Pambazuka News 557: Wall Street, warmongers and North Africa transitions
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Why the attempted remilitarisation of Africa will fail
Lessons from the deployment of Kenyan troops into Somalia
At the same moment when the Libyan adventure backfired with the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) retreating from taking credit for the end of the Gaddafi regime, the US government announced the deployment of 100 troops to Uganda to assist the government of Yoweri Museveni to track down the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Later the same month in October 2011, there was news that the Kenyan army had been deployed into Somalia in pursuit of armed Somalians known as Al-Shabaab (‘The Youth’) that Kenya blames for a series of kidnappings on its soil. It was also revealed that France would be supporting the Kenyan invasion in Somalia.
Sensitive to the future relationship with Africans who want peace, the spokespersons for AFRICOM have been ‘leading from behind’ in this Kenyan operation. In this article, I argue that of the US-supported ventures in Africa, the foray into Somalia represents a heightened threat to peace and reconstruction in Africa, especially East Africa. I will argue that this Western-supported incursion is more against the Kenyan people than against the forces of Al-Shabaab, or whatever name that will be given to the musical chairs of military entrepreneurs in Somalia.
In the past 20 years, the US support for militarism in the Horn of Africa has destabilised this region of Africa. Since independence in 1963, Kenya has been the cockpit of imperial ventures in Africa. This was because the radical traditions of Kenya from the period of the Land and Freedom Army had to be contained. After three periods of containment using force, non-governmental organisations and sowing divisions among the progressives, the awakening in Africa pointed to the vibrancy and potential for people-centred change in Kenya. Thus, the security planners in Western states were not going to wait to be surprised by a Tahrir Square uprising in Kenya.
This process of remilitarisation will fail in Africa, just as support for Mobutism and support for apartheid failed decades earlier. The challenge for peace and social justice forces in North America and Europe is to take the question of the militarisation of Africa to the forefront of the struggles against the one per cent, and link the issues of militarism more closely to the banking industry and its private military contractors.
I will start with the six points that highlighted the catastrophic failure of AFRICOM in Libya, retrace the failure of the Operation Lightning Thunder of 2008 and then examine the fear of revolutionary uprisings in Kenya. The conclusion will retrace the intellectual and political crisis within the US ruling circles in this depression, and explore why the current remilitarisation of Africa is being opposed fiercely in Africa and will influence the present movement for peace and social justice in North America and Western Europe.
CATASTROPHIC FAILURE IN LIBYA
When Seumas Milne from UK newspaper the Guardian wrote, ‘If the Libyan war was about saving lives, it was a catastrophic failure,’ he was communicating a conclusion that had been echoed in newspapers and by analysts all over the world. From Asia, writers were linking the role of AFRICOM to the new power grab in Africa while there was massive opposition from Africa. In studying the catastrophic failures, I will briefly list the top six.
a) The first point that has been made by numerous writers that far from protecting lives in Libya, far more lives were lost from the NATO intervention. Seumas Milne wrote: ‘What is now known, however, is that while the death toll in Libya when NATO intervened was perhaps around 1,000-2,000 (judging by UN estimates), eight months later it is probably more than ten times that figure. Estimates of the numbers of dead over the last eight months – as NATO leaders vetoed ceasefires and negotiations – range from 10,000 up to 50,000. The National Transitional Council puts the losses at 30,000 dead and 50,000 wounded.’
b) The second major point of the NATO led quagmire in Libya is the destruction of the society. The rubble of former cities and towns is a testament to the unlimited bombing. Sirte, in particular has been completely destroyed.
c) The third point refers to the crimes of war committed by NATO and NATO supported troops. NATO and their surrogates committed atrocities and the execution of prisoners constitute a crime under the laws of war. There is no statute of limitation for crimes of war.
d) Fourthly, the banks and the financial institutions are involved in the financialisation of energy ‘markets.’ The extent to which the Gaddafi regime was linked to Goldman Sachs and the opaque world of commodity financial contracts is yet to fully emerge. The Libyan Investment Authority lost billions of dollars and the peoples of Libya will have great difficulty unfreezing their assets that were frozen by western countries and the banks that are now plunging the world into a depression.
e) The now exposed role of Qatar troops and other forces on the ground when the UN mandate explicitly precluded ground troops.
f) The support for conservative Islamists who want to roll back the rights of women and the gains of the people of Libya.
Once the multiple layers of failures began to be documented around the world, the euphoric rhetoric about NATO success in Libya receded as General Carter Ham (head of AFRICOM) hid behind, while Nato chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen flew to Libya in a self-congratulatory one day visit to hail the ‘success’ of the NATO mission to assist the National Transitional Council.
While some senators in the USA were posturing about the NATO victory, the Obama White House was embarrassed by the exposure of the discussion about the assassination of Gaddafi while he was in the hands of the ‘National Security Council’ forces. General Carter Ham who at the start of the Operation in March Libya was willing to take credit for the bombing of Tripoli was shy to have a full discussion on Libya. Carter Ham spoke at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CISS) in October to present a public relations effort in relation to the new deployment in Central Africa.
While in March, Carter Ham was willing to be on the international news celebrating the role of AFRICOM in Libya, even before the execution of Gaddafi, Carter Ham was trying to shift attention from the on-going war crimes in Libya to speak of ‘threats to stability, security challenges and crises all over the continent.’ The more tuned-in policymakers who attended grasped that Ham was clutching at straws and that no mention was made or attempt offered at setting out what the structural or underlying root causes of the ‘threats to stability and security challenges’ all over Africa actually are.
Carter Ham reproduced the same ideas about security and how to help client states in Africa protect US interests. The criteria that AFRICOM continues to use to determine where it will look to offer ‘assistance’ to confront threats and address security challenges includes: (a) dictators and constitutional democrats who will seek AFRICOM’s assistance to remain in power, (b) emphasis on the East African region as a strategic area for projection of force, (c) the importance of Uganda and East Africa for future US planning, and (d) the usual justification for militarism, that of fighting Al Qaeda in Somalia.
What was not stated was that the goal of the United States in Africa was to pre-empt other revolutionary uprisings of the type and scale that removed the regimes in Tunisia and Egypt.
ASSISTING MUSEVENI TO STAY IN POWER IN UGANDA
Less than two weeks after this public relations exercise at the CISS, newspapers in the USA announced that AFRICOM will send two combat teams of about 100 to Africa (Uganda, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo,) to help fight against the Lord’s Resistance Army.
This deployment brings out the desperate efforts of Museveni to remain in power after 25 years. This ‘assistance’ of the US military to Museveni is not new. In 2008, there was a much-publicised operation by the US military to assist the Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) to wipe out the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). This operation ended in a failure and reinforced the alienation of the people of Northern Uganda from the Museveni regime. Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced by this war that has been waged so that the Ugandan society can be partially militarised. Even a usual pro-interventionist ‘humanitarian’ NGO such as the Enough Project criticised the Uganda and US governments over the past operation of 2008-2009. The Enough Project described the operation as ‘poorly executed’ and ‘operationally flawed’.
Peace activists in East Africa have for decades exposed the use of the war in the North of Uganda for the Museveni regime to stay in power and promote self-enrichment. Those sections of the Ugandan society who had any progressive leanings left the Museveni regime and those military personnel with any integrity died under dubious circumstances. Major Reuben Ikondere and Noble Mayombo were two members of the UPDF who had progressive Pan-Africanist leanings. They lost their lives at young ages. Other progressives who had joined the National Resistance Movement (NRM) in opposition to dictatorship slowly left Museveni. The most outstanding of this group were the former underground forces from Kitwe who had been the liberating force inside of Uganda during the era of dictatorship and other militarists.
The Museveni government spurned efforts by elders from all across East Africa who wanted a negotiated solution to the fighting in order to isolate the LRA’s Joseph Kony and his murderous bands. While the brutal atrocities of this group were well-known, there were elders in Acholi land with links to elders in the region who were capable of isolating Kony. Just as the US military benefited from keeping Osama Bin Laden alive as a threat, so the Museveni regime holds this scare of the Kony bands over the people of Uganda.
More significantly, the Museveni government is seeking external support from the conservative factions in the United States as the region of the Great Lakes becomes a major target for increased oil exploration and production. In what is now being called the largest onshore oil discovery in sub-Saharan Africa in 20 years, UK-based oil exploration and production company Tullow Oil discovered reserves of nearly two billion barrels of oil in rural western Uganda, with the largest finds in the Lake Albert Basin. Subsequent press reports exposed the reality that drilling will yield ‘several billion’ barrels of oil; at least 15 major strikes by various oil companies have been made throughout Great Rift Valley since Tullow’s discovery.
As many readers of Pambazuka know, where there is oil, there is the US Africa Command.
MUSEVENI AND COUNTER- REVOLUTION IN EAST AFRICA
Yoweri Museveni was part of the Dar es Salaam School. He associated himself with the ideals of liberation in order to gain support from Julius Nyerere. Soon after coming to power in 1986, Museveni ingratiated himself with the Washington decision-makers in the military and financial institutions. This service became manifest over the years from the alliance with western mining companies in the plunder of the resources of the Congo and the derailment of full liberation in Kenya. This derailment has continued from the period of Mwakenya and continued up to the recent struggles over elections in Kenya in 2008. Museveni was ready to do everything to keep the Kibaki group in power. Probably, one of the areas that the Uganda leadership has to answer for is the circumstances surrounding the helicopter crash that took the life of John Garang of the Sudan People’s Liberation Front (SPLM).
Opposition to Museveni has been growing inside the society and in the military. After changing the constitution to become eligible to run for president beyond a mandatory two terms, there has been heightened opposition to the Museveni administration. The opposition has devised numerous means to oppose this government with the latest being the ‘Walk to Work’ campaign. Opposition has also grown inside the military with senior commanders calling for a complete withdrawal from Somalia. These calls inside the military came after the massive bombing in Kampala in July 2010 that took over 74 lives. The Somalia group Al-Shabbab claimed responsibility for this bombing.
INTERVENING TO THWART THE REVOLUTIONARY SPIRIT OF KENYA AND KENYANS
It was long ago in Tanzania when Walter Rodney said to me that of the three countries of the then East African Federation, the radical forces in Kenya were the ones with the deepest roots in their society. Walter Rodney had written a short article on Mau Mau in East Africa where he explored the influence of the war of liberation in Kenya on the rest of East Africa. The British understood these radical traditions in Kenya and for over 50 years have been working to destabilise the progressive sections of Kenyan society. Working in alliance with other European imperial experts and the United States, the British worked assiduously to diminish the influence of radical ideas in the Kenyan body politics. This included targeted assassinations and the politicisation of ethnicity and regionalism. Yet, this effort never completely succeeded and the call for the exposure of the crimes of the British in Kenya has recently been through the British legal system with a ruling on the criminal actions that require reparative justice.
The second wave of counter-revolution in Kenya came from the period of the nationalistic government of Daniel Arap Moi. Western military and counter-insurgency forces used military and non-military means to isolate those Kenyans who opposed dictatorship. Up to today, the full history of Mwakenya has not been written and it is a requirement for the healing and truth telling inside Kenya. One of the tools deployed by imperial forces was the massive non-governmental funding which gave Kenya notoriety as the headquarters for many international non-governmental agencies in Africa. John Le Carré has written one fictional account of the criminal world of some of these organisations in the book, ‘The Constant Gardener’. In interviews Le Carré has said that the truth was even more bizarre than the fiction.
Non-governmental organisations and imperial forces could not hold back the tide of opposition to exploitation and the impulse for democracy burned inside the people of Kenya. The cabal that held on to political power turned Kenya into a regional base for international capital with surpluses gleaned from Southern Sudan, Eastern DRC, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Somalia and from Kenya itself. Every major scheme for plunder and money laundering in this region passed through the financial institutions that exploded in Nairobi in the past two decades. So lucrative was this position as regional power brokers that the cabal could not countenance leaving power after the elections in December 2007. These barons of finance in East Africa conjured complicated fraud and theft schemes. Scandals of corruption became so numerous that the populace became immune to the barrage of information of innovative methods of theft that were being practiced. Back issues of the Kenya Law Review have complete information of the level of fraud and theft in the banking sector. When the elections were stolen in January 2008, the western forces organised a ‘government of national unity’ to keep the cabal in power. Corruption in Kenya had gone beyond the question of law enforcement and became interwoven with the struggles for democratic rights.
Since the establishment of the government of National Unity with the victors suborned as junior partners, the conditions of the people of Kenya have deteriorated with the increases in prices, shortages of food and groups calling for an Unga Revolution. Novel forms of organising were being fashioned at the grassroots and these new techniques came to the fore in the effort to write a new constitution for Kenya. The grassroots organising is also calling for those responsible for the killings in 2008 to be brought to justice. However much Kenyans oppose the International Criminal Court (ICC), there is a call for an end to the levels of impunity enjoyed by the ruling plutocrats in Kenya since 1963.
KENYA AND THE WAR ON TERROR
From the period of the launch of the War on Terror, the people of Kenya have been used as political football. Every document relating to the war on terror starts off with the experience of the bombings of the US Embassies in Nairobi and Mombasa in 1998. Yet, the US never fully took on the interconnections of the bombings and a wider world of extremists until the events of 11 September 2011 in the USA. From that period the state apparatus of Kenya became more deeply integrated with the US military deployment in the Horn and the Indian Ocean.
It is now well documented how there was collusion between the US government and the government of Kenya to arrest and illegally ‘render’ Kenyan citizens. These issues of kidnapping and ‘rendering’ Kenyan citizens remain one of the issues of the vibrant human rights lobby in Kenya. But, the War on Terror served to destabilise one of the most vibrant communities in Nairobi, the Eastleigh constituency. This is an area of Nairobi where hundreds of thousands of ethnic Somalis reside. This constituency was the scene of electoral manipulation and for three years there was no real representative in this constituency. Less than three months after the election brought a representative that vowed to bring the people of this area of Nairobi together, we have this deployment into Somalia to track down ‘terrorists.’ Kenyan citizens of Somali extraction are being criminalised as the escalation of war and repression take root in Kenya.
KENYA’S DEPLOYMENT INTO SOMALIA
In the same week when President Obama announced that US AFRICOM forces would be assisting the Museveni government to track down terrorists, the army of Kenya moved into Southern Somalia to pursue those that the media label as ‘Islamist militants.’
While the western media dubbed this war as ‘Kenya’s first major military war on foreign soil’, this intervention has been an extension of a low intensity war that has gone on at the Kenyan border since Somalia became the base for western destabilisation of the Horn of Africa. Many Somalis opposed this intervention just as they have opposed other foreign intervention in their country since 1991. In an attempt to keep this opposition from Somalia out of the international media there were press reports that the intervention by Kenyan military forces was requested and welcomed by the US-backed Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) in Mogadishu. Somali government spokesman Abdirahman Omar Osman said: ‘The governments of Kenya and Somalia are now cooperating in the fight against al Shabaab, which is an enemy of both countries.’
These statements do not hide the reality that all previous incursions by foreign forces have been resisted by the people of Somalia. From the time of the first major deployment of UN United Nations Operation in Somalia, or UNOSOM, nationalist elements opposed external military intervention. This phase of external involvement came to a screeching halt after the Black Hawk Down humiliation in October 1993 when US army rangers sent to hunt down Aideed were killed in Mogadishu. After the traumatic experiences of the US soldiers in the so-called Operation Restore Hope of 1993, the experience of Somalia has been trumpeted as an example of how ‘failed states’ provide the breeding ground for terrorism in Africa. Yet, when the people of Somalia moved to stabilise their political situation, the US colluded with the government of Ethiopia to invade Somalia on the grounds that the Union of Islamic Courts was harbouring terrorists. Abdi Samatar, among others, had penetrated the hype behind the Union of Islamic Courts to outline how the fabrication of terrorism supported the US military presence in the Horn.
Kenyans can now reflect of the changing alliances of the US military inside Somalia before and after the Ethiopians were defeated by nationalist elements. Abdi Samatar has written extensively on the ebb and flow of the fabrication of terrorism and I have earlier drawn from his work. It is again apt to reinforce what Samatar has said of the US counter-terrorism efforts in the Horn. In his argument on how the US fabricated terrorism in the Horn of Africa Samatar wrote:
‘The hallmark of America’s bankrupt policy is the conspicuous gulf between its democratic rhetoric and its support for thugs, warlords, tyrants, and venal politicians in the Horn of Africa and elsewhere. In the minds of most people in the region American foreign policy and practice has become synonymous with dictatorship and arrogance, and most people believe that those are the core values of the America government. Consequently, the US government has lost the hearts and minds of the Muslim people all over. America’s gifts to the Somali people in the last few years have been warlords, an Ethiopian invasion, and an authoritarian, sectarian and incompetent regime.’
It is this incompetent regime that has been protected by pliant elements from African states that are allies of the USA. The people of Kenya had witnessed the invasion of Ethiopia and the withdrawal of the Ethiopian troops and how the political leadership in Ethiopia manipulated the Somalia issue to gain support from western powers.
KENYAN INVASION: WHAT ARE THE GOALS?
The government of Kenya has declared that it will end its military campaign against Al-Shabaab in Somalia when it is satisfied it has stripped the group of its capacity to attack across the border. If one goes by the experience of the past 18 years, then this statement can be read that Kenya will be in for a long-term deployment to Somalia.
The corollary to this is the reality that Kenya and its cities will be spaces of war, security clampdown and general destabilisation of the population. Since the Kenyan foray, there have been two grenade attacks at a bar and a bus terminal that killed one person and wounded more than 20 people in the Kenyan capital Nairobi. These attacks have already affected the tourism industry, one of the most important sources of revenue for the government of Kenya.
MILITARISM AND THE FUTURE OF DEMOCRATIC PARTICIPATION IN KENYA
The deployment of Kenyan troops to Somalia was not discussed openly by the Kenyan Parliament. Those who collaborated with the government of Kenya to organise this deployment in Somalia are looking way beyond the issue of Somalia. The more important question is the matter of democratic participation on Kenya. Those who have studied wars in Africa, especially counter-insurgency wars, know that these wars have their own dynamic. One such dynamic is that invading armies get bogged down. The more the army is bogged down, the more there are demands for more resources for fighting to get the job done. Wars are not cheap and precisely the moment when the labour of the Kenyan working people was being devalued, this deployment of troops is demanding extra resources from the Kenyan Treasury. At the same time while resources are diverted to war, revenues from the tourism industry will diminish in the face of the general climate of insecurity that will prevail. This week, Mohamed Najib Balala, the Minister of Tourism sought to reassure foreign tour operators that it is still safe for tourists to visit Kenya, but international news of grenades being thrown into bars do not provide good publicity for the tourism industry.
The longer Kenyan troops remain in Somalia, the more there is a danger of the society being sucked into a long term commitment to fight in a way that demands states of emergencies inside of Kenya itself.
Terrorism of all kinds must be opposed and extremists must be isolated. However, the record of the US in the Horn of Africa is that isolation of extremist elements is the furthest thing from the defence planners in Washington who are seeking new places for the deployment of US military resources in the wake of the withdrawal from Iraq. Jeremy Scahill has documented the musical chairs of the military entrepreneurs in Somalia and how these entrepreneurs have been able to shift their alliances according to the whims of the US counter-terror experts who are now working with the Kenyan military. In his article entitled ‘Blowback in Somalia’, Scahill drew a picture of the various militarists who were enemies of the US in one moment and allies of the US in another moment. He concluded his analysis in this way:
‘In any case, the Shabab’s meteoric rise in Somalia, and the legacy of terror it has wrought, is blowback sparked by a decade of disastrous US policy that ultimately strengthened the very threat it was officially intended to crush. In the end, the greatest beneficiaries of US policy are the warlords, including those who once counted the Shabab among their allies and friends. “They are not fighting for a cause,” says Ahmed Nur Mohamed, the Mogadishu mayor. “And the conflict will start tomorrow, when we defeat Shabab. These militias are based on clan and warlordism and all these things. They don’t want a system. They want to keep that turf as a fixed post—then, whenever the government becomes weak, they want to say, “We control here.”’
Al Shabab has always benefitted from foreign intervention and the Kenyan foray into Somalia will provide these military entrepreneurs the political legitimacy to argue that they are opposing foreign invaders.
However, from the point of view of this commentary, the more long-term consequence will be the efforts to torpedo the efforts of the people of Kenya to end 48 years of kleptocratic rule where the state is run like a criminal syndicate. If the popular and democratic forces are not organised to demand a full withdrawal from Somalia, the danger is that this deployment will cascade into repression leading to a postponement or cancellation of the elections scheduled for December 2012.
AFRICOM FOLLOWS THE TRADITION OF US FAILED ENTERPRISES IN AFRICA
The present remilitarisation of Africa is being opposed in Africa by those who support peace. Museveni of Uganda and the militarist faction of the Kenyan leadership have been working hard to push the African Union to be completely subordinated to the demands of US military crusaders. On top of the confusion wreaked by the international media, the peace and justice forces internationally have not been engaged sufficiently on the question of the remilitarisation of Africa. Last week Bill Fletcher, Carl Bloice and Jamal Rogers called upon the progressive sections of the African American community to oppose this remilitarisation. In this article, they asked in relation to the Obama Foreign Policy in Africa, where is the outcry?
‘It is no rhetorical flourish to say that the foreign policy of the Obama administration, far from representing a qualitative break with that of the Bush administration, has proven in most spheres to be continuality.’
I want to join my voice to the call by these progressive forces to raise the opposition to the new vigour of imperialism in Africa. Additionally, I want to elevate the opposition to the Obama administration’s remilitarisation of Africa. This call is for the peace movement to put on their marching boots just as when the previous generation opposed the US military in their support for Mobutu and apartheid.
From this record, it is clear that at every moment of African agency to break from colonial forms of plunder, the USA was willing and ready to intervene on the side of the exploiters. The most dramatic intervention came at the period decolonisation when the government of the United States conspired to assassinate Patrice Lumumba and derail the self-determination project in Africa. In every region of Africa, progressive and anti-imperialist leaders were executed and puppets maintained in power.
The second period of militaristic deployment was after the African peoples gave notice of plans for economic integration under the Lagos Plan of Action in 1980. The political leadership of the USA responded with the entrenchment of Structural Adjustment Programmes on the economic front and the establishment of the US Central Command on the military front.
Most recently, at precisely the moment when the peoples of Africa seek to strengthen the African Union by setting an agenda for the Union of the People’s of Africa, the militarists have intensified the interventionist thrust into Africa. In every instance, the commitment for peace and justice won out over repression and destruction. The previous efforts at military control of Africa failed. The alliance between peace forces in Africa and beyond will ensure that this new round of the scramble for Africa will be resisted and ultimately, defeated. This is one more reason for the work to unify Africa and work for the demilitarisation of Africa.
In their testimonies before the US House Foreign Affairs Committee earlier this year, the representatives from the Department of Defense and the Department of State went to great lengths to outline how US Africa Command was now a force for ‘diplomacy, development and defense.’ Africans have understood these Orwellian doublespeak of the intellectually bankrupt US policymakers who repeat the same arguments that were repeated when the US was supporting Mobutu as a stabiliser in Africa. This writer joins the call of those who are calling for the disbanding of the US Africa Command and for the people of Africa to rise up to oppose dictators and religious extremists who manipulate religion for military purposes. The root cause of the ‘threats to stability and security challenges’ all over Africa stem from the exploitation and plunder of Africa.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* Horace Campbell is professor of African American Studies and Political Science at Syracuse University. See horacecampbell.net. He is the author of ‘Barack Obama and 21st Century Politics: A Revolutionary Moment in the USA’ and a contributing author to ‘African Awakening: The Emerging Revolutions’. He is currently a visiting professor in the Department of International Relations at Tsinghua University, Beijing, China.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
On Kenya's war against Al-Shabaab
Somalia needs international help, not another war
Somalis in the Southern Somali region of Afmadow fled their homes after a surprise Kenyan military attack on Sunday 16 October 2011. Kenya launched its offense allegedly in response to recent kidnappings, aiming to push Islamist insurgent groups away from its border. Kidnapping in Kenya is rife; offenders include Kenya Police, military and nationals.
A statement released by Al-Shabaab dismissed the kidnappings as a motivation and said, ‘The allegations put forward by the Kenyan authorities with regard to the recent kidnappings are, at best, unfounded and, apart from the mere conjectural corroborations, not substantiated with any verifiable evidence".
The public relations office at Defence headquarters said other international forces in a ‘concerted effort and rescue operation’ joined Kenya. The attack targetted Kismayo, the economic power base of Al-Shabaab, to weaken the youth group’s core. Shabaab’s bombing in Mogadishu, as Kenyan Defense Minister Yusuf Haji and Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula visited for talks with Somalia’s president, signified a widespread presence in response to Kenya’s military course.
Kenya, in carrying out its offensive did so without obtaining a UN Security Council resolution or permission from the Transitional Federal Government. Somali Spokesman, Abdirahman Omar Osman Yarisow, denied that Kenyan troops had even entered the country.
Ethiopia’s invasion was authorised by Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, whilst US entered with the UN Security Council’s assent. Kenya may justify entry under self-defence and the right to combat terror, a provision of international law enshrined in the UN Charter (Article 51).
ADVANCING AL-SHABAAB’S CAUSE
A move guaranteeing reaction has already met warnings from Al-Shabaab threatening to counter-attack if Kenyan troops do not withdraw. The waging of this proxy war will create many opportunities for those able to manipulate an exacerbated fragility intensified by this attack.
The invasion has already helped to revive Shabaab’s fading appeal, enabling them to appear as genuine freedom fighters to Somalis. Press statements released by the extremist group display a distinct and deliberate departure from their usual fundamentalist rhetoric, employing a more nationalistic approach that has earned them a growing support. Unanimity on their call could establish the ascent of Shabaab domination.
The Somali state of affairs is extremely complex; understanding the true intentions of those claiming to act in its interest is never clear-cut. When Ethiopia lost the war, the main resistance was led by the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), the head of which later became the president of Somalia. Sharif Sheikh Ahmed branded as a terrorist by the US who currently stands as president, took office through U.S backing.
Al-Shabaab were the youths of the UIC opposed to US support, and some argue an affinity still exists between Sharif and all Shabaab, signified by a subdued reaction to their activities.
Kenya has endured Al-Shabaab’s presence for years. Many kidnappings have taken place that did not make Shabaab automatic suspects. The recent spates of kidnappings are further denied by Al-Shabaab who believe that the kidnappings are being used as a pretext for the incursion.
Horn of Africa analysts say any number of groups could have carried out the kidnappings – including pirate gangs. Al-Shabaab, notorious for claiming responsibility for their actions, such as the recent bomb in Mogadishu which claimed the lives of innocent students, have not done so for these kidnappings, a cause for doubt on Kenya’s assertions.
Recent events have seen the Somali government reinstate its political and ruling position. In a U-turn decision, after fears that Somali sovereignty would become obsolete, discussions involving Somali MPs, intellectuals and civil society rejected key proposals in the recent UN backed roadmap, designed to reconstruct and re-distribute Somali governance and territory to neighbouring countries.
Parliamentarians and leading figures unanimously decided that Somali law could not be changed by an interim government and any action negating marine, land and air borders would be treated as a direct threat to Somali sovereignty.
Somalis have resisted occupation from previous foreign interventions, the US in 1992 and Ethiopia in 2006, ending in humiliating withdrawals. Provisions in the road map would have allowed Kenya to hold a significant stake in Somali resources. If Somalia was occupied and annexed by Kenya, tourism and business would again flourish. The decision to resurrect Somalia's territorial claims caused anxiety to its neighbours.
Deals long exist between Kenya and multinational petroleum companies for offshore exploration blocks; of particular interest is block L5, thought to have the highest concentration of oil. Pursuit of this part of the block lying within the perimeters of Somali territorial waters is illegal.
In accordance with Article 10 of Somali Law No. 37 Territorial Sea and Ports (1972), Somalia has the right to territorial waters of 200 nautical miles (nm) and an Exclusive Economic Zone of 200 nm provided in United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
It seems of little coincidence then that an invasion has taken place following the fall of the roadmap, reinforcement of Somali law and protection of its sea.
In light of 2012 elections, Kenya’s decision to defend its borders may be seen as a bold statement to demonstrate major efforts made to increase security to win popularity. The implications though, are probably already understood, and the war that Kenya has instigated may not be met with the gratitude it hopes to attain.
North eastern Kenya is heavily populated by Somalis who maintain strong connections with their country. Britain and the US warned against the war, anticipating the ramifications Kenya naively discounts - as well prepared as Ethiopia was, it failed to capture Somalia.
Given Somalia’s fierce resistance to occupation, the US military deploys remotely controlled drones to conduct reconnaissance missions and carry out bombing runs.
Notwithstanding the worst period of drought the country has seen (starvation alone has killed tens of thousands of Somali children over the past few months) a US drone attack claimed the lives of 27 civilians, including children. Witnesses reported many were also injured after a US strike on the port town of Kismayo. A similar airstrike killed over a dozen people in another southern region.
As Kenyan troops advance on Somali soil to oust Al-Shabaab, we are reminded what little power the central Somali government has. It is doubtful that the Transitional Federal Government gave initial support; this would only accentuate its own weaknesses. Many Somali parliamentarians have expressed deep anger over Kenya’s forced entry whilst former President of Puntland, Jama Ali Jama, has challenged the grounds of this invasion and is calling on the UN to issue a response.
The retaliatory threats from Al-Shabaab are much publicised and fuel the sensationalism needed to justify and support Kenya’s actions. The fact remains that the accusations in this instance are unfounded; Kenya has not sought permission to enter and war crimes increase each day that they remain. Somalis already in a desperate situation continue to suffer.
Somalia, a current hotspot for international interest owing to its East African coastal location, oil explorations and other ‘free for all’ attractions such as illegal fishing and lucrative international piracy activity, now hosts Blackwater and Saracen mercenaries who have built base in Puntland. The unsettling presence of such ‘private security firms’ could see the orchestration of Somalia’s current internal war handled and controlled by more lawless but “professional” killers, whose interests do not coincide with those of Somalis.
The calamity engulfing Somalia is often blamed on an inability to manage its own country but active aggressors play a major role in its stagnation and underdevelopment. In times of extreme famine and internal turmoil, Somalia needs the support of the international community, not another war.
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* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Kenya: Perfect breeding ground for Al-Shabaab terrorists
I don’t know why everyone is surprised that the first Al-Shabaab terrorist to be arrested and jailed in Kenya is not a Somali, but a young Luhya man from Western Kenya.
Kenya is a perfect breeding ground for terrorists and suicide bombers because it has the two ingredients that make recruitment to terrorist organisations so attractive – a high unemployment rate among youth and widespread corruption.
Impressionable and unemployed youth who have nothing much to look forward to can be easily lured to become terrorists, if presented with incentives such as money or a better afterlife.
Jobless, dejected and disillusioned youth may find the idea of becoming a martyr to a cause attractive. Some may become terrorists just for adventure.
Corruption ensures that would-be terrorists escape the security dragnet easily. I wonder how many Al-Shabaab have got away scot-free at police checks and border posts by parting with as little as Sh200.
The problem is compounded by the culture of impunity that is pervasive among our leadership. Young people who see leaders get away with grand corruption may feel emboldened by their immoral actions.
All those youth who might have benefitted from the Kazi kwa Vijana project, for example, but who were robbed of millions of shillings by corrupt officers in government are potential Al-Shabaab recruits.
If we cannot see the link between government corruption and the growth of home-grown terrorism, then the national project of eliminating Al-Shabaab in our midst and across the border in Somalia is going nowhere.
Corruption, incompetence and lack of respect for ordinary citizens are the conditions under which terrorism thrives.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about how my calls to police stations in many parts of Coast Province went unanswered. I finally got through to the Nairobi Police headquarters, only to be told by a rude officer that I was wasting his time.
This was even before I told him what I was calling about. When I wrote about the incident, I expected a follow-up call or email from the police spokesperson or my local police station in Malindi. But to date no one has bothered asking me why I had called all those police stations, or what my complaint was. Nor have I received any apology from the men and women in uniform whose job it is to be of service to the nation’s citizens.
This lack of responsiveness probably cost the Frenchwoman Marie Dedieu her life. According to an article published in Newsweek, immediately after she was abducted from Manda Island, her friends and neighbours made frantic phone calls to the police station on nearby Lamu. The phone calls went unanswered for three hours – yes, three hours. When they finally got through and filled out the necessary paperwork, a full five hours had passed. By then Dedieu and her abductors had already made their way into Somalia.
In the 1980s and 1990s, it was very common for Kenyans not to report any crime to the police for fear of being arrested. Quite often one would not show up at court for petty offences because there was a likelihood that the magistrate would order that one be jailed. Hence, jails were filled with petty offenders such as hawkers, ‘loiterers’ and other such persons who were considered a social menace.
It was during that time that I found myself sharing a cell with such people because I had committed the unforgiveable offence of driving a car with one worn-out tyre. Luckily, I had gone to court with a lawyer, who paid the fine Sh500 which secured my release. If I had not gone to court with a lawyer, I might have spent a fortnight or longer in jail.
The police have issued emergency numbers to the public so we can report suspicious-looking characters who may be Al-Shabaab. A local daily reported recently that a bus passenger who had drawn the attention of the police to the suspicious behaviour of three fellow passengers was jailed for ‘giving police false information’ after the passengers were ‘interrogated’ and ‘cleared’ by the same police officers.
I doubt he will make the same mistake again.
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* This article first appeared in The Nation.
* Rasna Warah is a columnist with the Daily Nation in Kenya, from where this article was taken. [email protected]
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
On seeds: Controlling the first link in the food-chain
In March 2009, the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed its Global Food Security Act (SB 384). The legislation, known as the Lugar-Casey Act, aims to focus on longer-term agricultural development, and restructure aid agencies to better respond to crises. Funding for agricultural development – some US$7.7 billion worth – would be directed in large part to genetically modified crop research. In other words, food aid policy for the first time mandates the use of genetic modification technologies. Engineered crops will need engineered seeds – seeds that are no longer a result of natural cross-pollination.
The Lugar-Casey Act represents the biggest project in agriculture since the original Green Revolution in the 1950s and 1960s. Fifty years ago, developing countries had yearly agricultural trade surpluses of over US$1 billion. Today the Southern food deficit has grown to over US$11 billion per year, helping create dependency on the volatile international markets that led to the 2008 food crisis. The first Green Revolution increased global food production by 11 per cent in a very short time, but per capita hunger also increased equally as much. How could this be? Green Revolution technologies are expensive. The fertilisers, seeds, pesticides, and machinery needed to cash in on productive gains put the technology out of reach of most small farmers, increasing the divide between rich and poor in the developing world. Poor farmers were driven out of business and into poverty-stricken urban slums. The new Green Revolution highlighted in the Lugar-Casey Bill suffers from all these same problems. This time, however, the genetically-engineered seeds will be under patent and privately owned by the biotechnology corporations that monopolise the seed industry, and farmers will have to buy new seed each year.
R&D dollars in the millions go to engineered climate-smart seeds as a solution to food security under climate stress. DuPont, Monsanto, Syngenta and Limagrain control 29 per cent of the world market in seeds, with Monsanto controlling almost all of the genetically engineered seed. The Gates and Rockefeller foundations’ partnership with Monsanto to bring an Asian-type Green Revolution to the African continent will invest US$150 million into the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). On its website, the Alliance describes itself as a 'dynamic partnership working across the continent to help millions of small-scale farmers and their families lift themselves out of poverty and hunger … focusing on key aspects of African agriculture: from seeds, soil health and water to markets, agricultural education and policy'.
The Gates/Monsanto bond is very strong. An August 2010 report in The Wall Street Journal reported that Monsanto was among the Foundation's portfolio investments. Figure 2 illustrates the institutional links and affiliations with AGRA that both the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Monsanto Corporation fund. It also shows the direct link between Rob Horsch, VP for International Development of Monsanto for 25 years, and current senior program officer for the Gates Foundation.
Increased support for biotechnology is hidden in these developments. A 2009 report, has as one of its main recommendations: '…international agricultural research projects with substantial payoffs for a large number of beneficiaries should be given investment priority, particularly genetically modified organisms (GMOs) that offer major potential for boosting agricultural yields and "climate proofing" crops'. The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa puts the costs of developing 200 crop varieties better adapted to local environments at US$43 million. The development of bioengineered maize by Monsanto is said to have cost US$10-25 million. At some point, there will have to be a return on this investment – in Argentina Monsanto claimed this back retroactively. In 2008, the number of farmers using GM crops worldwide increased by 1.3 million from 1996 to 13.3 million – and the number of countries growing these crops increased from six in 1996 to 25 in 2008. More than 90 per cent of farmers using GM crops in developing countries are small and resource poor.
The testing ground for modified seeds is spreading across African fields. In South Africa in 2009, Monsanto’s genetically modified maize failed to produce kernels and hundreds of farmers were devastated. According to Mariam Mayet, environmental attorney and director of the Africa Centre for Biosafety in Johannesburg, some farmers suffered up to an 80 per cent crop failure. While Monsanto compensated the large-scale farmers to whom it directly sold the seed, it gave nothing to the numerous small-scale farmers who had been handed out free sachets of seeds. ‘When the economic power of Gates is coupled with the irresponsibility of Monsanto, the outlook for African smallholders is not very promising,’ said Mayet. Monsanto’s aggressive patenting practices have also monopolised control over seed in ways that deny farmers control over their own harvest, going so far as to sue-and bankrupt- farmers for ‘patent infringement.’
An additional feature of new crop technology, especially GM crops, is that they are patent protected. The Royal Society’s report Reaping the Benefits states: ‘The use of patents has mixed consequences. In some instances – this strategy has stimulated the commercial development of products and their application. However, intellectual property restrictions have major impacts on the access to new technologies, especially for the poor. The potential for patent protection has engendered mistrust of the technology because it may restrict the options of farmers and force those with no other options into restrictive and expensive commercial relationships’.
Josphat Ngonyo, with the Africa Network for Animal Welfare, compares the workings of the Alliance with that of Monsanto. In his view, 'The way that the Gates and Rockefeller foundations have set up AGRA resembles a well known Monsanto format. AGRA purports to finance and train small and medium sized agro-chemical dealerships, up to the village level, to make sure ‘improved seeds’ have a smooth channel to flow to all farmers across the continent. But Monsanto must police its technology contracts, so its transfer from Monsanto’s labs to farmers is best controlled if the financier has a hand on the seed supply chain in Africa'. In short, this leads to corporate control of the seed supply from the lab to the village farm, whether or not it is genetically engineered.
Figure 2: AGRA links with Monsanto and Gates Foundation
GMO SOYA PLANTATIONS COMING NEAR YOU…
On 8 July 2010, Soyatech LLC announced that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation were launching their new Southern Africa Soy Value Chain Development Program at the Soy Innovation Africa 2010 conference in Cape Town. With a grant of US$8 million from the Gates Foundation, NGOs (CLUSA & AGRA), private companies (Cargill) and government (the Zambia Agriculture Research Institute) are planning to develop a soy value chain. The project will run for four years, commencing initially in Mozambique and Zambia where it is aimed at 37,000 small-scale farmers. The model will be replicated in other regions over time. According to the Soyatech website, the program is designed to provide entrepreneurs and industry leaders in emerging economies with the tools to produce process and utilise soybeans efficiently. The Soy Innovation Africa program will also offer broad understanding of the world soybean market, new technologies and strategic insights from international leaders in crop production, soyfoods, biofuels and animal feed.
Cargill is the biggest global player in the production and trade in soya, with heavy investments in Latin America. Drawing from the experience in Latin America, we can anticipate that African farmers will have no choice than to accept GM seeds under the Gates project. Mozambique has already opened the door to GM soya commodities, accepting a shipment of 35,000 MT of GM soya beans from South Africa in 2010.
AFRICAN DIVERSITY, INDIGENOUS CROPS AND METHODS
‘In the course of history people have utilized 7000 kinds of plants for food, with emphasis on wheat, rye, maize and about a dozen highly domesticated species. Yet at least 75,000 exist that are edible and many of these are superior to the crop plants in use.’– Edward Wilson, Biophilia 1984
‘Of the approximately 200 indigenous species of plants that were used by Kenyans as vegetables in the past, most were either collected in the wild, semi-cultivated, or cultivated. Now many are either unknown or extinct’. – Mary Abukatsa-Onyango, Kenya 2009
In a globalised world in which agriculture is increasingly industrial, farming is based on monocultures of a limited number of plant species. The trend for agriculture to be increasingly mechanised in the hands of fewer and fewer farmers cultivating larger and larger expanses of land is leading to a simplification of our landscapes and a reduction of our plant varieties, whether directly related to food crops, or indirectly affecting agriculture by affecting climate, pollinators etc. For example in the United States and in Canada, for distances of some 1,800km one can fly over fields planted to only two or three crop species. This simplification, homogeneous genotypes across large expanses of land, constitutes a threat to food security. An illustration of one of the consequences of this is that ironically bees have it better and produce more honey in the middle of Paris than in the countryside as they have access to a greater variety of flowers and are not exposed to pesticides. African countries have lost a lot of their indigenous diversity as a result of the western agricultural methods and the growing of foreign species. This loss of diversity involved also the loss of reliable nutritious and abundant food.
‘Despite their seeming fragility, small African peasant producers have a lot of knowledge about the continent’s very rich agricultural biodiversity. When put together with appropriate agro-ecological techniques, approaches that draw on this knowledge produce highly satisfactory results. The use of organic fertilizer such as compost, for example, and anti-erosion techniques, have doubled and even quadrupled yields from local seeds. Integrated pest management without using pesticides has led to a 30% increase in production’.
‘In Mali, the Office du Niger rice producers won the prize for best yield, with more than eight tonnes per hectare, using only organic fertilizer and local seeds. Knowledge on organic growing techniques has been provided in the project and more and more farmers make changes in their practices. Cover crops and compost is used to recover and increase the fertility of the soil and increase infiltration of water. Branches of trees are planted to root along fences and weeds are plowed into the soil to increase organic matter content. The case study points out that crop rotation and diversification of plants and animals makes it possible to get enough food for the whole year, improve family diets and generate income if there are surpluses. Squash, onion, sweet pepper, yucca/cassava, and cooking banana are all part of multi-cultivation in the parcels of land, and the farmers experiment with new crops. Some farmers have built small dams on their farms to hold back water for animals and irrigation, and there are also some examples of raising tilapia fish. Cisterns to store rainwater are used by some families. Resource use in animal feeding is made more efficient through intensive grazing with planning and by rotating the use of pastures. Animal feed is also produced on farms. Such measures as those mentioned here can contribute to improved food security, and less dependency on basic grains’.
GROW WHAT YOU EAT AND EAT WHAT YOU GROW
‘I don't believe we can address the issues of nutrition security, poverty, and health in Kenya without relying on African indigenous crops’. Twenty years ago, Professor Mary Abukutsa Onyango, a horticultural scientist at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, pioneered extensive research in traditional vegetables such as African eggplant, nightshades and cow peas. ‘The research was inspired by my experience of having had to live on vegetables since I was a child because I was allergic to animal proteins. I therefore know that traditional vegetables are rich with nutrients and are easy to grow,’ explains Abukutsa. ‘I wanted my research to improve the uptake of traditional vegetables and to help farmers earn a living from selling the crops.’ ‘To date, we have about 100 contact farmers and/or farmer groups-77 in Western Kenya and 33 in Central Kenya – who are trained in all aspects of growing indigenous crops, from seed production to processing, using organic methods,’ she said. ‘The farmers that do well are also taught simple food preservation techniques like drying, which increase shelf-life but retain as much of the nutrients as possible, and are linked to supermarkets to sell their vegetables. Because of their extensive training, they are able to pass on their knowledge of indigenous food growing to others in their communities.’
She further explains that due to concerted efforts from various stakeholders to popularise traditional vegetables, they are now available in restaurants, markets and even supermarkets and people do not have to travel to the rural areas to access them. Abukutsa advocates a return to indigenous crops to address the issues of nutrition security, poverty and health that are further compounded by climate change impacts. For example, with a soaring food crisis, and maize harvests predicted to fall due to changing Kenyan weather patterns, the only grains that could adequately replace maize would be indigenous millets and sorghum, which are more drought-tolerant.
‘Exotic vegetables have a market, but largely among the rich. They are expensive and therefore marginalise Kenyans who live below the poverty line, and who account for an estimated 60 percent of the rural population, according to government reports such the Kenya Health Demographic Survey of 2009,’ explains Nduati Kigo, an agricultural officer in Central Kenya. He adds that since the available exotic vegetables are out of the reach for the ordinary Kenyan, and with limited available options due to the lack of mainstreaming of the traditional vegetables, food insecurity remains a reality for many households.
The traditional (and valued) roles of women in plant genetic resource management (seed collection, selection and saving) will be silenced and devalued by the biotechnology advocacy of US development policy. The livelihood of seed saving and production by women could be dismantled in the name of a misguided development agenda that focuses on agribusiness incomes in the developed world. The risks to farmers of fully adopting industrial agriculture in general and GM seeds in particular include:
- Transferring their food and farming decisions to global corporations
- Losing ecological and agricultural diversity as genetically modified crop varieties spread
- Increased use of pesticide and fertilizer that often come hand in hand with engineered seeds
- Driving small- and medium-scale family farmers off their land because they cannot afford the expensive inputs, including genetically modified seeds, that industrial agriculture demands.
Wherever people’s needs are largely supplied by a local food system, the farms in that region are themselves more diverse. Farmers who supply local markets have strong incentives to diversify their production. Seed saving farmers have selected plants for certain traits including their success in local microclimates and soil types. Agricultural biodiversity steadily multiplies as a result. When farms are small in scale, and especially when farmed organically, they also enable a wide range of non-food species to co-exist within the farm system. In some cases the farm itself mimics the wilderness. There is a lot of ground to recover and species to reclaim.
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* Nidhi Tandon is founder and director of Networked Intelligence for Development.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
 Global Food Security Act By Annie Shattuck. Edited by Emily Schwartz Greco, April 17, 2009 Foreign Policy Focus http://www.fpif.org/articles/global_food_security_act
 Bertini, Catherine and Dan Glickman 2009. Renewing American Leadership in the Fight Against Global Hunger and Poverty. The Chicago Initiative on Global Agricultural Development. Chicago Council on Global Affairs.
http://www.thechicagocouncil.org/globalagdevelopment/default.asp (Accessed April 13, 2009)
 Williams, Frances. 2009. Food remedies misdirected, says UN envoy. Financial Times. March 10, 2009
 IAASTD (International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development). 2009.
Executive Summary of the Synthesis Report. Washington DC: Island Press; See also McIntyre, Beverly D., Hans R. Herren, Judi Wakhungu and Robert T. Watson, ed. 2009. International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development: Synthesis Report. Washington DC: Island Press.
 Quote taken from FIRST Institute for Food and Development Policy. Policy Brief No 18 Why the Lugar-Casey Global Food Security Act will Fail to Curb Hunger by Annie Shattuck and Eric Holt-Giménez April 2009
 A filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission says the foundation bought 500,000 shares of the stock between April and June; the total value was $27.6 million.
 Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) Fund Distribution: Gates Foundation Links to Monsanto & GE Crops Development in Kenya. Travis English, AGRA Watch, a project of Community Alliance for Global Justice [email protected]
 Draper, Peter, Sheila Kiratu and Tanja Hichert (2009) International Institute for Sustainable Development: How Might Agriculture Develop in Southern Africa: Making Sense of Complexity. Winnipeg
 Tandon (2010)
 The Royal Society (2009) p.45
 Philip L Bereano and Travis M EnglishLooking in a Gift Horse’s Mouth Third World Network Aug-Sept 2010
 Soyatech (www.soyatech.com) is a global media, marketing, and event company that assists the agribusiness, food, feed and biofuels firms to assess and develop market opportunities through its publications, conferences, webinars, and widely-used internet platform
 JINUKUN, the national network for the sustainable management of natural resources in Benin, is the country’s focal point of COPAGEN, West Africa’s coalition to protect African genetic resources.
 Nicaragua case study – More Than Rain
The long shadow of Algeria on the Arab Autumn
While Tunisia had its first post-‘revolution’ election on 23 October and Egypt will follow on 28 November , an infamous but relevant date in Algerian history is also rapidly approaching. 11 January will be the 20th anniversary of the military coup that cancelled elections and Algeria’s earlier ‘Arab spring’ and began the 1990s ‘bloody decade’ of military/Islamist civil war. Though no two contexts will have identical sets and balances of social/political forces, even in a limited geographical area such as north Africa, the dynamics of Algeria’s experience of ‘political liberalization’ from two decades ago offer useful lessons for Arab ‘pring countries of the present.
Indeed, probably the biggest single (but not exclusive) reason why Algeria did not join Tunisia and Egypt during the last few months in escalating large-scale mass challenges to its own authoritarian regime was precisely the fact that Algerians went through an apparently similar process from 1988 to 1991 — with a horrendous outcome of violence in the 1990s. Civilians not participating in the military/Islamist civil war suffered by far the greatest casualties out of the estimated total of some 200,000 dead, many tens of thousands wounded and some 20,000 ‘disappeared.’ By comparison, such numbers dwarf the casualty rates seen to date in Tunisia, Egypt and even Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and Syria.
Over the summer of 1988, thousands of factory workers in an industrial suburb of Algiers and others across the country went out on anti-austerity strikes, defying the neo-liberal regime itself. Two weeks later in early October following the precedent of earlier huge urban insurgencies several years before in Constantine, Setif, Algiers and Oran, young Algerians began massive street challenges with demonstrations and riots in the centre of Algeria’s capital, Algiers. Motivated by much the same set of factors articulated last Spring in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere in the Arab world, young people felt completely marginalized by the regime — politically, economically and socially.
The political realm was closed off to meaningful grassroots participation and had been since the early years of independence in 1962. Unemployment among younger people (about three-quarters of Algerians were under 35 years old) was astronomical and the large gap between wealthy leaders/beneficiaries of the military-controlled regime and the great majority without connections was all the more accentuated by austerity measures imposed on Algeria by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank. Continued scarcity in housing forced youths to remain in tight living quarters with their families, unbearably restricting opportunity for their own social independence. Continual police harassment only added further insult. Algeria was perceived by a large percentage of its youth as a complete dead-end, a constant provocation.
All of this sounds familiar to those who followed closely the grievances of those in the streets of central Tunis or those in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. In the Algiers demonstrations of 1988, just as last Spring in Tunis and Cairo, political Islamists joined in within several days and experienced, with non-Islamists, the massacre of hundreds and massive arrests at the hands of the police and military.
Following intense popular outcries against such repression, the Algerian regime of President Chadli announced major political reforms — apparently aiming to appease the population and further facilitate economic liberalization. From early 1989 through late 1991, Algeria experienced its freest political context since independence — as some now call it, ‘Algeria’s parentheses democracy.’ A new constitution authorized the legal appearance of old and new political parties to oppose the previous monopoly of the FLN. Also permitted were a variety of new newspapers, publishing houses, autonomous trade unions and other civil society organizations.
Even more than the longtime oppositional and popular moderate socialist FFS party, it was a new Islamist party, the FIS (Islamic Salvation Front) that benefited the most. Bringing together various strands of Islamist activists — previously banned from open political activity, the FIS articulated and mobilized oppositional momentum through religious appeals and grassroots social support among long-suffering and previously voiceless constituents.
Algerian political Islamism had gradually gained political sophistication and growing strength from the 1960s — in part because, for many, it seemed the only possible oppositional outlet (after all, mosques could not all be closed). In part, the movement gained as well from the regime’s continuous appeasement with measures such as a retrograde family code, Arabisation in education, the importation of hundreds of Muslim teachers from the Middle East and the building of a huge number of new mosques. Political Islamists were also emboldened by Islamist regime changes in Iran and later in Afghanistan. Municipal elections were scheduled for 1990 and national legislative elections for the following year.
This is roughly the point at which both Tunisia and Egypt find themselves today. Following large grassroots insurgencies that forced out long-time dictators and gained promises of political reform (while leaving much of the old regime in place), secular activists now confront growing, newly-legalised Islamist political parties. Elections in Tunisia and Egypt offer a public measure of Islamists’ relative strength. In both countries, as earlier in Algeria, rapid organisational momentum assures for Islamists in both countries a major political role — as already demonstrated in their plurality victory in Tunisia.
Similarly, in June 1990, the Algerian Islamist FIS party swept the majority of municipal and regional contests (the FFS did not participate) and immediately set about to administer, within bounds defined by the regime, hundreds of locales, including many municipal governments in and around Algiers itself.
In Tunisia, the revived, well-organized and popular Islamist Ennahda Party has pledged itself to a pluralist liberal democracy, equal rights for women and civil liberties. In the eyes of some, however, the party’s partial funding from Gulf states, recent Salafist street violence, a resurfaced public debate on conservative religious themes (including the right to polygamy) and ambiguities in Ennahda’s pre-election messages were not reassuring. Over time, a failure to provide jobs, decent work conditions, more housing and respect from public officials might well lead many younger people away from secular or moderate Islamist alternatives — despite Tunisia’s generally more tolerant political culture than elsewhere. Nevertheless, the Tunisian military, secondary to the police under deposed dictator Ben Ali, does not have the continuing decisive controlling role as militaries in Egypt and Algeria.
Egypt’s political future seems potentially more explosive. There the large and well-organised Muslim Brotherhood has launched its own Peace and Justice Party and plans to contest up to 50 percent of the legislative seats. The presence of several other smaller Islamist parties, as well, apparently assures a major, if not decisive, political role in the preparation of a new constitution and formation of a new civilian government. While the Muslim Brotherhood, like the Ennahda of Tunisia, has more recently also declared support for liberal democracy and women’s rights, some Salafist elements have already demonstrated a less tolerant, militant side, as with recent violent attacks on Coptic Christians. Though Islamists at present co-exist well with the military leadership, if the latter decides to slow down or halt the transition to civilian government, the radicalisation of large numbers of the Brotherhood and other Islamist groups remains a definite potential.
Two decades ago the Algerian regime, dominated by the military behind the scenes sought to control the liberalised political context by playing off the Islamist FIS and a new Berber-based party, the RCD, against the FFS, to the hoped-for benefit of the in-house FLN. Additionally, it now seems apparent that the military security force, the DRS, was also heavily infiltrating the FIS itself, thus to assure that any serious FIS momentum could be channeled and manipulated — either to safe limited roles or, alternatively, to a position of such obvious threat to non-Islamist Algerians that open military intervention would become acceptable. In either case, Algeria’s military would preserve its preeminent position — with all the lucrative rewards of material corruption thus permitted.
What followed in Algeria behind the scenes is still mainly hidden. When the Islamist FIS (perhaps guided by military intelligence) sought to force legislative elections in mid-1991 through a general strike, the latter was largely a failure, but nevertheless gave the regime the excuse to arrest FIS leaders and thousands of FIS activists. Though some in the FIS wished to move immediately to armed resistance, the ‘electoral’ wing won the internal debate. With FIS momentum apparently seriously slowed by the summer events, a two-round legislative election was scheduled for December 1991/January 1992. But as the election approached, the energy and organising ability of the FIS rebounded. That party then largely swept the first round and clearly was en route to a national assembly majority and significant role in Algeria’s governance.
Threatened by the extent of FIS momentum, but also now with a ready excuse for explicit intervention, the Algerian military cancelled the January 1992 second round elections, deposed President Chadli and set up its own State High Committee to officially govern the country. At the same time, the arrests of thousands of FIS activists and the rage of FIS militants and others resulted in the first armed clashes between Islamist guerrillas and the repressive forces of the police and military. Within several months, in addition to the FIS military wing (the AIS), a new radical Islamist guerrilla force, the GIA, was created. Again, from available evidence, it seems that the latter was either largely a product of the military security force or at least significantly infiltrated and partly controlled by the same.
The resulting momentum in Algeria of armed clashes, civilian assassinations, kidnappings and rapes, as well as eventual massacres of whole villages, soon followed. While the military infiltrated or manipulated the Islamist guerrilla forces and Islamists infiltrated the military, non-militant civilians were left in between, hopelessly vulnerable and with no apparent relief until, through mutual exhaustion, armed FIS Islamists and the regime arranged a truce in 1997. Other amnesty programs followed in the late 1990s and subsequent years — stipulating that both former guerrillas and the military itself were beyond legal recourse by their victims.
While the Algerian scenario seems less likely for Tunisia, it remains a real possibility in Egypt. In the latter, the long-entrenched military has every reason to seek to preserve its power and material privileges through counter-revolutionary measures. To date, the post-Mubarak military continues to send mixed signals. While promising elections, a civilian government and a new constitution, the military continues to jail thousands of protestors through rapid ‘trials’ in military courts and has expanded the state of emergency provisions to crack down further on critical media and hundreds of thousands of workers and students in ongoing strikes. Increasingly, grassroots demonstrators see continuities with the Mubarak regime instead of hoped-for change. In street chanting, ‘Down with Tantawi’ (the military chief and the deposed government’s minister of defense) has replaced ‘Down with Mubarak’ and the explosive social, economic and political frustrations that led to the latter’s downfall could easily re-surface . Indeed, though some commentators observe ‘demonstration fatigue,’ the present huge wave of labour strikes by new independent unions is unprecedented.
At the same time the rising tide of political Islamism in Egypt is quite apparent — perhaps with roughly the same potential of electoral support for the Freedom and Justice Party as for the FIS in Algeria two decades earlier. Though composed of various strands, as was Algeria’s FIS, at least some Egyptian Islamists appear closer to the regime than a large part of the regime’s secular opposition. And no doubt, as in Algeria, the military has infiltrated Islamist and secular opposition forces extensively. No doubt as well, there are voices in the military who call for manipulating the fragmented civilian political forces (including Coptic Christians vs. Muslims) against each other, as in Algeria, with the same objective of maintaining military rule behind a ‘democratic’ reformist facade. As seen earlier in Algeria, not only does such manipulation contradict the so-called commitment to a liberalized regime, it also is an extremely dangerous enterprise.
In addition to Egyptian grassroots civilians having to confront entrenched repressive forces and the elitist ‘political class,’ they may also eventually find themselves caught in a desperate conflict between the military and armed political Islamists angry at the prospect of their ‘entitled’ political dominance withheld at the threshold of their success. Whether through armed force or not, the prospect of Islamist rule then potentially can be used, as in Algeria, to blackmail most secular forces into accepting a supposed ‘lesser evil’ of continual military rule. And without a doubt, the US and other Western powers will support such a regime, just as they would support military intervention if a populist left coalition should surprisingly emerge to take power.
The power elite strategy of playing off conservative/religious parties against secular reformers, of course, is a model quite familiar to American politics as well. In north Africa, however, where the political polarization can be more extreme and where the role of the military elite is more explicit, overtly manipulated political outcomes by the latter can be, as in Algeria of the 1990s, far more explosive and deadly.
A third, longer-range alternative, of course, would be to reject the fixation on electoral politics in favor of a popular egalitarian insurrection overthrowing the whole manipulative regime, asserting freedom from military, political party, economic and religious elites altogether. Such a potential, far beyond the gains of the Arab spring, faces huge obstacles in Algeria and elsewhere in the Arab world and would demand both critical social catalysts and significant local-based horizontalist organization to succeed.
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* This article was first published by Znet.
* David Porter is a SUNY professor emeritus of political science and history and author of a new book, 'Eyes to the South: French Anarchists and Algeria', released this month by AK Press. He can be contacted at davidporter1953[AT]gmail.com
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Challenges of transition
Egyptian election a test for Arab Spring movements
After Tunisia's success in marshalling an orderly democratic transition, Egypt goes to the polls in November-end to test the limits of the Arab Spring – a scorching pro-democracy movement – to end an era of authoritarian rule in the region.
Unlike Tunisia, with its outstanding achievement of holding a free and fair election, Egypt, a nation of 80 million which is the fulcrum of the West Asia and North Africa region, faces challenges that are far greater and much more complex. Decades of iron-fisted dictatorship have generated survivalist forces, which are mistrustful of each other and prone to extremism. Among them are Islamists of all ideological shades. They cohabit uneasily with young liberals, leftists and centrists, who wish to establish a modern democratic state that is respectful of civil liberties, gender equality and the rule of law. The demand for civil liberties in Egypt equals the thirst for jobs, of which there are simply not enough for the legions of youth who grew up during the three-decade-long misrule of the former dictator Hosni Mubarak and the nepotistic oligarchy he ran.
Egypt's challenges are also rooted in its heterogeneous society. The recent bloody riots have only deepened the sectarian divide between the Muslim majority and the Coptic Christians, who comprise around 10 per cent of the population. These clashes have also brought into question the neutrality of the military, which is venerated by many but whose critics are beginning to rise, especially after the recent killings of Coptic Christians.
Indeed, Egypt is confronted with several challenges as it heads for elections on November 28. Given the military's traditional dominance in politics since the modernist era of President Gamal Abdel Nasser, will democracy endure? Can another military coup to bring back ‘stability’ be ruled out? Will the country slide into a theocracy if hard-line Islamists do well in the elections? Finally, do the contesting parties have the experience, the will and the skills to revive the country's stagnant economy in a manner that cuts through its horrific poverty and rampant unemployment?
Notwithstanding the hazy future, new political constellations have emerged to implant on the country their vision, however blurred. Unlike Tunisia, where the Hizb-ut-Tahrir, a party based on Salafism, a revivalist ideological strain within political Islam, seeks to re-create an ideal society based on a pristine Koranic code, the Salafists are out in full force in Egypt.
The Salafist Al Nour Party heads an alliance that includes the Asala Party, the Salafist Current, and the Construction and Development Party, which is the political arm of Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya. Al Nour activists say that their alliance is well balanced and capable of competing strongly in all the electoral districts.
The Salafist Current hopes to come up with a creditable performance in northern Egypt given the fact that Alexandria and the Nile Delta in the region are its strongholds. The Construction and Development Party expects successes in Upper Egypt, where it seemingly has considerable support. Incidentally, the Al Noor alliance has declared that given a chance it will enforce Sharia law in the country.
On the other side, the powerful Muslim Brotherhood, under the banner of the Freedom and Justice Party, leads a coalition called the Democratic Alliance. The presence of the Ghad Party, a liberal outfit, and the Karama Party, whose members draw inspiration from Nasser, substantiates the perception that the Muslim Brotherhood is willing to shed its narrow sectarian agenda, though doubts remain about its final ideological trajectory.
Some analysts say the Muslim Brotherhood is experiencing a monumental inter-generational power struggle between the largely moderate youth activists and the hard-line old-timers. Many among the Muslim Brotherhood youth have been inspired by the so-called Turkish model, which espouses a socio-cultural role for Islam but does not attack the principles of secularism and gender equality. Some like Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh have advocated that the state should distance itself from the interpretation and enforcement of Islamic law and that it should not be involved in the regulation of religious taxes. Aboul Fotouh emphasises that gender or religion must not be the yardstick to bar an individual from running for the presidency.
Aboul Fotouh's utterances demonstrate the tensions within the Muslim Brotherhood's rank and file. For speaking out against the established view and declaring that he wishes to run for the presidency, Aboul Fotouh has been expelled from the party.
The Muslim Brotherhood's decision to persist with its age-old slogan ‘Islam is the solution’ is also a reflection of the tussle between the moderates and the hardliners within the organisation, long oppressed by the country's former rulers. Determined to make its mark, the Brothers will have its candidates in 70 per cent of the seats that the Democratic Alliance has decided to contest.
While the Islamist parties have hogged the limelight, the Revolution Continues (RC) has emerged as a conspicuous contestant among the non-religious alliances. The RC includes the Youth Movement that played a key role in organising the mammoth street protests that brought down Hosni Mubarak. The left-leaning combination includes the Popular Socialist Alliance Party; the Egyptian Socialist Party; Egypt Freedom, Equality and Development; the liberal Egyptian Current; and the Revolution Youth Coalition. The R.C. will field 300 candidates in 33 electoral districts.
Finally, a liberal-centre-left bloc, which includes the Egyptian Social Democratic Party and the leftist Tagammu party, which strongly opposed the Mubarak regime, has also put up candidates.
Some former Mubarak loyalists of the National Democratic Party (NDP) have made a bid to join the fray through the back door. For instance, the Unity Party led by Hossam Badrawy, who headed the NDP during its final moments, has fielded 100 candidates.
OVERDRIVE TO WOO THE POOR
Faced with mass unemployment and extreme poverty, most coalitions are an overdrive to woo the poor. The Egyptian website Ahram Online has reported that Islamists of all hues have hit the streets hard to provide a variety of services to the poor. Muslim Brotherhood volunteers have set up food markets where vegetables are sold below the market rates. Salafist volunteers in Alexandria are out in the congested streets to streamline the chaotic traffic flows. Doctors of the Salafist persuasion knock at doors asking people not to dump trash on the streets in order to prevent disease.
Members of non-religious parties, too, have headed in the direction of impoverished neighbourhoods and shanty towns. Unsurprisingly, the RC is campaigning hard, advocating redistribution of wealth and an end to military rule and to the repressive measures, such as the emergency law, of the Mubarak years.
The non-religious parties have also opened other fronts to deny the Islamists exclusive political space. The liberal Egyptian Bloc is campaigning vigorously to establish a modern civil state that will prevent the Islamists from moving in the direction of a theocracy. Samir Fayad, a leading member of the Tagammu Party, has been quoted as saying that Islamists are ‘relics from the Middle Ages.’
The elections are likely to showcase several overlapping themes, reflecting the complex interplay of social forces that are expected to influence the elections. While at one level the secularists and the Islamists vie for political space, an intra-Islamist contest, between the moderately inclined and the extremists, is also expected to animate the elections.
In neighbouring Tunisia, the moderate Islamists under the banner of the Ennahda Party performed strongly in the first election that was undertaken in the region post-Arab Spring. The Ennahda, led by the Islamic theoretician and politician Rachid Ghannouchi, claims that it is a part of a new genre of Isamist parties which are a part of a world movement that has established a niche for itself in countries such as Turkey, Malaysia and Indonesia.
In an effort to encourage moderation in countries experiencing the Arab Spring, Turkish President RecepTayyip Erdogan visited Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, the North African countries where new leaderships are in the process of taking root, in September.
In Cairo, Erdogan's charismatic presence led one television presenter to say during a talk show that the Prime Minister is ‘a man who is admired not only by a large sector of Turkey but also by a large sector of Arabs and Muslims’. But reflecting the country's ideological fault lines, the Muslim Brotherhood tempered its welcome for Erdogan by denouncing his call to Egypt to adopt a secular Constitution.
Ahead of his visit to Cairo, Erdogan noted that the adoption of secularism did not mean the renunciation of religion. ‘A secular state respects all religions,’ he said in an interview with an Egyptian private satellite TV channel. ‘Be not wary of secularism. I hope there will be a secular state in Egypt,” he observed. But taking offence at his remarks, Mahmoud Ghuzlan of the Muslim Brotherhood cited Turkey's unique conditions that “imposed on it to deal with the secular concept’.
With less than a month to go for the elections, the Muslim Brotherhood has become the focus of world attention. Well positioned as an ideological swing player, the stance of the Brothers, who have offshoots in Jordan and Syria and in the Palestinian territories, may prove decisive in settling the regional contests between what may loosely be called soft and hard Islamists.
The Salafists have signalled their willingness to strike an alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood should the need arise after the elections. On their part, the Brothers would have to take the call of either coalescing a conservative Muslim bloc with a pronounced hard-line accent or working out an arrangement in alliance with some of the secular parties to advance on the path of moderation that countries such as Turkey and Tunisia have cleared.
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* This article was first published by Frontline.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Western Sahara kidnappings: Unpacking Moroccan propaganda
The Moroccan plot related to the kidnapping of three European aid workers from Saharawi refugee camps on 22 October is
now becoming more decipherable.
Three news stories, surprisingly published by the French news agency,
AFP, and some Arabic media outlets famous for supporting the Moroccan
thesis in Western Sahara, were enough to give additional support to
the analysis we developed in previous articles, in which we claimed
the potential involvement of the Moroccan secret services, and
possibly the French, in the ordeal of Aenoa, Enrico and Rosella.
The first news story we refer to was exclusively published by AFP on the evening of 30 October under the title: ‘Three Qaeda hostages seized last week alive: mediator’. The news agency reported the so-called statements of a mysterious ‘mediator speaking on condition of anonymity’, through whom the agency advocates the Moroccan propaganda that aims to associate the Polisario Front with terrorism.
This ‘mediator’ asserted that Al-Qaida was actually behind the kidnapping, yet, he alleged that ‘ten unarmed AQIM militants had entered the Sahrawi refugee camp in Tindouf, western Algeria, where sympathisers of the Polisario Front gave them weapons and helped them seek out the hostages’. The aim of alleging that Al-Qaida has got accomplices in the camps is easy to understand if the reader has been following the development of Moroccan propaganda over the last few years.
The second important news story, again surprisingly published exclusively by AFP, says that ‘Spain submits to Al-Qaida and extradites a Mauritanian family to Nouakchott’. AFP stressed that ‘experts related the extradition of the Mauritanian family to Madrid’s attempts to free its nationals kidnapped by Al-Qaida from the Tindouf camps’. It is well-known that the ‘release’ of this family has been one of Al-Qaida’s conditions in previous negotiations with Spain to release other Spanish aid-workers kidnapped in Mauritania in 2009 before Spain paid the necessary ransom to free them, of course thanks to Moroccan and Malian mediations, and possibly French ones too. We all remember how the official Moroccan press agency, MAP, made use of that tragedy, pretending that the Mauritanian terrorist, ‘Omar Sahraoui’, was a member of Polisario, using the confusion that his second name, ’Sahraoui’, causes. Of course, that Moroccan fiction didn’t last long, because his real identity was revealed when Mauritania had to release him. But still the aim of the Moroccan propaganda is to create confusion, and mislead public opinion, and it usually succeeds thanks to its expertise in news distortion. What imports us in this news story is the fact that the Spanish government has already started negotiations with the abductors. We have already heard that the Spaniards started the negotiations on the second or third day after the kidnapping. The negotiations with the terrorists thus started as a ‘coincidence’, with Spanish Foreign Affairs Minister Trinedad Jimenez’s visit to Morocco.
The last important news story that completes the picture was actually ‘written’ by a Moroccan journalist close to the Islamic movement in Morocco, Hassan El Achraf, who published a story on 31 October under the attractive title of: ‘The dynamic of the Arabic spring: a Saharawi opposition coordination proposes itself as an alternative to Polisario’. This story was published by the Arabic pages of ‘Alarabia’ and ‘Acharq Al Awsat’, two media outlets famous for their alignment to the Moroccan thesis in Western Sahara. It was also published in some youth forums and blogs on the net, aiming to create confusion in the minds of young Saharawis and Arabs who are following the developments of the different Arab revolutions.
These three stories affirm the analysis we developed, like many other Saharawi and Spanish writers in different articles, in claiming that the terrorist attack against the Saharawi refugee camps aim to distort the image of the Polisario Front and prepare the needed ground for other future attacks against the Saharawis to disrupt the coming congress the liberation movement is preparing to organise in the liberated zone of Tifariti.
The aim is still to feed the two main ideas of Moroccan propaganda: to associate the Polisario Front with terrorism by creating confusion, as we explained above, using the international fashion of the so-called war against terrorism to violate the political rights of the Saharawi people and get Western support for Rabat’s attempts to impose autonomy on the last colony in Africa.
The second target Rabat is aiming at is the question of the representivity of the Saharawi liberation movement of all Saharawi people. Morocco is trying to convince the UN and its allies that the Polisario Front is not the only representative of the Saharawi people. Rabat has helped some Saharawi renegades to create fake ‘political movements’, such as Khat Chahid, a certain Democratic Party (who counts only one adherent so far), and the recently declared ‘coordination of opposition’ that has been developed as an idea in the Moroccan media for the last two years. And again, we still believe that the coming days will reveal more details about the Moroccan plans and schemes against the coming congress of the Polisario Front. Morocco is able to commit more operations in the camps, such as inciting some of its agents or renegades to organise fake demonstrations in the refugee camps in support of Morocco’s plan of autonomy. Rabat has already used the former Polisario policeman, Mustapha Salma. It is buying the services of more persons like him who are ready to sell their spirits to the devil in exchange for a few dollars more to act against their own people and the future of their homeland. But, it is a very small group of opportunists and like in all other experiences of liberation they are usually under the spotlight of the enemy, and are always presented as leaders and political actors as long as the coloniser needs them but once the peoples win the struggle, history leaves them behind in oblivion.
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* Malainin Lakhal is secretary general of the Saharawi Journalists and Writers Union .
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Libya’s Liberation Front organising in the Sahel
‘Sahel’ in Arabic means ‘coast’ or ‘shoreline’. Unless one was present 5,000 years ago when, according to anthropologists, our planet’s first cultivation of crops began in this then plush, but now semiarid region where temperatures reach 125 degrees F, and only camels and an assortment of creatures can sniff out water sources, it seems an odd geographical name place for this up to 450 miles wide swathe of baked sand that runs from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea.
Yet, when standing along its edge, the Sahel does have the appearance of a sort of dividing shoreline between the endless sands of the Sahara and the Savanna grasses to the south. Parts of Mali, Algeria, Niger, Chad, and Sudan, all along the Libyan border, fall within this supposed no man’s land.
Today the Sahel is providing protection, weapons gathering and storage facilities, sites for training camps, and hideouts as well as a generally formidable base for those working to organise the growing Libyan Liberation Front (LLF). The aim of the LLF is to liberate Libya from what it considers NATO installed colonial puppets. The Sahel region is only one of multiple locations which are becoming active as the Libyan counter revolution, led by members of the Gadahfi and Wafalla, make preparations for the next phase of resistance. When I entered an office conference room in Niger recently to meet with some recent evacuees from Libya, who I was advised were preparing to launch a people’s struggle employing the Maoist tactic of 1,000 cuts ‘against the current group claiming to represent Libya’, two facts struck me.
One was how many who were present and did not appear to be scruffy, intensely zealous or desperate, but who were obviously rested, calm, organised and methodical in their demeanour. My colleague, a member of the Gadhafi tribe from Sirte explained: ‘More than 800 organisers have arrived from Libya just to Niger and more come every day.’ An officer in uniform added: ‘It is not like your western media presents the situation, of desperate Gadhafi loyalists frantically handing out bundles of cash and gold bars to buy their safety from the NATO death squads now swarming around the northern areas of our motherland. Our brothers have controlled the borderless routes in this region for thousands of years and they know how not to be detected even by NATO satellites and drones.’
The other subject I thought about as I sat in an initial meeting was what a difference three decades can make. As I sat there I recalled my visit with former Fatah youth leader Salah Tamari, who did good work at the Israeli prison camp at Ansar, south Lebanon, during the 1982 aggression, as the elected negotiator for his fellow inmates. Tamari insisted on joining some of them at a new PLO base at Tabessa, Algeria, and invited me for a visit.
This was shortly after the PLO leadership, wrongly in my judgment, agreed to evacuate Lebanon in August of 1982 rather than wage a Stalingrad defense (admittedly minus the nonexistent expected Red Army) and the PLO leadership apparently credited Reagan administration promises of ‘an American guaranteed Palestinian state within a year. You can take that to the bank’ in the words of US envoy Philip Habib.
Seemingly ever trustful of Reagan for some reason, PLO leader Arafat kept Habib’s written promise in his shirt pocket to show doubters, including his deputy, Khalil al Wazir (Abu Jihad) and the womenfolk among others in Shatila Camp who had grave misgivings about their loved ones and protectors leaving them.
At Tabessa, somewhere in the vast Algerian desert, the formerly proud PLO defenders were essentially idle and caged inside their camp and apart from some physical training sessions appeared to spend their days drinking coffee and smoking and worrying about their loved ones in Lebanon as news of the September 1982 Israeli organised massacre at Sabra-Shatila fell on Tabessa Camp like a huge bomb and many fighters rejected Tamari’s orders and left for Shatila Camp.
This is not the case with Libyan evacuees in Niger. They have the latest model satellite phones, laptops and better equipment than most of the rich news outlets that showed up with fancy equipment at Tripoli’s media hotels over the past nine months.
The question, ‘how did you all get here and where did you secure all this new electronic equipment so fast?’ was answered with a mute smile and wink from a young lady who I last saw in August handing out press releases at Tripoli’s Rixos Hotel for Libyan spokesman Dr. Musa Ibrahim. On that particular day, Ibrahim was telling the media as he stood next to Deputy Foreign Minister Khalid Kaim, a friend to many Americans and human rights activists, that Tripoli would not fall to NATO rebels and ‘we have 6,500 well trained soldiers who are waiting for them’. As it turned out, the commander of the 6,500 was owned by NATO and he instructed his men not to oppose the entering rebel forces. Tripoli fell the next day and the day after Kaim was arrested and is still inside one of dozens of rebel jails petitioning his unresponsive captors for family visits while an international, American organised, legal team is negotiating to visit him.
The LLF has military and political projects in the works. One of the latter is to compete for every vote in next summers promised election. One staffer I met with has the job of studying the elections in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere in the region for possible applications to Libya.
Another LLF committee is putting together a Nationalist themed election campaign plus specific campaign tickets for their candidates to run on, and vetting lists of recommendations for specific candidates. Nothing is firmly decided yet, but one Libyan professor told me ‘for sure women’s rights will be a major plank. Women are horrified by what NTC Chairman Jalil said while seeking support from Al Qaeda supporters who threaten to control Libya, about polygamy being the future in Libya and the fact that women will no longer be given the home when divorced. Under Gadhafi Libya has been very progressive with women’s rights as with Palestinian rights.’ Aisha Gadhafi, the only daughter of Muammar who is now living next door in Algeria with family members, including her two-month old baby, was a major force behind the 2010 enactment by the Peoples Congress of more rights for women. She has been asked to write a pamphlet on the need to retain women’s rights in Libya, which will be distributed if the 2012 elections actually materialise.
With their beloved country in substantial ruin due to NATO bombing, the pro-Gadhafi LLF has some major pluses on its side. One is the tribes, who during last summer were starting to stand up against NATO just as Tripoli fell. The LLF believes the tribes can be crucial in getting out the vote.
Perhaps an even a more powerful arrow in the LLF’s quiver as it launches its insurgency is the 35 years of political experience gained by the hundreds of Libyan People’s Congresses, long established in every village in Libya along with the Secretariats of the People’s Conferences. While currently inactive (outlawed by NATO, truth be told) they are quickly regrouping and are expected to be able to dominate any forthcoming election in terms of getting out the vote.
Libya’s Peoples Congresses have sometimes been the objects of ridicule by some under informed and self-styled Libya experts. In fact, they are actually quite democratic and a study of their work makes clear that they have increasingly functioned not as mere rubber stamps for ideas that were floated from over the walls of Bab al Azziza barracks.
A secretary general of one of the congresses, now working in Niger, repeated what one western delegation was told during a fascinating three hour briefing at the Tripoli HQ of the national PC Secretariat in late June. Participants were shown attendance and voting records as well as each item voted on for the past decade and the minutes of the most recent People’s Congress debates. They illustrate the similarities between the People’s Congresses and New England Town Meetings in terms of the local population making decisions that affect their community and an open agenda where complaints and new proposals can be made and debated. Libyan leaders, including Muammar Gadhafi, lost plenty of votes on items they favoured or had originally proposed. In the last few years the Guide declined to take public positions on the items to be voted on in the PC’s because he preferred not to influence or interfere with what he called ‘the decisions of the masses’.
This observer particularly enjoyed his four year term representing Ward 2A in the Brookline, Massachusetts, town meeting while in college in Boston, sometimes sitting next neighbours Kitty and Michael Dukakis, who I am told still live on Perry Street. While we both won a seat in the election, I received 42 votes more than Mike in our Irish and Jewish neighbourhood (actually winning my seat wasn’t all that complicated; I simply took my friend Rachel Cohen with me door to door at Jewish homes seeking votes and Mary O’Malley with me to Irish homes) but Michael rose politically while I sank following my joining Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), the ACLU and the Black Panthers all in one semester as an undergraduate at Boston University. My quick political evolution in politics followed an inspiring meeting with Professor Noam Chomsky and Professor Howard Zinn in Chomsky’s office at MIT. An admittedly simple fellow from a small Oregon town, I left our 90 minute meeting with a bag full of political epiphanies and have not been the same since.
The Brookline Town Meeting debates were interesting and productive and ‘Mustafa’, the National Secretary of the Libyan People’s Congress, who studied at George Washington University and wrote a graduate thesis on New England Town Meetings, claimed his country patterned their People’s Congresses on the New England model. Unfortunately, ‘Mustafa’ is also now incarcerated by the NTC, according to mutual friends. Who the LLF candidates will be if an election is actually held is unknown but some are suggesting Dr. Abu Zeid Dorda. Contrary to media stories, Saif al Islam is not about to surrender to the International Criminal Court and, like Musa Ibrahim, is well. Both are being urged to lay low for now, rest, and try to heal a bit from NATO’s killing of family members and many close friends.
Some legal and political analysts think the ICC will not proceed with any trials relating to Libya for reasons of the ICC’s convoluted rules and structure and uncertainly of securing convictions of the ‘right’ suspects. Whatever happens on this subject, if a case goes forward, researchers are preparing to fill the ICC courtroom with documentation of NATO crimes during its nine months of bombing. Some ICC observers are encouraged by the ICC prosecutor’s office pledge this week and as reported by the BCC: ‘…to investigate and prosecute any crimes committed both by rebel and pro-Gadhafi forces including any committed by NATO’.
As one victim of NATO crimes, who on 20 June 2011 lost four of his family members, including three infant children, to a NATO bombing raid, wrote this observer: ‘This is very good news if it is true.’
As NATO moves its focus and recalibrates its drones, it is possible that its nearly 300 days and nights of carnage against this gentle country and people will not in the end achieve its goals. The Libyan people may yet defeat NATO’s neo-colonial project both by armed resistance and at the ballot box. A rejuvenated national resistance has begun on Libya’s borders.
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* This article first appeared in [http://www.counterpunch.org/2011/11/04/libya’s-liberation-front-organizing-in-the-sahel]CounterPunch[/url].
* Franklin Lamb is doing research in Libya. He is director of Americans Concerned for Middle East Peace, Washington DC-Beirut.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Libya: Smuggling war as human rights?
When one of Africa's longest standing dictators, oil-rich Gabon's Omar Bongo, finally took leave of his political throne, a grieving US President said, "President Bongo played a key role in developing and shaping the strong bilateral relationship that exists between Gabon and the United States today."
The President was not the infamously oily George 'Dubya' Bush, notorious for statements endorsing the benefits of dictatorships, but incumbent President Barack Obama, recent winner of one Nobel Peace Prize. His acceptance speech, delivered in his usual rich and warm – even holy, timbre, usually found in preachers, endorsed 'just war' against the backdrop of the 'war on terror'.
In her book, 'Every man in this village is a liar', Megan Stack, previously the Los Angeles Times correspondent for the Middle East, writes, "I was a reporter and I wanted to see. Only after covering it for years did I understand that the war on terror never existed. It was not a real thing... It was hollow, it was essentially nothing but a unifying myth for a complicated scramble of mixed impulses and social theories and night terrors and cruelty and business interests...all netted together under a heading."
It is a heading with no expiry date; a heading that should read of wars smuggled through collective conscientiousness as human rights, freedom, and democracy. And while we have identified, in hindsight, the fiction of the 'war on terror', which was extended to Africa, we are still too believing of 'specialists', and too mistrusting of our own common sense, when it comes to the present - still raw and wounding to 'media consumers' one million miles from the scene of the crime.
That scene depicts Libya, formerly under the mad cartoonish rule of lifetime dictator Muammar Gaddafi. On the surface, the oil-rich north Africa country seemed like the ideal venue for foreign military 'intervention' via the 'Right To Protect' (R2P), a doctrine that was created under the umbrella of the 'war on terror', post-9/11, 2001; a 'right to intervention' – by virtue of the 'jus ad bellum' or just war narrative. It was re-characterised as the 'right to protection' via the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS).
LIBYA'S 'PROTECTION' FROM THE BRUTAL GADDAFI BY THE US AND NATO
Like Gabon, Libya is oil-rich. It hosts Africa's largest proven reserves of crude oil, generating $40 billion in 2010 from exports. Unlike Gabon, however, Gaddafi's regime was neither receptive to the US nor Europe. The liberation of Libya by the foreign US-NATO forces, nonetheless, evidenced the immediate creation and recognition of the National Transitional Council (NTC) as a legitimate government with the US endorsing it as soon as it took blunt shape. Hillary Clinton described the US's view of Gaddafi's regime as one "no longer having legitimate authority in Libya."
The world of NGOs applauded it – perceived as a good sign for global media consumers. And according to Amnesty International, "After 42 years of brutal repression, Libyans are today looking ahead to building a state based on respect for human rights and the rule of law. In the last seven months they have paid a heavy price standing against repression and injustice. The new Libyan authorities, represented by the National Transitional Council (NTC), face great challenges...."
Certainly, Libyans were deprived on civil and political rights (CP), critical first generation rights on which any state-citizen relationship is based. But most of Africa does, more specifically, many of the regimes backed by European governments and the US, including Gabon. Nevertheless, Libya has worked as a 'theater' of just war quite well, with Tripoli having, of late, replaced Timbuktu as the newest godforsaken city. Why?
As with the central motif running through Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, where the latter is spared from the cruelty and depravity of his nature, reflected only in the picture – the 'most magical of mirrors', Gray is forever beyond question, because, as one elderly socialite tells him, 'you were made to be good - you look so good.' So, removing the buffoon-like brutal Gaddafi has the appearance of ethics. But is this the case in context?
Ironically, Libya's tin pot regime shot past democracies like South Africa, Botswana, Mauritius and other nations (including Brazil, Venezuela etc) in various criteria including health (under five-year mortality rate). Libya, classified by the World Bank as an upper middle income nation, experienced to a greater extent the economic and social rights that many US-backed regimes have deprived citizens of, backed by World Bank data. This includes literacy (89%), life expectancy (75 years), urban development (sanitation facilities) 97%, GNI per capita ($12 320).
WHO IS THE MOST THREATENING FIGURE ON THE AFRICAN CONTINENT?
This is not, of course, a defense of Gaddafi. In a recent article, published on Pambazuka, I wrote about the two fundamental needs if the integrity of 'human rights' was to be realised, ie: an African Union mechanism to remove authoritarian and anti-democratic governments, accompanied by the need for democratisation of the world's primary warring bodies that also double as the UN Security Council.
The point of the piece was that somehow, in the simplistic rhetoric presented to us, rational solutions seemed to have been forgotten – that the issue is not a choice between Gaddafi or the US-NATO, but systems that need changing, including that of the Security Council. The article, perceived by African readers as advocating support in favor of the NATO-US mission, received bad feedback. But interestingly, much of the response was driven by fear, caution, and suspicion: not of Gaddafi's removal, but of the precedent that it would set and the actors involved. Ultimately, defense of Gaddafi equated defense of African sovereignty from the old invaders rather than Gaddafi for any just merit.
The declaration of war on Libya was on several levels: the military, the media and the flagrant misuse of the 'rights' doctrines. On their website, NATO described the history of their mission: "Since March 24, an unprecedented coalition of NATO Allies and non-NATO contributors having been protecting civilians under threat of attack in Libya, enforcing an arms embargo and maintaining a no-fly zone." As NATO Secretary General Rasmussen explained, under ''Operation Unified Protector,'' NATO is doing ''nothing more, nothing less'' than meeting its mandates under United Nations Security Council resolutions."
However, the no fly zone effectively acted as a war strategy by blocking Gaddafi's own defense, wrecking his air command and control systems, with the logical land-based outcomes. Is not the UNSC, which undermined the African Union's peaceful resolution on the issue of Libya, the real threat to international security, and by default, delegitimised of any peace-keeping/policeman role?
Was Gaddafi the most threatening figure on the African continent? Or was he convenient as a pretext to push through military missions vying to establish bases in Africa, including that of USAFRICOM, which led the early weeks of the military mission in Libya?
The ethical appearance of any defense of Gaddafi, nevertheless, does not look good – whatever the bigger picture. And the bigger picture is selectively waging war for selectively endorsed human rights concepts at selective times against selective enemies. Meanwhile those making the selections appear as good and noble and remain difficult to fault, even as they have just smuggled through 'war as human rights' – justified, signed and sealed.
Wilde concludes his book with Gray – ever flawless, stabbing the 'magical mirror' – a gruesome portrayal of his character, to destroy this 'other' to his nature that gives him the deceptive reprieve to his actions. And as the picture is destroyed, which Gray must do, to take himself back, so is he finally revealed, physically, as the bearer of his actions.
If the AU has an objection to the UNSC, now would be the ideal time for African governments to catalyse a change.
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* This article first appeared in The Africa Report.
* Khadija Sharife is a journalist; visiting scholar at the Center for Civil Society (CCS) based in South Africa and contributor to the Tax Justice Network. She is the Southern Africa correspondent for The Africa Report magazine, assistant editor of the Harvard "World Poverty and Human Rights" journal and author of Tax Us If You Can (Africa).
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
The need for the ‘Global African Worker’
Bill Fletcher, Jr
The African World and Pan-Africanism itself have undergone dramatic changes over the last 40 years. On the African continent, for instance, the last remaining colony is the Western Sahara, and their coloniser is another African nation (Morocco). The apartheid system, as we knew it in Southern Africa, is gone. In the diaspora legalised racial segregation is largely a thing of the past.
Yet the African World faces a series of crises and challenges. In the diaspora, for instance, de facto racial segregation remains quite strong, this despite the rise of black superstars in fields such as sports, entertainment, and indeed, the presidency of the United States of America. Social movements in the African diaspora have emerged, sometimes in tandem with other progressive social movements, sometimes on their own, raising consciousness regarding racial and national oppression as well as conducting struggles around racial justice.
In Africa, independence and the failure to reexamine colonial boundaries has resulted in protracted struggles involving ethnic groups, religions, regions and suppressed nations, while at the same time new social movements have also emerged representing class forces, women, HIV/AIDS victims, and displaced peoples. Such social movements have on occasion coalesced while at other moments operated entirely on their own. This post-independence reality has challenged the Pan-African vision of a progressive, unified Africa. And even where efforts at unification have taken place, e.g. the formation of the African Union, it has largely been a top-down effort, for the most part excluding the breath of the African diaspora and tending toward neoliberal economic theories as the direction for development.
The moment in which we live is also characterised by the restructuring of global capitalism. Not only are the formal empires of the 19th and 20th centuries largely gone, but the capitalism of the 21st century is very interconnected (and not just through the trading that we have witnessed throughout the existence of capitalism), challenging the sustainability of many nation-states and raising questions as to the legitimacy of the nation-state as a whole. Not only has the rise of transnational corporations posed the question of what is ‘national’, but with the restructuring of global capitalism has also come the rise of a transnational capitalist class that draws its members from the ruling elites of the global North as well from the ruling elites of the global South. This restructuring of global capitalism and the emergence of the transnational capitalist class has challenged the very notion of sovereignty and national liberation, while in no way challenging the subordination of most of the global South. The instantaneous transfer of capital, for instance, has undermined economies, yet such developments occurred not as the result of some spontaneous and inevitable process within capitalism but as the direct result of decisions made by the political elites of nation-states in the interests of transnational capitalism.
The relative hegemony of neoliberal globalisation has transformed struggles in many ways, including demanding that progressive forces engage in greater international/cross-border connections and forms of solidarity. The nation-state, as a field of struggle, remains key, but conducting a struggle on the plane of the nation-state alone is simply insufficient. To this one must add that neoliberal capital has placed a bull’s eye on the backs of workers and the organisations of workers around the world. In order to not only increase their own profits and seize greater portions of the world’s wealth, but also to solidify their control, neoliberal capital has sought the annihilation of all forms of progressive worker organisations, including but not limited to labour unions, that they perceive to be in the way of their struggle for domination. Workers are increasingly finding it difficult to conduct struggles solely on their domestic plane given the interconnections developed by neoliberal capital.
In this context several challenges emerge for progressive forces in the African World not the least being the need to build and sustain a mechanism of connection, coalition and solidarity within the African World that focuses on the struggles of those who are so often ignored, specifically, working people.
The rise of neoliberal globalisation has brought with it the collapse of many of the projects that Egyptian theorist Samir Amin has characterised as ‘national populist’ and the rallying of many national elites – including some that not long ago pledged allegiance to the international working class – to the flag of so-called free market capitalism. This turn of events has been disastrous for the majority of peoples of the global South, including but not limited to people of the African World. It has resulted in mass privatisation, the destruction of industries, dramatic wealth polarisation, environmental destruction, and with it the shrinking of the political realm for popular participation.
In this situation, working people are finding means of resisting the ‘race to the bottom’ and the pauperisation of billions. Labour unions, for instance, have a long history in the African World, but as workforces are assaulted by rising unemployment and precarious employment, some union movements have virtually collapsed, while many other union movements have sought to ‘retool’ to address this situation. In addition, new forms of organisation have emerged among working people that differ from traditional unions. The so-called informal economy (non-regulated; non-taxed) has brought forth various organisations and associations, some of which have allied with the union movement. Organisations of the unemployed and the poor have also risen, sometimes allied with unions; sometimes in contradiction with them; and other times operating nearly in a different world. Worker cooperatives have been formed across the African World particularly in areas abandoned by private capital.
In the post-Civil Rights/post-Black Power, post-colonial/post-South African apartheid period, connections between struggles in the African World have largely dwindled or been relegated to periodic conferences. Social movements in one part of the African World that address race, class and/or gender are often in operation in relative isolation from potential supporters in other parts of the African World, thus making it easier for transnational capital and their domestic allies to carry out deeper exploitation, repression, and the consequent weakening of genuine democracy.
For these reasons, new efforts at solidarity within the African World are necessary in order to link progressive social movements and organisations, particularly those rooted in the struggles of working people. For this reason there is a need for a ‘Global African Worker’ project that begins linking individuals, struggles, movements and organisations that are focused on the worker of the African World. Let us be clear, however, that in using the term ‘worker’ we are not restricting ourselves to those in the formal economy or those in labour unions, though these are important sectors. We are including agricultural and domestic workers, as well as those who are unemployed and/or in the informal economy. To borrow from African American trade unionist and freedom activist A. Philip Randolph, we are talking about the despised and the dispossessed.
We propose this project as one that looks at the African World, and not Africa or the African Diaspora in mutual isolation. There is much to understand. There are certainly general tendencies that one can identify in the African World, such as, the fight for jobs and equity almost everywhere in the African World; the exploration of alternative economic strategies; the role of labour unions, including vis a vis the informal sector; the anti-neoliberal struggle; gender-based movements and their relationship to race and class; and racism, ethno-nationalism and the struggles for unity, to name only a few.
To this list one must add, quite explicitly, the question of race, and particularly race in the 21st century context. W.E.B. Dubois noted a century ago that the ‘color line’ would be the question of the 20th century. His observation was quite prescient. In the 21st century race has not disappeared, but it has evolved as a social construct aimed at both suppressing the global South, but also dividing up social movements. In each part of the world, race looks and is understood differently. A person who in the USA may be considered ‘black’ or African American, for instance, in Brazil might be considered anything other than ‘black’. Yet what is at stake is not any effort to generalise racial categories but to understand that the ramifications of the slave trade, colonialism and the wars against indigenous populations remain with us not by accident but as a result of the manner in which global capitalism was constructed and the ‘racial mortar’ that holds it together. As such, the struggle against racist oppression is a strategic struggle against white supremacy, global apartheid and imperialism. All parts of the African World need to understand the manner in which race plays itself out today, but especially how race intersects with class and gender in reinforcing the hegemony of global capital.
In each locale within the African World, there are particularities, and these cannot be brushed aside. To go through each would constitute a book in and of itself. The following, however, is a brief overview of some of the flashpoints and issues contained within them.
Africa has not been credited sufficiently as the source of the so-called ‘Arab Spring’, the popular name for the Arab democratic uprising. It is as if the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya (although the latter is very complicated), as well as the simmering situation in Algeria was not representative of democratic murmurings and movements on the rest of the Continent but only part of events in the Middle East. Throughout the Continent democratic struggles have been underway for some time. Many social movements on the Continent came together a few years ago to build continent-wide campaigns against dictatorships. The mainstream media of the global North largely ignored these efforts and simply treated Africa as a continent in perpetual crisis.
In each of these struggles there were varying degrees of conscious anti-neoliberal sentiment. In some cases the target might have been a particular dictator, e.g. Ben Ali in Tunisia, but such dictators were implementing neoliberal policies in line with the dictates of the global North. In the hot-beds of the Arab democratic uprisings –Tunisia and Egypt – working people played key roles in the overall movements. In Tunisia, the main labour federation, the General Union of Tunisian Workers, was a leading force in the uprising. In Egypt the newly developing independent labour movement also played a decisive role in the uprising, including through the use of strikes.
The Continent has other major flashpoints involving social movements of workers. In South Africa, for instance, there is a very strong organised labour movement. At the same time there are independent movements of the poor and marginalised that have an ambivalent relationship to the formal union movement. Zimbabwe has a union movement that is largely in struggle against the regime of President Mugabe, but is also engaging in new forms of organising, having constructed an alliance with informal economy organisations several years ago, a nearly unprecedented step for the formal union movement.
In Europe, the struggles conducted by African descendent workers are often overlapping matters of immigration and religion. Migrant workforces have long travelled to Europe for either seasonal or permanent work. As the economies of European countries began to contract and restructure, there was the challenge for non-immigrant European labour to find new work, and immigrant labour was often displaced as well. Intense competition has emerged and is used by right-wing populists and fascists in Europe as a scapegoat for all of Europe’s problems.
The European labour movement has been inconsistent when it has come to anti-racism. While there is a long history of segments of European labour supporting anti-colonial struggles, the domestic anti-racist struggles have been complicated by the lack of a proper framework as well as political will. In this situation, the 2005 uprisings in France, for instance, of immigrant and first generation African workers did not become a cause celebre for the formal labour movement. This uprising was centered largely in a sector of the working class that has been outside of the formal union movement, lacking organization and forms of solidarity.
African workers in Europe also find their battles not only in the realm of immigrant rights, but also religion, where significant numbers of African immigrants are Muslim. The xenophobia in Europe has focused on Islamophobia and is an additional means through which African workers are being marginalized and scapegoated. They are being targeted as the source of Europe’s decline. As conditions in the global South worsen, however, migration can be expected to continue. Who then becomes the advocate for the migrants? How do the African European workers become part of a European labor movement? These are some of the key strategic questions for the upcoming years.
Latin America has witnessed the explosive growth of African descendant organisations and movements over the last thirty plus years. With a complicated form of white supremacy that delineated colour categories (‘Las Castas’ in Spanish-speaking Latin America) and that generally denied that racism was a significant factor in social events, ‘black consciousness’ movements have not only emerged but in many places have become major players in the domestic politics of their respective nation-states. This is increasingly apparent in Brazil, Uruguay, Venezuela, Colombia, Bolivia and Ecuador. It is also apparent in Cuba, Nicaragua, Honduras and Panama. The African descendant movements in Latin America overlap and, at the same time, are independent of Indigenous movements. Both have mounted and are mounting challenges to white supremacy and racist oppression, but at times are at odds with one another over objectives. The potential implications of the unity of these respective movements, however, could be significant for power shifts in Latin America (and, in the alternative, disunity also brings with it profound ramifications of a very different kind).
Despite the emergence of these movements, there is an interesting paradox and equally interesting challenge. The paradox is that black consciousness/African descendant movements do not necessarily translate into the activities and identities of African descendant individuals who are located in other social movements. A major case in point can be found in the trade union movement where it is far from unusual to find black trade union activists who see no relationship between the objectives of the African descendant movements and those of trade unionism.
The ‘challenge’ mentioned above is represented in the rise of pro-neoliberal African descendant movements in Latin America, some of which have reached out to African Americans in North America. During the administration of Colombia’s President Uribe, for instance, there were outreach efforts to both coopt the Afro-Colombian movements and activists, as well as efforts by the Uribe administration to win the support of African Americans in the USA for its initiatives.
Within Venezuela the African descendant movement has been on the rise and has constructed a relationship with the Chavez administration, while at the same time remaining very critical of racism in the country. Venezuela also raises some important issues about the relationship of the demands of the indigenous population to those of Afro-Venezuelans (specifically, the demands around land and citizenship rights).
In Latin America there is the on-going question of whether the union movement can be an instrument for black liberation. To a great extent, with the exception of Brazil, this question has largely been ignored. In addition, to what extent can informal economy movements be united with unions and other social forces in the fight around racial and economic justice?
The Caribbean has been the historic home of some very militant and left-wing labour movements. Yet due in part to globalisation and neo-colonialism, these labour movements have suffered badly. The labour movements, much like in Africa, played a positive role in the fight for independence throughout the region. With global economic restructuring and the end of the Cold War, the Caribbean ceased to be a strategic zone. Although there remain key labor movements, e.g. the Oilfield Worker Trade Union in Trinidad & Tobago, there has not generally been a reorientation in labor to address the current realities. Some Caribbean countries have been attracted to ALBA (Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, initiated by Cuba and Venezuela), while others are either on their own or attempting to strengthen their relationship with the global North. Those in this latter category have little use for a viable labour movement. There are few places in the Caribbean where there is a project among the working classes to gain power and fundamentally challenge the neoliberal agenda.
Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Haiti are special cases in the Caribbean. To a great extent Cuba and the DR are both part of Latin America and the Caribbean. Cuba’s economic transition raises significant questions as to how its formal union movement will evolve and whether new workers movements will emerge both to deal with private employers as well as other issues of economic justice. Added to this is the Afro-Cuban question, and specifically, the rising importance in Cuba of the discussion of race (including some of the advances that have taken place in Cuba in addressing racism, as well as some of the limitations of the approach taken by the government and the party). The DR has a very complicated racial history given both its 19th occupation by Haiti as well as the racial malignancy of the Trujillo regime (and its deep hatred of anything Haitian and black).
Haiti holds a special place for all Pan-Africanists in that it remains punished for the crime of defeating Napoleon’s legions and winning independence. Years of occupations, corrupt governments, neo-colonial rule and terror have left a very weak civil society and only the elements of a labor movement. The earthquake along with the neo-liberal/puppet administration in power as of 2011 has presented the Haitian working class with immense challenges. For the most part supporters of the shackled Fanmi Lavalas party of Jean Bertrand Aristide, the Haitian working class has little open political or economic voice in the country’s current direction.
Added to all of this, the Caribbean has been the site of sometimes very intense ethno-nationalist tensions, most especially in Trinidad & Tobago and Guyana. The conflicts between ethnic South Asians and ethnic African populations has proven to be a very divisive force in those countries’ political lives, in addition to driving significant wedges through the heart of the working classes of those same countries. Other ethno-nationalist tensions exist in the region, including between indigenous populations and African descendants, but the South Asian/African descendant conflicts are special flashpoints.
In North America the African descendant population, and particularly its working classes, have been facing challenges brought on by automation, the relocation of industry, global capitalist restructuring, waves of immigration, and of course, de facto segregation. In both the USA and Canada, regions that were centres for major manufacturing (in the USA, the Northeast, Midwest, and West Coast; in Canada, most especially Ontario) have witnessed dramatic declines and shifts, disproportionately affecting African descendant workers. Manufacturing has moved to areas with fewer people of colour, closed or moved out of the country. Immigrants have moved in, sometimes being used by capital in order to displace non-migrant workers of colour as part of the restructuring process of global capitalism. At the same time this migration has been changing the face of African Americans (USA) and Afro-Canadians. Among other things, in Canada the definition of ‘black’ tends to be much broader than in the USA, including not only African descendant populations, but often enough South Asians. For African Americans in the USA one question continues to haunt us: Can black workers play a significant role in the renaissance of a genuine labour movement in the USA or have they been so terribly marginalised as to minimise their importance? While we believe the former to be the case, in order for that role to realised, a new project must be undertaken.
ADVANCING THE GLOBAL AFRICAN WORKER
A project to advance the global African worker is a project to place the worker at the heart of the 21st century struggles for social, economic and political emancipation. The worker is not a symbolic reference, but rather an actual class of people who are in struggle for their own survival and dignity. A ‘Global African Worker’ project, then, attempts to build real links between individuals and social movements who are conducting similar and sometimes overlapping struggles against racism and global capitalism. In that sense, not only do these struggles need to inform one another, but where possible they need to start to move toward coalescing and coordinating their work. Such an approach is far from simple since we are not talking about the coming together of identical organisations, but rather an effort to engage in a dialogue – including theorising – and joint work based on a framework of emancipatory politics.
Most national liberation and national populist projects paid lip-service to the African/African descendant worker. While often using the rhetoric of class and class struggle, it was all too common for national democratic projects to suppress workers and their demands, all in the name of national unity. In building a Pan-Africanism for the 21st century, one that is not only committed to the unification of Africa but the complete emancipation from imperialism and white supremacy of the entire African World, the question of the worker can no longer be one on the margins. The Pan-Africanism of the 21st century must not only address race, gender and class, but it must be centred on the needs and struggles of the worker.
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* Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a long-time racial justice, labor and international activist and writer. He is affiliated with BlackCommentator.com and is the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum. If you are interested in the ideas expressed in this commentary, please contact him at billfletcherjr[AT]gmail.com.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Rebels on the street: the Party of Wall Street meets its nemesis
The Party of Wall Street has ruled unchallenged in the United States for far too long. It has totally (as opposed to partially) dominated the policies of presidents over at least four decades (if not longer), no matter whether individual presidents have been its willing agents or not. It has legally corrupted Congress via the craven dependency of politicians in both political parties upon its raw money power and upon access to the mainstream media that it controls. Thanks to the appointments made and approved by presidents and Congress, the Party of Wall Street dominates much of the state apparatus as well as the judiciary, in particular the Supreme Court, whose partisan judgments increasingly favour venal money interests, in spheres as diverse as electoral, labour, environmental and contract law.
The Party of Wall Street has one universal principle of rule: that there shall be no serious challenge to the absolute power of money to rule absolutely. And that power is to be exercised with one objective. Those possessed of money power shall not only be privileged to accumulate wealth endlessly at will, but they shall have the right to inherit the earth, taking either direct or indirect dominion not only of the land and all the resources and productive capacities that reside therein, but also assume absolute command, directly or indirectly, over the labour and creative potentialities of all those others it needs. The rest of humanity shall be deemed disposable.
These principles and practices do not arise out of individual greed, short-sightedness or mere malfeasance (although all of these are plentifully to be found). These principles have been carved into the body politic of our world through the collective will of a capitalist class animated by the coercive laws of competition. If my lobbying group spends less than yours then I will get less in the way of favours. If this jurisdiction spends on people’s needs it shall be deemed uncompetitive.
Many decent people are locked into the embrace of a system that is rotten to the core. If they are to earn even a reasonable living they have no other job option except to give the devil his due: they are only ‘following orders’, as Eichmann famously claimed, ‘doing what the system demands’ as others now put it, in acceding to the barbarous and immoral principles and practices of the Party of Wall Street. The coercive laws of competition force us all, to some degree or other, to obey the rules of this ruthless and uncaring system. The problem is systemic not individual.
The party’s favoured slogans of freedom and liberty to be guaranteed by private property rights, free markets and free trade, actually translate into the freedom to exploit the labour of others, to dispossess the assets of the common people at will and the freedom to pillage the environment for individual or class benefit.
Once in control of the state apparatus, the Party of Wall Street typically privatises all the juicy morsels at less than market value to open new terrains for their capital accumulation. They arrange subcontracting (the military-industrial complex being a prime example) and taxation practices (subsidies to agro-business and low capital gains taxes) that permit them freely to ransack the public coffers. They deliberately foster such complicated regulatory systems and such astonishing administrative incompetence within the rest of the state apparatus as to convince an inherently sceptical public that the state can never ever play a constructive or supportive role in improving the daily life or the future prospects of anyone. And, finally, they use the monopoly of violence that all sovereign states claim, to exclude the public from much of what passes for public space and to harass, put under surveillance and, if necessary, criminalise and incarcerate all those who do not broadly accede to its dictates. It excels in practices of repressive tolerance that perpetuate the illusion of freedom of expression as long as that expression does not ruthlessly expose the true nature of their project and the repressive apparatus upon which it rests.
The Party of Wall Street ceaselessly wages class war. ‘Of course there is class war,’ says Warren Buffett, ‘and it is my class, the rich, who are making it and we are winning.’ Much of this war is waged in secret, behind a series of masks and obfuscations through which the aims and objectives of the Party of Wall Street are disguised.
The Party of Wall Street knows all too well that when profound political and economic questions are transformed into cultural issues they become unanswerable. It regularly calls up a huge range of captive expert opinion, for the most part employed in the think tanks and universities they fund and splattered throughout the media they control, to create controversies out of all manner of issues that simply do not matter and to propose solutions to questions that do not exist. One minute they talk of nothing other than the austerity necessary for everyone else to cure the deficit and the next they are proposing to reduce their own taxation no matter what impact this may have on the deficit. The one thing that can never be openly debated and discussed, is the true nature of the class war they have been so ceaselessly and ruthlessly waging. To depict something as ‘class war’ is, in the current political climate and in their expert judgment, to place it beyond the pale of serious consideration, even to be branded a fool if not seditious.
But now for the first time there is an explicit movement to confront The Party of Wall Street and its unalloyed money power. The ‘street’ in Wall Street is being occupied – oh horror upon horrors – by others! Spreading from city to city, the tactics of Occupy Wall Street are to take a central public space, a park or a square, close to where many of the levers of power are centred, and by putting human bodies in that place convert public space into a political commons, a place for open discussion and debate over what that power is doing and how best to oppose its reach. This tactic, most conspicuously re-animated in the noble and on-going struggles centred on Tahrir Square in Cairo, has spread across the world (Plaza del Sol in Madrid, Syntagma Square in Athens, now the steps of Saint Paul in London as well as Wall Street itself). It shows us that the collective power of bodies in public space is still the most effective instrument of opposition when all other means of access are blocked. What Tahrir Square showed to the world was an obvious truth: that it is bodies on the street and in the squares not the babble of sentiments on Twitter or Facebook that really matter.
The aim of this movement in the United States is simple. It says: ‘We the people are determined to take back our country from the moneyed powers that currently run it. Our aim is to prove Warren Buffett wrong. His class, the rich, shall no longer rule unchallenged nor automatically inherit the earth. Nor is his class, the rich, always destined to win.’
It says ‘we are the 99 per cent’. We have the majority and this majority can, must and shall prevail. Since all other channels of expression are closed to us by money power, we have no other option except to occupy the parks, squares and streets of our cities until our opinions are heard and our needs attended to.
To succeed the movement has to reach out to the 99 per cent. This it can and is doing step by step. First there are all those being plunged into immiseration by unemployment and all those who have been or are now being dispossessed of their houses and their assets by the Wall Street phalanx. It must forge broad coalitions between students, immigrants, the underemployed, and all those threatened by the totally unnecessary and draconian austerity politics being inflicted upon the nation and the world at the behest of the Party of Wall Street. It must focus on the astonishing levels of exploitation in workplaces - from the immigrant domestic workers who the rich so ruthlessly exploit in their homes to the restaurant workers who slave for almost nothing in the kitchens of the establishments in which the rich so grandly eat. It must bring together the creative workers and artists whose talents are so often turned into commercial products under the control of big money power.
The movement must above all reach out to all the alienated, the dissatisfied and the discontented, all those who recognise and deeply feel in their gut that there is something profoundly wrong, that the system that the Party of Wall Street has devised is not only barbaric, unethical and morally wrong, but also broken.
All this has to be democratically assembled into a coherent opposition, which must also freely contemplate what an alternative city, an alternative political system and, ultimately, an alternative way of organising production, distribution and consumption for the benefit of the people, might look like. Otherwise, a future for the young that points to spiralling private indebtedness and deepening public austerity, all for the benefit of the one per cent, is no future at all.
In response to the Occupy Wall Street movement the state backed by capitalist class power makes an astonishing claim: that they and only they have the exclusive right to regulate and dispose of public space. The public has no common right to public space! By what right do mayors, police chiefs, military officers and state officials tell we the people that they have the right to determine what is public about ‘our’ public space and who may occupy that space when? When did they presume to evict us, the people, from any space we the people decide collectively and peacefully to occupy? They claim they are taking action in the public interest (and cite laws to prove it) but it is we who are the public. Where is ‘our interest’ in all of this? And, by the way, is it not ‘our’ money that the banks and financiers so blatantly use to accumulate ‘their’ bonuses?
In the face of the organised power of the Party of Wall Street to divide and rule, the movement that is emerging must also take as one of its founding principles that it will neither be divided nor diverted until the Party of Wall Street is brought either to its senses - to see that the common good must prevail over narrow venal interests - or to its knees. Corporate privileges to have all of the rights of individuals without the responsibilities of true citizens must be rolled back. Public goods such as education and health care must be publicly provided and made freely available. The monopoly powers in the media must be broken. The buying of elections must be ruled unconstitutional. The privatisation of knowledge and culture must be prohibited. The freedom to exploit and dispossess others must be severely curbed and ultimately outlawed.
Americans believe in equality. Polling data show they believe (no matter what their general political allegiances might be) that the top 20 per cent of the population might be justified in claiming 30 per cent of the total wealth. That the top 20 per cent now control 85 per cent of the wealth is unacceptable. That most of that is controlled by the top one per cent is totally unacceptable. What the Occupy Wall Street movement proposes is that we the people of the United States, commit to a reversal of that level of inequality not only of wealth and income but even more importantly of the political power that such a disparity confers. The people of the United States are rightly proud of their democracy but it has always been endangered by capital’s corruptive power. Now that it is dominated by that power the time is surely nigh, as Jefferson long ago suggested would be necessary, to make another American revolution: one based on social justice, equality, and a caring and thoughtful approach to the relation to nature.
The struggle that has broken out - the People versus the Party of Wall Street - is crucial to our collective future. The struggle is global as well as local in its nature. It brings together students who are locked in a life-and-death struggle with political power in Chile to create a free and quality education system for all and so begin the dismantling of the neoliberal model that Pinochet so brutally imposed. It embraces the agitators in Tahrir Square who recognise that the fall of Mubarak (like the end of Pinochet’s dictatorship) was but the first step in an emancipatory struggle to break free from money power. It includes the ‘indignados’ in Spain, the striking workers in Greece, the militant opposition emerging all around the world, from London to Durban, Buenos Aires, Shenzhen and Mumbai. The brutal dominations of big capital and sheer money power are everywhere on the defensive.
Whose side will each of us as individuals come down on? Which street will we occupy? Only time will tell. But what we do know is that the time is now. The system is not only broken and exposed but incapable of any response other than repression. So we, the people, have no option but to struggle for the collective right to decide how that system shall be reconstructed and in what image. The Party of Wall Street has had its day and failed miserably. How to construct an alternative on its ruins is both an inescapable opportunity and an obligation that none of us can or would ever want to avoid.
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* David Harvey teaches at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He is the author of ‘The Enigma of Capital: And the Crises of Capitalism’ (Profile Press and Oxford University Press). His forthcoming book ‘Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution’ will be published by Verso in the Spring of 2012.
* This article appeared on Verso Books Blog.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Financial secrecy: We really are in it together
With poverty and inequality increasingly of concern in countries rich and poor, we should together seize the opportunity to tackle financial secrecy – both to guard against the instability that threatens economic progress and to curtail the tax evasion and corruption that undermines our states and actions to reduce poverty.
As protesting citizens occupy financial centres across the rich world, in part inspired by the rights protests of the Arab Spring, the crisis has returned to threaten economic recovery. Observers in developing countries recognise the crisis well, as a classic financial liberalisation bust – but with a particular twist.
The phenomenon of the capital account liberalisation boom and bust is well established in development economics. In the late 1990s John Williamson – who coined the term, the ‘Washington consensus’ – demonstrated that every liberalisation period in developing countries had been followed by a bust. In most cases – though not all – a boom occurred in between.
The broad strokes of a ‘typical’ episode are these. First, the liberalisation allows domestic banks and companies to borrow and to sell equity more freely. As foreign capital flows in, this greater access to finance triggers an economic boom. The second systematic feature is that these financial flows are not converted into productive investment, but overwhelmingly into consumption and unproductive assets. The latter typically results in major bubbles in the property market and the stock market.
Eventually, some trigger event – not necessarily with any clear relationship to the economy in question – leads investors to re-evaluate their exposure, and to reduce it. The resulting reversal of flows means that banks are suddenly unable to roll over their foreign debts and in turn call in their own loans to domestic businesses. Some banks go bust, further reducing credit. Listed companies also see their share value drop sharply. The combination causes a major squeeze on company finances, resulting in bankruptcies, falling investment and a steep rise in unemployment.
Domestic investors, meanwhile, have often been lulled into a sense that ‘this time is different’ and are highly exposed to the local stock markets – as well as to the property bubble. Many citizens lose both investment value and their jobs.
The economic and social costs are great indeed. Inequality is often exacerbated, both in the boom and in the bust. The reversal of the money tide often reveals business activity in its wake that was foolhardy at best, blatantly fraudulent at worst. Ratings agencies and auditors raise the alarm, if at all, only after the fact.
How much of the last four paragraphs sound familiar? Asset bubbles and a credit-fuelled consumption boom, giving way to a bust that brings social unrest and a sustained period of economic depression?
The twist is this: that there was no formal capital account liberalisation preceding the global financial crisis. Instead, there was – well, let’s call it a shadow liberalisation.
Since at least the 1980s, regulatory arbitrage between jurisdictions combined with international regulatory coordination that was ineffective or simply not attempted. The resulting ‘shadow banking’ sector represented in effect a massive increase in the amount of leverage that banks and other financial institutions could obtain without regulatory restraint. It was highlighted at the time only by the BIS, but no great heed was taken by national regulators.
A paradigmatic example of the excessive leverage made possible is that of the Bear Stearns vehicle in the Dublin financial centre. Irish academic Jim Stewart documented after the parent company’s collapse that it had $112 of assets for each $1 of equity. Neither the Irish nor US regulator appears to have recognised beforehand a responsibility here, because local regulations were apparently being respected.
The absence of international coordination and information exchange was exploited right across the financial system, as banks and others ‘freed’ themselves more and more from the burden of state intervention – until the time came when their reliance on it was made plain. Both US Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Nobel economist Paul Krugman have placed substantial blame for the crisis on the run on the shadow banking system.
The same lack of financial transparency that made this possible also underpins a problem that persisted all the way through the boom, but is now recognised as much more of an affront to society. We refer, of course, to the tax evasion and avoidance that may cost developing countries $160 billion a year in lost revenues – and greater sums to OECD countries.
The same regulatory arbitrage gave rise to a race to provide the most opaque, least taxed jurisdiction for companies to shift profits made elsewhere. And a location to hide assets and income streams has wider appeal – not least to corrupt state officials, and to companies that rely on bribery to win contracts.
Financial secrecy undermines the Millennium Development Goals, agreed by policymakers around the world to drive human progress to 2015, in numerous ways. Most tangibly, the diversion of revenues means less spending on health and education, less investment in infrastructure, less protection of the poorest. More insidiously, secrecy erodes the social contract that underpins government accountability to deliver for citizens.
When the ‘Occupy’ protesters call for finance that serves people rather than vice versa, while the World Bank publishes a strident attack on the ‘Puppet Masters’ of illicit finance, it should be clear that we are seeing a powerful convergence.
For once, we really are all in it together. The G20 has a long way to go to meet its 2009 promise to end secrecy; but if it can find the courage to do so, it will be applauded each step of the way.
* Charles Abugre is the Africa Regional Director of the United Nations Millennium Campaign (for the MDGs). These views should not be attributed to the United Nations.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Capitalism and memory: of golf courses and massage parlors in Badagry, Nigeria
We know that in his classic essay, ‘Postmodernism and Consumer Society’, Frederic Jameson theorizes everything, every space, as fair game for a ‘late consumer or multinational capitalism’. Even the residents of ‘Things Fall Apart’ would agree with me that the new capitalism described by Jameson has not come empty-handed. It has brought its own stool into our houses and spaces, carrying in its goatskin bag what Jameson describes as ‘new types of consumption; planned obsolescence; an ever more rapid rhythm of fashion and styling changes; the penetration of advertising, television and the media generally to a hitherto unparalleled degree throughout society…’ Please note that what Jameson describes as a ‘new moment of late consumer or multinational capitalism’ would be described as old school by my undergraduate students because Jameson was writing in 1998, that is at least ten years before Facebook, Twitter, iPod, and iPad.
I ask again: should there be a limit to the ubiquity of casino capitalism? Should there be lines too sacred to be crossed? Apparently, a member of the Jackson family does not think so. Unknown to many Americans, the Jackson family is as active in Nigeria as Oprah Winfrey is in South Africa. The Jacksons have been visiting Nigeria for a very long time. Michael Jackson performed in Nigeria a couple of times; occasionally, his brothers would breeze in and out of Lagos. Eventually, one of them, Marlon Jackson, got a bright idea about three years ago and approached American developers. His idea? Turn the Badagry slave port into a luxury resort, complete with a Jackson five museum, a slavery memorial (thank God!), a luxury hotel, a golf course, and a massage parlor!
Please, remember that I initially dismissed this as rumour but more local newspapers reported it and the news eventually gathered traction in the British media. Even the Guardian of London got interested and ran this story on 17 February 2009, ‘Michael Jackson’s Brother Plans Slavery Theme Park’. Theme park? Echoes of Disneyland? Echoes of Neverland? Let’s quote more of The Guardian’s report: ‘A museum for the Jackson Five is to be built in Nigeria, American developers have announced, as part of a $3.4bn (£2.4bn) luxury resort including concert halls, golf courses, casinos – and a memorial for Africa's former slave trade. The Badagry Historical Resort, located near Badagry's former slave port, will include a multimillion pound memorial, slave history theme park, five-star hotel and Jackson Five museum. The project is supported in part by Marlon Jackson, one of Michael Jackson's brothers.’
American developers? I hope I’m not the only one who gets jittery whenever I hear that ‘American developers’ are moving in somewhere? After all, we know what happens whenever ‘American developers’ move into America’s historic neighbourHOODS. America is a permanent theatre of war between memory and gentrification. Esiaba Irobi, the late Nigerian writer, captures the fate of Harlem in a little-known poem which deserves to be a classic of the Black Atlantic library. Every African American should memorize Esiaba’s poem. Here is Esiaba lamenting the fate of Harlem in ‘The Battle of Harlem’:
THE BATTLE OF HARLEM
By Esiaba Irobi
(for John Martin Green)
I am standing here on top of Mount Morris Park
Like the captain of a defeated army, watching
My people, black people, people of African descent,
Losing the Battle of Harlem, watching them
Evacuated one by one, like wounded, bleeding
Soldiers, bleeding in limb and mouth and memory,
Like that stubborn couple in that great eviction scene
In Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, the great masterpiece
Of our history, the history of the invisibles of the USA.
Standing here, I am invisible, an invisible man, yes,
But I am witnessing and testifying line by line,
With this hand trembling with rage and pain and sorrow
How Harlem is being auctioned block by block
To the highest bidder. Everything must go. Everybody!
Men, women and children. Every one is on sale.
The bulldozers are moving in. The caterpillars too,
And that large ball with which they knock down projects,
What is it called now will knock everything down
Including the Apollo. Yes, the Apollo may also have to go.
Every living trace of us, our black faces and asses,
Our smell and color will be erased and painted over
With white emulsion paint and efficient roller brushes.
We will watch entire neighbourhoods crushed
To dust, and with the crash of each building, come
Crumbling into dust, every scrap of the memory
Of our grandparents, parents, our childhoods, schools,
Parks, benches, corners, cornershops, nightclubs,
How we grew up, the lives that we lived here in Harlem,
The music we made, the paintings, the poetry, the dances.
These are just the first three stanzas of the long poem in seven stanzas. I have published an extended essay on the poem that is available online. The sentiment is sufficiently clear. Is this the fate that awaits the sites of memory in Badagry if Marlon Jackson eventually gets his way? After all, it is the same American developers deploying the same keywords, the same diction, the same code words from the registers of late consumer capitalism: theme parks, golf courses, massage parlors. We are lucky they aren’t talking yet of water slides and roller coasters; we are lucky that they are not yet dreaming of replicating the Las Vegas strip on the historic slave routes of Badagry but don’t hold your breath.
The most principled, most memorable line of opposition to this brazen act of potential desecration came from Toyin Falola, one of Nigeria’s most famous ambassadors in American academia. Interviewed about Marlon Jackson’s project, Professor Falola told the BBC: ‘It is not appropriate from a cultural or historical point of view. Moneymaking and historical memory are allies in the extension of capitalism. You cry with one eye and wipe it off with a cold beer, leaving the other eye open for gambling.’ I couldn’t have put it better. But questions persist that I hope we shall have some time to address during question and answer. The capitalism that we are talking about here is proposing to desecrate memory in Africa because she has been invited not by a white man but by Marlon Jackson, a diasporic son of Africa. How does this inflect the problematic question of shared memories of slavery between Africans and diasporic Africans?
In his classic ‘Between Memory and History: Les Lieux de Mémoire’, Pierre Nora discusses three kinds of memory: archive memory, duty memory, and distance memory. I have no time to go into a detailed exploration of Nora’s exposition on the tensions between memory and history but what are the implications of Marlon Jackson’s Badagry adventure for duty memory? And then, my final question, a reiteration: should there be lines that capitalism must not cross? I do not know the answer but there are lessons to be learnt from Chinua Achebe.
The recent faceoff between Chinua Achebe and the rapper 50 Cent over the latter’s attempt to use the title of Africa’s most famous novel, ‘Things Fall Apart’, for a film project goes much deeper than the simple question of the protection of intellectual property. After all, copyright laws do not extend to titles. But 50 Cent comes complete with a certain countercultural symbology that is completely out of whack with the solemn memories inscribed in ‘Things Fall Apart’. 50 Cent is bling-bling, face cap worn backwards, saggy pants hanging down to expose expensive designer boxer shorts, tattoos, expensive Nike runners, totally ripped six-pack abs, heavily pimped hummers with 28-inch rims (apologies to Xzibit) and other kinds of toys, cribs, and lyrics projecting an image of the black woman that I dare not explore here. Now, can you imagine Okonkwo and Obierika breaking kola in the candy shop? I’m sure you know that song – ‘I’ll take you to the candy shop/I’ll let you lick the lollypop/Go ‘head girl don’t you stop/Keep goin till you hit the spot’. I prefer to enjoy that song and let my imagination run gaga when I go clubbing; definitely not when I am thinking of a cultural heritage of the importance of ‘Things Fall Apart’.
50 Cent offered a million dollars. Achebe declined the insult. This tells me that capitalism and profit will never consider any space too sacred to violate. And the stories of 50 Cent and Marlon Jackson warn us to resist the temptation of discoursing capitalism and memory as a white versus black affair. If invasive capitalism has any race at all, it is green. Not the green of the environment. The green of the dollar bill. Green is the race of capitalism for now. Tomorrow, the race of capitalism will be the red of the Chinese Yuan as America is swept aside by China. A man is entitled to witness the collapse of at least one empire in his lifetime. I was not around when the British Empire collapsed; I will not be around to see the collapse of the emergent Chinese empire. I am therefore honored to be a living witness of the gradual collapse of the American empire.
But Achebe teaches us that our only hope lies in people who are ready to stand up for memory and say: No! That is what so many Americans are doing in the Occupy movement that has spread across this country like wildfire in the harmattan. I salute them.
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* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Disaster capitalism’s dollars fail to rebuild Haiti
Almost a year has passed since my last last trip to Haiti. I so much wanted to see some positive change in the lives of people but instead what I witnessed was a continuation of the slow and aggressive violence against the 99 per cent. The tent camps remain as they have been for nearly two years and evictions are becoming widespread with no alternatives made available. The official figures on cholera are 500,000 infected, 6,000 killed and 600 new cases registered daily. The Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti [IJDH] reports on that 5,000 Haitian cholera victims have started legal proceedings for damages from the UN and MINUSTAH for the introduction of cholera into the country.
‘The victims’ petition explains that the UN and MINUSTAH are liable for hundreds of millions of dollars for: 1) failing to adequately screen and treat peacekeeping soldiers arriving from countries experiencing cholera epidemics; 2) dumping untreated wastes from a UN base directly into a tributary of Haiti’s longest and most important river, the Artibonite; and 3) failing to adequately respond to the epidemic.
‘The cholera victims demand individual compensation, an adequate nationwide response by the UN, and a public apology. They insist that the nationwide response include medical treatment for current and future victims and clean water and sanitation infrastructure, the only solution to the cholera epidemic.’
Following the renewal of the MINUSTAH mission for another year, The Haitian Blogger, Chantal Laurent, has an excellent report on MINUSTAH record in the country and the growing movement to end the UN occupation which costs US$2.5 million a day to maintain.
‘An in-depth overview of MINUSTAH’s history on the island, however, depicts a security force systematically serving foreign interests over those of the Haitians. Local residents are indignant because they see MINUSTAH as a tool of the United States’ self-interest in the region, and because the U.N. forces repeatedly have suppressed democracy, failed to address authentic humanitarian concerns, and have at times even perpetrated mass violence against Haitian citizens.’
In the camps and most of Port-au-Prince, millions remain without water, sanitation and electricity. NGOs display the worst excess of ineffectuality and disconnection from the Haitian people in what Grace Everest describes as an ‘aid worker bubble’:
‘Since the 2010 Haiti earthquake, the development sector has been engaged in debate concerning the failures of the NGO response. NGOs have destructively transplanted a parallel system of governance, often being caught up within an aid worker bubble which has stood between the Haitian state and its citizens and thus undermined the symbiotic nature of their social contract.’
The premise on which many, though not all, enter into an engagement with Haiti and Haitians is one whereby the global capitalist system is seen as unproblematic against a country which is viewed not only as a failure whose people are incapable of developing in their own interest but also as if the situation is unconnected to the rest of the world. Rather than working with either the government or the people, NGOs operate on the one hand as a separate government and on the other as corporate entities competing with each other in a frenzy of disaster capitalism. And still the question remains – where has all the money gone?
‘The extent to which NGOs have adopted a universalist standpoint in relation to Haiti, one which is rooted in a “view from nowhere” in abstraction from the concrete characteristics of human communities (Young 1995, p.528), is exposed by the angry reflections of a Haitian advisor to the UN; “every day I go to meetings, I’m the only Haitian there, and I have to tell them, ‘Your perception is not right.’ I feel that it is a lost battle.” Haitians have their own systems of survival, she said, but instead of tapping into that creativity, aid groups come in thinking the country is a “clean slate” (O’Connor 2011, p.1). This statement is striking in its similarity to Pouligny’s damning critique of the “liberal messianism” of NGOs who “falsely behave as though the date of their arrival was year zero for the country, as though nothing had happened before them” (2005, p.502)’
Along side the ‘liberal messianism of NGOs’ there are the hundreds of evangelical missionaries who themselves operate without regulation holding people to religious ransom in exchange for food and shelter. Finally there are the investors many of whom are simply carpetbaggers looking to make some easy money skimmed off the top of the government, NGOs, missionaries and grassroots groups and anyone who lets down their guard.
Construction work and the removal of rubble is taking place but these are the homes of the wealthy who can afford to rebuild and a couple of roads have been repaved. The misguided priorities of those in charge of reconstruction can be seen in the completion of the 130-room Oasis Hotel, which has been made possible by a US$2 million donation from the Clinton Bush fund which in their words sends a message that ‘Haiti is open for business’ – and indeed it is. However it is highly questionable that this is the right business for the 99 per cent!
‘“The Oasis Hotel symbolizes Haiti ‘building back better’, and sends a message to the world that Haiti is open for business,” Clinton Bush Haiti Fund's vice president of Programs and Investments, Paul Altidor said. “For Haiti's recovery to be sustainable, it must attract investors, businesses and donors all of whom will need a business-class, seismically-safe hotel.” In addition to sleeping rooms, Oasis will have significant meeting space and other business amenities.’
One of the kinds of investment Bush and Clinton are referring to is the introduction of a mortgage market. With an unemployment rate of 80 per cent and the majority of those on very low incomes it is hard to see the benefit to anyone except of course the banks. Whilst in the US and UK low and middle income families are being strangled by high repayments or worse, being forced out of their homes millions of dollars have been made available by the Clinton Bush Fund and the World Bank to finance these schemes.
So far there has been little enthusiasm for the prefabricated homes (between US$15,000 and US$50,000), which cost 30 per cent more than if people were to rebuild or repair their damaged homes. Nonetheless there are a number of small projects aimed at using sustainable strategies in providing ecological rental housing such as one being designed by World Hands Alliance for United Methodists. Initially 40 homes will be built in Carrefour and Leogane for those who lost their homes in the earthquake. Eventually they hope to design and build a village for 40,000 families.
Under the new government of Michel Martelly, Haiti IS open for business; a small group of people are making a huge amount of money in the predator economy that dominates the country. At the same time, Martelly’s government has become increasingly dictatorial, backed by an intensive return to the militarisation of the past. A massive recruitment of Haitian police is taking place alongside the president’s plan to reinstate the Haitian Army [FAdH] which was disbanded under President Aristide.
‘I promised to return the army on November 18 and there are already people that are scared, who are not happy... while they are not happy, it is an indigenous army that created this country. So you can't be ashamed to call it an army and want to call it by another name...
‘During the campaign I invited people to discuss what we would call it because I did not want to create a tumult, everyone was in agreement that it was a necessity to have a Haitian force to defend the interests of the country.’
‘Well the president, himself, has taken the final decision. The indigenous army created this nation so we will call it “army”...’
As one person commented would it not be preferable to create an army of sanitation workers to clean the streets and construction workers to build homes for the half million who are forced to live in horrendous inhuman conditions in the tent camps and the millions in poor neighbourhoods such as Cite Soleil. Martelly has now toned down his promise to reinstate the army by saying he will instead create a ‘public security force’. What that means is not clear but still sounds ominous. He is now facing criticism from a pro-military group called the ‘Organisation of Demobilized Soldiers for the Reconstruction of Haiti’ for failing to keep his campaign promise.
A further example which highlights the misuse of executive power was the arrest of Depute Arnel Belizaire on his return from France. Belizaire had supposedly escaped from prison during the earthquake but was elected as Depute for Delmas and Tabarre in the recent elections. One would have thought that if there were questions as to his criminal record or escape these would have been raised at the time of the election and not following an altercation with the president as outlined by Belizaire in a letter to Martelly detailing the conversation and his position.
‘The President replied "ki kaka sa, nou konen mwen menm, mwen pa gen moun ki ka enpoze m'anyen, mwen gen yon gwo zozo nan boudam ki two lou pou mwen nou pa ka fe'm anyen e pa gen anyen m'ap pedi, nou menm si nou vle fe yon bagay avem'm, nap dim Preziden men sa nou ta renmen epi map gade sa'm ka fe" ("what sh*t is this, you know me, no one can come and impose anything on me. I have a big d*ck in my a*s that is too heavy for me that you can't do anything for me and there is nothing I am going to lose. You all, if you want to do something with me, you will ask me, President here is what we would like to do, then I will look and see what I can do.")’
Fortunately for Belizaire, his arrest, which was judged to be ‘illegal and arbitrary‘ (see Article 115 of the Haitian Constitution), so he spent only one night in prison as other Depute’s came to his support. It is also worth noting that Belizaire’s party, Veye Yo is closely aligned with the Lavalas party of President Aristide and thus in direct opposition to Martelly’s government. As Haitian journalist and blogger, Wadner Pierre commented, the personal nature of the events surrounding the arrest of Belizaire does not bode well for the country’s future:
‘Belizaire released after he spent his night and part of his day at the National Penitentiary, the biggest prison in Haiti. Whether Beliziare was at fault or not, his arrest did not follow the legal procedure of how to arrest an elected member of the Haiti's Parliamentary. The Deputies and Senators said that the process was unconstitutional. The lawmakers could consider to interpellate some of the members of the newly installed government.
‘Can the President use his executive power to solve his personal quarrel with another elected official or individual? Not sure that the ongoing Haitian gives him this right. What would be the next step and Beliziare-Martelly's fight? Whatever the next step that Belizaire-Martelly's affair would take, one thing is clear for both elected officials is that the country cannot handle this.’
According to the US embassy the unemployment rate in Haiti is 80 per cent. The minimum wage is US$5 per day but with only 20 per cent of the population in employment this is a shamefully inadequate sum. One of the main avenues for employment is in the textile factories owned by a few Haitian elite businessmen producing clothes for US companies such as The Gap and Hanes
Ansel Herz (Media Hacker) reports on the preferential treatment [duty free exports] of the ‘US-Haiti trade deal known as the HOPE programme’ and attempts by some factory workers to improve their conditions by unionising. Herz’s writes that the US backed ‘Better Work Haiti’ recent report on compliance, found some violations in health and safety and minimum wage but overall praised the compliance standard. However he states this is misleading:
‘The fourth core standard is the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining. The latest report identifies just two instances of non-compliance, including a 12-day-long strike in May which resulted in the firings of 140 workers.
‘But the low non-compliance rate is potentially misleading. “Although no non-compliance findings are cited in the current report under Union Operations,” the report notes, there are “very significant challenges related to the rights of workers to freely form, join and participate in independent trade unions”.
‘If you look at the reports, in Haiti there is only one unionised factory (in Ouanaminthe) out of 23 operating factories. In the factories in Port-au-Prince, there are no unions. We don’t have any evidence,” Lavallée said.
‘He explained that if a factory owner fires a person for trying to organise workers, it won’t be noted in the employee records reviewed by his team.
‘Asked if Better Work Haiti isn’t really measuring anything when it comes to conditions for labour organising, because there are almost no unions, Lavallée responded, “Exactly.”’
Much of the ‘waste free’ work to rebuild Haiti is being undertaken by small groups of individuals donating time and funds on small grassroots projects unseen by the media and really not receiving the recognition and support they deserve. SOPUDEP free school has started work on building the new school designed by Constantine Alatzas of World Hands Alliance, but it is a slow process and may take another 24 months before funds can be raised for completion.
Ecole Mixte Doux Jesus is a free school in Cite Soleil which has 250 students from 1st to 12th grade but no books or other resources. The school building which is 21 years old is made of corrugated zinc with a now flooded dirt floor and has had to be abandoned. Guyanese agriculturalist, Mark Jacobs has taken on the personal responsibility of raising funds for books, filling in the school yard and eventually he hopes to raise US$10,000 to construct a new sustainable low-maintenance school and community building which will include a vegetable garden, solar power and rain collection deposits.
Mark has also developed a number of city gardening schemes using small pieces of land and rooftops where he has maximised production through the use of high grade compost – coffee bean waste, human waste and other materials. He is hoping to extend this work on a larger scale if support can be found.
Ezili Danto recently launched the ‘Zili Dlo: Free clean water for everyone’ with the donation by the Nation of Islam of a mobile water processing plant – photo stream. The distribution of the water is run by two grassroots women’s organisations: SOPUDEP and Fanm Voudou Pou Ayiti. However in order for the project to be a success, donations towards purchasing water trucks or the trucks themselves are desperately needed.
Finally, although President Aristide is back home and remains silent, Lavalas continues to have popular support amongst Haiti’s 99 per cent. To remind us of his period in office filmmaker, Kevin Pina (Haiti Information Project) has published a series of video interviews with Father Jan-Marie Vincent between 1991 and 1994. In the first of the series, Father Jan-Marie reinforces, but is critical of Martelly’s point that the army has held the power in Haiti for generations pointing out the terror and consequently the damage they unleashed on the people. He makes the point that in the past the army and the police were one and the same and if you remove the army from the equation there is nothing for them to do. The only reason for reinstating the army is to police and prevent the power of the Haitian people from creating change in their interest.
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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.
The right to education
‘The right to education is a fundamental human right, inseparable from people’s aspirations to a full and a wholly authentic democracy.
This is why the distinction proposed between the analysis of this right by the so-called human rights approach and the one proposed by the economic development is itself an aberration. This dissociation between the demands of the progress of human rights and those of economic development results from the reduction of the latter to the expansion of the markets – which are themselves subjugated to the demands of profitable accumulation of capital.
This reduction is a consequence of the limited definition of the object of study of conventional (‘vulgar’) economics. In a critical perspective on the real existing world (a world governed by capitalism), the only possible definition of development must be holistic and associate, and not dissociate economic progress (the amelioration of the productivity of social work) from the progress of society and individuals, in the access to and the effective exercise of all individual and collective rights, and in all domains of social existence, including of course the right to education.
A second reflection of the method calls for a principal option in favour of the philosophical idealism of many advocates of the right to education. The implementation of a systematic politics of education that aims to ensure gradually the greatest equality in real access to education for all constitutes important means in the service of emancipation and progress – for example one which proposes to deliberately support the emancipation of individuals and societies by developing their critical capacities, thus allowing them to become active subjects in the transformation of the world.
But such a politics does not constitute the decisive means to achieve this result. The transformation of the social relations decisive to the production of wealth and the distribution of means of access to it, assume an even more decisive importance. Without this, the best possible education, however equal and generous, would never be allowed to decimate the destructive effects of the social stratification produced by the mode of production and the distribution of wealth. The idea that a system of education of an appropriate and suitable quality could by itself transform the world is a naïve idea. The famous sentence cited in epigraph at the creation of UNESCO in 1945 (‘War is born in the minds of people’) is wrong: War is the product of conflicts due to access to resources and wealth. Discourses and theories come after to give it an appearance of legitimacy.
A third point deserves without any doubt to be recalled here. So-called scientific theories have been formulated with the intention – consciously or not – to legitimatise inequality between people and individuals. But if racism, which stratifies people according to pretended inequalities in their creative capacities, is no longer respected (since not so long ago), the prejudice of inequalities ‘from birth’ of human capacities is far from being eradicated. Perhaps, a tiny minority of human beings exist (one or two per cent) who have exceptional capacities, just as there are a similarly small amount who have real deficiencies. But the huge majority (at least 90 per cent) has a comparable degree of intelligence and sensitivity, themselves diverse in their forms of expression; whether they bloom or are suffocated depends widely on how education is implemented. The hierarchical classification of forms of intelligence is itself far from being eradicated.
I do not ignore the important role that an appropriate education policy could play in the transformation of the world, given that education is not considered just as a means of reproduction of society, to which education should adjust, but instead as a means, among others, to struggle for the transformation of society. Social struggles, considered in all their dimensions, could have as an objective to use education as one of their means to advance beyond the system, for its transformation. That would be achieved when those struggles are able to impose two objectives of utmost importance on education policies:
1) To insure real equality in access for all to the same quality of education at all levels
2) To give in the content of this education the objective of emancipating human beings, by arming them with a true critical capacity.
We will measure the quality of the education system by the measurement – as precisely as possible – of the responses to these challenges.
TRUE EQUALITY IN ACCESS TO A QUALITY EDUCATION
The option in favour of this objective has never been incorporated into the political systems of our society, those of the real existing capitalism. Most often, we substitute true equality – at best – with the discourse of ‘equal opportunity’, in ignoring (or pretending to ignore) that the latter loses its relevance from the moment that society is built on one of the multiple forms of the distinction between the owning classes – and in that way dominating classes (in our days the bourgeoisie in the large sense of the term) – and the popular classes that are dominated and their work exploited .
The unchanging United States model is in itself built on the fundamental recognition not only of the legitimacy of inequality, but even more so over the social utility it pretends. The reward of inequality is, in the United States ideology, the only effective way to promote inventive initiative and through it, progress. The theme of competition, which is supposed to direct relations between individuals, is a substitute for solidarity, which, despite its capacity to promote change and progress, is denied. It consists only of an ideology, in a functional sense, and flat in meaning: The legitimisation of the power of the dominant class. But this ideology (that I have named the ‘Liberal Virus’ – the title of one of my books) is dominant. The ideology of the dominant class is the dominant ideology of the society in question.
In this framework, the rights and practices concerning access to education in the United States are not based on equal rights in education, but only on the right to ‘an’ education, which means in fact an education of minimal quality and less than mediocre for the majority, and not only for the groups designated as ‘minorities’ of the disadvantaged (such as blacks, women or others). Education is supplied a la carte according to financial means that are available to individuals or communities responsible for financing and managing primary schools, high schools and universities.
John Rawls defines, in this framework, the United States concept of social justice. There is justice once the system, in spite of its production and reproduction of inequalities, allows everyone to get some benefit from its development. The underprivileged, if they get a minimal benefit through a ‘trickle down’ effect, should not complain. Once again, this is only the humanitarian version of the ideology of the legitimacy of inequality.
A society founded on such principles certainly does not deserve to be described as democratic. It is a society that is by definition anti-democratic.
However the history of the struggles of democratisation in education, understood as the promotion of systematic means intended to reinforce the possibilities of reduction of inequalities, was not always missing. The example of France, perfectly analysed by Bruno Garnier, testifies to this. ‘The single school’, and in addition of good quality (the way in which its programmes take into consideration the objective of emancipation of human beings), proposed after the First World War as a means to reach beyond horizons offered by the secular, free and compulsory school introduced by Jules Ferry, implemented partially after the Second World War (the Council of the Resistance adopted the positions of Langevin-Wallon’s principle, inspired by the communist party), led to some results in the direction of a reduced inequality, offering real and better possibilities for social mobility. Associated with a moment of accelerated development (within capitalism – the ‘30 glorious years’ of 1945 to 1975), these educative ways have been relatively effective. The pessimists, like Bourdieu, have nevertheless demonstrated the limits of narrowness, not without convincing arguments.
We could multiply the number of examples and show how, from 1945 to 1975/1980, real progress – unequal admittedly, as always in history – has been accomplished in the majority of countries in the world. We could not dissociate this progress, neither here from the social and political struggles of the popular classes, nor there from the struggles for the reconquest of the independence of colonised peoples.
But we have to admit that the movement has been inversed everywhere – in spite of resistances here and there that have slowed down its deployment – with the triumph of the ideology of the ‘liberal virus’ during the two latest decades of the 20th century.
The coincidence between the advance of this reactionary ideology and the breakdown of the socialist system as an existing reality is not random. Since those revolutions made in the name of socialism, regardless of their evolution, erosion and ulterior drifts, have initiated a concept and a practice of one single school equal for all, ensuring by this a social mobility towards the top unparalleled in history. Thus this is not at random if the Wallon project was inspired by the ‘New Russia’, an effort pursued by France and its militants of ‘The school and the Nation’. But the fashion today is to denigrate all of the existing achievements inherent to these socialisms.
This regression of democracy – in spite of rhetorical efforts to present this as an advance’ – is manifested by the opinion in favour of a developmental approach at the expense of an approach based on rights, and the transfer which is associated with the responsibility of ‘thinking education’ from UNESCO to the World Bank!
This era – the three last decades – is that of the rolling back of democracy and of the ideal of equality that cannot be dissociated. This is characterised by the adoption of the underlying principles of the United States model (always the ‘Liberal Virus’). Associated with other forms of the decline of democracy (for which I return to what I have written elsewhere notably in the ‘The Liberal Virus’), the politics at work in the domain of education participate in what I have unhesitatingly qualified as the ‘democratic farce’. Of course, we find the expression of the regression of democracy in the definition of educational objectives, which I address in the following.
THE OBJECTIVES OF EDUCATION AND THE QUESTION OF EMANCIPATION
The reactionary offensive comes naturally with the reappearance of overused terms of the inequality of individuals ‘at birth’. But moreover from an adoption of an unilateral definition of the objective of education: Produce humans ‘instrumental’ for the functioning of the system, which is advantageous for the profitable accumulation of capital.
This objective then associates the transmission of instrumental knowledge with the formatting of appropriate behaviour.
This instrumental knowledge is itself differentiated and stratified according to the place that will be given to the adult in training and conceived to fix her/him definitively for all her/his life at the level requested by the hierarchy. We speak highly of continuing education, which the rapidity of the transformation of productive systems imposes from now on. But this training is not designed to favour social mobility towards the top, with a few unusual exceptions. Additional knowledge and perhaps new knowledge, is necessary to simply retain their place in the hierarchy. This continuing education is conceived, at its best, to reduce the disaster of lost usefulness (and employment), to slow down the social mobility towards a lower level (marginalisation), but no more than that.
In its other dimension, ‘useful’ education formats behaviours of submission. This formatting can take the extreme forms of blind obedience (Japan practices more this school model than others). But more subtly, it can promote the ‘useful’ behaviour to format non-citizens, who are passive, spectators and consumers. The ideologico-paracultural themes of ‘live in the present’, forget the past and let the future happen by itself, are also the effective means of this formatting that suffocates critical thinking and thus the faculties of inventiveness of the critical utopia and creativity.
This contemporary dominating discourse concerning this ‘useful’ education, put in the exclusive service of the reproduction of the system, proposes then a measure of excellence founded on this double adaptation of the school child, the high school student, the college student, the worker during his training in the immediate demands called for by economic progress.
Obviously excellence is here synonymous with the achievement of excellence in disaster! The most extreme example of this coincidence between excellence and disaster is provided by the teaching of conventional economics. It is not coincidental because ‘economics’ (the new name introduced by Alfred Marshall in 1881), was produced in response to Marx, who wrote ‘A Critique of Political Economy’ (under title of Capital) focused on the ideological function of the ‘discourse of the bourgeoisie on its own practices’ (legitimised this practice by presenting it as rational, promoting progress and beneficial for all) and on the merchant alienation that constituted its basis. The abandonment of that critical approach to reality substitutes with it the construction of an ‘imaginary economy’ (‘the economy of the generalised markets’). This economy that I deemed imaginary, and the only one from now on taught in universities, grounded on the United States model, proposes to demonstrate that the markets have a tendency to produce an equilibrium, which in addition is optimal. Yet the only effort to rigorously demonstrate this proposition – the one of Walras in answer to Marx – had failed. We must therefore accept, like Marx, that capitalism really moves from instability to instability, in accordance with the struggles and conflicts, without ever reaching an equilibrium. The theory of capitalism is then not separable from its history. The distance which separates the discourse of the imaginary economy from existing capitalist markets is at least as large as the one that separates the discourse of socialism from the reality of concerned societies. By taking the objective of building the theory of an object that does not exist, conventional economics becomes then analogous to the scholasticism of the middle ages, that was preoccupied with ‘the gender of angels’. Should we be astonished that none of the Nobel prizes in economy – all awarded exclusively to acrobats of that question – did not anticipate whatsoever the recent events, for example the financial crises of 2008, visible years before its explosion by others, the non-conventional economists, those who are not recognised by the criteria of excellence of the concerned education!
In counterpoint then of the objective of ‘instrumental’ education, we suggest the objective of the contribution of education to the formation of active/productive citizens who are capable of creative imagination. The objective of education is then to contribute to the emancipation of human beings, in their quality as both individuals, and men and women in solidarity within a universalist perspective. Of course that objective does not exclude, but integrates, the transmission of general and specialised knowledge; but it excludes the formatting of behaviours.
This objective has certainly not always been integrally ignored in the history of the struggles for educational reform, even though in fact the weight of social reality and of its demands of reproduction of inequality have always limited its implementation. Nevertheless, in this domain as in the one that concerns equality in the access to education, our era is the one of regression of democracy and along with it aspirations of emancipation.
It goes without saying that the formulation of programmes, means of pedagogy and legislation capable of performing in the required way an education in the service of the emancipation remains difficult and complex and cannot be produced magically in a formula of ready to wear. This can be only the product of a permanent dialectic associating reflection, debate and practice. In that way this definition of criteria of excellence is much more complicated than it is for those who have adopted the principle of submission of education to the demands of the dominant capital. One should do with that difficulty.
REALITIES AND MYTHS CONCERNING THE ‘MULTI CULTURALISM’
The cultural diversity, whatever the definition is, is old as the world, the same as intercultural exchanges, but also the conflicts operating in these domains, the evolutions and the assimilations. The contemporary blowout of discourse on these terms is, at least in part, the product of a recent intensification of migrations of citizens of previously colonised countries of the South towards the metropolis of the North. These movements of migrants from ‘non-European/non-Christian’ origin participate naturally in the renewal of Eurocentrist prejudices – more or less racist – that moulded the dominant culture in Europe and in United States in the 19th century. I provide here only a trivial example: that the expected behaviour of democrats should understand diversity, and – beyond ‘tolerate’ (a term that I do not like because we ‘tolerate the one we do not like’ – mother-in-laws for example) it – respect its demands, is by itself trivial.
Can we, from these reflections, make ‘multiculturalism’ the objective of the reconstruction of a world founded on the affirmation of the primary originality of identities and of the belonging of human beings to distinct cultural communities?
I do not think so, and I will pretend that culturalism is a political strategy of capital, hostile to the emancipation of human beings and societies. The dominant culture in the contemporary world is not, as we say too easily, the ‘western/European’ culture (often adding ‘Christian’).
The fundamental values on which that dominant culture is founded are values produced by the generalised mercantile alienation peculiar to this system, and in no way the values inherited from pre-modern Europe. In reality new values of capitalism have been the product of a rupture of Europe with its own past. The fact that Europeans constructed a mythology which pretended that the modernity in question has been the product of the specificity of their ‘cultural invariants’ inherited, either from the Greco-Roman ancestor, reinvented to that effect, or from Christianity, or even of their genetic superiority, constitute another story, for which I have proposed a critical deconstruction in ‘Modernity, Religion, Democracy: Criticism of the Eurocentrism and Culturalisms’.
This very capitalist culture is now dominant on a world scale, as much in societies in the peripheries of the system as in those at its centre. But this wears different clothing, producing a simulacrum of the historical continuity.
In every case the ‘moneytheism’ in which I resume the fundamental character of the capitalist culture, maybe associated without difficulty with the most diverse culturalist forms. The culturalism to which I refer to here is a whole heteroclite of ways of thought of history that refers to cores ‘of invariants’, pretended to be trans-historical, that would characterise each of the defined cultures in that way. The Eurocentric culturalism and the culturalisms of the contemporary third world countries constitute the back and the face of the same medal.
In the regions in which cultural diversity is defined in this way, rags of pretended specific identities, para-religious more than truly religious (the religion here is not the one with personal conviction but like a social ritualistic constraint), or para-ethnic are exhibited with ostentation, without compromising the submission to the demands ‘of the market’ and to vulgar consumption. Oulemas and mullahs, popes and bishops, the Dalai Lama and monks, Brahmins, disguised as so-called spiritual authorities, legitimise their reactionary positions against the social struggle and emancipator policies.
Culturalism constitutes the ideological basis of the political practice of communitarianism. Belonging to a ‘community’ – by inheritance – becomes then quasi-obligatory, at the expense of right to become similar as a result of equal citizenship, denied by the right to be different. Of course the communities in question are always organised in a hierarchical pyramid of which apartheid constituted the caricatured extreme model, but that we find again in the United States, the accomplished model of ‘consensual’ submission to the domination of capital, expressing a perfect complementarity between moneytheism and monotheist religiosity. This model is from now on proposed as the solution to questions of cultural diversity in Europe. Culturalism is then a political strategy deployed systematically by the dominant power, which allows forms of efficient management of diversity for the deployment of the accumulation of monopolies.
In counterpoint of the dominant culture of the contemporary world – that of capitalism associated to diverse culturalist expressions – the production of a new culture, that of the socialism to come, considered as a more advanced phase of human civilization, rests on the active acknowledgment of diversity, but of another kind of diversity, looking toward the future to build, and therefore allowing strategies of organisation and struggles to move further in that direction. In that framework as a matter of course the inherited diversities (religious, national and others), but radically transformed, find their place.
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* Samir Amin is director of the Third World Forum. A selection of his books is available from Pambazuka Press.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Bruno Garnier, Figures de l’égalité, Ed. Academica-Bruylant, Louvain, 2010.
Samir Amin, Spectres of capitalism; Monthly Review Press, 1998
Samir Amin, Obsolescent capitalism; Zed 2003.
Samir Amin, Beyond US hegemony; Zed 2006.
Samir Amin, The Liberal Virus; Pluto 2004.
Samir Amin, The law of worldwide value; MR 2010, chap 1.
Samir Amin, Eurocentrism (enlarged edition, including Modernity, Religion and Democracy); MR 2010.
Samir Amin, La farce démocratique, under publication.
The Marange diamond fields of Zimbabwe: An overview
The discovery of massive diamond deposits in Zimbabwe has led to hundreds of media reports exploring the abuse of human rights and grand scale corruption. It can be difficult to keep up to date with events as they unfold, or to tease out the key story as it unfolds. Sokwanele has produced a report that aims to synthesise this glut information into a single report providing readers with an accessible and wide ranging overview of events, meetings, human rights abuses, environmental degradation and the network of the people involved in the 'Marange story'.
The struggle for power in Zimbabwe is inextricably linked to the discovery of ‘the richest diamond field ever seen by several orders of magnitude’  at Marange. What should have been a means of salvation for the virtually bankrupt country after ten years of chaos that saw world record inflation and the nation brought to its knees has led, instead, to greed, corruption and exploitation on a grand scale, the use of forced labour – both adults and children – horrifying human rights abuses, brutal killings, degradation of the environment and the massive enrichment of a select few.
Initially De Beers had full exploration rights to search for minerals in the Marange communal area in eastern Zimbabwe. Their exploration certificates expired on 28 March 2006, and De Beers did not renew them. 
A United Kingdom-registered company African Consolidated Resources (ACR) subsequently registered exploration claims over the Marange diamond fields, giving them exclusive rights to explore and search for diamonds and other precious stones in Marange district. In June 2006, having discovered diamonds, they declared the find, whereupon the government evicted them, seizing 129,400 carats ACR had extracted. They then opened the fields to anyone wishing to look for diamonds. ‘It was estimated that between 15,000 and 20,000 illegal artisanal miners were working the land and illegally selling their diamond finds to dealers outside the country.’ 
In November 2006 the government launched a nationwide police operation code-named Chikorokoza Chapera (End to Illegal Panning) aimed at stopping illegal mining. ‘The operation was marked by human rights abuses, corruption, extortion and smuggling.’ 
Two years later on 27 October 2008, the government launched Operation Hakudzokwi (No Return). Human Rights Watch noted that the operation, involving elements of the Zimbabwe National Army, Air Force and Central Intelligence Organisation, appeared to have been designed both to restore a degree of order and to allow key army units access to riches at a time when the country was teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. HRW reported that the army had killed at least 214 miners and soldiers were involved in the smuggling of diamonds.’ 
By November the army was firmly in control and they turned rapidly to forming syndicates  often using forced labour, including women and children.
In July 2009 the Ministry of Mines accepted expressions of interest from companies willing to enter into joint ventures to mine in Marange under the auspices of the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation.  This resulted in the incorporation of two new distinct companies in which ZMDC [through Marange Resources] had 50 percent shares: Mbada Diamonds and Canadile Miners Private Limited. Transparent procedures were not followed. 
On 4 November 2010 five officials from ZMDC and a director from Canadile were arrested over an alleged US$2-billion fraud. Canadile's operations were suspended, its equipment confiscated and its directors barred from entering the country. The ZMDC, through Marange Resources, assumed total control of the diamond claims held by Canadile. 
The government then granted licenses to Sino-Zimbabwe, a joint commercial entity between the Chinese government and Zimbabwe, Anjin, a Chinese company and Pure Diamonds, a Lebanese firm. 
It is clear that China stands to gain much from its extensive investments in the mining sector. All revenues from the Zimbabwe government's joint diamond venture with Anjin over the next 20 years may already have been mortgaged to Beijing to pay off a contentious US$98 million loan to build a vast ‘techno-spy and communications base’, the Robert Mugabe School of Intelligence, outside Harare.
‘Every day millions of dollars' worth of diamonds leave Zimbabwe from the world's richest diamond field. But none of that money reaches the country's desperate poor…’ 
Those who have benefited are: General Constantine Chiwenga, the ambitious army chief; Emmerson Mnangagwa, the wealthy defence minister; the late General Solomon Mujuru, former commander of the national army, and his wife, Joice; Gideon Gono, governor of the Reserve Bank and Augustine Chihuri, the powerful police chief. And, of course, the Mugabes themselves. 
The figure at the centre of Zimbabwe's controversial mining operations, the Minister of Mines Obert Mpofu, has benefited, too. He has been implicated in extensive fraud, including a US$2-billion diamond fraud case. In March 2010, Mpofu attracted the interest of a parliamentary committee investigating the plunder of the diamond fields when he went on a massive property buying spree. 
Given the extent of the well-publicised corruption in Zimbabwe, it is not surprising that the country ranked 134 out of 178 on Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index for 2010. Zimbabwe falls into the Highly Corrupt category, which it shared on a parallel ranking with countries like Nigeria and Sierra Leone. 
This is where the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme should be making an impact. Launched in January 2003, the scheme requires governments to certify that shipments of rough diamonds were conflict-free thus making it more difficult for diamonds from rebel-held areas to reach international markets. The import-export certification scheme requires participating governments to certify the origin of rough diamonds and to put in place effective controls to prevent conflict stones from entering the supply chain. Participant countries can only trade rough diamonds with other members. In 2010, 75 governments were participating in the KP. 
The scheme relies on consensus-based decision-making, which often means slow progress or inaction on key issues, explained Global Witness (GW) in its report, ‘Return of the Blood Diamond’ (June 2010). 
Consequently, GW noted, ‘Lack of consistent political will and outdated and obstructive procedures have prevented the scheme from achieving its potential and fulfilling its mandate – to prevent diamonds from fuelling violence and human rights abuses.’
‘Zimbabwe is arguably the KP's biggest test yet; one that it is currently failing,’ GW said.  Its critics consider that the KP's response to the systematic and gross human rights violations rampant in the diamond fields of Zimbabwe ranges from ineffectual to complicit.
On 15 July 2010, an agreement was reached with the Harare government at the KP meeting in St Petersburg, Russia, to allow two strictly supervised auctions to take place. In August the first public auction took place during which 900,000 carats of Marange diamonds were sold, worth US$46 million. ‘US-based Rapaport Diamond Trading Network advised its more than 10,000 international diamond buyer and supplier members to boycott ... and threatened to expel and blacklist anyone taking part in the auction.’ [18
The Telegraph (UK) noted that the auction went ahead after the gems had been certified as conflict-free by KP monitor Abbey Chikane, a South African businessman, attracting buyers from Belgium, Russia, India, Israel, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates. Human rights groups said the deal helped to avert a crisis in the international diamond market since President Mugabe was threatening to sell the diamonds without certification. 
Finance Minister Tendai Biti told Parliament in his budget statement in January 2011 that US$2 million had disappeared from the second auction, which took place in September 2010 and that the money had disappeared at the MMCZ. He told Zimbabwe Reporter that he ‘only had financial detail on the two 'limited' auctions of gems from Marange held in August and September’ but that there had been t’hree subsequent sales which they (MMCZ) have not remitted.’ 
Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a press release on 1 November 2010 stating that ‘the KP should not allow the export of further shipments until there was meaningful progress to end smuggling and abuses by the army.’ HRW said they ‘had learned that the KP team sent in to review conditions in the fields in August’ had been ‘routinely obstructed by government officials from conducting its activities and had been unable to gather crucial information about conditions in the majority of the diamond fields.’ 
On 21 March 2011, Mathieu Yamba of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), who took over the revolving position of KP chairman from Boaz Hirsch of Israel, ‘unilaterally authorised Zimbabwe to resume exports of Marange diamonds ... 'from the compliant mining operations of Mbada and Canadile [Marange Resources]'.  In response, the European Union argued that the decision was taken without due process and therefore could not stand. 
In mid April, the South African government declared its backing for the diamond sales and said Harare had complied with international standards.  At the KP's Intersessional Meeting in Kinshasa during June, the World Diamond Council President Eli Izhakoff urged all KP participants to correct past mistakes and return to the core principles that characterised the KP when it was established. In his address, he stressed that the Kimberley Process system was about ‘humanity, not politics’.
Three days later, however, on 23 June, Voice of America (VOA) reported that KP Chairman Mathieu Yamba had ‘issued an administrative notice announcing 'with immediate effect' the approval of the sale of rough stones’ from Mbada and Marange Resources. ‘The text provided for the quick certification of other companies operating in Marange, some Chinese... Protesting what they considered to be an abandonment of human rights concerns, civil society observers walked out of the plenary meeting, refusing to participate and issuing a vote of no confidence.’ 
‘We have credible reports of beatings, shootings, dogs being set on villagers and other abuses at the hands of the military,’ senior HRW researcher Tiseke Kasambala told SW Radio Africa on June 30. ‘This [decision by the KP chair] is a terrible tragedy for the KP because it erases all the good work it has done in the past. The fact that it now refuses to deal with broader issues of human rights is a really sad indictment of the institution.’ 
Human Rights organisations have also drawn attention to the fact that the government and the mining companies have failed to provide basic facilities for re-settled families. Some of the families, who have been moved to Arda Transau farm, live in disused tobacco barns where there is no ventilation, let alone electricity or water.
Southern African Resource Watch (SARW) notes that the environment in Marange is fragile and congested and that the area is very dry with few rivers of any note. Forests have been exploited in recent years, leaving most areas with diminished cover. Dams in the area are silting as a result of the indiscriminate activity of the mining companies and it has been noted that the Odzi River has been polluted and silted by the operations of Canadile.
Despite rampant corruption, smuggling and the looting of diamonds, The Times (SA) reported on 7 August 2011 that Zimbabwe had entered the top 10 league of the world's gem-producing countries... and could yet recover from a decade of economic ruin if good governance is restored.
Zimbabwe is now ranked as the seventh biggest diamond-producing nation in the world, according to the latest global rankings. It produced diamonds worth US$334 million last year. 
Organisations such as Human Rights Watch and the Zimbabwe Blood Diamonds Campaign have called repeatedly for the removal of the army from Marange district, the demilitarisation of the diamond industry and a return to the rule of law.  Finance Minister Tendai Biti has stressed the need for the country's mining laws to be overhauled so that there is greater transparency in the operations of the industry.
Militarised diamond mining and trading at Marange has resulted in loss of life, human rights abuses, corrupt practices and the enrichment of a privileged and powerful political elite. As a result of the Zimbabwe government's actions, the world's diamond industry has been brought into disrepute.
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* This report was first published by Sokwanele, a Zimbabwean peoples' movement, embracing supporters of all pro-democratic political parties, civic organizations and institutions.
* Read the full report here.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
 The Telegraph (UK), 'Zimbabwe's Blood Diamonds exposed by Wikileaks cable'
 Human Rights Watch, 'Diamonds in the Rough', June 2009, pg 13:
 Rapaport, 'Background: Zimbabwe's Marange Diamonds', 2009:
  Human Rights Watch, 'Diamonds in the Rough', June 2009, pg 19
 Rapaport, ‘Timeline of Events at Marange Diamond Fields', February 2011:
 Human Rights Watch, 'Diamonds in the Rough', June 2009, pg 37
 Partnership Africa Canada, 'Diamonds and Clubs', June 2010, pg 5
 The Zimbabwe Independent, 'Diamond companies make a killing', 19 March, 2010
 New Zimbabwe, 'Six held over $2bn Marange fraud'
 Diamond News, Government of Zimbabwe: 'Three new diamond miners licensed', 9 November 2010
 Sunday Times (UK), 'Robert Mugabe's dirty diamonds', 4 April 2010
 Sunday Times (UK), 'Robert Mugabe's dirty diamonds', 4 April 2010
 The Standard (Zimbabwe), 'Obert Mpofu's property’
 Transparency International,'Corruption Perceptions Index 2010'
 Global Witness, 'Return of the blood diamond', 14 June 2010, pg 5
 Global Witness, 'Return of the blood diamond', 14 June 2010, pg 5
 Global Witness, 'Return of the blood diamond', 14 June 2010, pg 5
 International Crisis Group, 'Time to rethink the Kimberley Process: The Zimbabwean case', 4 November 2010, pg 5
 The Telegraph (UK), 'Zim auctions 900,000 carats of diamonds' 11 August, 2010
 Zimbabwe Reporter, 'US$2m vanishes from 2nd Marange diamond auction', 25 January 2011
 Human Rights Watch, 'Kimberley Process: Demand end to abuses in diamond trade', media release, 1 November 2010
 Rapaport, 'KP chair authorises Marange diamond exports' 21 March, 2011
 VOA, 'New Kimberley Process chairman from DRC clears Zimbabwe diamond sales', 22 March 2011
 VOA, 'South Africa backs Zim in Kimberley Process decision to resume diamond exports', 15 April 2011
 VOA, 'Kimberley Process meeting ends without consensus on Zimbabwe diamonds', 23 June 2011
 SW Radio Africa, 'Consumers urged to boycott Zim diamonds', 30 June 2011
 Times Live (SA), 'Zim enters big diamond league', 7 August 2011
 Human Rights Watch, 'Diamonds in the Rough', June 2009
Swaziland: The time to cross the Rubicon is upon us
‘Kairos’ is an ancient Greek word meaning the right or opportune moment, while the idiom ‘to cross the Rubicon’ means to pass a pointof no return. It refers to Julius Caesar’s army crossing of River Rubicon in 49 BC, which was considered an act of insurrection.
On 31 October 2011 the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Mbabane, the headquarters of the Eastern Diocese, was besieged by the Swazi army and police. It was, in the words of Swaziland Federation of Labour (SFL) Secretary General, Vincent Ncongwane and Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) Secretariat Coordinator, Muzi Mhlanga, a literal ‘police state’.
The reason for the invasion was that the trade union movement and progressive forces in general had arranged with the church to hold a prayer service, particularly after the state had closed every avenue for a possible march through a court interdict against the planned action to protest the judicial crisis facing the country (of course, as a manifestation of the political crisis engulfing the country).
THE NEW TINKHUNDLA STRATEGY: SETTING THE STAGE FOR MARTIAL LAW
No doubt, the battle-lines are drawn and the ‘tinkhundla’ regime has clarified its strategy now. It seeks to reconfigure society along the lines of martial law without openly declaring it. This is to ‘let the sleeping dogs lie’ and avoid awakening the unsuspecting public.
In this regard, the regime has resorted to a three-pronged strategy: The restructuring of the courts and the judicial system as a whole to clamp down on any possible discord within the state machinery in the intensified crusade to tighten the state as an institution for the battles ahead; the closing down of every possible space for expressing dissatisfaction, let alone protest; and the intensification of militarisation of every sphere of Swazi society
It is now clear beyond doubt that Swaziland has reached a point of no return; the momentum towards democracy and a society free of corruption and royal abuse in the name of culture is irreversible. It is the moral dilemma of the system that is fundamentally eroding the remains of anything resembling integrity or elements of some moral fibre, which explains why it has lost all semblance and pretence of being civil and humane.
This is the moment of truth, when every possible avenue has become closed for those seeking the path of justice: the courts, the churches, the peaceful marches and the open public debates are all daily proving impossible as avenues to pursue the cause of justice in Swaziland. What does it mean for the cause, what does it mean for the crusaders of justice and dignity and what does it mean for humanity the world over? These are practical questions in the Swaziland of today. Avoiding these difficult questions will not make them go away.
We have a royal family that, for years, has falsely claimed divinity or rule in the name of God. In doing so, it created a smokescreen and cloud of fear around it, hence the inability of Swazis to question its wayward and greedy behaviour, because that would have been tantamount to questioning God himself.
The church has refused to legitimise that and exposed it for what it really is, a social construct deliberately created by the royal family to protect itself and its ill-gotten privileges over the rest of the population. We must salute the church for refusing to be used as a refuge for wrong-doing in the name of God. We know that once the church takes such a decisive stand against injustice, all hell breaks loose for those who have been claiming to rule on behalf of God.
PERSONAL EXPERIENCE WITH THE LUTHERAN CHURCH IN SWAZI SOCIETY
The courage displayed by the leadership of the church under BishopAbsalom Mnisi and Reverend Zwanini Shabalala during the day in question was outstanding with the full support of Sydney Nyembe and Mafika Shabalala. I am personally proud of the role the Lutheran Church is playing and has played in the cause of social justice and human dignity, not only in Swaziland, but in other parts of the world too. I was bred by the church, particularly the very Mbabane Centre that was besieged, where I cut my teeth in leadership as a young person full of energy and passion.
I was a youth leader full of questions, anger and determination to make things happen and that is where I was given the space to develop my full potential and greater things were to follow, amongst them was the University of Swaziland Student Representative Council (UNISWA SRC) debacle and student battles in and around 1994/5 that resulted in our expulsion and re-instatement together with a few comrades who are now lawyers, senior leaders of various organisations and professionals in their own right.
The Lutheran church has been consistently involved in battles for justice, human dignity and democracy and has been a pioneer in the path to moral and ethical leadership in some parts of the world. It is inspiring to realise that the church has fully assumed its rightful role and position in society as the torch-bearer and refuge for the poor and suffering.
The recent events at Mbabane proved beyond doubt the resilience of the Lutheran church of which I am a product and it evoked in me a sense of pride and assurance that the days of darkness and suffering are nearing their end. We ave been made to believe that political activism equals evil or questioning God’s authority, for its him who choses those who rule. We have been made to believe that speaking out against injustice is an act of disobedience and disorder. However, those days are gone when people could be blackmailed through mere labels into submission. We have a new calibre of leadership and worshippers who have now shed every element of fear to stand up for the truth, the very essence and mission of the church in our times.
I was not only groomed by the Lutheran church but also received practical solidarity from my church during the most difficult times, including hunger strike days at UNISWA before our expulsion. When police cracked down on activists, including when we were with Solly Mapaila in Swaziland, the Lutheran church in Manzini provided a refuge, the main belief being that every person has a right to hold their view, even if we may not agree with it.
At the height of the Swaziland Youth Congress (SWAYOCO) and the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) scarecrow or ‘rooi gevaar’ politics, the Lutheran church refused to dissociate with its members on the basis of their political views, but embraced everyone as a legitimate member and child of God (for only he can pass judgment). I was president of the SWAYOCO) and therefore ex-officio NEC member of PUDEMO, but never at any time was I told that the church felt compromised by my role outside it.
It is for these reasons that I can proudly say I learnt tolerance in practice from the church and not through any workshop or meeting. It was here that we would worship together with staunch members and supporters of the ‘tinkhundla’ system, sometimes royalists themselves.
The question then became, if we could worship so well together what would suddenly make political parties the source of tensions and conflict between people? Why would we become overnight enemies on the basis of differing views, yet we related so well and had appeared to accept our divergent views on various questions of life?
I have no doubt that with these and other values one can begin the journey in life against poverty and its causes, hunger ,oppression and hatred. All these are symptoms of a sick society, a society based on institutionalised greed, corruption and injustice. It is a society which doesn’t care about the neighbour. Doesn’t that explain why for such a long time many people were silent about the suffering of our people, doing nothing beyond feelings of sympathy?
I am here not seeking to downplay the role of the other churches, particularly the mainline churches as organised under the auspices of the Council of Swaziland Churches (CSC), including the Roman Catholic, the Anglican, etc. They have played an outstanding role in the struggle for justice, democracy and a caring society in Swaziland and beyond. The creation of the Peace, Justice and Reconciliation (PJR) Commission in the CSC was an outstanding example of that commitment by the church as an institution in our country. I have great admiration for that role, including the role we also played with other young people from other churches in influencing the establishment of a youth desk and seeking space for young people to take on uncomfortable issues facing our country.
I salute the courage of those who stand for the truth in word and deed, in broad daylight and during the night, at the pulpit and in the community; at all times they remain fearless and forthright about the issues confronting our people. I recall at times, some members of the church would be sceptical of political issues, understandably so because they are products of a society founded on fear and the demonisation of political issues to keep people away from questioning how they are governed and by whose mandate..
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* Bongani Masuku is a former Youth Chairperson of the Lutheran Church, Mbabane Parish and is currently the International Secretary of COSATU. He writes here in his personal capacity.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Imprisoned Swazi political prisoner: Don’t mourn over me
“It is very unfortunate that a brave young comrade like Maxwell Dlamini [President of the Swaziland National Union of Students] can be made to stay in prison while we need him outside to pursue the struggle of the Swazi people,” Sibusiso Nhlabatsi, President of the Students Representative Council at the University of Swaziland, tells Africa Contact. “But we remain motivated by his words: do not mourn and whine over me just pursue the course of democracy in Swaziland.”
Maxwell Dlamini was detained, and allegedly tortured, prior to the so-called April 12-Uprising in Swaziland earlier in the year. He was forced to sign a statement admitting possession of explosives and has been denied bail on several occasions. He subsequently stands accused of contravening Sections 8 and 9 of Swaziland’s Explosives Act 4 of 1961 – an accusation that several members of Swaziland’s democratic movement, as well as unions and solidarity organisations around the world, have described as preposterous.
Despite reports of Maxwell falling ill and hired South African police illegally interrogating him and his fellow accused, Musa Ngubeni, Maxwell is doing fine. “Maxwell in prison is fine,” Nhlabatsi says. “Those who check him from time to time say that his spirit is strong and he remains committed to his course.” Talking about the prospects of Maxwell’s case being heard in a court of law, Nhlabatsi is less optimistic - both because of the well-known stalling tactics of the Swazi regime towards imprisoned democracy advocates, and because of an ongoing lawyer boycott against the lack of judicial independence and rule of law in the country.
“About his case it’s very disturbing. In Swaziland lawyers are currently on boycott and courts are grounded. Actually this situation has been going on for the past three months. So he can’t stand trial because there is no lawyer available.”
Read more about Maxwell’s case: http://freemaxwelldlamini.wordpress.com/
The Popular Campaign to Drop Egypt’s Debts
The Popular Campaign to Drop Egypt’s Debt
The Popular Campaign to Drop Egypt’s Debts was conceived as part of the January 25th Revolution, and affirms the right of the Egyptian people to assert collective control over all matters related to their life and the future of coming generations.
This is a popular movement that aims to facilitate Egypt's economic independence from the many forms of exploitation, subordination and resource misappropriation that were imposed upon the people of Egypt during the past decades by the regime of the ousted dictator Hosni Mubarak and his collaborators abroad.
The economic policies applied by Mubarak’s regime have left us with enormous internal and external debts. The regime borrowed extensively in order to pay off its debt premiums and interest. Real solutions would have entailed searching for alternative mechanisms to finance government expenditure – such as wealth and income taxes – towards the goal of creating a more just economy. But instead of seeking ways to address the structural issues at stake, policymakers attempted to sustain a failing economic model by borrowing both internally and externally. The resulting debts have left the Egyptian people captive to lending countries and institutions.
The interest on these debts represents one of the biggest items of public expenditure in Egypt; this means that significant amounts of money are channeled towards already-wealthy financial institutions rather than toward guaranteeing that every Egyptian can achieve a dignified standard of life.
Decisions about the basic principles of the Egyptian economy have, for too long, been restricted to a select group of experts. It is time that the people reclaim the fundamental right to participate in determining their country’s economic priorities, for they are the first to be affected by economic policies and presently bear the burden of paying from their very own pockets for the mistakes of the previous regime. The transfer of power over economic policy from elites to the people must be an integral part of the democratic transformation in Egypt.
In the light of all these reasons, a group of civil society organizations and individual Egyptians concerned with the public good and with the future of social justice in the country have decided to launch a public campaign to pressure lending countries and institutions, both locally and internationally to drop Egypt’s debts.
The campaign demands that:
1) All loan agreements signed during Mubarak’s rule must be reviewed by an independent Egyptian commission that will evaluate the use of the loans and the degree to which the Egyptian people benefited from them. All debts that are determined to be illegitimate must then be dropped by the lending country/institution.
2) As a general rule, the campaign disapproves of debt swap mechanisms. Debt swaps create new debt burdens, whose legality and benefit are not checked by the people. In cases where debt swaps are used instead of audit and cancellation, the campaign adopts the following stands:
- Debt agreements should be reviewed to determine the legitimacy of the swapped debts.
- The conditions of debt swap should be discussed in a manner that guarantees integrity and transparency in the decision-making process.
3) Although the campaign does not approve of resorting to debts as a quick fix option, in case of any future loan agreements the campaign demands that:
- All contracts and conditions be subject to popular participation and discussion in a manner that guarantees transparency and accountability.
- The legislature implements freedom of information laws that require full public disclosure of all contracts and other information related to loans and debts, with no exclusions save what is stated by law.
It gives us great honor to invite members of the Egyptian public and civil society organizations to join the Popular Campaign to Drop Egypt’s Debts. We invite you to support the Campaign’s agenda in order to preserve the gains of the Egyptian Revolution that enable the economy to be built in accordance with the will of the people, free of pressures imposed by economic colonization and the organized plunder of public money through debts.
Follow us on: Twitter: @DropEgyptsDebt
Drop Egypt’s Debt:
Page of the universal day for Egyptian External Debt Audit and Cancellation:
To join or for more information, please contact us:
Samer Attallah: 0101162412
Amr Ismail: 0127793243
Salma Hussein: 0123118939
The Russell Tribunal on Palestine: Cape Town Session
Summary of Findings, 7 November 2011
Russell Tribunal on Palestine
“May this tribunal prevent the crime of silence” – Bertrand Russell, London, 13 November 1966
The Russell Tribunal on Palestine (RToP) is an international citizen- based Tribunal of conscience created in response to the demands of civil society (NGOs, charities, unions, faith-based organisations) to inform and mobilise public opinion and put pressure on decision makers. In view of the failure to implement the Advisory Opinion of 9 July 2004 of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) concerning the construction by Israel of a wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the failure to implement resolution ES-10/15 confirming the ICJ Opinion, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 20 July 2004, and the Gaza events of December 2008 – January 2009, committees were established in different countries to promote and sustain a citizen’s initiative in support of the rights of the Palestinian people.
The RToP is imbued with the same spirit and espouses the same rigorous rules as those inherited from the Tribunal on Vietnam (1966-1967), which was established by the eminent scholar and philosopher Bertrand Russell, and the second Russell Tribunal on Latin America (1974-1976), organized by the Lelio Basso International Foundation for the Rights and Liberation of Peoples. The tribunal has no legal status; it operates as a court of the people.
The Israeli Government was invited to present its case before the Tribunal but chose not to exercise this right and provided no answer to correspondence from the RToP.
Following the hearings and the deliberations of the jury, the findings of the third session of Russell Tribunal on Palestine, held in Cape Town on 5-6 November 2011, are summarised as follows.
The Tribunal finds that Israel subjects the Palestinian people to an institutionalised regime of domination amounting to apartheid as defined under international law. This discriminatory regime manifests in varying intensity and forms against different categories of Palestinians depending on their location. The Palestinians living under colonial military rule in the Occupied Palestinian Territory are subject to a particularly aggravated form of apartheid. Palestinian citizens of Israel, while entitled to vote, are not part of the Jewish nation as defined by Israeli law and are therefore excluded from the benefits of Jewish nationality and subject to systematic discrimination across the broad spectrum of recognised human rights. Irrespective of such differences, the Tribunal concludes that Israel’s rule over the Palestinian people, wherever they reside, collectively amounts to a single integrated regime of apartheid.
The state of Israel is legally obliged to respect the prohibition of apartheid contained in international law. In addition to being considered a crime against humanity, the practice of apartheid is universally prohibited. The Tribunal has considered Israel’s rule over the Palestinian people under its jurisdiction in the light of the legal definition of apartheid. Apartheid is prohibited by international law because of the experience of apartheid in southern Africa, which had its own unique attributes. The legal definition of apartheid, however, applies to any situation anywhere in the world where the following three core elements exist: (i) that two distinct racial groups can be identified; (ii) that ‘inhuman acts’ are committed against the subordinate group; and (iii) that such acts are committed systematically in the context of an institutionalised regime of domination by one group over the other.
The existence of ‘racial groups’ is fundamental to the question of apartheid. On the basis of expert evidence heard by the Tribunal, the jury concludes that international law gives a broad meaning to the term ‘racial’ as including elements of ethnic and national origin, and therefore that the definition of ‘racial group’ is a sociological rather than biological question. Perceptions (including self- perceptions and external perceptions) of Israeli Jewish identity and Palestinian identity illustrate that Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs can readily be defined as distinct racial groups for the purposes of international law. From the evidence received, it was clear to the jury that two distinct, identifiable groups exist in a very practical sense and that the legal definition of ‘racial group’ applies to all circumstances in which the Israeli authorities have jurisdiction over Palestinians.
INHUMAN ACTS OF APARTHEID
Individual inhuman acts committed in the context of such a system are defined by international law as crimes of apartheid. The jury heard abundant evidence of practices that constitute ‘inhuman acts’ perpetrated against the Palestinian people by the Israeli authorities. These include:
- Widespread deprivation of Palestinian life through military operations and incursions, a formal policy of ‘targeted killings’, and the use of lethal force against demonstrations.
- Torture and ill-treatment of Palestinians in the context of widespread deprivation of liberty through policies of arbitrary arrest and administrative detention without charge. The jury finds that such measures frequently go beyond what is reasonably justified by security concerns and amount to a form of domination over the Palestinians as a group.
- Systematic human rights violations that preclude Palestinian development and prevent the Palestinians as a group from participating in political, economic, social and cultural life. Palestinian refugees who remain displaced are also victims of apartheid by virtue of the ongoing denial of their right to return to their homes, as well as by laws that remove their property and citizenship rights. Policies of forced population transfer remain widespread, particularly in the occupied Palestinian territory.
- Civil and political rights of Palestinians including rights to movement, residence, free opinion and association are severely curtailed. Palestinian socio-economic rights are also adversely affected by discriminatory Israeli policies in the spheres of education, health and housing. Since 1948 the Israeli authorities have pursued concerted policies of colonisation and appropriation of Palestinian land. Israel has through its laws and practices divided the Israeli Jewish and Palestinian populations and allocated them different physical spaces, with varying levels and quality of infrastructure, services and access to resources. The end result is wholesale territorial fragmentation and a series of separate reserves and enclaves, with the two groups largely segregated. The Tribunal heard evidence to the effect that such a policy is formally described in Israel as hafrada, Hebrew for ‘separation’.
A SYSTEMATIC AND INSTITUTIONALISED REGIME
The inhuman acts listed above do not occur in random or isolated instances. They are sufficiently widespread, integrated and complementary to be described as systematic. They are also sufficiently rooted in law, public policy and formal institutions to be described as institutionalised. In the Israeli legal system, preferential status is afforded to Jews over non-Jews through its laws on citizenship and Jewish nationality, the latter of which has created a group privileged in most spheres of public life, including residency rights, land ownership, urban planning, access to services and social, economic and cultural rights (see list of legislation and proposed legislation in the attached Annex). The Tribunal heard expert evidence detailing the relationship between the State of Israel and the quasi- state Jewish national institutions (the Jewish Agency, World Zionist Organisation, and Jewish National Fund) that embed and formalise many of the material privileges granted exclusively to Israeli Jews. Regarding the West Bank, the Tribunal highlights the institutionalised separation and discrimination revealed by the existence of two entirely separate legal systems: Palestinians are subject to military law enforced by military courts that fall far short of international fair trial standards; Israeli Jews living in illegal settlements are subject to Israeli civil law and a civil court system. The result is a vastly different procedure and sentence for the same crime, committed in the same jurisdiction, by members of a different group. An apparatus of administrative control implemented through pervasive permit systems and bureaucratic restrictions adversely affects Palestinians throughout the territories under Israeli control. In contrast to the explicit and readily available South African apartheid legislation, the Tribunal draws attention to the obscurity and inaccessibility of many laws, military orders and regulations that underpin Israel’s institutionalised regime of domination.
II. PERSECUTION AS A CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY
Much of the evidence heard by the Tribunal relating to the question of apartheid is also relevant to the separate crime against humanity of persecution, which can be considered in relation to Israeli practices under the principle of cumulative charges. Persecution involves the intentional and severe deprivation of fundamental rights of the members of an identifiable group in the context of a widespread and systematic attack against a civilian population. The Tribunal concludes that the evidence presented to it supports a finding of persecution in relation to the following acts:
- The siege and blockade of the Gaza Strip as a form of collective punishment of the civilian population;
- The targeting of civilians during large-scale military operations;
- The destruction of civilian homes not justified by military necessity;
- The adverse impact on the civilian population effected by the Wall and its associated regime in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem;
- The concerted campaign of forcible evacuation and demolition of unrecognised Bedouin villages in the Negev region of southern Israel.
III. LEGAL CONSEQUENCES
Apartheid and persecution are acts attributable to Israel and entail its international legal responsibility. Israel must cease its apartheid acts and its policies of persecution and offer appropriate assurances and guarantees of non-repetition. In addition, Israel must make full reparation for the injuries caused by its internationally wrongful acts, with regard to any damage, whether material or moral. With regard to reparation, Israel must compensate the Palestinians for the damage it has caused, with compensation to cover any financially assessable damage for loss of life, property, and loss of profits insofar as this can be established.
States and international organisations also have international responsibilities. They have a duty to cooperate bring Israel’s apartheid acts and policies of persecution to an end, including by not rendering aid or assistance to Israel and not recognising the illegal situation arising from its acts. They must bring to an end Israel’s infringements of international criminal law through the prosecution of international crimes, including the crimes of apartheid and persecution.
In view of the above findings, the Russell Tribunal on Palestine resolutely urges all relevant parties to act in accordance with their legal obligations.
Accordingly, the Tribunal urges:
- The state of Israel to immediately dismantle its system of apartheid over the Palestinian people, to rescind all discriminatory laws and practices, not to pass any further discriminatory legislation, and to cease forthwith acts of persecution against Palestinians;
- All states to cooperate to bring to an end the illegal situation arising from Israel’s practices of apartheid and persecution. In light of the obligation not to render aid or assistance, all states must consider appropriate measures to exert sufficient pressure on Israel, including the imposition of sanctions, the severing of diplomatic relations collectively through international organisations, or in the absence of consensus, individually by breaking bilateral relations with Israel.
- The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to accept jurisdiction as requested by the Palestinian authorities in January 2009, and to initiate an investigation ‘as expeditiously as possible’ as called for by the ‘Goldstone Report’, into international crimes committed in Palestinian territory since 1 July 2002, including crimes of apartheid and persecution;
- Palestine to accede to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court;
- Global civil society (including all groups and individuals working diligently inside Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory to oppose the system of racial domination that exists therein) to replicate the spirit of solidarity that contributed to the end of apartheid in South Africa, including by making national parliaments aware of the findings of this Tribunal and supporting the campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS);
- The UN General Assembly to reconstitute the UN Special Committee against Apartheid, and to convene a special session to consider the question of apartheid against the Palestinian people. In this connection the Committee should compile a list of individuals, organisations, banks, companies, corporations, charities, and any other private or public bodies which assist Israel’s apartheid regime with a view to taking appropriate measures;
- The UN General Assembly to request an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice as called for by the current and former UN Special Rapporteurs for human rights to the occupied Palestinian territory, as well as by the Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa, to examine the nature of Israel’s prolonged occupation and apartheid;
- The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination to address the issue of apartheid in its forthcoming review of Israel in February 2012;
- The government of South Africa, as the host country for the third session of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, to ensure that no reprisals of any sort are taken by the state of Israel against the witnesses that testified before the Tribunal.
The Tribunal welcomes the decision of the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) to admit Palestine as a member. It deplores the punitive action taken by the United States towards the organisation, and urges all states and international organisations to actively support the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. The Tribunal welcomes the solidarity and support of those countries that have consistently and steadfastly supported Palestinian human rights, and urges them to continue with the struggle for justice.
ANNEX: LEGISLATION AND PROPOSED LEGISLATION
1. Law of Return (1950)
2. Citizenship Law (1952)
3. Citizenship and Entry to Israel Law (2007)
4. Covenant between the Government of Israel and the Zionist Executive (1952)
5. World Zionist Organization-Jewish Agency (Status) Law (1952)
6. Keren Kayemeth le-Israel Law (1953)
7. Covenant with Zionist Executive (1954, 1971)
8. The Chief Rabbinate of Israel Law (1980)
9. The Flag and Emblem Law (1949)
10. The State Education Law (1953) and its 2000 amendment
11. Absentee Property Law (1950)
12. The Land Acquisition Law (1953)
13. Basic Law: Israel Lands [The People’s Lands] (1960)
14. Agricultural Settlement Law (1967)
15. Basic Law: The Knesset (1958), Amendment 9 (1985)
16. The Israel Land Administration (ILA) Law (2009)
17. Amendment (2010) to The Land (Acquisition for Public Purposes) Ordinance (1943)
18. The Admissions Committees Law (2011)
19. The Israel Lands Law (Amendment No. 3) (2011)
20. The Economic Efficiency Law (Legislative Amendments for Implementing the Economic Plan
21. Absorption of Discharged Soldiers Law (1994) [2008 amendment]
22. Absorption of Discharged Soldiers Law (1994) (Amendment No. 12)(2010)
23. Law (2011) to Amend to the Budgets Foundations Law, Amendment No.
40. (The “Nakba Law”)
24. The Regional Councils Law (Date of General Elections) (1994) Special Amendment No. 6 (2009)
25. Duty of Disclosure for Recipients of Support from a Foreign Political Entity Law (2011) (“NGO Foreign Government Funding Law”)
1. Bill to amend the Citizenship Law (1952) imposing loyalty oath for persons seeking naturalization in Israel and Israeli citizens seeking first ID cards
2. Bill (2009) to amend the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty and limit the judicial review powers of the Supreme Court to rule on matters of citizenship .
3. Bill Granting Preference in Civil Service Appointments to Former Soldiers
4. Bill Awarding Preferences in Services to Former Soldiers
5. Bill to Prohibit Imposing a Boycott (2010) (“Ban on BDS Bill”)
6. The Associations (Amutot) Law (Amendment – Exceptions to the Registration and Activity of an Association) (2010) (“Universal Jurisdiction Bill”)
7. Bill to Protect the Values of the State of Israel (Amendment Legislation) (2009) (“Jewish and Democratic State Bill”)
8. The new cinema bill – would regulate and condition that any state funds would be given to film makers only after they have signed a loyalty declaration to Israel and its institutions as ‘a Jewish state’.
Dani Wadada Nabudere: A great son of Africa
Dani Wadada Nabudere has passed on. With him has passed a piece of Uganda, a piece of the continent, a part of humanity.
This is not the time to write an assessment of this great son of Africa. That would be a daunting task for anybody who would undertake it. Dani accepted life in its totality and intensity. Those who shared a part of that life, to drink from the same fountain, to walk the same walk, to share moments of joy, pain, intellectual challenges and exhilaration, even moments of ecstasy, were privileged. I am one of them.
He had a great sense of irony about himself and about history, and sharp wit, and a strong hand shake.
To Dani we owe a lot – his vision, his inspiration, the courage to speak truth to power. He was a prophet.
Dani’s death diminishes Uganda, East Africa, Africa and all those who fight for freedom, equity and justice.
In death Dani affirms life here and now and hereafter.
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* Yash Tandon is a writer on development theory and practice, chairman of SEATINI and senior adviser to the South Centre.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Dani Wadada Nabudere: ‘Keeper of Traditions’
The sad news of a great loss has just reached me; Prof Dani Nabudere apparently departed yesterday, at age 79. I don't know further details yet...
We mourn a Big Father of Knowledge and a Keeper of Traditions; a lawyer, a philosopher, a hard worker – having established several institutions of learning and many on-the-ground interventions for Afrikan empowerment.
His undying commitment to practical Pan-Afrikanism on grassroot level leaves us all with an enormous challenge in continuing his legacy and insist that all his sacrifices and achievements must never be in vain.
We respectfully pour libations as we call on ancient spirits to keep his soul resting in peace – and, although unwillingly, we open up our minds and hearts to follow his leadership as an ever-present Ancestor to guide our work and mission.
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* Baba Buntu is executive director of Ebukhosini Solutions.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Music, language and human rights in Cameroon
The voices of Elwood, Valsero and Lapiro
Peter Wuteh Vakunta
Orature as an academic discipline and tool of resistance has made giant strides in its evolution over the years. This transformation manifests itself in the form of musical productivity and scholarship on the subject matter. Among those who have contributed significantly to emerging perspectives on the discipline are musicians themselves. Cameroonian songwriters are township bards who double as entertainers and freedom fighters. Orality is the tool they wield with dexterity in their relentless vendetta against the establishment’s endemic corruption, bad governance, abuse of power, influence peddling, impunity, misappropriation of public funds and other forms of dereliction of duty that plague the post-colony. The lyrics of Donny Elwood, and Valsero a.k.a ‘Le Général’ and Lapiro de Mbanga alias Ndinga Man are telling. This trio has carved out a niche for themselves as valiant human rights activists in Cameroon.
VOICES OF ELWOOD, VALSERO AND LAPIRO
In a song titled ‘Mon cousin militaire’ , Donny Elwood deplores two cankers that have rendered the government of Cameroon dysfunctional, namely influence peddling and corruption. Listen to his lyrics:
'Thank Goodness I have a soldier cousin
Thank God I have a soldier cousin
I would be at the cemetery already
Two meters in the ground
Poor cadaver, simple skeleton
Smiling like all skeletons on this earth
Who never stop smiling
The smile of death
Death caused by misery
Misery that is the lot of the poor and the macabre
They call me Mr. Trouble
They call me Uncle Misery
I live in a ghetto
And we are real proletariats
In need of food, clothes, and money
We are veritable proletariats
We are in the majority on this earth
Thank Goodness I have a soldier cousin (…)
When he earns his salary, he gives me some money for beer.
I jump into my jalopy
And we roam the streets all night (...)
When he goes to war
I say my prayers
I say austerity prayers
A bad war,
A border war,
An inflammatory war,
A deadly war
A suicidal war (…)' 
The lyrics of this song are pregnant with meaning. Elwood’s reference to the Cameroonian military is significant. Under President Paul Biya, soldiers have become the most privileged group of people in Cameroonian society. Pampered with bloated salaries and perks, these partially educated servants of the state have nurtured an inordinate sense of their own grandeur. Rather than protect the citizenry, they have taken it upon themselves to brutalize and abuse their compatriots, especially in the event of public protests against the establishment, as was the case during the 2008 youth uprising against the government for failing to put an end to skyrocketing fuel and food prices.
Elwood bemoans the fate of the underprivileged of his country: ‘The smile of death/ Death caused by misery/ Misery that is the lot of the poor and the macabre.’ He speaks for the proletariat, the toiling masses who are subjected to brazen exploitation by the corporate world — owners of means production.
Elwood’s song is the cry of a son of the soil whose heart throbs for his people. Many are living in abject poverty while a few people in government live in opulence. Like Fanon  and Zola , Elwood, speaks for the downtrodden: the wretched of the earth of his society. He is the voice of the voiceless. ‘Mon cousin militaire’ satirises warmongering. I suppose that the war referenced in this song is the Nigeria-Cameroon conflict over the Bakassi Peninsula, a costly insane war that has no rationale at all.
In sum, Elwood uses his song as a medium through which he articulates his concerns over human rights abuses in his homeland. Language choice and diction pose no problem at all in this song. The artist uses everyday French words and expressions known to the average Cameroonian. Colloquial terms like ‘tonton’ may elude the non-Cameroonian listener but context could be used to unravel the signification of the word. In ‘En haut’ he addresses the themes of influence peddling and corruption in Cameroon, as seen in the following excerpt:
'My life will change
The decree has just landed
My brother has just been appointed to a very high position
Rumor had circulated everywhere in the neighborhood
Today it’s a done deal
The radio talked , talked, talked
The TV has confirmed it.
That’s right, my life will change
At last long, I will breathe.
I will have to behave like a Bao
Given that my brother is now in a position of power
Gone are the days of hunger
Gone are the days of trekking
No more bread sandwiches
No more rides in overloaded taxis.
My life will change.
I shall possess a car
I will visit all the inner cities
In my air-conditioned Mercedes Benz
All the girls will fall head over heels in love with me.
I will be awarded contracts
My brother is highly placed
Even if I cannot deliver the services
for which I have been contracted
My brother will still pay me
My life will change
There will be feasting in the village,
People will come and go,
We will drink
We will eat ( …)' 
There is no gainsaying the fact that ‘En haut’ reads like a facsimile of Cameroon under Paul Biya. The cankers that Elwood lambasts in this musical tirade: abuse of power, influence peddling, corruption and nepotism are the common lot of Cameroonians living under this dictator. The songwriter celebrates his brother’s appointment to a top government position because he is certain that his brother will abuse his position to award him contracts even if he is unable to deliver the services for which he will be paid. Not only will he embezzle government money to buy expensive cars for his personal use but he will also use his position to exploit women. This sort of unethical comportment on the part of civil servants is common currency in Cameroon under Paul Biya, who himself is the absentee landlord of Etoudi. Biya spends nearly three-quarters of the year gallivanting in foreign lands in pursuit of nothing. This spells doom for the entire nation.
As far as language is concerned, Elwood borrows extensively from Camfranglais  for the purpose of concealing certain significations from Cameroon’s security forces as in the use of ‘bao’ for ‘bigshot’. It should be noted that ‘bao’ is the abbreviated form of baobab. ‘Merco’, is another word culled from Camfranglais. Camfranglophones use this word in reference to a posh car even if it is not of the Mercedez Benz brand. Elwood uses typical Cameroonianisms in his songwriting in a bid to transpose the speech mannerisms of Cameroonian youths into the French language. Recourse to Camfranglais does not only taint Elwood’s music with local colour and flavour, but it also serves as an identity marker. Camfranglais is a slang meant to be understood only by initiated members of certain social groups: conmen, drug-peddlers, prostitutes, cabdrivers and more.
Elwood is not a lone voice in the vendetta against the cancerous society that Cameroon has become under Biya’s regime. In a song titled ‘Ce pays tue les jeunes’ Valsero bemoans the fate of Cameroon’s lost generation — the young college and high school graduates whose future has been mortgaged by the Biya kleptocracy headquartered in Yaoundé:
'For the sake of 2008 I speak to myself
For 2008 I speak to you
I hope all is well with you
And I hope that good tidings will come your way (…)
All these graduates who are jobless
This generation that will never see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel
In any event, I don’t believe they ever will
The youths are dying slowly
Whereas the old folks are getting
Drunk in their bunkers
This county kills its youths
Fifty years in power
And yet they will not relinquish power peacefully
Life is too tough
The system makes it even tougher.
They experience it
In Yaoundé, they know it.
This county kills its youths
This country is like a time-bomb
For the dying youths
Watch out, when it shall explode,
It shall destroy everyone
So, I am asking the older generation
To make way for the youths
Let’s avoid flames
This county kills its youths.
The old folks will not relinquish power peacefully (…)'
Valsero’s lyrics are fiery. As I see it, his words are forebodings of tough times ahead. He is unapologetic in his opprobrium on a regime that destroys its own youths. In fact, this is the leitmotiv in Valsero’s song of protest. Notice the songwriter’s deliberate repetition of the verse “Ce pays tue les jeunes”. He does so in a bid to underscore the uncertain fate of youths in a country that has been governed by an unimaginative dictator for 30 years.
Valsero’s reference to the year 2008 is significant given that this year constitutes an indelibly dark spot in Paul Biya’s 30-year regime in Cameroon (soon to be 37). Cameroonians will remember that in February 2008 Mr Biya ordered his blood-thirsty security forces to open fire on unarmed protesters, mostly youths, who had embarked on a protest match to vent their frustration against food and fuel price hikes. The 2008 protests were a series of demonstrations in Cameroon’s biggest cities like Yaoundé, Douala and Bamenda. The government sent out troops to crack down on the unrest, and protesters were killed. The government reported 40 people killed, but human rights groups claimed that the total was about 100. They also noted that more than 2,000 people were arrested in Douala alone and decried the trials as overly swift, secretive and severe.
It is interesting that Valsero perceives the macabre silence that hangs over the heads of Cameroonians as a time-bomb that will explode before long. Playing the devil’s advocate, he calls on the gang of kleptomaniacs hibernating in Yaoundé to decamp before it is too late. Though singing in standard French, the singer infuses his lyrics with Camerounismes in order to be understood by the youths for whom he sings. Words like ‘bled’, ‘crève’ and ‘se saoulent’ [country, die and get drunk)] are colloquial French words chosen with circumspection by the songwriter to translate not only meanings but also emotions.
In ‘Lettre au président’ this valiant freedom fighter addresses his message directly to Paul Biya:
'May I know, Presi, why nothing works for us
I have spent several years in school but still can’t find work
You must remember that you promised bringing us to the end of the tunnel
Here we are today still marking time, while the same people call the shots (…)
Presi, your ministers live in this country as if they were strangers on vacation
They amass wealth, they are schooled in the art of holdup
They are arrogant, and they frustrate the people
They flout laws, they act with impunity
Oh Presi, put an end to all this, that is your job
Otherwise, Insha’Allah, I swear, someone else will do the job in lieu of you
The people cannot take it anymore, the youths are fed up
We want to have a taste of the honey too; otherwise we will give you the boot (…)
Presi, the youths no longer have dreams
Presi, Presi, the youths cannot take it anymore
The majority of them are dying
They live in vice;
We retrogress in this country while the rest of the world progresses
The people are sovereign, they are never wrong
They have the force of numbers, they can give you a vote of no-confidence
We are not afraid of death, even if your henchmen summon
Cops for protection
The people say you are the 'Lion Man'
But they dream of one thing only: kill the lion.' 
Valsero’s interrogative missive to Paul Biya is loaded. Not only does he take the president to task for promises not kept, he also enjoins him to perform the job for which his is paid. The song is an acrimonious diatribe that conveys the angst of the Cameroonian people against a regime that has failed them in every aspect. The sagacious rapper demands responses from Biya on a number of thorny issues, not least of which is the reason for governmental dysfunction. He revisits the vexing theme of chronic employment in Cameroon and the predicament of college graduates who cannot find gainful employment.
‘Lettre au président’ is the cry of disenchanted Cameroonians at odds with a regime that excels in arrogance, insolence, double-speak impunity and dereliction of duty. Valsero deems it fit to inform the president that the Cameroonian people have defeated fear and that one day, God willing, someone else will have to do the job he is unable to do to the satisfaction of the Cameroonian people. This apocalyptic admonishment ought to be taken seriously by the powers-that-be.
Linguistically speaking, this song is more colloquial than ‘Ce pays tue les jeunes.’ The reason is that Valsero is speaking for the Cameroonian youths and has chosen to employ a parlance that is characteristic of the social class for whom he is spokesperson. The musician constantly culls words and expressions from Camfranglais as seen in these examples: ‘tiennent la chandelle’ (perform a duty), ‘en ont marre’ (fed up), ‘bled’ (home/country/village), ‘potes’ (friends/henchmen/comrades), and ‘crèvent’ (die). These words fit into the register of ‘youth talk’ in Cameroon. It is interesting that Valserotransposes foreign language words, for example, the Arabic word, ‘Insha’Allah’ into French. This should not surprise listeners who may be familiar with the linguistic plurality in Cameroon. Finally, Valsero has recourse to an expression to which all Cameroonians have been accustomed: ‘L’homme lion ‘or ‘Lion man’, has become a sobriquet for Paul Biya on account of the brutality with which he responds to legitimate complaints from citizens about governmental ineptitude.
Lapiro de Mbanga alias Dinga man  is the only musician from the trio that has borne the brunt of Biya’s offhanded reaction to political dissidence. Nicknamed ‘président du petit peuple’  by Cameroon’s underprivileged, Lapiro has used the power of popular music to campaign for social reforms in Cameroon for nearly twenty years. Angered by high living costs and a constitutional amendment that was intended to allow Paul Biya to stay in power indefinitely, Lapiro composed the song ‘Constitution Constipée,’ (Constipated Constitution), in which he describes the country’s President Paul Biya as ‘caught in the trap of networks that oblige him to stay in power even though he is tired.’ Lapiro calls for help, probably from the international community, to stop Paul Biya from committing the constitutional rape that he contemplates. He also states in no uncertain terms that Biya is burned out and needs to retire.
Here are the lyrics of the song that earned him a three-year prison term:
Come deliver us
There is danger out there
White-collar thieves are
Bent on mutilating the Constitution of my country
The Nation’s grave-diggers want to
Put the Lions in the cage (…)
The rooster is harassed and shaken by threats of hold-up
The Big Boss is tired
The Father of the Nation is exhausted
Give him the opportunity to rest
Pa is tired
He needs help (…)' 
This song became an unofficial anthem of the 2008 protests and Lapiro was arrested and charged with inciting youth unrest. In September 2009, he was sentenced to three years imprisonment and ordered to pay a fine of 280 million CFA francs ($640,000) as compensation for damage caused during the riots. In spite of this humiliation by the government of his homeland, Lapiro has regained international renown and has become even more vocal against the misdeeds of the Biya regime. During the just concluded presidential poll in October 2011, he called on all Cameroonians to cast blank votes to show their contempt for Biya. In November 2009, he was selected as the winner of the global ‘Freedom to Create Imprisoned Artist Prize’. The jury argued that ‘his songs constitute a cultural megaphone by which the disenfranchised and politically endangered can vicariously exercise free speech.’
The language in ‘Constitution Constipée’ is surprisingly free of the Lapiroisms  to which this maverick songwriter has accustomed Cameroonians. However, Lapiro borrows from Pidgin English not simply to embellish his writing but also to speak in a lingo that the rank and file can understand. After all, the message in this song, like in his other recordings, is intended for the downtrodden. Expressions such as ‘Big Katika don taya’oh!’, ‘Répé don slack’oh!’, ‘Wuna lep yi yi rest’, ‘Répé don fatigué’ and ‘Yi wan go rest’ (…) are pidgin expressions. It should be noted that ‘répé’ is the inverted form of ‘père’ [father]. Camfranglais speakers have borrowed this technique of lexical inversion from speakers of French Verlan. 
In another song ‘Lef am so’  Lapiro pours venom on Paul Biya and his lame duck ministers:
'Send everybody to Nkondengui!
Everybody to Nkondengui!
Send Big Katika to Nkondengui!
Send all his ministers to Kondengui!
Sure! Sure! Sure! (…)
If you are sick of only one disease, there may be some hope of recovering
But if you are afflicted by several illnesses like this country
And all kinds of treatment, including drips and anti-shock medication have not helped
I swear, you can be sure your days are numbered
We all know that when hospital medications fail us
We fall back on traditional medicine an alternative
How can you explain the fact that the more medications we
Give to our nation, the worse its health becomes?
My friend, in the past there was no poverty in this country
Today, people are scraping a bare living
Yet the World Bank and other international financial institutions
Have loaned us money with incredibly high interest rates payable in one hundred years
In other words, our great grandchildren
Shall have to work in order to repay these loans
So, we have not only been reduced to slaves
We have also mortgaged the future of our kids forever and ever (…)
Ignorance and spitefulness
Arrogance and insolence in dealing with compatriots
As you can see for yourselves
This country is upside down
Cameroon has capsized
Yes, my friend, this country is sick indeed.' 
This passage speaks volumes about the linguistic innovation characteristic of Lapiro’ musical composition. Lapiro’s language could be described as a mix of several codes: French, Pidgin English and indigenous tongues. In his lyrics, he tells the story of the disenchanted Cameroonian rank and file: taxi drivers, ‘bendskin’ drivers, whores, conmen, hawkers, employed college graduates and more. To do so effectively, he is obligated to speak in a language that is intelligible to them all.
Interestingly, this lingo is likely to pose insurmountable comprehension obstacles to foreign listeners not familiar with Lapiroisms. A word like ‘Katika’ is a polysemous lexeme. In other words, it carries several connotations. In daily usage, ‘katika’ refers to a bouncer in a nightclub. Lapiro has endowed it with a new meaning in his song: head of state or leader. In similar vein, ‘mandat’ has undergone a semantic shift and taken on a new signification. It is used in this context as a translation of the English word ‘lifespan’ or ‘existence’. ‘Nchinda’ is a loan from Pidgin English. Generally, it translates the notion of ‘royal pages’. In this context, it translates into the English word ‘lieutenants’ or ‘ministers’. ‘Ndoh’ is a camfranglais word for ‘money’. ‘Njanga and ‘manguru ngwété’ are gleaned from Cameroonian indigenous languages. ‘Njanga’ is a Duala word for ‘child’. ‘Manguru ngwété’ translates the concept of abject poverty. Lapiro resorts to code-switching in an attempt to translate the speech patterns of the people he addresses into musical composition. Recurring themes in his songs are governmental impunity, insolence and disregard for the demands of the governed.
In a nutshell, it bears repeating that Elwood, Valsero and Lapiro are anti-establishment songwriters whose lyrics harbour seeds of a revolution. They are both entertainers and social critics. Their danceable lyrics translate messages of hope and despair. The theme that runs through the songs of all three combatant musicians is human rights and freedoms. Their songs have produced a tonic effect on the new generation of young Cameroonians who are prepared to take the future of their country into their own hands by all means necessary. Language is a mighty tool at the disposal of these songwriters. They wield it tactfully. While Elwood has kept his French in a pristine standard form, Valsero and Lapiro have gone with the flow and created an urban slang that not only transposes the speech mannerisms of Cameroonians into the written word but also portrays them as songwriters in search of a new identity.
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* Dr. Vakunta is Professor at the United States Department of Defense LanguagInstitute in Monterey, California. He runs a blog at http://www.vakunta.blogspot.com
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
 My soldier cousin
 Heureusement que j’ai mon cousin militaire,
Heureusement que j’ai mon cousin militaire,
Je serai déjà au cimetière,
Deux mettres sous terre,
Pauvre cadavre, simple squelette
En train de sourire comme tous les squelettes de la terre
Qui n’arrêtent pas de sourire,
Le sourire de la mort
Mort de misère,
Misère des hommes pauvres et macabre.
On m’appelle monsieur galère
On m’appelle tonton misère.
Je vis dans un quartier populaire,
Et nous sommes de vrais prolétaires,
Insuffisance alimentaire, vestimentaire, monétaire.
Et nous sommes de vrais prolétaires,
Nous sommes majoritaires sur cette terre de misère.
Heureusement que j’ai mon cousin militaire (…)
Quand il touche son salaire, il me donne mon argent de bière.
Et moi, je fonce chez ma rombière,
Toute la nuit on s’envole en l’air (…)
Quand il s’en va la-bas ver la guerre,
Moi, je fais des prières
Moi, je fais des paters austères.
Une mauvaise guerre,
Une guerre frontière,
Une guerre incendiaire,
Une guerre meurtrière,
Une guerre suicidaire (…)
 The Wretched of the Earth(1961)
 Germinal (1885)
 Ma vie va changer
Le décret vient de tomber
Mon frère vient d’être nommé à un poste très élevé
La rumeur a circulé partout au quartier
Aujourd’hui, c’est confirmé.
La radio en a parlé, parlé, parlé.
La télé a confirmé (…)
ça y est, ma vie va changer
Je vais enfin respirer
Je vais devoir me comporter
Comme un bao puisque mon frère est en haut.
La souffrance est terminée,
Terminée la marche à pied,
Les pains chargés,
Les taxis surchargés,
Ma vie va changer.
Je serai véhiculé.
J’irai partout dans les sous-quartiers
Me promener dans ma merco climatisée.
Toutes les filles vont tomber sans glisser (…)
Je vais gagner des marchés.
Mon frère est en haut.
Même si je ne peux pas livrer,
Il va quand même me payer
Ma vie va changer.
Au village, on va fêter,
On va bouger
On va boire
On va manger (…)
 Camfranglais is a “composite language consciously developed by secondary school students who have in common a number of linguistic codes, namely French, English and a few widespread indigenous languages (Kouega, 2003: 23-29). Cameroonian youths use this urban slang as a communicative code to exclude other members of the community. They resort to Camfranglais to exchange ideas such as dating, sports, physical looks, and more in a manner that the message would remain coded.
 This country kills its youths
 Government of the thieves, by the thieves, and for the thieves
 Pour 2008 je me parle
Pour 2008 je te parle
J’espère que tu vas bien
Et qu’il t’arrivera des choses bien (…)
Tous ces diplomés qui choment,
Cette génération ne verra pas le fameux bout du tunnel
De toutes les façons je n’y crois pas,
La jeunesse crève à petit feu,
Tandis que les vieux derrière les forteresses
Se saoulent à l’eau de feu.
Ce pays tue les jeunes.
Cinquante ans de pouvoir.
Après ça, ils ne lâchent pas prise
De bled dénature (…)
La vie est trop dure
Le système la rend encore plus dure, plus dure,
Ils le vivent.
A Yaoundé, ils le savent
Ce pays tue les jeunes.
Ce pays est comme une bombe
Pour les jeunes à tombeau.
Faites attention quand ça va péter ça va tuer
Tous les lambeaux.
Alors les vieux, faites de la place.
Il faut pas le flambeau.
Ce pays tue les jeunes.
Les vieux ne lâchent pas la prise
De bled dénature (…)
 Cameroonian turns of phrase.
 Puis-je savoir, Prési, pourquoi pour nous ça ne marche pas
J’ai fait de longues années d’études et j’ai pas trouvé d’emploi
Je te rappelle que t’avais promis qu’on sortirait du tunnel
On y est toujours, ce sont les mêmes qui tiennent la chandelle (…)
Prési, tes potes vivent au bled comme s’ils sont de passage
Ils amassent des fortunes, spécialistes des braquages
Ils font preuve d’arrogance, ils frustrent le peuple
Ils piétinent les règles et ils font ce qu’ils veulent
Ah Prési, arrête ça c’est ça ton travail
Ou inch’Allah, je jure, un autre fera le travail
Le peuple n’en peut plus, les jeunes en ont marre
On veut aussi goûter du miel sinon on te gare (…)
Prési, les jeunes ne rêvent plus
Prési, Prési, les jeunes n’en peuvent plus
La majorité crève
Dans le vice ils basculent et quand le monde avance, nous, au
bled, on recule (…)
Le peuple est souverain il n’a jamais tort,
Il a la force du nombre, il peut te donner tort
On n’a pas peur de la mort, même si tes potes appellent des
flics en renfort
Ils disent de toi que c’est toi “l’homme lion”
Mais ils n’ont qu’un rêve: ils veulent tuer le lion.
 Guitar man
 President of the rank and file
 Au secours!
Venez nous délivrer
L’heure est grave
Les bandits en cols blancs
Veulent braquer la constitution de mon pays
Les fossoyeurs de la république
Veulent mettre les lions en cage (…)
Le coq est harcelé et menacé d’une tentative de holdup (…)
Big Katika don taya’oh!
Répé don slack’oh!
Wuna lep yi yi rest
Répé don fatigué
Yi wan go rest (…)
 Turns of phrase created by Lapiro. Lapiroisms have enabled him to communicate with the underprivileged classes of society in a language that they understand best.
 Verlan is an argot in the French language featuring inversion of syllables in a word, and is common in slang and youth language. It rests on a long French tradition of transposing syllables of individual words to create slang words. The name verlan is an example: it is derived from inverting the syllables in l'envers ("the inverse," pronounced lan-ver).
 Let sleeping dogs lie.
 Envoyez tout le monde à Nkondengui!
Tout le monde à Nkondengui!
Big Katika à Nkondengui!
Tous les ministres à Nkondengui!
Biensûr! Biensûr Biensûr! (…)
Mola, taim weh person get daso one sick
For yi sikin yi get espoir sei da sick fit bolè
But taim weh sick beaucoup
Like how di kondre get’am so
Surtout how weh kan kan traitement à perfusions
Ana traitement de choc noba bolè yi,
Je jure que yi own mandat done shot.
All we we sabi sei taim weh sick noba bolè for l’hôpital
Dem di replier na for kanda sitick
Comment se fait-il que plus we win back
Plus kondre di so so meng daso?
Mombo, avant foua no be been
Jess noh, na manguru ngwété don been
Pourtant banque mondiale ana ala instituts financiers
Dem don trust we ndoh avec majorations de crédit
Remboursable dans cent ans (…)
Dat be sei sep njanga for njanga for we njanga
Dem go come boulot for pay dang ndoh.
Donc, non seuelment we sep we don ton na ninga
We don hypothéquer avenir for we njanga forever and ever (…)
Ignorance avec mépris
Arrogance et insolence for dem kondre pipo (…)
Comme vous pouvez le constater,
Cameroon dong capside…
Yes, mombo, this country no well (…)
• Mon cousin militaire
• Je suis Pygmée
• En haut
• Mon chien Dick Dick Dick
• Akao Manga
• Je t’aimais, je t’aime, t’aimerai
(All recordings are available on YouTube at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5wdZJjMEKMo&feature=related)
Valsero a.k.a Le Général
• Lettre au président
• Ce pays tue les jeunes
• Réponse du président à Valsero
• Valsero répond
• Valsero, ne me parle pas du Cameroun
• Va voter
• Touche pas mon manioc
(All recordings available on YouTube at:
Lapiro de Mbanga
• Constitution constipée
• Lef am so
• Na You
• Kop nie
• Nak pasi
• Mimba wi
• Pas argent pas amour
• Qui n’est rien n’a rien
• Jolie fille
• Mi nding mi be, foua
(All recordings available on YouTube at:
State of the nation, according to Kudzi Chiurai
Charles Nhamo Rupare
Born in 1981 in Zimbabwe, Kudzanai Chiurai is an internationally acclaimed artist now living and working in Johannesburg, South Africa. He was the first black student to graduate with a BA in Fine Art from the University of Pretoria. Highly regarded as a leading voice of his generation, Kudzi has made a name for himself as a thought provoking artist who uses his art to highlight the many fallacies of our continent with specific focus on African leaders and culture. Chiurai’s early work focused on the political, economic and social strife in his homeland and has since evolved to reflect a continental dialogue that puts the state and its people at the centre of progress or the lack thereof. Seminal works like ‘Presidential Wallpaper’ depicted Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe as a sell-out and this led to Chiurai’s exile from Zimbabwe.
Armed with a paint brush and a strong desire for change Kudzi has become somewhat of a legend in the niche world of pan-African urban culture. For someone who has achieved so much in a short space of time with bodies of artwork that speak loudly, his humility, sensitivity and introverted personality are humbling, making for an interesting harmonious contrast between the artist and his work.
His latest presentation titled ‘State of the Nation’ is intended to explore aspects of a constructed African state that bears scars of political and cultural discourses. On a continent that has experienced more violent conflicts than any other, this exhibition follows an individual’s narration of events that lead up to the inaugural speech by the first democratically elected president. The conflict that exists between cultural vistas and postmodern political narratives is evident in Chiurai’s work. Themes range from rituals, genocide memories of Rwanda and the all too familiar propaganda machine of the state to win hearts and minds of the nation. The vivid and curated portrayal of political scenes and the fear it imposes on the general populace is both profound and sad. The political truth of our continent is captured in every line and colour and together the state of all our nations is laid bare.
Melissa Mboweni curated the exhibition in partnership with the Goethe Institute and collaborations with photographer Jurie Potgieter, singers Thandiswa Mazwai and Zaki Ibrahim as well as clever use of technology brought this body of work to life. Chiurai references child and woman soldiers, African liberation movements and civil wars. He tracks the similarities between societal, political and ideological doctrines of nations in tumultuous times of transition with the often-ignored impact these cacophonous changes have on citizens.
The juxtaposing of public and private were highlighted in performances that took place in the streets of Newtown and in the exhibition space that fostered private conversations about the state of our own nation as well as the artist’s work. A sound and technology installation scores the gallery experience. The influence of hip-hop in Kudzi’s own life is evident in his installations.
In a style similar to previous bodies of work such as ‘Dying to be Men’ series and ‘Black President’, Chiurai’s constructed environments are enticing, seductive and explore real casualties of African independence and critically examine the role of state public servants in advancing democracy. This ‘State of the Nation’ exhibition is a timely theme that comes at a time when the continent is grappling with its democratic identity and the role of the state in bringing real freedom and justice to its people.
As an art lover and a follower of Kudzi’s work, I’m hoping his social themes will evolve to depict some of the goodness on our continent and the power of the individual in bringing about change in their own community regardless of the state. Kudzi has the ability, passion and drive to start painting imageries of Africa that shows progress and a people with an undying spirit for survival and entrepreneurship.
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* Charles Nhamo Rupare is of Shona origin and lives life through the creative eye and dreams of Afrika regaining her dignity and her sons and daughters developing the necessary mental freedom to love peace and communal co-existence. He is an award-winning Afrikan-centred brand specialist, percussionist, writer and a Pan-Afrikan thinker. He is chief editor of www.kush.co.za, a co-founder of Kush Kollective and a Partner of TEDx Soweto. He can be reached at [email protected]
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News
Elected vice-president of the AU's ECOSOCC
Mama Koité Doumbia
* Mama Koité Doumbia is présidente of FEMNET/MALI.
Africa: Getting ready for business amidst political uncertainty
One.org is elated by recent dramatic improvements in the business regulatory environment in Sub-Saharan Africa:
‘Complex regulations and high start-up costs can be a major barrier to business growth and development in Africa. However, the World Bank’s 9th Doing Business report, ‘Doing Business in a More Transparent World’ released last week found that ‘over the last year a record number of governments in sub-Saharan Africa changed their economy’s regulatory environment to make it easier for domestic firms to start up and operate.’
‘This is great news and it will hopefully mean that more legitimate businesses will be setting up on the continent –- something that is crucial for long-term poverty reduction in Africa...
‘This year, in sub-Saharan Africa — a region where eight years ago, little attention was paid to the regulatory environment — 78 percent of economies implemented Doing Business reforms, compared to an average of only 56 percent over the last six years. These changes to regulations can be highly beneficial. In Ghana, for example, in 2005, it used take business owners nearly three months to simply register a business. Now, following targeted aid programs and government leadership (which changed and enforced the regulatory process) registration time has been brought down to less than two weeks. The results are dramatic –- new business registrations are up by 87 percent with more than 21,000 new businesses created…
‘More still needs to be done to address these limitations to business growth and the appreciation of environmental and employment standards. But overall, as the Doing Business report shows, progress is being made in the right direction, which is encouraging.’
Next Billion explain why Cameroon and Liberia are classic cases of wasted potential:
‘Earlier this month, two western African countries held presidential elections. On the surface, they have little in common -- one country recently emerged from a brutal civil war and has an abysmal economy; the other has been peaceful for decades and enjoys abundant revenue streams.
And yet both Liberia and Cameroon are classic stories of wasted potential.
‘Since 1982, Cameroon has been ruled by a one-man presidential show, the secretive bureaucrat Paul Biya, 78. Routinely ranked among the most corrupt countries in the world, Cameroon has also achieved a ‘Not Free’ rating from Freedom House's political rights survey, grouping it with such continental all-stars as Somalia, Sudan, Zimbabwe and the DRC.
‘At least Ellen Johnson Sirleaf can blame a civil war for her country's stagnation. Paul Biya has had 30 years to capitalize on Cameroon's many economic and social advantages, with little to show for it. Just consider the following areas where Liberia -- its population, infrastructure, and institutions recently devastated by a 14-year war -- outstrips Cameroon...
‘Too often in Africa, we focus on the wars, the epidemics, the genocidal dictators. But Cameroon has killed its potential the quiet way - through years of mismanagement, corruption and abuse. All the while, Western nations cut aid checks and conduct cheerful business with this most refreshing oasis of political stability.’
The Moor Next Door revisits the death of former Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi which he tries to place in its proper political context:
‘Well meaning human rights groups and writers watched the humiliation of Mu’amar al-Qadhafi with horror. He faced no charges, stood at no trial and was dumped in a shipping container with a bullet in head. Pity he could not have faced a trial before the Libyan people or some international authority rather than being ripped up and executed in the street. Your blogger feels this was fitting enough: Qadhafi allowed his own enemies nothing much better. It is reasonable to worry that this might set a precedent for more such revenge killings for his supporters, that this might inspire (or validate) a tendency toward arbitrary mob ‘justice’ in the new Libya. It also the case that in the course of the war there was much of this sort of revenge killing on the fly. Those and the ones which may happen now and in the future are quite significant. Qadhafi’s death itself is emotionally satisfying but politically somewhat beside the point. The ‘tide’ had turned in Libya no later than the capture of Tripoli; building institutions (which it is now commonplace to say Qadhafi left none) and monopolizing the use of force is paramount now. As Paul Pillar notes, Qadhafi was not Napoleon and his elimination does not alter things for the new authorities in Libya any more than the capture of Saddam Hussein did for Americans in Iraq…
‘It would be fantastic for Libya’s new authorities to live up to liberal standards of the rule of law and transitional justice. They may well do so, if imperfectly… There will be messy incidents in transitional Libya.’
Asmarino Independent argues that political divisions within the Eritrean opposition have helped keep President Isaias Afewerki in power:
‘Death, torture, imprisonment has become the norm for Eritreans both inside and outside the country. The country is undergoing a process of silent extinction unless something immediate is done to deter this unfolding scenario. Young Eritreans are seeking refugee into neighboring countries of Ethiopia and Sudan in their hundreds on a daily bases. In an attempt to escape the harsh realities on those refugee camps many of the them attempt to go to Israel and end up in another nightmare, this time in the Sinai desert. They get tortured and killed by the Bedouins, unless ransom money is paid that amounts to 20,000 US dollars, their organs stolen and vanish in the wilderness.
Amid these catastrophic realities Eritreans by and large are passively witnessing, while these tragedy is unfolding in front of their eyes. Many outsiders ask, what is behind the silence of Eritreans, why have we failed this far, who could salvage the country from its ultimate disaster? And how long are we prepared to tolerate the intolerable condition?
The division and counter division in the opposition block has been the main reason that kept the dictator to stay in power without sound opposition. Therefore, first and foremost we need to understand our current state of affairs in terms of our political affiliations, who supports whom and why? These are crucial questions that need to be answered, if the struggle is to succeed in the shortest possible time frame.”
African Arguments’ Richard Dowden argues that the appropriate state model for Somalia is the Swiss model:
“The model for Somalia is Switzerland. Don’t laugh! Political power in Switzerland lies in the cantons – the 26 proud self-governing communities. The state, such as it is, deals with international matters and national law. Who cares – or even knows – who the president of Switzerland is. The way people live and are governed is decided locally. The Swiss confederation means that cantons have joined the state willingly and can leave if they want to. If they were a simple federation, they could not...
Somalia’s civil war began in the 1980s between clans in a winner takes all battle for total national power. The former British-ruled north west territory, Somaliland, declared independence. The north east, Puntland, also declared itself self governing until a proper government was restored. The centre, Galmudug, is also self governing. The war continues as a battle for Mogadishu, the capital and for the ports and fertile river valleys of the south. It has cost hundreds of thousands of lives... Although alliances have shifted, no formula has been devised that can bring peace at a national level...
The UN now talks glibly about restoring the Somali state and holding elections. This is the way to continue the war, not end it. Political parties in Somalia are little more than a cover for clans so an election simply elevates one clan over the others. Allow the government in Mogadishu to run the city and port, perhaps the Benadir region, but no further. Negotiations should then take place region by region about the relationship between them and the capital, leaving power in local – not national – hands.”
Congo Siasa believes that the deployment of US troops to Uganda to fight the LRA pay yield dividends as long as the US doesn’t repeat the errors of the Museveni regime:
‘US soldiers on the ground could help to provide some transparency in the LRA operations and perhaps a rapprochement between the Ugandans and the Congolese. Supplied with sophisticated communication technology US troops should be able to provide real time intelligence on the movements of LRA groups as well as the behavior of the Congolese and Ugandan soldiers. But claims that the US troops will help quickly finish the job the Ugandans started 23 years ago are most likely a serious exaggeration. Contrary to commonly held views of the LRA as a group of rag-tag bandits, Kony’s men are well-trained, disciplined and capable of enduring extreme hardships while covering large swathes of inhospitable territory.
While US engagement is welcome as it brings much needed attention to a largely neglected conflict, the current approach might need rethinking. In its existing form, the US has comprehensively adopted the unsuccessful Ugandan policy of all-out war without appearing to question its merits or fully appreciating potential repercussions…
History has shown that a focus on a military solution alone has done little to end the LRA war, while simultaneously increasing violence to civilians, a strategy preferred by LRA commanders when feeling cornered. Rather than focusing exclusively on advising Ugandan soldiers how to capture or kill Kony, the US troops should help devise and carry out better strategies to protect civilians and encourage LRA fighters to leave the ranks.”
Rwandankunda is wary of suggestions that the remaining cases at the International Tribunal on Rwanda be transferred to Rwanda:
“As the Arusha-based International Tribunal on Rwanda’s mandate nears completion, Paul Kagame has been relentlessly lobbying for the remaining cases (and the suspects) to be transferred back home. According to the regime, this would give more meaning to accountability as the perpetrators are tried where the crimes were committed. Furthermore, the regime argues, the victims will get to witness and participate in the trials, which will help curb impunity. In principle, Rwanda’s requests are reasonable. However, the regime’s contempt for human rights and the rule of law begs the fundamental question of whether the suspects would be accorded proper justice.
The justice minister, Tharacisse Karugarama, has spoken often of judicial reform. However, for all the rhetoric, many are still rightly skeptical of Rwanda’s ability to hold free and fair trials, more so if the cases at hand involve opponents of the ruling regime. Politics and law seem too closely convoluted in sinister ways that leave human rights defenders uncomfortable. Yet, despite the concerns that have been raised, we are told that the United States supports the transfer of the cases to Rwanda. Such a move on the part of the US is rather misguided... Perhaps the US has wrongly believed that the reforms were carried out. The reality on the ground shows otherwise.”
Scribbles from the Den publishes an uncompromising analysis of the Cameroon Presidential election by Robert Jackson, the US ambassador to Cameroon:
“In looking at the election, rather than blaming the Government, ELECAM, the Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement (CPDM), other political parties, and international actors for the irregularities, low turnout and voters’ lack of understanding of the actual voting process, one needs to look at what happened before the campaign ever began. One needs to examine the root causes of apathy, abstention and division. I submit to you that some Cameroonian civil society organizations are as guilty of blurring the line between civil society and opposition as the CPDM is of blurring the line between the party and Government.
It is clear that by being divided, the opposition severely hindered its chances of success. It did not join together to support a single, strong candidate. We all know that Cameroonian civil society and Cameroonian political parties, including the 200 or more opposition parties, are divided… Having thousands of small civil-society organizations and over 250 political parties -- in any society -- plays into the interests of the ruling party, dividing the people against themselves… This abundance of organizations and parties actually undercuts democratic principles because the entities do not represent people but isolated individuals or small groups. It is not democratic; it is persono-cratic, even ego-cratic, and erratic. As long as the opposition presents 22 candidates, one must ask if it -- and they -- are serious. Belatedly, some opposition parties are now talking about a common front. Shouldn’t they have done that months ago?”
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* Dibussi Tande blogs at Scribbles from the Den.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Global: Africa Today interview with Gerald Horne
In this interview, Africa Today's Walter Turner speaks with Gerald Horne on his life's work, his writings, and African Americans in the contemporary period.
Zimbabwe: MDC-T, MDC-N and ZANU PF to meet over violence
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has told journalists that the national executives of all three political parties in the inclusive government will meet to discuss the worsening political violence in the country. ZANU PF Central Committee members and their counterparts from the national executive councils of the MDC-T and MDC-N are expected to attend. The meeting follows the violent disturbances witnessed when members of the notorious ZANU PF Chipangano gang attacked MDC-T supporters preparing for a rally at Chibuku Stadium in Chitungwiza.
Mozambique: The ARPM process, then and now
The report tracks Mozambique’s progress since it acceded to the APRM process in March 2003 up to when it was eventually peer reviewed in June 2009. The authors urge the government of Mozambique to show political will and act upon the pronouncements made in their National Programme of Action document to ensure that governance is strengthened and democracy is deepened, by addressing corruption, and promoting plural participation in public institutions and processes as well as reducing over dependency on foreign aid.
Africa: African women’s organising for the ratification and implementation of the Maputo Protocol
The Maputo Protocol is a ground-breaking women’s rights legal instrument that expands and reinforces the rights provided in other human rights instruments. The Protocol provides a broad range of economic and social welfare rights for women. Importantly it was produced by Africans and pays attention to the concerns of African women. AWID interviewed Faiza Jama Mohamed, director of Equality Now about the Solidarity for African Women's Rights (SOAWR) campaign for the ratification and implementation of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women also known as the Maputo Protocol or the African Women’s Protocol.
Global: Controlling technology to end violence against women
Take Back The Tech! is a collaborative campaign that takes place during the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence (25 Nov - 10 Dec). It is a call to everyone - especially women and girls - to take control of technology to end violence against women. Visit the Take Back The Tech! website to find out more.
Global: Some gender gaps for world’s women closing but chasms remain, says report
Many of the world’s women are moving closer to gender equality, but substantial gaps remain between men and women in health, education and, particularly, political and economic participation in a number of countries, including some of the most developed, according to a new global report. Measuring against 2010 rankings, for example, the Sixth Annual World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2011 found that New Zealand, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka and the United Kingdom showed slight declines in their overall gender equality rankings, while Brazil, Ethiopia, Qatar, Tanzania and Turkey posted gains.
Kenya: The representation of women at public universities
The findings of this study published by the Organisation for Social Science Research in Eastern and Southern Africa (OSSREA) revealed that there has been a steady increase in overall student enrolment from the academic years 2000/2001 to 2006/2007 in selected universities. There was variation in female student enrolment during this period, but in all cases it was below 50 per cent. Data regarding student enrolment in the various faculties/schools by gender from Kenyatta and Egerton universities revealed that female students were concentrated in the humanities and social sciences. Women academic staff were found to be underrepresented in the universities. Women staff were found to be missing from the senior university management positions.
Burundi: Rumoured hit list frightens opposition
Many teachers in the eastern Burundian provinces of Ruyigi and Cankuzo have fled their homes, fearing for their lives. Rumour has it that a plan, codenamed ‘Safisha’ and allegedly being carried out by the ruling CNDD-FDD party, aims to eliminate all opposition members. In the local dialect, ‘safisha’ means ‘to cleanse’.
CAR: Country no 'no rights black hole', says government
The Central African Republic has hit out at an Amnesty International report that deemed the country a human rights 'black hole', saying much had been done to protect its citizens. The government spokesperson said it was 'extreme' to maintain, as AI did last month, that a justice vacuum in CAR was preventing an end to human rights violations.
Gambia: Rights group urges Gambia to free two activists
A global human rights body, ‘Front Line’, has urged the Gambian authorities to 'immediately drop all charges' against Dr Isatou Touray and Amie Bojang, two leading rights activists. Dr. Touray and Bojang, Director and Programme Coordinator respectively of The Gambia Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children (GAMCOTRAP), are facing charges of 'theft' which they continue to deny. In a statement obtained by PANA, Front Line said the duo’s 'continued prosecution is solely motivated by their legitimate and peaceful work in defence of human rights'.
Nigeria: 10 extra-judicial killings per week
Nigeria records 10 extra-judicial killings per week, and 95 per cent of such killings are unresolved, the local media quoted the non-governmental organisation Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP) as saying. LEDAP also said about 2,800 unlawful killings are recorded annually in Nigeria, with most of the killings carried out by criminal gangs. 'About 16 per cent are done by state agents and most of them are not resolved and perpetrators punished,' LEDAP National Coordinator Chino Obiagwu was quoted as saying.
Nigeria: Amnesty urges Shell to pay for Nigeria spills
Amnesty International has called on Shell to pay $1bn to start cleaning up two oil spills in Nigeria's Niger Delta which it says caused huge suffering to locals whose fisheries and farmland were poisoned. The report by the human rights group to mark the 16th anniversary of the execution of environmental activist Ken Saro Wiwa by Nigerian authorities said the two spills in 2008 in Bodo, Ogoniland, had wrecked the livelihoods of 69,000 people.
South Africa: SA justice minister calls for investigation into Zim rendition reports
South Africa’s Justice Minister has called for an investigation into reports that the country’s priority crimes unit and the police are involved in an illegal ‘renditions’ deal with Zimbabwe. Minister Jeff Radebe is reportedly on a 'collision course' with his colleague, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa, after demanding answers over the report. Radebe told South Africa’s Sunday Times newspaper that the rendition claims were 'very worrying', especially considering the allegations 'were levelled not only against organs of state, but one that is responsible for law enforcement and security.'
Zimbabwe: Amnesty highlights Murambatsvina
The 50th African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights ended recently in Banjul, Gambia with Amnesty International voicing its concern over the continuing struggle that victims of Operation Murambatsvina face. AI said it was concerned about the failure of the government to provide effective solutions to the problems faced by those who were forcibly evicted from their homes in 2005. A few of the victims were allocated incomplete housing structures or un-serviced plots of land under the government’s re-housing programme, known as Operation Garikai.The majority of the victims were forcibly settled in rural areas while those who remained in urban areas moved into existing housing set ups, leading to overcrowding.
Global: Governments must plan for migration in response to climate change, researchers say
If global temperatures increase by only a few of degrees by 2100, as predicted by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, people around the world will be forced to migrate. A consortium of 12 scientists from around the world gathered last year at the Rockefeller Foundation's Bellagio Center to review 50 years of research related to population resettlement following natural disasters or the installation of infrastructure development projects such as dams and pipelines. The group determined that resettlement efforts in the past have left communities in ruin, and that policy makers need to use lessons from the past to protect people who are forced to relocate because of climate change.
Global: Protecting Sahrawis and Palestinians displaced by the 2011 Libyan uprising
At the outbreak of the Libyan conflict, it was estimated that over 900 Sahrawi children and youth, 100 Palestinian students, and up to 70,000 Palestinian migrant workers were based in Libya. Their presence in Libya, and both the challenges they have faced since February 2011 and the nature of international
responses to these challenges, highlight a range of issues, which this paper, produced by the UN Refugee Agency, explores.
South Africa: Refugees 'barred' from schooling
Many refugee Somali parents are not sending their children to South Africa's public schools because they are intimidated by the official processes required to get their children into school and because of the discrimination foreign pupils frequently experienced there. Abdulkadir Khaleif, a representative of the Somali Association of South Africa in the Western Cape, told the Mail & Guardian that the documents schools required before admitting Somali children had often 'been lost because of the war' back home. He was one of about 80 participants at a two-day workshop in Cape Town held by the University of Johannesburg's Centre for Education Rights and Transformation.
South Africa: Refugees still fear for their lives
Nearly three years after the xenophobic violence in South African townships, some foreigners are still living in what was meant to be temporary shelters because they are afraid of going back to their former communities. Two groups of refugees - one near the De Deur police station in Orange Farm, south of Johannesburg, and the other at the Rural Institute for Education and Training (Riet) family guidance centre in Randfontein - seem to have slipped through the cracks. The Gauteng department of social development said all camps it was responsible for had been closed down.
Zimbabwe: Deportees tell of harsh life in South Africa
About 1,841 Zimbabweans who were living in South Africa illegally had last week trickled back into the country as the first batch of those deported arrived. Most of the deported Zimbabweans spoke out about their chilling experience at the hands of South Africans. 'Life in South Africa is very difficult for foreign nationals. Every day I was constantly reminded that I was a foreigner and most of the South Africans call us makwerekwere, a derogatory term used to mock foreigners,' said Alson Mhiri, a deportee.
Latest edition: emerging powers news roundup
1. China in Africa
CDB grants $1.5 million to African project
China Development Bank (CDB), one of the country's three policy banks, signed an agreement with the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) Saturday, granting the school $1.5 million to further develop its African project in Ghana. "China has invested in Africa in a variety of fields, and its investment has been welcomed by African people and local companies," said CEIBS President Pedro Nueno.
China Dev Bank looking for investors in its Africa fund: official
China Development Bank (CDB) , a government lender in financing key overseas investment projects, is looking for new fund contributors to its African investment fund, the bank's chief economist said on Saturday. Wang Yuan said the China-Africa Development Fund has fully invested the initial batch of $1 billion, which was contributed solely by CDB. "The Chinese government hopes that the fund will be expanded, and CDB is currently the sole owner of the fund. But we really hope that other institutions will join the fund for equity investments (in Africa)," Wang told reporters.
Media tour boosts China-Africa links
A group of Chinese business journalists are currently touring Africa to investigate investment opportunities, share lessons from existing Chinese businesses on the continent and strengthen the sense of mutual understanding between African and Asian cultures. Brand South Africa is hosting the group during its final leg of the tour, following visits to Ethiopia, Chad, Algeria, Zambia and Kenya.
AfrAsia Bank opens initiative to boost China-Africa trade relations
AfrAsia Bank Thursday launched a current accounts set to expand China-Africa business and trade relations. The bank's South Africa chief representative said the account provides clients with the ability to freely conduct foreign exchange transactions involving Renminbi (RMB) and to make trade related payments directly to China.
Nigeria, China Bilateral Trade Hits $13.3bn
The Nigeria, Chinese bilateral trade relations has hit about $13.3 billion dollars since February, 2011. It is predicted that business between the two countries would continue to grow by over 15 per cent in the coming years. This was disclosed on Wednesday by the National Coordinator and Chief Executive Officer, the Nigeria, China Business Council and Africa, Chief Matthew Uwakwe at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos.
China-Africa Development Fund Opens West African Office in Ghana
The China-Africa Development Fund, which has $5 billion available to invest in Africa, opened its West African office in Ghana today as the Asian nation seeks to boost ties on the continent. The office in Ghana’s capital, Accra, is the fourth regional site in Africa, with locations in South Africa, Ethiopia and Zambia, said country director Chu Shuntang.
If a Chinese national commits a crime, punish him, says envoy
AFTER days of phone calls of accusations and counter-accusations, the Chinese Government has finally broken its silence on its relationship with Zambia, declaring that they are “here to stay in harmony.” The biggest consumer of Zambia’s main export copper also warned “erring” Chinese companies that it would “sternly” deal with them if they “flouted” Zambian laws and abused workers but also called for a stop to “unsubstantiated” accusations against its nationals. The message was carried by the country’s ambassador to Zambia Zhou Yuxiao when he visited the Daily Mail in Lusaka yesterday on a courtesy call.
China denies abuses in Zambian mines
China on Friday denied abusing workers in Zambian copper mines, after a Human Rights Watch report accused Chinese firms of flouting health and safety laws while demanding up to 18 hours of labour a day. "Regrettably, the relevant contents of the report is not faithful to the truth," the Chinese embassy in Lusaka said in a statement. Four Chinese-run copper mines in Zambia are units of the state-owned China Non-Ferrous Metals Mining Corporation, under the authority of China's highest executive body.
Chinese labour abuse true – Human Rights Watch
HUMAN Rights Watch has insisted that its report documenting various labour abuses by Chinese-run mines operating in Zambia is accurate and it has since reiterated that the Chinese government and management of the four mines highlighted in the report should take appropriate measures based on the findings of the report.
2. India in Africa
India, African regional blocs discuss training institutes, projects
Building upon key commitments of its second summit with Africa, India Tuesday discussed the location of training institutes and developmental cooperation with chiefs of leading Regional Economic Communities (RECs). The heads of RECs, known as building blocks of Africa, began their four-day visit here Monday. They met Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur and discussed the entire gamut of India-Africa relationship and steps to take forward key decisions of the second Africa-India Forum Summit in Addis Ababa held in May.
India beats China to top trading spot with Kenya
India has reclaimed its position as the second largest exporter of goods to Kenya, signalling that it is gaining momentum in the race with China for control of Africa’s fast-growing consumer markets. The value of India’s exports to Kenya rose to Sh97.6 billion or 18.7 per cent of Kenya’s total imports in the first eight months of the year compared to China’s Sh87.2 billion or 16.7 per cent of imports, according to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS). India has been Kenya’s second largest source of imports for much of the past decade but lost the position to China last year after Beijing deepened its presence in East Africa with mega infrastructure development projects.
India's Tata Chemicals eyes more Africa investments
Tata Chemicals, part of India's second-largest business group, is eyeing investment opportunities in steel, hotel and manufacturing in Africa to grow its footprint on the continent, a senior executive said on Thursday. In addition to Tata Chemicals' investment in Kenya, where it bought Africa's biggest soda ash producer, Tata Group has invested over $100 million across the continent, including in
Ghana, South Africa, Nigeria and Mozambique among others.
Africa can offer huge gains to Indian ICT industry: Expert
Africa, which is no more a dark continent, offers huge potential for the Indian Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector as governments of different countries have been vigorously driving towards ICT adoption, an expert today said.
3. In Other Emerging Powers News
Brazil’s key role in solving Tanzanian power shortage
Brazilian diversified business giant Odebrecht Company Limited ‒ with top global businesses and operations across a wide variety of industries ‒ has shown interest in undertaking the huge Stiegler's Gorge power project in Tanzania’s Rufiji river basin. This was revealed here by the director-general of the Rufiji Basin Development Authority (Rubada) Aloyce Masanja. He told a group of journalists that a team of experts from the company had visited Tanzania in August this year to assess the project, and had concluded that it was viable and easy to implement. The project has the potential to produce 2,100MW of power.
Brazil eyes strategic partnership with Africa
President Dilma Rousseff is expected to follow her predecessor in boosting Brazil's ties with Africa, a resource-rich continent seen as the last frontier for world capitalism, analysts say. Last month, Rousseff made her first trip to the African continent since taking office in January, visiting South Africa, Mozambique and oil-rich Angola.
SA, DRC to sign new ‘Grand Inga’ agreement
South African President Jacob Zuma and his Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) counterpart Joseph Kabila will preside over the signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) relating to the so-called ‘Grand Inga’ hydropower project this weekend. South Africa’s Presidency said in a statement that the MoU, which would be signed on November 12 by the energy ministers of the two countries, could open the way for the crafting of a formal treaty. Such a treaty was expected to create the framework for the implementation of the much-anticipated project and would include defined project-execution milestones.
SA rejects Turkey free trade deal to protect textiles, clothing
THE fragile state of SA’s clothing and textile industry was one of the reasons that informed the Cabinet’s decision to reject Turkey’s proposal for a free trade agreement, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said yesterday. Thousands of jobs have been lost in the past decade in the clothing and textile industries due to competition from Asia, in particular China. "Turkey is, after China, a major producer and manufacturer of clothing and textiles and we wanted to protect our industries, hence the decision we took," Mr Davies said.
4. Blogs, Opinions, Presentations and Publications
Bharti Airtel: betting bigger in Africa
Airtel, India’s largest and the world’s fifth largest mobile phone operator, has its eyes firmly trained on Africa where it has bumped its investment up by some $491m – that’s 586 per cent – over the past year. The company’s African division has yet to turn a profit but the Indian telecoms giant is clearly placing a large bet on a bright future in a continent where mobile phone use is booming and competition is heating up.
Africa: Global NATO seeks to recruit 50 new military partners
A recent article in Kenya’s Africa Review cited sources in the African Union (AU) disclosing that the 28-member North Atlantic Treaty Organisation is preparing to sign a military partnership treaty with the 53-nation AU. The author of the article, relaying comments from AU officials in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia where the AU has its headquarters, wrote that although 'the stated aim is to counter global security threats and specifically threats against Africa, some observers read the pact as aiming to counter Chinese expansion in Africa'.
Lesotho: 30 African nations gather for war games conference
Defense representatives from more than 30 African nations joined together in Maseru, Lesotho, 7-11 November to participate in the initial planning conference for next year's Africa Endeavor. Africa Endeavor is an annual US Africa Command-sponsored communications exercise focused on building interoperability and information sharing among African nations.
Burundi: Six fired for poor performance
Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza has sacked six ministers from his cabinet for poor performance, his spokesman said. When he was sworn in for his five-year second term, President Nkurunziza said that each government official will report on tasks accomplished every six months, adding that those who failed to do so would be fired.
Equatorial Guinea: An overview of the government's efforts to reform the constitution
Equatoguinean president Teodoro Obiang has proposed several changes to the constitution of Equatorial Guinea, including establishing a limit of two terms of seven years on the presidency, creating the office of vice-president, adding a second chamber to parliament, and creating a 'Court of Auditors' to oversee government programs, contracts and expenditures. This post lists the proposed changes.
Equatorial Guinea: Equatorial Guineans vote in constitutional referendum
Equatorial Guineans voted Sunday in a referendum on a new constitution that would limit presidential terms to two and strengthen the small oil state's democracy. The opposition has branded the vote a 'masquerade' because the text does not make clear whether President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, Africa's longest-serving leader, will have to step down when his term ends in 2016. Obiang, who currently chairs the African Union, is on an offensive to win himself a clean bill of health on the international scene and reverse his country's reputation as one of Africa's most corrupt and autocratic.
Gabon: Court sends Gabon to the polls as planned
Gabon's constitutional court has ruled that parliamentary elections will take place on 17 December as planned, despite opposition demands for a delay in the poll to introduce biometric voters cards, officials said. Gabon's opposition has been campaigning for months to delay the elections in order to introduce the biometric system, which has been implemented in many countries for digital chips in passports and electoral cards, using individual biological data such as fingerprints or eye retina scans to combat fraud.
Gambia: Opposition parties name unity candidate
Four opposition parties in the Gambia have coalesced and named Mr Hamat Bah as their presidential candidate for elections set for later this month. The coalition candidate is the standard bearer of the National Reconciliation Party, a long-time challenger to President Yahya Jammeh, who came to power through a military coup in 1994 and is hoping to remain in power for life.
Global: UN peacekeeping electoral assistance map
This map shows where UN Peacekeeping is currently assisting with elections and where they have recently assisted.
Liberia: Opposition leader demands a fresh run-off
Liberia’s main opposition leader has rescinded his decision to work with the newly-elected government of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and called for a rerun of the runoff. Mr. Winton Tubman told a press conference in Monrovia on Saturday evening that his party refuses to recognise the results of the second round polls which he described as a 'political masquerade'. The surprise declaration comes barely two days after he pledged to work with the newly-elected government of President Sirleaf 'in the interest of national unity'.
Madagascar: New premier takes office
Malagasy's new Prime Minister Jean Omer Beriziky has been sworn in at a ceremony in the capital, Antananarivo. Mr Beriziky was chosen by the Indian Ocean island nation’s four main political parties through consensus.
South Africa: Beware the young lions, warns Tokyo
Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale has warned the ANC leadership not to underestimate the power and influence of the youth wing president Julius Malema and his executive. Sexwale, who testified for Malema during the disciplinary hearings into his conduct, was speaking at a gala dinner in Eastern Cape organised by the Dr AB Xuma Foundation. In what appeared to be a thinly veiled attack on President Jacob Zuma, Sexwale warned that no one was guaranteed re-election to a party position, the Times reported. The ANC's national disciplinary committee announced last week that Malema had to vacate his position as youth league leader after an effective suspension of five years.
Sudan: 'Leader of southern political party arrested'
The government of South Sudan has arrested the Chairman of the United Democratic Forum (UDF), Mr. Peter Abdurrahman Chule, whom it accused of attempting to recruit youths for a rebellion against the government in Juba. Radio Miraya, a UN-funded radio reporting from Juba, capital of South Sudan, reported that Mr Chule was arrested last week at his hideout in Western Equatoria State. Ironically, Mr Chule was one of the most ardent advocates for separation before independence in 2011, and was even against the moderate line of giving unity and separation equal chances as stipulated by the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).
Tanzania: Opposition chief surrenders to police after demo
A Tanzanian opposition leader surrendered to police Wednesday (09 November) after leading a protest calling for the release of one its members and the resignation of President Jakaya Kikwete. Freeman Mbowe, who heads the CHADEMA party, and scores of supporters staged a demonstration Monday in the country's northern town of Arusha demanding the release of one of its officials and that Kikwete steps down. The party accuses the president of using security forces to disrupt its activities.
Southern Africa: SADC protocol against corruption idles
The ninth Southern African Forum Against Corruption (Safac) annual general meeting which took place in Windhoek made an urgent call on SADC members to implement the SADC Protocol Against Corruption. Safac chair Dr Edward Hoseah blamed the non-functioning SADC Committee on Corruption (SACC) for the delay in the implementation of the protocol at the opening of the event. 'The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol Against Corruption and its implementation is our litmus test for effective measures in our region. The willingness of our political masters to heighten and fast-track the implementation of the SADC Protocol is extremely fundamental to manage our citizens’ expectations,' he stressed.
Global: 'Debtocracy', seeking the causes of the debt crisis
'Debtocracy' is a 2011 documentary film by Katerina Kitidi and Aris Hatzistefanou. The documentary mainly focuses on two points: the causes of the Greek debt crisis in 2010 and possible future solutions that could be given to the problem that are not currently being considered by the government of the country. The makers resorted to crowd-funding and collected 8,000 euros in just 10 days.
Global: Economic, political paralysis threatens Italy
The situation in Italy has become critical as investors lose faith in the eurozone's third-largest economy and charge more to lend it money, says this Associated Press article. 'Italy is too big to be bailed out like Greece, Ireland and Portugal were. A default on its euro1.9 trillion ($2.6 trillion) in debt would threaten the euro and the global financial system with collapse.'
Global: IMF chief warns of a 'lost decade' for global economy
The head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, has warned that the global economy is at risk of being plunged into a 'lost decade'. Lagarde said the ongoing debt crisis in Europe has resulted in an uncertain outlook for the global economy. The IMF chief added that whilst efforts to solve the crisis were heading in the right direction, more needed to be done to restore confidence.
Global: The debtors revolution
Are debt strikes, the next logical step in the fight against Big Finance's domination of the 99 percent? asks this article from www.alternet.org 'One of the fascinating things about the media dominance of Occupy Wall Street has been how the conversation has shifted away from the deficit-obsession of the last few years. Suddenly the debt that everyone is talking about is personal, individual debt - student loans, mortgages, credit cards and other ways the big banks control our lives.'
Nigeria: Main opposition party rejects planned fuel subsidy removal
As the controversy over the plan by the Nigerian government to remove fuel subsidy deepens, the main opposition Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) rejected the plan. In a statement issued in Lagos and obtained by PANA, ACN called the proposal to withdraw fuel subsidy 'the handiwork of those propelled by the philosophy of the 'Washington Consensus' of rolling back the frontiers of the state.' Under the plan announced by the government, the price of a litre of fuel will go up from 65 naira (4 US cents) to as high as 150 naira (about US$1) from next year.
Africa: Focus on human experimentation in Africa by drug companies
A new policy brief faults prominent institutions and drug companies like Pfizer, Columbia University, Johns Hopkins University, and Population Council, for their involvement in unethical and illegal human experimentation in Africa. The report is titled 'Non-Consensual Research in Africa: The Outsourcing of Tuskegee' in reference to the illegal human experiment conducted in Tuskegee, Alabama, between 1932 and 1972 by the US Public Health Service. In that experiment, some 600 impoverished African-American men were observed in a study on the progression of untreated syphilis. Some of the men were intentionally infected with the disease and all of them were denied the cure.
Kenya: Abortion debate heats up
Some 21,000 Kenyan women are hospitalised every year because of complications from unsafe abortions. According to Kenya’s Obstetrical and Gynaecological Society, 2,600 die from procedures carried out by untrained 'professionals' in back alleys and people’s homes, well away from proper health facilities where women can be reported to the police and jailed for up to 14 years if convicted of terminating a pregnancy.
South Africa: Wits scientists working towards neutralising HIV
South African scientists are at the coalface of understanding whether HIV can be eradicated from an HIV-positive individual, essentially curing the person. A complex field of study, Professor Caroline Tiemessen is attempting to understand why some individuals – referred to as elite controllers – are able to be HIV infected, but successfully suppress virus replication to undetectable levels. This is achieved in the absence of antiretroviral treatment and the immune system response is maintained at an optimal level for many years.
Kenya: More varsities set to close as strike enters sixth day
The strike by lecturers in public universities enters its sixth day Monday with a possibility of more institutions shutting down. At the weekend, students at Chepkoilel University College in Eldoret were sent home indefinitely. The constituent college of Moi University followed Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology in Kakamega and Egerton University in Nakuru in shutting down after lecturers and non-teaching staff downed their tools to demand increased salaries.
Malawi: Main university college to finally re-open
The University Council has announced that Chancellor College, the main constituent college of the University of Malawi, at the centre of a protracted academic freedom wrangle, will be finally re-opened 14 November. Zomba-based Chancellor College has been in a lock-down since 16 February when lecturers started protesting Inspector General of Police Peter Mukhito's summoning of associate political science professor Blessings Chinsinga on 12 February, to quiz him over a classroom example he gave his public policy class. The youthful lecturer had reportedly likened the insurrections that toppled governments in Tunisia and Egypt to Malawi's current fuel and foreign exchange reserves shortages.
Zimbabwe: Thousands of girls forced out of education
Poverty, abuse and cultural practices are preventing a third of Zimbabwean girls from attending primary school and 67 per cent from attending secondary school, denying them a basic education, according to a recent study which found alarming dropout rates for girls. 'Sexual harassment and abuse by even school teachers and parents, cultural issues, lack of school fees, early marriage, parental commitments and early pregnancies are some of the contributing factors to the dropout by the girl child,' said the authors of 'Because I am a Girl' by Plan International, a nonprofit organisation that works to alleviate child poverty.
Global: Mixed news for LGBTI persons from CHOGM meetings
While the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Australia included no commitment to oppose homophobic persecution and to protect the human rights of LGBTI persons, Commonwealth of Nations Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma did speak out against homophobic persecution. In addition, the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) will be empowered to deal with serious or persistent human rights violations by member states, which could include action against countries that perpetrate homophobic persecution.
Uganda: 30-year sentence in Kato murder case
A Ugandan court on Thursday 10 November sentenced the man suspected to have murdered a gay rights activist in January this year, to 30 years in prison. The 30 year sentence was passed by Justice Joseph Mulangira after the man admitted to have murdered David Kato 46, on 26 January 2011. This verdict was passed based on the evidence produced in court by the lead state prosecutor, Ms. Loe Karungi.
South Africa: Russell Tribunal calls for Israeli sanctions
After sitting in Cape Town at the weekend, where it heard evidence from a range of witnesses, the Russell Tribunal on Palestine declared that Israel was guilty of practising apartheid and called for it to be isolated. The tribunal called on world governments to institute sanctions against it and break off diplomatic ties.
Congo: Reforestation programme launched
Congo's President Denis Sassou Nguesso has launched the national afforestation and reforestation programme (PRONAR) that will cover one million hectares over 10 years. President Nguesso launched the programme on Sunday in Yie, some 60km north of Brazzaville, the nation's capital.
The programme, to be financed by the government and the private sector, aims at reducing human pressure exerted on natural forests by reducing deforestation and soil degradation.
Nigeria: Oil thefts, subsidies and the cost of crude
With reference to the fuel subsidy debate in Nigeria, where government plans to scrap fuel subsidies, resulting in a substantial increase in the price of fuel, Nnimmo Bassey argues in The Guardian of Nigeria that the real debate should be on the true cost of crude oil. 'And this is not just about how much is currently spent in refining a litre of petrol in a Nigerian refinery or whether we can justify any plan to raise the pump price of a litre of petrol to N144 or more. The true cost of oil must include the environmental costs that have been externalised and dumped on the poor communities of the Niger Delta.'
Global: Barza, the online community of radio broadcasters
Barza, the online community for radio broadcasters has been launched. The site wants to make available to rural radio broadcasters useful resources like radio scripts, audio clips and advice from peers with the click of a mouse. Through the online community, it aims to increase the extent to which rural radio helps African small-scale farmers meet their food security, farming and livelihood goals.
Tanzania: The forgotten villages
Land reform in Tanzania
Tanzania's 1999 land reform has decentralised land administration to the rural local village governments, but implementation so far has been slow and uneven. The local authorities rarely get the support they need to make it work. As a consequence, the benefits promised by the reform - economic growth and improved tenure security - do not happen. There has already been an abundance of donor driven projects to implement the reform, but they have been short-sighted and have tended to forget the local authorities that carry out the actual implementation. Much could be achieved if higher level authorities and NGOs systematically strengthened the village authorities and enabled them to deliver their services.
Tanzania: UK firm's failed biofuel dream wrecks lives
'People feel this is like the return of colonialism,' says Athumani Mkambala, chairman of Mhaga village in rural Tanzania. 'Colonialism in the form of investment.' A quarter of the village's land in Kisarawe district was acquired by a British biofuels company in 2008, with the promise of financial compensation, 700 jobs, water wells, improved schools, health clinics and roads. But the company has gone bust, leaving villagers not just jobless but landless as well. The same story is playing out across Africa, as foreign investors buy up land but leave some of the poorest people on Earth worse off when their plans fail.
Global: Clooney coffee ad gets spoofed
George Clooney gets clobbered in an activist takedown of his advertisements for Nescafe’s Nespresso brand, reports www.afronline.org 'The advertisement – featuring a Clooney lookalike – is aimed at getting Nescafe to commit to using only fairly traded coffee throughout its Nespresso and other product ranges. They were commissioned by Swiss non-profit Solidar Suisse, which undertakes humanitarian and development work in 12 countries.' Watch the advert through the link provided.
Africa: Nigerian editor and two reporters scoop FAIR awards
Nigerian newspaper NEXT shone like a million stars on 1 November as one of its editors and two of its reporters scooped two of the three awards on offer at the FAIR (Forum for African Investigative Reporters) African Investigative Journalism Awards in Johannesburg, South Africa. Pambazuka News contributor Khadija Sharife’s untangling of pharmaceutical medicines pricing, with devastating consequences for young children in need of anti-diarrhoea treatment, which she did for Al Jazeera Africa, received a special mention from a number of judges.
Egypt: Military extends blogger's detention
Egyptian military prosecutors have extended the detention of a prominent activist and blogger, pending investigations into accusations that he incited violence and attacked military personnel during deadly protests. The extension will add 15 days to Alaa Abd El Fattah's previous sentence of 15 days, which was handed down on 30 October after he refused to be interrogated by a military prosecutor.
Liberia: Oldest radio station set ablaze
One of Africa’s oldest radio stations, the Monrovia-based Eternal Love Winning Africa (ELWA) has been burnt by unknown arsonists, sources said. ELWA is an American-owned Christian station that was not among the four that were ordered closed by the government. Information about the burning of the station was still scanty, but its neighbours explained that it was set ablaze early Wednesday by unknown arsonists, who had not claimed responsibility for the act.
Liberia: Opposition radio and TV stations closed down
Liberian opposition radio and TV stations were shut down by the authorities on 8 November 2011 on the orders of a criminal court in Monrovia. The stations are being accused of spreading messages that the authorities said could incite violence. The stations, Kings FM belonging to the Congress for Democratic Change’s (CDC) Vice Presidential Candidate, George Weah; Love FM and TV owned by Benoni Urey, a known sympathiser of the National Patriotic Party (NPP) which has entered into an alliance with the CDC and Power FM and TV. The Media Foundation for West Africa’s (MFWA) correspondent reported that the affected stations would remain closed until their representatives appeared before the court on 10 November.
South Africa: ANC may consider Info Bill amendment
Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe has suggested the ruling party may yet heed calls from the media to write a public interest defence into the contested Protection of State Information Bill. Media organisations and civil rights groups have vowed to launch a Constitutional Court challenge to the legislation if it were passed in its present form.
South Africa: Right2Know Campaign supporters to protest parliamentary vote
Right2Know is calling on all supporters to come to Parliament on Wednesday 13h00 for a protest. This follows the move to bring the Secrecy Bill back to National Assembly for further deliberations as confirmed by the Office of the ANC Chief Whip last week.
Right2Know Statement on ANC's reintroduction of Secrecy Bill without the promised consultation
South Africans should be outraged at the ANC's disingenuous move to bring the Secrecy Bill back to National Assembly for further deliberations as confirmed by the Office of the ANC Chief Whip last week.
On 19 October, following the shelving of the Bill ostensibly for further consultation, the ANC Chief Whip's office committed itself to a transparent and clearly road-mapped process to "ensure that as many people as possible, regardless of their political allegiance, get an opportunity to have a say on the draft legislation before it is passed into law." Communities were promised ample notice of upcoming meetings to express their views on the Secrecy Bill.
After several weeks of closed-door meetings between ANC provincial caucuses and the Minister of State Security Siyabonga Cwele and senior aides, the ANC appears to have rendered any public engagement meaningless by moving the Bill back to the National Assembly. No public consultations have been conducted, showing the Chief Whip's promises to be utterly empty.
While a number of civil society voices, including the Right2Know campaign, cautiously welcomed the ANC's proposal for further public engagement, and chose to accept in good faith the ANC's commitment to such a process. Our network has been preparing to be part of the process and to inform and involve communities to engage. However, despite numerous request by R2K the ANC has failed to provide any kind of schedule for promised public meetings.
However, this latest move by the ANC appears to be nothing less than legislative sleight of hand, buying time and space to get members in line and make sure there is no public division or opposition to the Bill from within the provinces. Such a move completely betrays any good faith communities had in the process.
Thus the Secrecy Bill returns to Parliament without any amendments, with many of the most basic demands contained in the R2K 7 Point Freedom Test unmet.
* Harsh prison sentences of up to 25 years, with no protection for whistleblowers except for the most minor offences. Even those who harbor whistleblowers may face prison sentences.
* Anyone who comes into possession of a state secret faces up to five years in prison if they do not hand the information to police or security services.
* Last-minute drafting by the Parliamentary ad hoc committee ensured that the Secrecy Bill would trump the Promotion of Access to Information Act which promotes citizens' right to know.
* The Bill shuts off the state security agencies from any kind of scrutiny or accountability to the public.
* There is no independent appeals mechanism available to citizens who wish to access information that may have been classified as secret without justification.
The R2K Campaign is thus left to wonder exactly what game the ANC is playing here. If the ANC was serious about making changes to the Secrecy Bill - through the mooted public consultations - when they shelved it almost a month ago, then why is the Bill now being re-introduced without any changes?
Were Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe's public comments last week suggesting that the party may consider amendments to the BIll that would include a 'public interest defence' simply a public relations diversion? Will the ANC now– despite the Deputy President’s assurances - use its parliamentary majorities to railroad the Bill through both the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces, or will it allow for further meaningful engagement, or shelve it once again?
It would appear as though the ANC is now conducting itself with the kind of secrecy that the Bill itself threatens to institutionalise. As the R2K Campaign, we call on the ANC to come clean with the people of South Africa. Otherwise, not only will the contents of the Secrecy Bill continue to invite sustained public opposition, but the entire legislative process followed to make it law will be brought into serious question.
### ENDS ###
Right2Know Campaign supporters will be protesting at Wednesday’s vote in Parliament.
Murray Hunter: [email protected] or 072 672 5468
R2K Gauteng Dale McKinley: [email protected] or 072 429 4086
R2K Western Cape Nkwame Cedile: [email protected] or 078 227 6008
R2K KZN Desmond D’Sa [email protected] or 083 982 6939
R2K Eastern Cape Ayanda Kota [email protected] or 078 625 6468
South Sudan: Two journalists detained
Two South Sudanese independent journalists have been imprisoned over a column critical of President Salva Kiir, according to local journalists and news reports. On 1 November South Sudan National Security Services (NSS) agents in the temporary capital of Juba arrested Peter Ngor, editor of the private daily Destiny, and ordered the indefinite suspension of his newspaper for running an 26 October opinion article by columnist Dengdit Ayok, news reports said. The article, titled 'Let Me Say So', criticised the president for allowing his daughter to marry an Ethiopian national and accused him of 'staining his patriotism', news reports said.
Global: UN panel calls for global ‘protection floor’ with income security and health services
With more than five out of every seven people in the world lacking adequate social security, a high-level United Nations panel has called for guaranteeing basic income and services for all, not only as a means to ensure peace and stability but also to boost economic growth. Measures providing income security and scaling up essential health services are affordable even in the poorest countries, costing as little as one to two per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), although international support is needed for some low-income countries, with donors providing predictable multi-year financial aid, according to the panel’s report, 'Social Protection Floor for a Fair and Inclusive Globalization'.
Malawi: Fuel price hiked by average 27 per cent
Malawi has increased fuel prices by an average 27 per cent, a move likely to trigger broader inflation in the southern African nation that has already seen violent protests this year because of the dire state of the economy. Fuel shortages and the soaring cost of imported goods caused unprecedented demonstrations in July against President Bingu wa Mutharika, whose security forces killed 20 people in an ensuing crackdown.
Malawi: No social safety nets for the poor
Reflecting on the fact that significant segments of the population are fundamentally excluded from society due to poverty and inequality, the 2010 Ibrahim Index of African Governance recently handed Malawi an abysmal score of two out of 10. There is legislation aimed at protecting families from falling on hard times, such as the Employment Act and the recently amended Pension Bill. However, according to a 2010 report by the International Labour Office in Geneva, 90 per cent of Malawians - more than 13 million people – work outside the formal economy.
Swaziland: Struggling to pay salaries, says finance minister
Cash-strapped Swaziland will struggle to pay civil servants' salaries this month, Finance Minister Majozi Sithole told AFP, as the tiny kingdom slips deeper into crisis. 'We will do our best to pay at the end of November but it is difficult. We have serious fiscal challenges right now,' Sithole said. Swaziland fell into crisis after losing 60 per cent of its revenue from a regional customs union last year.
United States: Extreme poverty at record levels in US
According to the US Census Bureau, a higher percentage of Americans is living in extreme poverty than they have ever measured before. In 2010, we were told that the economy was recovering, but the truth is that the number of the 'very poor' soared to heights never seen previously. Back in 1993 and back in 2009, the rate of extreme poverty was just over six per cent, and that represented the worst numbers on record. But in 2010, the rate of extreme poverty hit a whopping 6.7 per cent. That means that one out of every 15 Americans is now considered to be 'very poor'.
US: Cynthia McKinney offered protection after assassination threat
2008 US Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney was offered 'victim witness' special protection by the FBI after the indictment of four men in northern Georgia for plotting to kill McKinney, Attorney General Eric Holder, and, according to FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Brian Lamkin of the bureau's Atlanta office, President Barack Obama.
Eritrea: Eritrea appeals to UN in bid to prevent sanctions
Eritrea’s president has asked for a personal hearing before the UN Security Council in a bid to head off new sanctions over alleged support for Somalia’s Islamist rebels, diplomats said. Rival Ethiopia has been calling for tougher action against Eritrea for several months after its neighbor was linked to a plot to bomb an African Union summit in Addis Ababa.
Global: Supranational governance, a challenge to building resilient states and peace
This report discusses supranational governance and public authority in five issue areas: financial systems, security/ small arms, migration, extractive industries and obnoxious goods. Public control in all five is weak, although a few initiatives in supranational governance are showing promise. For each issue area, the report outlines existing international rule and enforcement systems or regimes; the interests steering or blocking them; and the resulting deficits in democratic supervision, coherence and compliance. The report concludes by suggesting ways in which supranational public authority may be better developed in order to promote state resilience and peacebuilding.
Global: US military training to crush Boko Haram
The US army provided counter-insurgency training to Nigerian troops battling a rise in attacks by Islamist militants, the Nigerian military has revealed. More than 100 people have been killed in recent days by the radical Muslim sect Boko Haram, dubbed the 'Nigerian Taliban', in Nigeria's north-east. Nigeria has sought to crush the group with military force but faces criticism from human rights activists for alleged extra-judicial killings. The military said some battalions had received training in the US.
Libya: Deadly factional clashes erupt
At least two men have been killed in a second day of clashes as fighters from Zawiya set up roadlocks to prevent rivals from the nearby town of Wershefana entering their territory. There are conflicting reports about what triggered the confrontation on Saturday near a military camp. The reports of the clashes came as production resumed at Italian energy company Eni's largest oilfield in Libya.
Niger: Country faces Gaddafi quandary
Niger, where Libya's fugitive Saif al-Islam Gaddafi may be headed, risks a backlash from nomad Tuaregs in its north if it follows through on its obligation to hand him over to the International Criminal Court. Libya's aid-reliant southern neighbour has vowed to respect commitments to the ICC, but knows that could spark unrest in Saharan areas where a string of past rebellions against the capital were nurtured by Muammar Gaddafi, feted by many in the desert as a hero. The Hague-based ICC said Gaddafi's 39-year-old son Saif al-Islam was in contact via intermediaries about surrendering for trial, but it also had information that mercenaries were trying to spirit him to a friendly African nation.
Niger: Niger grants asylum to Saadi Gaddafi
Muammar Gaddafi's son Saadi has been granted asylum in Niger on humanitarian grounds, the country's president confirmed. Mahamadou Issoufou insisted he knew nothing of the whereabouts of another of the slain Libyan leader's sons, Saif al-Islam, who is wanted by the international criminal court (ICC). 'We have agreed on granting asylum to Saadi Gaddafi for humanitarian reasons,' Issoufou said during a visit to Pretoria in South Africa.
Nigeria: Residents flee Nigerian city
Residents have begun to flee a northeast Nigerian city where a radical Muslim sect launched attacks that killed more than 100 people. Rev. Idi Garba said Tuesday 8 November that nearly all the Christians and non-natives of Yobe state had fled their homes in Damaturu, the state capital. Garba said streets remained deserted, without soldiers or police protection.
Sahel: France cashes in on arms sales
Sahel states Mauritania, Mali and Niger are enhancing their military might through arms deals with France. The arms sales were detailed in a report presented by the French government in front of parliament on 26 October. The presentation did not specify the quantity or quality of weaponry, but did mention an annual contract. The French government is linked with ten African countries in a series of arms sale contracts.
South Sudan: 18 killed, scores injured in fighting
At least eighteen people are dead and scores wounded in a fierce fighting between the army and the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) in South Sudan Friday, the military has said. 'Heavily-armed' SAF forces attacked Kuek area in Upper Nile state along the borders with Sudan’s White Nile state, leading to death of five of his soldiers and 13 of the attackers, said The SPLA spokesman, Col. Philip Aguer Panyang. At least 26 were wounded on the side of the SPLA and 47on the SAF side, according to Aguer.
South Sudan: Khartoum warns of return to war
Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir has warned that his country was ready to return to war with the southern neighbour in light of recent rebel attacks in border states, the Sudan Tribune, an online news website based in France, has reported. According to the website, he was speaking at a rally in Kurmuk in Blue Nile State in celebration of the Sudanese army's regaining control over the town after battles with the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM)- North Sudan faction that lasted over two months.
Sudan: Rebels form alliance to oust president
Rebels in Sudan's Darfur region and in the troubled border states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan have formed an alliance to overthrow the government of President Omar al-Bashir, a statement released by the rebels said. The alliance, called the Sudanese Revolutionary Front, is bent on 'toppling the regime of the [Sudan's ruling] National Congress Party with all possible means' and replacing it with a democratic system, the groups said in the joint statement sent to the Reuters news agency on Saturday.
Uganda: US military intervention, the LRA and big oil
Writing about the decision by US President Barack Obama to send 100 troops to Uganda in order to combat the Lord's Resistance Army, Steve Horn, a researcher and writer for DeSmogBlog, concludes: 'Do not be surprised if, months from now, ExxonMobil or another US oil industry superpower walks away with drilling rights in the Lake Albert region and CNOOC, the current main possessor of Uganda's Lake Albert oil resources, is sent packing.' These are not only likely scenarios, but probable ones, he states. 'Joseph Kony and his LRA allies might be taken down, but the people of Uganda, on the whole, will not benefit...'
Africa: Mobile phone industry 'booming'
Africa is the fastest-growing mobile market in the world, and is the biggest after Asia, an association of worldwide mobile phone operators has said. The number of subscribers on the continent has grown almost 20 per cent each year for the past five years, the GSM Association report on Africa says. It expects there will be more than 735 million subscribers by the end of 2012.
South Africa: Social media growing strong
Social media has gone mainstream in South Africa, with both individuals and businesses embracing the available platforms and the average age of users steadily increasing as more people become connected and networks mature. These and other findings were released in a study by Fuseware and World Wide Worx, titled South African Social Media Landscape 2011. Homegrown messaging application MXit and Facebook are the most popular choices of individual internet activity, while Twitter has seen the most growth in the past year.
Global: 'Global Crisis, Rethinking Economy and Society'
Webcast recordings available
In December 2010, the Economic Performance and Development programme of the HSRC, with the support of the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation (RLF) and OSISA, coordinated a live webcast of the international conference, ‘Global Crisis, Rethinking Economy and Society’, hosted by the Chicago Center for Contemporary Theory at the University of Chicago. The fascinating presentations and debates at this gathering, where world renowned intellectuals shared their views, are available through the link provided.
Global: Research Grants: John Hope Franklin Research Center, Duke University
The John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture, part of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Duke University, announces the availability of travel grants for research travel to our collections. The John Hope Franklin Research Center seeks to collect, preserve, and promote the use of printed and manuscript materials bearing on the history of Africa and people of African descent. Research grants are available to any faculty member, graduate or undergraduate student, or independent scholar with a research project requiring the use of materials held by the Franklin Research Center.
South Africa: Making local government work
An activist guide
'The challenge to end economic, geographic, gendered Apartheid is huge. Much of this challenge exists at a local level. But, as this guide shows, the Constitution empowers communities to claim their rights. Activists must connect the dots and ensure that Government prioritises the rights of people. We encourage you to use this guide to do that!' - Pregs Govender, deputy chairperson, South African Human Rights Commission, in the Forward to 'Making local government work: an activist guide.'
Veneration and Struggle: Commemorating Frantz Fanon
The Journal of Pan-African Studies
This issue includes:
- The 50th Anniversary of Fanon: Culture, Consciousness and Praxis
- Frantz Fanon: Existentialist, Dialectician, and Revolutionary
- Revisiting Fanon, From Theory to Practice: Democracy and Development in Africa
- Hegel and Fanon on the Question of Mutual Recognition: A Comparative Analysis
- Fanon Now: Singularity and Solidarity
- Reading Violence and Postcolonial Decolonization Through Fanon: The Case of Jamaica.
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