Pambazuka News 540: Legalised looting: Exploitation and dissent
The authoritative electronic weekly newsletter and platform for social justice in Africa
Pambazuka News (English edition): ISSN 1753-6839
CONTENTS: 1. Features, 2. Advocacy & campaigns, 3. Books & arts, 4. Highlights French edition, 5. Cartoons, 6. Zimbabwe update, 7. African Union Monitor, 8. Women & gender, 9. Human rights, 10. Refugees & forced migration, 11. Social movements, 12. Africa labour news, 13. Elections & governance, 14. Corruption, 15. Development, 16. Health & HIV/AIDS, 17. Education, 18. LGBTI, 19. Environment, 20. Land & land rights, 21. Food Justice, 22. Media & freedom of expression, 23. Social welfare, 24. News from the diaspora, 25. Conflict & emergencies, 26. eNewsletters & mailing lists, 27. Fundraising & useful resources, 28. Courses, seminars, & workshops
Highlights from this issue
ZIMBABWE UPDATE: Treason trial charges scrapped
WOMEN AND GENDER: Angola gets new law on domestic violence
HUMAN RIGHTS: Kenyans win right to sue UK over Mau Mau abuses
REFUGEES AND FORCED MIGRATION: Millions face death in East Africa due to drought
ELECTIONS AND GOVERNANCE: News from DRC, Egypt, Guinea, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia
CORRUPTION: Barriers towards combating corruption
DEVELOPMENT: Free trade is not what Africa needs, Mr Cameron
HEALTH AND HIV/AIDS: Groundbreaking Ugandan case challenges state on maternal health EDUCATION: Time to start learning in South Sudan
ENVIRONMENT: GM maize imports given the nod in Kenya
LAND AND LAND RIGHTS: Booming cotton no boon to African farmers
MEDIA AND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION: Crackdown on media covering Malawian protests
CONFLICT AND EMERGENCIES: News from DRC, Libya, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan
The world of dirty money
I am attracted to write about dirty money because of two outstanding feature stories I recently read. The first is the cover story in the Nairobi Law Monthly (NLM) magazine Vol.2 Issue 7, July 2007 entitled ‘On the trail of Kenya’s lords of dirty cash’ written by Michael Rigby. This is the most revealing account yet, of the web of illicit money flowing across the world, written from a country perspective. Kudos, Mr Rigby. The second is an article entitled ‘La Dolce Viagra’ in the July 2011 issue of Vanity Fair. Yes, Vanity Fair. This is a stunning but pleasurable exposé written by Evgenia Peretz and Federica Rampini about Silvio Berlusconi the 73 year old Italian Prime Minister’s nights of ‘bunga bunga’ parties in his basement disco, and the web of corruption, abuse of power and wealth concealment that goes with the impunity of power even in a so-called democratic developed country. Papi Silvio as he is popularly known by his army of young lovers is standing trial once more, this time for allegedly sexually abusing a minor (a 17 year old Moroccan belly dancer, Ruby Rubacuori (aka Ruby Heart Stealer). How will Papi Silvio get out of this one? The plot thickens.
These articles tell a tantalising story of how greedy, corrupt and unethical politicians in positions of power and influence use their influence to make laws work for them, to loot the state in consort with crooked rent-seeking business people (mostly men) in local and multinational companies who often have close business relationships with the most important politicians to launder their loot abroad into havens of secrecy, utilising a web of secrecy services globally. They are aided in this dirty business by banks (big and small) eager and happy to serve their ‘high net-worth individual clients’ (wealthy people) by colluding, sheltering, channelling and cleaning up the dirty money in off-shore jurisdictions specifically designed to aid and benefit from secrecy.
Accountants, in particular the large global ones, help in this process by devising and using accounting rules that make it impossible to reveal the extent of the looting, so as to conceal the wealth and profits that are then transferred abroad. The lawyers kick in by devising legal entities (fictitious companies, Trust entities etc) and legal rules designed to conceal the real human persons behind the dirty transactions and to keep them out of jail. The media help by focusing only on the juicy role of local politicians, ignoring the web of actors behind the laundering of money. And of course if you are Papi Silvio you simply use your media empire to go after any persons or institutions threatening your interest. If you are not Papi Silvio you strike up cosy relationships with the owners of the media or put them on notice of a destructive legal suit should they dare to challenge you.
In this four-part blog I will try to draw from the ongoing Kenyan case covered by the NLM to show that this is the tip of the iceberg as far as dirty money flows are concerned. The term increasingly used is ‘illicit capital flows’. I will introduce the web of secrecy, collusions and the players that drive and sustain the world of illicit money flows. In Part 2, I will detail the role of these players and the conditions that allow them to thrive. In Part 3, I will demonstrate the scale and implications of this dirty money world, and in that you will find that, objectionable as Mr Okemo and Gichuru’s alleged behaviours are, they are far from being lords. They are but midgets in the game. Moreover we will discover, surprisingly, that corruption and bribery of politicians – significant and nasty as this may be – are simply not the main ways by which capital moves illicitly out of our economies. The main culprits are corporations and the main channels are banks and international trade in goods and services. In Part 4, I will argue that complex as this web may seem, it can be broken up. Implementation of the 2010 Kenyan Constitution is a unique opportunity for Kenyans to take action, but above all, to tackle this effectively requires regional and international approach. Tackling this menace is first and foremost political, without which no technical solution works. This is why active civil society is so crucial.
THE KENYAN CASE OF OKEMO AND GICHURU VS THE BRITISH CROWN DEPENDENCY TERRITORY OF JERSEY
The Nairobi Law Monthly (NLM) article tells a story of two Kenyan public officials, Chris Okemo (former finance minister and energy minister) and Samuel Gichuru (former managing director of a state electricity company), who are about to be hauled to a little island, Jersey, to stand trial for allegedly receiving bribes between 1999-2002, from an international company (Alcatel-CIT) and laundering this money into bank accounts they hold on the island.
A word about Jersey is important to put the story in context. Jersey is a British crown dependency like Guernsey and the Isle of Man. Together with seven British overseas territories (call them surviving colonies), such as the Cayman Islands, Gibraltar, the British Virgin Islands, Bermuda, Montserrat and Turks & Caicos, these islands are some of the world’s most notorious financial secrecy jurisdictions and tax havens. A 2009 study by Christian Aid and the Tax Justice Network (the Financial Secrecy Index, 2009) ranked the US state of Delaware as the biggest provider of International Financial Secrecy, the City of London ranked fifth, Jersey, eleventh, and Guernsey, the thirteenth out of 60 countries. They thrive on offering secrecy services or opaqueness, in particular the concealment of the identities of beneficiaries of companies registered there and the actual owners of bank accounts. They are also tax havens. This means that their main attraction to companies to register there is low or zero taxes. The combination of secrecy and low/zero tax services provides a fatal attraction for companies to launder profits away from where they make them (to avoid and evade taxes there) and for those who want to conceal the sources of their wealth and profits from public scrutiny.
The architect of the extradition request for Gichuru and Okemo is the United States of America, which is acting under what is called the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) of 1977. This law requires the US government to go after any bribery activity abroad that brings injury to the United States or involves companies listed in the United States.
What precipitated this particular action was that Alcatel, a US registered company, felt compelled by the evidence against it in a Florida Court in December 2010, to initiate a plea bargain in order to reduce its fine and reputational damage. In this plea bargain Alcatel admitted to having bribed foreign officials in a number of countries including Kenya. It claimed to have paid a US$20m bribe to the executives of a cellphone company, Kencell to secure a contract to support this cellphone company to roll out its network. Kencell at the time was a joint venture of two companies: It was owned 60 per cent by a company registered on the Kenyan Stock Exchange market (therefore a Kenyan Company), Sameer Investments owned by a local business magnate Naushad Merali, and 40 per cent by the French conglomerate, Vivendi. The contract negotiations with Alcatel were in fact, according to the NLM, article conducted by Vivendi who informed Alcatel that they would win the contract on the condition that they, Alcatel, agree to pay a bribe of $20m to an ‘intermediary’.
The NLM article suggests that that this bribe may have been paid to facilitate the award of a second mobile network license, Mobitelea, which at some point in time was a shareholder of Safaricom (Kenya’s flag-ship mobile telephone company) whose majority shareholder is Britain’s Vodafone. The real persons behind Mobetelia remain wrapped in secrecy and the company was not even known to the Kenyan parliament for three years after it acquired shares in Safaricom. Mobitelea paid US$5m in cash to take a 5 per cent stake in Safaricom. What we do know is that Safaricom utilised the ‘advice’ of Mobitelea when it was entering the market, a case being investigated somewhat, by the Kenyan and British authorities, which means that it is more than likely that Safaricom know who are behind Mobitelea.
THE WORLD OF IMPENETRABLE SECRECY PROTECTING ILL-GOTTEN WEALTH.
The legal web of concealment of the real persons behind Mobitelea is itself fascinating. Mobitelea was registered in the other British crown dependency, Guernsey, as a “shell” company. Like Jersey, Guernsey is a secrecy jurisdiction as well as a tax haven. Mobitelea was registered in Guernsey as owned by two other Guernsey-registered nominee companies, Mercantor Nominee Ltd and Mercantor Trustees Ltd. The directors of these companies are also companies: Anson Ltd and Cabot Ltd who are registered in Anguilla and Antigua, which are also tax havens and secrecy jurisdictions. Note the web of companies owned by companies, which are in turn owned by companies or trusts all registered in a secrecy jurisdiction. Secrecy is the key driver of dirty money. Many of the major offshore secrecy jurisdictions are British.
Before we proceed with the story, we need to explain some of the terminology used repeatedly throughout the article in order to aid understanding.
‘Shell companies’ are trusts formed to hold the wealth/assets of their clients in off-shore financial centres (OFC). An OFC hosts a functional financial services centre with branches or subsidiaries of major international banks. Banks prefer to call these centres International Financial Centres (IFCs). They tend to offer a range of secrecy services for their non-resident clients and may provide massive tax incentives. In the latter case, they will also be called tax havens. Tax havens do not require banks to publicly disclose accounts of their clients and it is exceedingly hard for small countries to obtain tax information from tax havens. Most of the big international banks are registered in these OFCs to facilitate business for their clients. It is reported that at least 270 of the world’s biggest banks have a presence in the Cayman Islands alone and may exist in different forms in more than one OFC.
In OFCs, ‘shell entities’ hold offshore accounts for their clients. Bankers anywhere open accounts in the name of off-shore entities which often impede monitoring and tracing of client activities that can facilitate illicit activities. ‘Offshore’ refers both to geographic spaces that specialise in providing financial services to non-resident clients and to conceptual spaces i.e. the idea of designing rules and regulations aimed at benefitting non-resident asset holders.
Most OFCs are ‘secrecy jurisdictions’. This term refers to countries or territories that satisfy two characteristics: (i) they create regulations for the primary benefit of non-residents, (ii) they create regulations preventing the identification of those who use them.
These regulations are designed to undermine the legislation or regulation of other jurisdictions. For example, regulations promoting secrecy will undermine the requirement for transparency held dear by other countries.
A ‘trust’ is one such ‘Shell entity’ and is formed whenever a person (the settlor) gives legal ownership of an asset (the trust property) to another person (the trustee) on condition that they apply the income and gains arising from that asset for the benefit of a third person (the beneficiary). Trusts can be established verbally but typically take written form. Trustees are frequently professional people or firms charging fees. In secrecy jurisdictions, the settler, the trustee and the beneficiary may all be other shell companies.
Nominee (trust) accounts are accounts in which the owners may be companies or other entities (such as trusts) rather than natural persons and which disguise the real beneficiaries or donors. These anonymous trust accounts are the bread and butter of the offshore secrecy jurisdictions such as Jersey.
Banks may also open special name or numbered accounts. These are code names rather the names of natural persons. The purpose is to conceal the true identity of the beneficiary persons.
HOW PAYMENTS ARE FACILITATED: IT TAKES THE COMPLICITY OF BANKS, LAWYERS, SHADOWY ENTITIES AND COLLUDING STATES TO SUSTAIN THE FLOW OF DIRTY MONEY.
How did Alcatel pay the bribe and how were the monies transferred abroad? To accommodate the bribery, Alcatel simply inflated the contract price by US$20m. To pay it out, the ‘intermediary’ (read, the fake company fronting for the corrupt politicians and other beneficiaries of the bribe) formed a company called ‘Company T’. You cannot tell which natural human beings own it or benefit from it. Instead Company T was represented in the financial transactions by a Mauritius-based shell company. A ‘shell company’ is one which is used for a business transaction but which doesn’t have significant assets.
A related term is a ‘special purpose vehicle’, which is a company or trust, or partnership or any form of legal entity set up for a particular purpose in the course of completing a transaction, or series of transactions, typically with the principal or sole intent of obtaining a tax advantage. Some of the money was paid directly to Company T, through a German bank in Mauritius, the Deutsche Bank. The payment to the Mauritius agent was paid into one of Britain’s biggest banks, HSBC. There was a third payment, which the ‘intermediaries’ directed to be paid to yet another company, ‘Company Z’, to an account in Dubai. It turns out that Company Z is an offshore holding company of Sameer Investments, the same Kenyan Company owned by Merali, that held the majority share in Kencell in partnership with Vivendi, and which awarded the contract to Alcatel in the first place. I may be thick in the head but is it far-fetched to suggest that the payment to Company Z may have been a kickback to Sameer Investments, possibly for arranging the bribery deal successfully?
IF OKEMO AND GICHURU MUST BE PUNISHED, HOW ABOUT THE OTHERS?
I ask myself, if Okemo and Gichuru are in the dock (and perhaps rightly so), what happens to Merali of Sameer Investments or the directors of Vivendi who in the story appear to be complicit in facilitating and channelling the bribes and may even have benefitted financially? What about HSBC and Deutsche Bank who received, channelled and cleaned the illicit money? How about the banks in Jersey and Guernsey who harboured the corrupt money, benefitted from client fees and provided the legal web of secrecy upon which the entire sorry story is based?
The NLM article goes to much length to show how the Kenyan politicians abused their power, not only by demanding and allegedly receiving bribes but also by prevailing on parliament to pass laws that were friendly to secrecy and money laundering, by. for example, removing clauses that required that financial institutions name the natural human individual beneficiaries of companies transacting business with them rather than hiding behind nominee accounts. Okemo and Gichuru could not have succeeded in moving their allegedly corruptly acquired loot to Jersey but for the welcoming conditions provided by Jersey.
That Jersey is seeking to prosecute its clients who merely utilise the services they provide is rich irony! Who is prosecuting the British crown dependent territory of Jersey? They probably could not have moved the money without the participation of the banks. The NLM article says ‘the British, in spite of their zeal to go after Okemo and Gichuru have been seen to be reluctant to investigate a local firm and the matter has been in a lull’. Shouldn’t Britain be prosecuting HSBC in the manner that the Americans prosecuted? Or at least name and shame it as the US General Accounting Office did in the case of Citibank’s handling of General Auguste Pinochet’s loot.
The truth is, according to Christian Aid, a charitable organisation of the protestant churches of Britain and Ireland, that the United Kingdom has a poor record of acting effectively to curb or return illicit money brought into its land. Very little has been heard, in terms of prosecution or repatriation of the estimated US$1.3bn that the late General Abacha (of Nigeria) channelled through the 23 London Banks, including Barclays. Okemo and Gichuru may be greedy and bad, if they are guilty. But they will, by no means be the greediest and the baddest of them all, let alone the most criminal.
But Jersey is not doing this by choice is it? Jersey is doing the minimum necessary to save its own scalp. It is compelled to action by the United States lest it is blacklisted for promoting money laundering and by the OECD bilateral information exchange agreement compelling it to provide tax and savings related information to its member countries upon request. We shall explain this bilateral information exchange later.
THE CURIOUS CASE OF MAURITIUS
Before we turn our attention to drawing from the specific issue of Okemo and Gichuru versus the British crown dependent territory of the Island of Jersey to demonstrate how the world of dirty money works generally, let’s give some time to the curious case of Mauritius, the African island state embroiled in the case. Mauritius is a small island of not more than 1.3 million people, lying in the Indian Ocean in Southern Africa. By most measures, Mauritius is one of Africa’s better governed and successful countries. It is one of Africa’s most diversified economies, having started off as a sugar plantation literally fed by slave labour. It scores highly in all manner of social wellbeing indicators, including education, life expectancy and per capita income where it compares favourably with the best in the developing world. Its system of social protection compares with any other and as a result, desperate poverty, destitution and hunger are low. Stunningly, like Switzerland, Mauritius has no standing army and yet it is as peaceful as any. Corruption is perceived by citizens and experts alike to be relatively low across the board and in both public and private sectors. Mauritius’ banking sector is one of the most sophisticated, with most people holding their money held in bank deposits rather than as currency.
However, Mauritius is an African leader in a different type of corruption. It provides the conditions favourable for the laundering of money, wealth and profits. In this process it facilitates not just corruption but massive tax evasion and avoidance. Money laundering is the process of ‘cleaning’ illicitly gained money to give it the appearance of originating from a legitimate source. Profit laundering is the process whereby companies use mechanisms such as transfer pricing, mis-invoicing, licensing and others, to conceal and transfer profits from a high tax-paying jurisdiction to one in which taxes are low or non-existent. How does Mauritius do this?
Mauritius provides offshore secrecy services. A secrecy jurisdiction, as defined earlier must satisfy two conditions (i) It designs its financial regulations partly to benefit nonresidents; (ii) it puts regulations in place to ensure that the identities of those who use these regulations are concealed.
Mauritius followed the path of other islands to make itself attractive to attract global banks and earn fees and other benefits from facilitating the easy incorporation of companies and offering secrecy and low tax services as an attraction to non-residents. It designed its regulations to attract secrecy service providers. These are banks, lawyers, accountants, trust companies and others who make money by assisting clients to access the services of the secrecy jurisdiction. Richard Murphy of the Tax Justice Network calls the combined result of secrecy jurisdictions and the secrecy services providers is the ‘secrecy world’. Mauritius is a vibrant secrecy world. This world promotes money laundering.
For money laundering to occur, 3 steps are needed: (i) an entry point where the illicit money enters the legitimate financial system (ii) a series of opaque layers where money moves through the international financial system across borders, (iii) the integration of the illicit money into the legitimate economy once its origins have been effectively concealed.
Let’s take the Okemo and Gichuru case to demonstrate how the regulations in Mauritius facilitated or at least favoured the illicit transfer of corruptly acquired Kenyan money into banks domiciled in its territory. Recall that two payments were made into accounts in Mauritius; one directly to Company T into as bank account held in Deutche Bank, Mauritius. This means that Mauritius permitted Company T to hold a bank account without having to reveal who the beneficiaries of Company T are. A second part was paid to an agent company registered in Mauritius and acting for the alleged bribery perpetrators into an account held by a high street British bank, HSBC. This company, as we observed is a ‘shell’ company, a fictional entity more or less existing for no other worthwhile reason than to facilitate scummy transactions. These types of companies abound in offshore secrecy jurisdictions. Mauritius, like other offshore secrecy jurisdictions, provides a place for illicit money to hide and be later cleaned up and integrated into the legitimate financial system.
Mauritius found itself also embroiled with tax matters involving another of the companies remotely linked to the web of illicit finance discussed above. I am talking about Vodafone and the Indian government’s pursuit of the company for capital gains taxes. The story dates back to 2007 and is told by a publication of Christian Aid as follows: Mauritius and India have a Double Taxation Avoidance agreement. One of the implications of this agreement is that if a company considers itself resident in Mauritius (meaning it pays taxes in Mauritius) and if this company does not have permanent establishment in India, then if such a company owns shares in an Indian company, the sale of these shares will not attract capital gains tax in India. This allows companies registered as Mauritian companies to avoid paying capital gains taxes of between 10 per cent and 40 per cent in India which will be payable under Indian law. This means that Indian companies or other companies can register in Mauritius as tax residents simply by paying a small fee and receiving a certificate. To obtain this certificate, such a company merely needs to ensure that at least two directors are Mauritian, that they maintain a bank account in Mauritius and appoint an auditor.
Here is where Vodafone comes in. Vodafone acquires an Indian telephone company Hutchison Essar Ltd (HEL) which was owned by a Hong Kong based company, Hutchison for US$11bn. Vodafone and Hutchison then incorporate companies in Mauritius and the Cayman Islands to hold the shares of HEL and to conduct the transaction. By so doing, they both sought to avoid capital gains tax estimated by lawyers to be in the region of US$2bn. Vodafone argued that the transaction was between two offshore entities and was outside India’s jurisdiction, it was by a non-resident, with another non-resident in respect of the transfer of a shares of a company which was also non-resident. India on the other hand, argued that as the assets were in India, the deal was liable to capital gains tax and in any case according to Indian law the buyer had the obligation to deduct and withhold capital gains tax.
This story of the exploitation of offshore tax havens jurisdictions by companies to avoid tax is a microcosm of the bigger picture of illicit flows. The exploitation of Mauritius’ offshore status is not only by international companies, but also crucially by Indian companies and rich individuals who set up shell companies such as the one owned by Sameer Investments, basically to shift money out of India (and this case, Kenya) and to take advantage of the Double Taxation Avoidance Act, avoid paying taxes or to clean out dirty money.
Bizarrely, these same players then return these monies to India as foreign investors in order to benefit from tax concessions. This is called ‘round-tripping’. This is why the tiny palm beach island of Mauritius is the biggest foreign investor in India. It accounts for nearly 50 per cent of all FDI (foreign direct investment) inflows into India. FDI inflows from Mauritius to India amounted to US$20bn cumulatively between 2000-2007. This is Indians, concealing money in Mauritius and taking it back as investors and doubly cheating both the Indian poor and those who pay their fair share of taxes. Maybe if we look carefully into the data we might find a significant volume of Mauritian FDI coming into Kenya. Who knows whether some of it isn’t the alleged bribery monies round-tripping.
THE WORLD OF ILLICIT CAPITAL FLOWS – THE PERMISSIBLE CONDITIONS
I intend to draw out in greater detail the role of the key players that drive, sustain and thrive on illicit capital flows. In the concluding part I merely want to draw out briefly, some of the dynamics underpinning the world of dirty money flows.
1) POLITICIANS, ‘BUNGA BUNGA’ PARTIES AND THE PEOPLE
It comes down to the motivation of people in politics and their ethics. If all you care for is being rich and powerful, even when the people you are supposed to be serving languish in poverty and suffering you will identify with Papi Silvio who, when confronted with a bribery case proclaimed that ‘If I, in taking care of everyone’s interests, also take care of my own, you can’t talk about a conflict of interest.’
If all that matters is to manipulate political institutions and law to serve your greedy interest, then you could also do no better than Papi Silvio. Confronted by a group of ‘Clean hands’ prosecutors determined to nail him for fraud and tax evasion and unearth the hundreds of millions of dollars he stashed away in tax havens and offshore secrecy jurisdictions, Papi Silvio, responded by putting his legal team in charge of re-writing the laws, installed a number as the head of the Justice Commission, made his own personal tax lawyer the minister of economy and finance, and made his three henchmen in legal trouble parliamentarians so they would enjoy immunity.
Not surprisingly, parliament decriminalised the type of accounting he was accused of using to channel bribes; tax evaders suddenly had amnesty. Faced with a charge of bribing a judge, Papi Silvio had a new law passed granting immunity from prosecution to Italy’s highest ranking leaders. There is lot more juice in Vanity Fair’s ‘Dolce Viagra’ story if you are interested – including of course the story of the string of sexy babes. I am sure that Papi Silvio’s behaviour resonates with the experiences of our countries, some of which have been highlighted in the NLM article on how Kenya’s parliament was leaned upon to make laws favourable to the concealment of wealth.
The point is this, whether it is in poor or rich countries, integrity in public service is necessary to minimise bribery and dirty money. Institutions and rules help but individuals bear moral responsibility. So Okemo and Gichuru have personal moral responsibility that no legal argument can make good. But of course institutions help and public scrutiny is essential. We shall revert to this issue in the concluding part of this article.
2) RENT-SEEKING PRIVATE SECTOR AND ENABLING DOMESTIC ENVIRONMENT OF CORRUPTION AND DIRTY MONEY FLOWS
The mantra that ‘the private sector is the engine for growth’ is not true of all who operate in the private sector. There are those who making profit by adding value to goods and services, and then consume, reinvest and pay tax on these profits. These are the engine for growth and transformation. There are criminal elements in the private sector and there are those who merely become wealthy through unproductive rent-seeking activities such as speculative activities, corrupt activities, and aggressive tax avoidance behaviour. This lot are prone to colluding with equally rent-seeking politicians to break or exploit loopholes in the law. These are the ones that aggressively seek channels to conceal wealth generated from activities that are illegal or bordering on the illegal. They turn to invest heavily in mutually corrupting relationships with the biggest political actors in the country and warrant the term, ‘politically exposed persons’. These strong personally and mutually corrupting relations are necessary for dirty money to be accumulated, concealed and transferred. The Oremo and Gichiru case demonstrate this clearly. The key here is transparency in all dealings. This requires rules, but more importantly a vigilant society.
3) A GLOBAL NETWORK OF LEGALLY ACCEPTABLE BUT MORALLY REPUGNANT PROVIDERS OF SECRECY AND TAX AVOIDANCE AND EVASION SERVICES
Democracy is impossible without transparency and with it, accountability. To permit jurisdictions to thrive by depriving other jurisdictions of their share of wealth and revenues simply by enacting and enforcing laws designed to undermine their regulations and deny them a legitimate share of revenues is morally reprehensible. This is the reality of tax havens and secrecy jurisdictions, without which the movement of dirty money across boundaries would be severely constrained. A democratic society must not permit this. This can be defeated by collective rage of citizens, effective campaigning and simple rule changes.
4) THE BANKING, ACCOUNTANCY, LEGAL AND INTERNATIONAL FINANCE PROFESSIONS ARE DESIGNERS, THE IMPLEMENTERS, THE MAJOR BENEFICIARIES AND THE JUDGES AND JURIES OF THE SYSTEM THAT FACILITATES THE MOVEMENT OF DIRTY MONEY
These professions need not thrive from doing harm to the poorest people but the system is too lucrative for self-regulation. Given their influence, formal regulation is unlikely to succeed without organised citizen pressure and a strong and effective judiciary. We shall return to this.
5) A DORMANT CIVIL SOCIETY AND BLINKERED PRESS
Secrecy damages society. There is no doubt about that. Yet there is not enough outrage about the fact that the law in Kenya (and many other places) permits companies to register and make money without having to identify who are the persons behind them. This is the one rule in the registration of companies laws that must changed and changed urgently if the fight against corruption to be meaningful. The media should be screaming ‘murder’ if they are interested in democracy and they should look beyond the reprehensible behaviour of individual politicians and public servants to the system that perpetuates the harbouring and movement of dirty money or clean money illicitly.
Whilst this first part has concentrated on technicalities, we need to keep in mind the implications of the illicit money. It thrives on inequality and perpetuates inequality; it enriches a few and keeps the majority in desperate poverty and without jobs; IT KILLS.
* Charles Abugre is the regional director for Africa, United Nations Millennium Campaign.
* This article first appeared on Charles Abugre’s blog, Righting tomorrow.
Fighting the minerals-petroleum-coal complex’s wealth
Patrick Bond and Khadija Sharife
When African National Congress youth leader Julius Malema recently proposed the mining industry’s partial nationalisation - and then last week asked, quite legitimately, ‘what is the alternative?’ to those in the SA Communist Party (SACP) and Business Leadership South Africa who threw cold water at him - a debate of enormous ideological magnitude opened up in public, which workers, communities and environmentalists have already joined in their myriad struggles.
For those of us in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, awareness of mining’s foibles is vital for several reasons. These include new scientific findings about overestimated coal industry reserves; SACP leader Jeremy Cronin’s recent useful suggestion to ‘phase out aluminum smelters’ at the vast Richards Bay port (and we might add, at Durban’s killer-manganese Assmang at Cato Ridge which alone chews a third of our city’s electricity); and the global climate summit that Durban hosts in November-December.
It is no secret that the COP17 will be embarrassing for South Africa, not only because Durban will host the demise of the Kyoto Protocol’s binding commitments, due largely to the destructive influence of the US, Japan and the European Union. WikiLeaks revealed Washington’s bad habits - bullying, bribery and blackmail - when promoting the non-binding 2009 Copenhagen Accord, a sham of a climate agreement. Pathetically, SA president Jacob Zuma played into the hands of the major polluters as an original signatory.
Expect more UN wreckage on 9 December, closing day. But that aside, the main reason that Pretoria faces embarrassment is increasing local awareness of SA’s coal-fired electricity dirty laundry. This is a result of the way that mining houses - especially Anglo American Corporation and BHP Billiton - have managed to monopolise the world’s cheapest energy while poor people are so overcharged that they face widespread disconnection.
FIGHTING FOR ELECTRICITY, WATER AND HEALTH
This month alone, high-profile resistance included the burning of municipal councilors’ houses over high prices and prepayment metres in Soweto, residents’ attacks on Eskom officials engaged in power cuts in the small northern city of Tzaneen, and, here in Durban’s Kennedy Road, successful protests against a municipal subcontractor chopping illegal electricity connections.
South Africa’s ‘Minerals-Energy Complex’ - a phrase coined by former trade and industry director-general Zav Rustomjee and British economist Ben Fine -has become a barrier to society’s balanced development and also a threat of great magnitude to the local and global environment. As last month’s diagnostic document from the new planning ministry admitted: ‘SA’s economy is highly resource intensive and we use resources inefficiently. As a result we are starting to face some critical resource constraints, e.g. water.’
Eskom is the biggest water consumer, so as to cool Mpumalanga power plants. The coal burned in the process has ruined many rivers, and so badly polluted the Kruger Park that hundreds of crocodiles have died.
The main beneficiary, whose smelters guzzle more than a tenth of SA electricity, is BHP Billiton, headquartered in Melbourne though rooted in South Africa through the Afrikaner-owned Gencor mining house. Eskom’s annual report admits BHP Billiton was given a $200 million subsidy last year thanks to apartheid-era deals, and was responsible for Eskom’s $1.4 billion loss the year before.
This is why our wealth is a ‘resource curse’. Dating back to the discovery of Kimberley diamonds in the 1860s and Witwatersrand gold in the 1880s, a handful of corporations gained power over national development policy. At one point, Anglo American and De Beers - run mainly by the Oppenheimer family dynasty - controlled almost half the country’s gold and platinum, a quarter of the coal, and virtually all the diamonds, with critical stakes in banking, steel, auto, electronics, agriculture and many other industries.
According to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the mining industry’s ‘direct involvement with the state in the formulation of oppressive policies or practices that resulted in low labour costs (or otherwise boosted profits) can be described as first-order involvement [in apartheid]…The shameful history of subhuman compound [hostel] conditions, brutal suppression of striking workers, racist practices and meager wages is central to understanding the origins and nature of apartheid.’
The legacy of Minerals-Energy Complex political power continues, as witnessed by the World Bank’s 2010 financing of Eskom’s new coal-fired mega power plant Medupi and other foreign finance for its successor Kusile (the world’s third and fourth largest), the energy ministry’s multi-decade integrated resource planning exercise - run by a committee dominated by electricity-guzzling corporations - and Pretoria’s contributions to global climate debates. These include the COP17, Zuma’s co-chairing of a UN sustainable development commission, and Planning Minister Trevor Manuel’s role as co-chair of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) design team, which seeks $100 billion a year in North-South flows.
Last week at a Tokyo GCF meeting, Manuel suppressed debate requested by Nicaragua about World Bank conflicts of interest, for it provides input to the huge fund as well as serving as interim trustee, against UN procedure.
Instead of paying reparations for ‘climate debt’, the GCF appears to cement existing power structures, and instead of raising funds from polluters in the North to deter emissions, potentially half of the fund might come from carbon trading (a suggestion by Manuel), which will prolong Northern corporate climate destruction. No doubt we will learn soon of GCF funding of ‘false solutions’ to the climate crisis, such as nuclear, carbon capture and storage, biofuels and whacky geo-engineering schemes (sulfur in the air to shut out the sun, or iron filings in the sea to create algae blooms).
Minerals-Energy Complex ecocide extends to Johannesburg’s acid mine drainage crisis. Mine tailings dams composed of waste material measure 400 square kilometers, alongside six billion tons of iron sulphide, which, exposed to air and water, creates acid mine water which drains into the water table. The combination is devastating, especially when added to the coal mine pollution further east on the country’s best agricultural land, not to mention hundreds of thousands of workers’ silicosis and tuberculosis, traced by Durban’s Health Systems Trust to the mines.
These legacies mean that even if Malema has won the spotlight, mining and energy firms are consistently criticised by labour, communities and environmentalists. The problem so far has been divisions of interest that prevent them from coming together effectively, a problem that needs to be urgently solved, certainly before the COP17 Conference of Polluters begins.
On the positive side, it is now certain that 3 December is a global day of civil society protest action, with a march against climate change culminating at the Durban beachfront - South Africa’s leading public space with unusually mixed class and race access - for a ‘going away party’ to the receding sand. What is needed next is a strategy to ratchet up pressure as protesters pass by the International Convention Centre, Durban’s City Hall and the US Consulate, and generate consensus on the next stage of commitment.
Amongst the world’s highest profile climate activists is Greenpeace International director Kumi Naidoo, who in his Durban youth learned and practiced the highest arts of democratic advocacy within the Natal Indian Congress and anti-apartheid youth structures. Last month, Naidoo scaled a Greenland deep-sea oil platform to present 50,000 signatures against dangerous Arctic drilling. A fortnight later, his Johannesburg comrades dumped five tonnes of coal at Eskom’s headquarters in Johannesburg’s northern suburbs to protest the climate-catastrophic Kusile powerplant construction.
With extreme weather events worsening in recent months, who can doubt the imperative to get what Naidoo terms a fair, ambitious and binding (FAB) deal? Such a superhuman, genuinely multilateral effort has been tried once before, in the 1987 ‘Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer’, which banned chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) emissions by 1996, in the nick of time.
Since then, nothing else attempted by elite global negotiators aside from AIDS-medicines access - granting an exemption to intellectual property rights at the 2001 Doha World Trade Organisation summit, driven from below by the Treatment Action Campaign - has properly addressed world-scale economic, environmental and geopolitical crises. Nothing, really.
Blame the neoliberalism of the 1990s or the neoconservatism of the 2000s or Barack Obama’s fusion of the two vicious ideologies since then, but it’s usually vested corporate interests that block progress, impose austere economic imperatives (as is even hitting home for western workers from Greece to Wisconsin) which in turn generate even more desperation for ‘growth’ at any cost, and then ignore their historic responsibility for climate-change culpability.
Top US State Department negotiator Todd Stern, who has already publicly written off the COP17 on two occasions, put it plainly at the Copenhagen COP in 2009: 'The sense of guilt or culpability or reparations - I just categorically reject that.’
That bad attitude is why Greenpeace and others in society passionate about the environment are so desperately needed, putting their bodies on the line to dramatise the threats and solutions. And why unity on strategy and messaging is vital.
DIVERGENT NGO PATHS
But as an Australian civil society unity initiative (‘Say Yes’) six weeks ago showed, this is not easy. Two activists at the website ‘Climate Code Red’, David Spratt and John Rice, ask tough questions about the Australian climate lobby: ‘Do the branding imperatives of large NGOs, financially reliant on e-list supporters, drive them to market themselves as separate and distinct from, and of higher standing, than other NGOs and the community groups with which they profess common purpose? Is this one reason why climate advocacy is so often chronically divided and ineffective?’
Adds Desmond D’Sa of the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance, ‘Greenpeace did a good action against Eskom, but where were they when we ran our community campaign against World Bank financing for Medupi last year? Why don’t they support local activism?’
These complaints join others about Greenpeace’s naïve climate policy messaging: supporting Pretoria’s negotiating stand in Copenhagen and encouraging Zuma to turn up on the last day even though, predictably, he sabotaged the Kyoto Protocol there; supporting SA tourism minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk to head the UN climate body though he was a laggard at home; and supporting carbon trading (what critics term ‘the privatiSation of the air’) even though at Durban’s massive Bisasar Road landfill, that strategy for financing methane-to-electricity has locked in environmental racism.
But in this time of urgency, the challenge is to find common cause amongst all the visitors to Durban. For in contrast to the hopelessness of a UN conference where procrastination, paralysis, pollution and profit will probably beat the interests of the people and the planet, it’s the indomitable spirit of Greenpeace staff and those like them, willing to take huge personal risks for the sake of the planet and people, that will shine through.
One reason is the host locale, Durban, whose 20th century legacy of heroic figures willing to make great sacrifices includes Dube, Luthuli, Naicker, Meer, Biko, dockworkers, community activists, women’s groups, the Diakonia faith community, the Mxenges, Turner, Brutus and so many others. The most compelling for climate politics may well be Mahatma Gandhi, who a century ago in his Phoenix settlement in northern Durban built up a tradition that needs revival today: Satyagraha, putting bodies on the line in search of truth, to shake the system and avert its destructive course.
The same spirit of civil disobedience is being invoked in Washington against the Canada-US tar-sands/pipeline complex in late August, with a host of leading climate activists including Maude Barlow, Wendell Berry, Tom Goldtooth, Danny Glover, James Hansen, Wes Jackson, Naomi Klein and Bill McKibben (http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/06/23).
The desire of those promoting climate justice in Durban is to evoke that earlier round of protests at the SA embassy in Washington a quarter century ago, which conjoined international solidarity to militant activism in the townships and in turn led to sanctions and the fall of a regime. This one is bigger and will fall more slowly - but for our survival the Minerals-Energy Complex will have to take the same course as apartheid.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* Patrick Bond and Khadija Sharife are at the University of KwaZulu-Natal Centre for Civil Society: http://ccs.ukzn.ac.za
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
* Earth Grab: Geopiracy, the New Biomassters and Capturing Climate Genes, a forthcoming title from Pambazuka Press, analyses how Northern governments and corporations are cynically using growing concerns about the ecological and climate crisis to propose geoengineering 'quick fixes'. These threaten to wreak havoc on ecosystems, with disastrous impacts on the people of the global South. As calls for a 'greener' economy mount and oil prices escalate, corporations are seeking to switch from oil-based to plant-based energy.
Magnus Malan and crimes against humanity in Africa
General Magnus Malan, the chief architect of the total onslaught of the apartheid military, passed away on 18 July 2011. This total onslaught strategy was the idea that South Africa was threatened by a communist conspiracy and that the South African apartheid state must respond with economic, political, ideological, psychological and military tools to defend capitalism and white supremacy. Malan was minister of defence for 11 years (1980–1991), and it was under his tenure that the apartheid war machine spread death and destruction across Africa. Under his tenure as minister of defence this illegal state decided to weaponise biology. The results are still being felt across Africa today with the ramifications of the biological warfare project that was called Project Coast. Malan’s life and death should remind young people that the fight for freedom must be sustained in as much as the economic, military and political vestiges of apartheid still threaten total emancipation. Africans may occupy positions of political power in South Africa but the economic legacies of apartheid are very much flourishing.
Internationally, the crimes of the Nazis are condemned. German society no longer celebrates Hitler and the Nazis as great leaders, but in South Africa the publishing houses and think-tanks that were nourished and financed by Magnus Malan thrive and distort history. Many of these think-tanks have changed their names, but not their basic philosophy. Yet the people of South Africa have tried to transcend the ideation system of revenge and bitterness. The people have attempted to draw on the principles of Ubuntu in practice. Hiding behind the new philosophy of Ubuntu, the war criminals of South Africa have sought to rehabilitate themselves as servants of the South African state and as fighters against communism. The central place of the military in the processes of accumulation and enrichment has been taken over by sections of the African National Congress (ANC). Younger South Africans must work harder to completely understand the real consequences of apartheid and to remember that one cannot dismantle the system with the same ideas that built it.
APARTHEID AS A CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY
Magnus Malan was born into white privilege in South Africa in 1930 when the ideas of Hitler and white supremacy had not yet taken over the leadership of the organisation that was to later become the National Party. By the end of the Second World War, the National Party had completely absorbed the ideas and principles of Nazism and codified them into a series of laws and forms of organising society that still cripple South Africa to this day. Operating through a secretive organisation called the Afrikaner Broederbond, some of the adherents of the National Party had been interned during Second World War because of their overt support for Adolf Hitler and the ideas of the Nazis. This National Party came to power in 1948 and through the period 1948 to 1990 this party articulated a set of principles that entrenched white minority rule. Apartheid as a doctrine codified and structured life in society with brutal force and super-exploitation. Malan was born in the period when the administrative system had relegated blacks to ‘reserves’, but the demand for labour brought Africans into the urban areas where they were dumped into marginal and police-controlled areas called townships. Malan matured within the secret order of the Afrikaner Broederbond and became one of the principal thinkers for the military plans for the next three decades.
This system of apartheid controlled every aspect of the lives of Africans and other oppressed peoples called ‘Coloured’ and ‘Indians’. Masters and servants ordinances and the pass laws defined the position of Africans and regulated their freedom of movement. The Group Areas Act, the Native Land Act, the Population Registration Act, the Reservation and Separate Amenities Act and the Suppression of Communism Act were all part of the legal basis for the consolidation of the South African form of Nazism that was called apartheid. When Africans opposed these draconian measures they were shot down in the streets, with the Sharpeville Massacre of 1961 standing as one of the most notorious actions of this militarised society.
Malan joined the military after graduating from the University of Pretoria and was sent to the United States to train over the period 1962–1963. It was during this time that Magnus Malan strengthened ties with conservative and racist military forces within the US military establishment. After rising through the ranks of the apartheid military, Malan was promoted to become chief of the army (1973–1976), and chief of the defence forces (1976–1980). He was appointed minister of defence in 1980 and served in this position until 1991.Those US military personnel who want to establish relations with Africa would do well to research and expose the linkages of Malan to the US military establishment so that the present generation would be aware of the collaboration between the US military and apartheid.
MALAN AND TOTAL STRATEGY
Despite the efforts to crush the resistance of the people, the organised and spontaneous opposition to apartheid galvanised an international movement. Malan fancied himself as a military intellectual who had studied the campaigns of France in Algeria and the British in Kenya and Malaysia. After the independence of Angola and Mozambique in 1975 and the massive uprisings of Soweto in 1976, Malan and the thinkers of the apartheid state came up with the military doctrine of 'total strategy'. This strategy was supposed to be the apartheid regime's response to what it perceived as a multi-dimensional 'total onslaught' against the South African state.
To carry forward this strategy the military became central to the reproduction of state power. This was reflected not only in the links between the military and industry, epitomised in the Armaments Corporation of South Africa (ARMSCOR), but also in the militarisation of the state and society. Under Magnus Malan and Prime Minister P.W. Botha, the management techniques of the South African Defence Forces were harnessed to militarise every aspect of life. Total Strategy meant that the apartheid state mobilised economic, military, political, medical, information, cultural and psychological tools to preserve capitalism and white supremacy. Malan was at the top of an aggressive state organised under a National Security Management System (NSMS). An inner war cabinet called the State Security Council linked the military to local administrative structures through joint management committees and a decentralised system of 'security management' at all levels.
This Total Strategy received a boost after the election of Margaret Thatcher in Britain in 1979 and Ronald Reagan in the United States in 1980. Through a series of meetings with William Casey of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the USA, there was a decision to intensify the wars against the peoples of South Africa and the region as a whole. The long-term plans of the South African State Security Council merged well with the anti-communist policies of the Reagan administration. The United States supported apartheid and acted as a buffer for apartheid when the United Nations wanted to impose stricter sanctions. It was in this period when intellectuals such as Chester Crocker (who was by then the US’s assistant secretary of state for African affairs) became international spokespersons for the defence of apartheid on the grounds that the South African state was in the frontline struggle against communism. The liberation movements of South Africa were labelled as terrorist organisations and Nelson Mandela was kept in jail as the number-one terrorist.
MAGNUS MALAN AS A WAR CRIMINAL UNDER THE UN CONVENTION
The local struggles against apartheid inspired an international movement, and in this struggle the South African apartheid state became isolated in the court of international public opinion. In 1973 the General Assembly of the United Nations had under the Apartheid Convention declared that apartheid was a crime against humanity and that ‘inhuman acts resulting from the policies and practices of apartheid and similar policies and practices of racial segregation and discrimination’ were international crimes.
Article 2 of the Apartheid Convention defined the crime of apartheid, stating that it ‘shall include similar policies and practices of racial segregation and discrimination as practiced in southern Africa.’ This extended to ‘inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them’. It then listed the acts that fell within the ambit of the crime. These included murder, torture, inhuman treatment and arbitrary arrest of members of a racial group; deliberate imposition on a racial group of living conditions calculated to cause its physical destruction; legislative measures that discriminate in the political, social, economic and cultural fields; measures that divide the population along racial lines by the creation of separate residential areas for racial groups; the prohibition of interracial marriages; and the persecution of persons opposed to apartheid.
International criminal responsibility was to apply to individuals, members of organisations and representatives of the state who commit, incited or conspired to commit the crime of apartheid.
This position was again stated explicitly at the Second World Conference against Racism in Geneva in 1983.
Under this UN convention Malan qualified as a war criminal for the systematic oppression that had been meted out against the peoples of South Africa and the region as a whole. While South Africa faced diplomatic isolation with the support of the US military and intelligence, the South African military created proxy armies such as the MNR (Mozambique National Resistance) in Mozambique and supported ‘leaders’ such as Jonas Savimbi in Angola.
It was during the tenure of Magnus Malan that the South African armed forces, like swarms of locusts, left death and destruction in their wake. It was estimated by UN sources that by the end of apartheid over $80 billion dollars’ worth of destruction and economic damage had been wreaked across the region of Southern Africa. Over two million persons were killed, maimed, displaced or made refugees as the SADF (South African Defence Force) fought across the breadth of southern Africa. In Angola, SADF fought both a conventional and irregular war (justified in the West as a fight against a Soviet/Cuban threat to Western strategic resources), and in Namibia apartheid South Africa deployed over 100,000 troops to fight a counter-insurgency war against the South West African Peoples' Organisation (SWAPO of Namibia). In Mozambique the apartheid regime organised a war to destabilise Frelimo, and in the other front-line states the South African regime carried out economic sabotage.
Despite this 'total strategy' the military failed to crush the rebellion of the South African masses at their places of work, in the townships and in schools. The resistance of the people took numerous forms. This resistance inspired a large international movement. Magnus Malan deployed troops in the urban townships and unleashed permanent terror against the poor.
The South African armed forces, in collaboration with some elements in the US government, attempted to impose Jonas Savimbi on Angola. They launched a three-phase operation called ‘Modular, Hooper and Packer’ to destroy Angola. This military invasion was stopped at Cuito Cuanavale and the South Africans were decisively defeated. Despite this defeat the propaganda and psychological warfare of the apartheid state had been so entrenched that it was difficult to sell to the white supremacists the idea that the whites were defeated in battle. After the overthrow of overt apartheid, Malan wrote his own memoirs of this battle, claiming that the South African state won at Cuito Cuanavale. This was published in his memoirs, ‘Magnus Malan: My Life with the South African Defence Forces’.
Before the independence of Zimbabwe, the South Africans and the Rhodesian military developed a weaponised form of anthrax that it deployed against the African people. It was under the leadership of Magnus Malan as minister of defence where the dreaded Project Coast was initiated. We now know some of the criminal actions that were carried out from the testimonies at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). Malan and P.W. Botha recruited Dr Wouter Basson to coordinate an offensive chemical and biological warfare (CBW) programme. Basson under Malan ran the CBW program during the 1980s and early 1990s in a desperate effort to save this system of oppression. Testimonies before the TRC highlighted the fact that this Project Coast,
‘… developed lethal chemical and biological weapons that targeted ANC political leaders and their supporters as well as populations living in the black townships. These weapons included an infertility toxin to secretly sterilize the black population; skin-absorbing poisons that could be applied to the clothing of targets; and poison concealed in products such as chocolates and cigarettes.
‘… released cholera strains into water sources of certain South African villages and provided anthrax and cholera to the government troops of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) during the late 1970s to use against the rebel soldiers in the guerrilla war.’
In the book ‘Medical Apartheid’, Harriet Washington summed up the extent of this grand plan to weaponise biology. She wrote that in response to the massive anti-apartheid struggles:
‘apartheid politicians and scientists funded research and development of exotic biological and chemical weapons for use against the black majority so that the power of weaponized biological might help the white minority to destroy its opponents without firing a shot.’
Project Coast researched the development of deadly bacteria that would only affect blacks.
With many of the books and articles on these bizarre criminal acts focusing on Wouter Basson – who was the lead scientist of Project Coast – not enough attention has been placed on Magnus Malan, who was the minister of defence and responsible for the massive funds that were disbursed for these biological warfare programmes. The manufacture of illicit drugs, money laundering and the establishment of front companies offshore were all perfected under Magnus Malan. At the international level, the relationships between the work of Magnus Malan, Wouter Basson and biological warfare experts in the USA needs to be placed in the public domain. It is known that William Casey enjoyed a very close and cosy relationship with Magnus Malan, and that through their networks Wouter Basson worked closely with US scientists.
MANDELA AND THE PRINCIPLES OF UBUNTU
It was an ironic historical twist that Magnus Malan passed away on the 93rd birthday of Nelson Mandela on 18 July 2011. It was under Malan that the biological warfare experts had contemplated how to infect Mandela and other incarcerated leaders with toxins so that they would die shortly after being released from prison and it would appear that they died from cancer.
Even after the release of Mandela when it was clear that apartheid was on its last legs, Malan was still organising death squads and fomenting violence to make the wars seem as black-on-black violence. As minister of defence, Malan was responsible for paramilitary death squads (called the Civil Cooperation Bureau) that operated against civilians in the East Rand townships. Malan organised the financing of the Inkatha thugs who were the instruments of state terror.
Malan was finally removed from his position as minister of defence in 1991 and moved to the Department of Water Affairs. On 2 November 1995 Malan was charged together with other former senior military officers for murdering 13 people (including seven children) in the KwaMakhutha massacre of 1987. After a trial lasting seven months he was acquitted. His acquittal and that of Wouter Basson were striking examples of how the current political leaders were compromised and failed to do the kind of political and information work that would establish the criminal past of these white supremacists.
Ubuntu and the ideas of forgiveness are important principles, but while embracing the principles of Ubuntu, Africans cannot forget the past because the legacies and consequences of the weaponisation of biology are still being felt across Africa. More important is the reality that the ANC has refused to do the kind of educational work that would teach the younger generation about the realities of apartheid. I was pained when I was in South Africa recently when in discussions with very young students there was the view that neoliberal capitalism is what South Africa needs.
The government of the African National Congress integrated itself into the institutions of the apartheid state. One component of this integration is the continued use of the military and weapons procurement as a field for enrichment by political and military leaders. DENEL, the successor to ARMSCOR, has been at the centre of allegations of massive bribery, kickbacks and corruption.
DISMANTLING THE STRUCTURES THAT MAGNUS MALAN BUILT
Currently, the history of apartheid is being contested at every level and the passing of Malan has afforded one other opportunity for conservative forces to represent Malan as a ‘military strategist’ who was a technocrat. Throughout the Western world in the obituaries about his passing there was no mention of the criminal actions, especially the weaponisation of biology. It was very painful to interact with younger South Africans who do not know the history of the crimes of white supremacy and capitalism in South Africa. These youths are in institutions of higher learning where the ideas of free-market capitalism and white supremacy are taught as gospel.
Some of the leaders of the liberation movement have forgotten the sacrifices of the people and now send their children to the schools where the ideas of Magnus Malan are celebrated. These same leaders live in gated communities and for them apartheid is over because they have inherited the structures that were built by Hendrik Verwoerd, John Vorster, Magnus Malan and P.W. Botha. The social questions of apartheid are evident in every sphere of life in contemporary South Africa. Whether in the context of the health services, the educational system, housing, transportation or access to water and electricity, the poor and oppressed in South Africa are still struggling to dismantle apartheid. These struggles now manifest in massive confrontations over ‘service delivery’. To blunt these struggles some leaders support xenophobia and hostility towards other Africans in order to maintain the black empowerment clique in the business of making money from tenders. The passing of Magnus Malan offers one other occasion for a summing-up of the crimes against humanity that were committed so that the society can heal itself from these crimes. On the day Magnus Malan met his maker the people of South Africa were called upon to exhibit kindness by committing 67 minutes' worth of service in honour of the 67 years that Mandela worked for freedom in South Africa (from 1942 until his retirement from public life in 2009). We join in the celebration of the 93rd birthday of Nelson Mandela while calling on the next generation to grasp the need to transform the society beyond the traditions of Magnus Malan.
If they come for you, who will speak out?
The African National Congress’s (ANC) next elective congress is looming. Already, there are signs that President Jacob Zuma has lost the confidence of key constituencies in the ANC-led alliance, owing to indecisive leadership and his failure to re-orientate the state in a pro-poor direction. This growing disquiet among working class alliance members may well trigger a succession battle.
In response, the new elite clustered around Zuma could be tempted to fight back to retain power, using the same strategies that former president Thabo Mbeki and his fellow travellers used.
Fractious leadership conflicts within the ruling party should be of concern not only to ANC members. If left unchecked, they are bound to spill over into broader society. In the case of the Zuma–Mbeki battle, several state institutions were compromised as Mbeki’s supporters manipulated them in an attempt to keep Zuma out of office, especially the security cluster.
When he first came to office, Zuma promised to rise above Mbeki’s dirty politics and unify the party. But there are worrying signs suggesting that his supporters may be employing the very tactics used by Mbeki to ensure Zuma a second term of office.
Dumisani Mahaye is an ANC activist from the township of Wesselton near Ermelo in the Msukaligwa municipality. The municipality falls in what is without doubt the most treacherous province in the country for activists with principles, namely Mpumalanga.
Mahaye is a staunch Mbeki supporter. According to Mahaye, ‘Even a blind [person] can see that Zuma is not fit for office. The comrade is not disciplined. How can you have intercourse without protection? Everything that he has touched has had problems. He does not have what it takes.’
Mahaye maintains that he and other Mbeki supporters in the area are paying the price for having campaigned against Zuma as they are denied opportunities, while Zuma supporters are rewarded with jobs and tenders. According to Mahaye, ‘In my ward we supported Mbeki, but when the Zuma camp won, that is when they suppress you. They sabotaged all comrades who supported Mbeki.’
The Msukaligwa Community Committee, which he and his comrades formed, allege that residents need to produce ANC membership cards to qualify for employment. They allege further that tenders are only available to ANC members and a mining trust established in the area is also controlled by the ANC, and those ANC members who are not in favour with the new ruling elite are unable to access opportunities.
More specifically, the committee alleges that a powerful ANC member linked to the current premier, David Mabusa, controls deployment decisions in the area, starving Mabusa’s critics of resources. Furthermore, they allege individuals linked to Mabusa’s competitor for the premier position in 2008, Lassy Chiwayo, as well as ANC Provincial Executive Committee member, Fish Mahlalela, have been marginalised.
These grievances led to violent protests against the ANC-controlled council in February and Mahaye become the de facto spokesperson of this struggle.
After these protests, according to Mahaye, things took an ugly turn.
One night, he alleged that several armed policemen broke down the door to his house, saying they were looking for guns and petrol bombs. Mahaye said that in spite of the fact that they did not find anything, ‘They ordered me to lie down and pray, and after praying they said I must crawl to the car. In the car was someone who was involved in the protests who was beaten up to show directions. Both of us had to pray in the big van until we got to the police station.’
‘Then they gave us to the Hawks and Intelligence. We went to the control room [in the police station]. The first person introduced himself [as being] from the Middleburg Hawks. Some were from Nelspruit and Polokwane. They wanted to know who was paying me to instigate the protests. I was told I was supplying petrol bombs and that I was buying drugs for people. I was told to make it easy for myself otherwise I will be tortured. I denied all of this. That was when the torturing started.’
Mahaye lay on the floor, demonstrating how they made him lie on his stomach. Some sat on him, he claimed, while others forced his arms back over his head to the point where he could not breathe. He also claimed that they then smothered his face with plastic, and dipped his face into water to stop him from breathing, and repeated these actions over and over again.
According to Mahaye, ‘You feel that you are gonna die now. They make you say things that are wrong. Until I ended up admitting everything they wanted me to, that I made petrol bombs and was paid for the protests, that I was being paid by Lassie Chilwayo and Fish Mahlalela. I made five different statements about this. They tell you, we know what is going on. We are the Intelligence. You are paid by Bongani Phakati, Lassi and Fish. I was not the only one in the room. Thirty to forty people had been arrested. In each and every room you would hear screams.’
Mahaye was released several days after the alleged torture incident, by which time his injuries had almost healed. According to City Press journalist, Sizwe Sama Yende, who covered the Wesselton protests, other activists that were released at the same time complained of torture at the hands of the police. Sama Yende related, ‘Some said they were suffocated, others said they were kicked. Some were smothered with the tube [a piece of an inner tyre tube]. They were all asked the same questions. They were asked if they were linked to particular politicians.’
Sama Yende went on to explain, ‘The torture [of activists] has become quite common these days, especially in Mpumalanga. The police ask people political questions. They ask you, which faction do you affiliate to? [Former premier] Matthews Phosa is one name that comes up often, as are Mahlalela and Chiwayo.’
Provincial spokesperson for the Mpumalanga SAPS, Captain Leonard Hlati, declined to comment on Mahaye’s claims as the matter was under investigation by the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD). According to the ICD’s spokesperson Moses Dlamini, they are investigating the case. He said that a complicating factor in Mahaye’s case is that he did not consult with a doctor immediately after the incident.
It is unclear how widespread the phenomenon of political torture is beyond Mpumalanga. Activists from various social movements have alleged torture at the hands of the police in the past.
One of the most publicised cases in this regard took place in 2004, when several members of the Landless People’s Movement (LPM) alleged political torture at the hands of the police and the Crime Intelligence Division. They lost the criminal case at magistrate’s court level and did not pursue a civil case. Last year community leaders and their families from the former KwaNdebele homeland alleged that they were interrogated by members of the Middelburg Serious and Violent Crimes Unit who – they claimed – suffocated them with refuse bags and kicked, punched and electrocuted them.
Yet according to Wits University Law clinic attorney Peter Jordi, who specialises in civil torture claims, criminal suspects are the main victims of torture and not political activists, which implies either that political torture is not a widespread problem yet, or that political torture is a growing problem, but that this has not been recognised as such yet. Activists tend not to document police harassment, making it difficult to pinpoint trends with precision. However, the anecdotal evidence points to a problem.
According to Dlamini, South African law does not recognise torture as a discrete offence, but defined these cases as assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm. This means that statistics about the prevalence of torture are difficult to extrapolate. But according to Jordi, using anecdotal evidence from his own caseload, the use of torture in South African prisons has continued from the apartheid era, with a slight decline in the early 2000s. But, according to Jordi, ‘Now it is happening all over the place. They are torturing people for nothing.’
In a workshop on police torture in 2010, the ICD noted as one of its challenges the ‘code of silence and culture of cover-up prevalent in the police.’ Dlamini conceded that it was extremely difficult to investigate torture cases. However, they dealt with this problem by using specialist investigators.
Given what appears to be an upswing in the torture of criminals, it should surprise no one if South Africa experiences an upswing in political torture as well. Activists need to be both forewarned and forearmed with information, so that they know what to do if this happens to them.
The problem with torture cases internationally is that they are difficult to prove, especially criminal cases. The burden of proof differs between criminal and civil cases: in the former, the prosecution needs to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the torture took place, whereas in the latter, the judge decides on the basis of the less onerous test of the balance of probabilities.
The two most common methods used by the police are electrocution and suffocation where a rubber tube, towel, plastic bag or condom is placed over the head to stop the victim breathing. The victim’s head may also be placed in a bucket of water, which is consistent with Mahaye’s account.
Electrocution is easier to detect afterwards, as muscle damage can be picked up in blood samples, but the instrument favoured by police to administer the shocks – the dynamo used to power landline phones – is difficult to come by now. As a result, suffocation is becoming more prevalent, which is much more difficult to prove as little physical evidence is left afterwards.
An additional problem identified by Jordi is that the police who use torture have learned how to cover their tracks to prevent successful prosecutions. This is easier in criminal cases as the accused are aware of a pending case from the outset of the investigation and can therefore destroy evidence, whereas in civil cases, evidence can be assembled before the accused become aware that a case is pending. But victims need to act quickly and provide evidence within a week of the incident having taken place, as prospects for success taper off sharply after that. Medical examinations need to take place as soon as possible after the incident.
According to Jordi, the ICD rely on the police to undertake investigations into torture allegations, although they oversee the investigations. ‘You cannot rely on the police to investigate the police,’ he stated. By collecting direct and circumstantial evidence quickly, Jordi has won many civil cases for his clients.
Criminal cases are also traumatic for the victims, who may not want to continue with a civil case if they lose a criminal case. The LPM members who alleged torture never pursued the civil case after they lost the criminal case for lack of evidence, as the criminal trial was simply too discouraging. Furthermore, the prospects of an adverse costs order – always a risk in a civil case – was another chilling factor.
The ANC has a strong social democratic history, but it also has a history of intolerance of those who think differently in the liberation movement. Many ANC members have allowed this culture of intolerance to take root, failing to take individual or collective responsibility for the actions it has led to. Now it would seem that the chickens are coming home to roost.
While all citizens must take a stand against political intolerance, ANC members have a particular duty to do so, if this intolerance begins within the ranks of the organisation. As insiders, they are more likely than non-ANC members to be privy to how intolerance develops and is practiced.
The ANC forms the culture and identity of millions of South Africans. As a result, it will dominate the political landscape for some to come, in spite of signs of fragmentation of its support. Yet in spite of its dominance and the complacency it may breed, ANC members must think beyond their own noses on the need for political diversity.
It is in the long-term interests of each and every member to break the cycle of retribution against critics. Today, an ANC member may support a particular leader’s bid for the highest office in the ANC on the understanding that if that candidate wins, then the member will be rewarded with jobs and tenders. But tomorrow, if the member’s leader is deposed, then he or she may be subjected to the very treatment that those who fell out of favour were subjected to. This is an unsustainable way of running a political organisation; in time, the organisation will tear itself apart.
Then there are the civic duties of all South Africans to mobilise against intolerance. Crime-weary South Africans must not turn a blind eye to ordinary garden-variety torture of criminals, as tomorrow it could happen to them if they fall foul of the law. An ‘eye for an eye’ mentality can allow a culture of torture to take root in the security apparatus, which will affect criminals and non-criminals alike, including political critics.
South Africans should be especially concerned if specialist policing units like the Hawks and the ‘intelligence cluster’ are manipulated to stifle dissent, which is why Mahaye’s allegations should be taken so seriously and investigated to their conclusion.
This week’s revelations by the Sunday Times newspaper that its journalists Stephan Höfstatter and Mzilakazi wa Afrika are being harassed by members of the security and intelligence cluster is a clarion call to all citizens to demand transparency and accountability from this increasingly powerful part of government, which appears to be turning into the Praetorian Guard of the ruling elite.
To adapt Pastor Martin Niemöller’s famous ‘First they came…’ poem: First they came for the dissidents in exile and put them in the camps, and I did not speak out, because I was not a dissident. Then they came for the ‘Zim-Zims’ with tyres and matches, and I did not speak out, because I was a ‘Warara’. Then they came for the LPM supporters with rubber tubes, and I did not speak out, because I was not an LPM supporter. Then they came for the Mbeki supporters with plastic and buckets of water, and I did not speak, because I was a Zuma supporter. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out for me.
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* Professor Duncan is Highway Africa chair of media and information society, School of Journalism and Media Studies, Rhodes University.
* This article was first published by the South African Civil Society Information Service.
We should never have left Tahrir Square
Four months on, Egypt’s euphoria of 11 February has turned to anger and frustration against the military rulers who are proving to be as ruthless as the former regime. In response, hundreds of thousands of people began returning to Tahrir Square on Friday 8 July, to refocus on the direction of the revolution and to reiterate their demands for justice. This time too, even the Muslim Brotherhood have felt it necessary to show their presence.
‘The July 8 demo is looking like it could be big. Originally scheduled to deliver a ‘constitution first’ message, tomorrow's demo is now as much about demands for justice, outrage over recent acquittals of Mubarak-era ministers and the mistreatment of martyrs' families (with officers accused of shooting protesters let out on bail and their cases postponed recently)
‘The Muslim Brotherhood -- which has avoided recent protests, even going so far as to call protesters "traitors" -- has apparently had to fall in line with the popular mood (and its younger cadres' demands, most probably), and announced it will officially be participating. So will a lot of others, despite the tension and anxiety in the air these days. On twitter, at the fokakmenahlak ("split from your family") tag, young revolutionaries are sharing advice on how to get around over-protective parents and make it to Tahrir.’
The ‘split from your family’ is representative of the many fractures appearing in this attempted reincarnation of those glorious days in February. Then there was one voice, one purpose – to remove Mubarak. Then being Egyptian was simple. Now there are dozens of political parties, civil society groups and various alliances of activists all with their own ideas on the shape of a new Egypt and how it will be achieved. This was highlighted in a number of Twitter comments and conversations last week. @Zaynabon’s comment which was retweeted three times, reflects some generational differences:
@zaynabon: ‘Dad says protestors are trying to create a schism in Egyptian society, and eventually will hurt themselves b/c general public sick of them.’
The generational differences are echoed by @Zeinobia: ‘This revolution includes also a clash between generations, this is another part of our problem here’.
I doubt this is anything new as there were always those who were disturbed by the majority position. Of more concern was Leil Zahara’s comment on the ‘intellectual elite thinking for us and in our best interest’. This was followed by an extended exchange between @Alaa (Alaa Abd El Fattah) and @Gsquare86 (Gigi Ibrahim) over a meeting and why some people were not informed or only informed after the fact. Although I and many other readers are not privy to the details of actions taken, the conversation appeared to question decisions and procedures. It is worth pointing out that not only did this conversation take place in a public space, but that those involved were comfortable enough for this to happen which speaks to a willingness to be transparent even when it might be seen to be airing one’s dirty laundry in public.
In another set of tweets, Leil Zahara refers to the hostility towards street vendors many of whom had been accused of trouble making and collusion with the army. She connects that with the planned ‘Sharaf Tweet Up’ (face 2 face meeting of tweeters) which doesn’t seem to have gone down well with a number of tweeters
LeilZahra: Leil-Zahra Mortada & guess what, Om Ali who sells tea & got kicked out from #Tahrirtoday also doesn't give a fuck about #SharafTweetUp or all of your egos! 13 Jul
LeilZahra: Leil-Zahra Mortada I bet u Ahmad the street kid that sleeps next to our tent knows nothin about #SharafTweetUp nor give a shit about elite masturbation #Tahrir
Another twitter event is being organised for 26 July is the ‘TweetBack’ which will include some of Egypt’s most ‘notable tweeters and bloggers’. Sandmonkey explains:
‘The initiative is the first of its kind and aims to give back to Egypt by utilizing the power of social media at the time when the country is in most need of the support of companies and individuals such as yourselves. I think you’ll also find this interesting due to the novelty of the idea and the immense value it can add to your company’s perception and reputation.
“tweetback” is Egypt’s first social media-driven humanitarian fundraising initiative to support popular endeavors that aim to effect real change in the lives of Egyptians. **’
‘The tweetback is inviting companies foundations and charities to pledge donations to select NGOs. In return tweeters will announce the contributions to their network of followers....
‘In lead up to the event, the tweeps will do what they do best: create buzz about the initiative among their collective 250,000+ followers. They will also be on hand at the event to provide live updates about the donors at hashtag #tweetback.’
There are so many wonderful and creative innovations coming out of Egypt – new ways of using technologies for activism, art, poetry, ideas and journalism. Amongst the thousands of protesters and activist in Tahrir Square artists and writers have been documenting the revolution through graffiti and poetry. The Arabist publishes three poems by by Egyptian poet Kareem Abdulsalam. This first one reminds us of the days when the army were friends of the revolution.
What Comes From a Cop
Armored cars Boxes of perfected fear. We thought they were divine creatures come to crush us as native Americans first looked at horses. We thought death itself sprang from them.
Armored car Went up in flames And the policeman inside struggled against the tongues of fire Fought against fear.
When we rescued him, He joined the rebellion.
From Arabawy, here are some photos of graffit and artists at work
Ahmad Nady is an comic artist and cartoonist, has been in Tahrir from the beginning where he was beaten up several times by members of the ‘Popular Committees’. He started drawing to fill in the many empty hours.
‘Other than that, when I returned to Tahrir Square we had a lot of time sitting and waiting there so I started drawing. This attracted people who gathered to look at what I was doing with interest. So I started brainstorming with them and then I would pick the idea I like and develop it and draw it. At other times I would draw a cartoon and ask the people to suggest comments and then I would write the best comment. Then I would ask people to clap and all this made of it a fun show. Outside the square I also started posting political articles and begin discussions of political issues on my Facebook page’
No to trying poor people in military courts!
(Officer on horse: So that you stop pretending that you are a tough man.
Man being dragged: But I thought there was a revolution!)
The Rolling Bulb – new ideas in journalism is an exciting, refreshing website with a mix of art, popular culture, writing and technology – a kind of ‘pop revolutionary’ space.
Each of the contributors has their own blog and each one is a treasure of writing, art and photography. One idea they raise is that of a popular roadmap for Egypt. This would be achieved through a questionnaire starting with Tahrir Square and eventually replicated in every city and town.
‘These questionnaires can be distributed to Tahrir-goers as they enter the square, with ballot boxes placed centrally in plain view to deposit your filled out questionnaire. At the end of the day of protest, we would have won more than our angst and dissatisfaction with the powers that be, and would have gained valuable insight that may very well change the course and direction of our revolution.
‘A policy booklet will then be compiled using the data gathered, entirely based on the input of a wide spectrum of Egyptian people who usually show up at Tahrir: different ages, classes, educational backgrounds, cultures, etc.
‘And if the concept proves a success, it can be replicated throughout other cities, villages, and towns in Egypt.
‘Our revolution is not only backed by the voice of dissent & feelings of dissatisfaction, but it is also backed by hardcore knowledge and understanding. This in time will inevitably win more people, who may have not trusted the revolutionaries before, to our just cause.’
In Tahrir Square: the strengths and weaknesses of a nation, Gazeer recounts some of the conversations in the early days of Tahrir:
‘The second wave of protests have met with some response from the government for example, the military may agree to elections in November instead of the original date of September giving everyone more time to prepare; the draft electoral law has been finalised and includes enabling parties to put women at the top of the list but does away with the women’s quota; the PM is “said” to be negotiating the terms of a cabinet reshuffle and could include a reshuffle of governors; nearly 600 police generals have been retired and redeployment of some 4000 officials in the Ministry of Interior; promises have been made to televise the court proceedings in the trials of former members of the regime. (The Arabist). The list of demands are as follows:
1) The immediate release of all civilians who have been sentenced by military court and their retrial before civilian courts. Military trials for civilians are to be totally banned.
2) A special court should be established to try those implicated in the killing of protesters and all implicated police officers are to be suspended immediately.
3) The sacking of the current minister of the interior and his replacement by a political civilian appointee, to be followed by declaration of a plan and time table for the full restructuring of the Ministry of the Interior, placing it under judicial oversight.
4) The sacking of the current Prosecutor General and the appointment of a well respected figure in his place.
5) Putting Mubarak and the members of his clique on trial for the political crimes they committed against Egypt and its people.
6) Revoking the current budget and the drawing up of a new draft budget that courageously acts to respond to the basic demands of the nation’s poor, and putting that draft budget to public debate before its adoption.
7) Clear and open delineation of the prerogatives of the Supreme Military Council in ways that do not infringe on the powers and prerogatives of the cabinet of ministers. The Prime Ministers should have full powers to appoint his aides and the members of his cabinet, once that cabinet is purged of the remnants of the old regime.
8) The immediate release of all civilians who have been sentenced by military court and their retrial before civilian courts. Military trials for civilians are to be totally banned.
9) A special court should be established to try those implicated in the killing of protesters and all implicated police officers are to be suspended immediately.
10) The sacking of the current minister of the interior and his replacement by a political civilian appointee, to be followed by declaration of a plan and time table for the full restructuring of the Ministry of the Interior, placing it under judicial oversight.
11) The sacking of the current Prosecutor General and the appointment of a well respected figure in his place.
12) Putting Mubarak and the members of his clique on trial for the political crimes they committed against Egypt and its people.
13) Revoking the current budget and the drawing up of a new draft budget that courageously acts to respond to the basic demands of the nation’s poor, and putting that draft budget to public debate before its adoption.
14) Clear and open delineation of the prerogatives of the Supreme Military Council in ways that do not infringe on the powers and prerogatives of the cabinet of ministers. The Prime Ministers should have full powers to appoint his aides and the members of his cabinet, once that cabinet is purged of the remnants of the old regime.’
Finally, here is a reflective report from a young Zimbabwean lawyer and human rights activist, Rumbidzai Dube ,who is presently serving an internship with the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies. In her introduction in which she states ‘I wish my life were different’, I believe Rumbidzai expresses the collective sentiment of millions of Africans who have experienced repression from their respective governments as well as the tyranny of western imperialism and corporate capitalism.
‘The reason I wish my life were different is that I hate the negativity attached to these identities that make my life more difficult than it should be. As a Zimbabwean I face repression from my own government. We cannot express ourselves freely, assemble freely, associate freely and choose who we want to govern us freely. As an African our nations are subjected to global politics characterized by the paradox of “equal” nations yet some are “more equal than others.” This has caused untold suffering, particularly, to the African peoples through skewed negotiations on climate change. We constantly fight the war on the patenting of life saving drugs as against free and easy access to medicines. We are victims of conflicts fuelled by the availability of arms and weapons supplied by developed nations, the so called “War economies.” As a black person I am constantly made to feel I need to measure up to something. I still have not figured out what that something is since I certainly do not feel I am lacking in any respect. As for my struggle as woman, that cannot be told in this short space. I will leave it for another day and forum.”
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* Sokari Ekine blogs at Black Looks.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
America's role in Somalia's humanitarian crisis
US sends in the marines and more drones
Even as US militarisation of the Horn of
Africa has contributed massively to the threatened starvation of
millions, the Americans have announced an escalation of drone attacks
against Somalia and the establishment of a Marine task force for the
region. A United Nations spokesman describes the food and refugee
emergency in Somalia as the ‘worst humanitarian crisis in the world’
with millions at immediate risk. Not coincidentally, the epicenter of
the disaster is the area where Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia meet,
which is also a focus of US Special Forces, surveillance and
The Americans blame the al-Shabab resistance for exacerbating the drought emergency, but for at least two years the Americans have used food as a weapon of war in Somalia, in an effort to starve out those who might be supporting the Shabab. The US has armed an array of militias operating near the Ethiopian and Kenyan borders, making normal agricultural pursuits all but impossible, and the current world-class catastrophe, inevitable.
Whenever the US ratchets up its armed interventions in Somalia, disaster follows. Four years ago, after the Americans instigated an Ethiopian invasion of Somalia to overthrow an Islamist government that had brought a semblance of peace to the region, it set off what the United Nations then called ‘the worst humanitarian crisis in Africa - worse than Darfur.’ Today, many of those same refugees are confronted with the worst humanitarian crisis on the planet - once again, largely courtesy of the United States.
‘The Obama administration has upgraded Somalia and Yemen as hotspots in its endless war-making.’
The original crime - the one from which all the other horrors flow - was the theft of Somalia’s government, and the crushing of its people’s dreams for peace. The American proxy aggression, largely conducted through Ethiopia and now Kenya, and much of it directed from Djibouti, the actual headquarters of the US Africa Command, AFRICOM, is the root cause of the social disintegration of Somalia, which has pushed much of the population to the edge of extinction. These are the crimes against humanity that international courts should be prosecuting. Instead, the International Criminal Court has become a tool of the aggressor, and even proposes to deploy the US military as its deputies, to enforce its warrants: justice turned upside down.
The newly activated marine task force will augment America’s stepped up drone attacks against the Shabab, an escalation of Obama’s second shooting war in Africa, and war number six, globally. In addition to the Marines and the drones, the US recently committed $45 million to equipment and training for the Ugandan and Burundian soldiers that are all that props up the puppet Somali government in Mogadishu, the capital.
The Obama administration has upgraded Somalia and Yemen as hotspots in its endless war-making, claiming al-Qaida operatives in the region are even more dangerous to the US than their counterparts in Afghanistan and Pakistan - which essentially tells us that al-Qaida isn't really all that relevant to why America is spreading war and misery all over the planet. What is clear, is that the world's greatest humanitarian threat lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
* This article is sourced from Black Agenda Radio.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
NATO's debacle in Libya
After three and a half months of bombing and arms supply to various rebel factions, NATO's (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) failure in its efforts to promote ‘regime change’ in Libya is now glaring.
Obviously NATO's commanders are still hoping that a lucky bomb may kill Gaddafi, but to date the staying power has been with the Libyan leader, whereas it is the relevant NATO powers who are fighting among themselves.
The reports from Istanbul of the deliberations of NATO’s contact group have a surreal quality as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and British Foreign Minister William Hague gravely re-emphasise their commitment to regime change and the strengthening of ties to the Transitional Council in Benghazi, while the humiliation of the entire NATO expedition is entering the history books as an advertisement of the dangers of political fantasy in the service of ‘humanitarian interventionism’, appalling intelligence work, illusions about bombing and air power and some of the worst press coverage in living memory.
Take British Prime Minister David Cameron. He can thank Rupert Murdoch, even the wretched Andy Coulson, for one ironic blessing. His appalling misjudgement and obstinacy in hiring former News of the World editor Coulson has so dominated British headlines these past days that an equally staggering misjudgement in the international theatre is escaping well-merited ridicule and rebuke.
When Cameron vied with French president Nicolas Sarkozy in early March in heading the charge against Gaddafi, no murmur of caution seems to have disturbed the blithe mood of confidence in Downing Street. It was as though Blair’s blunders and miscalculations in Iraq, endlessly disinterred in subsequent years, had never been.
Cameron, like Sarkozy, Clinton and Barack Obama presumably had intelligence assessments of the situation in Libya. Did any of them say that Gaddafi might be a tougher nut to crack than the presidents of Tunisia or Egypt, might even command some popular support in Tripoli and western Libya, historically at odds with Benghazi and the eastern region? If they did, did they pay any attention?
The Western press, along with al-Jazeera, was no help. The early charges of Gaddafi committing ‘genocide’ against his own people or ordering mass rapes were based on unverified rumour or propaganda bulletins from Benghazi and have now been decisively discredited by reputable organisations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Any pretensions the International Criminal Court (ICC) might have had to judicial impartiality have been undermined by the ICC’s role as NATO’s creature, rushing out indictments of Gaddafi and his closest associates whenever NATO’s propaganda agenda has demanded it.
The journalists in Benghazi became cheerleaders for what was from the start plainly a disorganised rabble of disparate factions. The journalists in Tripoli were reluctant to file copy which might be deemed by their editors as ‘soft’ on Gaddafi, a devil figure in the West for most of his four decades in power. America’s pwogwessives exulted that at last they had on their hands a ‘just war’ and could cheer on NATO’s bombardiers with a clear conscience and entertain fantasies about the revolutionary purity of the rebels.
All history shows that the dropping of thousands of bombs and missiles, with whatever supposed standards of ‘pin point accuracy’, never elicits the enthusiastic support of civilians on the receiving end, even if a certificate of humanitarian assistance and merciful intent is stamped on every projectile. Recent pro-government rallies in Tripoli have been vast. Libya has a population of about 6 million, with 4 million in Tripoli. Gaddafi barrels around the city in an open jeep. Large amounts of AK-47s have been distributed to civilian defence committees. Were they all compelled to demonstrate by Gaddafi’s enforcers? It seems unlikely.
This last week the Western press excitedly relayed the news that a handful of prisoners were denouncing Gaddafi. Well, if you were a prisoner with rebel guns pointed at your head, would you proclaim your fidelity to the prime target of their fury, or murmur that you had been dragooned into unwilling service? Isn’t this an item from journalism 101. Are they ‘black mercenaries’ or Libyans from the south who happen to be black and members of Gaddafi’s militias?
Another pointer to NATO’s misjudgements has been the heavy-handed dismissal of charges from African, Russian and even leaders of NATO countries such as Germany that the mandates of two UN Security Council resolutions passed in February and then March 17 – protection of civilian populations – were being brazenly distorted in favour of efforts to kill Gaddafi and install the ramshackle ‘provisional government’ in Benghazi – a shady bunch from the get-go.
In early March, Sarkozy, languishing in the polls, believed the counsel of ‘new philosopher’ Bernard-Henri Lévy, after the latter’s 6 March excursion to Benghazi, that Libya and its oil were up for grabs. On 11 March Sarkozy took the precipitate step of recognising the Benghazi gang as the legitimate government of Libya and awaited Gaddafi’s collapse with a confident heart.
In a hilarious inside account of the NATO debacle, Vincent Jauvert of Le Nouvel Observateur has recently disclosed that French intelligence services assured Sarkozy and Foreign Minister Alain Juppé ‘from the first [air] strike, thousands of soldiers would defect from Gaddafi’. They also predicted that the rebels would move quickly to Sirte, the hometown of Gaddafi and force him to flee the country. This was triumphantly and erroneously trumpeted by the NATO powers, which even proclaimed that he had flown to Venezuela. By all means opt for the ‘big lie’ as a propaganda ploy, but not if it is inevitably going to be discredited 24 hours later.
‘We underestimated al-Gaddafi,’ one French officer told Jauvert. ‘He was preparing for forty-one years for an invasion. We did not imagine he would adapt as quickly. No one expects, for example, to transport its troops and missile batteries, Gaddafi will go out and buy hundreds of Toyota pick-up in Niger and Mali. It is a stroke of genius: the trucks are identical to those used by the rebels. NATO is paralysed. It delays its strikes. Before bombing the vehicles, drivers need to be sure they are whose forces are Gaddafi’s. “We asked the rebels to a particular signal on the roof of their pick-up truck,” said a soldier, “but we were never sure. They are so disorganised…?”’
When collapse did not arrive on schedule the French government breezily confirmed earlier this month it was shipping and air-dropping arms supplies to Libyan rebel groups. We can safely assume Britain has its own clandestine operations in train, though the capture of the SAS/MI6 unit by Libyan farmers was not an inspiring augury.
The NATO coalition is now falling apart, though disclosure of this development has been muted to non-existent in the US press. French Defence Minister Gérard Longuet gave an interview at the end of last week to a French TV station saying that military action against Libya has failed, and it is time for diplomacy: ‘We must now sit around a table. We will stop bombing as soon as the Libyans start talking to one another and the military on both sides go back to their bases.’ Longuet suggested that Gaddafi might be able to remain in Libya, “in another room of the palace, with another title”.’
If Longuet’s startling remarks were for local consumption on the eve of an assembly vote, it clearly came as a shock to Cameron and Secretary of State Clinton. To heighten the impression of a civil war in NATO Cameron and Clinton rushed out statements asserting the ongoing goal of regime change, and that Gaddafi’s departure was a sine qua non, as demanded by the Benghazi gang.
But Berlusconi, his country the objective of tens of thousands of refugees from the fighting and from economic dislocation in Libya, is now saying he was against the whole NATO adventure from the start. He may decline to renew in the fall current basing agreements in Italy for the NATO intervening powers. Germany has always been unenthusiastic. Initially, France and Britain nourished hopes of close military liaison, but that soon collapsed for all the usual reasons – inertia, suspicion and simple incompetence.
Sarkozy’s suspicions of Germany and Turkey were apparently so intense, according to Le Nouvel Observateur, that he called for the sidelining the Turkish and German officers present in the command structure of NATO, on the grounds that they could undermine the war given Berlin and Ankara’s distaste for the whole exercise. Normal guidelines dictate that when the supreme commander of NATO, an American general and his no. 2, a Briton, are on leave, the no. 3, is to be a German. Sarkozy had this sequence nixed.
Obama has been playing a double game, reflective of domestic pressures and political priorities. At the start, the rush to the UN Security Council was very much Secretary of State Clinton’s initiative. In political stature early to mid-February Obama was at his nadir. There was growing talk of a one-term presidency. Clinton rushed into what she perceived as a tempting vacuum, perhaps even began to entertain some hopes of accelerating Obama’s decline and proffering herself as a potential contender in 2012. Obama, still fighting the ‘wimp’ label, swiftly endorsed the NATO mission and defied challenges as to its constitutional propriety. Clinton soon thereafter announced she was not particularly interested in staying in national politics after 2012.
In terms of equipment the US has been crucial. According to one French general cited by Le Nouvel Observateur, ‘33 of 41 tanker aircraft used in the operation are American, most of the AWACS as well, all the drones as well as 100 per cent of anti-radar missile and laser guidance kits for bombs. And that's not all. The main means of command and control of NATO as the huge bandwidth for transmitting all the data is American.’ The Director of Military Intelligence General Didier Bolelli revealed that over 80 per cent of the targets assigned to the French pilots in Libya was designated by US! ‘They give us just enough so that we do not figure we were breaking,’ says one diplomat.
Those whose memories stretch back to the Suez debacle of 1956 might recall that Eisenhower simply ordered the British, French and Israeli forces to abandon the effort to overthrow Nasser. We could well be seeing a less overt re-run of that conclusive demonstration of post-Second World War US dominance, with the Obama administration making the point that any effort at asserting European primacy in the Mediterranean region is doomed to failure.
Before his retirement Defense Secretary Robert Gates took the opportunity to twist the knife in a speech in Brussels: ‘The mightiest military alliance in history, is … into an operation against a poorly-armed regime in a sparsely populated country – yet many allies are beginning to run short of munitions, requiring the U.S., once more, to make up the difference.’ He said ominously, ‘future U.S. political leaders … may not consider the return on America’s investment in NATO worth the cost.’
Even if Obama is in fact wholeheartedly for regime change in Libya, the political temperature here does not favour the sort of escalation – hugely costly and much against the public mood – required in the wake of the failure of the bombing campaign.
There’s no evidence that Labour’s leader, Ed Miliband, lion-like in his eagerness to seize the reins of the anti-Murdoch bandwagon, has the political agility to toast Cameron for the Libyan farce. By disposition he’s probably keener on ‘humanitarian interventions’ than Cameron and can only reproach him for not trying hard enough.
In sum, we on the left should rejoice that a simple colonial smash-and-grab is currently in a shambles, with serious long-term consequences for NATO’s credibility and pretences to respect international law. The kangaroo cage known as the International Criminal Court has been even further discredited, another cause for joy.
What next? The air is thick with speculations about a brokered settlement, salted with hopeful bleats from the Americans and British that Gaddafi is on the verge of collapse, that he is running out of fuel, that the rebels are tightening the noose around Tripoli and that the Russians re-brokering some sort of a face-saving deal. It seems a better bet to recognise that after four and a half months, NATO and the interventionists are being humiliated. Throw in the humiliation of Rupert Murdoch and we can legitimately raise our champagne glasses even higher.
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* This article was first published by Counterpunch.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
From the middle distance: Ethiopian journalist in exile
Abiye Teklemariam (b. 1978) is founding editor of ‘Addis Neger’ (‘New Addis’), which, until 2009, was Ethiopia’s leading dissident newspaper. I was introduced to Abiye by the Committee to Protect Journalists, and took the opportunity to interview him first on 25 May 2009 at Ledig House, in Omi, New York, where he was working on a book about the prospects for Ethiopian democracy. A second, follow-up interview took place on 30 September 2010 at a restaurant in New York City.
On 8 December 2009, Abiye shut down ‘Addis Neger’ and fled Ethiopia, fearing government prosecution under a sweeping new libel law. Since the end of his sojourn in the US, he has been in residence at Oxford University. ‘Addis Neger’ now operates as a blog.
Highlights from the first interview include Abiye’s early life and path to journalism; a comparison of the current government of Ethiopia with its predecessor; a sketch of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi; ethnic federalism; government control of the media; literacy and democracy.
NOTE: For several reasons, the second interview was not recorded. Thus, the highlights which follow are a summary with, where remembered, paraphrase or quotation, which is indicated by speech prefixes: ‘ABIYE TEKLEMARIAM’ and ‘RON SINGER’. (The material has been vetted by Abiye.)
Abiye is currently working on three books: One on the possibility of democracy in Ethiopia (‘a huge project’); a second, on the post-Derg press in Ethiopia; and the newest one (for Africa World Press/Red Sea Press), which he is co-authoring with a colleague from ‘Addis Neger’, is a biography of Bertukan Medeksa.
Medeksa was jailed by the Ethiopian government in 2005, then pardoned and released after 19 months, when she struck a deal with the government. But when she returned from visits to the US and Europe, in reaction to infighting among the opposition, Bertukan formed her own party, after which she was rearrested. Because she had thanked the Ethiopian community in Stockholm for applying the pressure that led to her release, the Ethiopian government claimed that she had broken the terms of her pardon (which they said she had asked for, and they had generously agreed to). They demanded an apology for the speech, which she refused, so they rearrested her to complete her sentence – life.
A lawyer, judge, politician, very popular and charismatic, Bertukan was adopted by Amnesty and Human Rights Watch. She is 36 now. Her life has been in turmoil, constantly in flux, since her graduation from university.
(In the face of intense international pressure, Bertukan was subsequently re-released, in October 2010.)
RECENT DEVELOPMENTS: ETHIOPIA’S RETREAT FROM EVEN TALKING ABOUT DEMOCRACY
ABIYE TEKLEMARIAM: Since our last interview, the Ethiopian government has decided to do away with the façade that it was ‘transitioning’ to democracy. We had a feeling that this was a stagnating transition. Now it is going backwards.
RON SINGER: Maybe Meles realises the US needs him more than he needs them.
ABIYE TEKLEMARIAM: I think he needs the US for both international legitimacy and economic support. He knows, however, that there is no serious organised political alternative in Ethiopia. The US has interests, and it is a brute fact of realpolitik that they have to deal with what they have. With no encumbrances from the outside and with hegemonic domination domestically, he can call their bluff. One of the things he learned from the 2005 elections and their aftermath was that, if he opens any space in Ethiopia, his popularity is so low that any quasi-political party can push him out of power. He doesn’t want to take any risks now.
RON SINGER: What are his motives, at this point? It’s not to stay in power that much longer, is it?
[Meles said in a 22 September 2010 speech at Columbia University, in New York City, that he would not run for another term.]
ABIYE TEKLEMARIAM: He’s young still, he’s 55. He has no incentive to relinquish power at the moment. I am surprised when people believe his words that he will relinquish power. Tell me why he will. This is a question of political economy. He has little pressure from the Opposition. He has a network of supporters with different interests. He knows they support him because he has power.
If he relinquishes power and endangers their interests, they will be the first to turn the gun in his direction. He knows that, if he loses his power, he’s probably going to end up in prison or being killed. He’s a very good student of Ethiopian history. He knows that his only saving grace is his power. He’s experimental, he’s taken risks, he always learns from his mistakes. He’s made EPRDF [the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front], his party, a kind of personal entity.
And, as I said, he learned in 2005 that opening up space would cause an existential threat to his power. His reaction was to close down civil society, muzzle the press, shut down everything. Now everybody is aware of that.
ETHIOPIA AND THE US
Internationally, this [retreat from democracy] is well-known. The American government has gone out of its way to criticise that [retreat from democracy]. Not many sane people think now that this is a government that is transitioning to democracy. Obama talks a good game about democracy, but has done little to help.
ABIYE TEKLEMARIAM: Obama is very cautious. As far as talk is concerned, like openly criticising, he’s okay. But, action … very cautious, putting [little] pressure on the government, except publicly criticising them. What can he do? Create strong anti-Meles opposition? Is trying to do that his problem?
RON SINGER: Meles may have more leverage on him, our only ally in the region.
ABIYE TEKLEMARIAM: In terms of the Horn of Africa, if they (the US) have a holistic approach, rather than putting their eggs in one basket, they could probably do better than they are now. Involving Kenya, even Eritrea, to some extent. Instead of considering Ethiopia as the only serious ally in the region, you can make your own allies.
RS: Eritrea? Interesting example. A Marxist dictatorship, isn’t it? But we don’t care about that now?
ABIYE TEKLEMARIAM: [Laughs] They need a comprehensive approach to solving the region’s problems, pushing for a less militaristic approach: the Eritrea-Ethiopia border problem, Somalia’s problems…
RON SINGER: Can Somalia’s be solved at all?
ABIYE TEKLEMARIAM: Very hard, but the Ethiopian government is not helping, it is exacerbating it.
RON SINGER: You can hardly help yourselves with them.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT VERSUS HUMAN RIGHTS
So now he is trying to project an image of a very efficient leader, meaning that, even though he’s a dictator, he’s bringing a lot of economic development to Ethiopia. Meles compares Ethiopia to China, a one-party state with fast economic growth. He says, ‘This is not Congo, this is China.’ There is an argument about whether people should give precedence to good government and human rights over economic development. He’s trying to use that conversation to his advantage.
RON SINGER: That’s true all over Africa.
ABIYE TEKLEMARIAM: All over Africa. Meles claims that GDP growth has been 11.6 per cent. He’s massaging numbers, with the unfortunate nod of the World Bank and IMF. He is massaging numbers on Millennium Development Goals. He has an incentive to do that. His legitimacy in the past was based on his supposed democratic credentials. Now that it is exposed to be a big lie, he has created a new discourse. Serious scholars, like Stefan Dercon of Oxford, dispute his numbers, questioning Ethiopian agricultural productivity claims. The GDP growth percentage is probably about 6 per cent, but population growth is about 3 per cent, and [GDP is] starting from a very low base. So the discourse is a lot about economics, about numbers. For now, for strategic reasons, the World Bank accepts his numbers, gives him loans. But, like the discourse about democracy, he will be exposed soon. People will wake up to the fact that he’s not really bringing prosperity to Ethiopia, he’s just making up numbers, like in the old Soviet Union.
MELES’ FRIENDS & NEIGHBOURS
RON SINGER: So who are his friends among African leaders?
ABIYE TEKLEMARIAM: I don’t think he has friends, he’s well-respected, because he’s silver-tongued. He has a good relationship, not friendship, with [Ugandan leader] Musaveni and Rwanda’s Kagami. Maybe it is a case of birds of the same feather…
SUDAN AND SOUTH SUDAN
With Bashir, of Sudan, a friendship of convenience. Ethiopia is strong in that region, so Bashir doesn’t want to upset them, because Ethiopia will start helping the southern Sudanese. And the Ethiopian government doesn’t want to create a safe haven for their opponents in Sudan. Meles is hedging his bets on Sudan. If South Sudan splits off, Ethiopian territorymay be claimed by the new country. Even as Meles hedges his bets about what’s going to happen, it’s unclear. Some South Sudanese rebel leaders now in the coalition government are afraid civil war might result in a breakaway state, and they question whether such a state would be viable.
[In late June, 2011, under U.N, auspices, 4200 Ethiopian troops were dispatched as peacekeepers to Abyei, the contentious border region between Sudan and South Sudan. South Sudan became an independent nation on July 9th.]
STABILITY AND THE ETHIOPIAN FEDERATION
RON SINGER: Some people argue that Meles must keep the federation strong or centrifugal forces will pull it apart.
ABIYE TEKLEMARIAM: Some people argue that. I can see their point, but I think that, considering the last 150 years of Ethiopian history, considering the political upheavals in the 1950s and 60s, the student movement, and considering that some populations in Ethiopia are still restive, want more autonomy, trying to centralise power now is a recipe for disaster. The strains are such, especially in Oromia, where some regional autonomy has already been granted, that trying to reign in the existing autonomy would weaken the country, whereas putting into real practice the already existing regional autonomy could strengthen the federation. I know my proposition troubles a lot of my pan-Ethiopian friends. Our aims and aspirations are the same. Our differences are on the means to achieve it.
BACKGROUND AND EARLY LIFE
RON SINGER: Can you tell me more about your life, continuing from the first interview?
ABIYE TEKLEMARIAM: Well, nothing out of the ordinary, but … well, my grandpa used to work for the Italians, then the English. My grandmother, my mother’s mom, was the daughter of a very prominent family. Her father was a big man, one of Menelik’s warriors. When Haile Selassie came to power, one of the groups that lost out – there was a rivalry in the court – and my grandmother’s family lost out. Then, in the family feud, my grandma lost. She ended up with nothing, just dirt poor.
She raised my mother in very, very poor conditions in one of the shanty villages in Addis Ababa. My mom married at 13. My dad, who came from western Ethiopia, worked at this and that until he was recruited by the army. He was not a native Amharic speaker (spoken in Addis), and it takes time to adapt, it is difficult. He’s Oromo, she’s Amhara. I discovered very recently while I was doing my research that my father is from the Nono tribe, which fought Menelik’s occupation tooth and nail before Menelik dispatched his feared warrior, an Oromo himself, to beat them. My great grandfather may have been involved in the battles. So I am a descendant of a warrior of Menelik and a warrior who fought Menelik. Ethiopian history is not as black and white as some ideologues make it out to be.
My siblings…There are four of us. My sister, the eldest child, is a medical doctor. My brother is a geophysicist and an environmental engineer, he lives in Atlanta. The last one, my little sister, graduated from college last year.
RON SINGER: How did this happen? It sounds amazing.
ABIYE TEKLEMARIAM: Even for us, it’s amazing! We grew up in a very poor, rundown neighborhood called Negade Sefer. Many of our friends lost their way. At the age of six or seven, children had to participate in making money, because their parents were very poor. To make money, you had to go out on the street, sell things, and that means anything can happen in your life. So many lost their way, became prostitutes, members of gangs, addicts. For some reason, my mom, even more than my father, emphasised education a lot. It was like a miracle, because her upbringing, her life, didn’t give her any information about the value of education.
RON SINGER: Maybe she thought this was the way to repair her family’s fortunes.
ABIYE TEKLEMARIAM: Yeah, that was it. I was reading Christopher Hitchens’ ‘Hitch 22’. His mom reminded me of my mom. My mom was poor, but she was conscious of a life of travel, reading, luxury, enjoyment. She used to tell us, if we wanted these things, ‘You have to study hard right now.’ Her whole obsession was with travel. Cosmopolitanism, experience, meeting people, culture. How people liberate themselves. My oldest sister set the example for all of us. She used to come from school, covered with dust, and do most of the home-making, then study hard. She went to medical school when it was very tough to join medical school. My mother was strict, sometimes she did it too much, nearly killing us, stifling us. An iron lady, in that sense. She passed away in 2004, she saw all of us doing well, but not enough to enjoy it, we had just started doing well.
RON SINGER: How did your father feel about this?
ABIYE TEKLEMARIAM: Well, my mom set the house rules, and he followed that.
RON SINGER: Was that a common pattern?
ABIYE TEKLEMARIAM: No, it was not. She was very enthusiastic about education and made him very enthusiastic about it. He enforced the rules. She was very tough, but he also tried to control us and tell us … to do what our ma wanted us to do. But he was conscious of what education can bring.
Later on, after he left the army, he started working at an international organisation called ICC, International Coordinating Committee. He was working as a driver. His bosses were all very well-educated, and he knew about their salaries, life styles, the way they talked and lived. He now proudly says, ‘My son is in the Number One university in the world.’
He’s retired now. For many Ethiopians, education is a ticket out of poverty, to new cultural experiences.
Dad was thought for some time to have been killed in a battle [the war with Eritrean rebels]. When I was told my dad was dead, I was very young, three or four, so I couldn’t really appreciate what it meant. It was only after … when he returned, getting your father back tells you that you have missed a lot of life when he was away, though you didn’t know it at the time.
Abiye’s account of his life is illuminating. His origins give the lie to the pro-government canard that dissidents are all just disgruntled ethnic Amhara. Psychologists can mull over his mother’s primacy and his father’s return from the dead. His first career in the law, and the status of ‘Addis Neger’ in 2009 as Ethiopia’s leading internal dissident newspaper, offer a justification for the facts that, when the new terrorism law came into effect, he chose to shut the paper down and leave the country, whereas Dawit Kebede, his younger colleague, and not a lawyer, elected to soldier on in Addis by keeping his paper, Awramba Times, in operation.
The government threats which prompted the shutdown of ‘Addis Neger’ in 2009 have by no means ended. Probably in reaction to the wave of democratic revolutions in the region, on 11 February 2011, long-time dissident Eskinder Nega, who had written boldly about these dramatic events, was detained by the police, who issued veiled threats against his life before releasing him. A recent ‘avalanche’ of charges against the Amharic weekly, Fitih, includes libel suits of the kind that prompted the Addis Neger shutdown. Also arrested recently, and charged with terrorism, was Woubshet Taye, deputy editor of Awramba Times. According to editor Dawit Kebede, the harassment of Awramba may be linked to renewed Ethiopian saber-rattling against Eritrea.
(‘Newspapers and journalists face threats and legal pressure’, International Freedom of Expression Exchange: the global network for free expression (IFEX), 23 March 2011).
Among the other highlights of this interview are Abiye’s updating of Meles’ priorities, which, as of 2011, remains accurate. His fleshing out of the first interview’s sketch of the Prime Minister and his additional comments on ethnic federalism and democracy were both born out by my subsequent interviews in Addis during January-February 2011. Abiye’s estimate of US policy in the Horn seems astute and balanced, and, thus far at least, his comments on South Sudan are proving prescient.
I am unqualified to evaluate Abiye’s criticisms of Ethiopian government statistics and projections, other than to point out that, in an Addis interview on 26 January 2011, Tamrat Georgis, editor of the mainstream business weekly, Addis Fortune, made this cautious assessment of the government’s 2010 Five Year National Growth and Transformation plan: ‘What I really think about this plan is that it’s very, very ambitious.’
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* Material from both interviews with Abiye Teklemariam will be used in Chapter Four, ‘Journalism in a Paper Democracy,’ in Ron Singer’s forthcoming book, ‘Uhuru Revisited: Interviews with African Pro-Democracy Leaders’ (Africa World Press/Red Sea Press).
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
How the Rawlings camp were defeated in Ghana's elections
My eyes were transfixed on the television, watching the events unfold at the National Democratic Congress (NDC) election on 9 July in Sunyani. From time to time, my attention was distracted by the loud music from a Nigerian ‘old school’ party two houses away. The music was good: Sunny Ade, Ebenezer Obe, Prince Nico Mbarga and Fela Kuti. Just as the results of the Sunyani elections were about to be announced, one of Fela’s first songs was playing. It went like this: ‘Ekpanu de ooo, eshishi ngbon…hen!, ho! Ekpanu de ooo, enonyi wuu…hen! Hey! Oni who are you? Who are you reh?’. It was so loud that I felt like going to ask them to turn down the music because I had to strain to hear the results.
Then it dawned on me. The music was very apt. ‘Oni who are you? Who are you reh?’ The Rawlings family had dared to put their personal popularity to the test among their own party; a party that they say they personally own. They got less than 4 per cent of the vote. Smashing! Just imagine if they had staked out this ‘popularity’ before the whole nation. I dread to hazard the results.
For 30 good years, Flight Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings and his wife have been bestriding the country as if they were a colossus. On two occasions in his political life, even those who had helped to bring him to power were either murdered or, if they were lucky, driven into exile. The Rawlings family are the only ones who can insult a president and get away with it. Jerry Rawlings has described President Mills as unintelligent, irresponsible and un-groomed. His ministers are corrupt, while his friends are ‘greedy bastards’. At the same time, Mills’ female ministers are ‘money-grabbing whores’. Who can beat that?
All the time, Rawlings carried the false belief that he is the most popular person in the country. He did not expect to be criticised. When he was head of state, anyone who dared to criticise him would be threatened with ‘you have the pen, but I have the gun’. However, if the critic persisted, he would be made to pay the ultimate price if he did not run fast enough across the border. And even out of power, he considers the mildest criticism as an ‘insult’.
Now we all know that even within his own party, his personal popularity rating, together with that of his wife, is a miserable 3.15 per cent. Is that all that they could do? Is it because of all this that they have been wasting our ears? What a charade! This is similar to the case of the caterpillar who went into a burrow. Out of sight, and taking advantage of the booming echo of his voice, he managed to frighten all the other animals that he was capable of breaking the bones of a bear, until one day a frog challenged him to come out.
The Rawlings family and their motley supporters thought the battle of Sunyani was going to be like the battle between David and Goliath. At the launch of Nana Konadu’s campaign, Rawlings boasted that his wife would win the contest by 76 per cent.
Nana Konadu was the Goliath, while the meek and humble President Mills was the David. Even on the eve of the elections, Nana Konadu’s camp was claiming that they had the majority support in most regions. To their shock, they could only muster a pathetic 90 votes out of 2,861. The self-deception of their boasting was therefore futile.
It must be remembered that on 4 June 2011, Jerry Rawlings loudly declared that the Sunyani election would be the ‘moment of truth’. Well, now the truth is that he and his wife have a personal popularity rating of 3.15 per cent within the NDC. Will they accept that? Then he said another thing: ‘It is time to take over the party, the government and the country, clean them up and hand them over to a more responsible leader.’ How can you take over a democratic party with less than 4 per cent of the members behind you?
The tragedy of the Rawlings family is that they have failed to learn the basics of organisational development. To have a successful social or political organisation, you need credible people in various parts of the country to do the legwork. It is not a one-man show. Throughout their political careers, it is others who have organised for them to go and address the crowds. They themselves do not know the grinding rudiments of house-to-house mobilisation. However, having dismissed those who used to do these for him as ‘greedy bastards’, he and his wife were left hanging.
Not only that! Their rag-tag Friends of Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings (FONKAR) campaign team might have kept inventing fibs for them that they were winning. And they believed it. Like Macbeth, they could not accept that Birnam Wood could ever move towards Dunsinane Castle. Yet it did.
After the declaration, and as they moved out with their tales between their legs, I could not help singing along to the music of the Nigerian revelers: ‘Oni who are you, who are you reh! Egbaa de ooo, oogbo…heh…Egbaa de ooo ooluu, heh…Owo mi kitikiti owo owo ola nuo solo, heh. Olika nimo dze. Oni who are you! Who are you reh!’
If you cast out the ‘little minds’ who get you out of the pit and threaten to kill them, then, if you in future fall into the pit, they will leave you to your fate.
When in May I wrote about the lion who, after being helped out of the trap-pit by the rat, decided to kill the rat to keep his scandal secret, I did not complete the story.
As the rat wept and begged the lion to save him, Kwaku Ananse (the spider god) appeared on the scene. On hearing the story, he claimed that he would not believe the story. He asked the lion to demonstrate how the rescue took place. As soon as the lion descended into the pit, Kwaku Ananse removed the twine, and asked the rat to get away. He turned to the lion and said: ‘San koda wo amena mu. Osebo ee, san koda w’amena mu.’ The lion was left to his fate.
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* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Confronting female genital mutilation
The role of youth and ICTs in changing Africa
Marie-Hélène Mottin-Sylla and Joëlle Palmieri
The African information society is developing very fast. Information and communications technologies (ICTs) are no longer a novelty. Daily life has changed completely, and many certainties and practices have been modified, especially for youth. One might therefore wonder whether it would be relevant to look at the consequences this could have, in Africa and elsewhere, on how female circumcision is perceived, considered and addressed.
But how is the subject to be examined? The study described in this volume reached the conclusion that in the era of the Internet the abandonment of female genital mutilation (FGM) in Africa is primarily a question of youth, gender and citizenship, which imposes a cross-cutting vision of development. Thus, this work sets out to convey the conviction that putting youth and gender at the centre of development issues, in the era of ICTs, helps speed up the citizenry’s abandonment of FGM.
The book is intended for a scientific and academic readership, researchers specialising in the social sciences and working on issues related to development – gender and development, youth in development, FGM, ICTs and development, citizenship. On the basis of the research findings and recommendations of the ICT–FGM project, the volume shows why it is important to take into account the impacts of the sudden emergence of the African information society on policy. In this regard, it is also expected to engage decision-makers, heads of institutions, parliamentarians and development project managers on the need to decompartmentalise the conventionally fragmented visions of development so that, in view of the penetration of ICTs in francophone West Africa, youth and gender can be placed at the centre of civic and democratic processes.
25 YEARS FOR THE ABANDONMENT OF FGM
What has been the impact of 25 years of coordinated interventions, strategies and policies implemented on the issue of FGM in the world and in Africa, particularly in francophone West Africa? How and by whom has the issue of FGM been addressed? What have been the resultant initiatives and interventions, in terms of policies, strategies and in the field? In what circles: international, regional, sub-regional, national, local, village, community, family, private? Who have been the protagonists, active, and the victims, passive? What methods were used? What have been the results of such methods?
Regarding these issues, we are witnessing the emergence and adoption of a new political and strategic message based on human rights and citizenship, which the digital revolution, that of ICTs, is reinforcing. The purpose of this study is to clarify the conceptual and methodological bases of that message.
10 YEARS OF DIGITAL REVOLUTION
The African information society has been established in francophone Africa for about 10 years. The information ‘revolution’ is now a reality; although, while the customs and practices of the information age4 have since become relatively commonplace, their essential consequences, in terms of impacts on the lives of people and communities, have not been identified by everybody, be they politicians, decision-makers, or the populations, youth, ‘elders’, women and men. How do the new realities of the information society – or, rather, the knowledge society – drastically change, for better and for worse, the development issues? How can they be anticipated or encouraged, in terms of political and strategic planning? How do we formulate and express the visions, concepts and methodologies that these new issues are introducing and imposing? How is the role of the various actors of FGM changing, including those who have been traditionally excluded from the action, such as the so-called unproductive people, including youth, women and those people considered inactive? What changes can be expected from these innovations, in a historical, political, economic, social and cultural context that apparently should be taken into account (Giraud, 2008)?
COMBINING DIFFERENT APPROACHES
In Africa, the practice of FGM, in the final analysis, looks like a magnifying mirror, revealing (among other things) structural, cultural and imaginary changes caused by the major qualitative innovation represented by ICTs. Such innovations should be expected, hoped for, guided and supported for the benefit of the majority, particularly young girls and boys who are already potential elders. This hypothesis allows us to reconsider the vision, policy and practice of FGM from gender, generational, citizenship, democratic and governance perspectives with ‘ICT- sensitive lenses’. How can we use the new reality of ICTs to make significant progress towards the abandonment of FGM in francophone West Africa? How far, why and how can the youth be relied on? What are the likely consequences for gender relations? What can be learned with respect to the promotion of the practice of citizenship? How are we to guide strategic recommendations on the optimal contribution of ICTs to the promotion of the abandonment of FGM in francophone Africa, relying on the youth and encouraging gender equality?
LOOKING FOR CONVERGENCE
The research project entitled ‘Contribution of ICTs to the Abandonment of FGM in Francophone West Africa: The Citizenship Role of Youth’ was implemented by ENDA in 2006-08, with the support of the IDRC, according to a qualitative, collaborative, participatory, transdisciplinary and federative approach. It was conducted experimentally with three youth groups in three communities practising FGM in francophone West Africa that had access to ICTs, in order to find answers to the ques- tions posed. This publication presents the main findings of the research, which was quite thrilling, in terms of the many actors who took part in it and the scope of the vision it culminated in. The research project showed that in the era of the African information society, the abandonment of FGM in Africa will necessarily involve the ownership by the youth of the concept of gender and the globalised citizenship space created by the ICTs, an approach implying a cross-cutting, rather than a fragmented, vision of development.
The report first presents the background to the current issues of FGM, gender and intergenerational relations, citizenship and globalisation, ICTs and the African information society, before discussing the methodology used to conduct the research. It then deals with the problem defined and enriched by the study as a cross-cutting paradigm in which development issues such as FGM, gender, citizenship, youths and ICTs, hitherto treated as separate subjects, are organically interlinked. The next section discusses the consequences of this vision in terms of research approaches. Finally, a summary of the main political and strategic recommendations is proposed.
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* 'Confronting Female Genital Mutilation: The Role of Youth and ICTs in Changing Africa' by Marie-Hélène Mottin-Sylla and Joëlle Palmieri (ISBN: 9780857490315, paperback, £14.95) is published by Pambazuka Press.
* Translated by Mamsaït Jagne.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Setting the record straight on the Nile
The coming together of six East African states to sign the Cooperative Framework Agreement regulating use of the Nile – the first basin-wide agreement to attract the support of a majority of Nile riparian states – has elicited widespread media coverage. Ethiopia’s announcement that it intends to build a new mega dam along the Nile has further spurred the journalistic frenzy.
As is often the case with stories about a region which seldom makes international headlines, but for the most harrowing of crises, some of what is written is correct, but significant aspects of what appears in print is wrong.
In a recent New York Times op-ed, Lester Brown, head of the Earth Policy Institute, writes that East Africa’s recent drive to use the Nile is unfortunate for Egypt and poses ‘a grave threat to Africa’s newest democracy,’ given its growing population and dwindling water resources. Brown neglects to mention why Egypt’s 81 million citizens are ostensibly entitled to a monopoly over the river, to the detriment of the Nile Basin’s 220 million other inhabitants.
Most other commentary, does not show such a wanton disregard for East Africa, but is often rife with inaccuracies nonetheless.
Here’s what is right: Egypt contributes no water to the Nile, but together with Sudan, makes exclusive use of the river. Egypt justifies its monopoly by pointing to two archaic treaties. Egypt signed the first such treaty with Anglo-Egyptian Sudan in 1929 (and an updated version with independent Sudan in 1959). The 1929 Agreement allotted twelve times more water to Egypt than Sudan, whereas the 1959 Agreement gave Egypt 75 per cent of the water and Sudan 25 per cent. Both agreements apportion no water to upper riparian states.
The British also signed onto the 1929 Agreement on behalf of their colonies, pledging that no works reducing the quantity of water flowing to Cairo would be undertaken in British-administered territories. The Egyptians claim that these agreements preclude the upper riparian states (Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo) from sharing in the river’s plentiful bounty.
These basic contours of the story are accurately reported, but the details which follow, often are not. Broadly speaking, the fallacies fall into three categories.
First, that the 1929 treaty bestows upon Egypt an unqualified majority stake in the Nile and that this agreement is legally binding on upper riparian states.
Second, that the upper riparians are trying to rewrite or renegotiate the 1929 and 1959 Agreements by entering into the new Cooperative Framework Agreement on the Nile.
And, third, that such modification is sought in order to dispossess Egypt of its ‘majority’ rights.
These statements are inaccurate and must be corrected.
The 1929 Agreement does not bind all countries through which the Nile flows. In the case of the DRC, Rwanda, Burundi and Ethiopia, the matter is straightforward because these countries never subscribed to the 1929 Agreement. One need not be a lawyer to understand that non-parties to an agreement cannot be bound by its terms. It is plainly obvious that Egypt cannot enjoy an unqualified majority right to the Nile, if Ethiopia, from which approximately 85 per cent of the water flows, is not a party to the 1929 Agreement.
But the 1929 Agreement carries no weight with respect to Britain’s former East African colonies too. Indeed, there are multiple arguments – from the fact that the treaty violates fundamental norms (referred to by lawyers as jus cogens), to the fact that it was too one-sided (a Leonine treaty, in legal parlance) – which militate in favor of concluding that the agreement was void at its inception. Even if that were not the case, under international law, newly independent states are generally not considered to inherit treaties, unless such treaties deal with the discrete issue of international boundaries. 
Moreover, the upper riparians are not attempting to rewrite or renegotiate the 1929 Agreement, for how could they rewrite an agreement they refuse to recognize, consider illegitimate, and to which they have registered strenuous on-the-record objections? Instead of modifying existing agreements, the upper riparian states are trying to institute a framework for the utilization of the Nile, where there previously was none.
Finally, by coming together to conclude an agreement, upper riparian states are not trying to ‘dispossess’ Egypt. The lack of significant works in the upper reaches of the Nile basin does not imply acquiescence to a purported Egyptian right, which East Africans are supposedly suddenly clamoring to appropriate for themselves. Instead, the paucity of construction reflects the historical inability of East Africans to muster the requisite resources to develop the Nile because of political instability and the hurdles to international funding put in place by Egyptian diplomats.
These corrections are not mere semantic quibbles. Words matter, and inaccuracies – be they legal or historical in nature – risk becoming conventional wisdom if repeated often enough. It is incumbent on concerned Africans to avail themselves of every opportunity to set the record straight.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* Fasil Amdetsion is an Ethiopian-American lawyer based in New York. He is a member of the Global Advisory Board for the International University of Haiti and a member of the Board of Directors of the African Services Committee.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
 Brown, Lester (2011) ‘Egypt’s Food Supply in Danger’, The New York Times, 1 June.
 Associated Press (2011) ‘Egypt tells Ethiopia it will negotiate over Nile’, Associated Press, 21 April; Sudan Tribune (2009) ‘Egypt, Sudan thwart Nile basin sharing Pact’, 28 July
 Reuters (2011) ‘Ethiopia keeping Egypt in dark on Nile dam’, April 18; The Economist (2011), ‘Egypt and Ethiopia Quarrel over Water’, April 21
 Agence France Press (2011) ‘Nile treaty set for ratification’, March 1
 Vienna Convention on the Succession of States in Respect of Treaties (1978), arts. 11 and 16
The last of the anti-apartheid heroes
‘I love each and every one of you,’ said Nelson Mandela who celebrated his 93rd birthday on 18 July. ‘If my pockets were big enough, I would take you all back home with me,’ he added at a dinner I attended, hosted by then-President Bill Clinton. Mandela, known as ‘Madiba’ (an honoured name of the Xhosa tribe) is the last, most revered and important heroe of the anti-apartheid movement.
Another hero of the struggle, Nontsikelelo Albertina Ndlangisa Sisulu, died in June. Mandela was best man at her wedding to Walter Sisulu, who recruited Mandela into the African National Congress (ANC). They were tried together for treason and sent to Robben Island for life. Albertina nominated Mandela for the 1994 parliamentary vote that made him president and she served in the first democratic parliament.
The first time I saw Albertina, affectionately known as ‘Ma Sisulu,’ was at her home in Soweto in 1988 when her husband was still imprisoned with Mandela. The day after her I saw her, Albertina, orphaned as a teenager, was once again banned, not allowed to visit her husband in prison, give interviews or engage in political activities and confined to her home from 6pm to 6am weekdays and all day weekends. She was under banning orders longer than anyone else in the country and had spent almost a year in solitary confinement. ‘I came out speaking to the walls,’ she remarked.
‘I knew why the government hated me,’ she told me. ‘It was because I was against apartheid. I was aware that I was the government’s enemy. Nothing could have pleased me more.’ When I visited her, the house was bustling with women, preparing for the funeral of Albertina’s brother-in-law. She greeted me warmly, as she would always do in the future. Over tea, she spoke in her quiet, resolved way, and smiling, she predicted the next day’s order – ‘I’m not restricted now, my dear, but they want to do something that will be hard for me.’ During all her years of banning, she reared and educated five of her own children and four adopted ones.
At 70 Albertina was working as a nurse for a doctor who was later shot by a hit squad from Winnie Mandela’s vigilante bodyguard, the notorious Mandela United Football Club. When I saw Albertina, she was also functioning as co-president of the United Democratic Front, the largest, nonracial anti-apartheid organisation in South Africa, for which she had been selected while she was sitting in a jail cell in August 1983.
Albertina walked me to my car when I left and hugged me affectionately. I went on to meet with the Detainee Parents’ Support Committee in Soweto. The Committee, like Albertina herself, was banned ten days later. I sat next to a woman whose son was on death row for his anti-apartheid activates. She, like the other women there, were both victims and heroes of the struggle against, as Mandela put it ‘the oppression of one group against another.’
I was delighted that Albertina remembered our appointment which I had made two weeks before, but failed to confirm because I had flown to Cape Town to meet with another ant-apartheid campaigner, Helen Suzman. Suzman was an MP for 13 years and the only one to openly condemn the whites-only apartheid regime.
A feisty and outspoken woman, she was publicly critical of apartheid at a time when this was rare among whites. When we lunched at the MPs’ dining room, another parliamentarian greeted her, but Suzman refused to speak to him, saying, ‘I can’t acknowledge him or his pro-apartheid views.’ When I later saw Suzman in her home in a suburb of Johannesburg, she firmly excoriated the newly-adopted, multi-coloured South African flag saying, ‘It looks like a neon sign in Vegas.’
After listening to a session in Parliament, I met with Suzman in her office. She was animatedly talking on the phone with George Bizos, Mandela’s lawyer about the fate of Mandela’s errant son, Makgatho, who later died of AIDS. After his death, Mandela did not hide the cause, but called for renewed efforts to fight AIDS.
Suzman and Mandela’s close friendship began with a handshake through cell bars in 1967 at Robben Island. Recalling Suzman's first visit to B-Section of Robben Island prison, Mandela wrote in his book, ‘Long Walk to Freedom’, ‘It was an odd and wonderful sight to see this courageous woman peering into our cells and strolling around our courtyard. She was the first and only woman ever to grace our cells.’ Suzman was at Mandela’s side when he signed the new Constitution in 1996.
Helen Suzman and Ma Sisulu once more at the opening of the Walter Sisulu Environmental Centre a year after Walter’s death. I saw Albertina after Walter was released from prison. Leaving an executive meeting of the ANC, now being the deputy president of the ANC Women’s League, she greeted me with open arms. She commented, ‘It’s good having the old man home, but sadly, he needs a light left on every night because of his fears from all those years in prison.’
Walter, known as ‘the old man’ because of his stature and snow-white hair, was released from prison in October 1989 after 26 years in prison. Mandela would not come out until the next February; he thought it right that Walter, his mentor, should be freed first. Walter, who had been the secretary-general of the ANC during apartheid, was elected ANC deputy president in July 1991. He died in his wife’s arms in 2003. Their grandson, Shaka, said, ‘They were an incredible duo and the old man was always sure to make known just how appreciative he was of Gogo.’ (Gogo was Shaka's name for his grandmother.)
Mandela said at Walter’s funeral, ‘Xhamela (Walter Sisulu) is no more… A part of me is gone…. I now know that when my times comes, Walter will be there to meet me, and I am almost certain he will hold out an enrolment form to register me into the ANC with that world, cajoling me with one of his favorite songs we sang when mobilizing people behind the Freedom Charter…. I shall miss his friendship and counsel…Till we meet again…Go well, Rest in Peace,..Hero among heroes.’
Too ill to attend Albertina’s funeral, Mandela had his wife, Graca Machel, read his message to Albertina which said, ‘It is difficult to describe the pain and sadness in my heart as I bid goodbye to a sister with whom I shared so much; you are part of my being – you and Walter…You are indeed one of the greatest South Africans.’ Acknowledging the passing of the heroes of the struggle, Mandela went on to say, ‘You are joining our distinguished loved ones. Now I smile when I imagine how you all join hands and hold a leadership caucus and look down on us from an ANC branch up there.’
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* © Elizabeth Barad
* Elizabeth Barad practices international human rights law, gender and intellectual property law. As Chair of the New York City Bar's Rwanda Legal Task Force, Elizabeth organised two ethics seminar and a gender-sensitivity workshop for the Rwandan justice system.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Victory for Abahlali baseMjondolo - Defeat of our detractors!
Bishop Rubin Phillip
Press statement of Bishop Rubin Phillip on the acquittal of the 'Kennedy
FOR URGENT AND IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Victory for Abahlali baseMjondolo - Defeat of our detractors!
We celebrate the victory that the shack-dwellers movement, Abahlali baseMjondolo, has won in court today where ALL of the 'Kennedy 12' have finally been acquitted of ALL charges against them.
For three years, since the violent attacks on Kennedy Road in 2009, we have stood side-by-side with the accused and with Abahlali while this politically-motivated and unjust process has dragged on. We are humbled by the perseverance of Abahlali, who have remained united, remained strong, and remained steadfast throughout. Theirs is the moral strength of those who know who are they, who know what they stand for, and who steadfastly know and speak the truth. Abahlali's victory today is a victory for all who speak the truth; it is a victory that should give courage to the poor of eThekweni, of South Africa, and the world who organise and mobilise together, and who speak and act for themselves. That is never an easy path and it seems always to provoke slander and violence from the powerful and the rich, and from those who would rather speak FOR the poor than listen. But is the path of truth and justice, and we would all do well to listen respectfully and offer our solidarity to their struggles.
In granting the application to acquit the accused, the Magistrate noted that the testimonies and 'evidence' brought to sustain the charges was not just 'unsatisfactory' and 'contradictory' - but suspicious too. Indeed, during the coming months we must face the uncomfortable questions this case has raised. In particular, we must face questions concerning the role of political parties in condoning - perhaps even actively and covertly engineering - the violent suppression of independent movements of the poor; questions about the complicity of middle-class professional 'activists', academics, and 'researchers' who have systematically amplified the lies of the state against Abahlali, added their own lies, and launched slanderous attacks against the movement and it's supporters, myself included.
But today, we celebrate and give thanks that justice has been done.
Bishop Rubin Phillip,
Diocese of Natal of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa.
18 July 2011.
South Africa: Halala Abahlali baseMjondolo!
A victory for one is a victory for all!
Unemployed People's Movement
Monday, 18 July 2011
Press Statement by the Unemployed People’s Movement
In September 2009 Abahlali baseMjondolo was violently attacked by the local ANC in the Kennedy Road squatter camp in Durban. The attackers were armed and shouted ANC and ethnic slogans. To their eternal and permanent disgrace the provincial ANC heralded this attack as the ‘liberation’ of the area. For months after the attack the homes of Abahlali baseMjondolo leaders were openly and publicly destroyed with impunity by the local ANC.
The attackers have never been brought to book for the original attack or for the reign of terror that they instituted in the area after the attack. The police refused to investigate charges brought against the ANC members that openly destroyed more than forty homes of Abahlali baseMjondolo leaders in the months after the attack.
Instead twelve young men who had performed an iMfene dance at an Abahlali baseMjondolo Heritage Day event were arrested and charged with all kinds of crimes including murder. They were jailed for eight months before they got bail even though there was no evidence against any of them. One of the magistrates openly described the case as political and another was openly advised by ANC leaders in the court.
Almost three years later those twelve young men have been acquitted of all charges. There was huge political pressure to secure a conviction in this case but despite setting up a special task team to oversee the case the state could not bring any credible evidence against any of the accused on any charge. Some of the prosecution’s own witnesses admitted under cross examination that the police were trying to frame the accused. One witness openly admitted that she had been lying. The only two credible witnesses brought by the prosecution testified that the Abahlali baseMjondolo account of the events of September 2009 was correct.
Abahlali baseMjondolo did not have to mount any defence at all in the court because there was simply no case for any of the accused to answer. This was a complete and decisive victory. The movement has been vindicated and the nefarious role of the ANC and the police exposed.
At this time our thoughts are with the twelve and their families. They have suffered terribly over the last years. We wish them well in their civil case against the Minister of Police.
Abahlali baseMjondolo is not the first social movement to have been subject to state repression and it will not be the last. But this attack, and the complicity with it by the police and senior ANC leaders in the province, is certainly the worst incidence of repression against a social movement so far in post-apartheid South Africa. It is essential that we all learn the lessons from this attack and that all the movements and progressive forces find ways to support each other in this climate of increasing repression.
As the Unemployed People’s Movement we send our warmest greetings to all the comrades in Durban. We salute the courageous role played by Bishop Rubin Phillip in standing by a movement under attack and the role of the churches that assisted the movement with legal costs during this trial. We salute those witnesses for the prosecution that had the courage to tell the truth in the court.
This is a great day for democracy and a great day for the struggle of the working class and the poor in South Africa.
Ayanda Kota 078 625 6462
Xola Mali 072 299 5253
Congratulations to Abahlali baseMjondolo
Mandela Park Backyarders Movement
Mandela Park Backyarders would like to congratulate Abahlali Basemjondolo for striking back against the government to free their comrades. Struggling for justice has proved to be packed with obstacles put before us by those we put in power through ballot paper.
We will no longer shout and cry without action. The time to fold hands and watch our people being downplayed by greedy and cunning politicians should come to an end.
We wish that at today's press conference the voice of the poor and marginalised people of Abahlali baseMjondolo are able to transcend over that of oppressors and invoke courage to all to say 'Enough is enough, is genoeg, kwanele!'
Loyiso – 073 7662078
Slu - 0714331101
Khaya - 0780241683
Kennedy Road 12 acquitted!
Democratic Left Front
The Democratic Left Front (DLF) salutes the 12 members of Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM) who from Kennedy Road in eThekwini who were acquitted of all charges of murder. Their arrest and trial followed a September 2009 attack on AbM in the Kennedy Road informal settlement eThekwini. All evidence pointed fingers at ANC-mobilised and police-supported attackers who were heavily armed and used ethnicity as part of their strategy. ANC involvement in the attack was confirmed by ANC provincial statements that heralded this attack as the ‘liberation’ of the area. For months after the attack the homes of AbM leaders were openly and publicly attacked with impunity by the local ANC. Many had to leave the area.
Their acquittal is a great day for democracy and for the struggle of the working class and the poor in South Africa. Let all honest strugglers celebrate! Despite the huge political pressure to secure a conviction in this case (that included the setting up of a special task team to oversee the case), the state’s case was shown as without foundation. The judgment showed in clear terms that the state had no evidence or case. In fact, clear evidence of an attempted police frame-up emerged in court (four witnesses testified that the police had told them who to point out in the line-up, and one admitted that she had been asked to lie and was lying) and the only two credible witnesses (a local ANC leader and a police officer) both testified to the correctness of the Abahlali account of what happened back in September 2009.
The DLF wishes the Kennedy Road 12 success in their civil case against the minister of police. We salute the role played by Bishop Rubin Phillip in standing by a movement under attack and the role of the churches that assisted the movement with legal costs during this trial. We salute those witnesses for the prosecution that had the courage to tell the truth in the court. We salute the perseverance of Abahlali baseMjondolo, who remained united, strong and steadfast throughout. As Bishop Rubin says 'Theirs is the moral strength of those who know who they are, who know what they stand for, and who steadfastly know and speak the truth.'
In the view of the DLF, the Kennedy Road attack displayed the worst in the growing use of repressive brutal measures by the SAPS (South African Police Service) and the state as a whole in response to social protest and dissent. This also includes the criminalisation of social protest. The killing of Andries Tatane in April at a protest in the Meqheleng township was a continuation of this trend. AbM is not the first social movement to have been subject to state repression and will not be the last. But this attack, and the complicity with it by the police and senior ANC leaders in the province, is certainly the worst incidence of repression against a social movement so far in post-apartheid South Africa. It is essential that we all learn the lessons from this attack and that all movements and progressive forces find ways to support each other in this climate of increasing repression.
The DLF calls on the Independent Complaints Directorate, the South African Human Rights Commission and the Public Protector to undertake statutory investigations of the role played by the SAPS in Kennedy Road. The DLF also reaffirms its call for a people’s tribunal against police brutality that must lay the foundation for a mass campaign that can mobilise poor and working people to speak out and act against police brutaliy, and challenge the increased militarisation and centralisation of power in an increasingly unaccountable security cluster of the state.
Finally, the DLF notes that the arrest of the Kennedy Road 12 saw a plethora of slanderous comments that sought to delegitimise AbM and the 12 comrades. The acquittal of the 12 is a call on all those who attacked them, including those on the left, to seriously reflect on their motivation and publicly apologise for their disgraceful actions.
FOR COMMENTS, CONTACT:
Brian Ashley – 082 085 0788
Martin Legassick – 083 417 6837
Vishwas Satgar – 082 775 3420
Celebrating the acquittal of the 'Kennedy 12'
Bishop Michael Vorster
In September 2009, a violent attack took place in the informal settlement known as Kennedy Road in Durban, wherein two people died. A group of young men from the shackdwellers’ movement, Abahlali baseMjondolo, were arrested, detained and eventually charged with several crimes, including murder. After many months and numerous delays two were released, leaving twelve who became known as the 'Kennedy 12' and who were to face a long and protracted legal process which was fraught with suspicion and allegations of political interference.
Today we celebrate a victory as all twelve men were acquitted of all charges against them and released in the Durban Magistrates Court. We celebrate as these fathers, brothers and sons are able to finally reunite with their families and friends whose pain and suffering we can only imagine. This is a victory for the truth and a victory for the poor – indeed a wonderful gift on the birthday of Nelson Mandela!
Notwithstanding the joy we experience and share today, questions still remain unanswered; while our confidence in the judicial process is once again vindicated, we must ask why the process took so long – amounting eventually to a lengthy detention without trial for some of the accused. We must ask questions about the influence which was brought to bear on witnesses and the judiciary. We will need to ask the question – who was truly responsible for the attack and why?
This is indeed a victory – but the struggle of the poor and the homeless continues. Theirs is a daily struggle for decent housing and the provision of basic services to their communities, such as water, sanitation and electricity. We cannot ignore the huge scale of corruption in our country which has led to the enrichment of a few and continues to exacerbate the poverty of millions.
As a people of faith we are united in our commitment to stand in solidarity with all who struggle – and we remain committed to the truth – the truth which sets all people free. We wish the Kennedy 12 and their families well as we continue to pray for them, the community and for poor and homeless people everywhere.
* Michael Vorster is bishop of Natal Coastal District – Methodist Church of Southern Africa.
Kennedy 12 acquitted on all charges
Halala for the Kennedy 12
We see this as a great day for the 12, their families, their movement and the struggle of the poor in South Africa. From day one we as the SDCEA (South Durban Community Environmental Alliance) were suspicious of the so-called charges that were brought against Abahlali comrades; we believed that these were trumped up to destroy the movement of the poor. We as the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance wish to extend our deepest congratulations to our comrades and our brothers in the movement for their steadfast resolve to challenge this injustice since their arrest.
We will continue to stand by the poor no matter what the situation. We have heard in the courts the false evidence presented from some of the witnesses presented and knew this could never stand the test of the truth as it was clear that there was no evidence against any of the accused and that there had been an attempt to frame them.
As SDCEA we believe that as we move forward as activists to challenge the government and big business as the movements many of us will be forced to pay a price to attain a just and equal society. The victory of the Kennedy 12 as well as their movement is a warning to the politicians not to concentrate on power and corruption, but rather to start talking with communities about the issues that affect their lives and work together to improve their lives by providing the necessary resources for the delivery of services.
This victory by the Kennedy 12 gives all of us hope.
South Durban Community Environmental Alliance
Dear Mandela world premiere: Durban International Film Festival
I'm delighted to share the news with you that 'Dear Mandela' is finally completed, and will have its world premiere at the Durban International Film Festival on the 26 July. We have a week of screenings lined up, in museums, schools and theatres, including second screenings in the informal settlements with Abahlali baseMjondolo members. These screenings promise to be a very special homecoming for the film.
I wanted to share our new trailer with you:
We are so grateful for the early coverage that Pambazuka News gave to the film project back in 2008. If there is any way you might be able to help us spread the word about the finished film, that would be wonderful. I really hope it will be widely seen, to shine a light on the struggle of South African shackdwellers to fulfill the promises that came with democracy. I also hope that the film will support Abahlali baseMjondolo's work - we also just received the news that the Kennedy 12, who were on trial for the killings at Kennedy Road in September 2009, were acquitted, and evidence of a police frame-up emerged. This makes it all the more important to protect human rights defenders, who are punished for their social justice work. We cover this story in 'Dear Mandela' and were with Abahlali members on the night of the attacks.
'Dear Mandela' is also on Facebook: http://tiny.cc/2v8jw
South Africa: Mandela Park Land and the housing crisis
Open letter to Madam Mayor Patricia de Lille
Mandela Park Backyarders Movement
19 July 2011
Dear Madam Mayor,
While the Mandela Park Backyarders continue to receive no attention from the Western Cape Human Settlement MEC (Bonginkosi Madikizela), private property owners continue to monopolise the land that is already in short supply in Mandela Park. It appears that some officials refuse to learn from their past mistakes of ignoring the poor solely because they have gained politically in the process.
We believe the MEC for housing (Bonginkosi Madikizela) held several secret meetings with the Gugulethu backyarders recently where ANC, ward 97(Councilor Mthwalo Mkhutswana) was invited to discuss the housing development which the department intent to commence in Mandela Park.
For your own information Madam Mayor, “SEBRA” (the company that was employed as developers to unblock both projects 497 and 823 in Mandela Park) once again misused the public funds and then vanished without any accounting of their finances by the department. We wish to put before your office that a few weeks before SEBRA’s disappearance last year in October, they presented us with a letter they claimed to have been written by Mr Madikizela to Mandela Park Backyarders. One of the highlighted sentences in the letter reads as follows:
“In the next financial year (2011/12) Mandela Park Backyarders will be prioritised. This meant with the next build order the MEC is committing himself to build houses for Mandela Park Backyarders.”
The said financial year begun on the 31 July 2011 and we assume prior to any execution of any work our community be consulted as part of normal processes. However, there has been zero consultation from Madikizela or his department.
No public meetings have been held to report to the community and all we see that our land being graded and levelled by new developers other than SEBRA. It is very clear to us that the department of human settlement uses a systematic strategy to further divide communities in the name of development. In the case of Mandela Park this is done by both the ward 97 councillor Mthwalo Mkhutswana & the MEC for Human Settlement Bonginkosi Madikizela.
We wish to inform you that the Mandela Park Backyarders are the only democratically elected and recognised structure in our community. We will now call a public meeting where the housing development will be discussed in depth, and then from there we will take action to ensure promises are kept and development does not proceed without us.
We have already written numerous letters to the Provincial Department of Human Settlements. We have no intention to write and further letters to the MEC's office since they continue to ignore us. We write to your office hoping to achieve consultation, democracy and transparency that you once spoke of prior to recent local government elections.
For more information contact:
Slu – 0714331101
Khaya – 0780241683 Ndende – 0791578844
Somalia: Developing robust and principled policy
Review of Afyare Abdi Elmi’s ‘Understanding the Somalia Conflagration: Identity, Political Islam and Peacebuilding’
Understanding Somalia’s conflict can perhaps seem like quite an arduous task. However, ‘Understanding the Somalia Conflagration’ by Dr Afyare Abdi Elmi from Qatar University is well structured, simple to read and offers a rational balance that is a useful reference for anyone with a passing interest, or indeed who is considering further research on Somalia.
The book traces the current unfolding and complex events back to their historical roots. It starts with a history of Somalia’s colonial period, when external powers divided Somali territories, and explains thoroughly the events leading to the catastrophic civil war in early 1991. It also presents an extensive analysis of Somalia’s civil war and the often confusing and troubled history of this nation.
The book (which seems to be a revised PhD thesis) is divided into nine chapters. The first three chapters set out the analytical framework of the study and offers wide conceptualisation on the conflict in relation to multiple identity markers such as clan, Islam and ‘Somaliness’. The discussions presented by the author are remarkable. Firstly, he investigates all the peace reconciliation efforts along with the roles played by foreign actors and greedy warlords. Secondly, the obscure notion of clan identity is well explained, something which is often embellished in other works. Afyare writes: ‘clan identity, in itself is not the cause of the conflict; it’s a mobilization instrument’ (p. 34).
This is true because there are more issues that unite Somali people than clan affiliation, but it became the opium Somalia’s ruling class have used to divide and rule Somalis.
In chapter three, he seeks to explain why clan identity is conducive to the current civil war, its drivers and dynamics, and the consequences of clan politics and who benefits from such politics, and why. The author presents mixed explanations, including that exploitative colonial and country leaders have compounded inimical inter-clan relations. For example, the last regime’s divide-and-rule policies assured the docility of different clan groups. The first six chapters of the book highlight the failure of the state in transforming the conflict, thus prolonging the civil war, the rise of political Islam and the further Talibanisation of Somali society.
Afyare attributes the Islamist rise to several factors. These include the political vacuum left by two decades of civil war that produced new generations of violent fundamentalists nurtured and inspired by what he described as ‘Islamic awakening’ (p. 48). His thoughtful overview of Somalia’s history, civil war, clan identity and the absence of a peacebuilding mechanism helps to situate the current crisis in the context of the past and sheds light on many possible ways out of the gridlock.
However, the book also deals with key issues that initially seem somewhat unrelated, but soon turn out to be opposite sides of the same coin. At the geopolitical level the author draws a picture of Somalia as a country which can’t ever be fully recovered due the level of destruction that has taken place. His main argument is that the myriad rival clans in the country find it hard to agree on everything and that an Islamist political accommodation is the only way forward to resolve the conflict. This avowal sends the wrong message on many fronts and this is what sets the book apart from rest of the work.
The peculiar Islamist outlook the author proposes from time to time is overly entertained in his thesis. The explanation of the Islamic awaking, although well placed and dramatic, recites familiar works but contributes to no fresh insights. Furthermore, his Islamist take is questionable. A somewhat weak part of the book is the notion that underplays the imminent threat to neighbouring countries like Ethiopia.
The chapter subtitle reads: ‘Islamic courts in Somalia: A vehicle for social change’ (p. 63). This statement is certainly correct, but not sophisticated enough to explain minority radicals’ nature and the threat they pose to regional security that provoked Ethiopian intervention. Afyare’s analysis relies more on Islamist interviews for its dominant political force. This account, which I disagree with, provides the basis for generating several hypotheses on the likely form and trajectory of political Islam in the country.
The dominant role of extremists in Union Islamic Courts (UIC), as well as hostility to Ethiopia, including destabilising units dispatched into Ethiopia’s Somali region long before the Ethiopian intervention in 2006, is barely covered and jihadi motives are not mentioned at all.
Nevertheless, ‘Somalia Conflagration’ is a recommendable introduction to a country which is increasingly the focus of the global ‘war on terror’. It does not deliver only background information, but also repeatedly deprecates the international community’s sole ownership of Somalia’s initiatives.
The author’s illustration of the international community’s routine symbolic interventions exemplifies the gap between reality and the theory which fuels endless war. The point he argues for is if the international community wants the people of this troubled country to take responsibility for their lives, they cannot engineer solutions for them, no matter how smart these may seem.
He draws on a number of cases to explain the need to review over two decades of fruitless engagement. For several reasons I do agree with him in this. First, the failure of so many interventions puts a restraint on the search for a solution. Different peacekeeping missions, picking leaders, taking sides and trying to impose a government by force without tangible state-building measures are the past actions which are synonymous with international community actions. The international community should stop its obsession with forming endless transitional administrations without state-building measures. Secondly, while it is important for the international actors to allow a breathing space in which Somalis can devise solutions to their own problems, Somalis have to be allowed to make experimental decisions along with proven ones. The central argument here is that Somalis need to decide their own fate and the international community should only support a ‘home-grown solution’ (p. 137).
The author illustrates how the clan issue is no longer a hurdle in Somalia since the Islamists came to power. Sadly, politicians are putting their interests before the nation and are prolonging inter-clan conflicts. The author offers alternatives to overcome 4.5 quota formulas like a ‘bicameral system where one of the houses can have clan representatives and another by districts or geographical formula’. However, Afyare is not enthusiastic about the system, which he considers a tool to interfere in the country’s affairs. This interference comes mostly from neighbouring Ethiopia, as Afyare elegantly puts it, ‘were formula has been designed in 1996’ (p. 93). According to him, Ethiopia has had different roles in the last 20 years. Kenya has a ‘facilitator and beneficiary’s role of the conflict’ (p. 97), and Djibouti’s ‘peace promoter’ roles are the major regional players in the country (p. 98).
Warnings of foreign interventions are carefully documented in this book, in which the role of the international community and of the United Nations especially, makes for dismal reading. ‘The UN, its backers, and the NGOs in Nairobi control what is happening in Somalia,’ writes Afyare (p.131).
The US government’s add-on to the conflict is well highlighted and it can also be implicit in how the international community has dragged its feet on justice and accountability, fearful that growing instability in the country could spiral into further anarchy if it alienates its warlord allies.
Of course, one reason why Afyare could not provide space on the subject is because of the absence of domestic institutions and capacity that can support a comprehensive transitional justice process. Each of these issues can only be discussed when there is genuine national state-building. Although international actors have repeatedly sermonised on the importance of justice and reconciliation, they have done little to exclude notorious warlords that have committed war crimes from the political process.
In addition to this, they supported and financed criminal warlords, as published in recent WikiLeaks cables. According to these, ruthless warlords like General Morgan, Qanyare, Qaybdid and Bashir Raghe were to be the men on the ground, and whenever the US needed support in the war on terror they could be armed against small district courts in Mogadishu, which later sparked the UIC’s formation.
Accordingly, the international community has done nothing to promote justice, not only in Somalia but even in their own countries. Many criminal warlords have fled to the west and have been granted a safe haven. Currently, more than half of Somalia’s parliamentarians are former warlords and corrupted politicians who have played roles in bloody civil war. In recent peace agreement negotiations, the donors and UN have not even tried to exclude let alone to disarm them.
In the last pages of the book, the author offers recommendations for what is best for the country. He emphasises the need for ‘revisiting the country’s federal system’ (p. 42) as mistaken policy choices have been made. At times, these recommendations are too abstract. The author does not discuss how they can be brought about, though there are many challenges in implementing these policies to be overcome.
Still, this book is an excellent contribution to the growing literature on state-building and conflict resolution in Somalia. It presents a broad, diverse and complex picture that is informative and vital for understanding Somalia. This is a book which is well-written, inventive and amazingly readable. It is fair to say Afyare is emerging as one of the most serious and thoughtful contributors on Somalia. Few academics have ever worked to develop a robust and principled policy toward Somalia that responds to the challenges of terrorism, statelessness and peacebuilding.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* Afyare Abdi Elmi, 'Understanding the Somalia Conflagration: Identity, Political Islam and Peacebuilding' is published by Pluto Press and Pambazuka Press. Orders outside of Africa should be made through Pluto, while orders within Africa should be made through Pambazuka.
* A review of the book by Anna Lindley also appears in the July 2011 issue of African Affairs.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Pambazuka News 198: Moneytheism and monotheism or the obscurantist international?
Mubarak in court
UK hacking scandal
Zimbabwe: Treason trial resumes
The trial of six Zimbabwean activists charged with treason for attending a lecture in February about the Egyptian uprising opened in Harare on 18 July. The activists had their charges altered to a lesser charge as the magistrate who was supposed to hear the matter recused himself. The activists are now being charged with conspiracy to commit public violence.
Kenya: Governance reforms unstoppable, says Kibaki
President Mwai Kibaki has assured that the Government is committed to undertaking far-reaching reforms in the management of public affairs and entrenchment in constitutionality. Speaking when he met and held discussions with members of the African Peer Review Mechanism, Kibaki noted that new and vibrant structures of governance were being put in place under the new constitution.
Angola: New law on domestic violence a step forward
Domestically abused women who are financially dependent on their abusers can now report the crime with the assurance that they will be able to get financial and medical support from the state, thanks to the country’s new law on domestic violence. Women’s campaigners have welcomed the introduction of the new law, which was signed into the statue books on 8 July, and which criminalises domestic violence and offers protection to victims and their families. Until now domestic violence had not been illegal in Angola - and on the rare occasions it reached court, it was prosecuted under rape, assault and battery laws.
Zambia: At 14 per cent, Zambia's political women stir controversy
Of the 158 MPs in Zambia, just 22 are women. With women representing just 14 per cent of parliament, Zambia is one of the poorest performers on affirmative action for female politicians in the South African Development Community, SADC, a regional interparliamentary body made up of 15 member countries. Zambia will hold its presidential and legislative elections in October. The Regional Women's Parliamentary Caucus, a policy organ of the SADC, has set a goal for women to make up half of Zambia's parliament after these elections.
Nigeria: Women take key cabinet posts
Gender activists have won a significant battle in their quest for more women representation in government with the final unveiling of President Goodluck Jonathan’s cabinet. Of the 40 ministers, 13 are women, a major milestone in the campaign for more involvement of women in governance. The number of female appointees in the cabinet represents about 31 per cent of the 42-member cabinet.
Africa: Challenge men to share political and economic power
Bineta Diop is well known for her campaigning in defence of women's rights in Africa. As director of the non-governmental organisation Femmes Africa Solidarité, she is at the forefront of the fight for better protection of women in conflict zones and their integration in peace processes. In April 2011, the US magazine Time listed Diop among the 100 most influential people in the world, recognising her engagement with several initiatives for peace in Africa. In this interview, Diop, who comes from Senegal, told IPS that women must challenge men in order to share political and economic power.
Malawi: Women fix water pipeline
Ethel James cannot wait for the gravity-fed water scheme in her area to be fixed so that she and the other women in her village will no longer have to wake up before dawn everyday to queue for water. She is part of the team of local villagers repairing the existing water system, which consists of a pipeline connected to a reservoir. At various points in the village are taps connected to the pipeline, but there is no running water just yet.
Kenya: Kenyans win right to sue UK over Mau Mau abuses
Four elderly Mau Mau war veterans have been given permission to sue over alleged British colonial atrocities committed during the Mau Mau uprising in Kenya more than 50 years ago. The ruling issued by a High Court in the UK granted the war veterans permission to sue for compensation for the atrocities meted out to them by the British authorities between the 1950s and 1960s.
Egypt: The price of hope
The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) has released the report, 'The Price of Hope: Human Rights Abuses During the Egyptian Revolution'. This report follows a fact-finding mission that was conducted in Egypt in March 2011 and documented the grave human rights violations perpetrated by the security forces against the protesters during the popular uprising. The investigation covered the period between 25 January and 11 February 2011, the day President Mubarak stepped down, with a special focus on Cairo, Alexandria and Suez, the cities that witnessed the most violence.
Kenya: Police quiz Ocampo Six in violence probe
Police have started questioning the Ocampo Six suspects in connection with the 2008 post-election violence. Three suspects - former police boss Hussein Ali, Tinderet MP Henry Kosgey and radio presenter Joshua Sang - have already recorded statements. The move to question the suspects, fingered by prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo as bearing the greatest responsibility for the mayhem, is said to be aimed at convincing the International Criminal Court that Kenya can try them at home.
Sudan: Satellite project documents alleged mass graves
The Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) has revealed visual evidence of mass graves in South Kordofan, which corroborates new eyewitness reports, obtained by SSP, of systematic killings and mass burials in this conflict-torn region of Sudan. The evidence found by SSP is consistent with allegations that the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and northern militias have engaged in a campaign of killing civilians.
Global: UN report declares internet access a human right
A United Nations report has said that disconnecting people from the internet is a human rights violation and against international law. The report railed against France and the United Kingdom, which have passed laws to remove accused copyright scofflaws from the internet. It also protested blocking internet access to quell political unrest
East Africa: Millions face death due to drought
While Kenya struggles to cope with the influx of refuges fleeing the drought in Somalia, it is estimated that about 1,300 people arrive daily at the Dadaab refugee camp. It takes on average nine days in 50-degree Celsius heat for those fleeing the drought in Somalia to travel the 80 kilometres of the sandy, expansive desert that separates Dadaab in Northern Kenya from Somalia. The journey to Dadaab is a treacherous one, made even more perilous as it snakes through territories of lawlessness where armed bandits and even police harass the refugees.
Kenya: Kenya to open new camp on Somali border
Kenya has agreed to open a new camp near its border with Somalia to cope with the influx of refugees fleeing the region's worst drought in 60 years. The lfo II camp in Dabaab will open its doors to 80,000 refugees within 10 days, the Kenyan government said. Prime Minister Raila Odinga agreed to open the new camp after visiting Dadaab's three existing camps where an estimated 380,000 refugees are now living at facilities intended to cope with a population of 90,000 people.
Zimbabwe: Borders closed to refugees and illegal immigrants
Zimbabwe’s immigration officials say they have instructed their officers at border posts not to accept illegal immigrants and refugees seeking to enter into the country. The ban is targeted at refugees mainly from Somalia and Ethiopia whom Zimbabwe accuses of using the country as a transit point to South Africa. The government-owned Herald newspaper reported that five border posts usually used by the Ethiopian and Somali immigrants had been instructed not to allow refugees into the country.
Zimbabwe: Rights group appeals for Zim documentation extension
A South African refugee rights group has called on the South African authorities to extend the deadline for Zimbabweans to get permits, warning that thousands of people are yet to receive their paperwork. The end of the Zimbabwe Documentation Project is less than two weeks away and South Africa is set to resume deporting undocumented Zim nationals when the process is finalised. But according to the Cape Town based PASSOP group, thousands of people have not got their documents yet, and fear is rising that they face possible deportation in the coming weeks.
South Africa: Philippi electricity protest rages on
Residents of a Philippi informal settlement and police have clashed again as protests over electricity supply entered their third day. Three police Nyalas cordoned off the corner of New Eisleben and Sheffield roads on 21 July when protests flared up again in Siyahlala. Residents set containers on fire and used them to block off sections of Sheffield Road, while teenagers and children lined the road, armed with rocks, watching for police.
South Africa: Fuel union says employers 'not listening'
South Africa's fuel workers' union has rejected a minimum eight per cent wage increase and is holding out for a double-digit hike, the union's chief negotiator said on Tuesday (19 July).The strike has left petrol stations dry across South Africa for more than a week and will probably cost the continent's top economy billions of rand in lost output.
South Africa: Tribunal could alter Walmart conditions
The conditions agreed to by Walmart and Massmart as part of the Competition Tribunal’s conditional approval of their merger could be abandoned if the case has to be reheard by the tribunal. This is just one of the possible outcomes of what is increasingly being seen as a high-risk attempt by three government departments to extract additional concessions from Walmart and Massmart. Not only might the country lose the commitments that have been made by the merging parties but it is possible that Walmart could approach the US government and in turn the World Trade Organisation (WTO) if it is put under unacceptable levels of pressure to agree to additional commitments.
DRC: Voter registration nets 31 million
DR Congo's National Independent Electoral Commission has registered 31.4 million voters for the November elections. The announcement was made by the commission chairman, the Rev Daniel Ngoy Mulunga, following the completion of the first phase of the updating of the electoral roll. DRC’s population is estimated to be 65 million people. With 48 per cent of these already enrolled to vote, this will be a big increase compared to the last election in 2006.
Egypt: Parliamentary polls to preceed new constitution
In a blow to those calling for a new constitution to be drawn up before elections are held, Egypt's ruling military council last week reiterated its intention to hold parliamentary polls later this year. 'The council remains committed to an interim plan to hold parliamentary elections first, after which a new constitution will be drafted,' a spokesman for Egypt's Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) declared in an official statement on 12 July. 'Presidential elections will be held some time after that.' Since the February ouster of longstanding president Hosni Mubarak, the debate over whether parliamentary polls should precede the formulation of a new constitution - or vice versa - has polarised the public.
Egypt: The road to Egypt’s second revolution
In what is being described by many Egyptians as the country's 'second revolution', tens of thousands are currently staging protests and sit-ins in Cairo, Alexandria, Suez and other cities in the biggest wave of protests since the fall of Hosni Mubarak on 11 February. The 18-day uprising toppled the former dictator, however, many demonstrators maintain that his legacy is alive and well in the current administration. Anger now is directed toward the ruling military council and caretaker prime minister Essam Sharaf's transitional government. This Al Jazeera page carries a series of photographs depicting events in Egypt.
Guinea: Troops arrested after assassination bid
At least 38 soldiers have been arrested over an assassination attempt on president Alpha Conde of Guinea, who was nearly killed last Tuesday when his home was bombarded with rockets. An official of the Guinean government told the AP news agency on Thursday that many of the men arrested have ties to Guinea's previous military rulers. Conde, 73, escaped unhurt from the incident, but a member of his presidential guard was killed and two others injured as they fought off the attack for over two hours.
Kenya: New poll law seeks to curb vote buying
Campaign spending will be limited by new election laws in a move aimed at levelling the political playing field. This is among a raft of radical changes that have been introduced in the just published Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Act.
Malawi: Mass funeral for Malawi protesters, president warns others
Seven Malawians killed in anti-government riots this week were buried in a mass grave on Friday 22 July as President Bingu wa Mutharika threatened to stamp out any further protests against his rule. At least 18 people have been killed and 200 arrested in unprecedented protests against Mutharika, with soldiers firing live ammunition and tear gas to disperse crowds calling for an end to what they say is autocratic rule.
Mali: Party names 2012 presidential candidate
Mali's majority party, the Malian Alliance for Democracy (ADEMA), picked Parliament Speaker Dioncounda Traore as its presidential candidate for April 2012 polls, a party official said Saturday. ADEMA holds 54 of 147 seats in parliament and has dominated the chamber since former president Alpha Oumar Konare was elected in 1992.
Senegal: Protests banned
Senegal banned political rallies in the centre of the capital Dakar on Thursday 21 July, two days before a planned protest against President Abdoulaye Wade seeking a new term in 2012 elections. The move forced organisers of the march to reschedule it to a location outside the centre of town, where they had been planning to demonstrate close to Wade's presidential palace. A pro-Wade rally is due to take place in a separate suburb of the sprawling coastal capital. The Interior Ministry said the ban was needed on grounds of security.
South Africa: Time to 'discover the truth' about Malema
The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) on Sunday called for an investigation into the financial affairs of African National Congress Youth League president Julius Malema. 'We call for an investigation by the ANC's committee on ethics and members' interests, the SA Revenue Service (Sars) and the Special Investigations Unit into the allegations,' spokesperson Patrick Craven said in a statement. This came after AfriForum laid a corruption case against Malema on Sunday, after it was reported that he had a trust fund for deposits from business people.
Tunisia: PM says unrest aims to derail polls
Beji Caid Essebsi, the Tunisian prime minister, has said that a new outbreak of deadly violence in Tunisia is designed to prevent the country holding its first post-revolution elections. 'There were disturbances aimed at preventing elections,' said Essebsi during an address to the nation on Monday. 'These elections will be held on 23 October as scheduled.' Voters will choose a constituent assembly that will write a new constitution that will pave the way for legislative and presidential polls.
Africa: Barriers towards combatting corruption in Africa
Regional and international bodies such as the SADC, AU and UN should make the implementation of anti-corruption instruments by all signatories mandatory. These bodies should specify time frames within which the implementation should be done and sanctions for failing to do so. Such sanctions can include but not be limited to automatic cancellation of the signature and ratification thereof. This is one of the recommendations of a survey report on barriers towards combating corruption in Africa, conducted by Anti-Corruption Trust of Southern Africa (ACT-Southern Africa).
South Africa: New corruption-busting probe
Police have been asked to investigate a second complaint of corruption against Willie Hofmeyr, the head of both the Asset Forfeiture Unit and the Special Investigating Unit, the National Prosecuting Authority confirmed on Sunday. NPA spokesman Mthunzi Mahaga said the national director of public prosecutions (Menzi Simelane) called in the police after billionaire Dave King levelled the allegations against Hofmeyr. The Sunday Times portrayed the two charges as part of a campaign by Simelane to undermine Hofmeyr and the AFU. The newspaper said an investigation against the KwaZulu-Natal head of the AFU, Knorx Molelle, was linked to the fight for control of the unit.
Tanzania: BAE criticised by UK MPs over Tanzania corruption
The British arms and aircraft firm BAE Systems has been severely criticised by a UK parliamentary inquiry into a corruption case surrounding an air-traffic-control deal with Tanzania. MPs accused BAE of unilaterally setting up a compensation arrangement for Tanzania that was a 'complete sham'. BAE admitted to not keeping full accounting records of £8m ($12m) it paid to an agent who brokered the deal.
Africa: Free trade is not what Africa needs, Mr Cameron
On his trip to South Africa, David Cameron talked of the need to go beyond debt cancellation and aid 'to make African free trade the common purpose of the continent'. But, argues this article from the UK Guardian, trade on the wrong terms has been of no benefit to Africa - rather it 'has ripped open markets, destroyed infant industries, undermined control of food production, and exploited resources. It is the opposite of what Africa needs'.
Angola: Merkel under fire for controversial warship deal
German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced recently that Germany was prepared to sell six to eight patrol boats to Angola as part of an international cooperation deal. 'Germany is ready for an energy and raw materials partnership,' Merkel said during a visit to the oil-rich country. Politicians in Berlin are concerned about Angola's human rights record. Claudia Roth, the head of the Greens, described it as a bad move following the controversial decision to sell battle tanks to Saudi Arabia last week, calling Merkel the 'patron saint of the arms lobby'. And Rolf Muetzenich from the SPD parliamentary group alluded to Germany's concern over Angola's human rights record.
Ethiopia: Meles dismissive of economic criticism
Prime Minister Meles Zenawi recently dismissed a question from an MP representing his ruling EPRDF about comments made by Ken Ohashi, former country director of the World Bank to Ethiopia. Ohashi believes Ethiopia’s economy has deeply structural flaws in competitiveness and is trapped in a low productivity quagmire. He concluded his four-year tenure in Ethiopia last month. He was known for his scepticism on the viability of the administration’s signature plan outlined in the Growth and Transformation Plan.
South Africa: Euro crisis to hit SA, Gordhan warns
South Africa would not be able to escape an escalated European crisis unscathed, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said on Thursday, adding its direct economic exposure to the countries affected was reasonably low. 'South Africa's direct economic exposure to those countries affected by current market turmoil is reasonably low,' Gordhan said in an opinion piece published in Business Day. 'The greater risk for South Africa is the potential for contagion that results in a prolonged and expanding crisis in Europe and undermines global growth significantly.'
South Sudan: Addressing South Sudan’s impediments to regional trade
South Sudan became the world’s newest nation on 9 July 2011, making it Africa’s 54th country. Independence brings enormous opportunities to South Sudan to increase its integration into the regional economy but also substantial challenges to put in place a policy and security regime that facilitates cross-border trade. The 2005 peace accord that ended Africa's longest-running civil war has led to a significant growth in demand in South Sudan, ushering in a new era of increased regional trade, in particular, with Uganda. A new Africa Trade Policy Note highlights the recent patterns of trade between South Sudan and Uganda, and draws attention to significant constraints that are limiting the prospects for enhanced cross-border trade.
West Africa: Regional integration key to hunger fight, says report
A new report from Action Against Hunger and the Oakland Institute, 'Achieving Regional Integration: The Key to Success for the Fight Against Hunger in West Africa' assesses the relevance and potential of regional institutions and mechanisms in reducing hunger and undernutrition in West Africa - where chronic hunger remains pervasive - decades after the devastating droughts of the 1970s. The report analyzes the role regional institutions have in the fight against hunger and argues that, despite weaknesses, the existence and commitment of regional institutions is key. 'Many issues, such as price volatility, are regional by essence and cannot be tackled effectively by individual countries. Without integration, most West African states will remain subject to the agenda and goodwill of international donors, institutions, and richer countries. Resource-poor African governments need to implement regional policies for sustainable food production, smoother regional trade, and regulated agricultural markets.'
Uganda: Groundbreaking case challenges the state's failure to protect maternal health
On 27 May 2011 the Centre for Health Human Rights and Development (CEHURD), a Ugandan NGO, and the families of two mothers who died in government hospitals in 2009 in Uganda approached the Ugandan Constitutional Court alleging the women’s deaths were caused as a direct result of Uganda’s failing healthcare system. The petitioners argue that the tragic deaths are but two manifestations of a larger problem of an unacceptably high rate of maternal mortality in Uganda. They hope that a declaration to this effect by the Court will force the Ugandan government to increase its budget for maternal healthcare.
Somalia: Mogadishu hospitals running out of medicine
Hospitals in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, have been hit by a shortage of drugs following the arrival of large numbers of drought-displaced people in the past two months, with health officials reporting that up to five patients were dying daily due to disease outbreaks. 'Hospitals are experiencing shortages of medicines yet they need to distribute drugs to deal with outbreaks of measles, diarrhoea, malnutrition, malaria and respiratory diseases,' Aden Ibrahim, the Health Minister in Somalia's Transitional Federal Government, told IRIN in Mogadishu.
Global: HIV spread driven by number of partners, rather than concurrency
The spread of HIV is driven more by how many sexual partners a person has in their lifetime rather than having more than one lover at a time. This is according to extensive research conducted over five years by scientists from the Africa Centre in Umkhanyakude district in rural KwaZulu-Natal. The results were published on 15 July in the prestigious Lancet journal. Debate has raged for years about the role that concurrent sexual partnerships (ie sexual partnerships that overlap in time) play in HIV transmission, with a number of experts arguing that concurrent partnerships are a key driver of the epidemic in Africa.
Madagascar: Small steps towards treating hydrocephalus
The bandage covering Olida Soanirina’s eye does not disguise the ravages of hydrocephalus as the three-month-old recovers from an operation at the Joseph Ravoahangy Andrianavalona Hospital (HJRA) in the capital Antananarivo. Hydrocephalus is caused by an accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain’s ventricles, with those who suffer from it producing up to seven spoonfuls an hour while the average person produces one. Left untreated, the condition causes the head to swell as pressure increases, leading to disability and a painful death. Treatment in the developing world is difficult because of the high cost of neurosurgery operations.
Côte d'Ivoire: The downside of 'free' health care
Côte d'Ivoire is studying national health insurance and other schemes for financing public health services so more people have access to quality care. For now the temporary policy of free care - which the government said was aimed to help people after the post-election crisis - is causing grief for doctors and patients alike. Many women in the city who have recently taken their children to hospital, where medicines are scarce, told IRIN they would prefer a return to the country's long-time system of health user fees. 'At least we knew where we stood, and we could get some services,' said Mariam* in Adjamé District.
South Sudan: Time to start learning
South Sudan has three generations of children who have never seen the inside of a classroom. According to Dr. Michael Hussein, the minister for general education, the education sector suffered most during the civil war. 'Teachers were neglected, salaries were not regular, there was no training and many fled the war-torn areas. As a result, three generations lost the opportunity to go to school,' says the minister. The issue of education in South Sudan is so critical that most leaders are calling on the youth to go back to school.
Malawi: Civil society asks for a dialogue committee over university stand-off
The Civil Society Coalition for Quality Basic Education has asked Malawi president Bingu wa Mutharika to transform the Commission of Inquiry on the University impasse into a Dispute Resolution Dialogue Committee in order to resolve the stand off which has led to the firing of four Chancellor College Academic Staff Union (CCASU) lecturers. The Coalition observes that since the president, as a Chancellor, is subject to the inquiry’s probe, the objectivity of the commission is likely to be compromised as he is known to have already taken sides and so the commission may be forced to change its modus operandi to accommodate him.
South Africa: Pupils stage protest sleep-in
Nomonde Vumazonke is one of about 100 learners from schools across the Cape Peninsula who have spent two nights camping outside Parliament in an attempt to pressure the Minister of Education to adopt Norms and Standards for all public schools in the country. Vumazonke, who is in grade 12 at Sangweni Senior Secondory in Khayelitsha, said she and her fellow learners needed the education department to set regulations that will list all the physical infrastructure schools require to function properly. This would ensure there is a basic infrastructure level that every school must meet, she said.
South Africa: Why Zimbabwe can't fill 15,000 teaching vacancies
Zimbabwe is unable to fill 15,000 teaching posts in government schools because school leavers are reluctant to join the profession. The vacant posts are said to be increasing despite reports that thousands of Zimbabwean teachers, who had left the country at the height of the economic problems, were returning home. An official in the Ministry of Education told the state owned Herald newspaper that out of the 111,000 teaching posts in the country, 96,000 were filled by qualified teachers.
Tunisia: Tunisia to hire thousands of new teachers
Tunisia is set to hire thousands of new teachers while at the same time doing away with a long-derided aptitude test for those wishing to join the ranks of educators. Many teaching hopefuls said the Contest of Aptitude for Secondary Education Teachers (CAPES) was a barrier to employment and a source of corruption. The education ministry will hire 2,000 new teachers, 1,345 new superintendents and 120 new chief superintendents.
Ghana: Concern over arrest order for homosexuals
The western region minister Paul Evans Aidoo has ordered the immediate arrest of all homosexuals in the region. He has tasked the Bureau of National Investigations and all security agencies to smoke out persons suspected to be engaging in same sex. He also enlisted the services of landlords and tenants to provide reliable information which will lead to the arrest of homosexuals.
Ghana: Mills backtracks on homosexuality statements
Ghana's President John Evans Atta Mills has chastised the media for reporting that he 'would institute measures to check the menace of homosexuality and lesbianism'. He allegedly made the statement at the Sunyani Central Ebenezer Presbyterian Church. President Mills was said to have personally telephoned the acting editor of the Ghanaian Times to reprimand him over a recent publication in the state-owned newspaper of the raging homosexual issue, even though the story was originally a Ghana News Agency story.
South Africa: SA firm comes up with exclusive gay insurance portfolio
South Africa’s LGBT community now has a financial service provider, Gaysure, catering exclusively for its needs. 'The gay community is a much lower risk when it comes to insurance needs and thus it is long overdue for not just another company targeting the LBGT market, but a company catering specifically for their needs with a niche product,' say Gaysure on their website. Products and services provided by Gaysure include, car and household insurance, business insurance, life insurance, retirement planning and stock broking.
Uganda: Constitutional Court hears petition on equal job opportunities for gays
Uganda’s Constitutional Court on Monday 18 July began hearing a petition against the law that bars homosexuals from being employed and accessing equal opportunities. An LGBTI activist Mr Adrian Juuko, the Executive Director of Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF), petitioned the court to nullify section 15(6) d of the Equal Opportunities Commission Act 2007.
Kenya: Kenya gives millers the nod to import GM maize
Kenya’s Cabinet has approved the importation of genetically modified maize as it seeks to curb a biting food shortage ravaging most parts of the country. The move makes Kenya the first country in the region to allow GMO crops into the market for human consumption. Kenya is the most advanced country in the region in terms of GMO research and biosafety protocols, and analysts expect that the country’s experience in handling GMO crops in the market will be used as a model for other neighbouring countries to refine their own biotechnological practices.
Kenya: Advice on GMOs ignored
The government ignored recommendations by the House committee on the rising cost of living in regard to importation of genetically modified maize. The committee’s chairman, Mr Ababu Namwamba, said this on the second day of a tour of the North Rift town of Eldoret to find out the factors that led to increased cost of farm produce. His team held a discussion with farmers. 'In our preliminary report, we advised the government to consult with the Kenyans first before giving a green light to the importation of GMO in the country,' said Mr Namwamba.
Africa: Copenhagen Accord gathers dust as Africa battles drought
As thousands suffer the effects of drought in the Horn of Africa, developing nations are silent on pledges they made to help developing countries cope with climate related change. In 2008, world leaders met to deliberate on climate change under the UN in Copenhagen, Denmark. The developed countries pledged aid to developing countries to help them cope with the impact of the global phenomenon that has caused several droughts and related disasters in Africa. According to the World Resource Institute, which has kept an eye on the Copenhagen Accord, less than four per cent of the pledged cash has been disbursed.
Uganda: Farmers battle uncertain weather patterns
Having spent years uprooted by conflict, farmers in northern Uganda are again facing tough times – this time caused by the weather. In late June, Joel Lacung and Margaret Ataro of Got-Ngur village in northern Uganda’s Nwoya district, laboured under the scorching sun as they drove two pairs of oxen to prepare their land for the approaching second rice-planting season. They were among many rural farmers in Uganda whose livelihoods have been affected by increasingly erratic rainfall and high temperatures. Most were displaced by the years of conflict with the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) and remain poor and unable to acquire farm inputs.
Africa: African rainfall data 'will improve climate predictions'
A comprehensive 30-year dataset of African rainfall could soon help test climate change predictions and improve climate models, according to a UK researcher. The new data come from a European Meteosat satellite that has been collecting data over Europe and Africa. The data will supplement the poor ground data on rainfall to help improve climate predictions, which are often contradictory.
Africa: Booming cotton no boon to African farmers
Amado Kafando's elation followed news on 7 March that the price of cotton, a crop he plants each summer in rows broken by a cow-tethered plow, hit a record $2.197 a pound, capping a two-year surge of 430 per cent. Finally, he said, cotton could fulfill the promise of its nickname in his homeland of Burkina Faso: white gold. But within weeks, Kafando was clenching his fists. The government and regional cotton monopolies, which Burkinabe farmers must sell to, announced they would charge growers 38 per cent more for fertilizer - and pay them as little as 39 per cent of the world price at the time for their crop.
South Africa: Let’s transform the debate on land reform
The failure of post-apartheid South Africa to address the pressing challenges facing both land reform and the rural economy more generally may be due to inadequate policies and implementation, but essentially it indicates an intense political struggle, writes Obiozo Ukpabi on the blog Another Countryside. 'That the reality is much more complicated than finding compelling ways to get the land may be obvious. But how does South Africa move beyond the stuckness of the land reform process by confronting the key issues head on? A reframing of the issues for a truly progressive public debate requires an understanding of the powerful interests that are vested into the current deadlock.'
South Africa: Police involvement in land issues condemned
Association For Rural Advancement press release
'For too long the people of the Amajuba District have been raising their concerns with the office of Land Reform and Rural Development at many levels and at many times, but in vain. It is in our view that such an audience with both senior officials and politicians will ensure accountability which has been lacking thus far within the department.'
Association For Rural Advancement
Statement on the landless sit-in: Amajuba land reform offices
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
19 July 2011
The Association For Rural Advancement condemns in the strongest possible terms the use of police machinery to deal with land issues.
In honouring the true fighting legacy of Nelson Mandela, the planned peaceful sit-in by the landless people of Utrecht, Newcastle and Dannhauser was aimed at securing an audience with senior department official, Director-General Mr Mduduzi Shabane, and the relevant member of the KZN legislature or national parliament. Instead of engaging with the people, the department unleashed the police. Not only was this police action unwarranted, but it also serves to obscure the true issues.
For too long the people of the Amajuba District have been raising their concerns with the office of Land Reform and Rural Development at many levels and at many times, but in vain. It is in our view that such an audience with both senior officials and politicians will ensure accountability which has been lacking thus far within the department.
AFRA calls on MEC Lydia Johnson and her counterpart, the Chairperson of the Agriculture and Rural Development portfolio committee, Mr Themba Mthembu, to take charge of the situation and engage with the landless to ensure decent and orderly land reform and rural development. It is our view that the lack of a hands-on approach by our politicians on critical matters of land reform and rural development in this province has resulted in elites and officials dictating the direction of land reform and rural development in a manner that has caused internal tensions within beneficiary communities. There are many court decisions which have not yet been implemented, to the detriment of the poor rural landless.
The current situation in Newcastle is a predictable manifestation of the growing impatience of our landless rural people.
Issued by Land Rights NGO:
Association For Rural Advancement (AFRA)
For more information contact
Thabo Manyathi (073 602 2370)
Burkina Faso: Boost for smallholder farmers
The government of Burkina Faso has responded to long-standing demands of farmers for greater support for small family producers with the launch of 'Operation 100,000 Ploughs'. Smallholder farmers say this will strengthen the country’s food security. The operation, launched in June, will make 20,000 ploughs available to the poorest rural households in each of the next five years, half of them to be given to women. According to Dao, the ploughs will be made affordable thanks to an 80 per cent subsidy from the government.
Malawi: Crackdown on media covering protests
The Committee to Protect Journalists has condemned sweeping arrests and attacks on journalists, as well as censorship by the administration of Malawi President Bingu Wa Muthiraka against media outlets reporting on nationwide antigovernment protests that erupted on Wednesday 20 July. Police arrested a contributor to Nyasa Times, a UK-based online news site critical of the government, journalist Collins Mtika. Vitima Ndovi, a freelance journalist in the capital, Lilongwe, was also arrested.
Tunisia: Journalist protection urgently needed
ARTICLE 19 says it is extremely concerned by reports of police and army clashes with demonstrators over the weekend of 15-17 July, which resulted in at least two deaths, including the killing of a 15 year old protestor, Hajlaoui Thabet, who was shot in the heart. In addition, ARTICLE 19 says it is equally concerned by reports it has received of attacks on journalists covering protests and police and army clashes with demonstrators in Tunis, on 15 July 2011.
Egypt: Calls for investigation into disappeared journalist
The Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights (EOHR) has called on the prosecutor general to launch investigations into the forced disappearance of many individuals, including the journalist Reda Helal. On 21 July 2011, 'Al Wafd' Newspaper published a report on an interview with police officer Mahmoud Abdel Nabi, a member of the Honest Police Officers' Coalition in which he said that 'the police killed him [Helal], I know the officer who committed the murder.'
Kenya: Fears of media gag
A Chinese company has been given a contract to distribute media content in Kenya. The company has got the license to distribute digital broadcast signal, giving it control of key strategic infrastructure and role in Kenya’s transition to digital broadcasting. Pundits are scared that this is a measure by the 'conservative' forces in government to curtail the freedom of the media in Kenya.
Zambia: TV crew attacked by ruling party members
Reporters Without Borders has condemned a violent attack by members of the ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) on a Muvi TV crew that included two women that went to Nakachenje, a town to the west of Lusaka, on 18 July to investigate claims that MMD members were illegally seizing and sharing out land. The police, who are investigating the assault, said they arrested two suspects on charges of 'assault, criminal trespass and obtaining money by false pretences'.
Global: Anti-boycott law curbs free expression
Israel has violated the right to free expression by approving a law that penalises individuals and organisations that call for boycotting Israel, say IFEX members the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) and Human Rights Watch. The law, approved in a 47-to-38 vote by Parliament on 11 July, makes it a punishable offence to publicly call for a boycott - economic, cultural or academic - against Israel, its institutions or any area under its control.
Global: The demise of news, when lies become truth
'The death of newsprint represents the end of an era. And news gathering will not be replaced by the Internet,' argues this article about the US news industry, but which has relevance for the industry globally. 'Journalism, at least on the large scale of old newsrooms, is no longer commercially viable. Reporting is time-consuming and labor-intensive. It requires going out and talking to people. It means doing this every day. It means looking constantly for sources, tips, leads, documents, informants, whistle-blowers, new facts and information, untold stories and news. The steady decline of the news business means we are plunging larger and larger parts of our society into dark holes and opening up greater opportunities for unchecked corruption, disinformation and the abuse of power.'
Somalia: Somali children 'risk death all the time', says Amnesty
Children in Somalia are being systematically recruited to fight on frontlines, killed in indiscriminate attacks and denied an education, Amnesty International said on Wednesday. Other abuses include being flogged, and being forced to attend public stonings and amputations by Islamist groups, including al Qaeda-affiliated al Shabaab, the rights watchdog said in a report. 'As a child in Somalia, you risk death all the time: you can be killed, recruited and sent to the frontline, punished by al Shabaab because you are caught listening to music or "wearing the wrong clothes", be forced to fend for yourself because you have lost your parents or even die because you don't have access to adequate medical care,' Michelle Kagari, Amnesty's deputy director for Africa, said in a statement.
South Africa: The people of Blikkiesdorp
The blog www.africasacountry.com features a selection of photographs from South African photographer Lizane Louw, who has spent three years chronicling the lives of the people of Blikkiesdorp (translation: Tin Town), a temporary relocation camp in Delft, located about 30 km from Cape Town's city centre. 'I don’t think it is ethically and morally acceptable that people that are poor must live in such challenging and substandard living conditions. Something needs to be done and we need to seriously reflect on ourselves as a society, when these things happen in your backyard without us attempting to do anything about it,' she is quoted as saying.
Global: Petition to free the Cuban 5
The Cuban Five are five Cuban men who are in US prisons serving two life sentences and 96 years, collectively, after being wrongly convicted in the US federal district court in Miami on 8 June 200l. The open letter - available at the link provided - authored by long time activists, Joan P. Gibbs, Esq. and Rosemari Mealy, JD, Ph.D., has been endorsed by over a 100 activists from throughout the United States and around the world.
DRC: Quagmire in east set to blight DRC elections
More than three years ago, peace accords signed in the North Kivu provincial capital, Goma, were supposed to signal the end of violence and displacement in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. However, as the country heads for general elections in November, armed factions continue to destabilize the country. In this analysis, IRIN explores the sticking points in the protracted conflict, which has displaced hundreds of thousands of civilians.
Global: The wartime rape of men
Because there has been so little research into the rape of men during war, it's not possible to say with any certainty why it happens or even how common it is – although a rare 2010 survey, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that 22 per cent of men and 30 per cent of women in Eastern Congo reported conflict-related sexual violence. Research shows that male sexual violence is a component of wars all over the world and also suggests that international aid organisations are failing male victims, reports The Observer newspaper.
Libya: US struggles to free money for Libyan rebels
Despite its decision to grant diplomatic recognition to Libya’s rebels, the Obama administration is struggling to find ways to provide them with the $34 billion in frozen Libyan assets held in US-controlled bank accounts, officials say. Administration officials held at least two meetings this past week to explore ways to release the money, which the opposition Transitional National Council says it urgently needs to pay salaries and buy critical supplies. But the funds are ensnared in a thicket of legal regulations.
Nigeria: President meets elders over Islamist sect attacks
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has met with northern elders on the menace of Islamist sect Boko Haram, blamed for a spate of deadly bomb and gun attacks especially in the city of Maiduguri. The meeting explored different options to bring about peace and security in the beleaguered state and other affected areas in northern Nigeria, said a minister who briefed journalists after the meeting.
Somalia: UN to declare famine in parts of Somalia
The United Nations is set to declare famine in parts of southern Somalia, signalling to donors the need for more aid and to insurgents that the population's suffering is being taken seriously. Mark Bowden, humanitarian coordinator for Somalia, was expected to make the announcement in Nairobi, based on fresh data from the food security and nutrition analysis unit for the violent Horn of Africa country, aid officials told the Reuters news agency on Tuesday. 'It will declare famine in several areas of southern Somalia,' a Geneva-based aid worker said. The world body has described the Horn of Africa drought as an emergency, one level short of a famine, citing dire levels of acute malnutrition among Somali children reaching camps in Kenya and Ethiopia.
South Africa: SA, UK agree Gaddafi must go
British Prime Minister David Cameron and President Jacob Zuma have agreed that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi must go. Cameron, who is on a working visit to South Africa, told reporters in Pretoria on Monday that he and Zuma believed Gaddafi needed to step down from power. However, Zuma said: 'What happens to Gaddafi must be decided by the Libyan people. You need to negotiate how, why and where he must go.'
South Sudan: UN calls for S Kordofan war crimes probe
A senior United Nations humanitarian official says the world body is 'extremely worried' about the situation in Sudan's South Kordofan region after a leaked report said war crimes may have been committed there. The leaked UN report, which emerged on Monday, documents witness accounts of suspected atrocities and called for an inquiry into the allegations. Oil-rich South Kordofan borders the newly created nation of South Sudan. It has seen intense fighting in recent months between the Sudan's army and local armed groups.
SA Reconciliation Barometer newsletter: Volume 9 Issue 2
The issue includes:
- ‘This place restored my dignity’: Stories of the Solms-Delta farm workers by Crystal Orderson
- Struggle songs, heritage and reconciliation by Cecyl Esau
- Employment Equity: Ticking Boxes or True Transformation?
- Are we democratic citizens? by Ayanda Nyoka
- South Africa documents the undocumented by Caroline Ruetsch.
Africa: Free Africa Yearbook until 1 August
The Africa Yearbook covers major domestic political developments, the foreign policy and socio-economic trends in sub-Sahara Africa – all related to developments in one calendar year. Six editions of the Africa Yearbook are now freely available online until 1 August 2011.
Mali: November conference on land grabbing planned
Although many conferences, articles and TV broadcasts have tackled the topic of land grabbing, the voice of farmers has been marginalised. This is why La Via Campesina and the national farmers organisation of Mali is inviting people to a conference in November to listen, exchange experiences and support those who experience land grabbing every day.
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