deserters and a 2002 policy adopted by the UNHCR rendering ex-combatants ineligible for resettlement.

      Similarly, clauses that exclude those who may have participated in human rights violations or persecution of others also present stumbling blocks when applied to real conditions. Virtually every soldier in the Eritrean military has been forced to guard or repress another soldier or civilian at some point, and the majority of Eritrean refugees have been soldiers. The very structure and social organisation of militarisation and political repression in Eritrea blur the neat legal distinction between persecuted and persecutor so critical in refugee and asylum determination procedures. Even the US Supreme Court got drawn in, when the asylum claim of a former conscript named Daniel Negusie was denied because his assignment as a prison guard - punishment for his own dissidence by the Eritrean government - suggested he was complicit in the harm of others.

      In the meantime, the 19 men wait in Khartoum, where Eritrean security officials operate with impunity. On any given day, they may be attacked by an agent of their own government, kidnapped and taken back to Eritrea, or, at the very least, shaken down and extorted by Sudanese police or soldiers, perhaps beaten and jailed for being unwanted migrants.

      Should the UNHCR take the situation seriously and realise these men need protection - an unlikely showing of concern for individuals by a bureaucracy whose esteemed reputation is outshined only by its impersonality, impenetrability, and unaccountability - they may be taken to a refugee camp, where they will still be subject to many of the same pressures, only in more concentrated form. This is glossed as ‘protection’, even a ‘solution’, though it is hardly that.

      While camps in places like Sudan and Ethiopia may comply with UNHCR policy, they are administered by host country agencies and staff, some of whom inevitably participate in the abuse and misuse of refugees, often under the noses of international staff. A trip to the food distribution center may end in rape and a place in the resettlement queue can be bought (or lost) for a hundred thousand birr [Ethiopian currency].

      In Shimelba Refugee Camp, in northern Ethiopia, the UNHCR compound is open only a few hours per week, as impervious to refugees' pleas for help as President Isayas Afwerki is to political transition.
      If elite air force men cannot gain the attention of UNHCR, then the situation is far worse for the average person. Some refugees get sick of waiting - who wouldn't? - and take their chances. But the routes to escape are toxic. If they make it through the Libyan desert to reach the Mediterranean and finally to Malta or Lampedusa, which only a handful do, new problems arise at the gates of Fortress Europe. Are they really political refugees or just impoverished economic migrants? How will a country like Malta - swamped with tens of thousands of refugees - manage to decide their fate? If they move on to another European country, they face imprisonment and deportation under the Dublin II regulation. Consumer values may tout individual initiative and choice but do not extend to ‘asylum shopping’, thank you very much.

      Those who have the connections and money might hire a smuggler, usually for tens of thousands of dollars, who will take them on a risky and tortuous journey to Southern Africa, then Brazil, through Colombia or Venezuela, perhaps Cuba, then Nicaragua, Guatemala, and finally Mexico, where stuffed in the cargo bay of a bus, or in the custody of a coyote, they will cross the border of the US and ask for asylum. For their efforts at being ‘above board’ - that is, presenting themselves to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) - they are welcomed to freedom in America through its prison system. While this may stimulate the privatised prison-industrial economy, it is first and foremost an extension of human rights abuses shouldered by refugees.

      In detention, they discover legal-dilemma redux: many of the same problems that stalled the refugee process in Sudan follow them to the United States. They are possibly terrorists, or implicated in persecution and human rights abuses; they are cowardly deserters of a sovereign state's military; and of course, they are always criminals for having the audacity to migrate illegally. But had the legal refugee process been responsive to actual human circumstances, such illegality would be far less likely.

      I am compelled to shed light on stories such as these not only to highlight the victimisation, suffering, and exploitation that runs through them in every direction like capillary veins, that multiply with each person involved, with each new step through ‘the system’ in which legal and illegal intersect all the time; where the life-force that drives people to make such choices in the name of survival and hope can be snuffed out in an instant for profit, power, or sheer indifference. Nor is my primary intention to malign institutions like the UNHCR, or the asylum system in the US and Europe, which are as full of dedicated and committed advocates for refugees' rights as they are of infuriating inefficiency, corruption, and bureaucratic senselessness.

      My goal is to illustrate the complexity and global scope of human rights dilemmas that structure refugees' lives, and the failures of institutions, policies and laws designed to manage them as technical problems rather than protect them as human beings. It is not enough to simply address the human rights violations that lead people to become refugees at the source, crucial as that may be. All along the way, refugees face multiple and nested issues that are sometimes endemic and even actively produced or aggravated by the very systems designed to protect them.

      While earthquakes, tsunamis, nuclear accidents, and revolutions may be dramatic and momentous events, it is worth remembering that their wrenching daily equivalency plays out in political and humanitarian disasters like that of Eritrea's refugees, more invisible than the radiation seeping into the Pacific but no less poisonous for those affected. As Eritreans mark the 20th anniversary of their revolution, any thoughts of Egypt or Libya will focus on the lives of loved ones lost in the Sinai or Sahara, or those whose fates are yet unknown. Their suffering, and the ripples of despair that radiate throughout the lives of their families and compatriots, is fallout from Isayas Afwerki's dictatorial rule. But it is also fallout from the international community's failed, inadequate, and draconian migration policies and laws. The fallout has not only reached our shores - it also originates there. What comes around goes around. Human lives are the currency we use to pay for the failures of modernity. 


      * This article first appeared at Counter Punch.
      * Tricia Redeker Hepner is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Tennessee, Chair of the Migration and Refugee Studies Division of the Center for the Study of Social Justice, and Eritrea Country Specialist for Amnesty International and The Fahamu Refugee Network. She can be reached at [email protected]
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      Posada Carriles: ‘The bin Laden of the Americas’

      Horace Campbell


      cc B L
      ‘As quiet as it is kept, international terrorism did not begin on 11 September 2001.’ Before Osama bin Laden, there was Luis Posada Carriles, writes Horace Campbell.

      The news regarding the killing of Osama bin Laden by United States military forces hit the airwaves on Sunday, 1 May 2011, prompting jubilation among many people in the United States and other places around the world. This triumphalism of US citizens, who were directly or indirectly affected by the military activities of bin Laden’s al Qaeda group, emanated from the belief that bin Laden’s death served justice to the victims for the 11 September 2001 attack on the US. It is, however, important to note that as dreadful as bin Laden was, modern international terrorism did not begin with him. As quiet as it is kept, international terrorism did not begin on 11 September 2001. Before Osama bin Laden, there was Luis Clemente Faustino Posada Carriles, also known as Posada Carriles or ‘Bambi’, according to a de-classified CIA file.

      On 6 October 1976, plastic explosives stuffed in tubes of toothpaste brought down Cubana Flight 455 leaving Barbados for Cuba. This singular attack on the Cubana Airline killed all 73 passengers on board, including some of the best athletes in the Caribbean, and was especially felt among Cuban youths who lost 24 members of their Olympic fencing team. This fencing team had recently competed and obtained all gold medals in the Central American and Caribbean Championship. Investigations by the governments of Cuba, Barbados, Guyana, Trinidad, Venezuela and the United States ascertained that the mastermind of the explosion was Posada Carriles. The Caribbean demanded that Carriles and his accomplices be brought to swift justice.

      Carriles was a key operative in many CIA campaigns against Fidel Castro and Cuba. Additionally, Posada was involved in a wider campaign of political repression involving kidnappings and assassinations all across South America. This campaign, called Operation Condor, had the special imprint of the dictators in Argentina and Chile. Orlando Letelier was a former minister of Chilean president, Salavador Allende’s government, who along with his secretary was assassinated by a car bomb explosion in Washington, D.C. on 21 September 1976. This was an example of American supported terrorism spilling on to the streets of the capital of the United States. Posada Carriles was directly linked to Operation Condor and to the assassination of Orlando Leteiler. It was only weeks after this killing on the streets of Washington that terror struck the Caribbean in the attack on the Cubana flight.

      Carriles was reported to have boasted about his involvement in the bombing of the Cubana aircraft. He was for a short time incarcerated in Venezuela, but later ‘escaped.’ After this ‘ escape’ on 18 August 1985, and hiding out for 15 days, Posada was whisked away from Venezuela and transported to Aruba on a shrimp boat. From Aruba, he travelled on a private aircraft to Costa Rica and afterwards to El Salvador where he was at the frontline in the terror campaign against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua.

      The trail of blood and destruction left by Carriles in the Caribbean, South and Central America over the past 50 years are a hallmark of the veritable history of the CIA in the Americas. During the military destabilisation and devastation that was called the ‘Contra Wars,’ Posada Carriles was a key asset for the right-wing US forces, and he has been associated with death squads in El Salvador and Guatemala. Posada, while working as security advisor to the government of Guatemala, carried a Guatemalan passport. This was a country where 40-50,000 people disappeared during the war and approximately 200,000 were killed. In the 1990s, it was from this genocidal space where Posada and the Cuban National Foundation planned more terrorist attacks against Cuba.

      In 1997, Carriles masterminded a series of bombings in Havana that killed a tourist. The Panamanian government in 2000 convicted Carriles in an assassination attempt on Fidel Castro who was visiting Panama for a summit. Posada Carriles served four years in prison before he was pardoned by the Panamanian president in her last week in office. Undoubtedly, the Panamanians succumbed to pressures from the US security forces.

      A fugitive from Caribbean justice, in 2005, Carriles turned up in the United States, where he was arrested and charged with minor immigration offences. Instead of prosecuting Carriles for the bombing of Cubana Flight 455 and other terrorist acts, the United States only accused him of obstruction of justice and perjury. Specifically, the US accused Carriles of lying to an immigration officer about the manner in which he entered the United States.

      In this post-9/11 world, where the United States has manufactured jurisdiction, pressured or cut deals with other countries to extradite those on its terror watch or most wanted lists, these negligible charges reinforce the double standards of the United States in relation to terrorism and terrorists. The governments of the Caribbean, especially Barbados, Cuba, Trinidad and Venezuela, which have pursued Carriles for over 30 years, were outraged when Carriles was acquitted of even these minimal charges in a trial held in El Paso, Texas on 8 April 2011. The fact that he was tried on immigration and perjury charges instead of charges related to acts of terrorism was itself an indicator of the blowback that confronts the US as it seeks to present itself as a force against terrorism internationally. Today, in the aftermath of the killing of Osama Bin Laden, the Caribbean people are calling on President Obama to extradite Posada to Venezuela to stand trial.


      Posada Carriles has been identified with acts of international terror for over 50 years. Born in Cuba in 1928, Carriles left Cuba after the overthrow of the Batista dictatorship and joined the forces fighting against Fidel Castro in Cuba. Because he was fighting communism – in this case, communism in Cuba – in the eyes of the US, Posada Carriles was not a terrorist, but a freedom fighter. But ‘fighting for freedom’ US-style was not confined to terrorist acts solely against Cuba. As noted above, these acts were carried out against the peoples of the Caribbean and Venezuela. Carriles was trained in the use of explosives by the CIA, and his use of a tube of toothpaste for the bomb came from training that he and his forces received from the CIA. Although Carrilles was an anti-communist zealot, it was his training by the CIA and CIA finances that made him a lethal force.

      It was the same anti-communist zeal that was inspired within the Caribbean when the US mobilised in the war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. In this war, the tactics and strategies of Carriles and the Caribbean terrorists were mobilised to train anti-communist forces of all forms, especially persons such as Osama bin Laden. Sources from the West itself do not contest the fact that during the anti-Soviet jihad, bin Laden and his fighters received American and Saudi funding. Bin Laden himself had security training from the CIA. This training followed the lines that had been refined with the anti-communist Cubans. The strength of the recruitment of Osama bin Laden was that, unlike Posada, Osama provided some of his own money and helped raise millions from other wealthy anti-communist Arabs. Osama bin Laden then recruited hundreds of thousands for his jihad. Today, many countries in Africa are suffering the repercussions of this alliance between the CIA and Osama bin Laden

      It was a strange twist of history that the release of Posada Carriles came on 8 April 2011 approximately nine days before the 50th anniversary of the abortive Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba. This aborted invasion continues to have a decisive effect on the politics of the US. The failure of this invasion is one of the alleged reasons that sections of the US intelligence and military establishment decided to assassinate President John F. Kennedy. This has been the allegation in numerous books on the assassination of President John Kennedy. The most recent book outlining in detail the culpability of the intelligence agencies was written by James Douglass, ‘JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters’. Douglass presents a very compelling argument that Kennedy was killed by ‘unspeakable’ forces within the US national security establishment and pointed to the links of these unspeakable forces to international terrorism. Scholars and researchers are still awaiting the declassification of the information on a CIA elite intelligence unit called Operation 40 to shed more light on JFK’s assassination.

      This episode of the killing of a US President and the efforts of the CIA to assassinate President Fidel Castro of Cuba have now been well considered as high points of US support for international terrorism. No less a body than the United States Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, chaired by Senator Frank Church (D-Idaho) in 1975 discussed alleged plots to kill foreign leaders. Known as the Church Committee, this Senate body investigated alleged plots to kill: Patrice Lumumba (Congo), Fidel Castro (Cuba), Rafael Trujillo (Dominican Republic), Ngo Dinh Diem (Vietnam) and Rene Schneider (Chile). The report established that the US government was implicated in several of these assassination plots. The Church Committee’s report stated that, ‘short of war, assassination is incompatible with American principles, international order and morality. It should be rejected as a tool of foreign policy.’ Despite this admonition by a committee of the United States Senate, the CIA, working with its agent Carriles, stuffed explosives in tubes of toothpaste to kill young Caribbeans a year later.

      Any terrorist organisation needs a pool of citizens willing to carry out acts of terrorism. After the debacle of the Bay of Pigs (17-19 April 1961), the US intelligence and military circles found a pool of willing accomplices from among the ranks of those Cuban exiles who were bent on overturning the socialist experiment in Cuba. These exiles had repaired to Miami, Florida and acted as a conservative force in US politics for over half a century. They not only supported the most brutal dictators in Latin America but were hired by the US to destabilise the Democratic Republic of the Congo so that the African independence project could be derailed.

      Posada Carriles hailed from this Cuban exile Community in Florida; he was associated with groups that carried names such as Alpha 66, the F4 Commandos, the Cuban American National Foundation, and Brothers to the Rescue. Among the more infamous of these American ‘ freedom fighters’ were Orlando Bosch (recently deceased) and Jorge Mas Canosa. Numerous reports from quality news outlets identified Posada Carriles as someone who had been in the service of the CIA since 1961. According to a lengthy New York Times article in 1998, titled ‘A Bombers Tale: Taking Aim at Castro; Key Cuba Foe Claims Exiles’ Backing,’ we are told:

      ‘Jailed for one of the most infamous anti-Cuban attacks, the 1976 bombing of a civilian Cubana airliner, [Carriles] eventually escaped from a Venezuelan prison to join the centerpiece of the Reagan White House’s anti-Communist crusade in the Western Hemisphere: Lieut. Col. Oliver L. North’s clandestine effort to supply arms to Nicaraguan contras.’

      The experiences of US terror throughout Latin America during the Reagan years require that peace activists internationally have a different orientation on terrorism than the United States. The long-standing war in Colombia in the so called ‘war on drugs’ was part of a process of militarisation and destructive terrorism that wreaked havoc on the Caribbean and Central America. Posada Carriles along with Elliot Abrams, a foreign policy official within the administrations of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, who was convicted in 1991 for withholding information from Congress in the Iran-Contra affair; and John Negroponte and other luminaries of the conservative forces in the US played key roles in supplying and supervising the CIA-backed contra mercenaries who were based in Honduras. This Contra War claimed over 50,000 lives.

      During the same period, Honduran military death squads, operating with Washington’s support, assassinated hundreds of opponents of the US-backed regime. Negroponte later surfaced as US Ambassador to Iraq and was a leading spokesperson in the ‘war on terror.’ Negroponte had held cabinet-level positions in both George W. Bush’s and Reagan’s administrations such as the first ever Director of National Intelligence and US Ambassador to the UN (Bush) and Deputy National Security Advisor (Reagan).

      As the case of Carriles and many others demonstrate, long before the anti-communist jihad, long before Bin Laden, and long before declaring the infamous global war on terror, the US had trained and enlisted some of the world’s most notorious terrorists and called them ‘ freedom fighters.’ Most sections of the US media acknowledge that the FBI and the CIA were quite aware of the terrorist activities of Posada Carriles. Posada Carriles was a ‘ freedom fighter’ for the US in the Caribbean and Latin America, while Osama bin Laden was a ‘freedom fighter’ for the US in Asia and just as Jonas Savimbi was a ‘freedom fighter’ in Africa. This was the same period when those legitimately fighting for liberation in Africa were deemed to be terrorists. The same CIA and the US military labelled the African National Congress of South Africa a terrorist organisation and its leaders were considered terrorists.

      Carriles’ escapades as an American ‘freedom fighter’ did not end with his escape from incarceration in Venezuela in the 1980’s or with his links to the 1997 Cuban bombings. Carriles was complicit in many terrorist activities directly or indirectly related with many of the over 600 plots to assassinate Castro. In 2000, Posada was arrested with 200 pounds of explosives, along with three associates. Five Cubans who worked to expose to the US authorities the terrorist activities of the Cuban American National Foundation and other exile groups in Miami were arrested by the US in 1998. The Cuban Five, also known as the Miami Five (Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, Ramón Labañino, Fernando González, and René González), are five Cubans convicted in Miami of espionage, conspiracy to commit murder, and other illegal activities in the US. These Cubans, who exposed acts of terrorism planned from US soil, are still incarcerated while Posada Carriles walks free.


      While the FBI and the US security forces were working to convict the Cuban Five, right before their very noses, the conspirators planning September 11 were being trained at a flight training school in Florida to use airplanes as weapons against US targets. Subsequent to the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York on 11 September 2001, security efforts to ‘ make the world safe from terrorism’ became a major preoccupation for the US government, influencing global politics, banking and commerce, diplomacy and the movement of ideas and peoples across the globe. In the immediate aftermath of the attacks there was an outpouring of solidarity from all parts of the globe for the citizens of the United States. The US government sought to benefit from this solidarity and ascribed unto itself the task of leading the international effort to combat terrorism (supposedly on behalf of the rest of the world). For a short moment, the media represented Afghanistan as the base for international terrorists, and in particular Osama Bin Laden. The US government launched a war against the Taliban government of Afghanistan in October 2001, and Central Asia became one of the primary fronts in the war against terrorism.

      President George W. Bush argued after the September 11 attacks that, ‘aiding and harboring terrorists’ was on the same level as committing terrorist acts. The fact that 30 years after the attacks on the Cubana Airlines the US continued to harbour the known perpetrators of the crime, brought to the fore the reality that the US government had been committing terrorist acts long before September 11 and its so-called war on terror. It was much clearer after 11 September 2001 that the rule of harbouring terrorists only applied to those who the US deemed to be terrorists.


      The full details of the comings and goings of Carriles in the service of the CIA is in the public domain. When Posada Carriles entered the US in 2005, the vigilance of the Caribbean investigators ensured that his quiet return was publicised. There was a massive demonstration in Cuba exposing the double standards of the Bush administration that was fighting terrorism but protecting terrorists. Posada Carriles was arrested and charged with eleven counts of perjury and obstruction only after the publicity from the Caribbean and the calls from Venezuela for him to be extradited back to Venezuela to stand trial.

      This is how the New York Times in 2006 carried the story of his detention in the United States:

      ‘Cubana Airlines Flight 455 crashed off the coast of Barbados on Oct. 6, 1976, killing all 73 people aboard. Plastic explosives stuffed into a toothpaste tube ignited the plane, according to recently declassified police records. Implicated in the attack, but never convicted, was Luis Posada Carriles, a Cuban exile who has long sought to topple the government of Fidel Castro. Today, Mr. Posada, 78, is in a detention center in El Paso, held on an immigration violation while the government tries to figure out what to do with him. His case presents a quandary for the Bush administration, at least in part because Mr. Posada is a former CIA operative and United States Army officer who directed his wrath at a government that Washington has long opposed. Despite insistent calls from Cuba and Venezuela for his extradition, the administration has refused to send him to either country for trial.’

      The strength of the terrorist alliances with the US ensured that Carriles understood that he was above the law. As his attorney, Felipe D. J. Millan, tellingly asked in the above New York Times article, ‘How can you call someone a terrorist who allegedly committed acts on your behalf?’ Mr. Millan went further to defend Carriles’ actions that though Carriles was considered a terrorist in Latin America and the Caribbean he indeed was a freedom fighter for the US. Mr. Millan maintained that by denying or ignoring the fact that Carriles acts were committed in his fight for America, ‘would be the equivalent of calling Patrick Henry or Paul Revere or Benjamin Franklin a terrorist.’

      When Carriles was acquitted on all charges in the El Paso court on 8 April, the Caribbean community was collectively outraged. In Barbados, where the initial terrorist act was committed, the editorial of the main newspaper, The Nation, was: ‘Painful Recall Over Acquittal of Cuban Exile.’

      The Venezuelan government protested the acquittal and demanded that the United States comply with international treaties and extradite Posada Carriles to face trial before a Venezuelan court. The Venezuelan government further mentioned that, ‘the legal proceedings in El Paso represented little more than a continuation of Washington’s protection of the CIA terrorist, which, the Venezuelan Foreign Affairs Ministry said, has become an emblematic case of US double standards in the international fight against terrorism.’ The Cuban government described the verdict as an ‘outrage’ and an ‘ insult,’ charging that Washington continues to harbor and protects ‘the Osama bin Laden of Latin America.’


      Students in Africa who do not know the history of United States terrorism will need to study the country’s intricate plot to assassinate presidents and freedom fighters at home and abroad, in addition to understanding the relationship of some US law enforcement agencies to international terrorism. The US justifies its creation of the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) on the grounds that it is assisting the fight against terrorism in Africa. People that really care about Africa must question the credibility of AFRICOM against the background of the US tradition of training terrorists to fight for American interests while labelling freedom fighters as terrorists. How credible is the US war on terror when the country harbours such a brutal terrorist as Posada Carriles while keeping in custody the Cuban Five? Brutal terrorism of the Posada genre is reinforced by the economic terror against Cuba as manifest in the illegal economic blockade against Cuba. The conservative forces of the Cuban National Foundation in Florida are now connected to counter revolutionary forces against the rights of ordinary citizens in the US.

      Students in the US who study International Relations are seduced by the discourse on fighting against terror, but these students are presented with abstractions that leave out the history of US-sponsored terrorism, especially in the past 50 years. Illegitimate US aggression throughout the globe by the CIA and sections of the US armed forces is a familiar political phenomenon and is well documented for those who care for the truth. The Federation of American Scientists has chronicled the numerous interventions by the US since 1945 and among the activities listed have been armed aggression, destabilizing governments, suppressing movements for social change, assassinating political leaders, perverting the course of elections, manipulating labour unions, manufacturing ‘news’ teaching torture, creating death squads, engaging in biological warfare and drug trafficking, training mercenaries, and working with Nazis and their collaborators. Scholars and activists who write on low intensity wars have been highlighting the ways in which the government of the United States was the principal supporter of terrorism. Noam Chomsky has been forthright in documenting the ways the US has acted as the leading terrorist state in the world, showing how these relationships have operated in Latin America for decades.

      The US Africa Command created a disinformation platform, Operation Objective Voice, to confuse Africans. One of the requirements of psychological warfare and information warfare is for some truth to serve as the basis of the information that is being peddled. The experience of Posada Carriles is one of the examples that expose the false narrative that the US is genuinely involved in a war against terror. There is so much public information on the details of the Cubana Airlines flight 455 that any objective voice within the US military today would seek to distance themselves from the forces within the state that supported dastardly acts of terror and international crimes. In reality, however, the criminal actions associated with killing 73 Caribbean youths are compounded by the economic terrorism unleashed by the US banking system and the forces that spread the doctrine of neo-liberal capitalism. Billions of dollars are scooped up from Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America by the US financial oligarchy and these are the forces that benefit from all forms of terror. Direct crimes such as those of Carriles and the economic crimes of the International Monetary Fund are two sides of the terror of international capitalism. These forces collaborated yesterday to assassinate John F. Kennedy and are at work today to ensure that in spite of the economic crisis, billions are spent on weapons and the spread of wars in Afghanistan, Libya and other parts of the world. Is it possible that Carriles was not incarcerated because he has information that would be even more explosive than the facts revealed in the books on Operation Condor, ‘The Condor Years: How Pinochet and His Allies Brought Terrorism to Three Continents’ and ‘JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters?’ According to an organisation called the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five:

      ‘A footnote in a document filed by Posada’s lead defense attorney on January 28, 2010, is quite revealing about the kind of classified information that Posada Carriles threatens to expose in the course of the trial. His attorney, Arturo Hernández, argues in that motion, ‘ The Defendant’s CIA relationship, stemming from his work against the Castro regime through his anti-communist activities in Venezuela and Central America, are relevant and admissible to his defense.’ The motion furthermore alleges that the US government had been complicit in bomb-setting in Cuba and asked the court to compel the government to declassify all information that shows the ‘ involvement, knowledge, acquiescence and complicity [of the U.S. Government] in sabotage or bombings in Cuba.’ Also, the motion requests disclosure of ‘ [t]raining, instructions, memos or other documents reflecting orders to the Defendant to maintain secrecy and not disclose his relationship or information regarding his activities on behalf of the U.S. Government or any of its Agencies.’

      Now that many Americans feel that justice have been served with the death of bin Laden, the question is: do the citizens of the Caribbean and their relatives and acquaintances, who were victims of Posada Carriles’ terrorism, deserve justice?

      The acquittal of Carriles reminds us of the dangerous intersection between militarism, terrorism and those forces that profit from war and mind control. Could the global war on terror be an exercise in mind control just as the trial and acquittal of Carriles exposed the contradiction of decades of unleashing terror? The fact that the Obama administration could not reverse the intersection of history and the contemporary heritage of the operations of the US terror machine ensure that it is up to the peace movement to intensify the efforts to dismantle the financial-military-information complex that remains above international law.


      * Horace Campbell is professor of African American studies and political science at Syracuse University. He is the author of ‘Barack Obama and 21st Century Politics: A Revolutionary Moment in the USA’. See
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      Bin Laden and Nakba

      Mazin Qumsiyeh


      cc M R
      Mazin Qumsiyeh discusses the assassination of Osama Bin Laden in the light of the continued oppression of the Palestinian people.

      There is a western media frenzy about the reported ‘taking-out’ of Osama Bin Laden (the previous ally turned enemy). Israeli papers reported a high level US security official as saying the instruction was not to capture Bin Laden alive but to liquidate him. But everyone already knew this since there would be a messy business if the US soldiers captured such a person alive (he may even spill the beans on his US and Pakistani intelligence links). Most people went about their daily lives of apathy. Even the stock market did not go up as pundits predicted. Soon the dollar will resume its downward spiral.

      The US military may feel vindicated and Pakistanis will feel their country's sovereignty challenged. Some may chose to retaliate with violence giving the neo-cons and neo-liberals an excuse to pursue their policies. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the military-industrial complex needed a new enemy to sustain its massive structure and, conveniently, ‘Islamic terrorism’ materialised. Of course, there are fanatical Muslims (and Jews and Christians and Hindus) who are willing to kill. Yet, the US did not have to invade Iraq and Afghanistan and create more such fanatics. But a more sober analysis shows that things will change.

      Bin Laden was killed a while ago, not physically but as an idea. The idea suffered significant blows with the Arab Spring revolutions, which showed that it does not take violence to change our societies and remove US/Israeli backed dictators. Bin Laden's assassination and the continued state terrorism practiced by the US government and its allies, especially Israel, attempts to entrench the idea of violence as an answer.

      The brutal assault on Syrian, Yemeni, Saudi and Bahraini demonstrators and the continued US military attacks in countries around the world are part of this human foolishness. They represent that wing of our global society that believes violence is the answer: the win-lose scenario. The hopeful ideas of popular resistance, freedom, democracy and an end to exploitation successfully challenged the notions of a ‘clash of civilization’ and ‘might makes right’.

      We thus remain hopeful, despite all the false news planted around us and all the false-flag operations, and despite the one million Iraqis and 50,000 Afghans killed by these wars.

      Here in Palestine, most people went about their lives focusing on how to find the next loaf of bread under Israeli colonial occupation. Hardly a mention was made of Bin Laden. If we take just one village called Izbet Al-Tabib, a tiny village of 247 residents (60 per cent of them children), we see one example of what was on people's minds. The Israeli decision to take their land was met with a protest tent on the threatened land to try and make their story known. The Israeli military came and attacked the villagers and the international volunteers, severely injuring an elderly American woman and arresting three other internationals (see At night more than 200 soldiers invaded the village, terrorising its population to try and stem the growing popular resistance. And last night, the Israeli army arrested several Palestinians in major cities including Bethlehem (this happens regularly in defiance of the Oslo accords and with the knowledge of ‘Palestinian security’ forces).

      In a few days, there will be events and commemorations surrounding the Nakba day. The Nakba is the Palestinian catastrophe etched into every living Palestinian mind. It is the fact that from January 1948 to the end of 1949, more than two-thirds of our people who lived in the land that became the (Jewish) state of Israel were ethnically cleansed. Sixty-three years later, nearly seven million Palestinians are refugees or internally displaced people. This is the largest and most tragic and persistent post World War II atrocity. For information, visit

      It is important that we all join in activities to challenge colonialism on this anniversary of the Nakba. Below are some events but do look for events in your area or organise your own events. In the US, you can also get some printed material (a Nakba Pak) from here

      From Lebanon and Jordan, see details here

      Hellerup, Kobenhavn, Denmark
      Israëlische ambassade, Sterrewachtlaan 40 1180 Ukkel - Avenue de l'Observatoire 40 1180 Brussel (UCCLE)
      Madrid. C/ Velázquez 150, 7º
      Ambassade d'Israel - Paris
      Bern (Bern, Switzerland)
      Houston, TX
      Consulate General of Israel, 6380 Wilshire blvd. Suite 1700, Los Angeles CA, 90048 & Consulate General of Israel, 456 Montgomery Street, San Francisco, 94104

      Israeli Embassy
      122 Pembroke Road, Ballsbridge
      Dublin, Ireland
      Ambasciata d'Israele, via Michele Mercati 12, Roma
      Israelische Botschaft Auguste-Viktoria-Str. 74-76 14193 Berlin
      Boston Israeli Consulate
      20 Park Plaza
      Boston, MA
      Israeli Embassy, 2 Palace Green, London W8 4QB


      * Professor Mazin Qumsiyeh teaches and does research at Bethlehem and Birzeit Universities in occupied Palestine. He serves as chairman of the board of the Palestinian Center for Rapprochement Between People and coordinator of the Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements in Beit Sahour. He is author of 'Sharing the Land of Canaan: Human rights and the Israeli/Palestinian Struggle' and the forthcoming book 'Popular Resistance in Palestine: A history of Hope and Empowerment. Note: If you emailed me at [email protected] in the past few weeks, please resend your message here as I have lost access to that account. Also ignore any emails that may come from that email account. You can email me at [email protected]
      * This article was originally published on Popular Resistance blog.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      France must now leave Côte d’Ivoire

      Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe


      cc Wikipedia
      In scenes redolent of the kidnapping of Patrice Lumumba and storming of Salvador Allende’s presidential palace, France’s recent activities in Côte d’Ivoire have been purely about establishing self-interested ‘regime change’, argues Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe.

      ‘Without Africa, France will have no history in the 21st century.’
      French President François Mitterand, March 1998

      ‘A little country, with a small amount of strength, we can move a planet because [of our] … relations with 15 or 20 African countries.’
      Jacques Godfrain, former head, French foreign ministry, March 1998

      For whoever wished to know, it was evident, right from the outset, that the French mission in Côte d’Ivoire since November 2010 had little to do with the locally disputed presidential elections. If France’s ambitions were to help resolve a fractious presidential poll, it indeed was confronted with a pressing opportunity during the period within its own European homeland – in Belarus, just a thousand miles away. Perhaps for a ‘nobler’ transcontinental effect, if it felt so compelled, it could have sought to resolve that mother of all presidential disputes that has dragged on for 21 years in Myanmar between Aung San Suu Kyi and the country’s aging military junta.

      No, France had no and has no such lofty aspirations. In Côte d’Ivoire, to employ that late 20th century/early 21st century awful euphemism for the flagrant invasion and occupation of a country and the overthrow of its government by an aggressor state, the French objective here has been nothing but ‘regime change’. It achieved this so ferociously and viciously recently by unleashing a raging cascade of violence in Abidjan that was at once aimed at recreating, on the African scene, the bestial kidnapping of Congo’s Patrice Lumumba in 1960 (centrally organised, we mustn’t fail to recall, by France’s Belgian francophonie cousin) and the 1973 attack and virtual destruction of Salvador Allende’s presidential palace in Santiago, Chile, by Augusto Pinochet’s putschist military. Hundreds of Ivoirians and others were murdered during this brigandage, with one report placing the final casualty tally at 2,300. On the morrow of its Abidjan rampage on 6 April 2011, the brute seized President Gbagbo, along with his wife and family and aides, dismissed him from office and turned him over to his very implacable electoral foes for incarceration or worse. Finally, the brute imposed Alassane Ouattara, its francophonie acolyte and barely competent ex-IMF (International Monetary Fund) official, on the peoples of Côte d’Ivoire as le président de la république!

      But why Côte d’Ivoire, a sovereign African country 3,000 miles away from France? Why indeed Africa? France has long been wracked by chronic anxieties about its ‘status’ and ‘prestige’ in the world since its military was dealt a humiliating defeat during a 12-year old uprising by enslaved African military forces led by Toussaint L’Ouverture in French-occupied San Domingo (Haiti) – the ‘greatest individual market’ of the 18th century European enslavement of the African humanity, which accounted for two-thirds of French foreign trade at the time. The Africans of San Domingo, ‘The Black Jacobins’, as C.L.R. James, the illustrious African-Caribbean scholar would describe them in such searing irony and sardonicism in his 1938-published classic of the same title on the subject, ‘defeated in turn the local whites and the soldiers of the French monarchy, a Spanish invasion, a British expedition of some 60,000 men, and a French expedition of similar size under [Napoleon] Bonaparte’s brother-in-law’. Following the latter’s victory in 1803, the Africans proclaimed and established their republic of Haiti.

      France has yet to recover from the catastrophic damage to its psyche, elicited by its losses in San Domingo. The transformation of enslaved Africans, as James notes perceptively in his study, ‘trembling in hundreds before a single white man … into a people able to organise themselves and defeat the most powerful European nations of their day … is one of the great epics of revolutionary struggle and achievement’. Consequently, in its relationship with Africans, wherever this occurs on earth, France feels that it is still fighting Toussaint L’Ouverture and his formidable forces all over again and again… Furthermore, San Domingo is gravely etched indelibly in French consciousness as the precursor to the catalogue of crushing French military defeats in the subsequent 150 years of its history, aptly illustrated by the following: the 1871 Franco-Prussian War, the 1914–18 First World War, the 1939–45 Second World War and the 1954 Battle of Dien Bien Phu, resulting in the débâcle of its elite French Far East Expeditionary Corps’ occupation garrison in Vietnam, inflicted by the resolute Viet Minh commanded by General Giáp. It would require another commentary to sketch, more fully, how the French angst over San Domingo must be working through the mindset of the current occupant of the Élysée Palace, whose regime thrives in its serial fantasy as the neo-Napoleonic imperium of these early decades of the 21st century.

      Interestingly, to mention the Second World War French experience is to invoke a fascinating, albeit uncanny irony which French history shares currently with that of the peoples of Côte d’Ivoire in the wake of Paris’s unprovoked and unpardonable aggression. Despite the iron-fist texture of the German blitzkrieg that overran France in July 1940, resulting in the French surrender and the establishment of the Vichy regime to oversee the Nazi occupation for four debilitating years, the majority of French people had to work very had to believe, correctly, that the success of this invasion was essentially a Pyrrhic victory; eventual termination of the occupation and consequently the restoration of French sovereignty was therefore possible and had to be assiduously pursued with those French men and women who identified uncompromisingly with the free French.


      Thankfully, the Ivoirians haven’t had long to wait to draw their own conclusions on the character and intent of the overwhelming brutish terror visited upon them in April 2011 by the military from that same country that was so virulently subjected to a similar experience, almost 71 years to the day. Despite the savagery of its violence, despite its subterfuge, despite its obfuscations and despite its hackneyed rationalisations for these dreadful deeds, France must know that the African peoples of Côte d’Ivoire and Africans elsewhere in the world regard the presumed successes of its 6 April 2011 bombardment of Abidjan as, at best, a Pyrrhic victory. Just as France ultimately found out in its own experience in 1945, a free Côte d’Ivoire, free of France, will surely occur. Additionally, its reincarnated, entrenched overseer-Marshal Pétain, now dubbed with an altered second name that begins with ‘O’, pointedly the next alphabet up from ‘P’, will end up agonising how to precisely answer the overriding question of an enraged epoch: ‘Why have I allowed myself to be so fouled-up by the course of history where I exist and operate miserably, pathetically and disgustingly as the mere pawn of an active agency?’

      In the meantime, a group of southern World countries headed by South Africa and including Botswana, Cape Verde, India, Jamaica and Bolivia should visit Côte d’Ivoire and support the process of organising a referendum to determine the competing sovereignties in the country, occasioned by the murderous collapse of the Ivoirian state. Côte d’Ivoire, as so presently constituted, can no longer provide security to all its incorporated African nations or peoples. Instead, it murders them most horribly.

      Tragically, Côte d’Ivoire has now joined that dreadful league of states of Africa inaugurated in May 1966 by Nigeria, the obligatory haematophagous monster in the region, whose raison d’être is to murder Africans most routinely and ritualistically. Enough! Every African life in Côte d’Ivoire is worth much more than the state of Côte d’Ivoire, in addition to all of Africa’s states of death. The peoples, including the hundreds of thousands who have been displaced by the emergency to neighbouring countries in West Africa and elsewhere, must determine freely and democratically which post-Côte d’Ivoire successor states they wish to belong to.


      * Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe is an independent scholar whose new book, ‘Readings from Reading: Essays on African Politics, Genocide, Literature’, will be published later in 2011.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      South Africa: Not yet Uhuru

      Ayanda Kota

      Unemployed People’s Movement (UPM)


      'We have no freedom to celebrate today. We live in a radically unjust society…Until everyone’s voice counts equally we cannot say that we are free’, the Unemployed People’s Movement writes from Grahamstown, in a statement to mark South Africa’s ‘Freedom Day’ on 27 April.

      On the 27th of April 1994 the people of this country stood in long queues for many hours, waiting to cast their vote for the first time. In some parts of the country the weather was indeed hostile, freezing cold, while in other parts of the country it was scorching hot. Our people were voting for the first time, voting for an end to racism and for democracy and a better life – for jobs, free education and decent housing. Over and above their vote for their material needs to be met they were voting for their freedom. Or so they were made to believe!

      The rays of that sunrise were breaking through the dark storm clouds. The first beams of the new sun were making their way through the clouds into the new blue sky. After centuries of oppression hope was rekindled, a new nation, a rainbow nation was born. Or so we were made to believe.

      I remember watching the proceedings on television. I saw the Right Reverend, the Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu, casting his vote. The great man then jumped and said “Free at last! Free at last!” He was coming on the heels of the former president, Nelson Mandela.

      Freedom is the ability of the people not to be oppressed and to be able to determine their own future collectively and by their own wills. Freedom is the realization of the will of the people. When there is freedom the government is for the people and by the people because the people govern themselves. Freedom is the ability of the people to determine their own destiny. Freedom is self- government.

      When there is freedom the people do not have to beg the government to recognize them as important because they are the government. When there is freedom people are free from hunger, poverty, diseases, homelessness and an inability to access basic needs. Justice, peace, dignity and access to the country’s wealth are central to freedom.

      Freedom means that people must come first. It means people before profit. It means people before the big transnational corporations. It means that the people’s sovereignty and rights have been restored!

      Freedom does not mean that the people vote for some few politicians to take their friends and relatives and go and join the old white capitalists as they feast off the devastation of the people behind high walls and police officers who shoot us to kill us. Freedom does not mean that our so called leaders become managers of capital, running the country and disciplining the people on behalf of the capital.

      Freedom does not mean that politicians become little Gods. Freedom is also not the rule of experts in civil society. Freedom is not the rule of the police. In a free country it is the voice of the citizens that matters the most. If Azania was free the voice of every Azanian and of every community in Azania would matter equally. Until everyone’s voice counts equally we cannot say that we are free.

      After seventeen years of democracy our townships are broken. All you see is drunken men and women walking aimlessly like zombis their blood stream flowing with cheap alcohol. This is how we drug ourselves against the nightmare of a democracy that is really neo-apartheid and not post-apartheid. This is how we drug ourselves against a society that has no respect for us, no place for us and no future for us. In the Eastern Cape they drink umtshovalale. In Kwa-Zula-Natal they drink isiqatha. In Gauteng they drink gavani. In the Westarn Cape they drink spirits. This alcohol has a hazardous effect. My people, young and old, have been silently taken to the graves due to the effects of this alcohol. We are poisoning ourselves to drug ourselves against the horror of our lives. Throughout South Africa young people smoke ARVs. It is a well known thing. We live below poverty line and we have completely lost hope.

      South Africa is the most unequal country in the world. The gap between the rich and the poor is so vast and it is growing. The unemployment rate is so high. It is above 40%. Poverty rates are sky rocketing. In a place like Alice residents drink unsafe water. At times there is no water at all. In Grahamstown we continue to use the bucket system to shit. All around South Africa there are crumbling RDP houses and municipalities are falling under corruption while Zuma’s family, his wives, children and relatives’ are becoming billionaires. Shiceka spent R640 000 in one year on rooms for himself and his staff at the One & Only hotel in Cape Town, flew to Switzerland first class to visit a girlfriend in jail and hired a limousine to drive him to the prison. What kind of politician lives like this while the people are suffering as we are? What kind of politician lives like this while South Africa has become "the protest capital of the world” with one of the highest rates of public protest in the world?

      Shiceka is a predator and not a liberator. He is not the only one. In 2010 Eskom announced its decision to increase the tariffs by 35% assaulting the unemployed and the poor while the ANC Company, Chancellor House, are ripping the profit from the shaking hands of the people. Very soon the coffers of this country will run short and we will be asked to give even more to the ANC, to Chancellor House and the Zuma family. The way they are looting our resources is beyond imagination. They way that they have privatised the struggle of the people is incredible.

      We are a bleeding nation. All the power that belongs to us has been centralized to the ruling elite. We do not participate on the model of the RDP house that must be built. They decide for us. The Integrated Development Plan (IDP) meetings are a platform to manage us. There is no veracity. They choose those who must represent us in local chambers, come back and parade them as our leaders. When we ask to speak to these leaders they call the police. We have no power. We have no voice. We have no freedom to celebrate today. We live in a radically unjust society. We are oppressed.

      The ANC tries to control the people with its police, social grants and rallies with celebrities and musicians. The ANC tries to drug us against their betrayal by keeping us drunk on memories of the struggle – the same struggle that they have betrayed. But everywhere the ANC is loosing control. Protest is spreading everywhere. Everywhere people are boycotting elections and running independent candidates. Everywhere people are organizing themselves into their own autonomous organizations and movements.

      Mostafa Omara, narrating the Egyptian Revolution, writes:

      “People look more relaxed and at peace -- you can see it on their faces. People in Egypt will tell you: Gone are the days when we felt helpless and little; gone are the days when the police could humiliate us and torture us; gone are the times when the rich and the businessmen think they could run the country as if it was their own private company.”

      In South Africa we long for the same feeling! Seventeen years did not relive the pain and suffering of centuries we endured under the apartheid government and the colonial governments before that.

      Revolutions do not spring out of the blue. Revolutions are organised through the united action of men and women, rural and urban, which spring from their needs. Revolutions happen when ordinary men and women begin to discuss their own lives and their own futures and to take action to take control of their own lives.

      The rebellion of the poor that has engulfed this country is growing. More and more organisations are emerging. More and more people have become radicalised. More and more communities have lost all illusions in the ANC after experiencing the violence of the predator state. More and more people are starting and joining discussions about the way forward for the struggle to take the country back.

      We need to move forward with more determination working all the time to build and to unite our struggles. As we connect our struggles, from Ficksburg to Grahamstown, from Cape Town to Johannesburg and Durban, we are, slowly but steadily, building a new mass movement. We are building a network of struggles that are determined to be in what has been called a living solidarity with each other.

      Struggle continues! Victory is certain! Nothing for us without us.

      Yours truly

      Ayanda Kota, Unemployed People’s Movement Chairperson, Grahamstown

      * Contact the Unemployed People’s Movement (UPM) at 69 “C” Nompondo Street, Grahamstown, 6139. Tel: 072 299 5253, 078 625 6462, 073 578 3661.
      Email: [email protected], [email protected]
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      Race is skin deep, humanity is not

      Neville Alexander


      cc A S
      In the wake of the ‘furore about the racist remarks attributed to Mr Jimmy Manyi’, Neville Alexander discusses the challenges around creating a ‘raceless society’ in post-apartheid South Africa.

      The furore about the racist remarks attributed to Mr Jimmy Manyi and to a few other would-be pacesetters in the aspiring leadership cadre of the new South Africa is without any doubt one of the defining moments of our country’s history.

      Enough has been written and more than enough said in ‘jest’ or otherwise about what these people actually said or wrote, about why Solidarity, with its not-so-hidden agenda, suddenly sprang this revelation on an ‘unsuspecting’ South African middle class public, and about the positions taken by various professional politicians, especially those in and around the ANC.

      I shall therefore spare myself the agony and the embarrassment of commenting on the disgusting crassness and the latent brutality of the utterances and passages attributed to Mr Manyi, Ms Kuli Roberts and the others.

      This is all the more justified since the general sense of outrage, cathartic as it might be, is not the real point. Whether some, or all, of the critics and commentators are more or less ‘racist’ than Roberts, Manyi and Co is not worthy of serious discussion.

      The very fact that ‘race’ and racial labels can become a point of contestation in what is no more than a rather childish name-calling exercise is indicative of the profound ironies of the ‘new’ South Africa. Indeed, I intervene in this matter with a sense of shame.

      Shame, because all of us who have advocated and fought for so many decades and even generations for the goal of a non-racial South Africa have so patently failed in our mission. Shame, but not defeat! This ‘debate’ merely underlines the fact that the struggle for the total liberation of the people of South Africa continues.

      In my view, we need to restate the underlying issues involved in ‘the race debate’ and stop making things worse by dwelling on what are no more than superficial features of actual and potential conflict deriving from vested economic and political interests.

      Let me begin by saying again, as I have done a thousand times in many articles and speeches on this issue: race thinking is real and it has real consequences, which will not disappear overnight.

      Most South Africans will continue for a very long time to see themselves, and see one another, as ‘Africans’, ‘Indians’, ‘Coloureds’ and ‘Whites’, simply because these identities were constructed in terms of ruling class agendas and interests over decades and centuries.

      These people have a right to see themselves as such but, given the history of racial conflict and inequality, it is the duty of those who have the power to do so to create conditions in which the need to identify in this way becomes unnecessary and undesirable.

      While there are many things we can do in the short to medium term to create a more tolerant and tolerable social climate, it will take generations of consistent and patient work to alter the underlying structures that cause and entrench racial prejudice and all the awful expressions of hatred and ignorance that inevitably go with racial stereotyping.

      I want to deal briefly with three fundamental issues involved in this debate. Many South African scholars, starting from different points of view, have written on these issues and anyone who is seriously concerned about understanding the complexities of the racial order could do worse than to go back to these sources.

      First and foremost we have to confront the question: is a raceless society possible? Should such a society be our desired destination? Is this what we all mean when we speak about a ‘non-racial South Africa’? If, when using these and related terms, we mean minimally the kind of society where the colour of one’s skin, the texture of one’s hair, etc is irrelevant in terms of one’s human dignity and life chances, we have to face a few stubborn facts not only of South African society but of all racist societies.

      Given the tenacity and the apparent solidity of the colonial-apartheid social and economic structures and their ideological underpinnings that have shaped all our lives, how realistic or feasible is a non-racial South Africa? Is it not an even more utopian notion than the ‘classless society’ that many of us continue to carry around with us as our political GPS?

      The short answer to this question is that if you can believe in heaven and other notions of a life of perfect harmony after death, it ought not to be difficult to conceive of the possibility of a raceless or a classless society here on earth.

      If you cannot envision such a society, you are saying to all of us, among other things, that biology is fate and that there is nothing much we can do about improving our conditions of life, depending on which ‘race’ or ‘class’ is on top.

      Such fatalism is antithetical to any society that is bent on social transformation.

      The longer answer to the question is that because we are human beings, we create meaning for ourselves, and a social goal such as a ‘non-racial South Africa’ is not only conceivable but eminently feasible.

      To make it happen, we have to do many things in the short, medium and very long term.

      What Roberts, Manyi and Co seem to have done, or seem to be doing, as far as I am concerned, points in the opposite direction, ie the kind of South Africa from which we thought we were ready to escape in 1994.

      The second issue we have to confront is that of human worth or dignity. If Mr Manyi has been quoted correctly, he has done no more than take to its logical conclusion the implications of any human capital theory, ie a way of seeing people as assets and in terms of their exchange value.

      Once you are on that road – and most capitalist business ideologues are on that road – it is very easy to fall into the kind of discourse where one or other group of people is considered to be ‘superfluous’, ‘over-concentrated’ etc.

      The Hitlers and the Fronemans of the world eventually forced these people into railway trucks or lorries and transported them to their death in the gas chambers or to their last graves in the many Dimbazas of our beloved country (Frank Froneman was the former deputy minister of Bantu administration who referred to the wives and children of black workers as ‘superfluous appendages’).

      The dehumanisation of language and discourse corresponds to the dehumanisation of stigmatised persons. Once the commodity value of people displaces their intrinsic human worth or dignity, we are well on the way to a state of barbarism.

      Unless and until we bring back into our paradigms, and thus into our social analyses, the entire human being and the ways in which human beings can live fulfilled lives beyond their mere economic needs, we will continue to promote anti-human philosophies and policies that ultimately tend to work to the benefit of those who have, and to the detriment of those who do not have.

      Thirdly, and finally, it is time that we admit publicly and without any qualifications that you cannot fight racial inequality, racial prejudice and race thinking by using racial categories as a ‘site of redress’.

      Among many others, I have written about alternatives to affirmative action policies; so I shall not repeat those points here. Suffice it to say that fighting race with race is bad social science and even worse practical politics

      Besides tackling the structural economic and social inequalities that we took over without much modification from the apartheid state, we have to do the hard work of exploring, researching and piloting alternative approaches to those based on the apartheid racial categories to counter the perpetuation of white and other social privilege.

      It is a fundamental theoretical and strategic error to try to do so by perpetuating racial identities in the nonsensical belief that this will not have any negative or destructive social consequences.

      The Employment Equity Act and all related legislation should be reviewed, not in the direction that the Department of Labour seems to want to do but in a totally different direction, one that moves away decisively from any notion of ‘race’ and looks specifically at ‘disadvantage’.

      Seventeen years into the new South Africa, we can afford to interrogate even our most dearly held views about things. In South Africa, because we do live in a liberal democracy, we can actually ask these questions without fear of losing our limbs or even our lives.

      The Manyi affair is much larger than the few individuals involved. It is a matter that, unless we look beneath the verbiage, may ruin any future of peace and prosperity our children may hope for.


      * Dr Neville Alexander is director of the project for the study of alternative education in South Africa at the University of Cape Town.
      * This article was first published by the Cape Times.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      GodZuma and Black Theology

      Pedro Alexis Tabensky


      cc A S
      ‘Few things are more hateful’ than the ‘deliberate manipulation of the minds of the broken and destitute in the name of liberation,’ writes Pedro Alexis Tabensky, as the ANC attempts to win support from South Africa’s poorest communities by portraying the party as ‘the representatives of God on earth’.

      Few things are more hateful than the self-righteous, arrogant and deliberate manipulation of the minds of the broken and destitute in the name of liberation.

      We well know how the logic of apartheid greed encouraged its religious ministers to read the bible to suit the needs of the regime. The defence of the preposterous idea that the bible is compatible with apartheid is what occasioned the heroic rebellion of people like Beyers Naudé. The reading is so absurd that one can quite rightly wonder whether those allegedly endorsing this interpretation were in full command of their faculties. I doubt they were and I think it is a fair to describe apartheid as a whole – including its representatives of God on earth – as a regime of collective white-supremacist insanity. Evidence for this is the impossibility faced by an impartial outsider to explain the working of the regime without having to make rich appeal to psychological mechanisms deployed by psychologists to explain the workings of dysfunctional minds.

      This brief speculation about mental distortions on the oppressor’s side of injustice complements Black Consciousness views. Black Consciousness supporters thought that black and white minds must be liberated from their respective inferiority and superiority complexes. And, crucially, they thought that black people could only be liberated by struggling for liberation rather than by waiting for some kind of saviour, be it God or, one could speculate given the current ANC election campaign, Jacob Zuma.

      He and his party are being portrayed as the representatives of God on earth. Indeed, Zuma himself has audaciously claimed that to vote for the ANC is to vote for God.

      As apartheid benefited from the pathology of white supremacy and the deep inferiority complex widespread among the black population due to centuries of humiliation, so too is our current government benefiting from the brokenness of the poor, marginalised and, centrally, psychologically oppressed. Disgracefully, they are benefiting, for their own selfish advancement projects, from the brokenness of the poor, who are waiting, as the broken tend to, for divine deliverance rather than taking it upon themselves to be the makers of their own destinies.

      I have never heard an affluent man call me ‘master’. But, in addition to being called ‘master’ on a regular basis by the poor and broken, I have recently been called ‘Jesus’ after delivering a public lecture on the importance of popular rebellion for re-establishing hope among the poor. If I was black and poor, I would not have been thought of as Jesus. I was seen as a liberator of the poor, a master that has finally come to release the poor from the chains of unspeakable suffering.

      It is those who think of people like me as ‘masters’ or potential saviours who are currently being targeted by the ANC campaign to gain votes, for it is to a large extent them who keep the ANC in power (the lack of credible alternatives is another). And, given that the logic of greed is guiding them, as evidenced by innumerable cases corruption, police brutality and lack of delivery, one cannot be blamed for suspecting that having a large proportion of the electorate in a state of brokenness can do nothing but benefit the regime. It is not the meek who are taking to the streets today and rebelling against the crushing power of the state and the financial interests that it represents. They, rather, are waiting sheepishly for a second coming; for someone to liberate them as opposed to fighting for liberation. For this reason, they are ideal election fodder for the ANC: Placid, compliant, half-starved, broken shells of humanity.

      And it seems that a new sort of theology, which contrasts markedly with the teaching of Black Theology, is taking hold of our current crop of ANC plunderers. It seems not only that the ANC has acquired the power to extend Madiba’s life, but that it is the embodiment of the Holy Trinity. When we vote for the ANC, we are being told, we vote for God. Either those making these incredible pronouncements believe them and hence are unfit to rule or they are lying for votes in which case they are unfit to rule.

      The second interpretation is far more likely than the first, and if it is the correct one, what follows is chilling. For it shows to what extent our rulers are using the living legacy of apartheid – embodied in the servile desperation of many of the poorest of the poor – to their advantage. It is chilling because it involves the overt exploitation of minds that have been crushed by apartheid and by the unremitting destructive power of poverty. And it is doubly chilling because it is being done in the name of liberation.

      Basil Moore, one of the founding leaders of Black Theology recently gave an eloquent lecture at Rhodes University as part of this year’s graduation ceremony. One of the important things he highlighted was the intimate relationship between Black Theology and Black Consciousness. In addition to founding SASO, Steve Biko was a member of the organisation that developed Black Theology, the University Christian Movement (UCM). Indeed, the formation by Steve Biko of the black caucus during the second meeting of the UCM in Stutterheim in 1968 is what led to the formation of SASO (South African Students' Organisation).

      According to Moore, advocates of Black Theology rejected the idea of God as an authoritarian figure which, in his words, locked ‘human beings into a permanent childhood’ and instead they proposed a much more active role for the black majority. They conceived of human beings as potential liberators of themselves, no longer waiting for an omnipotent god to save them. God, for them, is not a ‘person’. Instead, in Moore’s words, ‘God is love, peace and justice’.

      In a curious move on the part of the ANC’s spin-doctors, the conception of God as king is being appropriated for the purposes of political gain. As is the case during apartheid, the poor are being treated as children. And the ANC is posing as the god that will save them, the almighty father on earth.

      It is this servile conception of humanity that Black Theology fought against, and it is this servile conception that the ANC is now exploiting for the purposes of keeping a large percentage of those who vote for them in a state of permanent infancy. It is far easier to manipulate children than it is to manipulate adults. By appealing to the image of God as saviour to describe itself, the ruling party is contradicting its basic claim that it is the party of the liberators.


      * Professor Pedro Alexis Tabensky is in the Department of Philosophy, Rhodes University, South Africa.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      Osama is dead but…

      Mphutlane wa Bofelo


      cc Wstera2
      I’m no supporter of Osama bin Laden but the assertion that his killing ‘marks the triumph against global terrorism’ is ‘laughable and absurd’, writes Mphutlane wa Bofelo. Why won’t the West recognise that it is its own disregard for the lives and worldviews of people in the Global South that fuels rage and resistance against it?

      The ignoble manner, in which America dumped the remains of Osama bin Laden into the sea, highlights the ethnocentric, obnoxious and xenophobic disregard and disrespect for the lives, worldviews and cultures of peoples of the Global South. This is exactly what lies at the heart of the rage of the Global South and the Muslim world against the United States of America and the rest of the Global North. The fear that the burial place of Osama bin Laden would turn into a shrine stems from the proclivity to obfuscate or obliterate the historical consciousness and collective memory of the peoples of the Global South. It amounts to denying people the right to keep monuments and memories of people and events for posterity.

      This is equal to refusing people the freedom to put events into perspective and make their own choices and decisions regarding who their heroes are. It is, actually, denying people the right to narrate, record, tell and interpret history in their own terms. It is taking away their latitude to communicate with their dead and their past in their own language, informed by their own beliefs and readings of their own historical and material realities. It is playing God, deciding who must live or die (forever), which name, spirit and ideals the people should keep in their hearts, minds and live and whose poster must hang in the bedrooms and boardrooms of the peoples of the world. We all must worship and forever remember and extol the gods and goddesses of Hollywood and style our arts and lives after this ‘holyweird’ and only sport T-shirts of heroes that are made for us by the US. We CANNOT decide our s/heroes and build our own monuments.

      The empire MUST either tell who our s/heroes are or build false monuments in the name of our (real) martyrs and s/heroes. The empire made bin Laden, and discarded him when it suited its interests. It allowed him to live in ‘hiding’ for as long as it desired and ‘located’ and killed him, when it thought the time was ripe. Now we are told it is the end of history. There will be no more terror in the world. But the terror of rampant poverty and raging disease, widespread homelessness and joblessness, police brutality, corporate greed and state corruption, gigantic inequalities, blatant racism and vile sexism has been there and will not go with the death of bin Laden.

      I am not one to wear an Osama bin Laden T-Shirt. I don’t believe that his patriarchal, exclusivist, mediaeval vision of how society should be organised could ever present a humane alternative to the barbarism of market supremacism and white racism. But I equally find laughable and absurd the assertion that the killing of Osama bin Laden marks the triumph against global terrorism. This postulation only serves to gloss over the underlying factors behind global terrorism. It ignores the historical and econo-political factors that account for the rage of the peoples of the South, the Muslim World and all freedom loving people towards America and all the regimes and regiments of global capitalism. Osama bin Laden represented the idea of resistance to the supremacist hegemonic tendencies and practices of the United States and the Global North. That idea will not die with the death of Osama bin Ladin. In fact, his death may open the way for the more progressive, radical Muslim and non-Muslim voices to occupy centre stage in articulating that rage in more nuanced and programmatic manner.


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

      Climate finance leadership risks global bankruptcy

      Patrick Bond


      cc W E C
      The Climate Justice lobby is already ‘furious’ about the involvement of the World Bank as an interim trustee of the UN’s Green Climate Fund. But appointing ‘South Africa’s most vocal neoliberal politician’, Trevor Manuel, as co-chair of the fund could be ‘fatal to climate change mitigation and adaptation’, warns Patrick Bond.

      South Africa’s most vocal neoliberal politician, Trevor Manuel, is apparently being seriously considered as co-chair of the Green Climate Fund. On 28-29 April in Mexico City, Manuel and other elites met to design the world’s biggest-ever replenishing pool of aid money: A promised US$100 billion of annual grants by 2020, more than the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and allied regional banks put together.

      The Climate Justice lobby is furious, because as a network of 90 progressive organisations wrote to the United Nations, ‘The integrity and potential of a truly just and effective climate fund has already been compromised by the 2010 Cancún decisions to involve the World Bank as interim trustee.’ A Friends of the Earth International study earlier this month attacked the Bank for increased coal financing, especially US$3.75 billion loaned to South Africa’s Eskom a year ago.

      Manuel chaired the Bank/IMF board of governors in 2000, as well as the Bank’s development committee from 2001-05. He was one of two United Nations Special Envoys to the 2002 Monterrey Financing for Development summit, a member of Tony Blair’s 2004-05 Commission for Africa, and chair of the 2007 G-20 summit.

      Manuel was appointed UN Special Envoy for Development Finance in 2008, headed a 2009 IMF committee that successfully advocated a US$750 billion capital increase, and served on the UN’s High Level Advisory Group on Climate Change Finance in 2010. (Within the latter, he suggested that up to half the US$100 billion climate fund be sourced from controversial private-sector emissions trading, not aid budgets.)

      No one from the Third World has such experience, nor has anyone in these circuits such a formidable anti-colonial political pedigree, including several 1980s police detentions as one of Cape Town’s most important anti-apartheid activists. Yet despite occasional rhetorical attacks on ‘Washington Consensus’ economic policies (part of SA’s ‘talk left walk right’ tradition), since the mid-1990s Manuel has been loyal to the pro-corporate cause.

      Even before taking power in 1994, he was considered a World Economic Forum ‘Global Leader for Tomorrow’, and in 1997 and 2007 Euromoney magazine named him ‘African Finance Minister of the Year’. No wonder, as in late 1993 he had agreed to repay apartheid-era commercial bank debt against all logic, and negotiated an US$850 million IMF loan that straight-jacketed Nelson Mandela.

      With Manuel as trade minister from 1994-96, liberalisation demolished the clothing, textile, footwear, appliance, electronics and other vulnerable manufacturing sectors, as he drove tariffs below what even the World Trade Organisation demanded. After moving to the finance ministry in 1996, Manuel imposed the ‘non-negotiable’ Growth, Employment and Redistribution (GEAR) policy (co-authored by World Bank staff), which by the time of its 2001 demise had not achieved a single target aside from inflation.

      Manuel also cut the primary corporate tax rate from 48 per cent in 1994 to 30 per cent five years later, and then allowed the country’s biggest corporations to move their financial headquarters to London, which ballooned the current account deficit. That in turn required Manuel to arrange such vast financing inflows that the foreign debt soared from the US$25 billion inherited at apartheid’s close, to US$80 billion by early 2009.

      At that stage, with the world economy teetering, The Economist magazine named South Africa the most risky of the 17 main emerging markets, and the SA government released data conceding that the country was much more economically divided than in 1994, overtaking Brazil as the world’s most unequal major country.

      ‘We are not in recession,’ Manuel quickly declared in February 2009. ‘Although it sometimes feels in people’s minds that the economy is in recession, as of now we are looking at positive growth.’ At that very moment, it turned out, the SA economy was shrinking by a stunning 6.4 per cent (annualised), and indeed had been in recession for several months prior.

      More than 1.2 million jobs were lost in the subsequent year, as unemployment soared to around 40 per cent (including those who gave up looking). But in October 2008, just as IMF managing director Dominque Strauss-Kahn told the rest of the world to try quick-fix state deficit spending, Manuel sent the opposite message to his impoverished constituents: ‘We need to disabuse people of the notion that we will have a mighty powerful developmental state capable of planning and creating all manner of employment.’

      This echoed his 2001 statement to a local Sunday newspaper: ‘I want someone to tell me how the government is going to create jobs. It’s a terrible admission, but governments around the world are impotent when it comes to creating jobs.’

      Governments under the neoliberal thumb are also impotent when it comes to service delivery, and thanks partly to his fiscal conservatism, municipal state failure characterises all of South Africa, resulting in more protests per capita against local government in Manuel’s latter years as finance minister than nearly anywhere in the world (the police count at peak was more than 10,000/year).

      Ironically, said Manuel in his miserly 2004 budget speech, ‘The privilege we have in a democratic South Africa is that the poor are unbelievably tolerant.’ In 2008, when an opposition politician begged that food vouchers be made available, Manuel replied that there was no way to ensure ‘vouchers will be distributed and used for food only, and not to buy alcohol or other things.’

      Disgust for poor people extended to AIDS medicines, which in December 2001 aligned Manuel with his AIDS-denialist president Thabo Mbeki in refusing access: ‘The little I know about anti‑retrovirals is that unless you maintain a very strict regime ... they can pump you full of anti‑retrovirals, sadly, all that you’re going to do, because you are erratic, is to develop a series of drug‑resistant diseases inside your body.’

      Instead of delivering sufficient medicines, money and post-neoliberal policy to the health system, schools and municipalities, Manuel promoted privatisation, even at the Monterrey global finance summit: ‘Public-private partnerships are important win-win tools for governments and the private sector, as they provide an innovative way of delivering public services in a cost-effective manner.’

      He not only supported privatisation in principle, as finance minister Manuel put enormous pressure (equivalent to IMF conditionality) on municipalities – especially Johannesburg in 1999 – to impose commodification on the citizenry. In one of the world’s most important early 21st century water wars, residents of Soweto rebelled and the French firm Suez was eventually evicted from managing Johannesburg’s water in 2006.

      Water privatisation was Washington Consensus advice, and as Manuel once put it, ‘Our relationship with the World Bank is generally structured around the reservoir of knowledge in the Bank’ – with South Africa a guinea pig for the late-1990s ‘Knowledge Bank’ strategy. Virtually without exception, Bank missions and neoliberal policy support in fields such as water, land reform, housing, public works, healthcare, and macroeconomics failed to deliver.

      In spite of neoliberal ideology’s disgrace, president Jacob Zuma retained Manuel and his policies in 2009. In September that year, Congress of SA Trade Unions president Sdumo Dlamini called Manuel the ‘shop steward of business’ because of his ‘outrageous’ plea to the World Economic Forum’s Cape Town summit that business fight harder against workers. The mineworkers union termed Manuel’s challenge ‘bile, totally irresponsible… To say that business crumbles too easily is to reinforce business arrogance.’

      Manuel also disappointed feminists for his persistent failure to keep budgeting promises, even transparency. ‘How do you measure government’s commitment to gender equality if you don’t know where the money’s going?’, asked the Institute for Democracy in South Africa’s Penny Parenzee. Former ruling-party politician Pregs Govender helped developed gender-budgeting in 1994 but within a decade complained that Manuel reduced it to a ’public relations exercise’.

      As for a commitment to internationalism, in early 2009 when Pretoria revoked a visitor’s visa for the Dalai Lama on Beijing’s orders, Manuel defended the ban on the exiled Tibetan leader: ‘To say anything against the Dalai Lama is, in some quarters, equivalent to trying to shoot Bambi.’

      At the same moment Manuel was sabotaging Zimbabwe’s recovery strategy, chosen by the new government of national unity, by insisting that Harare first repay US$1 billion in arrears to the World Bank and IMF, otherwise ‘there was no way the plan could work.’ Zimbabwean economist Eddie Cross complained, ‘In fact the IMF specifically told us to put the issue of debt management on the back burner… The South Africans on the other hand have reversed that proposal – I do not know on whose authority, but they are not being helpful at all.’

      Given his biases and his miserable record, many within SA’s community, labour, environment, women’s, solidarity and AIDS-treatment movements would be happy to see the back of Manuel. His own career predilections may be decisive. Often suggested as a candidate for the top job at the Bank or IMF, Manuel recently confirmed anger at the way local politics evolved after Zuma booted Mbeki from the SA presidency.

      In an open public letter last month, for example, Manuel told Zuma’s main spokesperson, Jimmy Manyi, ‘your behaviour is of the worst-order racist’ after a (year-old) incident in which Manyi, then lead labour department official, claimed there were too many coloured workers in the Western Cape in relation to other parts of SA. Manyi had earlier offered a half-baked apology, but suffered no punishment. Once a political titan, Manuel now appears as has-been gadfly.

      His disillusionment apparently began in December 2007, just prior to Mbeki’s defeat in the African National Congress (ANC) leadership election. After his finance ministry job was threatened by Zuma assistant Mo Shaik’s offhanded comments, Manuel penned another enraged open letter: ‘Your conduct is certainly not something in the tradition of the ANC… You have no right to turn this organisation into something that serves your ego.’ In May 2009 Shaik, whose brother Schabir was convicted of corrupting Zuma during the infamous US$6 billion arms deal, was made director of the SA intelligence service. Manuel was downgraded to a resource-scarce, do-little planning ministry.

      It is easy to sympathise with Manuel’s frustrating struggle against ethnicism and cronyism, especially after his opponents’ apparent victories. However, former ANC member of parliament Andrew Feinstein records that the finance minister knew of arms-deal bribes solicited by the late defence minister Joe Modise. In court, Feinstein testified (without challenge) that in late 2000, Manuel surreptitiously advised him over lunch, ‘It’s possible there was some shit in the deal. But if there was, no one will ever uncover it. They’re not that stupid. Just let it lie.’ Remarked Terry Crawford-Browne of Economists Allied for Arms Reduction, ‘By actively blocking thorough investigation of bribery payments, Manuel facilitated such crimes.’

      Nevertheless, the myth of Manuel’s financial wizardry and integrity continues, in part thanks to a 600-page puff-piece biography, ‘Choice not Fate’ (Penguin, 2008) by his former spokesperson Pippa Green (subsidised by BHP Billiton, Anglo American, Total and Rand Merchant Bank). And after all, recent politico-moral and economic scandals by World Bank presidents Robert Zoellick and Paul Wolfowitz (whom in 2005 Manuel welcomed to the job as ‘a wonderful individual . . . perfectly capable’) confirm that global elites are already scraping the bottom of the financial leadership barrel.

      Yet it is still tragic that as host to 2011’s world climate summit, South Africa leads (non-petroleum countries) in carbon emissions/GDP/capita, 20 times higher than even the US. Even more tragic: Manuel’s final budget countenanced more than US$100 billion for additional coal-fired and nuclear power plants in coming years.

      In sum, Manuel’s leadership of the Green Climate Fund adds a new quantum of global-scale risk. His long history of collaboration with Washington-London raises prospects for ‘default’ by the industrialised North on payment of climate debt to the impoverished South. Indeed, if Pretoria’s main man link to the Bretton Woods Institutions, Manuel, co-chairs the fund and gives the Bank more influence, then expect new forms of subprime financing and blunt neoliberal economic weapons potentially fatal to climate change mitigation and adaptation.


      * Patrick Bond is with the University of KwaZulu-Natal Centre for Civil Society in Durban.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      Patrice Lumumba the poet

      Cameron Duodu


      cc E K
      Reflecting on discussions with the audience at the screening of a documentary about the assassination of Congo’s first prime minister Patrice Lumumba, Cameron Duodu shares a less known fact that ‘the fiery politician was also as very good poet.’

      On 18 April 2011, I had the opportunity to watch in London, a brilliant film, ‘Political Assassination, Colonial Style’, which sketched the background to the conspiracy that led, on 17 January 1961, to the murder of the Congo’s first Prime Minister, Patrice Lumumba.

      To know the basic facts about Lumumba’s murder is one thing, but to be shown the place where the foul deed was done, and to hear from the lips of the murderers themselves, how they did it; to see the bullet holes in the tree that served as the execution block – was a very surreal experience. Were those decrepit men with discoloured skin talking about a fellow human being or a mere object?

      The film enabled one to fully comprehend the utter callousness which marked Belgian rule over the Congo for a hundred years before the Congo obtained its independence in 1960. And it also exposed the emptiness of the avowals of the United States, which claims to be a promoter of ‘democracy’ around the world.

      Lumumba’s case was clear – the Belgians wanted to reimpose colonialism on his country only days after it had been proclaimed independent. To achieve their objective, the Belgians had, wittingly or unwittingly, provoked a mutiny in the Congolese army, known as the Force Publique. To quell the mutiny, the Belgians had flown in paratroopers who were bent on preventing the Congolese government from functioning.

      Perhaps naively believing the American propaganda that because the USA had fought against a European power, Great Britain, for its own independence – achieved in 1776 – the USA was ‘sympathetic’ to the struggle of the African people to rid themselves of European imperialism, Lumumba requested the USA to send troops into the Congo to expel the Belgians. The USA rejected Lumumba’s appeal and advised him to turn to the United Nations instead.

      Meanwhile, the physical safety of Lumumba and his government was threatened daily by the Belgians and their Congolese stooges. So Lumumba asked the Soviet Union for assistance to ferry troops from his Congolese citadels to the capital, Leopoldville, (now Kinshasa) where his enemies largely held sway. The Soviet Union agreed and sent Lumumba some planes.

      But the USA, which had rejected Lumumba’s plea for assistance, now stationed secret agents at Leopoldville airport, counting the number of Soviet personnel who were arriving in the Congo. On the basis of these headcounts – no doubt exaggerated – Lawrence Devlin, the CIA station chief in Leopoldville, sent alarming reports to Washington, claiming that Lumumba had placed the Congo in the situation of a ‘classic Communist takeover’!

      At the height of the Cold War, such a report was incendiary and the very President Dwight Eisenhower who had coldly pointed Lumumba in the direction of the United Nations (though he of course knew that the UN had never moved fast enough to effectively solve any international crisis before it became dangerous) now communicated word to the director of the CIA, Allen Dulles, that Lumumba must be eliminated. This was done in such a way as to ensure what the CIA calls ‘plausible deniability’.

      But according to a BBC report, in August 2000, Lawrence Devlin obtained ‘confirmation’ that the order for Lumumba’s elimination had indeed come from President Eisenhower himself.

      Obeying those orders, Allen Dulles did send a very sinister man, Dr Sydney Gottlieb (who is described as the CIA’s ‘Official Poisoner’) to the Congo to try and kill Lumumba. Not even Lawrence Devlin was told his true identity: Devlin was only told to prepare to meet ‘Joe from Paris’.

      Said Lawrence Devlin: ‘I recognised him [Gottlieb] as he walked towards my car, but when he told me what they wanted done I was totally, totally taken aback’. Monsieur ‘Joe from Paris’ had brought with him, a special tube of poisoned toothpaste. He told Devlin to clandestinely get the toothpaste into Lumumba's bathroom!

      ‘It would put the man away’, recalled Devlin. But the plotters could not find anyone to bribe to put the toothpaste into Lumumba's bathroom. ‘I threw it in the Congo River when its usefulness had expired,’ Devlin later claimed.

      If you get a chance to watch this film, don’t miss it: Definitely it is one of the most powerful expositions of imperialist amorality, at its crassest, that you can come across. The murderers confess the deed, but they don’t express any regret – even at a time so far removed from the date of the crime – when their interviewer gives them a direct opportunity to do so. The official edition of the film can be found here.

      But there are versions of it, showing similar clips, on

      At the end of the film, Pambazuka News editor-in-chief, Mzee Firoze Manji, and I were invited to say something about the subject matter. Mzee Firoze passionately urged Africans to seek to achieve the real democratisation of their societies. They should recognise what he denounced as ‘the cretinous’ parliamentary system inherited from the colonialists, which cannot even attempt to meet the true socio-economic problems of Africa.

      I had earlier pointed out that under the colonial laws bequeathed to Africa, only people able to write and read a colonial language are eligible for election to Parliament in many African countries. This means that the ‘illiterate’ people, who had acted as family ‘elders’ in their societies – solving their people’s personal problems and ensuring that their societies survived both natural and political catastrophes (like colonialism) – were taken out of the equation when it came to ruling a ‘modern’ state.

      Only literate lawyers (‘who spoke Latin’), teachers, clerks and commercial operators, all of whom had an axe to grind, were allowed near the new political administrations of their countries. Was it any wonder that many African countries were being so corruptly – and selfishly – governed that their societies at large were treading water? I asked.

      Returning to the Lumumba issue, I remarked that although he only ruled the Congo for a few weeks – between July and November 1960 – yet here were we, commemorating his murder a good 50 years ago. Even Jesus Christ had been allowed three years in which to deliver his message to the world. Lumumba had not been dealt even such a hand, but in the little time he had had, he had done no evil against anyone, but had only stood up to represent the true interests of his country and the continent of Africa. Because of these ideas he espoused, his image could never be exterminated.

      I then shared with the audience, a poem by Lumumba that I had discovered: How many people realise that Lumumba the fiery politician was also as very good poet who was welcomed as an évolué (evolved person) before he went into politics?

      Here is the poem: it is very powerful indeed, with class and race imagery that for the time, was exceedingly brave:

      Weep, O my black beloved brother, deep buried in eternal, bestial night.
      O you, whose dust hurricanes have scattered all over the vast earth,
      You, by whose hands the pyramids were reared
      In memory of royal murderers,
      You, rounded up in raids; you, countless times defeated
      In all the battles ever won by brutal force;
      You, who were taught but one perpetual lesson,
      One motto, which was—slavery or death;
      You, who lay hidden in impenetrable jungles
      And silently succumbed to countless deaths
      Under the ugly guise of jungle fever,
      Or lurking in the leopard's fatal jaws,
      Or in the slow embrace of the morass
      That strangled gradually, like the python....

      But then, there came a day that brought the white,
      More sly, more full of spite than any death.
      Your gold he bartered for his worthless beads and baubles,
      He raped and fouled your sisters and your wives,
      And poisoned with his drink your sons and brothers,
      And drove your children down into the holds of ships.
      'Twas then the tomtom [drum] rolled from village unto village,
      And told the people that another foreign slave ship
      Had put off on its way to far-off shores,
      Where God is cotton, where the dollar reigns as King.
      There, sentenced to unending, wracking labour,
      Toiling from dawn to dusk in the relentless sun,
      They taught you in psalms to glorify
      Their Lord, while you yourself were crucified to hymns
      That promised bliss in the world of Hereafter;
      While you—you begged of them a single boon:
      That they should let you live—to live, aye—simply
      And by a fire your dim, fantastic dreams
      Poured out aloud in melancholy strains,
      As elemental and as wordless as your anguish.
      It happened you would even play, be merry
      And dance, in sheer exuberance of spirit:
      And then would all the splendour of your manhood,
      The sweet desires of youth sound, wild with power,
      On strings of brass, in burning tambourines.
      And from that mighty music the beginning
      Of jazz arose, tempestuous, capricious,
      Declaring to the whites in accents loud
      That not entirely was the planet theirs.
      O Music, it was you permitted us
      To lift our face and peer into the eyes
      Of future liberty, that would one day be ours.
      Then let the shores of mighty rivers bearing on
      Their living waves into the radiant future,
      O brother mine, be yours!
      Let the fierce heat of the relentless midday sun
      Burn up your grief!
      Let them evaporate in everlasting sunshine,
      Those tears shed by your father and your grandsire
      Tortured to death upon these mournful fields.
      And may our people, free and gay forever,
      Live, triumph, thrive in peace in this our Congo,
      Here, in the very heart of our great Africa!


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


      IkamvaYouth: Urgent appeal for donations and help


      IkamvaYouth's head office in Makhaza, Khayelitsha was petrol-bombed on 27 April and the organisation is appealing for donations and help. IkamvaYouth is a non-partisan, non-governmental organisation that was established in 2003 in Makhaza, Khayelitsha with the objective of enabling disadvantaged youth to pull themselves out of poverty and into university and employment through peer-to-peer learning and support. The programme's success (87-100 per cent matric pass rate since 2005 and over 70 per cent of learners accessing tertiary for the past three years) has led to the model's replication in five townships in three provinces, and numerous accolades include winning the Mail and Guardian / Southern Africa Trust Drivers of Change award in 2010.

      IkamvaYouth lost equipment, materials and resources worth hundreds of thousands of rands when a petrol bomb was thrown into its office on Freedom Day.

      Everything is gone. Smart phones from our Nokia project; computers recently donated for our programming course; the PCs used by our branch coordinator and administrator; all our Answer Series study guides which were to be handed out to ikamvanites; film and photography equipment (some of which belonged to volunteers); all our office furniture; photographs; files and records.
      We're calling for support via time or money:

      - If you're available to help with the cleanup, please contact [email protected]/0789929269.

      - If you're a qualified counsellor and can volunteer to counsel affected ikamvanites, please contact [email protected]

      - Please donate funds to help us begin trying to replace all we've lost (please use FREEDOM as the reference)
      ** see below for bank details if you want to do a transfer from the US or the UK.

      - If you have office furniture, equipment or computers to donate, please contact [email protected]

      - If you have toys, furniture, books or equipment that the Zimele pre-school (our neighbour that was also affected) could use, please contact Monica on 0823103829.

      Thanks everyone. The future is in our hands.

      ** To make a bank transfer in the US, please use the following account:

      Account holder: Susan Godlonton
      Bank: TCF Bank
      Account Number: 6883542078
      Type of Account: Checking
      Branch: South University Branch, Ann Arbor, Michigan
      Routing number: 272471548

      ** To make a bank transfer in the UK, please use the following account:

      Account holder: Sally Bloy
      Bank: Barclays
      Account Number: 00539589
      Sort no: 20-65-20

      Samir Amin Award - deadline extended


      Following requests from a number of individuals, the deadline for the submission of essays has been extended until Monday 9 May. If you haven't already submitted your essay, please do so now.

      Pambazuka News is pleased to announce the call for submissions for the first annual Pambazuka Samir Amin Award. This award, launched to mark Samir Amin’s 80th birthday in 2011, pays tribute to the extraordinary contribution Samir Amin has made to our understanding of the exploitation of the peoples of Africa and the global South.

      Entrants are required to submit an essay showing original thinking and of no longer than 10,000 words on the subject of 'Accumulation by dispossession: the African experience'. Essays may be geographically focused on one or more countries, or about the continent as a whole; they may address the topic thematically (for example, focused on the mining sector, or agriculture, etc) or historically. Submissions are limited to one per person.

      Submissions are open to citizens of African countries who on the closing date are under the age of 35 years.

      A panel of leading African intellectuals from across the continent will select up to five contributors to receive this year's award. The chosen essays will be published as a book by Pambazuka Press, and summaries will appear in Pambazuka News.

      The award-winners will be invited to a ceremony (to be held in either Dakar or Nairobi) where they will present their papers and meet Professor Amin and representatives of the award panel. The winners will receive a selection of Professor Amin’s publications personally signed by him; they will also be interviewed by the media. Travel and accommodation costs will be covered by the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation. Awardees may also be offered fellowships to enable them to spend periods at selected research or academic institutions in Africa; full details will be announced later.

      Please submit your essay, written in clear English or French, using any common word-processing software, together with a summary of no longer than 500 words, and a copy of your CV. Please follow the author guidelines (.doc and .pdf) and the Pambazuka News style guide (.doc and .pdf) or write to [email protected] to obtain copies.

      Essays should be submitted by 6pm GMT on Monday 9 May 2011 and sent to: [email protected]. The results will be announced in September 2011.

      African Awakenings and New Visions of Solidarity


      Pambazuka and the Carleton University Institute of African Studies invite you to a talk to celebrate Africa Liberation Day with Firoze Manji and Molly Kane, Pambazuka News. It takes place on Wednesday, 25 May at 6pm at the Arts Lounge, 1025 Dunton Tower, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada.

      Pambazuka and the Carleton University Institute of African Studies invite you to a talk to celebrate Africa Liberation Day

      'African Awakenings and New Visions of Solidarity'

      with Firoze Manji and Molly Kane, Pambazuka News

      When: Wednesday, 25 May, 2011

      Time: 6pm

      Where: Arts Lounge, 1025 Dunton Tower, Carleton University ("DT" on campus map,

      Firoze Manji, a Kenyan activist with more than 40 years experience in international development, health and human rights, is founder and former executive director (1997-2010) of Fahamu – Networks for Social Justice, a pan African organisation with bases in Kenya, Senegal, South Africa and the UK ( He is the founder and editor-in-chief of the prize-winning pan African social justice newsletter and website Pambazuka News, produced by a pan-African community of more than 2600 citizens and organisations - academics, policy makers, social activists, women's organisations, civil society organisations, writers, artists, poets, bloggers, and commentators, with a readership estimated at around 660,000 ( He is also founder and editor-in-chief of Pambazuka Press (, the progressive pan-African publisher of voices from Africa and the global south.

      Molly Kane, the former Executive Director of the Canadian social justice organization, Inter Pares, is an Ottawa-based activist with a background in international solidarity and social justice. Prior to joining the staff of Pambazuka News this year, she worked with ETC Group, an international NGO focusing on new technologies, corporate concentration, bio-diversity and human rights. She was an adjunct assistant professor in Global Development Studies at Queen's University in 2005-2006.

      For more information, please contact [email protected]

      Fahamu Refugee Legal Aid Newsletter - May issue


      Fahamu’s Refugee Programme is pleased to announce the May issue of the Fahamu Refugee Legal Aid Newsletter, a monthly publication that provides a forum for providers of refugee legal aid. With a focus on the global South, it aims to serve the needs of legal aid providers as well as raise awareness of refugee concerns among the wider readership of Pambazuka News. You can also read the newsletter on our new blog and Facebook page.

      Africa and the challenges of the 21st century



      The Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa, CODESRIA, will hold its 13th General Assembly on 5-9 December 2011, in Rabat, Morocco. The triennial General Assembly is one of the most important scientific events of the African continent. It provides the African social science research community with a unique opportunity to reflect on some of the key issues facing the social sciences in particular, and Africa and the world at large. The theme of the scientific conference of the 13th CODESRIA General Assembly is ‘Africa and the challenges of the 21st century’.

      Rabat, Morocco, 5-9 December 2011

      The Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa, CODESRIA, will hold its 13th General Assembly on 5-9 December 2011, in Rabat, Morocco. The triennial General Assembly is one of the most important scientific events of the African continent. It provides the African social science research community with a unique opportunity to reflect on some of the key issues facing the social sciences in particular, and Africa and the world at large. The theme of the scientific conference of the 13th CODESRIA General Assembly is: Africa and the Challenges of the Twenty-First Century.

      The 21st century, like the preceding one does not seem capable of breaking from the paradigm of the complex and the uncertain. Instead, it is confirming that hastily and carelessly proclaiming ‘’the end of history’’, as Fukuyama did, was not enough to legitimately dispose of issues and challenges such as those of how to understand the presence of Africa in a world where emerging powers (South Africa, Brazil, Russia, India and China) are increasingly upsetting traditional global geopolitics. The financial crisis and its social implications in some countries of the North and the increasingly global nature of many problems have raised awareness about the vital and imperious need for Africans to theoretically tackle the issue of Africa’s future in this new century. This underscores the legitimacy of an approach that is founded on a rupture: a clean break with Afro-pessimism from outside and from within to show that the new global political and economic order is not a fatality but one that calls for a breaking off with a theoretical construction of Africa which led to the posing of questions like that asked by the World Bank in 2000: ‘’Can Africa claim its place in the 21st century?” It is about understanding why and how Africa is still at the heart of the new global political and economic strategies, and what opportunities there are for our continent to reposition itself in the world, and reposition the world with regard to its own objectives, perhaps the most important of which still remains that of bringing development (also to be understood as freedom, as Amartya Sen has argued) to its people. It is also a question of deconstructing what some have called "the confinement of Africa in a rent economy" in order to more critically understand the opportunities available to the continent but also the constraints facing it, because the basic question is how, in the course of this 21st century, to oppose to the "invention of Africa" an "invention of the world" by Africa.

      Global Issues, Global Challenges

      Increasingly complex neoliberal globalisation, changes in intercultural relations at the global level, climate change, poverty, rapid urbanisation , the ICTs revolution, the emergence of knowledge societies, the evolution of gender and intergenerational relations, the evolution of spirituality and of the status and the role of religion in modern societies, the emergence of a multi-polar world and the phenomenon of emerging powers of the South are some of the realities of our world that are widely and extensively discussed by both academics and policy-makers. Some of these challenges have been identified in the 2010 edition of the International Social Sciences Council’s World Social Sciences Report, as major challenges of the 21st century.

      Discussions on climate change, like those on the so-called emerging powers, are much more important today than they were 30 to 40 years ago. If the Rio Summit on global environmental change was a key moment in the mobilisation of the international community to face the challenges arising from global warming, such summits were rare. However, in less than two years, two summits – the Copenhagen Summit and the Cancun Summit on Climate Change – have been organised, and another summit will be held soon on the same issues in Durban (South Africa). Major international programmes on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, such as REDD and REDD+, have also been launched. Furthermore, the creation of the Euro Zone as well as the rise of countries like China and India, have had repercussions worldwide.

      The questions one must ask are: How does all this affect Africa? And how prepared is the continent to face these challenges as well as those that will arise in the future? It is nowadays rather difficult to keep pace with advances in science and technology, including among others, in the areas of biotechnology and nanotechnology, genetic engineering. The challenge that Africa is facing is not only that of understanding how new scientific discoveries may have an impact on our societies, but also that of how to become a "continent of science" itself.

      The rapidity of the pace of change in virtually all spheres of social life at the local, national, continental, and global levels make it difficult to identify the challenges that Africa will be facing in the coming century beyond a few decades. Science itself is changing as a result of changes occurring in nature and in society. Moreover, science and technology, far from being neutral, have become key players in the evolutions that occur in production systems, trade, and intercultural relations, as well as in research and the formulation of responses to environmental change. The ability of science to anticipate, read and interpret the processes of change has increased over the years. The ability of humanity to follow developments taking place in nature, and to capture the major trends taking place within society, is likely to increase as science itself develops. Therefore, the list of questions that can be considered as major challenges for the 21st century is likely to change over time.

      Africa of the 21st Century

      Africa has entered the 21st century with huge unresolved issues, such as poverty, rapid urbanisation, the national question, regional integration, gender inequality, food insecurity, violent conflict, political fragmentation, and the fact that it occupies a subaltern position in the global community, and in global governance. The weight of the past is a major handicap for Africa. The effects of the slave trade, colonisation and neo-colonialism that Africa has suffered from are still being felt, as they have each and together resulted in the suppression of freedoms, the violation of human rights and dignity of the peoples of the continent, as well as the looting of human, natural and intellectual resources and what the pan-Africanist historian Walter Rodney called the "underdevelopment" of Africa. Among the major disadvantages of the continent at the dawn of the twenty-first century are also the low level of education of many Africans, the lack of modern techniques of production, transport, etc.., a fragmented political space and the extrovert structure of the economies. The institutions of higher education and cultures of the elites are strongly marked, not by a philosophy and development strategies guided by the interests of African peoples, but by influences coming from the North, influences that are more alienating than liberating.

      Nevertheless, the Africa of the end of the first decade of the 21st century is not exactly the same as the Africa of the early sixties which had just got freedom from colonial rule. The challenges the continent faces today are not exactly the same as those of the sixties. Although there still are issues dating back to the early years of independence, these are of a different order, and are today discussed with a particular focus and a sense of urgency. This is particularly true of the issues of governance and development, most of which are yet to be resolved.

      Yet by all indications, these issues have gained particular relevance and magnitude. The celebration of the 50th anniversary of the independence of many countries in 2010 has provided an opportunity for African researchers to review the continent’s performance in 50 years of independence, a mixed record after all. There have been many achievements in terms of social and economic development. Enormous progress has been made in education and health, and some countries have managed to establish democratic governance systems, especially after the wave of national conferences (in West and Central Africa) at the end of the 1980s and early 1990s. The fall of authoritarian regimes, the end of apartheid, the change of ruling parties in countries like Senegal, and the recent profound changes in Tunisia (the Jasmine Revolution), Egypt and elsewhere in North Africa have made the promise of democratisation and development of Africa much more real. Yet even with the recent political transformations, governance issues are still part of the great challenges facing our continent. Africa is still beset by the paradox of poverty in plenty: most people of the continent are poor despite the fact that the countries they live in are rich in human and natural resources.

      Poverty is still massive and deeply rooted, and the processes that lead to exclusion and marginalization of large segments of African societies are still ongoing. Exclusion and political marginalization of individuals, groups and entire social classes are, as we know, among the root causes of many of the violent conflicts that have ravaged several African countries, while aggravating underdevelopment and international dependence.

      Some of the "remedies" to the economic crisis and, more generally, to the problems of underdevelopment and widespread poverty that have been proposed or imposed on Africa have, in some cases contributed to the worsening of problems that they were supposed to solve. Others, like the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as an antidote to food insecurity, or large scale land alienation in favour of multinational companies producing food crops or crops to obtain bio-fuels, raise significant political, ethical and health concerns, making the land question more complex. Commodification, and attempts to subject almost all spheres of nature and society, including human organs, forest resources, and the social sciences themselves, to a market logic pose enormous challenges for science and for society, even if in some respects, the process has directed the flow of precious financial and human resources to some key issues and led to major discoveries that could enhance social progress. However, by all indications, with the exception of a few, the countries of the South are still at the level of receivers / consumers in the overall relationship that is behind these processes, or at best in the role of "passengers" rather than "drivers" of the process of globalisation.

      Reflections should also focus on issues such as the high mobility of African people, both within and outside of the continent, and its consequences in terms of citizenship rights, and its impacts on gender relations; the issues of climate change, natural resource management and food security; the recurrent problem of African integration with a focus on the issue of a common currency and common borders; or yet again the governance of African cities, since a number of prospective studies have identified urbanization as a major trend in the evolution of the continent. These issues are likely to continue to determine the evolution of the continent.

      Special attention should be paid to higher education, given the importance, and the uniqueness of the role that knowledge plays in development, and its ability to influence the whole system. Isn’t the "vulnerability” of Africa the result of its marginal position in the world of knowledge? With the ongoing changes in higher education around the world and the weakening of many African universities as a result of both deep crises and twenty years of structural adjustment, brain drain and sheer negligence on the part of the State, African research has encountered considerable difficulties in its attempts to study and interpret these events and more.

      New technologies, especially ICTs play one of the most crucial roles in social, economic and political developments of the continent. For instance, the mobile phone and FM radio stations played an important role in the political and social movements in Senegal at the turn of the Millennium. Faced with restrictions on political debates in many countries such as Tunisia, we saw the importance of the Internet, including social media and Internet-based sites such as Facebook and Twitter as spaces for democratic struggles involving thousands of highly educated but unemployed urban youth. Meanwhile, the governance of the Internet, a space managed mainly by private multinational companies of a new type (Facebook, Twitter, Google, YouTube, etc...), remains an unresolved issue.

      Therefore the question is: Will this be Africa’s century, as it is sometimes claimed? A better way to put more or less the same question is to ask: How can Africa take charge of its future and make this century the one of its renaissance? But what does it mean to make the 21st century the century of Africa and what does that imply? How could the social sciences and humanities address the challenges that we already know, and what types of improvements are required in the African higher education and research systems in order for them to better prepare Africa to face the challenges of the coming decades of this century?

      What is the role of intellectuals in general and CODESRIA in particular in addressing these challenges? The theoretical issues are very important. The production of knowledge informed by and is relevant to the social realities in Africa has always been the ambition of CODESRIA and of all the great intellectuals of the continent. The intellectual struggles of Africa and the global South against the consequences of Western domination are far from having been won. The scientific division of labour in which Africa is still mainly seen as a purveyor of raw materials of little use to the transformation of African societies is still in force. The epistemological agenda of the continent must continue to include the transformation of the dominant epistemological order which favours the West and penalizes the South, and Africa in particular. The valorization of the intellectual heritage and contributions of great thinkers from Africa and its Diaspora, such as Ibn Khaldoun, Ibn Battuta, El-Bakri, Ali Idrissi, Ahmed Baba, Marcus Garvey, WEB Du Bois, Cheikh Anta Diop, Frantz Fanon, Aime Cesaire, Joseph Ki-Zerbo, Ruth First, Chinua Achebe, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Wole Soyinka, CLR James, Abdul Rahman Babu, Sembene Ousmane, Fela Kuti, Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem, Archie Mafeje, Bernard Magubane, Samir Amin, Claude Ake, Ali El-Kenz, Fatima Mernisi, Mahmood Mamdani, Amina Mama, Souleymane Bachir Diagne, Paulin Hountondji, Jean-Marc Ela, Thandika Mkandawire, Fatou Sow, Issa Shivji, Ifi Amadiume, Oyeronke Oyewumi and Omafume Onoge (the list is long), must continue to be a part of our priorities. So must be the South-South and South-North dialogue.

      The Casablanca Conference, 50 Years On

      The 13th CODESRIA General Assembly takes place shortly after many African countries have celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of their independence. It is also being organised, 50 years after the holding of the 1961 Casablanca Conference that brought together Kwame Nkrumah (Ghana), Mwalimu Julius Nyerere (Tanzania), Gamal Abdel Nasser (Egypt), Ahmed Sekou Toure (Guinea), Modibo Keita (Mali), Ferhat Abbas (Algeria) and other leaders of newly independent African states and national liberation movements, to discuss the future of the Africa. The “Casablanca Group”, as they were known, formed the progressive camp. The Casablanca Conference which was hosted by King Mohammed V of Morocco, was a very important milestone in the process that led to the creation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in 1963. The holding of the 13th CODESRIA General Assembly in Morocco provides an opportunity for the African social science community to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of this conference, and to pay tribute to the founding fathers and mothers of the OAU that later became the African Union (AU) a few decades later, and ask the question as to how to reinvigorate the African integration process, as well as that of how to renew our collective commitment to realise the continental integration project.

      The Organisation of the General Assembly

      The General Assembly of CODESRIA will be organised in three parts: the first part is a scientific conference on the theme Africa and the Challenges of the 21st Century. This part will be organised in plenary and parallel sessions. A number of leading scholars from Africa, the Diaspora and other parts of the global South, as well as representatives of partner institutions in the North will also be invited to participate in the conference. Provision will be made for autonomous initiatives of individuals and research institutions who are interested in organising panels to do so if they are able to mobilise the resources required for that. The second part is the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Casablanca Conference, and the third and last part is the business session devoted to discussions on the institutional life of CODESRIA: presentation and discussion of the reports of the President, the President of the Scientific Committee, and the Executive Secretary of CODESRIA; the new strategic plan and research priorities for the coming years; amendments to the CODESRIA Charter; and election of a new Executive Committee as well as a new President and Vice President of CODESRIA.

      Below is an indicative list of sub-themes around which the scientific conference will be organised:

      • Thinking the future, reinventing our future;

      • Renegociating Africa’s place in the world;

      • African integration;

      • Africa and the scientific and technological revolutions;

      • The future of the social sciences and humanities;

      • Strengthening African higher education and research systems;

      • Climate change, adaptation processes and governance;

      • Population dynamics and population policies for the future;

      • Living together: local and pan-African citizenship;

      • Making governance work for all Africans;

      • Migration, citizenship and identity;

      • The African Diaspora and global African presence;

      • Governing African cities;

      • Keeping the public sphere open and democratic;

      • Transforming African agriculture;

      • Industrial development in the era of neoliberal globalization;

      • Managing Africa’s natural resources in democratic and sustainable ways;

      • Africa and emerging powers: possibilities for an African strategy of engagement;

      • Transforming gender relations;

      • Law, ethics and society;

      • Human rights and human security in the 21st century;

      • New security challenges and peace;

      • New religious movements in Africa and freedom of thought and expression;

      • African languages, cultures and the arts, and globalization;

      • Africa and the promise of a new democratic revolution;

      • New forms of hegemony, new forms of solidarity.

      CODESRIA invites abstracts and panel proposals on any of these or other themes related to the main theme of the scientific conference of the General Assembly.

      The deadline for submission of abstracts is 31st May 2011.

      Those whose abstracts have been selected will be notified by 30th June 2011 at the latest. The deadline for submissions of final papers is 15th September 2011.

      Abstracts and panel proposals should be sent to the following address:

      CODESRIA General Assembly

      Avenue Cheikh Anta Diop X Canal IV, BP 3304, CP 18524, Dakar, Sénégal

      Tel. : +221 33 825 98 22/23 or +221 33824 03 74 - Fax : +221 33 824 12 89

      Email : [email protected] - Website:

      Twitter: - Facebook :

      Law in development: Work in progress


      This workshop will provide an opportunity for postgraduate students in the broad field of law and development to reflect on its themes, progress and future.

      Law in development : Work in progress

      Convenors: Professor Yash Pal Ghai and Dr Ambreena Manji
      A seminar to be hosted by the British Institute in Eastern Africa, Nairobi
      10 June 2011

      This workshop will provide an opportunity for postgraduate students in the broad field of law and development to reflect on its themes, progress and future. Taking place the day after a seminar on ‘Constitutions and constitution-making’, to be hosted jointly by the Katiba Institute and the British Institute in Eastern Africa (BIEA), the work in progress seminar will provide an informal and supportive forum in which to present work in progress papers to a group of established scholars, to receive feedback on ideas for projects and publications and to discuss methodological and ethical issues related to an ongoing project.

      The BIEA invites proposals from postgraduate students in the region. We would be happy to hear from academics from a range of disciplines, including lawyers, political scientists and historians.

      Please provide an abstract of between 700-1,000 words describing your project and the reasons why you would like to present your work at the seminar. Please include a CV and email address with your proposal.

      The proposal should be sent by email by 10 May 2011 to [email protected] with a copy to Hannah Waddilove at:[email protected]

      Scholars will be selected for participation and notified of the result by 25 May 2011.

      For those selected, we can cover the costs of economy travel to the workshop and one night’s accommodation from those coming from outside Nairobi. For information about the constitutions seminar, please contact on the above email addresses.

      Comment & analysis

      Ethiopia: We went, we saw, we got chased out…

      Alemayehu G. Mariam


      cc E B
      Government officials on a tour of the US failed in their attempts to build diaspora support for Ethiopia’s five-year economic programme, thanks to ‘Zenawi’s tenacious, resolute and dogged opponents’, writes Alemayehu G. Mariam. ‘The diaspora may be divided but not when it comes to Zenawi’s regime.’

      Following the Battle of Zela in 47 B.C. (present day Zile, Turkey), Julius Caesar claimed victory by declaring: “I came; I saw; I conquered." In 2011, Caesar Meles Zenawi, the dictator-in-chief in Ethiopia, scattered his top henchmen throughout the U.S. and Europe to declare victory in the propaganda war on Diaspora Ethiopians. But there was no victory to be had, only ignominious defeat at the hands of Zenawi’s tenacious, resolute and dogged opponents. No victory dances; only a speedy shuffle back to the capo di tutti capi (boss of all bosses) to deliver the message: “We went; We saw; We got chased the hell out of Dodge!”

      The purpose of the recent official travelling circus was to introduce and generate support among Diaspora Ethiopians for Zenawi’s five-year economic program pretentiously labeled “Growth and Transformation Plan”. In city after city in North America and Europe, Zenawi’s crew received defiant and pugnacious reception. Ethiopians made the various meeting venues and sites virtual mini-Tahrir Squares (Egypt). Ethiopian men and women, Christians and Muslims, young and old, professionals and service workers, students and teachers and members of various political groups and parties showed up in a united front to confront and challenge Zenawi’s henchmen. One need only view any one of the numerous videotapes online to appreciate the intensity, depth and strength of Diaspora Ethiopian opposition to Zenawi’s regime.

      In Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Atlanta, Dallas, Seattle, New York, Toronto, London and various other cities, Ethiopians came out in full force and tried to gain admission into the meetings. Many were singled out and turned back. In a widely-disseminated and cogently argued “open letter”, Fekade Shewakena, a former professor at Addis Ababa University, wrote Girma Birru, Zenawi’s official representative in the U.S., complaining about his discriminatory treatment in being refused admission at the meeting held on the campus of Howard University:

      “I was formally invited by an [Ethiopian] embassy staffer… I faced the wrath of the protestors as I was crossing their picket lines [to attend the meeting]. Then I met the people who were deployed by the [Ethiopian] embassy to man the gate, and do the sad job of screening participants and deciding what type of Ethiopian should be let in and what type should be kept out. I was told I was ineligible to enter and saw many people being returned from entering. One screener told me… “ante Tigre titela yelem ende min litisera metah” [Tr. Do you not hate Tigreans? What business do you have here?...]

      The ethnic stripe test was the last straw for many of the protesters who denounced Zenawi and his crew as “murderers”, “thieves” (leba) and “opportunists” (hodams). Inside the meeting halls, those who asked tough questions were singled out and ejected by the organizers, often violently. Some were physically assaulted requiring emergency medical assistance. Nearly all of the meetings were disrupted, cancelled, stopped or delayed. To sum it up, those who made peaceful dialogue impossible, made angry verbal exchanges inevitable.


      It will be recalled that in September 2010 when Zenawi came to the U.S. to speak at the World Leader’s Conference at Columbia University, he set off afirestorm of opposition among Ethiopians in the U.S. Busloads of Ethiopian activists descended on New York City to confront Zenawi, but they were kept away from the campus. A massive campaign (reminiscent of the anti-war protest days at Columbia in the late 1960s) was undertaken to mobilize Columbia students, faculty and staff to put pressure on the university administration to disinvite Zenawi.

      Zenawi’s invitation also provoked strong reaction among non-Ethiopians. Prof. Ted Vestal, the distinguished and respected scholar on Ethiopia, outraged by Zenawi’s invitation wrote Columbia President Lee Bollinger: "The only way you can redeem the damaged reputation of the World Leaders Forum is by publicly making known the shortcomings of Prime Minister Meles and his government in your introductory remarks--a refutation similar to what you did in introducing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran in 2007."

      World-renowned Columbia economist Prof. Jagdish Bagwati wrote in disgust: “It seems probable that the President’s [Bollinger] office was merely reproducing uncritically the rubbish that was supplied by one of these Columbia entrepreneurs [Columbia Professors Joseph Stiglitz (Zenawi’s sponsor) and Jeffrey Sachs] whose objective is to ingratiate himself with influential African leaders regardless of their democratic and human-rights record, to get PR and ‘goodies’ for themselves at African summits, at the UN where these leaders have a vote, etc.”

      I vigorously defended Zenawi’s right to speak at Columbia because I believed the opportunity could offer him a teachable moment in the ways of free people:

      I realize that this may not be a popular view to hold, but I am reminded of the painful truth in Prof. Noam Chomsky's admonition: ‘If we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don't believe in it at all.’ On a personal level, it would be hypocritical of me to argue for free speech and press freedoms in Ethiopia and justify censorship or muzzling of Zenawi stateside. If censorship is bad for the good citizens of Ethiopia, it is also bad for the dictators of Ethiopia.

      Following the Columbia episode, one has to wonder why Zenawi would send hordes of his top officials to the U.S. and elsewhere to evangelize on behalf of his regime. It is logical to assume that Zenawi conducted a “vulnerability analysis” of Diaspora Ethiopians before sending out his crew. It is likely that he studied Diaspora attitudes and perceptions toward his regime and the current situation in the country, the ethnic and political divisions and tensions in the Diaspora, the strength of Diaspora elite cooperation and intensity of conflict among them, etc. and decided to make his move. He likely concluded that any potential opposition to the meetings could be handled by utilizing an “ethnic filter” at the door of the meeting halls.

      But what are Zenawi’s real reasons for sending his top cadre of officials to North America and Europe? There could be several answers to this deceptively simple question.


      Careful evaluation of Zenawi’s propaganda strategy shows that the dispatch of officials to the to the U.S. and Europe is part of a broader integrated campaign to undermine opposition in the Diaspora, energize supporters and reinforce favorable perception and action by foreign donors and banks. Manifestly, the mission of the crew sent to “dialogue” with the Ethiopian Diaspora was to divert attention from the extreme domestic economic, political and social problems in the country and to exude public confidence in the fact that the upheavals in North Africa are of no consequence in Ethiopia. The other elements in this propaganda campaign of mass distraction include belligerent talk of regime change in Eritrea, inflammatory water war-talk with Egypt, wild allegations of terrorist attacks, wholesale jailing and intimidation of opponents, proposals for the construction of an imaginary dam, attacks on international human rights organizations that have published critical reports on the regime (just a day ago, Zenawi's deputy said he "dismisses" the 2010 U.S. Human Rights Report as "baseless") and so on. The hope is that the more Diasporans talk about the manufactured issues, the less they will talk about the real issues of stratospheric inflation, food shortages, skyrocketing fuel costs, massive repression, information and media suppression, etc. in Ethiopia.

      By alternating propaganda topics from day today, Zenawi hopes to keep his opponents and critics talking reflexively about his issues and off-balance. The more outrageous his claims, the more reaction he is likely to elicit from his opponents and critics, and be able to better control the debate and the minds of those engaged in it. To be sure, by sending his travelling circus to the U.S., Zenawi has succeeded in angering, inflaming and riling up his Diaspora opponents. He knows just how to “get their goat”. He manipulates that outpouring of anger, rage and frustration to keep his opponents’ eyes off the prize.


      By sending a large delegation into the Ethiopian Diaspora, Zenawi is also sending an unmistakable message: “In yo’ face, Ethiopian Diaspora! I can do what I am doing in Ethiopia just as easily in your neck of the woods.” It is a confrontational propaganda strategy tinged with a tad of arrogance. Zenawi seems to believe that the Ethiopian Diaspora is so divided against itself and inherently dysfunctional that it is incapable of mounting an effective opposition to his regime or even his crew’s visit. By unleashing swarms of regime officials in the Diaspora, Zenawi likely intended to further degrade the Diaspora’s ability to conduct or sustain opposition activities, demoralize and disconcert them and confuse their leadership. On the other hand, if he can muster a successful foray with his crew, he could establish his invincibility and spread pessimism and despair in the Diaspora. But the whole affair proved to be a total failure as have all previous efforts to stage “in yo’ face” confrontation with Diaspora Ethiopians. The Diaspora may be divided but not when it comes to Zenawi’s regime.


      The other less apparent side of “in yo’ face” confrontation is to make a record of the “extreme Diaspora”. Zenawi will no doubt use this episode to show American and European policy makers that he is reasonable and statesman-like while the opposition, particularly in the Diaspora, consist of an assortment of wild-eyed, hysterical, fanatical, intolerant, irrational, hateful and mean-spirited extremists. He will argue to American policy makers that he sent his top leaders to engage Diasporan Ethiopians in civil dialogue only to be attacked, insulted and berated. He will hand them copies of well-edited videotapes of agitated protesters titled: “Behold the Ethiopian Diaspora!” In short, Zenawi will use the protest videos as Exhibit A to demonize, discredit, dehumanize, marginalize, categorize and sermonize about the Evil Extreme Ethiopian Diaspora. At the end, he will offer American policy makers a simple choice: “I am your man! It’s me or these raving lunatics.” Based on historical experience and empirical observations, some American policy makers may actually buy his argument.


      A third objective of the dog and pony show about the “Growth and Transformational Plan” is to please (hoodwink) the U.S., the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and others. It is an elaborately staged drama for this audience to show that Zenawi has a real economic plan for Ethiopia that exceeds the “Millennium Goals” (e.g. eradicate extreme poverty, reduce child mortality, fight AIDS, form global partnership, etc. by 2015). By making gestures of engagement with the Ethiopian Diaspora, Zenawi is trying to build credibility for his “economic plan” and that it has broad support within and outside the country. He deserves billions more in in loans and economic aid. Zenawi knows exactly what buttons to push to get the attention and approval of donors and loaners.

      The “economic plan” itself floats on a sea of catchphrases, clichés, slogans, buzzwords, platitudes, truisms and bombast. Zenawi says his plan will produce “food sufficiency in five years.” But he cautions it is a “high-case scenario which is clearly very, very ambitious.” He says the “base-case” scenario of “11 percent average economic growth over the next five years is doable” and the “high-case” scenario of 14.9 percent is “not unimaginable”. The hype of super economic growth rate is manifestly detached from reality. The Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative Multidimensional Poverty Index 2010 (formerly annual U.N.D.P. Human Poverty Index) ranks Ethiopia as second poorest (ahead of famine-ravaged Mali) country on the planet. Six million Ethiopians needed emergency food aid last year and many millions will need food aid this year. An annual growth rate of 15 percent for the second poorest country on the planet for the next five years goes beyond the realm of imagination to pure fantasy. The IMF predicts a growth rate of 7 percent for 2011, but talking about economic statistics on Ethiopia is like talking about the art of voodoo.


      Like charity, dialogue begins at home. Zenawi should allow free and unfettered discussion of his economic plan as well as human rights record within Ethiopia first before sending his troupe into the Diaspora. Conversation is a two-way street. If Zenawi wants to talk about his economic plan to Diaspora Ethiopians, he must be prepared to listen to their human rights concerns.

      There is not a single Ethiopian who will oppose food sufficiency in that hungry country by 2015 or decline to contribute to the prosperity and development of Ethiopia. Reasonable people could disagree on Zenawi’s “growth and transformation plan”. History shows that similar schemes based on foreign agricultural investments in Latin America have produced Banana Republics. Whether Zenawi’s economic plan will produce a Barley or Rice Republic in Ethiopia is an arguable question. But there can be no development without freedom. There can be no development in a climate of fear, loathing and intimidation, and one-party, one-man domination. Most certainly, there can be no development without respect for fundamental human rights and the rule of law. Though it is very possible to pull the wool over the eyes of people who have very little access to information, it is impossible to fool a politically conscious, active and energized Ethiopian Diaspora community by putting on a dog and pony show.


      * This article first appeared in Al Mariam’s Corner on Open Salon.
      * Alemayehu G. Mariam is professor of political science at California State University, San Bernardino, USA.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      Malawi democracy in a test tube

      Akwete Sande


      cc Wikimedia
      How healthy is Malawi's leader for democracy in that country? Akwete Sande analyses the political situation in Malawi.

      He successfully used a policy of tit-for-tat to survive in a politically hostile environment. Today he says he is not a dictator but a disciplinarian and that the new policy of shoot to kill given to the security agencies is mainly to ensure national security.

      Malawi’s incumbent president can swear in public that he is a democrat and that he has not detained anyone for dissenting views. He can indeed display the accolades he has attained the world over for his successes, such as in the field of food security.

      One of the poorest nations in Southern Africa, Malawi was a perennial beggar for food support. This is no longer the case and this can convince you that the Malawi leader, former international diplomat and an economist by training is indeed a ‘modern Moses’ as his praise singers regard him.

      However recent events in the country will no doubt leave an observer with questions as to whether he is presiding over a democratic nation.

      Malawi, which attained independence from Britain 47 years ago, endured three decades of authoritarian rule by founding president Dr Hastings Banda. Dr Banda virtually ruled the country as a fiefdom, tolerating no dissenting views and detaining real and perceived enemies while others together with their relatives fled the country.

      Things began to change from 1991 with the demise of the Cold War, which had insulated his leadership style. Malawi swiftly moved into a multiparty system of government. Banda’s own former protégé, Bakili Muluzi, dislodged him through a referendum in 1993 and a competitive multiparty election in 1994.

      Notwithstanding economic failures characterised by high inflation, prohibitive interest rates and corrupt tendencies, Muluzi’s tenure is credited with consolidating democracy and the rule of law. He tolerated dissenting views, while press and religious freedoms flourished.

      Muluzi handicapped Bingu wa Mutharika to succeed him after his third term bid was rejected by Malawians. The constitution allows only two five year terms. The electoral process which allows a simple majority ensured Mutharika’s slim victory in the third democratic elections.

      Mutharika began as an unpopular president. He realised his political survival depended on distancing himself from Muluzi, his mentor, and the ruling party -the United Democratic Front (UDF). A year into office Mutharika did the unexpected. He dumped the UDF, denouncing its leadership and arresting most of the top officials suspected to have been engaged in corrupt practices. He slowly built support despite constitutional limitations on movements of members of parliament from one party to the other.

      Many parliamentarians joined his newly formed Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), making it the ruling party from the backdoor. The courts ruled that these movements were illegal, but using popular support Mutharika ignored the judiciary and those Parliamentarians remained in office. Opposition efforts to get Mutharika impeached flopped as Parliament lacked the necessary procedures. He faced problems in passing bills as the opposition benches out-numbered his. He used tit-for-tat policies and mass appeal to win support until the 2009 elections.

      The politicisation of the public-funded agricultural subsidy programme and the resulting bumper yields since 2006 helped Mutharika scoop a majority from the less-informed rural masses in the 2009 polls, consequently his party won a landslide. The party grabbed over two-thirds of the 197 seats in Parliament, as well as over 60 per cent of the presidential vote.

      Civil society viewed this success with pessimism.

      ‘While the large turn out to the polls is a good sign for our democracy the land-slide victory is detrimental to its growth. When African leaders get such support they abuse their power,’ observed veteran human rights activist Undule Mwakasungula, as quoted in the media.

      As if to confirm these fears the first move by the new parliament in 2009 was to approve laws which allow police to search homes of suspects without a court order. Despite protests the president assented to the laws.

      Malawian police have a reputation for brutality. Cases of suspects dying in detention are rampart. The constitutional requirement of bringing such suspects to court before 48 hours is usually ignored. The vice state president, Joyce Banda, and an international award winning development activist were unceremoniously removed from the ruling party.

      Many Malawians see Mutharika’s success in the 2009 as a result of Joyce Banda’s grassroots support.
      ‘I voted in the elections because I saw her elevation to the vice presidency as the beginning of a move to end male chauvinism in the country. Joyce is a motherly figure, very hardworking and a model to all women. However the abuses she gets on state radio leaves most of us disappointed,’ says Mary Phiri, a female activist in Blantyre.

      The Catholic Church, through its bishops, then issued a pastoral which among other things criticised government for dictatorial decisions on national issues such as changing the national flag, abuses of state resources and disrespect for the office of the vice president. The government issued a response to the pastoral letter, trashing its contents.

      The DPP does not have elected officials. The president appoints and fires the officials at his whim. This means decisions in the party are made from the centre with the rest acting as passive recipients.

      However, political analysts have argued that the real issue behind the recent firing of the top officials from the party was due to reluctance of the two in endorsing the president’s brother as candidate in the 2014 elections.

      ‘The dismissals have shown that Mutharika is not tolerant of dissenting views. He wants his word to be final. This is not the feasible in a democracy,’ argues Mustapha Hussein, a political scientist at the University of Malawi.

      Ironically, many people credit Mutharika for relatively low levels of crime in the country. This is true when compared to the high rate of crime during the reign of his predecessor. However it was unusual for the president to command the police to shoot and kill criminal suspects without the accepted due processes of law. The order has been condemned by the public and civil society.

      The recent saga involving university lecturers over the issue of academic freedom, the decrees on the reopening of the Malawi Electoral Commission, the discontinuation of the sedition case of a church minister all point to a questionable adherence to democratic norms by Malawi’s current citizen number one.

      * Akwete Sande is a freelance journalist based in Blantyre Malawi

      Using force won't build peace

      Stephen Musau


      cc BRQ Network
      Negotiation, not military intervention, is the best solution for resolving conflict argues Stephen Musau, as the international community’s attempts to quell the unrest in Libya take their toll on innocent civilians.

      The events in the conflict-torn Libya and many other countries in North Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere – including what is emerging in Uganda – warrant the attention of all peace-loving and development-conscious people, globally. This is especially so with the escalation of the cost of living in many countries, which has – rightly or wrongly – been linked to what is happening in some of the countries facing civil unrest.

      As has been highlighted severally, the UN Security Council Resolution 1973 was meant to impose a no-fly zone in the Libya to avoid any air attacks and also to protect civilians who were out – and rightly so – to demand change in the governance of their country, after 42 years of rule under President Muammar Gaddafi. This was a rightful expression of the Libyans’ will.

      But the events that have happened in the country so far provide impetus for the international community to rethink the position taken on Libya. The support of regional arrangements that were negotiated and developed by the African Union, for instance, need to be humbly and humanely revisited.

      The African Union has laid out a four-point formula to end the civil war in Libya. These points were to have an immediate ceasefire by all military actions; continued humanitarian aid to those in need; protection of foreigners, including African expatriates living in Libya; and creation of a necessary political reforms agenda to eliminate the causes of the present crisis. All these points remain valid and relevant. They are attempts towards peace and security, both much desired.

      The international community needs to jointly look for new, non-standard ways to settle the chain of conflicts in North Africa, the Middle East – and any other country faced with these challenges – in an impartial manner. The use of force or threats appears not to be best solution and may even render the whole desired international peace and security a mockery of the 21st century.

      The expectations that mass-scale people’s unrest in North Africa, the Middle East and other countries could be dealt with by use of arms, force or threats and that order would soon be restored have proved short-lived. Several other cases come to mind, including Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia, where what was anticipated has not been the result so far.

      The past weeks have remained tense in Libya, Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, Algeria and Uganda; tomorrow it might be another country anywhere. Will the international community respond to all these people’s unrests by use of arms, force or threats? What will then be the meaning of democracy, human rights, peace and security internationally? What will be the role and meaning of the UN Charter?

      The case of Libya has proved that the West’s military interference in internal conflicts invariably leads to an impasse, with deep divisions of the country’s nationhood. Further, the problem with wars is that it hurts, injures and even kills the unanticipated targets.

      The principle of distinction of targets has not helped either. The case of Libya demonstrates that the promise of non-fly zone and protection of the civilian population has been a challenge; the victims are innocent Libyans. It is civilians who suffer most from military operations.

      What has also been shocking is that the Libyans who were to be protected as civilians out to fight for democracy have turned out, more often than not, to be well-armed and equipped rebels. The hard questions have been where the rebels have been getting arms, who is arming them and for what course of action?

      Secondly, the consequences of arming and supporting rebels to overthrow a government might be a dangerous style of operation, especially in the 21st century, as all states now have a form of opposition. Will the international community therefore just support any kind of opposition to state’s integrity and sovereignty, even without knowing what this opposition stands for in a country?

      Coups and countercoups seemed feasible during the Cold War when blame games could ensue; citizenry had alternative views of the politics and therefore ended up supporting rebel interventions. But nowadays, the struggle for people’s rule is based on ideas, open discussions and sharing one’s views on the state one wants to create openly and with the people.

      Of course the challenge will always be whether the democratic space in any country is opened enough and in depth for this to happen but this remains the struggle. It therefore calls for dialogue and negotiations with the people in all fronts and sectors, no matter how hard it may be, for where democracy lacks, it is more of a structural problem linked to lack of strong political vehicles, than just the individual in power. This is a hard lesson learnt and African democracy has a long way to do due to overlapping issues including ethnicity, poverty and unemployment.

      The case of Libya here comes in handy for the ‘rebels’; the assumed civilians fighting for democracy in Libya are just been coalesced into something being called the Interim Transitional National Council, which ordinary Libyans know little of. If the people know little of this, how then shall they buy in and support this vehicle as a government, unless the international community wants an unstable Libya that will keep on having coups and countercoups?

      The emerging calls warning against the use of force that would run counter to the letter and spirit of relevant UN Security Council Resolution 1973 needs international support, as the armed standoff between the supporters and opponents of Muammar Gaddafi is continuing. The calls for a ceasefire need to be heard more than before; all sides must lay down arms and preaching of no war should escalate.

      All these calls should be anchored on the UN Charter that prohibits non-interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state, either through acts of aggression, use of force, threats or armed conflict. The world of difference between the imposition of a no-fly zone, protection of civilians and daily air-strikes in civil affairs of any country needs to be made clear, so that the world can see role models in those who preach democracy and human rights.

      Lastly, as the armed conflicts escalate, spill-over should be expected economically and politically not only in the countries being involved or targeted in the conflict. The demonstrations on right to food in Nairobi for instance, and the high cost of living being experienced by Kenyans might be some of this spill-over and indicators of the consequences of war.

      Although this might as well be heavily connected to climate change, corruption and mismanagement issues, which must take their fair share in the dwindling means of survival for Kenyans, combined with Kenya’s poor governance issues, the consequences of any war are not comfy anywhere in the world. We must all say no to conflicts and war and yes to consciousness, peace and security.

      The world must stay human always!


      * Stephen Musau is a member of Kenya’s Release Political Prisoners Social Movement (RPP).
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      We are not in Kansas anymore: The labour of our heroes present

      Tunde Oyateru


      cc J W
      While Nigeria has always had a problem with insecurity, the recent spate of bombings in the country ‘have remained largely faceless, with no one claiming responsibility or offering an agenda’, argues Tunde Oyateru.

      Many novelists and indeed artists when penning or composing their craft rarely realise the lasting impact or genius their work might have. Often words and musical movements that have inspired generations were crafted entirely by coincidence or largely because they fit nicely into the overall body.

      The work of one Mr Baum and Mr Fleming has provided one of the most memorable quotes in popular culture, while at the same time spurning a cinema classic. ‘The Wizard of Oz’ is memorable for many things, the least of which isn’t the line ‘Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.’

      The Federal Republic of Nigeria celebrated 50 years of colonial independence on 1 October 2010, and while many lined up, as critics and analysts are wont to do, to deride the somewhat ostentatious celebrations and the growing list of failures the republic had recorded to date, others, this writer included, found reason to at the very least acknowledge the hallmark, if not extol and celebrate it wholesale.

      Democracy is still the best form of representative government in practice, and till groundbreaking research dispels this, it will continue to be the governing principle in wide circulation. It is, however, a system that is predicated largely on everyone having a say, even if in the end the majority holds sway, democracy posits that the soapbox is never too small for many more feet, the microphone never too few should you choose to avail yourself of it.

      In the abstract and academic, this is what democracy holds, as Nigerians living the everyday Nigerian experience have found, when this system is superimposed against a background of different nation-states, ethnicities, cultural realities and expectations, language barriers, suspicions and power-lust, it can lead to shoddy experimentation.

      The Federal Republic of Nigeria over its 50 years of self-determination has tried and failed on many occasions to instil the basic tenets of democracy; to ensure that the soapbox is never too small to accommodate, and that the microphone is never short in supply, and after many false starts and choked attempts, the Nigerian Fourth Republic has been stable, if tumultuous. This was the background of the jubilee anniversary, and the debates about the virtues and failures of our republic couldn’t have been underscored with more emergency than the twin bomb explosions that rocked the capital, Abuja, a mere 500 metres from where the president observed the national defence capabilities as part of the celebrations.

      In the melee that ensued, there were accusations and counter-accusations as politicians running up to elections in 2011 called the president weak on security, and ethnicities slugged each other with conspiracy theories of all colours. In the end the blame was placed at the doorstop of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), a movement that champions the development of a region the current president hails from; in one swift motion MEND denounced the violence and blamed a rogue faction headed by a member, Henry Okah, in South Africa.

      Fast forward five months and Nigeria is winding up what has been hailed as the freest and fairest elections since the annulled elections in 1993. However, it has been marred by the constant breakouts of violence and skirmishes, but perhaps more morbidly, the reports of bombings leading to and during the elections.

      Already there have been bombings in Niger, Kaduna and Borno states and several scares elsewhere. Violence in the Nigerian experiment, unfortunately, isn’t a new inclusion; the forces that pull the Nigerian contingent together and push them apart have from time to time broken out in rash and sweeping protestations.

      However, what many have noted with fear and grave concern is the growing trend and habit of detonating explosive devices on unsuspecting and largely innocent targets. In the midst of their concern and frustrations with the direction of their country, Nigerians have always prided themselves on their lease on life and their faith in a better day; it is what is jocularly referred to colloquially as ‘e go better’ philosophy.

      It is then with consternation that they receive news of Umar Farouk Abdulmuttallab hoping to martyr himself, or the rampant spread of bombings – self-destruction is patently not Nigerian. The same psyche of hope and belief in a turnaround in personal misfortune, even in the face of dire and sometimes impossible circumstances, is the same way most Nigerians enter the Nigerian polity, hence their record tolerance with the gross misgivings of the Nigerian state.

      But now removed from the televisions and 24-hour news cycles are the scenes of gore and destruction caused by inordinate bomb explosions; they now play out on the cover spreads of Nigerian newspapers and news magazine. Perhaps more insidious is the way it is becoming part of Nigerian life. Witness the parent telling their ward not to stay out late for fear of random bombings, or the trader closing shop early to avert a bomb scare – real or imagined. Witness how inexplicably easy it is to shut down a city by spreading bomb scares on social media sites and mass text messages.

      This isn’t to paint a sudden state of emergency; Nigeria has always had a problem with insecurity, from gruesome armed robbery to abductions and kidnapping, escalating conflicts in the Niger Delta and the Jos crisis. However, it can be argued that all those cases had a motive, a cause – but the recent spates have remained largely faceless, with no one claiming responsibility or offering an agenda, and while this fits nicely into the mould of terrorism which is at its most successful when it alters the psyche of a nation or community, as it remains faceless and without manifesto it makes it incredibly difficult to identify or rationalise. Once again, self-destruction is patently not Nigerian, and one thing is clear: the situation recalls the eponymous catchphrase, ‘we are not in Kansas anymore’. This is new ground.

      The vexing thing about this new form of expression – not that some philosophical argument would soothe its wounds – is the victims. It is taking the lives of innocents; the recent editions of these bombings have been targeted at election offices often staffed by members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Nigeria’s mandatory paramilitary service year for recent graduates. These young men and women have paid in blood, that which their country was never going to pay in promise or deed even if they had remained alive. To the observing public these men and women are unnecessary heroes in a country that has an eerie penchant for taking one step forward and many more backwards.

      The current administration has been accused on many occasions of being weak on national security. Some pundits have mused that the spread of bombings might be an attempt to weaken the government on security, but its curious lack of skill at pre-empting the situations – when oftentimes they are apparent to us commoners – is doing just that. The obvious conclusion to draw from a certain people feeling that the soapbox is no longer big enough for them is that they will grab on to the closest arm or leg in an attempt to keep from falling or a more sinister attempt to take down as many as they can reach – the end result is the destabilisation of the soapbox. If they cannot reach a microphone, they will make sure that others are silenced.

      If the trend isn’t curbed, the labours of our heroes’ past might account for little as the space for heroes present will become deliberately lonely. We aren’t in Kansas anymore, and the sooner the government realises this, the quicker we wake up from this nightmare, or we could just follow the bloodstained brick road to the wizard, as we pray for courage, a heart and some common sense.


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

      Who the hell do you think you are?


      cc L R
      Minister Louis Farrakhan warns Barack Obama about the US's intervention in Libya and CIA activity [Information Clearing House video], while Cornel West discusses the failure of the Obama administration to tackle the root causes of injustice in the US and beyond [Al Jazeera video].


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

      Advocacy & campaigns

      The Kennedy 12 return to court for part two of their trial

      Abahlali baseMjondolo


      ‘It is one thing to be attacked by the police or securities. It is another thing to be attacked by other poor people that have been mobilised, on an ethnic basis, against an independent movement by the ruling party and given the support of the police to attack, to threaten, to demolish homes and to drive all the leading members of a movement out of a community,’ writes South African shackdwellers' movement, Abahlali baseMjondolo.

      Press Release
      Sunday, May 01, 2011

      Abahlali baseMjondolo will return to the Durban magistrate’s court on Tuesday 3 May 2011 to support the twelve men who have become victims of the political conspiracy to disguise the reality of the armed attack on our movement that took place in the Kennedy Road settlement on the 26th and 27th of September 2009. That attack displaced hundreds of women, men and children and the resulting conflicts left some people with serious injuries and two people dead.

      The armed attack on our movement was carried out in the name of the ANC and the disastrous politics of ethnicity. The attack was publicly endorsed by senior figures in the ANC and for many months afterwards a mob associated with the local ANC continued to destroy the homes of our leading members in the settlement with complete impunity. The police never once stepped in to stop the ongoing destruction of our homes despite repeated pleas for them to intervene. Our call for an independent commission of inquiry into the attacks was ignored and the police investigation into the violence was turned into a political witch-hunt. During the bail hearings even the magistrates made it clear that this was a 'political case' and the open bias in court was incredible. Our leading members were openly threatened with death in public places, like the court, and for months we had to organise underground.

      The repeated screening of video footage of the police murder of Andries Tatane on the TV news has shocked the middle classes. It has awoken some of their civil society organisations from their long political sleep. We were deeply saddened to watch another comrade being attacked by the police. But we were not shocked. Our peaceful requests to speak to the government about the conditions in our communities have been met with repeated violence since 2005. Our members have been regularly attacked by the police, the Land Invasions Unit and Group4 Security. We have been shot with rubber bullets, water canons, stun grenades and live ammunition. We have been beaten and we have been tortured.

      We are not alone in suffering this violent repression from the police, land invasion units and private security companies. The Landless People’s Movement in Johannesburg and Abahlali baseMjondolo and the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign in Cape Town, as well as other movements and many smaller community organisations, have had similar experiences. It has also been common for activists to be threatened by ward councilors and local party structures and to have these people and structures order the police to attack activists.

      But the attack on our movement in Kennedy Road in September 2009 marked a new phase in repression in our democracy – a democracy that has always had political freedom for the rich and the middle classes and a politics of patronage and repression for the poor. It is one thing to be attacked by the police or securities. It is another thing to be attacked by other poor people that have been mobilised, on an ethnic basis, against an independent movement by the ruling party and given the support of the police to attack, to threaten, to demolish homes and to drive all the leading members of a movement out of a community.

      After we suffered this attack in September 2009, and the ongoing destruction of our homes and harassment of our members in the following months, the Landless Peoples Movement suffered similar attacks during 2010. Many of us were reminded of the xenophobic attacks of May 2008 and the political violence in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng in the 1980s.

      The ANC seized control of the Kennedy Road settlement with violence. It took some time for it to be taken back to democratic control, under the new Kennedy Road Development Committee. This was achieved peacefully by people standing together against intimidation.

      Phase one of the trial of the Kennedy 12 started on the 29th November and ran to the 3rd of December 2010. During that week the state bought five witnesses the court. Not one of them was able to give any evidence linking any of the accused to the two deaths which the state has claimed that the twelve are responsible for. Four of the five witnesses admitted that the police had told them who to pick out in the line-up and one witness refused to testify for the state. She then became a court witness and testified that the police had tried to force her to give false evidence against the accussed. She also testified that in her view it was the Kennedy Road ANC that were responsible for the attack. After the court case death threats were made against her and she was attacked in her home and warned not to continue to tell the truth in court. if she had not been supported by our neighbours she may have been killed in this attack.

      The attack on our movement in September 2009 was a political attack carried out with the support of senior people in the ANC and the police. This trial has always been a political trial.

      Our real crime in the eyes of the ANC in Durban has been that we organised ourselves outside of their control. We have been accused of running our own authority. We do not deny this. It is not a crime for the unorganised to organise themselves.Our crime has been to define ourselves as people who do not count in our society and to issue a clear demand - we want to count as people who are equal to everyone else in our society. We want our dignity back. We do not compromise on that. We are prepared to struggle on the streets and in the court rooms to win our dignity back. We will continue to insist that our equality with all other people is recognised and that it is recognised practically.

      Abahlali wish to invite all our comrades in the Poor People's Alliance, all our friends and colleagues, the Church leaders and the media to come and bare witness to the trial and to express solidarity with the Kennedy 12, whose families have been torn apart by this cruel attempt to make them responsible for the attack. Abahlali wish to express their continuous gratitude for all the support we continue to enjoy from our comrades nationally and international. We want to assure you that we continue to stand by our Amandla when circumstances are difficult. We are struggling for our lives and the lives of our children and so we can never give up. We are not prepared to accept oppression and so for us there is no alternative other than to keep on struggling.

      The trial will resume at 09h00, at Durban Regional court, Y Court, 11th Floor.

      For more information or comment please contact:

      Abahlali Youth League Secretary Zodwa Nsibande: 071 183 4388.

      Abahlali Secretary Bandile Mdlalose: 071 4242 815.

      U.S. Court of Appeals affirms overturning of Mumia Abu-Jamal's death sentence

      Prison Radio News


      The US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has again declared Mumia Abu-Jamal’s death sentence unconstitutional, on the basis that members of the jury during his trial were given unclear sentencing instructions. The award-winning journalist has been on Pennsylvania’s death row for 29 years. His 1982 murder trial and subsequent conviction has been the subject of great debate.


      Noelle Hanrahan
      Prison Radio, [email protected]
      415-706-5222 cell
      215-535-3757 land line
      For additional media contacts please email [email protected]

      Highlight. 3rd Circuit Affirms its decision to Overturn Mumia Abu-Jaamal sentence of death

      Ruling based on oral arguments before the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals. Nov. 9th 2010 which argued for the imposition of the death sentence in the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal.

      Orders DA to give him life in prison, or to hold a trial within six months on just the sentence phrase before a jury to decide life or death.

      Mumia Bio:

      Mumia Abu-Jamal is an award-winning journalist who chronicles the human condition. He has been a resident of Pennsylvania’s death row for twenty-nine years. Writing from his solitary confinement cell his essays have reached a worldwide audience. His books "Live From Death Row", "Death Blossoms", "All Things Censored", “Faith of Our Fathers”, “We Want Freedom”, and “Jailhouse Lawyers” have sold hundreds of thousands of copies and been translated into nine languages. His 1982-murder trial and subsequent conviction has been the subject of great debate.

      Here is the opinion




      No. 01-9014


      a/k/a WESLEY COOK


      “Accordingly, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court failed to evaluate whether the complete text of the verdict form, together with the jury instructions, would create a substantial probability the jury believed both aggravating and mitigating circumstances must be found unanimously. See id. For these reasons, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s application of Mills was objectively unreasonable.

      "thereby making clear that, although aggravating circumstances must be found unanimously, mitigating evidence need not be found unanimously in order to be considered by individual jurors during the weighing and balancing process."

      "For the foregoing reasons, we will affirm the District Court’s grant of relief on the mitigation instruction claim. As the District Court noted, the “Commonwealth of Pennsylvania may conduct a new sentencing hearing in a manner consistent with this opinion within 180 days of the Order accompanying this [opinion], during which period the execution of the writ of habeas corpus will be stayed, or shall sentence [Abu-Jamal] to life imprisonment.” Abu-Jamal, 2001 WL 1609690, at *130."

      UN Security Council accused of double standards in Western Sahara ‘travesty’

      Western Sahara Campaign


      The failure to establish a mechanism around Western Sahara to monitor human rights comes in sharp contrast to the UK and French position on human rights in other recent resolutions, such as 1970 on Libya, stress the Western Sahara Campaign.

      UN Security Council Resolution 1979 on Western Sahara passed yesterday by the Security Council for the first time recognises the need to improve human rights in the disputed Territory, but fails to respond to South Africa and Nigeria’s calls to establish human rights monitoring, leaving the UN mission (MINURSO) the only contemporary UN mission without a human rights mandate.

      The UK which previously expressed support for human rights monitoring was one of five countries to draft the resolution text. South Africa and Nigeria proposed amendments to the text, all of which were rejected.

      This failure to establish a mechanism to monitor human rights comes in sharp contrast to the UK and French position on human rights in other recent resolutions such as 1970 on Libya. In November Western Sahara was the scene of mass protests and violence. South African Ambassador Baso Sangqu addressing the Security Council said:

      “This double standard creates an impression that the Security Council does not care about the human rights of the people of Western Sahara." He called the lack of human rights monitoring in Western Sahara a “travesty”.

      Natalie Sharples from the Western Sahara Campaign, part of a Network of organisations in 35 countries campaigning for the protection of human rights in Western Sahara said:

      “The fact that France the UK and US have been so keen to highlight their support for human rights in Libya and Ivory Coast, yet are prepared to deny these rights to the Sahrawi people is shameful. It is clearly time for an African member to be included in the UN’s Group of Friends.”

      Francesco Bastagli the former UN Assistant Secretary-General and Special Representative for Western Sahara said:

      “Whether it's conflict prevention, basic human rights or responsibility to protect, Western Sahara is the long-neglected obligation of the international community. The Security Council can hardly be credible in its concern over Libya and other countries in the region while continuing to ignore the tragic plight of the Saharawi people.”


      For more information or interviews contact +44 (0) 7931 260420 or 020 7681 4280

      The UN Secretary General’s recent report on Western Sahara notes that unrest in the region brings increased urgency for efforts to resolve the 36 year conflict.

      Noam Chomsky has said that the mass protests that took place in Western Sahara in November last year marked the starting point of the North Africa/Middle East protests.

      Human rights abuses in Moroccan occupied Western Sahara are reported widely by International human rights organisations who have repeatedly called for human rights to be monitored by UN mission (MINURSO).

      MINURSO is the only UN mission established since 1978 without a human rights mandate.

      The resolution fails to establish any mechanism to monitor human rights instead: “Welcoming the establishment of a National Council on Human Rights in Morocco and the proposed component regarding Western Sahara, and the commitment of Morocco to ensure unqualified and unimpeded access to all Special Procedures of the United Nations Human Rights Council,

      France is thought to be the main country to oppose human rights monitoring and in previous years threatening to veto the resolution if it included any reference to human rights

      The UN’s “Group of Friends of Western Sahara” consists of the UK, US France, Spain and Russia.

      Western Sahara has been occupied by Morocco for 36 years in violation of international law and numerous Security Council Resolutions.

      Francesco Bastagli was UN Assistant Secretary-General and Special Representative for Western Sahara from 2006 – 2006. He resigned in protest over UN inaction on Western Sahara.


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

      In tribute: Noxolo Nogwaza's funeral


      These are images from the funeral of Noxolo Nogwaza, the 24-year-old lesbian activist raped and murdered in Gauteng, South Africa.


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

      Ugandan gay rights activist awarded human rights prize

      Martin Ennals Award


      The Jury of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (MEA), meeting in Geneva, selects Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera as the Laureate for her work for LGBT rights and marginalised people in Uganda. Nabagesera is the founder and executive director of Freedom and Roam Uganda, a lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights organisation.


      Tuesday 3 May 2011


      The Jury of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (MEA), meeting in Geneva, selects Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera as the Laureate for her work for LGBT rights and marginalised people in Uganda

      Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, a Ugandan woman, is the founder and Executive Director of Freedom and Roam Uganda, a main lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights organisation. Kasha has had the courage to appear on national television in Uganda, she has issued press statements on behalf of the gay community, and spoke on several radio stations. Already in 2007 she was harassed at the World Social Forum in Nairobi, and on many occasions afterwards she was hackled, threatened and even attacked by people for appearing in the media. Since then she has been shifting from house to house, afraid to stay long in the same place. On 26 January 2011, one of her colleagues, gay activist David Kato, was murdered following the publication of a “gay list” by the Ugandan tabloid Rolling Stone calling for their hanging; in this black list Kasha Jacqueline’s name also appears. The Chairman of the Jury of the MEA, Hans Thoolen, describes the laureate as “an exceptional woman of a rare courage, fighting under death threat for human dignity and the rights of homosexuals and marginalised people in Africa”. With this award the Jury wants to underline its position against the discrimination of people based on gender or sexual orientation.

      The Ceremony of the Martin Ennals Award will take place in the Victoria Hall of Geneva late in the year.

      The main award of the human rights movement. The Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (MEA) is a unique collaboration among ten of the world’s leading human rights organisations to give protection to human rights defenders worldwide. The Jury is composed of the following NGOs: Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights First, International Federation for Human Rights, World Organisation Against Torture, Front Line, International Commission of Jurists, German Diakonie, International Service for Human Rights and HURIDOCS.

      Previous laureates : Muhannad Al-Hassani, Syria (2010), Emad Baghi, Iran; Mutabar Tadjibaeva, Uzbekistan; Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, Burundi and Rajan Hoole-Kopalasingham Sritharan, Sri Lanka; Akbar Ganji, Iran and Arnold Tsunga, Zimbabwe; Aktham Naisse, Syria; Lida Yusupova, Russia; Alirio Uribe Muñoz, Colombia; Jacqueline Moudeina, Chad; Peace Brigades International; Immaculée Birhaheka, DR Congo; Natasha Kandic, Yugoslavia; Eyad El Sarraj, Palestine; Samuel Ruiz, Mexico; Clement Nwankwo, Nigeria; Asma Jahangir, Pakistan; Harry Wu, China.

      For downloadable film images on the Laureate of 2011, please go to - the Vimeo account of True Heroes with a password: MEA_KASHA_2011.

      Patrons of the Martin Ennals Award: Asma Jahangir, Barbara Hendricks, José Ramos-Horta, Adama Dieng, Leandro Despouy, Louise Arbour, Robert Fulghum, Irene Khan, Theo van Boven and Werner Lottje†.

      For further information, please contact: Luis Marreiros, Coordinator, +41228094925
      [email protected] or visit

      Pan-African Postcard

      Keeping things in perspective

      H. Nanjala Nyabola


      'Bin Laden's death is perhaps the ultimate act of retribution, and no one can fault anyone for seeking that out. But there's a difference between justice and retribution,' writes H. Nanjala Nyabola.

      Osama bin Laden is dead.

      The difficulty of doing a column like this is sometimes an event transpires that is so monumental and internationally significant that it forces you to look outside your sphere of interest to think about things that you may not ordinarily contend with. I’m no expert on terrorism or counter-terrorism, nor can I attest to having any particularly keen interest in military strategy beyond its political dimensions. Furthermore, it’s not as if all has been quiet on the African front. With the death of Saif al-Arab in Libya, the increasing unrest in Burkina Faso and the Ugandan government’s attempts at detaining Dr Besigiye in Uganda, it’s been a rather eventful political week in many African countries.

      Yet, it doesn’t take an expert to realise that the passing of bin Laden is a big deal, and will have significant ramifications for many African countries. From Dar es Salaam to Nouakchott, al Qaeda has proven that it has growing roots on the continent, and increasing support in the form of like-minded organisations like al-Shabab in Somalia. With the dubious distinction of having been both a victim and a harbourer of terrorist cells, and given the government’s notoriously lax and rotten policing structure, Kenya is unfortunately a likely target for any form of retaliation from the group. For now, it is likely that many Kenyans echo the sentiments of the chair of the 1998 Bombing Survivors Association, in welcoming the news, while expressing a wish for due legal process.

      The important question now is not determining the scale of the significance of bin Laden’s passing – it is evidently monumental. The trouble is defining the exact nature of the significance so that we can tease out an appropriate response. The sight of US citizens pouring out into the streets dancing and celebrating, cheering at football games, or writing headlines like ‘We won the match and we got Osama’ feels instinctively inappropriate. For one thing, a country with a long history of fighting organised crime should know better than any other that cutting off the head of such an organisation rarely leads to it’s collapse. In the same breath, it’s not like al Qaeda has been operating as a highly centralised operation. News emerging from Abbottabad reveals that the compound from which bin Laden managed his operation had no telephone or Internet connections, meaning that any communication between terror cells must have been laboured and elaborate. In that context, we have to wonder if cutting off the head will only make each part of the structure more autonomous. As I said, I’m no military expert, but it just seems to me that the entire thing is going to be far more complicated than simply taking out Osama.

      More than that however, there’s something remarkably tasteless about celebrating the death of another human being, regardless of how evil he or she may be. Since the Second World War, it seems that those who study those who make war have become increasingly obsessed with the notions of absolute right and absolute wrong, as if anything to do with humans can ever be that simple. We all agree that there must be some kind of baseline measure of good and evil against which we should moderate the need to invade other nations to protect civilians, or to overthrow regimes as in Libya, but there is hardly any consensus as to what that measure is. If you polled Zimbabweans and Libyans on who between Gaddafi or Mugabe was more deserving of ‘enforced regime change’, it is unlikely that there would be one clear winner. Yet just last week, one of these men was in a compound was apparently targeted for assassination and the other was receiving Communion at the Vatican. Can a system predicated on such inconsistent morality ever really claim ‘justice’ in the death of another human being?

      Now, this is a difficult case to make without sounding ‘soft on terror’, so allow me to confirm here and now that bin Laden has not an iota of sympathy or understanding from me. It’s just that withholding sympathy does not preclude the possibility of seeing past over simplified notions of good and evil, and recognising the danger that a reductionist knee-jerk reaction actually poses to the process of consolidating any possible gains that could be made from this. As a colleague pointed out, the dancing in the streets is really more telling of the depths to which public morality has fallen than any thing else, and much like the invasive scrutiny that travellers are subjected to at the airport, is more a victory for them than it is for us.

      Al Qaeda, like Nazism and Fascism before it, is an ideology, and it takes more than bullets and bombs to fight ideologies. It’s interesting how over the last 10 years this one man has come to embody all that is evil for so many people around the world – our generation’s Hitler, if you will. Still, the Second World War dragged on for almost six months after Hitler committed suicide; the significance of bin Laden’s passing will not become apparent for some time. Celebrating in the streets implies a sense that the war on terror is finally over. It’s a horribly inaccurate set up to a terrible disappointment.

      I’ve written before about the responsibility of Kenya’s silent majority in moderating the tone of the public debate in that country. The silent majority in the US now faces a similar task. Noting the significance of the moment, now is the time to pour water on any over-enthusiastic expressions of accomplishment, significantly to avoid forcing groups like Hamas to harden their positions in order to maintain some semblance of legitimacy with their specific constituencies. Obama has gone further than his predecessors in hitting at al Qaeda, but he now has a responsibility to manage the expectations of his people and to prevent this moment from being hijacked by the voices of extremism in order to forestall any equally extremist reaction from groups like Hamas and al-Shabab.

      Bin Laden's death is perhaps the ultimate act of retribution, and no one can fault anyone for seeking that out. But there's a difference between justice and retribution. Although both notions are used interchangibly, in my mind there’s a difference between the object of both activities. Justice is for the people who have been wronged and is the process of trying to restore that which has been damaged or destroyed. Retribution on the other hand is for the rest of us who have to make sense of the despicable behaviour of others. So how can you seek out justice in a situation in which no action can ever restore that which has been damaged? You can’t. So we make do with retribution. But that retribution gives us no cause to celebrate because we are forever conscious that it will never restore that which has been broken.


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

      In memoriam: Karen Harrison

      H. Nanjala Nyabola


      Following the death of Karen Harrison, an activist from Glasgow, Scotland, and a mature student at the University of Oxford, H. Nanjala Nyabola pays tribute to ‘one of those special people who dedicated their whole lives to fighting battles that the rest of us are relatively comfortable looking away from’.

      ‘An injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere.’

      If Dr Martin Luther King’s dictum is indeed true, then it follows that those who fight injustice anywhere are worthy of the respect and goodwill of others everywhere. It is in this spirit and with a heavy heart that I step away from African issues for a week to mourn the passing of someone who spent the better part of their life fighting the often insidious injustice of unequal and unfair labour conditions here in the UK.

      Last week, the world lost one of those special people who dedicated their whole lives to fighting battles that the rest of us are relatively comfortable looking away from. Karen Harrison, a fellow student, passed away in circumstances that are yet to be determined, leaving behind a legacy of struggle for labour equality and especially workplace equality for those who work on the British railways.

      She was born in Glasgow, Scotland, to working-class parents and I imagine even then that she was already exhibiting that trademark stubbornness that would feed into some of her most amazing achievements. At 16 she left school to work in a nightclub before deciding that she wanted to learn how to drive trains, something that no woman in Britain had done before. Knowing Karen, I imagine her thought process was less about making history and more about doing something that people around her consistently told her that she could not and should not do. Although initially reluctant, to their credit the company eventually let her have her way, even if from the way she told the story it was with the expectation that she would fail.

      During her first years with British Rail, Karen endured a great deal of harassment and verbal abuse from her co-workers and her superiors. In a world of armchair feminists who preach equality from the comfort of their plush offices, Karen lived the struggle every day for almost 20 years, each day carving away at her co-workers’ resentment and earning their begrudging respect. She learnt to turn their insults back at them, but without the bile that often underpins chauvinism. Eventually, her perseverance won them over, and she was elected as a trade union officer for UNISON, the largest union in the UK. It was a job that she worked hard at and enjoyed, and only a debilitating illness made it impossible for her to continue. Realising that only a higher education would allow her to return to her campaign for labour rights, Karen joined the University of Oxford to study law as a mature student at almost 50 years of age.

      Anyone who knows anything about Oxford will tell you that it’s the kind of place that is half-comprised of people that you respect and admire, and half of people that you spent the better part of your younger years trying to avoid. Many people opt to fall back on national, regional, schools-based or other ‘tribes’ to navigate through the muck, but Karen was never one to support such nonsense. A friend to everyone and loved by all, she was as comfortable trading good-natured jibes with public school snobs as she was sharing war stories with working-class people from other parts of the world. Her illness made what is already a demanding programme extremely difficult for her but she was never one to complain. She had an infectious joie de vivre that put everyone at ease, even while she herself was in pain or drained from her medications.

      As someone who has consistently walked away from the label ‘feminist’, meeting Karen was an important step towards my reclaiming of the label. Karen recognised that it was the same spirit of injustice that fuelled gender or class issues, and spent her life fighting injustice wherever she found it, and that ‘feminism’ should avoid being so married to doctrinal notions that it precludes recognition of other forms of injustice or inequality. To me, she epitomised the ideal of anyone struggling for justice anywhere – a keen sense of where her own shoes pinched but a great deal of empathy for those she was often struggling against.

      Most importantly, Karen’s formidable spirit and refusal to accept defeat was an inspiration to everyone who knew her. Surrounded by much younger people already jaded and disillusioned by the trajectory of their home nations, Karen’s consistent belief in the goodness of people and the value of the struggle against inequality was a reminder that optimism doesn’t have to be blind to be effective. To me, she was a friend during some of the most difficult moments in my life, a yardstick against which I measured my own disinclination to take chances and to live life to the fullest, and an inspiration to continue in my chosen struggle even when other people think I am insane.

      On hearing of her passing, a mutual friend noted that it’s difficult to be sad when we think of Karen passing, because almost every memory we have of her is of her making us laugh or saying something irrefutable. So we mourn her loss and console her family, but in her spirit, we find ourselves hoping that there’s no inequality on the other side, because if so, St Peter must be getting an earful.


      * Karen Harrison (1960–2011)
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      Books & arts

      Culture in political activism and resistance

      Martina Keilbach


      ‘What are the conditions under which cultural expressions, used as a means for resistance, can become accessible to an international community?’ Martina Keilbach reflects on the work of Kenyan poet and political activist Abdilatif Abdalla.

      In March 1969, at the age of 22, Abdilatif Abdalla from Mombasa became the first political prisoner of independent Kenya. He was sentenced to three years solitary confinement on the grounds of having written and distributed a pamphlet Kenya: Twendapi – ‘Kenya, where are we going?’ against the criminalization of opposition parties, to which he belonged. In 1972, a collection of poems which he had written in prison was published as Sauti ya Dhiki (Voice of Agony), for which in 1974 the “Kenyatta Literary Award” was bestowed upon him. Ever since his release in 1972, he has lived in exile as a journalist and political activist, connected to Kenya and the world by transnational networks through which he musters international solidarity and takes influence on politics in his home country. However, he has not published in paper any more poems of his, and only some of the poems of his prison ‘diary’ have been translated from Swahili. In his further political commitment as a journalist and activist, however, he continued to use English. In Kenya he is still well known and regarded as an important and controversial poet and political activist.

      From the point of view that language use is inseparable from cultural practice, since it is in and through speaking that symbolic orders are taken recourse to, reinvented and reproduced, this marked split of cultural practice, to which change of linguistic code (Swahili/English) is but the most audible, it can be made explicit that while in his political commitment he used either ‘blunt’ Swahili or English accessible for a wider public, in the agonized situation in prison Abdilatif Abdalla resorted to his traditional education as a Swahili patrician with a language which is very difficult to understand, even for contemporary Swahilists. Using his cultural and social background of belonging to the patrician elite of urban Swahili culture, of being a mwungwana, he was able to counter the assault on his personal and political integrity during solitary confinement: The knowledge of poetry, and the ability to condense thoughts and topics by means of the rigid principles of Swahili poetry, leading to what also known as lugha ya ndani – ‘deep language’, is one of the cornerstones of being Swahili. According to him, he used such language to veil the messages, as he expected that neither his prison warders, leave alone the political functionaries of the time, up to Jomo Kenyatta himself, would be able to make clear sense of his poetry.[1]

      On the other hand, the intensive localization of political activism apparent in Abdilatif Abdalla’s writings before and during his imprisonment is perhaps also owed to the situation of underground opposition, where risks must be minimized, in this case by using language and the accompanying cultural practices (embodied for example in poetry) only understood by those very close to the underground group. However, the moment political repression has become manifest, the only possibility to raise solidarity and support lies in the ability of the repressed to reach international attention: for this the knowledge of ‘Western’? – international? globally known? – modes of expression is crucial. It is in this situation that Abdilatif Abdalla and Ngugi wa Thion’go (amongst others) make up a very successful team in the “Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners in Kenya” (1982), later on “United Movement for Democracy in Kenya” (from 1987 onwards).

      Of course, his is but one in the many examples of persecuted intellectuals, writers, or film makers. Ngugi wa Thiong’o was an acclaimed writer before he, too, turned to Gikuyu and community theatre as a means to reach those who were excluded from political participation. He thus played on the difference between English and the local languages as means of control and subversion. This raised the fear of the then ruling elites that those excluded might start ‘speaking’ beyond their control. Ngugi, as is well known, was incarcerated for his activities and exiled later on. But while Ngugi could draw on his already existing reputation as a political writer in English to muster international solidarity, Abdilatif has always remained less visible. Ken Saro Wiwa, activist, playwright and author of fiction, chose to write in English. However, he also played with language, questioning the ‘meanings’ of English in his satirical novel Sozaboy. Nuruddin Farah, on the other hand, wrote one of the first novels in Somali in the alphabet which was invented and standardized under the regime of Siad Barre, only to have it banned. In order to still have his say, he changed his literary activities to English, which promised a much larger readership and political influence – albeit rather beyond Somalia than within. Again another example is Phaswane Mpe, a Sepedi writer from South Africa, who could not publish his novel in Sepedi, because, as his editor pointed out, he would not find a readership for his criticism in this community, since Sepedi was a medium rather for harmless ‘traditional’ stories than political topics. He, too, settled for a publication in English under the title “Welcome to our Hillbrow” (2001). In South Africa, contrary to the other examples, the assumed threat inherent in literature in African Languages is defused by a banalization of their value. These few examples raise a central question about translation issues:

      What are the conditions under which cultural expressions, used as a means for resistance, can become accessible to an international community? What kinds of transformation processes are required to make local or localized symbolic orders accessible to a globalised public sphere in order to address the international community and thus gain support?

      Inherent in these questions is the assumption that it is those who are in need of support who have to overcome linguistic and cultural boundaries. While this seems to be a truism and a ‘fact of life’, it is exacerbated by the colonial heritage of a dependent language bias where it is felt that because ‘Africa’ constitutes ‘the other’ of the ‘West’, expressions in African languages are, in fact, in need of ‘translation’. What, then, does it take, that the ‘subaltern can speak’, and even if the ‘subaltern speaks’, how far is the international community prepared to listen? How do other activists with different backgrounds choose to moderate this balancing act between the local of expression and the global of solidarity?

      The exploration of the potential political meaning of cultural practices, amongst others language use, requires a reflection on the ways how and under which historical conditions of manifold hegemonial and counter-hegemonial interests different symbolic orders can be effectively connected in order to transgress or subvert politically determined boundaries: Abdilatif Abdalla has chosen to remain invisible from an international public as a poet, but not as a political activist. While he is needed in Kenya, precisely this international visibility makes him more vulnerable but also closer to ‘his people’. Ngugi, on the other hand, has tried to join the two modes, crossing linguistic and cultural borders back and forth. Are these individual differences, or are these differences in cultural background which deeply influence the situation and choices made in political activism?


      * “Deep Language” Crossing Borders: Exploring the Use of Culture as Resource in Political Activism and Resistance in Africa and Elsewhere, a symposium in honor of Abdilatif Abdalla takes place in Leipzig from 5-6 May 2011.
      * This article first appeared on H|SOZ|U|KULT.
      * Martina Keilbach is based at the University of Leipzig (Fakultät für Geschichte, Kunst- und Orientwissenschaften, Institut für Afrikanistik) in Germany.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.


      [1] “… I doubt if they [the prison guards] will be able to make out the meaning of the poems. Even if they will, I have 1001 alternative interpretations for each one of them.” (The Star, Wednesday, October 6, 2010).

      Analysing Somalia: Past and present

      Review of ‘Milk and Peace, Drought and War’

      Nilani Ljunggren De Silva


      In a review of ‘Milk and Peace, Drought and War: Somali Culture, Society and Politics’, edited by Markus Hoehne and Virginia Luling, Nilani Ljunggren De Silva highlights an ‘important work for all who wish to understand Somalia and its beleaguered and courageous people’.

      The editors, Markus Hoehne and Virginia Luling, through this book not only have skilfully highlighted the Somali culture, society and politics but also have mobilised reputed scholars to engage in developing I.M. Lewis’s renowned work on Somalia. The book is definitely a major contribution to the Somali collection of literature. In nine short and crisp chapters, different authors not only examine but also sharply scrutinise Lewis’s work to bring forth something innovative and interesting, with unique points of view.

      Those who are familiar with Professor I.M. Lewis – his ethnographic monographs, along with his many articles and books (particularly his book ‘A Pastoral Democracy’ (1961), a study of pastoralism and politics among the Northern Somali in the Horn of Africa) – testify to how full and rich his accounts of Somali histories, culture, politics, society, language and poets are. In ‘Milk and Peace, Drought and War’, the authors examine different events in the past to discern patterns that Lewis had presented to describe the contemporary circumstances and dilemmas, tight spots and apparitions of Somali society – this is to say, the views that different authors analyse are multiple and augmented, revealing continuities and agreeing on some aspects while not agreeing on others.

      The book consists of eight parts. The first three parts set out the analytical framework of the book and offer a wider discussion of the colonial legacy and the post-colonial Somali state, clan politics, the pastoral economy and evolving changes and political Islam in Somali history together with women, new family law, Islamists and the military regime in Somalia. The rest of the book presents chapters written about spirits and the human world in Northern Somalia, possession as expression of women’s autonomy, the nation’s literacy, the politics of poetry, language and ethnic nationalism and finally a reflection on the Somali state – what went wrong?

      Several positions taken by some of the authors are noteworthy. In the part under the colonial period and today, the author evaluates the way in which colonial policies that have contributed to a different kind of political culture and state-building in Somalia. Likewise, in relation to speculations on the historical origins of the ‘total Somali genealogy’, the author explores earlier generations of Islamic reformers and how they strove to overcome the ‘tribal’ mentality of Somalis by offering a more inclusive genealogical vision (p. 63). In the chapter under the topic trade, lineages, inequalities, the author gives an interesting account of how trade has been organised along kinship lines.

      The question of ethnicity in Somali studies seems quite an arduous task, but the author offers an interesting, partly theoretical approach – the primordialist vs constructivist debate with a rational balance – providing a work that could simply act as a useful reference to anyone intending to research on this aspect. The author writes: “Constructivists are correct to claim that ethnic identity in Somalia is indeed constructed, invented, and imagined, and clanism is far more fluid and flexible than most outsiders realize. But years of political manipulation, warfare, atrocities, ethnic cleansing and new political configurations have unquestionably mobilized and hardened clan identity to an extent that one cannot conduct a serious analysis of Somali politics at either the national or the local level without treating clanism as one of the main drivers of behavior.” (p. 92)

      In the chapter under the political anthropology of ‘pastoral democracy’, the author summarises a more detailed analysis of the ecological variable in interpreting the political system of the nomadic herdsmen of northern Somalia. Some chapters trace the role of Islam in Somali politics and provide a historical context for the manifestations of politicised Islam within the current Somali crisis. On political Islam in Somali history, the author writes: ‘The Islamic movement in Somalia does not represent a marginal stratum of the elite. The active presence of intellectuals and professionals among them shows that frustrated lecturers in Arabic and Islamic studies were not the only ones leading the catalytic action.” (p. 128)

      Another important and interesting reading was found under the chapter heading ‘women, Islamists and the military regime in Somalia’. The author makes two arguments on the implication of the family law under General Siad Barre. First, the family law placed women on the national agenda, but in reality giving a negative impact as it caused enormous hardship for women. Second, law also pushed the emergent Islamic movements towards fragmentation and extremism. In fact, this is an engaging section which provides detailed analysis.

      The last few parts of this book give interesting insight into Somali poetry, language and spirit possession, which initially seemed somewhat distinct, but which turned out to be one of the most attention-grabbing sections, especially chapter 13, where the author presents a case study at a macro-level and micro-level dynamics in Somali poetry and folklore.

      Finally, I would like to recommend this book to anyone interested in reading about Somali society, culture, and politics – past and contemporary. It is an important work for all who wish to understand Somalia and its beleaguered and courageous people.


      * Markus Hoehne and Virginia Luling (eds) 'Milk and Peace, Drought and War: Somali Culture, Society and Politics’, 440 pages, published by C. Hurst & Co. Publishers Ltd., UK, ISBN 978-1-84904-045-7.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      Letters & Opinions

      Kibaki and Raila leadership response to runaway commodity prices hurting poor Kenyans

      George Nyongesa


      ‘As workers and taxpayers of this country, we were shocked and disgusted yesterday that President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga refused to attend the Uhuru Park workers' day celebrations, writes George Nyongesa, national coordinator of Kenya’s Bunge la Mwananchi (People’s Parliament).

      As workers and taxpayers of this country, we were shocked and disgusted yesterday that President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga refused to attend the Uhuru Park workers' day celebrations.

      We wish to inform Mr. Mwai Kibaki and Mr. Raila Odinga that they are Kenyans’ leaders both in good and bad times. That they skipped the workers’ day celebration is an utter shame and a slap in the face of workers whose sweat produces the very revenue that runs their government. The same commitment with which they met the people as they sought our votes is the minimum manner in which voters expected the principals to meet their promises towards bettering Kenyans’ welfare.

      It is grossly apparent that they feared meeting the “hungry and angry” workers because despite the escalating cost of living and the dwindling purchasing power of Kenyans, the President and Prime Minister have up until now not figured out practical safety measures to cushion citizens against runaway commodity prices. We are also aware that they did not come to the celebrations because they were ashamed of the dishonorable minimum wage increment proposal that was to be announced during Ladbor Day celebration.

      We are wondering for how long will President and Prime Minister continue to hide from the electorate and sustainable and practical that strategy is. However it is very clear that the wage increment by 12.5% that was announced yesterday by Minister John Munyes on behalf of the government is reactionary, too little and out of touch with the realities that poor workers are enduring daily. Are the President and Prime Minister aware that inflation in this country currently stands at 12 percent? Are they aware what for a mother three living in the slums or poor rural household? Are they aware that their decisions in handling this situation could either precipitate or dissipate the desperate measures of a desperate people?

      Many poor Kenyans who despite their long hard hours at work continue to endure the embarrassment and heartache of seeing their children go to bed hungry and angry because they cannot afford the sky rocketing price of unga and sukuma wiki, had hoped that by now the top leadership of this country would have found practical actions to mitigate in the short term, and avert in the long term, against the pangs of the prevailing hard economic times.

      The upward spiraling food and fuel prices have pushed Kenyans, especially the poor, into extraordinary times that require extraordinary leadership. However, it is unfortunate that the leadership of President Mwai Kibaki and Premier Raila Odinga is grossly wanting against the crisis this country faces. What is needed is creative, radical and decisive leadership that is willing to push every segment of our Society to share the burden of the prevailing economic crisis. It is either food for everybody or food for nobody!

      Some emergency and practical steps that can be taken by the President and Prime Minister to set an example by slashing their salaries by half and move ahead to call on Members of Parliament to follow suit. The politicians could then use the new found moral authority to push for corporate CEOs make similar sacrifice as a measure to share the burden of their poor employees, who are hardest hit; this will effectively reduce income disparities and spread the limited available national income amongst all of us.

      We call upon the President and Prime Minister to come out of hiding and face their citizens, their electorate, in the absence of which, there is a growing dissatisfaction amongst the masses at the absence, failed or lack thereof leadership. In this extraordinary time, something must give and our leaders must be warned that if they are not part of the solution they will be dealt with as part of the problem.

      We have no doubt that Kenyans can be better cushioned if the government put the people first in their policy making. Therefore, if the government does not come up with practical and sustainable solutions to this problem within the next 14 days, we shall be left with no choice but to engage in countrywide public protest to dramatize our situation.

      * George Nyongesa is national coordinator of Bunge la Mwananchi.

      Mamdani brings hope for change in Palestine

      Rahela Mizrahi


      Could the ideas in Mahmood Mamdani’s article ’The importance of research in a university’ be applied in the Arab world too, asks Rahela Mizrahi.

      Thank you for this exciting text, which is most relevant to Palestine and the Arab world. The article is exciting, not only in its analysis, but also suggesting a reasonable practical plan, which makes the reader optimistic and full of hope that making a significant change in the current depressing situation, is most possible.

      I wonder what Prof. Mahmood Mamdani would think about the issue of Arabic language (the local language in general), in the context of such a plan. Questions such as: mapping bibliography in Arabic (in addition to English French etc.) from a local perspective; bringing marginalized texts in Arabic, old and new - frequently texts that were not translated to English - into academic discussion; writing and publishing in Arabic and engaging texts in Arabic in academic work.

      African Writers’ Corner

      Our sacred souvenir: To Wangari Maathai

      Natty Mark Samuels


      There is mud under your toenails, your feet camouflaged by dust…

      There is mud under your toenails, your feet camouflaged by dust. Come, Great Sister of ours, place them in these calabashes of water, so I can wash away all the dirt. After drying them, I shall bless them with oil.

      Some have gone to prepare food, especially for you. Another has gone to bring water, to quench your thirst.

      You, who have struggled to improve our lives; please give us some time, so we can demonstrate our gratitude. You have given us a way to go forward, like a donation of dignity. Wangari Maathai, you lead us on the path, that keeps our heads held high.

      After this washing, these two calabashes shall no longer be in use. They will hang on the wall of my dwelling, or where my sistren think best. Special mementos; of she who pointed us, then walked beside us, in the direction we should go. No longer to be used for the storing of porridge, or beer mixed with honey. They will be our Sacred Souvenirs, of Our Lady of the Trees.


      * © Natty Mark Samuels 2011
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      Highlights French edition

      Pambazuka News 187: Côte d'Ivoire : De la faillite de l'ethnisme au joug de l’impérialisme



      Fuel out of stock



      Wonder whose fault it is this time?

      Hollywood and Osama


      Plans to bring bin Laden back to life?

      If young Museveni ran into old Museveni



      What a difference the decades make!

      Mary Wambui: Public notice



      Mary Wambui, the wife of Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki, is considered an impostor, says Gado.


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

      Zimbabwe update

      Zimbabwe: Militia burn down village in Cashel Valley


      Some 21 villagers from Nyambeya in Cashel Valley have been forced to flee their village after ZANU PF militia carried out an early morning raid on Sunday (01 May) and burned down seven houses owned by MDC-T officials. Homes belonging to MDC ward chairman Moses Chemwanyisa, ward youth chairman Admire Chizikani and his mother Naomi were torched.

      Zimbabwe: Mugabe among Africa’s seven worst press freedom predators


      Media rights group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has said Robert Mugabe is among the seven worst ‘press freedom predators’ on the African continent. In a statement released to mark World Press Freedom Day the group also named leaders Yahya Jammeh (Gambia), Issaias Afeworki (Eritrea), Teodoro Obiang Nguema (Equatorial Guinea), Paul Kagamé (Rwanda), King Mswati III (Swaziland) and Somalia’s Islamist militias, Al-Shabaab and Hizb-Al-Islam. Despite the formation of a coalition government in Zimbabwe, Reporters Without Borders, said because of Mugabe, 'Zimbabwe’s privately-owned print media are constantly harassed and that the state-owned Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) has a monopoly of radio and TV broadcasting'.

      Zimbabwe: Obama advisors meet SADC over Zimbabwe


      Several senior advisors to US President Barack Obama recently met a high powered delegation from the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) in Washington, to discuss mounting violence and arrests in Zimbabwe. Although the focus of the meeting for the US seemed to be the mounting violence and arrests in Zimbabwe, the SADC delegates focused on the removal of targeted sanctions placed on companies and individuals aligned to the Mugabe regime.

      Women & gender

      Global: Doubts over role of cash transfers in women's empowerment


      Doubts are emerging over whether cash transfers, designed to strengthen local markets, also empower women and change gender roles in emergencies. 'Gender relations are quite complex and you cannot assume US$50 is going to change that,' Sarah Bailey, research officer at the Humanitarian Policy Group, told IRIN. 'You cannot assume targeting women necessarily leads to their empowerment or promotes gender equality.' The issue is discussed in a joint report by Oxfam Great Britain and Concern Worldwide on cash transfers and gender dynamics, released on 6 May.

      Global: Reproductive rights violations equal to torture, says paper


      Women and girls worldwide face a wide range of violations to their sexual and reproductive rights, such as lack of access to contraception and safe abortion, female genital mutilation (FGM), and sexual violence. Moreover, when accessing sexual and reproductive healthcare services women and girls encounter low-quality, often negligent and abusive care and treatment. These human rights violations often involve tremendous physical and psychological pain and arguably rise to the level of torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment (CIDT), states this briefing paper from the Centre for Reproductive Rights.

      Kenya: Corruption drives rise in girl-child trafficking


      For almost three years, Jane Ngoyoini, 39, has not seen or heard from her daughter. In 2007, Frieda Ngoyoini, 15, completely vanished during a school girl-scout jamboree program near Chelmsford, Essex, Ireland. To date no one, including the police, has given her mother, Jane Ngoyoini, any answers or clues to the whereabouts of Frieda. As one of the missing girls that left for a sponsored trip to Ireland, Frieda has never been heard from again and has never returned. This disturbing special case, which has not reached the larger media, is still unsolved. It has left many questions unanswered. Child trafficking in Kenya is a daily occurrence, but police reports and actions to solve crimes are too many times non-existent.

      Nigeria: Jonathan reassures women on 35 per cent representation


      President Goodluck Jonathan has again stated that his promise made on the 35 per cent representation of women in governance will be fulfilled. Jonathan said recently: 'In Nigeria, today, we have many competent and credible women who have built capacities in thousands of lives, contributed immensely to building the civil, public, and private service sectors. Women have championed debt relief, grew the stock exchange, waged war against fake drugs, ensured justice and human rights and so on. These facts made me to promise during my campaigns that the 35 per cent representation of women in governance will be fulfilled.'

      South Africa: Call for quotas on female representation


      Chief electoral officer Pansy Tlakula has called for a quota system to improve women's representation. She said the Independent Electoral Commission was not happy with the number of women candidates in local government elections to be held on 18 May. 'The male/female split is not pleasing at all,' Tlakula told a business breakfast in Johannesburg. Out of 53,000 candidates only 37 per cent are women.

      South Africa: Turn the lights on for all


      Forty per cent of South Africa's 48-million people are poor and more than half of poor people are female, notes Jocelyn Newmarch, the author of an Earthlife Africa Johannesburg report 'Second Class Citizens: Gender, Energy and Climate Change in South Africa'. 'About 2,5-million households are still without any access to electricity and four million households do not use electricity for cooking. A back-of-the-envelope calculation shows that, assuming a household of five people, 20-million people still rely on polluting fuels and they are more likely to be female.'

      Human rights

      Kenya: Frustration over limits to ICC charges


      A decision to exclude crimes committed in the western city of Kisumu and the Nairobi slum of Kibera from a case against alleged organisers of violence following Kenya’s 2007 election could undermine the International Criminal Court’s effort to combat impunity in the East African nation, civil society groups have warned. Judges ruled in March that ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo had failed to demonstrate that high-profile extrajudicial killings by police in the western city of Kisumu as well as killings, injuries and rapes carried out in the Nairobi slum of Kibera were part of a state policy involving three suspects linked to President Mwai Kibaki’s Party of National Unity.

      Libya: ICC finds evidence of crimes by Libyan regime


      The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) says he has unearthed 'enough evidence' to pursue up to five warrants for crimes against humanity committed by forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader. Luis Moreno-Ocampo made the announcement a day before he was to brief the UN Security Council on his investigation into alleged crimes commited by Gaddafi's forces. 'We have security forces shooting civilians at demonstrations and evidence of security forces arresting people in different cities, including Tripoli, even today, because they think these people are not loyal,' the prosecutor said.

      Mauritania: Arab human rights groups convene in Nouakchott


      The seventh annual meeting of Arab national human rights organisations wrapped up in Nouakchott last week with an affirmation of the groups' role in protecting civil liberties. The 27-28 April conference focused on how rights organisations in the Arab world can help monitor and enforce international treaty obligations with respect to human rights. Participants concluded the event with a 'Nouakchott Declaration' that emphasised the role national human rights bodies have in implementing rights treaties and developing civil society.

      South Africa: Test case may cost mines billions


      Anglo American plc has offered medical treatment to 14 former miners, who have brought a test case against its South African subsidiary, but it won't accept liability for the silica dust levels in apartheid-era gold mines that the former workers say caused their debilitating respiratory tract infections. If the test case succeeds it could open the door for tens of thousands of former mine workers to claim damages from companies such as Anglo, resulting in compensation payouts worth billions of rands.

      Uganda: Gay rights activist from Uganda wins award


      The Jury of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (MEA), meeting in Geneva, selected Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera as the Laureate for her work for LGBT rights and marginalised people in Uganda. Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, a Ugandan woman, is the founder and Executive Director of Freedom and Roam Uganda, a lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights organisation. Kasha has had the courage to appear on national television in Uganda, she has issued press statements on behalf of the gay community, and spoken on several radio stations.

      Refugees & forced migration

      Africa: Facebook refugee game pulled from web amid claims of poor taste


      A controversial Facebook game developed by the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) with funding from ECHO, the European Commission’s humanitarian agency, and designed to raise awareness of Dadaab camp on the Kenyan-Somali border has been pulled from the internet just days after the launch amid claims that it is in bad taste and dehumanizes refugees. Julie Laduron, ECHO’s communications officer, confirmed that the European humanitarian body had removed the game from its Facebook page and main site. 'Of course everyone has some different sensibilities about the game so for the moment it is suspended,' she said.

      Africa: Migrants rescued off Italian island


      Italian coast guards and local fisherman saved all 528 refugees on a boat from Libya after their vessel hit rocks off the island of Lampedusa in an operation a rescuer described as a 'miracle'. Images of the rescue showed people jumping in panic or falling into the choppy waters as their boat heaved in the waves on Sunday. Among the refugees who had thrown themselves into the water at night were 24 pregnant women.

      Burundi: Displaced women in Bujumbura risk HIV rather than hunger


      Desperate and displaced, some Burundian women will do anything, including have unprotected sex for money, to escape the dreadful living conditions in the Bujumbura suburb of Sabe, where more than 480 families of internally displaced persons (IDPs) have lived for several years. Burundi has more than 100,000 IDPs as a result of several years of political turmoil; most of the families in Sabe are returnees from neighbouring countries.

      Libya: 40,000 flee western mountain region


      Thousands of ethnic Berbers from Libya have fled into Tunisia after a brief hiatus in their exodus last week because of fighting between Libyan government troops and opposition forces for control of a border crossing point. 'This past weekend, more than 8,000 people, most of them ethnic Berbers, arrived in Dehiba in southern Tunisia. Most are women and children,' a UNHCR spokesperson said. The latest arrivals bring the number of people to have fled fighting in Libya's Western Mountains region to almost 40,000 in the past month.

      Libya: Concern over migrant situation

      Statement on the situation of migrant workers and members of their families in Libya


      The Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, has issued a statement saying they are 'alarmed' by the implications of the situation in Libya for migrant workers and members of their families. 'The Committee is equally concerned about the difficulties encountered by migrant workers and members of their families trying to leave Libya, either to return to their countries of origin or to seek protection from the violations and threats facing them by claiming asylum in third countries. In this context, the Committee is concerned about the dangerous interception of migrants at sea and at inland borders.'

      Mozambique: Somali immigrants killed at border post


      At least three Somali immigrants have been shot and killed by border guards in Mozambique. The men were among nine traveling on foot through Tanzania headed to South Africa when they were sprayed by bullets from Mozambican forces, according to a member of the group.

      North Africa: Nato left 61 African migrants to die of hunger and thirst


      Dozens of African migrants were left to die in the Mediterranean after a number of European and Nato military units apparently ignored their cries for help, the Guardian has learned. A boat carrying 72 passengers, including several women, young children and political refugees, ran into trouble in late March after leaving Tripoli for the Italian island of Lampedusa. Despite alarms being raised with the Italian coastguard and the boat making contact with a military helicopter and a Nato warship, no rescue effort was attempted.

      Africa labour news

      Global: Formation of Palestinian Trade Union Coalition


      The first Palestinian trade union conference for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel (BDS) was held in Ramallah on 30 April 2011, organised by almost the entirety of the Palestinian trade union movement, including federations, professional unions, and trade union blocks representing the entire spectrum of Palestinian political parties. The conference marked a historic event: the formation of the Palestinian Trade Union Coalition for BDS (PTUC-BDS) as the largest coalition of the Palestinian trade union movement. PTUC-BDS will provide the most representative Palestinian reference for international trade unions, promoting their support for and endorsement of the BDS Call, launched by Palestinian civil society in 2005, guided by the guidelines and principles adopted by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC), of which PTUC-BDS has become a key component.

      South Africa: Casual jobs threat to fulltime workers


      The latest statistics by JSE-listed job placement company, Adcorp, show that since January 2000 permanent employment declined by 20.9 per cent while contract and other forms of employment increased by 64.1 per cent. This, says the company’s March employment index, means that only 1.9 million South Africans were employed into permanent jobs while 2.4 million were hired into temporary jobs since 2000. Samela Manene, the general secretary of the National Council of Trade Unions, said there was nothing much for workers to celebrate because inequality and unemployment had risen, despite the country’s good labour laws.

      Emerging powers news

      Latest Edition: Emerging Powers News Roundup


      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...
      1. China in Africa

      Overseas dams: China evaluates role
      When African and Western banks stalled on a deal to fund the building of a controversial dam in Ethiopia, the project's backers found an unlikely source of support. The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), China's biggest bank, stepped in with a $400-million loan, allowing the project, which is located near Ethiopia's sensitive borders with Kenya and Sudan, to go ahead. The Gibe hydropower project in Ethiopia, say analysts, underscores China's widening involvement in dam projects overseas, often in inaccessible and unstable regions where other countries are reluctant to go. However, amid a backlash from local communities, in countries from Myanmar to Ethiopia, China is beginning to re-evaluate the nature of its involvement, and considering introducing standards its companies will have to follow.
      Read More

      China willing to fund investment projects in Tunisia: official
      China is willing to fund investment projects in Tunisia and Tunisia would offer better facilities for Chinese investors, Tunisian state-run press agency TAP reported late Thursday, quoting visiting Chinese Deputy Commerce Minister Fu Ziying. Fu, who is leading a delegation of Chinese businessmen and banking sector representatives for a four-day work visit in Tunis, met with the Tunisian Minister of Commerce and Tourism Mehdi Houas Thursday.
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      Zuma seeks ‘fair deal’ in Africa’s ties with China
      AFRICA must build a trade relationship with China that benefits the continent without becoming one-sided, President Jacob Zuma said yesterday. China was approaching Africa without the baggage of the old colonial powers, which meant that a different interaction was possible, he told a conference organised by the World Economic Forum in Cape Town. "With the coming of China comes a different kind of relationship ... let’s do business," Mr Zuma said. "We are very much aware of the size of China. We need to take a position that is clearly understood by us — how do we trade with China in a way that benefits us as well as them?"
      Read More

      China, Egypt vow to strengthen cooperation
      Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi met with his Egyptian counterpart Nabil el-Arabi on Monday to discuss the strengthening of bilateral relations. Yang said Egypt was the first Arab country to recognize New China and establish strategic cooperation partnership, with bilateral ties on a substantial basis which can be regarded as an example of south-south cooperation.
      Read More

      China's Special Envoy Arrives for Independence Celebrations in Sierra Leone
      Han Changfu, the special envoy of Chinese President Hu Jintao, arrived here on Monday evening to participate in the national celebrations of the 50th anniversary of independence of Sierra Leone. Han, China's Minister of Agriculture, and his delegation were warmly received by Sierra Leone's Minister of Agriculture, Food Security and Forestry Sam Sesay and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration Joseph Bandabla Dauda upon their arrival in this West Africa country.
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      Chinese language newspaper published and circulated in West Africa
      The growing population of Chinese in Africa has been given credence with the publication and circulation in West Africa of a mandarin (Chinese language) newspaper. The newspaper called ‘West Africa United Business Weekly’ is printed in Nigeria and circulated in other West African countries including Ghana.
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      First quarter China-BRICS trade up 45 percent
      The imports and exports value between China and the other BRICS countries of Brazil, India, Russia and South Africa was up about 46 percent to 60 billion U.S. dollars in the first quarter of 2011, 16 percentage points higher than China's overall foreign trade growth rate during the same period, according to latest data released by the General Administration of Customs (GAC) on April 15.
      Read More

      2. India in Africa

      African delegates visit India
      In a bid to connect African youths with India, 24-member delegations of eleven African countries are on India visit for seven days starting from April 23. They participated in an interaction programme called 'India Future of Change', a public private partnership between theIdeaWorks and PD Division of Ministry of External Affairs of India in New Delhi on Monday evening (April 25).
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      India to manufacture fertiliser in Gabon, and then ship it back home
      An Indian company has chosen to invest in a fertiliser manufacturing plant in the central African country of Gabon. Up to 25% of the fertiliser produced at the facility will be shipped back to India. It was recently announced that Tata Chemicals, a subsidiary of India’s Tata Group of Companies, will invest US$290 million in a fertiliser project in Gabon. Tata Chemicals will acquire a 25.1% equity stake in a urea manufacturing project from Olam International, a Singapore-based global agriculture firm, and the Republic of Gabon.
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      Specialised African course for India Inc soon
      Mumbai University’s Centre for African Studies is mulling over developing a specialised course in order to train the employees of corporate houses such as Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), World Trade Centre, and different pharmaceutical companies who are catering to the African market.
      Read More

      PM to attend India-Africa meet in Ethiopia next month
      Sixteen heads of governments and states will take part in the India-Africa summit to be held in Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa from May 20-27. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will attend the summit on May 20 and 25, while external affairs minister SM Krishna will have bilateral meetings with foreign ministers of 45 African nations from May 20-26.
      Read More

      Morocco exploring strategic partnerships with India
      Indian firms can invest in Moroccan firms to gain direct and preferential access to several markets with which the African country has signed free trade agreements (FTAs). This was discussed at the Indo-Morocco Joint Commission Meeting, co-chaired by Mr Anand Sharma, Union Minister of Commerce and Industry and Moroccan Minister of Trade Finance, Mr Abdellatif Mazouz.
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      India-Kenya ties to create jobs, says VP
      Economic cooperation between Kenya and India is aimed at creating jobs and ending the perennial food shortage in the country Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka has said. Mr. Musyoka said whereas Africa was a continent of abundance in terms of arable land, forests, wildlife and minerals it is still faced with constant food shortage and poverty, with hundreds of millions of citizens living vulnerable lives. The VP was speaking in Mumbai, India where he is the chief guest at the Indo-Africa Chamber of Commerce and Industry Forum.
      Read More

      'Indian investment is important for us'
      With investments of $64.17 million in energy, mineral resources , agro-industries , transport and communication, food processing, coconut and cashew processing sectors, India became the fourth largest investor in the southeast African country of Mozambique in 2009. Mozambique is a key Indian Ocean Rim country that provides a crucial window to India for trade with landlocked southern African countries such as Zimbabwe , Zambia, Malawi and Swaziland. Prime Minister of Mozambique Aires Bonifacio Baptista Ali hopes that bilateral trade between India and Mozambique will grow and the target of $1 billion by 2013, which has been set, will be achieved.
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      Not competing with China for Africa, says India
      With China making deep inroads through business and investment in Africa, India has said it was not in competition with Beijing in furthering economic interests there, but would play a complementary role. "India is not in competition with China and I do believe the description is accurate. In may cases, India and china complement each other," Vivek Katju, secretary (west) in the external affairs ministry, said.
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      Mozambique says will review its visa rules
      Mozambique has promised to review its tightened visa rules, which Indian businessmen complain are affecting travel to the resource-rich east African nation. The rules have been made stricter after an influx of illegal immigrants from Asia, seeking to cross into regional economic powerhouse South Africa. Recent reports in the local and international press have spoken of illegal migrants from India, China, Bangladesh and Thailand using the coastal country as a route to South Africa.
      Read More

      3. In Other Emerging Powers News

      Opposition gathers against India's UNSC push
      As India's push for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council gathers pace, the opposition too is gearing up for battle. In May, Italy has invited the group of countries known as 'United for Consensus' to a meeting in Rome to chart out a strategy in the UN that can halt the momentum of the G-4 countries (India, Brazil, Germany and Japan) to reform the UN's apex body. Much more importantly, China has sent off demarches to UN missions asking everyone to put the brakes on the UNSC reform process.
      Read More

      Mozambique’s energy and agricultural potential fought over by new emerging economic powers
      Mozambique’s potential for production of coal, biofuel and agricultural products is being fought over by the new emerging economic powers in search of natural resources on a global scale, such as China, India and Brazil, says researcher Loro Horta. “The expansion of the mining industries and crescendo of foreign investments has the potential to bring significant benefits, but also new challenges to the country,” said Horta in a recent article in Yale Global magazine.
      Read More

      Chinese companies to boost overseas investment
      Almost 90 percent of domestic companies involved in international trade plan to increase overseas investment, a survey reveals. Of the 1,024 companies surveyed, about 88 percent said they want to boost investment overseas over the next two to five years, a sharp rise from a year earlier when 61 percent of the firms surveyed said they planned to expand investment. The China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT) and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development conducted the survey between December and March.
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      SA entrepreneurial activity low compared with its Brics counterparts
      South Africa lagged far behind other emerging economies when it came to entrepreneurial activity, speakers at a FNB - Endeavor entrepreneurship dialogue in Johannesburg said on Wednesday. Currently, South Africa’s Total Entrepreneurial Activity (TEA), a measure used to calculate the percentage of a country’s working-age population attempting to start a new business, stands at 5,9%. FNB external acquisitions head Marcel Klaassen said that this was far below an average rate of around 11% in other emerging markets, with Brazil reaching up to 15%.
      Read More

      SA companies eager to exploit Brics
      With only few weeks after South Africa joined Brics, the global group of leading emerging economies of Brazil, Russia India and China, there has been a marked increase of local companies seeking advice on trading with the Brics countries. According to industry experts enquiries from locals who wish to do business with Brics countries have gone up significantly.
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      Congo, SA presidents ‘working on Inga project’
      The presidents of SA and the Democratic Republic of Congo were working together to accelerate the development of the Inga hydroelectric project on the giant Congo River, Energy Minister Dipuo Peters said yesterday. She said she was "very optimistic" about the possibilities of the project, telling a panel discussion on energy at the World Economic Forum on Africa that "it is not a question of if, but when".
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      India planning to include more items under PTA with Mercosur
      India today said it is planning to include more items under the preferential trade agreement (PTA) with Mercosur -- a trading bloc in Latin America comprising Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay. India is also negotiating a similar pact with South Africa Customs Union (SACU), whose members are Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland.
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      China may expand its foreign aid in future: vice minister
      China may increase assistance to foreign countries to "an appropriate extent" within its ability, as China's national strength grows, Vice Minister of Commerce Fu Ziying said here on Tuesday. During a press conference on China's foreign aid, Fu said China will not make big changes to its general principles on assistance to other developing countries, but will adjust the structure and fields of specific projects in the future.
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      China drafting special law on climate change: official
      China's chief negotiator to UN climate change talks said here on Tuesday that the country is drafting a special law dedicated to climate change and will explore a low carbon development path suitable to China. "We are in the process of preparing for a special law dedicated to climate change and we have already set up a working group and started the preliminary work," Xie Zhenhua said while attending the launch of a study of climate change-related legislation by Global Legislators Organization (GLOBE).
      Read More

      Nation sets $1 billion trade target with South Africa
      Viet Nam and South Africa should boost efforts to push bilateral trade value to US$1 billion in next few years, Vice President Nguyen Thi Doan said yesterday in a dialogue with her South African counterpart Kgalema Motlanthe. Doan also thanked the South African Government and people for their support of Viet Nam's construction and development progress. She was particularly appreciative of the African country's recognition of Viet Nam's full market economy and of Thang Long Royal Citadel's world cultural heritage status.
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      4. Blogs, Opinions, Presentations and Publications

      Is SA at the foreign policy crossroads in Libya?
      South Africa’s first significant test in its current tenure in the UN Security Council, that of Libya, is not perceived as an unqualified success. Unlike its Ibsa (India, Brazil, South Africa) partners, South Africa voted in favour of Resolution 1973, which mandated the imposition of a no-fly zone in Libya. Together with the African Union, it also criticised the coalition a few days later for civilian casualties and what it perceived as the desire for regime change by Western powers. This has made it a focus of criticism.
      Read More

      The OECD should give up control of the aid agenda
      The decline of western power does not mean the decline of the west. The former is not only a certainty; it is already a reality. Power is relative, so the rise of power elsewhere automatically diminishes the power of others. But it is how the west reacts to these new realities that will determine whether it suffers actual decline or responds to this geopolitical repositioning in such a way as to enhance its own interests and those of others. The west has two options. Either it leads the process, whereby power and responsibility in global governance become more democratic, encouraging all countries to be brought in on a more equal footing (the G20 being a step in this direction). Or it resists (for example on the issue of World Bank and IMF governance), thus squandering long-term influence over the kind of changes that are anyway taking place.
      Read More

      BRICS set to outshine IBSA?
      When BRICS speaks, its views are bound to receive much greater notice than those of IBSA. If IBSA does not become stronger, it will become irrelevant. In international politics, nations form new groupings or compete to join existing ones, sustain them for a while or long, and then abandon them, though seldom closing them formally. Following the recent summit of leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa (BRICS), it is worth pondering what lies in store for the IBSA Dialogue Forum with India, Brazil and South Africa as its members.
      Read More

      Foreign policy - SA’s schizophrenic approach
      As the world battles to find a coherent policy to deal with the crises in Libya and Syria, the recent spate of international incidents has exposed SA’s own schizophrenic foreign-policy approach, which has often left diplomats baffled. Since early this year, as political upheavals unfolded in North Africa, the Middle East and Côte d’Ivoire, with the situations in Iran and Zimbabwe still on the boil, criticism of SA’s often erratic position has caught officials off guard.
      Read More

      The Rights and Wrongs of China’s Aid Policy
      Foreign aid forms an important part of international diplomacy. Almost all countries use foreign aid to extend their international influence. China, too, has been using foreign aid for diplomatic and other purposes for a long time. Today, aid is an essential part of the Chinese diplomatic engagement with small developing countries. The Chinese Government recently released a white paper on its foreign aid policy, which indicates that China is bound to extend its aid to more countries and in new areas with the increase in its economic might.1 Even as China tries to extend its soft power through aid, it has other objectives as well. China’s aid challenges the aid policy of Western states.
      Read More

      Elections & governance

      Congo: Opposition says election plan unworkable


      Democratic Republic of Congo's plans to hold parliamentary and presidential elections in November are unconstitutional and unrealistic, the country's leading opposition parties said on Sunday. A statement noted voter registration had been completed in only two of 11 provinces and warned the poll could be delayed. The opposition said it was still determined to take part. The statement also criticised security in the build-up to the vote, repeating accusations that opposition supporters have been intimidated, attacked and killed by the authorities.

      Côte d'Ivoire: Ouattara sworn in as president


      Alassane Ouattara has been sworn in as Ivory Coast president in a ceremony after months of political violence in the world's leading cocoa producer followed his victory in last November's elections. Ouattara, 69, was sworn in at the presidential palace by the head of the Constitutional Council, Paul Yao N'Dre, watched by members of his government, the armed forces and the diplomatic community.

      Equatorial Guinea: Opposition leaders freed


      Two senior opposition figures arrested in late April in Equatorial Guinea have been released, a senior party colleague said. Vicente Nze and Juan Manuel Nguema Esono of the main opposition Convergence for Social Democracy (CPDS) party had been released late Friday (29 April), CPDS secretary general Placido Mico Abogo told AFP. Esono was detained for having put up a poster calling for a demonstration against President Teodoro Obiang Nguema on Sunday, 1 May, said a CPDS statement.

      Sierra Leone: Growing pains for local councils


      Sierra Leone re-introduced local government councils in 2004 after a 30-year absence; the experience of the last six years is prompting questions about how to successfully introduce effective democratic authority and responsiveness at the local level in a country where few have experience of active participation in governance. Devolution of responsibility to local councils is behind schedule, with responsibility for key services such as water and waste management and infrastructure like roads among the important areas remaining under the central government's control.

      South Africa: We cannot say we are free


      'The rebellion of the poor in this country is growing,' writes Ayanda Kota, the chair of the Unemployed People's Movement in the Mail and Guardian, days before South Africans vote in local elections on 18 May. 'More and more organisations are emerging. More and more people have become radicalised. More and more communities have lost their illusions after experiencing the violence of the predator state. More and more people are starting and joining discussions about the way forward for the struggle to take the country back.'

      South Africa: Zuma overthrow plot fallout continues


      ANC national executive committee member Billy Masetlha has become the first senior ruling party member to openly say the alleged plot to oust Jacob Zuma as ANC president next year is real. Masetlha spoke out on the same day that Tokyo Sexwale, the human settlements minister and also an NEC member, addressed a press conference in Pretoria at which he rubbished the allegations implicating him in the plot.

      Tunisia: PM raises possibility of vote delay


      Tunisia's prime minister suggested on Sunday (08 May) that July elections for an assembly to draw up a new constitution could be delayed, potentially fuelling unease among anti-government protesters over the path to democracy. The North African country has struggled to restore stability since a revolution in January ousted authoritarian ruler Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and inspired uprisings across the Arab world.

      Tunisia: Police clash with protesters


      Tunisian police have used tear gas and batons to break up protests demanding the resignation of the government in the most violent confrontation for weeks with pro-democracy demonstrators. A demonstration in central Tunis by about 200 people on Friday called for the resignation of the transitional government and 'a new revolution'. Farhat Rajhi, Tunisia's former minister of the interior, called for calm earlier on Friday after causing an outcry with his statement that a 'coup d'etat' could take place in the country.

      Uganda: Angry Museveni tells off his critics, religious leaders


      Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni, on one of the days on which opposition leader Dr Kizza Besigye was arrested, attacked academics and religious leaders at a conference that brought together key stakeholders, including senior religious and political leaders, academicians, media experts, heads of security agencies, development partners, civil society organisations and cultural leaders from around the country. Museveni was irked by what he described as lies spread by some academicians.

      Uganda: Lawyers call strike over government brutality


      A three-day strike beginning 4 May has been announced by the Uganda Law Society as an expression of displeasure at the government’s high-handed clampdown on the walk-to-work protests against high fuel prices. At an extra-ordinary meeting of the Law Society held in Kampala, it was also agreed that other professionals be asked to join in this show of disapproval against the excessive and disproportionate use of force by the police, army and other security agencies in breaking up peaceful protests.


      North Africa: Swiss freeze $1bn in Gaddafi, Mubarak, Ben Ali assets


      Switzerland says it has frozen nearly $1bn worth of assets linked to Libya's Muammar Gaddafi and the deposed leaders of Egypt and Tunisia. Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey said some 830m Swiss francs (£580m; $960m) had been discovered. Of that, the largest proportion - 410m SFr - was linked to former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and his circle, the minister said.


      Africa: Africa failing to change harmful trade patterns, says report


      Africa has little room to change the one-dimensional nature of its trade ties and use its new-found growth to create jobs and alleviate poverty, according to the 2011 Africa Progress Report. The emergence of non-European trade partners, notably China, has not changed the fact that the continent mainly exports raw materials and imports manufactured goods, it states. 'Africa’s current economic growth is not all positive. It is generally not accompanied by much-needed structural transformation and diversification,' reads the report released at the World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in Cape Town.

      Africa: Investment growth benefits few


      While foreign direct investment in least developed countries (LDCs) in Africa has risen sharply over the past decade, most of it went to resource-rich economies and had little impact on employment creation.
      On the eve of the fourth United Nations’ conference on LDCs, UNCTAD has launched a study on the developmental effects of foreign direct investment (FDI), adopted at the 2001 LDCs conference as one of the tools to foster development in poor countries. The study, called 'FDI in LDCs: Lessons learned from the decade 2001 – 2010', shows the results are at best mixed.

      Africa: Time for new development approaches, says civil society


      The dominant approaches to development have failed the world’s poorest citizens and now the paradigm must change. This is the strong message coming from over 2,000 non-governmental organisations gathered at the civil society forum for the Fourth UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDC-IV) in Istanbul, Turkey. Arjun Karki, spokesperson for the forum, told the gathering that the failure to see more LDC countries graduate from this most vulnerable classification reflects a serious failure of the model of development aid advanced by leading players in the international community.

      Global: Privatisation has failed to deliver water, now for a better idea


      National ministers from Africa gathered with hundreds of people from United Nations agencies, development banks, public water operators, non-profit groups and trade unions from around the world to celebrate World Water Day last month in Cape Town. A priority on the agenda: responding to the growing urban water challenge. But, writes Mthandeki Nhlapo, while the right to water is akin to the right to life, many governments are reluctant to recognise this most basic reality and shoulder their responsibilities to deliver safe, affordable water.

      Global: Voices from the Global Water Operator Partnership Alliance


      Delegations from Reclaiming Public Water Network and Public Services International participated in the Global Water Operator Partnerships (GWOPA) Congress held on 20-21 March in Cape Town, South Africa. This video features unionists, activists as well as public water managers from Spain, Morocco, Netherlands and Uruguay who present their vision for Public Public Partnerships in the water sector. The video is a Transnational Institute/Public Services International Production and was filmed and edited by Liane Greeff of EcoDoc Africa, with music provided by Roy MacGregor.

      Zambia: 'Real Changes Needed in Policy and Implementation'


      Zambia has enjoyed economic growth of around six per cent per year over the past decade, says Patrick Mucheleka, but the government is failing to translate this into social and economic development for the majority of citizens. The upcoming conference on least developed countries in Turkey offers an opportunity to recalibrate the country's approach to development. Mucheleka, who heads Civil Society for Poverty Reduction, a network of more than 140 pro-poor development organisations in Zambia, says the economic growth figures have to be discounted against the growth in the country's population. Further, the sectors that have driven growth are capital-intensive, creating relatively few new jobs.

      Health & HIV/AIDS

      Africa: More skilled attendants needed to reduce maternal mortality


      Sub-Saharan African countries have claimed nine of the ten bottom places in a ranking of maternal health around the world. 'The Mothers' Index', a new survey of motherhood by Save the Children, analyses health, education and economic conditions for women and children in 164 countries. Ironically, it is in giving birth - and multiple births for that matter - that a woman nears an approximate of the ideal of a wife,' says Kolorinda James, a traditional birth attendant (TBA) in Juba, South Sudan. 'Children are considered to be a sign of wealth. It is a case of the content being valued much more than the container - as thousands of women in this region continue to die from pregnancy related complications.'

      Egypt: The price of stigma


      When it comes to discussing HIV/AIDS in Egypt, most probably you’d be faced by either one of two reactions: one that is characterized by fear, shock, and discomfort or a reaction marked by denial and disdain, writes Ahmed Awadalla, an Egyptian who works in the area of reproductive and sexual health. 'A comprehensive survey of Egyptian youth revealed that only 21 per cent of them would be willing to interact with a person living with HIV, which is definitely disturbing. We all need to realise that stigmatising those groups leads to higher spread of the virus into the community, by denying those people access to health and awareness services, and not allowing them to get the care and compassion they need.'

      Kenya: PMTCT could cause drug resistance in positive infants


      Drug regimens used in the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV are effective, but infants should be monitored for drug resistance, a new study has revealed. The study in Kisumu, western Kenya, found that the triple combination of antiretroviral (ARV) drugs given to HIV-infected mothers to prevent transmission of the virus to their infants was effective and feasible, but there were cases of possible drug resistance in HIV-positive infants.

      Libya: Benghazi seeks way out of health crisis


      Medical supplies are running short in Benghazi, putting overwhelmed doctors under heavy strain. To address the challenges, professionals, hospital managers and health officials gathered last week to look for solutions. 'We held this meeting in order to identify the problems facing the health sector and try to find solutions for them,' Economic Support and Assistance Commission member Jamal Jabr said. 'After that, we shall send these solutions to the economic council. Our aim is to boost competency and performance in the health sector.'

      Rwanda: Rwanda launches fight against cervical cancer


      Rwanda could become the first country in Africa to effectively fight cervical cancer following the launch of a comprehensive national prevention programme last week. Rwanda will be the first country in Africa to offer a national prevention programme that includes the most advanced technologies and tools to protect girls and women from the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) that causes cervical cancer. HPV is a very common sexually transmitted infection among women worldwide, with more than 270,000 dying each year.


      Cameroon: Man sentenced for sexual orientation


      The organizations ADEFHO (association for the defense of homosexuals) and SID’ADO(teenagers against the HIV/AIDS) have been informed of a new case of sentencing on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. On April 28 2011. A young man named Roger Jean- Claude was sentenced to 36 months in prison for homosexuality.

      Ghana: Gay couple wed in Kumasi


      A gay couple, Akwasi Boakye and Kwame Amankwa, got married on Easter Sunday in Kumasi, Ghana. The wedding, attended by hundreds of members of LGBTI community, started at 10am on Sunday and lasted all night. The couple have been banished from the town. The couple has allegedly disappeared on a honeymoon to Accra.

      South Africa: Condemnation of homophobia murder

      Sonke Gender Justice Network press statement


      'Sonke Gender Justice Network condemns the murder of Noxolo Nogwaza who was raped and brutally murdered in the early hours of Sunday morning over the Easter weekend in Kwa-Thema township, outside of Johannesburg. We offer our condolences to Noxolo’s family and to our comrades at EPOC and to the Coalition of African Lesbians (CAL).'
      Sonke Gender Justice Network

      29 April 2011

      Press Statement: For Immediate Release

      Sonke Gender Justice Network condemns the murder of Noxolo Nogwaza who was raped and brutally murdered in the early hours of Sunday morning over the Easter weekend in Kwa-Thema township, outside of Johannesburg. We offer our condolences to Noxolo’s family and to our comrades at EPOC and to the Coalition of African Lesbians (CAL).

      Like the murders of Eudy Simelane, Zoliswa Nkonyana, Sizakele Sigasa, the murder of Noxolo Nogwaza appears to have been motivated by homophobia. Nogwaza was an activist with the Ekurhuleni Pride Organising Committee (EPOC). She was also killed in a manner similar to Eudy Simelane, at the time also a member of EPOC and of South Africa’s national women’s soccer team, who was also killed in Kwa-Thema.

      The brutal murder of Noxolo was not an ordinary crime – it was motivated by hatred and prejudice. The discrimination that LGBTI persons experience because of their gender identity and/or sexual orientation manifests in violence that sends the messages that they are not tolerated or welcome. Sonke urges government to move swiftly in promulgating a new 'Hate Crimes Bill' to ensure that brutal crimes such as these are classified as hate crimes. In the interim, Sonke calls upon the National Prosecuting Authority to treat hate crimes as an aggravating circumstance to oppose bail and to enhance sentencing, and urge the Parole Board to consider them an aggravating factor in considering parole applications.

      We join EPOC and CAL in calling on the Tsakane Police Station, where the case has been reported, to carry out a quick and thorough investigation into the murder of Nogwaza and deal with the perpetrators accordingly.

      In our day to day work with men to challenge patriarchy, end domestic and sexual violence and promote gender equality, we frequently still encounter deep and virulent homophobia amongst far too many of the men we work with. To address this, Sonke calls on government to begin consultations aimed at developing legal, mass media and community education strategies to challenge homophobia and promote the full human rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered and intersex people.

      We call on all South Africans to speak out against homophobia and work to strengthen our fragile human rights culture. We also challenge institutions of religion and culture to play an active role in these efforts as homophobic and patriarchal views and actions are often perpetrated in the name of culture and religion. Sonke commits itself to supporting such efforts.


      Contact details:
      Reverend Desmond Lesejane, Sonke Deputy Director: 084 5816306
      Mbuyiselo Botha, Sonke Government and Media Liaison: 082 5181177

      South Africa: No arrests in lesbian murder case


      The murder of a 24-year-old lesbian activist from Kwa-Thema township in Gauteng appears to be the latest in an epidemic of brutal homophobic attacks, Human Rights Watch has said. Noxolo Nogwaza was found murdered on 24 April 2011, in a vicious attack that seems to have been motivated by her sexual orientation. Nogwaza's face and head were completely disfigured by stoning, she was stabbed several times with broken glass.

      South Africa: Statement on death of murdered lesbian


      'Ekurhuleni Pride Organizing Committee (EPOC), the key LGBTI organization in the township of Kwa-Thema, Gauteng, South Africa, and the Coalition of African Lesbians (CAL,) condemn the brutal rape and murder, in cold blood, of a member of EPOC. Noxola Nogwaza is believed to have been murdered in the early hours of Sunday, April 24, 2011.'
      Ekurhuleni Pride Organising Committee
      Press Release
      For Immediate Release

      April 27, 2011

      Ekurhuleni Pride Organizing Committee (EPOC), the key LGBTI organization in the township of Kwa-Thema, Gauteng, South Africa, and the Coalition of African Lesbians (CAL,) condemn the brutal rape and murder, in cold blood, of a member of EPOC. Noxola Nogwaza is believed to have been murdered in the early hours of Sunday, April 24, 2011.

      The body of Noxolo Nogwaza, a 24 year old lesbian, was found lying in an alley in Kwa-Thema at about 9am on Sunday, April 24 2011. Noxola’s head was completely deformed, her eyes out of the sockets, her brain spilt, teeth scattered all around and face crashed beyond recognition. Witnesses say that an empty beer bottle and a used condom were stack up her genitals. Parts of the rest of her body had been stabbed with glass. A large pavement brick that is believed to have been used to crash her head was found by her side.

      Noxola was raped and murdered in a similar manner as that in which another member of EPOC was murdered almost three years ago (April 28, 2008). Eudy Simelane’s body was also found in an open field in Kwa-Thema. It was clear that she had been raped and murdered afterwards, crimes that the perpetrators confessed to. Just last year, a gay man in the same township was attacked by eight men, who attempted to rape him. Luckily, he escaped the vultures. The men, as they attempted to rape him, were heard saying, “We are determined to kill all gay people in this area and we will do it.”

      “It is very clear that these rapists are on a mission. We will however not rest until justice prevails. Eudy’s case was not recognized as a hate crime against a lesbian and the same is not done in the cases of many other people who have been raped and/or murdered on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity/expression in South Africa. EPOC is determined to get to the bottom of the Noxola case and push for justice. It was definitely a hate crime.” said Ntsupe, Chairperson of EPOC.

      “I am so disturbed by this horrific action. It is the responsibility of the South African Government to protect all its citizens. Hate crimes against LGBT people in this country are on the rise and the government should come out openly against these actions. Protection of individuals who are vulnerable because of their sexual orientation and or gender identity is something provided for in the Constitution of South Africa and should be put in practice. As a regional advocacy organization, CAL will work with EPOC and others to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to book.”, Victor Mukasa, Coordinator, Human Rights Defenders Project at CAL.

      EPOC and CAL call on the Tsakane Police Station, where the case has been reported, to carry out a quick and thorough investigation into the murder of Noxolo and deal with the perpetrators accordingly.

      Noxola will be laid to rest at a cemetery in Kwa-Thema on Saturday, April 30, 2011. EPOC and CAL call on all your support in this time of grief and horror. Details of the burial will be sent out shortly. Please come and stand with us.

      Press Contacts:

      Chairperson, EPOC

      Tel: +27 732 263 287

      Email: [email protected]


      PRO, EPOC

      Tel: +27 732 270 026

      Email: [email protected]


      Victor Mukasa
      Project Coordinator, Human Rights Defenders project

      Coalition of African Lesbians (CAL)

      Tel: +27 784 363 635

      Email: [email protected]

      South Africa: Task team set up to deal with hate crimes


      A national task team is to tackle hate crimes against lesbians and gays, the justice and constitutional development ministry said on Wednesday. The decision came in response to a 170,000-strong campaign calling for action on 'corrective rape', spokesperson Tlali Tlali said in a statement. It followed the murder of lesbian activist Noxolo Nogwaza, 24, who was stoned, stabbed with broken glass and gang-raped in KwaThema, Johannesburg, last month.

      South Africa: Transgender teen raped

      Transgender and Intersex Africa media release


      'On the 5th May 2011, a 14 years old transman was raped in Attredgeville, Pretoria. He was left unconscious and traumatized by the perpetrators. The transman is believed to have been raped on his way to school. According to the victim’s mother, the school phoned her after one teacher realized that the victim was crying and bleeding from his genitals.'
      Transgender and Intersex Africa
      Media release
      7 May 2011

      Pretoria: *Transgender Raped in Pretoria, South Africa

      On the 5th May 2011, a 14 years old transman was raped in Attredgeville, Pretoria. He was left unconscious and traumatized by the perpetrators. The transman is believed to have been raped on his way to school. According to the victim’s mother, the school phoned her after one teacher realized that the victim was crying and bleeding from his genitals. The mother also says that the victim does not want to reveal what has happened to him. It was obvious to the teachers and mother that the child had been raped. He is admitted at Kalafong hospital after he was discovered to have had major internal damage.

      His mother is also traumatized by this matter. According to her the victim was heavily bleeding and she believes that her son had been attacked by people who knew him. Apparently last week the victim was harassed by old men from his community. The harassment began after the victim was asked whether he is a girl or a boy. The victim ran home crying and told his mother about the incident.

      The rape case has been opened and the investigation is taking place. The victim is under the care of a psychologist, social workers and a gender reassignment doctor who will be taking care of his wish to transition as the victim has made a strong request regarding that.

      Tebogo Nkoana, the director of Transgender and Intersex Africa (TIA), went to visit the victim at the hospital and met with his family as well. According to him the family supports their child and wish for fair justice.

      Transgender and Intersex Africa make a call to LGBTI activists to assist in fighting for non-discriminatory justice in this case.

      Transgender and Intersex Africa will follow up on the case and make sure that it is taken serious and justice put on place.

      For more information please contact;

      Tebogo Nkoana
      Director, TIA
      Tel: 073 432 4499
      Email: [email protected]

      *Transgender is the terminology that is used to describe a person who is in conflict with the gender assigned at birth. Transman is a biological female that identifies as a man

      South Africa: Union condemns homophobia

      The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) press release


      'The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) has decided to break its silence and add its lone voice amongst the progressive forces in condemning the brutal rape and stoning to death with bricks of Noxola Nogwaza, KwaThema township, Ekurhuleni, Gauteng province. As Numsa we abhor homophobia with all its manifestations since its against the noble objectives of a non sexist society as envisaged in the Freedom Charter.'
      The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa)
      NUMSA Media Release
      4 May 2011

      Break the Silence - Say No to Homophobia

      The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) has decided to break its silence and add its lone voice amongst the progressive forces in condemning the brutal rape and stoning to death with bricks of Noxola Nogwaza, KwaThema township, Ekurhuleni, Gauteng province.

      Nogwaza’s body was found lying in an alley in the township and her head was completely deformed, her eyes out of her sockets, her brain spilt, teeth scattered all around and face smashed beyond recognition. This is the highest form of brutality and barbarism meted on a fellow human being for her sexual orientation and a choice to be in an intimate relationship with a same sex being. No person or human being can be allowed to be inflicted such torture and brutal killing in our society.

      We send our heartfelt and deepest condolences to his family and friends. We call on the South African Police Services (SAPS) to work tirelessly in apprehending the culprits of these gruesome and evil acts against a fellow human being by a mob of scavengers that belong in the gallows of shame and life imprisonment. This heinous and dastardly killing of Nogwaza is a reflection of the deep-seated homophobia and intolerance directed towards the gay or lesbian people by some male chauvinists’ remnants in our society post apartheid South Africa.

      As Numsa we abhor homophobia with all its manifestations since its against the noble objectives of a non sexist society as envisaged in the Freedom Charter.

      We call on the ANC WL to be in the forefront struggles in sharpening the awareness of our people around the rights and gays or lesbians. The front-line role of the ANC WL will go a long way in creating a climax of understanding and acceptance of gay and lesbian’s people as key integral part of our society. The gays and lesbians people have a right to exist and be free in our country without any fear or threats of murder or intimidation. Our continued silence on the rights of gays and lesbians will gradually make South Africa another Zimbabwe or Namibia where gays or lesbians rights are being trampled upon by their governments.

      The struggle for a free and democratic South Africa was also about the struggle for free and liberation of gays and lesbians in our country from the bondages of patriarchal domination and suppression.

      The attack on lesbians or gays in our country is a hate crime and should be classified as such by our legal system. The people who commit acts such as “corrective rape” and murder of lesbians or gay’s people do so with the full guarantee that they will not be prosecuted by the justice system. The justice system continuously fails the Lesbian, Gay, Transgendered and Bisexual People (LGTBP) community through insensitive law enforcement agencies, repeated postponement of trials and delaying sentencing.

      We call on all the progressive forces to be in the forefront of the struggle by breaking their silence on homophobia.

      Castro Ngobese, National Spokesperson – 073 299 1595

      Racism & xenophobia

      South Africa: ‘Liberation songs deserve own monument’


      A monument should be built for liberation songs and it should have its own precinct. This is according to Wally Mongane Serote, the poet, author and former MK soldier testifying in the hate speech trial in the Johannesburg High Court against ANC Youth League President Julius Malema. Defending Malema - who was charged by Afriforum, an Afrikaner minority group, for singing certain lines of the song Dubulu ’ibhunu (Kill the Boer) - Serote said the songs were 'as important as the Voortrekker monument', kept 'as a memory even after apartheid'.


      Global: 'We cannot command nature except by obeying her'


      'Nature cannot be submitted to the wills of the laboratory. Science and technology are capable of everything including destroying the world itself,' said Pablo Solón, the permanent representative of Bolivia in a speech to the United Nations on 20 April. 'It is time to stop and reaffirm the precautionary principle in the face of geo-engineering and all artificial manipulation of the climate. All new technologies should be evaluated to gauge their environmental, social and economic impacts. The answer for the future lies not in scientific inventions but in our capacity to listen to nature.'

      Global: Where is the World Bank’s energy sector strategy headed?


      A new article from the Bank Information Centre's Paulina Garzon looks at the current status of the World Bank's energy strategy review, which has run into controversy at the Board of Directors. The article notes the politics surrounding the policy. 'The WB has spent almost two years developing the new Energy Sector Strategy (EsE),[1] expected to be approved in July 2011. The EsE will be the guiding instrument in modernizing the energy sector with two main objectives: 1) to increase access to modern and reliable energy, especially for the poor, and 2) to facilitate the transition into an energy sector that is environmentally sustainable and with low carbon emissions.'

      Senegal: The Great Green Wall, a wall of misunderstanding?


      The Great Green Wall project aims to plant a line of trees nearly 8,000 kilometres long and 15 kilometres wide. This green belt would pass through 11 countries in the Sahel, from Senegal to Djibouti. It hopes to stop the desert from expanding and swallowing farmland. Many are happy with what is being achieved, but others are not, reports Farm Radio Weekly. Aliou Sow is a farmer in Senegal. He complains bitterly that the authorities planted trees in his community without consultation. While farmers travel miles on foot or by donkey to fetch water for the villages of Tessekeré, Amaly and Widou, wells are being dug specifically to irrigate nurseries for the Wall.

      Land & land rights

      Global: Videos available from land-grabbing conference


      Videos from the international conference on global land grabbing held at the Institute for Development Studies at the University of Sussex between 6-8 April 2011 are now available. The selection of videos include Olivier de Schutter, Sam Moyo and Shalmali Guttal.

      Food Justice

      North Africa: Maghreb addresses rising food prices


      Maghreb states need to find immediate solutions to the soaring food prices, said participants at a Tunis seminar, which ended Wednesday (4 May). The three-day event, organised by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU), brought together experts from the Maghreb and the European Union, as well as representatives from the UN, the African Development Bank (AfDB), the World Bank and the International Fund for Agricultural Development.

      Media & freedom of expression

      Eritrea: Call to release journalists


      The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has joined its African group, the Federation of African Journalists (FAJ) to mark World Press Freedom Day by sending an open letter to President Issayas Afewerki of Eritrea, urging him to release all journalists detained by his government. The IFJ and FAJ say the situation of human rights and freedom of expression has been steadily deteriorating in Eritrea where it is estimated that some 30 journalists have been detained, without charges, since the Eritrean government imposed a ban on independent media in September 2001.

      Ghana: Minister commits to 'uncensored and safe cyberspace'


      Ghana has given the assurance that the country was committed to a 'free uncensored and safe cyberspace'. Making the announcement, deputy Information minister Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa condemned attempts by some countries to clamp down on internet usage through censorship. In a speech to mark the World’s Press Freedom Day, Mr Okudzeto-Ablakwa said: 'We have seen governments engage in online blocking where access to some websites is curtailed. We have observed that some governments are now mounting surveillance on cybersapce so as to track down those who publish what those governments don’t like.'

      Global: Free press access at lowest point in a decade


      The proportion of the world’s population that has access to a free press declined to its lowest point in over a decade during 2010, as repressive governments intensified their efforts to control traditional media and developed new techniques to limit the independence of rapidly expanding internet-based media. Among the countries to experience significant declines in press freedom were Egypt, Honduras, Hungary, Mexico, South Korea, Thailand, and Ukraine, says the report 'Freedom of the Press in 2010' from Freedom House.

      Global: The 10 tools of online oppressors


      The world’s worst online oppressors are using an array of tactics, some reflecting astonishing levels of sophistication, others reminiscent of old-school techniques. From China’s high-level malware attacks to Syria’s brute-force imprisonments, this may be only the dawn of online oppression, says this report from the Committee to Protect Journalists.

      Malawi: Political science lecturer talks about blogging and academic freedom


      When Malawi's Inspector General of Police Peter Mukhito summoned political science senior lecturer Dr Blessings Chinsinga over an example he gave in the lecture room, he had no idea that the incident will appear on Boniface Dulani's blog. And when it did, Malawi media picked and followed the rest of the developments which have left the University of Malawi's two main colleges closed for a month now. Global Voices author Victor Kaonga interviewed Dulani about his blogging experiences and the movement for academic freedom. You can read the interview on the Global Voices site.

      Zimbabwe: Newspaper offices raided


      An independent daily newspaper critical of Zimbabwe's president says thieves raided its offices and stole computer hard drives and the editor's laptop. No other items were stolen. In front page headlines last week, the paper called on President Robert Mugabe, 87, to step down.

      Social welfare

      Africa: Childhood blindness prevalent in Sub-Saharan Africa


      Every minute, somewhere in the world, a child goes blind according to the World Health Organisation. Three in five poor children who go blind are likely to die within two years of losing their sight - yet half of cases of childhood blindness are avoidable. Sub-Saharan Africa is the region with the highest prevalence of blindness in the world - 1.24 per 1,000 children, compared to 0.8 in India and 0.3 in Europe.

      Mozambique: New minimum salaries approved


      Mozambique is one of the world's poorest countries, with over half of its 22 million people living below the poverty line. It pays the lowest salaries in southern Africa, according to a recent report by accounting firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers. Last year, violent riots against price increases left at least 14 dead, prompting the government to subsidise food and fuel.

      South Africa: Judge calls Cape Town to order over open toilets


      Judge Nathan Erasmus ruled recently that the DA-controlled Cape Town municipality had violated the human and constitutional rights of residents of Makhaza in Khayelitsha by installing unenclosed toilets. He also dismissed the city's and Western Cape premier Helen Zille's argument that residents were consulted and had agreed to enclose the toilets at their own cost.

      Tanzania: Inflation raises prospect of food riots


      The Tanzanian government plans to take urgent measures to alleviate economic hardships that the majority of the population is facing to ward off a replication of protests taking place in the East African Community. Economists and activists told The Citizen that they won’t be surprised if the Kenyan and Ugandan scenarios were to be witnessed in Tanzania since the government 'seems not to be acting to put the matters in line'.

      News from the diaspora

      Global: Cornel West and the fight against injustice


      In this Al Jazeera video interview with Cornel West, the intellectual and author provides his analysis of Barack Obama's presidency and discusses recent global developments. The bestselling author argues that we are living in 'catastophic, catatonic, and catalytic' times, but we must face them with compassion.

      Libya: Farrakhan warns Obama over CIA in Libya


      Minister Louis Farrakhan, in this video interview, discusses the role of the CIA in the conflict. He points to the contradiction of Western concern over the people of Libya, while the people of Palestine and Rwanda, for example, were ignored.

      Conflict & emergencies

      CAR: Uncertain future for children in armed conflict


      In order to advise policy-makers at a critical juncture after the re-election in January 2011 of President François Bozizé of the Central African Republic (CAR), the Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict (Watchlist) and the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) joined forces to conduct a four-week field mission to CAR to research and report on the situation of children affected by armed conflict. Evidence was found that at least four of the six grave violations monitored under UN Security Council Resolution 1612 (2005) are still being committed against children in CAR: the abduction of children, recruitment or use of child soldiers, attacks against schools, and the denial of humanitarian access to children. This is a link to the full report.

      Côte d'Ivoire: 'Dozens killed' in clashes


      Dozens of people have reportedly been killed in the main city of Abidjan in fighting between Ivory Coast troops and the remnants of a militia loyal to deposed leader Laurent Gbagbo. 'We have seen many dead. We recovered 40 bodies over two hours, but we were forced to stop because he had no room left in our van,' said Franck Kodjo, an official at the International Committee of the Red Cross, adding at least five corpses were from last Tuesday's fighting. A commander for the Ivorian army, known as the FRCI, said the remaining pro-Gbagbo fighters in the Abidjan neighbourhood of Yopougon were mostly Liberian mercenaries hired in the aftermath of the November election dispute.

      Libya: Heavy fighting grips Libya oil city


      Libyan regime forces laying siege on Misrata intensified their assault on the lifeline port on 8 May as smoke billowed from a fuel depot bombing, attacks a rights group said may amount to an atrocity. Two loud explosions were also heard in Tripoli, where the regime of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has its headquarters, as jets flew overhead, witnesses said.

      Morocco: Bloggers react to Marrakech attack


      Morocco's Tourist hub city of Marrakech was hit by a bomb blast in late April that ripped through a popular restaurant at lunchtime, the Argana, overlooking Jamaa Lefna Square. The blast, according to officials killed 16 people most of whom were foreigners. The attack occurred as the country witnesses a wave of peaceful demonstrations calling for democratic change. Bloggers and netizens have been quick to react, sending instant eyewitness accounts, as reported by Global Voices.

      Sudan: Troops enter Abyei, 14 dead


      A heavily armed Sudanese military convoy entered the flashpoint border district of Abyei, sparking clashes that left up to 14 people dead, its chief administrator and a UN spokesman said on Tuesday, 3 May. The fighting broke out on Sunday when a Sudanese army major insisted on entering the disputed territory after the police tried to stop his convoy of six landcruisers mounted with machine guns and more than 200 troops, administrator Deng Arop Kuol told AFP.

      Tunisia: Tunisia fears Libya conflict spillover


      Tunisia has denied requesting foreign military aid to confront the escalating crisis on its border with Libya. The country's 'territorial integrity is a red line that no one can touch', Deputy Tunisian Foreign Minister Radouane Nouicer said Sunday (1 May) on state television. But Libyan rebels have been chased across the border, sending at least a dozen shells onto Tunisian soil.

      Internet & technology

      Africa: Mobile Africa Report 2011


      According to industry estimates, there are more than 500 million mobile phone subscribers in Africa now, up from 246 million in 2008. In 2000, the number of mobile phones first exceeded that of fixed telephones. The four biggest mobile phone markets in Africa are Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, and Ghana.

      Fundraising & useful resources

      Africa Initiative Graduate Research Grant


      The Africa Initiative Graduate Research Grant program supports short-term academic placements for students enrolled in a Master’s or PhD program at select African universities. The program offers grants of up to CAD$10,000 each to fifteen students per year to conduct research for up to four months at select Canadian universities.

      Useful website on North Africa and Middle East


      The Jadaliyya website is an independent ezine produced by ASI (Arab Studies Institute), a network of writers associated with the Arab Studies Journal ( It is motivated by the need to discuss the 'Arab World' or the 'Middle East'.

      Courses, seminars, & workshops

      'African Awakenings and New Visions of Solidarity'


      Pambazuka and the Carleton University Institute of African Studies invite you to a talk to celebrate Africa Liberation Day with Firoze Manji and Molly Kane, Pambazuka News. It takes place on Wednesday, 25 May at 6pm at the Arts Lounge, 1025 Dunton Tower, Carleton University.
      Pambazuka and the Carleton University Institute of African Studies invite you to a talk to celebrate Africa Liberation Day

      'African Awakenings and New Visions of Solidarity'

      with Firoze Manji and Molly Kane, Pambazuka News

      When: Wednesday, 25 May, 2011

      Time: 6pm

      Where: Arts Lounge, 1025 Dunton Tower, Carleton University ("DT" on campus map,

      Firoze Manji, a Kenyan activist with more than 40 years experience in international development, health and human rights, is founder and former executive director (1997-2010) of Fahamu – Networks for Social Justice, a pan African organisation with bases in Kenya, Senegal, South Africa and
      the UK ( He is the founder and editor-in-chief of the prize-winning pan African social justice newsletter and website Pambazuka News, produced by a pan-African community of more than 2600 citizens and organisations - academics, policy makers, social activists, women's
      organisations, civil society organisations, writers, artists, poets, bloggers, and commentators, with a readership estimated at around 660,000 ( He is also founder and editor-in-chief of Pambazuka Press (, the progressive pan-African publisher of
      voices from Africa and the global south.

      Molly Kane, the former Executive Director of the Canadian social justice organization, Inter Pares, is an Ottawa-based activist with a background in international solidarity and social justice. Prior to joining the staff of Pambazuka News this year, she worked with ETC Group, an international NGO focusing on new technologies, corporate concentration, bio-diversity and human rights. She was an adjunct assistant professor in Global Development Studies at Queen's University in 2005-2006.

      For more information, please contact [email protected]

      Governing migration

      3 - 6 July, 2011, Kampala, Uganda

      2011-05-09 ADVERT.pdf

      The ‘Governing Migration’ conference will draw together approximately 350 persons working in the field of forced migration (academics, practitioners and policy makers and forced migrants themselves) to debate recent research findings, hot policy topics, and pressing concerns in the field of forced migration as they relate to the fields of Governance and Justice, and to catalyse the establishment of new research, policy and practice agendas.

      Law in development: Work in progress


      This workshop will provide an opportunity for postgraduate students in the broad field of law and development to reflect on its themes, progress and future.

      Law in development : Work in progress

      Convenors: Professor Yash Pal Ghai and Dr Ambreena Manji
      A seminar to be hosted by the British Institute in Eastern Africa, Nairobi
      10 June 2011

      This workshop will provide an opportunity for postgraduate students in the broad field of law and development to reflect on its themes, progress and future. Taking place the day after a seminar on ‘Constitutions and constitution-making’, to be hosted jointly by the Katiba Institute and the British Institute in Eastern Africa (BIEA), the work in progress seminar will provide an informal and supportive forum in which to present work in progress papers to a group of established scholars, to receive feedback on ideas for projects and publications and to discuss methodological and ethical issues related to an ongoing project.

      The BIEA invites proposals from postgraduate students in the region. We would be happy to hear from academics from a range of disciplines, including lawyers, political scientists and historians.

      Please provide an abstract of between 700-1,000 words describing your project and the reasons why you would like to present your work at the seminar. Please include a CV and email address with your proposal.

      The proposal should be sent by email by 10 May 2011 to [email protected] with a copy to Hannah Waddilove at:[email protected]

      Scholars will be selected for participation and notified of the result by 25 May 2011.

      For those selected, we can cover the costs of economy travel to the workshop and one night’s accommodation from those coming from outside Nairobi. For information about the constitutions seminar, please contact on the above email addresses.

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