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      Pambazuka News 578: DRC & Senegal: The people's voice unheard

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      Congolese Vote, but who decides?

      Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja


      cc R O
      Given the importance of DRC as a land of considerable natural wealth, the major powers prefer leaders with no national constituency who are easy to manipulate like Joseph Kabila to those like Etienne Tshisekedi who are unapologetically nationalist.

      In his excellent contribution to this blog on 15 February 2012, Joshua Marks writes that: “It is difficult to make sense of the reaction of many Western governments and international actors to the disastrous elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) on November 28, 2011.”

      To those of us who have followed the actions of Western governments and international actors since their complicity in the illegal removal of Patrice Lumumba from his position as the democratically elected prime minister of the Congo in September 1960 and his assassination on orders of the US and Belgian governments in January 1961, their total contempt for the democratic right of the Congolese people to choose their own leaders is perfectly understandable. It is symptomatic of the hypocrisy and double standards governing the foreign policies of these self-appointed promoters of democracy and human rights.

      In a presentation to the 2009 annual meeting of the African Studies Association in New Orleans, I made the following critique of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy, based on his 4 June 2009 speech in Cairo:

      ‘The hope in Africa is that governments claiming to have the interests of the African people at heart, as Obama’s administration does, will support the continent’s popular struggles for democracy. That implies holding the same yardstick for all regimes, and not employing double standards or playing favorites with strategic allies. For example, the regime of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is notorious in its violation of human rights and its conduct of fraudulent elections, and yet Washington is extremely timid in pressuring its ally on this matter. In his Cairo address to the Muslim world, President Obama had little to say about democracy in Egypt.’ [1]

      The double standard in Obama’s approach was evident one month later, in his 11 July address to the Ghanaian Parliament, where he took a patronizing attitude in lecturing Africans on the virtues of strong institutions instead of autocratic leaders. In Cairo, on the other hand, he had no courage to remind his audience that Egypt, like so many other countries on the African continent, was being governed by an autocrat. As long as the autocrat was in full control of the country and its people, there was no need to call this strategic ally to order. The same applies to Bahrain and Saudi Arabia today, countries whose democracy and human rights record is despicable, but whose regimes remain among Washington’s best allies in the Middle East.

      In the DRC, the Obama administration has disappointed all those who had expected a return to the principled policies of democracy and human rights promotion of the Carter administration. As a Senator, Barack Obama is credited with one major piece of legislation, which then Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton supported as well. It is Senate Bill 2121, the “Democratic Republic of the Congo Relief, Security, and Democracy Promotion Act.” It has been enacted into law as PL 109-456. One of the provisions of this law requires the US government to impose sanctions on countries engaged in plundering the DRC. Obama as President and Clinton as Secretary of State have done nothing to implement this law, in the face of several UN reports on the plunder of Congolese natural resources and other forms of wealth by Rwanda and Uganda. The reason for this failure is crystal clear: Rwanda and Uganda are major US allies from the Great Lakes region in the fight against international terrorism, the number one threat of the post-communist age for the United States, with Rwanda having troops in Darfur, and Uganda leading the peacemaking role in Somalia.

      The role of President Jimmy Carter in the democratization process is all the more important because it took place before the end of the Cold War. In the wake of the First Shaba War of 1977, Carter sent Ambassador Donald McHenry on a 97bymission designed to read the riot act to then Zairian President Mobutu Sese Seko. The gist of McHenry’s brief was the liberalization of the system, and Mobutu responded positively by appointing a prime minister to take care of the day-to-day running of the government, and the holding of the freest parliamentary elections that the country ever experienced under a one-party system. Individuals were free to stand for Parliament on their own, instead of being handpicked by the politburo of the ruling party, the Mouvement Populaire de la Révolution (MPR). The result was a parliament full of independent voices, and one that had the courage to stage fairly brutal interpellations, or questions and answer sessions during which cabinet ministers had to explain their policies and justify their expenditures.

      It was out of the Parliament elected in the wake of Shaba I that Etienne Tshisekedi and the Group of Thirteen emerged in December 1980 with their fifty-two page letter to Mobutu demanding multi-party democracy. Repeatedly arrested, tortured and jailed under Mobutu’s reign of terror, Tshisekedi and a diminishing number of his comrades persisted in their defiance of Mobutu’s externally backed kleptocracy. Despite the ban on opposition parties, they founded the Union pour la Démocratie et le Progrès Social (UDPS) in February 1982, making the latter the oldest pro-democracy political party in the DRC today. Tshisekedi’s exemplary courage in the face of adversity and his commitment to the ideals of democracy and social progress are qualities that ordinary Congolese find admirable in a person who has come to incarnate their deepest aspirations for freedom and material prosperity.

      As a delegate to the Sovereign National Conference in 1992, I still remember the hugs and applauses we received from the people of Kinshasa when we came out of the People’s Palace in the early morning of August 15 following our nightlong election of Tshisekedi as prime minister of the transition to democracy. We were congratulated for having voted for the “people’s candidate.” For most of the Congolese people today, there is no doubt in their minds that faced with a choice between the neoliberal policies of the dominant centers of world capitalism and the best interests of the Congolese people, he will not hesitate to side with his people.

      The same cannot be said of Joseph Kabila, a very weak leader who, after eleven years in power, is still unsure as to what his job is all about. He is more at ease behind the steering wheel of a vehicle (a fast car, a jeep) or on a motorcycle than he is at playing the game of head of state. For someone who had been named major general at twenty-five years of age and without officer training or significant military experience, he is deficient in both military science and the art of governance. His humiliating military defeat at Pweto on December 3, 2000 was a traumatic event with serious consequences for him and for the country.

      On the one hand, it bonded him with the late Augustin Katumba Mwanke, then governor of Katanga, who sent a helicopter to rescue the young general from Pweto, protected him against the anger of President Laurent Kabila, his father, and became his éminence grise once the young Kabila became president. On the other hand, according to Gérard Prunier, the fall of Pweto and the collapse of pro-government forces, including over 300 Zimbabwean troops, “is one of the causes eventually leading to Laurent-Désiré Kabila’s assassination.” [2] As a beneficiary of this assassination, Joseph Kabila came to power treating the international community as his power base, [3] and the latter fell in love with him as “a man who seemed to play the political game on their terms.” [4]

      Given the strategic importance of the DRC as a land of considerable natural wealth located in the centre of Africa, with world-class resources in fresh water, tropical rain forest, hydroelectricity, arable land and numerous minerals, the major powers in the international community do prefer leaders with no national constituency who are easy to manipulate like Joseph Kabila over those like Etienne Tshisekedi, who are unapologetically nationalist and committed to serving their peoples. In eleven years in office, Kabila has failed to fulfill his mandate in restructuring the state and the security forces.

      Ours is probably the only country in the world with general and superior military officers who cannot read a map, as some of them are illiterate. Instead of a professional and disciplined national army, we have units made up of former rebels and militia groups, who continue to harass the civilian population and engage in heinous crimes such as rape and forced labour. It is also the only army in the world to incorporate an independent militia loyal to a foreign country (Rwanda), the Congrès National pour la Défense du Peuple (CNDP), which has been commanded by a general who refused orders to deploy to a part of the country other than his own region of origin (Laurent Nkunda), or one for whom there exists an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court (Jean-Bosco Ntanganda). The presidential guard, which is the best equipped, trained and paid unit, is rumored to include mercenaries from Angola, Burundi, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

      In the economic and social field, the country’s enormous wealth in natural resources has not been used to benefit the mass of the people. Instead, it has gone to enrich the country’s rulers and their business and political partners at home and abroad. In the 2011 UNDP Human Development Report, the DRC is ranked the last of 187 nations surveyed in terms of the Human Development Index, a measure of well-being based on life expectancy, personal income, health and education. In this context of a failed state, Congolese people would be unlikely to vote for a man who had done nothing for them in more than ten years in power. Kabila and his external backers were surely aware of this in devising his electoral strategy.

      The constitution was changed by his loyal parliament to remove the requirement for a run-off election in case no one had received an absolute majority of the votes cast; eighteen new judges were named to the Supreme Court in the middle of the electoral campaign, to make sure that they would ensure Kabila’s victory; and Pastor Daniel Ngoy Mulunda, a close political ally of the President, was selected as chair of the so-called Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI). In addition to these measures, a formidable machine of violence and intimidation, corruption, and electoral fraud was established to make sure that Kabila would come out as a victor. Now that the Catholic bishops of the DRC have called on the CENI to correct their lies or resign, I wonder what US State Department officials who rejected our complaints about Ngoy Mulunda and defended his integrity would say today.

      In this regard, it is amazing that some observers should claim that “there is no data that could give a reasonable degree of certainty as to who actually won the polls.” [5] If the people who organized the election had any expectation that the process would be highly competitive, why would they resort to corruption, intimidation, violence, and massive fraud, including fictitious polling stations, insufficient or no presidential ballots in some polling stations, rigged ballots, the expelling of poll watchers from the opposition and civil society from a number of polling stations at the time of vote counting, and the falsification of electoral returns at the so-called compilation centres?

      Moreover, why did the CENI refuse to allow the technical teams from the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the International Federation of Electoral Systems (IFES) sent by the US to help them recount the votes? Recounting the votes on the basis of results from each polling station is the only way of establishing the truth of the ballot box. Figures in the possession of the Catholic Church, which had deployed 30,000 observers or close to half of all polling stations, should be able to help in this process. The bishops must show their commitment to the truth by publishing the results obtained by their observers.

      Another comment from external observers is that people have remained largely passive in the face of the election being stolen by Kabila and his cronies, and this might be an indication that they have accepted the current outcome. Nothing could be farther from the truth. All over the world, the Congolese diaspora has proclaimed Tshisekedi the winner of the presidential election and demonstrated against the fraudulent results and their apparent acceptance by the international community. South Africa, Belgium, France and the UK are now deporting Congolese immigrants without appropriate documents in retaliation for their participation in sometimes violent protests.

      Were the DRC a country in which the rulers and the security forces respected the rule of law, millions of Congolese would also descend in the streets of our cities and towns to enact what their compatriots living in liberal democracies are doing. During the electoral campaign, when it was relatively easier to manifest their political sentiments, Tshisekedi was the single candidate to draw the largest number of people at his rallies all over the Congo, in each of its eleven provinces, including supposedly hostile areas like Katanga and Maniema. On 26 November, the last day of campaigning, the police held him hostage for nearly six hours at the airport, and prevented him for holding his final rally in Kinshasa. Over ten opposition supporters were killed on that day by the security forces.

      The DRC is a country in which approximately six million people have been killed as a result of the Congo wars of 1996-97 and 1998-2003, together with their economic and social consequences in the affected areas. Other parts of the country have also known episodes of state-sponsored terrorism, notably the brutal repression of the politico-religious group Bundu-dia-Kongo (BDK) in Lower Congo, ethnic cleansing of peoples from Kasaï in the Katanga province, and retaliatory killings for anti-state and communal violence in Equateur. A comprehensive record of the most important of the crimes committed between 1993 and 2003 has been compiled in the mapping report published on October 1, 2010 by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. State responsibility for some of the criminal acts is well established, and this includes the wanton killing of BDK adherents, and the assassinations of journalists such as Bapuwa Mwamba in 2006 and of human rights activists such as Floribert Chebeya in 2010.

      The International Criminal Court is doing nothing about all of these crimes against humanity. And yet, the ICC prosecutors were brought to Kinshasa to intimidate Tshisekedi and other opposition leaders that they would be held responsible for election-related violence. Since 26 November 2011, the police and the security forces have, in Kinshasa and elsewhere, continued to pick up young people, whose destination and fate are unknown. On 16 February 2012, when the Catholic Church asked its faithful to march in commemoration of the 1992 March of Christians and in protest against electoral fraud, the police and the militia of Kabila’s party, the People’s Party for Reconstruction and Democracy (PPRD), went into churches even before the march was to start to beat up on worshippers, and their weapons included tear gas and clubs. Why aren’t President Kabila and his security forces being held responsible for election-related violence by the ICC?

      While they have closed their eyes to state-sponsored violence and to violations of the electoral law by Kabila and the CENI, or issued mild statements in condemning these crimes, Western governments and international actors have not been so kind to Tshisekedi. Every statement he makes is closely scrutinized and condemned if it is found to be politically incorrect. For example, he is condemned for castigating the violation of law by Kabila and his government, and held responsible for inflammatory statements likely to provoke violence. On the other hand, the people responsible for real violence against citizens, including death, are never condemned publicly and they move about freely. In addition to President Kabila, people in this category have included Gabriel Kyungu wa Kumwanza, the architect of ethnic cleansing in Katanga beginning in 1992, and John Numbi, the Inspector General of Police, who has been suspended but never charged for the murder of Chebeya. General Ntanganda, the CNDP commander wanted by the ICC, is being protected by Kabila as a high-ranking officer in the army, while Jean-Pierre Bemba is being prosecuted at the ICC for crimes allegedly committed by his troops and in his absence in Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic.

      By recognizing Kabila as DRC president after fraudulent electoral results, Western powers and the international community are showing that their strategic interests are more important than their avowed commitment to democracy and justice. Recently, the international community did recognize Alassane Ouattara as president of Côte d’Ivoire in spite of the decision of that country’s Constitutional Court in favor of the incumbent president, Laurent Gbagbo. Following a UN Security Council resolution calling for the protection of Libyan civilians against the regime of the late Muammar Qaddafi, major Western powers led by NATO recognized the Libyan rebels as legitimate representatives of the Libyan people and their aspirations for change. Refusal to recognize Tshisekedi as the winner of the presidential election and the legitimate representative of the deepest aspirations of the Congolese people for democracy and social progress amounts to both hypocrisy and double standards, particularly for those states claiming to stand for democracy and human rights. It will at least let us know who our true friends and enemies are in the world today.

      In remaining in office based on fraudulent electoral results, Kabila has usurped power in the DRC. He is therefore in violation of both our country’s constitution and the African Union’s Resolution against unconstitutional change of government. In accordance with Article 64 of the DRC constitution, which recognizes the right and the duty of Congolese citizens to resist the usurpation or seizure of power by unconstitutional means, peaceful manifestations of resistance will continue at home and in the diaspora against the illegal Kabila regime. To prevent further violence and unnecessary loss of life due to the current impasse, Kabila must be pressured to accept an honorable exit similar to the way that Fredrick De Klerk did in post-apartheid South Africa, by becoming President of the Senate, which is the second highest office in the country. He must accept the verdict of the ballot box and the people’s choice of Tshisekedi as the person who must preside over the process of change and reconstruction in the Congo. A power sharing formula similar to those in Kenya or Zimbabwe is simply not workable, given the history of the last twenty years since the National Conference. Sharing cabinet posts, state enterprises, and ambassadorships among the different political groupings is not necessarily a way of solving the most important issue facing our country today, namely, the restructuring of the state to strengthen its capacity for order and security, revenue mobilization internally, service delivery, and economic development.


      1. Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja, “Putting Africa’s House in Order to Deal with Developmental Challenges,” ASR Forum on “Africa in the Age of Obama,” African Studies Review, Vol. 53, No. 2 (September 2010), p. 14.

      2. Gérard Prunier, Africa’s World War: Congo, the Rwandan Genocide, and the Making of a Continental Catastrophe (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), p. 234. ↩
      3. Ibid, p. 258. ↩
      4. Ibid, p. 264. ↩
      5. Laura Seay, “Political Repression Threatens Increased Violence Against Civilians in Congo,” Preventing Genocide – Blog, US Holocaust Memorial Museum, March 2, 2012.


      * Please do not take Pambazuka for granted! Become a Friend of Pambazuka and make a donation NOW to help keep Pambazuka FREE and INDEPENDENT!

      * Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja is professor of African Studies Department of African and Afro-American Studies, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
      * This article was first published by Possible Futures, a project of the Social Science Research Council.
      * Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      Senegalese presidential elections: a missed opportunity

      Bernard Fall


      cc J H
      The electoral campaign has been about interpretation of the constitution, the age of the incumbent, his son’s future, and so on. But the underlying problems of underdevelopment have not been addressed.

      The stakes of the elections of 26 February 2012 and March 18, 2012 concern the whole of West Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa. Actually this is one episode in a political struggle engaged long before the riots in North Africa against dictatorships. Three questions arise. Will the winner be bold enough to give the country a power that frees it from the imperialist economic domination and local alliances that contribute to the deepening crisis of development by blocking the formation of dynamic and democratic rural societies? Will he strengthen the secular state or will he let it wither away with the harmful consequences that could ensue? Does it help the country get rid of the temptation of a dynastic type of devolution?

      Samir Amin classified the Senegalese political regime of the first phase of the domination of the Socialist Party (1960-1980) under the category of ‘small democracy’ or procedural democracy or democracy of low intensity. He defined it as a secular regime that practices multipartyism, organizes elections at regular intervals and grants the judiciary a degree of autonomy in the implementation of human rights protection. Certainly a fringe of the Socialist Party, ideologically influential, really thought that the future of humanity was in the globalization of a human capitalism, i.e. without an imperialist dimension.

      This explains why the Party claimed that planning, financially and technically supported by the centres would convert an economy based on exploitation of the peasantry and natural resources in agricultural production (mainly water and soil) into a techno-scientific economy in which industrialisation would be in synergy with dynamic farming favoured by a tenure where the privatization of agricultural land would be the exception rather than the rule.

      This ideology therefore excluded the option of accumulation by dispossession of the peasantry as in the Anglo-Saxon model of primitive accumulation. Pure Utopia. Indeed, neither the social base of the regime nor its economic relations and external relations policy were consistent with this vision. Domestically, while trying a certain democratization of rural societies by reducing the power of religious notables on farmers through new elective institutions, it did not put in place an educational system whose teachings were favourable to the social classes and to individuals aspiring to become real historical subjects.
      In foreign relations, while he promised a policy of development of productive forces (or out of underdevelopment policy) the party locked the country in international economic and monetary agreements that condemned the power to focus on monetarist policies of fiscal balance and not structural changes. But instead of increasing the national savings, they remained so low that the bulk of public investment was financed by loans. This led to an automatic process that transformed payment arrears into new loans. The debt crisis was thus part of the socialist party´s development project.

      Senghor's departure in 1981 took place in a context unfavourable to his successor. (I) The populist regimes that were the pillars of the Bandung project were systematically destroyed by the imperialist forces that monopolized the means of mass destruction of the emancipatory projects in the Third World. (II) China abandoned the principle of disconnection to actively reintegrate the globalized capitalist system. (III) The global crisis of the Soviet deepened. (IV) The United States decided to get the West out of the crisis of accumulation by imposing on all capitalist countries monetarism. This had been Chile´s experience since 1973, after the bloody coup against the legitimate and democratic authority. The new world economic order was an invention of the imperialist United States

      In Africa this monetarism called Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) had a fundamental strategic objective of integrating the continent's natural resources in the policies of economic security of the West, at the expense of destroying companies even by mass killings. In Senegal, SAPs imposed polities, whose consequences were totally incompatible with the maintenance and even more so the deepening of Senghor´s small democracy. Indeed the opening of the local market to competition brings urban pauperization due to the closure of industrial establishments, the accentuation of rural unemployment and impoverishment due to the contraction of the local market of food crops. The forced withdrawal of the state from agriculture and industry and reduced public spending on health, education and housing created conditions unfavourable to the formation of a stable middle class, but favourable to the emergence of local plutocracies with very narrow bases and it induced social apartheid. To solve the problem of poverty and the balance of payments, President Abdou Diouf adopted a policy that systematically encouraged emigration.

      The importance of the left wing component in the Senegalese political culture was manifested by the growing role of the three radical parties during the search for an alternative to Senghor´s model, which was in crisis. It was the Independence and Labour Party (PIT, the Democratic League (LD / MPT) and the Revolutionary Movement for New Democracy (And- Jëf); with the Left Socialist Party they represented more than half of the electorate. That is why the Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS) who claimed liberal ideology, had to make concessions with them to form the coalition that brought Wade to power in 2000.

      As expected, the coalition broke up shortly after the electoral victory. In fact the application of a joint program of the left seemed incompatible with the political and economic designs of the new president. Moreover, he believes to make lasting alliances with the conservative wing of religion, it must be integrated into power by putting an end to the principle of the secular state and, within this framework, Muridism has to be hoisted to the rank of dominant group. This project has always been contrary to the popular will.

      Wade has indeed shown he had the ambition to build a model that reflects the political ideology of his party. In fact it is aligned with the model commonly called clientelist, and has not expanded the sphere of freedom but has reduced the concept of gender equality to the percentage of women on electoral lists. No doubt his ambition to wield absolute power, first in his party and in the functioning of the state, is related to his conception of underdevelopment / development. He considered that to grow economically is to build spectacular physical infrastructure, including transportation, with a strong external financial and technical participation, and that to achieve this program he needed to centralize power to negotiate with partners, to award contracts, to appoint the directors of construction sites and to choose their locations.

      His approach of privatization of agricultural land rights trumps the democratization of rural societies. Besides the agricultural development program called Great Agricultural Offensive for Food and Abundance (GOANA), the phenomenon known as the new wave of land grabbing is not a problem and the term rural disappears.

      The electoral campaign involves the interpretation of the Constitution, the age of the incumbent in relation to his son´s future in the political spectrum; but the underlying problems, which concern the ways out of underdevelopment, given the high population growth, youth population, the weakening of states in the sub-region and the necessary fight against engineering of Islamic terrorism and mafia organizations related to control of natural resources, are not addressed. Senegal will only emerge from the institutional crisis when the gains of small democracy are completed by a real inclusive economic development.
      To achieve this, it is necessary to review the international agreements that prevent the state from financing development through credit. This requires in addition a West African regionalization policy that aims firstly to achieve development without exploitation of human beings (peasant and urban informal sector workers) and therefore operates outside the control of oligopolies that now organize the looting of oil, mining, fishing and forest, water and soil overexploitation and block the formation of a technologically independent food sub-region, second to build a large area of protection against the globalization of state terrorism which the imperialist powers use under the excuse of humanitarian intervention. And third to establish political systems based on the requirement of the democratization of societies in conjunction with the establishment of rules that block the conversion of groups privileged by education, income, or capital accumulated from becoming castes.


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      * This article was translated from French for Pambazuka News by Funmi Kogbe, a Nigerian-born, graduate of ethnology and international relations.
      * Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      Investigations around Libya

      NATO’S craven cover-up of its Libyan bombing

      Vijay Prashad


      cc A O
      A new UN report strongly suggests that the rush to a NATO ‘humanitarian intervention’ might have been made on exaggerated evidence, and that NATO’s own military intervention might have been less than ‘humanitarian’ in its effects.

      Ten days into the uprising in Benghazi, Libya, the United Nations’ Human Rights Council established the International Commission of Inquiry on Libya. The purpose of the Commission was to ‘investigate all alleged violations of international human rights law in Libya.’ The broad agenda was to establish the facts of the violations and crimes and to take such actions as to hold the identified perpetrators accountable.

      On June 15, the Commission presented its first report to the Council. This report was provisional, since the conflict was still ongoing and access to the country was minimal. The June report was no more conclusive than the work of the human rights non-governmental organizations (such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch). In some instances, the work of investigators for these NGOs (such as Donatella Rovera of Amnesty) was of higher quality than that of the Commission.

      Due to the uncompleted war and then the unsettled security state in the country in its aftermath, the Commission did not return to the field till October 2011, and did not begin any real investigation before December 2011. On March 2, 2012, the Commission finally produced a two hundred-page document that was presented to the Human Rights Council in Geneva. Little fanfare greeted this report’s publication, and the HRC’s deliberation on it was equally restrained.

      Nonetheless, the report is fairly revelatory, making two important points: first, that all sides on the ground committed war crimes with no mention at all of a potential genocide conducted by the Qaddafi forces; second, that there remains a distinct lack of clarity regarding potential NATO war crimes. Not enough can be made of these two points. They strongly infer that the rush to a NATO ‘humanitarian intervention’ might have been made on exaggerated evidence, and that NATO’s own military intervention might have been less than ‘humanitarian’ in its effects.

      It is precisely because of a lack of accountability by NATO that there is hesitancy in the United Nations Security Council for a strong resolution on Syria. ‘Because of the Libyan experience,’ the Indian Ambassador to the UN Hardeep Singh Puri told me in February, ‘other members of the Security Council, such as China and Russia, will not hesitate in exercising a veto if a resolution – and this is a big if – contains actions under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which permits the use of force and punitive and coercive measures.’


      The Libyan uprising began on February 15, 2011. By February 22, the UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay claimed that two hundred and fifty people had been killed in Libya, ‘although the actual numbers are difficult to verify.’ Nonetheless, Pillay pointed to ‘widespread and systematic attacks against the civilian population” which “may amount to crimes against humanity.’ Pillay channelled the Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN from Libya, Ibrahim Dabbashi, who had defected to the rebellion and claimed, ‘Qaddafi had started the genocide against the Libyan people.’ Very soon world leaders used the two concepts interchangeably, ‘genocide’ and ‘crimes against humanity.’ These concepts created a mood that Qaddafi’s forces were either already indiscriminately killing vast numbers of people, or that they were poised for a massacre of Rwandan proportions.

      Courageous work by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch last year, then much later the 2012 report from the UN belies this judgment, (as does my forthcoming book ‘Arab Spring, Libyan Winter’, AK Press), which goes through the day-by-day record and show two things: that both sides used excessive violence and that the rebels seemed to have the upper hand for much of the conflict, with Qaddafi’s forces able to recapture cities, but unable to hold them.

      The UN report is much more focused on the question of crimes committed on the ground. This is the kind of forensic evidence in the report:

      (1) In the military base and detention camp of Al Qalaa. ‘Witnesses, together with the local prosecutor, uncovered the bodies of 43 men and boys, blindfolded and with their hands tied behind their backs.’ Qaddafi forces had shot them. Going over many of these kinds of incidents, and of indiscriminate firing of heavy artillery into cities, the UN Report notes that these amount to a war crime or a crime against humanity.

      (2) ‘Over a dozen Qadhafi soldiers were reportedly shot in the back of the head by thuwar [rebel fighters] around 22-23 February 2011 in a village between Al Bayda and Darnah. This is corroborated by mobile phone footage.’ After an exhaustive listing of the many such incidents, and of the use of heavy artillery against cities notably Sirte, the UN report suggests the preponderance of evidence of the war crime of murder or crimes against humanity.

      There is no mention of genocide in the Report, and none of any organized civilian massacre. This is significant because UN Resolution 1973, which authorized the NATO war, was premised on the ‘the widespread and systematic attacks currently taking place in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya against the civilian population’ which ‘may amount to crimes against humanity.’ There was no mention in Resolution 1973 of the disproportionate violence of the thuwar against the pro-Qaddafi population (already reported by Al-Jazeera by February 19), a fact that might have given pause to the UN as it allowed NATO to enter the conflict on the rebels’ behalf. NATO’s partisan bombardment allowed the rebels to seize the country faster than they might have had in a more protracted war, but it also allowed them carte blanche to continue with their own crimes against humanity.

      With NATO backing, it was clear that no one was going to either properly investigate the rebel behaviour, and no-one was going to allow for a criminal prosecution of those crimes against humanity. Violence of this kind by one’s allies is never to be investigated as the Allies found out after World War 2 when there was no assessment of the criminal firebombing of, for example, Dresden. No wonder that the UN Report notes that the Commissioners are ‘deeply concerned that no independent investigation or prosecution appear to have been instigated into killings committed by thuwar.’ None is likely. There are now over eight thousand pro-Qaddafi fighters in Libyan prisons. They have no charges framed against them. Many have been tortured, and several have died (including Halah al-Misrati, the Qaddafi era newscaster).

      The section of the UN report on the town of Tawergha is most startling. The thirty thousand residents of the town were removed by the Misratan thuwar. The general sentiment among the Misratan thuwar was that the Tawerghans were given preferential treatment by the Qaddafi regime, a claim disputed by the Tawerghans. The road between Misrata and Tawergha was lined with slogans such as ‘the brigade for purging slaves, black skin,’ indicating the racist cleansing of the town. The section on Tawergha takes up twenty pages of the report. It is chilling reading. Tawerghans told the Commission “that during ‘interrogations’ they were beaten, had hot wax poured in their ears and were told to confess to committing rape in Misrata. The Commission was told that one man had diesel poured on to his back which was then set alight; the same man was held in shackles for 12 days.’ This goes on and on. The death count is unclear. The refugees are badly treated as they go to Benghazi and Tripoli.

      To the Commission, the attacks against Tawerghans during the war ‘constitute a war crime’ and those that have taken place since ‘violate international human rights law’ and a ‘crime against humanity.’ Because of the ‘current difficulties faced by the Libyan Government,’ the Commission concludes, it is unlikely that the government will be able to bring justice for the Tawerghans and to undermine the ‘culture of impunity that characterizes the attacks.’


      For the past several months, the Russians have asked for a proper investigation through the UN Security Council of the NATO bombardment of Libya. ‘There is great reluctance to undertake it,’ the Indian Ambassador to the UN told me. When the NATO states in the Security Council wanted to clamor for war in February-March 2011, they held discussions about Libya in an open session. After Resolution 1973 and since the war ended, the NATO states have only allowed discussion about Libya in a closed session. When Navi Pillay came to talk about the UN Report, her remarks were not for the public.

      Indeed, when it became clear to NATO that the UN Commission wished to investigate NATO’s role in the Libyan war, Brussels balked. On February 15, 2012, NATO’s Legal Adviser Peter Olson wrote a strong letter to the Chair of the Commission. NATO accepted that the Qaddafi regime ‘committed serious violations of international law,’ which led to the Security Council Resolution 1973. What was not acceptable was any mention of NATO’s ‘violations’ during the conflict,

      ‘We would be concerned, however, if ‘NATO incidents’ were included in the Commission’s report as on a par with those which the Commission may ultimately conclude did violate law or constitute crimes. We note in this regard that the Commission’s mandate is to discuss ‘the facts and circumstance of….violations [of law] and…crimes perpetrated.’ We would accordingly request that, in the event the Commission elects to include a discussion of NATO actions in Libya, its report clearly state that NATO did not deliberately target civilians and did not commit war crimes in Libya.’

      To its credit, the Commission did discuss the NATO ‘incidents.’ However, there were some factual problems. The Commission claimed that NATO flew 17,939 armed sorties in Libya. NATO says that it flew ‘24,200 sorties, including over 9,000 strike sorties.’ What the gap between the two numbers might tell us is not explored in the report or in the press discussion subsequently. The Commission points out that NATO did strike several civilian areas (such as Majer, Bani Walid, Sirte, Surman, Souq al-Juma) as well as areas that NATO claims were ‘command and control nodes.’ The Commission found no ‘evidence of such activity’ in these ‘nodes.’ NATO contested both the civilian deaths and the Commission’s doubts about these ‘nodes.’ Because NATO would not fully cooperate with the Commission, the investigation was ‘unable to determine, for lack of sufficient information, whether these strikes were based on incorrect or outdated intelligence and, therefore, whether they were consistent with NATO’s objective to take all necessary precautions to avoid civilian casualties entirely.’

      Three days after the report was released in the Human Rights Council, NATO’s chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen denied its anodyne conclusions regarding NATO. And then, for added effect, Rasmussen said that he was pleased with the report’s finding that NATO ‘had conducted a highly precise campaign with a demonstrable determination to avoid civilian casualties.’ There is no such clear finding. The report is far more circumspect, worrying about the lack of information to make any clear statement about NATO’s bombing runs. NATO had conducted its own inquiry, but did not turn over its report or raw data to the UN Commission.

      On March 12, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon went to the UN Security Council and stated that he was ‘deeply concerned’ about human rights abuses in Libya, including the more than eight thousand prisoners held in jails with no judicial process (including Saif al-Islam Qaddafi, who should have been transferred to the Hague by NATO’s logic). Few dispute this part of the report. The tension in the Security Council is over the section on NATO. On March 9, Maria Khodynskaya-Golenishcheva of the Russian Mission to the UN in Geneva noted that the UN report omitted to explore the civilian deaths caused by NATO. ‘In our view,’ she said, ‘during the NATO campaign many violations of the standard of international law and human rights were committed, including the most important right, the right to life.’ On March 12, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused NATO of ‘massive bombings’ in Libya. It was in response to Lavrov’s comment that Ban’s spokesperson Martin Nesirky pointed out that Ban accepts ‘the report’s overall finding that NATO did not deliberately target civilians in Libya.’

      NATO is loath to permit a full investigation. It believes that it has the upper hand, with Libya showing how the UN will now use NATO as its military arm (or else how the NATO states will be able to use the UN for its exercise of power). In the Security Council, NATO’s Rasmussen notes, ‘Brazil, China, India and Russia consciously stepped aside to allow the UN Security Council to act’ and they ‘did not put their military might at the disposal of the coalition that emerged.’ NATO has no challenger. This is why the Russians and the Chinese are unwilling to allow any UN resolution that hints at military intervention. They fear the Pandora’s box opened by Resolution 1973.


      * Please do not take Pambazuka for granted! Become a Friend of Pambazuka NOW and help keep Pambazuka FREE and INDEPENDENT!

      * Vijay Prashad’s new book, ‘Arab Spring, Libyan Winter’ (AK Press) will be out in late March. This article was first published by []Counterpunch[/url].
      * Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      Kony2012: militarization and disinformation blowback

      Horace Campbell


      cc J G LA
      ‘This Kony2012 video has reinforced my own conviction that demilitarization and peace in Africa is intricately connected to demilitarization and peace in the United States.’


      In any major disinformation campaign, the minimum requirement for success is to at least be credible. Invisible Children, Inc. is not a credible basis for information on Uganda and Africa. Joseph Kony is not in Uganda and cannot be compared to Hitler, Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. This group that is called the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has in the past kidnapped children and turned them into child soldiers and has exploited young girls. However, this LRA is not the military threat to Africa which is portrayed in this massive campaign called Kony2012. At this moment, to mobilize millions around the world around a campaign that Joseph Kony is a major military threat in Uganda and Central Africa is disinformation.

      This is the act of deliberately spreading inaccurate information. The campaign, Kony 2012, is a classic example of military disinformation. The success in tapping into the emotions of 80 million young persons has exposed its linkages to the disinformation and cyber warfare capabilities of the US defense infrastructure. Ugandans have already responded with clarity to this manipulation of the war in their society. I think that it is important to examine the wider context of the ‘invisible hand’ behind the production of Kony2012 and the current campaign calling for a day of Action on April 20. This campaign raises deeper issues about the contemporary moment in global politics and the intense competition for imperial domination of Africa.

      Disinformation and Ideological coercion of US citizens to support the military-industrial complex has been most manifest in the propaganda war over terrorism. However, this war on terror only served to isolate the United States, weaken the society and bog down its military in quagmires such as Afghanistan. Yet, despite this ideological coercion and decline, planners of the military information operations have been studying social media and information warfare in order to neutralize the growing opposition to militarism in the United States. This social media event must be examined thoroughly because the Kony2012 video broke records to become the fastest-spreading online video in history. This fact of the breaking of records alone requires deeper understanding. I will argue that the barrage of media coverage which ensured this record was not accidental. The massive promotion of this on-line can now be understood in the wider context of full spectrum warfare. in which combat operations are reserved for the last resort. Psychological warfare and disinformation operations are crucial to weaken populations both at home and in ‘enemy’ territory. I am contending that the Kony2012 was a test to intercept the social media capabilities of the youths in the USA in this revolutionary moment. Kony2012 with its ambition to ensnare millions has already been exposed with millions debunking the assertions of the film. Pambazuka has published the response of Mahmood Mamdani. The Association of Concerned Africa Scholars has published their statement addressed to the U.S. Government about the Lord’s Resistance Army and Central Africa.

      A special Africa Focus bulletin has pulled together reflections of videos, blog posts, and articles with Ugandan voices and other commentaries. This record is important in that it gives a comprehensive list of resources so that young students who are organizing rebuttals can find resources to counter the planned April 20 manifestations to support the call for the US military to intervene in Africa.

      In the face of this massive grassroots opposition to the manipulation by Invisible Children, even the New York Times has now joined in with its Opinion Page article that ‘Kony is not the problem.’

      If Kony is not the problem, then what should peace and progressive forces do to ensure that campaign such as these are nipped in the bud?

      Jack Bratich who has been studying cyberwar as part of the ‘counter-radicalization’ of the youth has penetrated the mind games embedded in this video. He summarized his arguments in an on line article, [url-=]“My Little Kony: The Rise of the Flashpublics.”[/url] Professor Bratich has also used the formulation of genetically modified grassroots organizations to characterize these pseudo grassroots campaigns managed and orchestrated by conservative forces. If one then examines the world of the Institute for Creative Technologies at the University of Southern California where Jason Russell was trained, one will encounter the sophisticated interplay of artificial intelligence, graphics and the exploration of new mind games. These mind games are intended to demobilize the youth.

      After the fabrication of terrorism in Africa over the past decade crowned with the colossal failure of the NATO intervention in Libya and the international revulsion in relation to the execution of the leader of Libya, AFRICOM and the US military had to find new sources of support. It was in the midst of this search for new support where this video became the social media event of the moment. This video Kony 2012 in 30 minutes tapped into the emotions of young people, exploited their idealism and called on them to subsidize their own repression by making contributions to this information warfare platform. I want to use this commentary to agree that stripped of all of the layers of mobilization for action to catch Joseph Kony, one of the objectives of this Kony 2012 video is to experiment with alternatives to the growing political consciousness of the youth in the United States as manifest in the Occupy Wall Street Movement.

      Jason Russell and his stewardship in the conservative Christian fundamentalists ranks has assisted us in making the necessary connections between humanitarianism, disaster pornography, the US military, universities and long term planning of the US militarists in Africa. We are informed that after his graduation from the Institute of Creative technologies at the University of Southern California in 2002 he went with his friends to Africa to put into action what he learnt about story telling. We know from the information that the Invisible Children has posted about itself that it belongs to that subset of sub-contractors of the armaments culture, especially the humanitarian militarists such as the Enough Project, one of the chief promoter of the Save Darfur campaign, the Center for American Progress, and Resolve, a human rights group connected to conservative Catholic missionary organizations. So although the Kony 2012 is presented as a ‘one person campaign on a personal journey,’ we can make the linkages to grasp the forces behind the mind games. That Jason Russell suffered a ‘meltdown’ as a result of the push back from concerned citizens should not deter a close examination of his journey through the corridors of religious conservatism and militarism.

      I am now persuaded that this video is another failed effort by the military planners in the United States. In this instance, the enemy as outlined by Jack Bratich is the youths who are mobilizing against Wall Street and the bankers. Millions of young persons in the United States are graduating from colleges with thousands of dollars in debt. They end up unemployed and are strung out without hope. The new social movement of youths opposing the top 1 per cent that has exploded in the United States in the midst of the capitalist depression offered a new way to educate the citizens of the United States. The more perceptive of these youths have been at the forefront of the campaigns calling for real social and economic change. Kony 2012 was one effort to blunt this mobilization of the 99 per cent. The effort failed. The authors of this effort were opposed in Africa. The people of Northern Uganda for who the video sought to speak, reacted to the manipulation. The government of Uganda had to distance themselves from this disinformation campaign. Even the foreign policy experts such as the Council for Foreign Relations had to distance themselves from this military/humanitarian propaganda of Kony 2012 and the Invisible Children saying that the video Invisible Children was "manipulat[ing] facts for strategic purposes, exaggerating the scale of LRA abductions and murders. “

      In this disinformation blowback, we have been given a very clear window into how the military information operatives are studying ‘social media’ to ‘cleverly target’ young persons in order to lobotomize them in preparation for the era of singularity. This week I will place the Kony2012 campaign into the failure of the planners of the US military and the conservative republican forces who want to dominate the US military and corporate spaces. From this outline of the linkages between the Conservatives in the United States and the Ugandan leadership around Yoweri Musevieni, this contribution will analyze the linkages between Jason Russell and the conservative religious fundamentalists in the United States. The manipulation and exploitation of his own son in this ‘production’ brought us face to face with the mental pathology that Frantz Fanon warned about in his analysis of colonial wars and mental disorders. One of the challenges of the peace movement is to work for healing in a way that supports peace and reconstruction at home and in Africa. Jason Russell and the authors of Invisible Children are in need of healing. However, in order to heal, there must be truth telling.

      This Kony2012 video has reinforced my own conviction that demilitarization and peace in Africa is intricately connected to demilitarization and peace in the United States.


      After nearly 80 million persons watched this on line video which was launched to call for US military intervention in Central Africa, there is enough information on the atrocities in Northern Uganda that it has become evident that the authors of the video were indeed calling on US citizens to call for the US military to intervene in Uganda to support the Musevieni administration. Now that even the establishment platforms such as the New York Times and the Council for Foreign Relations have revealed that the video Invisible Children was "manipulat[ing] facts for strategic purposes, exaggerating the scale of LRA abductions and murders, “it is necessary to go further to call for the withdrawal of the 100 combat equipped advisers who have been deployed to assist the Musevieni government in Uganda. These advisors were deployed in October 2011, the second time that the US military has explicitly intervened to support the Museveni regime.

      The people of Northern Uganda have reacted to this video because they have suffered at the hands of the Museveni military. We know that the Lord’s Resistance Army derives their legitimacy from the repression that has been carried out in this region.

      Mamdani is correct when he said that there is no military solution to the questions of the atrocities in Northern Uganda. The military solutions proffered by the Invisible Children are just another vehicle to continue the relationship between Museveni and the US military. The issues of war, displacement, killings and refugees have plagued the peoples of Northern Uganda for more than thirty years. Yoweri Museveni had come to power in Uganda in 1986 and has used the war in the North to maintain himself in power. While a young student at the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, Museveni had been loudest in his anti-imperialist and militaristic rhetoric, but as soon as he ascended power in 1986 he became a firm ally of not only the conservative militarists in the USA, but the conservative Christian fundamentalists.

      From his early alliance with the Reagan Administration, Museveni was projected as a ’reformer’ and the United States has been training Ugandan troops in counterterrorism for several years. With this assistance, the Museveni regime has been able to keep the news of the concentration camps in Northern Uganda out of international headlines. Five years ago, Joseph Kony and the remnants of the Lord’s Resistance Army was expelled from the region of Northern Uganda by the Ugandan Army. Earlier Kony had been indicted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Since that time the LRA has been a roving band across the regions of Northern Uganda, Southern Sudan, Eastern Congo and the Central African Republic. Reduced to less than 200 to 300 persons, the LRA depended on its international supporters. It must be stated that while the Ugandan government and the USA were deploying assets to track Joseph Kony, the Sudanese government in Khartoum was assisting Joseph Kony. This was the same Sudanese government which the US military and intelligence were sharing information in order to counter-terrorism in Central Africa.

      In 2008, the US government made public their alliance with the Museveni administration when it was announced that a team of 17 advisers and analysts from the US Africa Command had launched Lightning Thunder to capture Joseph Kony and the remnants of the Lord’s Resistance Army. At that time, I wondered why the US did not simply ask Omar Bashir to provide information on how his government coordinated support for the LRA. However, by the time of the public disclosure of US support for the Ugandan military, Kony and the remnants of the LRA had left a wake of mayhem from Uganda, across the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Southern Sudan to the Central African Republic. This was a clear failure of the US Africa Command which had worked closely with Ugandan officers on the mission, providing satellite phones, intelligence and other support. Veteran East African activists know that the Museveni government did not really want Kony captured because his primary basis for the militarization of the society would be removed. One can still see the information on this operation called Natural Fire 10 on the information platforms of the US Africa Command. Any self-respecting military establishment would be embarrassed to advertise the failure of the hunt Kony campaign. This campaign had been orchestrated to blunt the discussions on Amnesty and Reconciliation in Uganda. Whatever the names of the operations, Natural Fire, or Operation Lightning Thunder, it was summed up thus, “by any reasonable definition the operation was an abject military failure.”

      This abject military failure has now been placed before the world after October 2011 when, the Obama administration announced its decision to send 100 combat-equipped US military “advisers,” most of them Special Forces troops, into Central Africa with the stated aim of hunting down and either capturing or killing Kony and other leaders of the LRA. It is now known that the one thread that links support for these operations has been the work of those who have been calling for US military intervention, especially Invisible Children, the ’non-profit organization which gave themselves the mandate to bring awareness to the activities of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA).


      From the period of colonialism and the imperial partitioning of Africa, humanitarianism has always been presented as a front for military operations. But, in the 21st century, this humanitarianism has to be linked to the military information operations. Invisible children have been one clear example of the linkages between pseudo non-governmental organizations and the US military. When the video called Invisible Children, Kony 2012 went viral in March 2012; many of the unsuspecting 80 million viewers quickly became aware of the explicit message that this was a message that called on US citizens to support the deployment of US military forces in Uganda and Central Africa.

      Jason Russell, the public face of this ‘non-profit’ organization, Invisible Children had been trained in the US military sponsored information warfare center at the University of Southern California (USC) called the Institute for Creative technologies (ICT). This ICT was exposed in the run up to the information warfare against US citizens at the time of the war against the people of Iraq. Jason Russell graduated from the USC in this period of propaganda warfare and fear mongering in 2002. The web site of ICT said explicitly,

      “At USC’s Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT), high-tech tools and classic storytelling come together to pioneer new ways to teach and to train. Our goal is to create engaging and effective immersive experiences that shape the future of learning. With applications for therapy, leadership, and decision- making, ICT also seeks to redefine the range of skills these experiences can address. ICT was established in 1999 with a multi-year contract from the US Army to explore a powerful question: What would happen if leading technologists in artificial intelligence, graphics, and immersion joined forces with the creative talents of Hollywood and the game industry?“

      For decades the US military entangled universities in their mission of wreaking death, destruction, fear and horror. Universities in the USA compete with each other to launch projects aligned to what Henry Giroux has described as “University in Chains.” The higher the rank of the University, the more competitive they are in this insensate contest for outside funding. The University of Southern California nestled close to Hollywood with access to ‘inventive combinations’ has been one of the most successful in this competition for defense dollars and contracts such as that of ICT. Syracuse University is the home of the prestigious S.I.Newhouse School of School of Public Communications. The Newhouse School is home to two Department of Defense sponsored programs which teach active-duty military personnel photojournalism and broadcast journalism. The Military Photojournalism (MPJ) and Military Motion Media (MMM) programs consist of students from the Navy, Marine Corps, Army and Air Force. These enlisted service members have been serving as mass communication specialists, combat photographers and military journalists. They come to the School for ten months to learn how to become better storytellers.

      I am drawing attention to these programs because peace activists within Syracuse University have long campaigned for the end of these Pentagon related projects within the University. I invite researchers to see the special issue of the Syracuse Peace Council Bulletin on Syracuse University: A player in the Military-Industrial-Academic Complex. As part of the rebuttal to this Kony 2012 campaign it is incumbent on peace activists to expose the military connections of their universities to the Pentagon. Under the pressures of education cuts, researchers have been pushed into relations with the Defense Department because this is one of the only growth areas of the US government.

      Now, the defense planners have upped the ante in an effort to entangle the minds of the young in the United States by the skillful use of social media tools to harness support for US military operations in Central Africa. In the case of the video Invisible Children, we can see the sophisticated interplay of artificial intelligence, graphics and the exploration of new mind games. My own students from the Newhouse School have alerted me to the sophisticated techniques which were being experimented in this video, Kony 2012. Some of the experts in this field of 21st century communications and journalism call this technique ‘flashpublics’.

      This is the formulation used by the journalism professor Jack Bratich who has been studying cyberwar as part of the ‘counter-radicalization’ US youth. Bratich has exposed the Alliance of Youth Movements as one of the fronts of the corporations and locates the KONY 2012 as part of the new a new conservative front of so called grass roots youth movements. Jack Bratich in his evaluation of the ‘inventive combinations’ that were harnessed by the authors of Invisible Children noted,“as flashpublics are designed to assemble people rapidly for an event. However, this flash collective is specifically issue-oriented and more widely dispersed (as the eventual “meeting spot” itself is unknown and distributed). The flash of the flashpublic is a quick mobilization of attention and sharing towards a predefined political objective. It involves what Anna Gibbs calls an “affective contagion” tied to processes that early 20th century social theorists associated with sympathy, suggestion, even mass hypnosis. The flash fuses the condensed time of transduction (sharing, sending, connecting, composing) with the time of induction (priming, pacing, guiding, binding), all designed to generate mental/bodily states in viewers resulting in increased suggestibility.”

      Bratich furthered this analysis by linking the Invisible Children organization to a new network of youth movements that are being supported around the world under the rubric of the Alliance for Youth Movement. This organization is being used as an instrument of US militarism and imperialism.

      After the successful use of social media by the Obama campaign in 2007-2008 and the impressive networks refined by the April 6 movement of Egypt, long term planners had to experiment with new tools of information warfare. This information ploy against the youth had failed when the Save Darfur campaign was discredited.Books by Mahmood Mamdani such as Saviors and Survivors exposed the real mission of the planners of the Save Darfur Movement. Jeremy Keenan exposed the fabrication of terrorism in the Sahara in his book, Dark Sahara. Abdi Samatar has exposed the fabrication of terrorism in Somalia. Peace activists have exposed the role of AFRICOM in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the covert operations now underway. All of these forms of militaristic interventions must be exposed.

      It was said then (during the Save Darfur Campaign), as it is being said now, Africa does not need saviors. Africa needs solidarity and for this the peace movement in the USA ought to be at the forefront of exposing the real intent of the manipulation of this video and campaign.

      We know that Jason Russell is part of the network of conservative Christian fundamentalists who have been working with their fellow believers in Uganda. It is important for Ugandans who have worked with this ‘grassroots’ organizer to know that Russell has in the past been affiliated with Liberty University, an institution whose founder Jerry Fallwell was a firm supporter of the white racist minority regime in South Africa.

      The intellectual base and financial foundation of Jason Russell and the Invisible Children organization is of interest for those who are tracking the links between the religious right and the military. As many in the NGO multibillion dollar business of humanitarian work in Africa, less than one third of the donations received by this organization goes to the ‘victims’ in Africa. “Barely one third of its spending last year supported programs in Central Africa, while 20 percent covered salaries and expenses and 43 percent was used for “awareness programs.” That is the youths of the USA were paying to subsidize this information war that was being waged against them. According to Invisible Children's 2011 annual report, the group brought in $13.7 million in revenue that year. The breakdown of expenses shows that about $3.3 million went to programs in Central Africa and $2.3 million was spent on awareness programs. The group spent $1.4 million for management and general expenses, $850,050 on "awareness products," $699,617 for media and film creation, and $286,678 for fundraising.


      But these figures are paltry in relation to the real networks of conservative Christian fundamentalists of which the Invisible Children form a part. In an article posted on Alternet we are informed that “Invisible Children is funded by Antigay, Creationist Christian Right.

      “Among its biggest donors is the National Christian Foundation and the Christian Community Foundation, two grant-making groups that provide financial backing to key organizations of the Christian right, such as Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council, which promote anti-abortion and anti-gay legislation and religion in school, as well as the Discovery Institute, which advocates teaching “intelligent design,” or creationism.”

      It is these same conservative Christian fundamentalists who have been the most energetic in the support of the US global war on terror. Jason Russell in his own words has described his journey from the Institute for Creative Technologies to the formation of the Invisible Children NGO. It is this training that gave this organization the expertise to use film, creativity and social action to mobilize youths in support of the US military in Uganda.


      Many have critiqued the Invisible Children video and its simplicity and manipulative designs. I am maintaining that it is a misconception to see this as simplicity. It is a deliberate attempt as disinformation. I had defined in the introduction and I am restating here, Disinformation is “Information that seems truthful, relevant and based on unbiased facts, but has been concocted to mislead the recipient in order to attain fraudulent monetary, military, political, or religious objectives.”

      Some have called on the US government to end their relationship with the Museveni government. However, I want to add that the end of this psychological warfare against the youths will only take place when a counter movement develops which can expose the varying networks and layers of the US armaments culture. No amount of disinformation can now cover up the complete waste of lives in Afghanistan. The burning of the Koran, a US soldier going on the rampage and the atrocities of the US military has discredited the military so that no amount of flash publics can repair the damage done. There are many who have rightly pointed out that the US military is involved in a major buildup in order to justify a larger deployment of troops in Africa. Africom has been deployed to defend US energy corporations and forward planners have written of the need for US to defend its interests in Africa. The African peoples know that these interests have not been for the health, safety and security of the African poor and exploited.

      The attention of the peace movement ensured that when the Libyan intervention took place, The US government and the Obama administration had to resort to covert ‘special operations’ forces. But these covert forces and the private military forces employed by the oil companies cannot blunt the new wave of revolutions in Africa. The Center for Strategic and International Studies gave the game away when it convened a discussion on Youth Revolt. These strategic centers are integrated into the same institutions that profit from war making. With the new uprisings in Africa and the birth of global movements for change, the Invisible Children initiative was an attempt to halt the radicalization of the youth. It is an effort to blunt the growing and deepening anti-war sentiments in the society. In this climate, creating images of white supremacy and saving African lives was meant to harness the energies of millions.
      This effort failed.

      In the face of the failure, Jason Russell exposed his own state of mind and the state of mind of those who authored Invisible Children. Jason Russell suffered a ‘meltdown’ and has been admitted to a psychiatric’ hospital. This melt down exposed fully the fact that Kony 2012 was a disturbing campaign orchestrated by a disturbed campaigner.

      This week as we write, many concerned citizens are grappling with the militaristic climate that inspired the killing of the young African American, Trayvon Martin. It is the militaristic mindset unleashed military propaganda such as Invisible Children which inspires the climate of violence and killing at home and abroad. I cannot end without calling on all who read this column to sign on to the petition on It is the petition to ensure that the killer of Trayvon Martin be arrested and charged for the murder of this young 17 year old who was shot and killed on February 26 as he walked to a family member's home from a convenience store where he had just bought some candy. The United States had justified its intervention in the Middle East as a pre-emptive war. The killer of Trayvon Martin argued that he was acting pre-emptively in self-defense.

      The 20 celebrities and 12 officials who have been targeted by Invisible Children can now make their position clear on the realities of the mindset of the violence which has engulfed Africans at home and abroad. There have been many who have been seduced by the campaigns of the US military. Now, the peace and progressive forces are being called upon to develop another type of storytelling and video game which can assist in the healing of humans.

      In this way, there will be a global movement calling for the dismantling of the US Africa command and another force in world politics to channel the energies of the youth away from mind control and subliminal messages.


      * Please do not take Pambazuka for granted! Become a Friend of Pambazuka and make a donation NOW to help keep Pambazuka FREE and INDEPENDENT!

      * Horace Campbell is Professor of African American Studies and Political Science at Syracuse University.
      * Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      White saviours, black victims: An old story

      Sokari Ekine


      cc K-I
      What is really disturbing about Invisible Children is, if a group of Africans had made the Kony2012 film would it have got the publicity from around the world? Would they have been able to raise the funds to make the video in the first place?

      I haven't watched the Kony2012 video but I note it has just under 84 million hits in two weeks, which is to be expected considering the noise around the Invisible Children project. I have nothing to add to the plethora of existing criticisms of the video and project – much of which reads like a script of how to respond to imperialist and militaristic oversimplistic propaganda presented in a binary of good and evil with Tom and Jerry solutions. There were some memorable responses from which others flowed, such as the one from Teju Cole (On Kony and the White Saviour Industrial Complex) which rapidly circulated across cyberspace. Cole’s seven points on the ‘banality of sentimentality’ joins the list of unforgettable commentary by African writers – Binyavanga Wainaina, ‘How to Write about Africa’ and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s ‘The Danger of the Single Story’; an in depth article by Ethan Zuckerman ; and Dinaw Mengestu post in Warscapes).

      The interventions designed by the ‘White Saviour Industrial Complex’ have a long history dating back to Bob Geldof and Band Aid and cover just about everything from saving children in Haiti, saving women’s clitoris by buying one, saving queer Africans, providing us with an assortment of [1] knickers, soap, shoes, electronic cast offs, dodgy fridges, the list goes on. Its not just a question of whether these goods are needed or not but what good is soap when water services are being priviatised and therefore unaffordable? Or land and water are being sold and bought by international finance and rich countries to feed and water their own people?

      But this is 2012 and mass actions bring about mass criticisms as well as mass support. What was different about this particular ‘Saving Africa’ campaign was the almost unanimous and instantaneous criticism from African blogs, Facebook and Twitter accounts. There were other notables. The overall lack of reporting and commentary by African news media was in contrast to the high volume of commentary by citizen journalists and social media hacks who became the voice of the continent. Western mainstream and alternative media listened too and reported African voices. The mass scrutiny also revealed Kony2012 had close ties, including receiving funding, to US evangelicals who were involved with the anti-homosexuality campaign in Uganda.

      What does IC have in common with the ministry of California evangelist Ed Silvoso, who works directly with leading Ugandan author and promoter of the Anti Homosexuality Bill (also called the ‘kill the gays bill’) Julius Oyet — who claims that ‘even animals are wiser than homosexuals’?

      The answer? — all of these ministries – the Discovery Institute, Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, The Fellowship Foundation, The Call, Ed Silvoso’s Harvest Evangelism, and Invisible Children – received at least $100,000 in 2008 from what has emerged in the last decade as the biggest funder of the hard, antigay, creationist Christian right: the National Christian Foundation.

      If we search for commonalities amongst white saviours, predatory religious movements are high on the list, whether evangelicals such as The Call or The Family, or the Raelian UFO cult, founders of Clitoraid. Their story goes like this. The Rael’s leader was ‘contacted by another planet and asked to establish an embassy to welcome people back to earth’. To this end they are required to build a welcome temple for their returnees in 2035 from outer space. Now this costs money and souls must be found to work towards building the temple and a country to host the embassy. I suspect that the Clitoraid project in Burkina Faso is their cover for establishing this landing spot - I am aware that this sounds like a conspiracy theory but read their mission first.

      Which brings me to the second and third commonalities of saviour projects - narcissism and deceit, which can be explicit or implicit or a mix of both. Between 2001 and 2009 over 1000 procedures [IRIN] to repair women’s vaginas and since 2006 over 100 clitoral reconstructions were carried out by Bukina Faso hospitals. So why do the Raelians and Clitoraid choose to spend precious money on building a hospital rather than support the work already being done by local doctors, if not out of their own sense of self-importance and infantalising Africans? On her blog We Save Africa, Wanjiru Kamau-Ruttenberg comments on the lack of full financial disclosure by Clitoraid and their failure to address local cultural issues or carry out an impact study....

      ‘Millner and other critics following her lead have questioned the safety and validity of Clitoraid’s reconstructive surgery and expressed concerns about where the donated funds are going. And they say Clitoraid didn’t do an impact study to see how repairing the women’s genitals would affect their local communities’.
      This would easily be answered if full financial records were disclosed. Clitoraid has been collecting money for its ‘pleasure hospital’ in Burkina Faso since 2006. How much money has been raised and has the hospital been built?

      Any impact study and full evaluation of the published literature on FGM/C as well as working closely with the local community is essential in any intervention. Clitoraid need to produce all documentation to indicate clearly what impact study they have undertaken. To date, no evidence has been produced.’

      And the claim that they are the only ones working to ‘restore sexual pleasure’ is untrue as the IRIN report quoted above points out.

      If you don’t choke over the name ‘ my Starving Children’, a project which provides food packs to starving black and brown children, the before and after impact photos will definitely do the job. They describe themselves as ‘a non-profit Christian organization committed to feeding God’s children hungry in body and spirit. The approach is simple: children and adults hand-pack meals specifically formulated for malnourished children, and we ship the meals to nearly 70 countries around the world’.

      One of the 70 countries is Haiti where they have the most number of partners. The problem here is not about providing food for children but what food and how food is delivered. In this case FMSC sends nutrition packs which are essential during a crisis such as an earthquake or floods but highly questionable as an ongoing policy to feed children. If their Flickr stream is representative, the children are far from being medically malnourished; so what is the problem with local food? Fresh Haitian food bought in local markets and cooked every day would be far more nourishing, familiar and economically advantageous to Haitian people than food made from dried potatoes or vegetables.

      Contrast FMSC with a project run by Guyanese agricultural activist, Mark Jacobs, who has spent the past year creating small sustainable vegetable gardens in schools and gardens - anywhere possible. The produce is then used by the growers and any surplus can be sold in the market. It is a small project with no funding other than personal donations with no religious or any other conditionalities attached to it. But of course doing it Mark’s way does not serve the ego which feeds white saviours. Videos and photo-streams of white interventions erase black and brown people by presenting us as infantalised victims. Tarzan, the Lone Ranger with his ‘good Indian’ sidekick given the fool’s name of Tonto, and John Wayne are still swaggering around Africa and the global South but two things have changed. The technology has switched from silver bullets and lassoes to Twitter and YouTube. And if the responses to Kony2012 are representative of African voices, saviours will no longer have the freedom to roam without being scrutinized and challenged.

      In ‘The Coming Insurrection’ [2] the authors formulate [which has a double meaning - to form an opinion, to suggest an idea and in urban slang ‘to create real-world fact from online forum discussions’. Through the online media, the mass scrutiny of Kony 2012 revealed the truth behind the organisers and the organisation] the notion that revolutions are spread by resonance, a kind of law of multiple motions or actions jumping from place to place.

      ‘A body that resonates does so according to its own mode. An insurrection is not like a plague or a forest fire - a linear process which spreads from place to place after an initial spark. It rather takes the shape of music whose focal points though dispersed in time and space, succeed in imposing the rhythm of their own vibrations always taking on more density. To the point when any return to NORMAL [my emphaisis] is no longer desirable or even imaginable’.[p12]

      Kony2012 began its public cyber life as a video by the organisation which became viral within hours. But the technologies of social media are not without their own internal vulnerabilities which act on the follower and the followed like balls bouncing randomly against each other in a child’s bouncy castle. Information flows at unimaginable speed, gathering more information each nano-second. To stop or rather twist it towards an unplanned direction, the collective resonance has to reappropriate the information and sabotage by making it theirs. But this is not a struggle of us against them, truth against fiction - there are too many layers of us and them and too many truths and fictions for that to be possible. Two African voices who supported the actions of Invisible Children were AfroSphere and Mind of Malaka. Alatentou of AfroSphere was not surprised IC was being run by white people. Nor was s/he surprised by the ‘fierce backlash’ from those s/he describes as Negro Pseudo-intellectuals, black people who are busy criticising white folks using big words in order to appear enlightened but really they sit back and do nothing.

      ‘Social media is their playfield. This is the arena they dominate because it’s where they can easily find an audience of like-minded arrogant ideologues, who view social media as a vehicle to be critical of what others are doing. They would never think of utilising it as a springboard to social activism. The primary objective of social media for the Negro Pseudo-intellectual is to sprout pseudo-intellectual and hyper-moralistic political rhetoric, as well regurgitate their played out 1960s Black revolutionary conspiracy theories, so as to appear intelligent and enlightened. It’s not to utilise social media as a tool to ushering in social change today for the benefit of others, especially African children.’

      Alatentou admits not knowing the people at IC but applauds them merely for doing something, unconcerned he ends with a quote from Theodore Roosevelt. Well if it had been Frederick Douglass or Sojourner Truth, I might have been a little less scathing. Instead I find myself searching for words to describe black people who are satisfied with some white people as long as they appear to be doing something to save other black people - no matter what damage being caused is! Reducing the argument to white folks and black folks is tiresome. Mind of Malaka hardly fares any better as she too brings it down to white folks here and black folks there using the rather unfortunate comparison of shit and chocolate having the same properties because they are the same colour!

      Can I speak plainly, reader? I am SO SICK of Black people and their twisted dogma concerning the ‘White Savior’ Syndrome. Oh, you haven’t heard of it? It’s the belief in certain circles of the Black intelligentsia that because Black folk can’t do for themselves, White people have to come in and do for them, or more specifically, solve our problems for us. In the case of Joseph Kony in particular, one rather prolific individual on Twitter summed up the Kony2012 (and implied White savior campaign) movement by saying that ‘the world exists simply to satisfy the needs – including, importantly, the sentimental needs – of White people and Oprah’.

      It gets worse - Black people hang your head in shame! This is followed by a rant against African leaders, Blackberry users and our failures to support Save Darfur and wipe Kony and his despicable murdering cronies off the face of the earth. Like AfroSpear, Malaka has bought the narrative of IC and other saviours that Africans are doing nothing to solve their own problems. There are no queer activists acting, just White saviours from London and New York. There are no African doctors or governments for that matter working to end FGM and provide women with much needed medical care, just Raelians and their flying saucers. There are no Africans campaigning against Shell oil in Nigeria or providing support to rape survivors in the DRC. No Africans campaigned against Charles Taylor to end the civil war - it was all done on the back of EuroAmericans. What is really disturbing about Invisible Children is, if a group of Africans had made this film would it have gotten the publicity from around the world? Would they have been able to raise the funds to make the video and carry out the research?

      The supply lines of information - Twitter, Blogs, Facebook are full of distortions, misinformation, truths, assertions and counter assertions. Entry points to all of these data bits are often random and unconnected just as they produce moments of hyper-activity. The speed of travel and sense of urgency leave little time to reflect such that unless one spends all hours of the day on guard, it is impossible to truly grasp what is happening at any one time.

      The Metropolis is not just this urban pile-up, this final collision between city and country. It is also a flow of being and things, a current that runs through fibre optic networks, through high speed train lines, satellites, and video surveillance cameras, making sure that this world keeps running straight to its ruin. [‘The Coming Insurrection’ - pp 58]

      In the case of Invisible Children and Kony 2012, social media is the Metropolis and the collision is not between black / white, city / country or north / south but between visions of what the world can and needs to be if justice is the purpose rather than banal emotional experiences of privilege.


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      * Sokari Ekine blogs at [url= Blacklooks]]Blacklooks[/url][/url]
      * Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.


      [1] SWEDOW - sending unwanted Western goods as in-kind donations to poor countries, without paying sufficient attention to if they are really needed
      [2] The Coming Insurrection by the Invisible Committee [Semiotext] - A wild excitable statement on the collapse of capitalist culture.

      Self-determination of the intersex child

      Implications for homosexual adults living in a homophobic world

      Akinyi M. Ocholla


      cc Wikimedia
      Intersex individuals must be afforded the right to self-determination, dignity, and privacy from childhood through adulthood.

      The book Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Justice: A Comparative Law Casebook by the International Commission of Jurists is really a fascinating read (ICJ 2011). And it is such a learning experience. Today I read the section on intersex conditions. As we may or may not know, "intersex" refers to a range of anatomical conditions that do not fall within standard male and female categories. They may be the result of variations in an individual's chromosomes, hormones, gonads, or genitalia. For example, having one ovary and one testis, or gonads that contain both ovarian and testicular tissue.

      Chromosomal patterns that are XXY or XO instead of XX or XY are also intersex conditions. And while intersex is often not considered by many people as a medical condition but rather a label, by contrast the Intersex Initiative website states that "…majority of people born with intersex conditions do not view "intersex" as part of their identity (or)... do not even describe their condition as "intersex", as they feel that they simply have a medical condition.... and not intersex status."(ICJ 2011).

      Irrespective of how the intersex condition is viewed, it is often accompanied by discrimination and stigma from the larger population. That having been said one of the problems facing intersex children is genital normalizing by the medical establishment with the support of the parents. Many medical professionals seek to ensure, through surgery, that all babies or children fit neatly into the standard categories of male and female based on clearly identifiable genitalia. Their argument is that gender ambiguity can be traumatic and frustrating both for the parents and the child and that the child could have serious problems adjusting to ambiguous gender identity (ICJ 2011).

      However psychologists will confirm that gender identity starts forming pretty early and by the age of five intersex children usually have a clear idea of who they are (presumably irrespective of their ambiguous genitalia). Therefore after the age of five, the urgency to perform surgery on the intersex child diminishes and the right of the child to personal development supersedes the right of the parent to make decisions for that child on the area of gender and sexual identity.

      Now even though there is lack of consensus in some countries on the most appropriate approach for intersex conditions, the increasing school of thought, supported by court decisions around the world, is to let the intersex child be as he/she is until the age of majority - the age at which the individual, now an adult, can make informed decisions for him or herself.

      Many cases have shown how detrimental it is for parents and doctors to choose to perform surgery on the child before it is able to make this important decision for itself. A good example is the story of David Reimer, who as an infant was a boy but tragically lost his penis during a circumcision gone wrong. His parents, on the advice of psychologist John Maney, then had his genitals surgically altered to fit the female gender and was raised as a girl, named Joan. Later in life he rejected his female assignment and lived as a man in adulthood, even getting married to a woman and raising three step children. He underwent female-to-male sex reassignment surgery but eventually committed suicide in 2004.

      Another tragic case is the Christiane Volling story. Volling was raised as a male but was found to have a uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries but no testis during a routine appendectomy. At the age of eighteen doctors had all her intra-abdominal female sexual organs removed without her consent. No male organs were found. Rather than “corrective surgery” to adapt and maintain one of two present sexes, the surgery caused a complete removal of organs from the only present and organic sex (ICJ 2011).

      A number of courts have thus ruled that sex reassignment surgery may only be offered to intersex children with his informed consent. By “informed” here we mean that the child is made completely aware of 'the invasiveness of the medical procedure, the patient's level of understanding, the degree of medical qualification in relation to the risk, and the ability of the patient to accept the risk with an objective and critical self- awareness' (ICJ 2011).

      Pending this, the child will have to wait until the age of majority to make this important decision. Therefore if an intersex child can be allowed to live as intersex until age of majority or self-determination, it follows that a homosexual or bisexual child should also be allowed to live as a homosexual or bisexual person into adulthood. Often a child will begin to feel attracted to others between the age of 8 and 15 or thereabout.

      Since homosexuality is not considered by the World Health Organization as a mental disorder-but rather as a natural part of human sexuality- any attempts to change a child will only have a traumatic affect on his/her psychological and emotional well-being. It is also relatively difficult, if not impossible, to change a person's sexual orientation. Allowing the child to be as he/she is until early adulthood makes provision for the individual to explore his/her freedoms as stipulated in the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

      Article 12 of the ICCPR assures the child the right to express his or her own views. The child also has the right to free development of personality. Upon reaching the age of maturity he/she can decide what to live as (heterosexual, bisexual, or homosexual). This makes sense, since growing children need to live and experience their sex and gender assignment, as well as sexual orientation to be able to decide what feels best for them.

      No one else can do that for them, nor be allowed to try to impose their preferred orientation “ideals” on them. If the young adult finds that a homosexual or bisexual orientation is what comes naturally to them, they should be allowed to live so freely. The implication then is that the right to self-determination must continue throughout adulthood. The state cannot just withdraw his/her right to privacy, dignity and protection because of what others in the population feel about it, which often are irrational feelings or perceptions, shrouded in a cloak called morality. It is after-all a deeply personal journey that is no one else's business other than of that particular individual.


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      * Akinyi Ocholla is Executive Director of Minority Women in Action, a Kenyan LBT women's organization.
      * Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.


      International Commission of Jurists, 2011: Sexual orientation, Gender Identity and Justice: A comparative Law Casebook. Pp. 137-152.

      Creating violence-free childhoods: what will it take?

      Dipak Naker


      cc E V
      Violence against children is a complex problem that requires a holistic solution. In this article, Uganda-based Raising Voices explains the different elements that are needed to add up to sustainable change.

      Imagine this as your reality: virtually all your friends say that the adults who are supposed to protect them humiliate them, shout at them, and do not prioritise their needs. Imagine that a third of your friends experience a beating at least once a week, and two thirds of your friends at school say that they are beaten frequently. One in five of the girls you know tells you that her first experience of sex was coerced, and three-quarters of the girls tell you that they have experienced some form of sexual violence, ranging from assault and harassment to uninvited touching. What’s more, one in eight of the boys you know says that he too has experienced some form of sexual violence.

      Imagine this further: that even though all this is ‘known’, no one talks about it. You are certainly not allowed to challenge the adults, and there is nothing much you can do: there is nowhere you can go to report your complaint and, if you did, nobody would take your grievances seriously. You feel rage and a profound sense of injustice, and you have no outlet for these feelings. If you are in an earlier stage of your childhood, you do not even have the ability to articulate what you are feeling, and you learn that this is just how things are. You accept that when there is nothing you can do, it is better to focus your energy on surviving instead of fighting back. So you begin a lifelong journey of editing your feelings, your sense of outrage, and learn to be compliant. In important ways you learn that you can’t truly express how you feel, and what you think, because that would not be an acceptable way of behaving. Does this sound like an excessively bleak picture? That is how 1400 children we talked with described their childhood (Naker, 2005). Admittedly, it is not the whole picture. Many children do overcome the disadvantages of such a childhood and manifest joy and laughter in their lives. They do learn to cope with this reality and, despite its burdens, thrive and achieve and even succeed. But many don’t cope, and none should have to.

      Almost every child we talked with said there was too much violence in their life and they wanted something to be done urgently. With foresight and wisdom way beyond their age, many of them asked, ‘If we spend our childhood in anger, being humiliated, ignored and marginalised, what kind of a future will we create?’ Such clarity creates an imperative to act and, understandably, many agencies develop an emergency response. However, as a result of years of experience, we have learned that good intentions alone are not enough. We need to think hard and interrogate our approaches before pouring resources into them. We have to resist appeasing our conscience in the short term, and think harder about what will work in the longer term.

      At Raising Voices, as a result of these conversations with children and a similar number of adults, we engaged in searching for approaches that might work in the longer term. The following is a brief summary of what guided our thinking and ultimately what we emerged with as a framework for a way forward.

      Listening to children: what do children think of violence against them? Our first insight came from children who educated us about what violence against children means to them. With examples and emphasis, they described their feelings about violence in interpersonal relationships not as an act, but as the context of a relationship. The violence lived in the tone of the relationship, and thrived in the structure of relationships designed to keep children intimidated and passive in the presence of an adult. ‘It was not about how hard he slapped me, or how loud he shouted, but about feeling a knot in my stomach every time he was in the room, or even when I thought about him,’ one girl declared. The fundamental character of the relationship was a lack of accountability and that the adult could do whatever they liked and there was nothing the child could do about it. Cutting through the morass, children instinctively homed in on what we all look for in interpersonal relationships: respect, justice and perhaps a bit of warmth. Lack of those things, they understood without having the words to name it as such, was the root of all subsequent acts of violence against them.

      Secondly, children cautioned against caricaturing their parents or teachers as one-dimensional perpetrators of violence. These same adults were also providers and educators and a source of love and protection, especially for the very young children. They needed these adults in their lives and did not want a wedge to be driven between them. That is why, for example, they were not looking for punitive interventions. They simply asked for a credible agency to broker a dialogue that would shift this most important set of relationships in their lives to something more equitable and rewarding.

      Thirdly, they sought a broad-based intervention, not just one centred on the immediate offender. One 17 year old said, ‘Don’t just talk with my father or the teacher but talk to everyone who talks to my father and my teacher. Talk with the school and also the local leaders. Talk to our neighbours and their friends and my friends too. Don’t forget that children are living through this and so they have important things to say about what should happen.’1 Fourthly, they asked us to think beyond the rhetoric. ‘We need places and people we can go to when things go wrong. We need someone who will listen. Someone who will understand and be willing to see my side even if that means speaking out against a grown up,’ said one child. ‘Better still, we need adults who are different and show other adults what it’s like to be differently with children,’ interjected another.

      There were many other nuanced things that children told us about what it was like to live in a violent childhood. We have spent the better part of the past 5 years responding to these issues and creating practical and long-term interventions that broker a dialogue, create capacity to engage at a local level, and develop infrastructure for this alternative model of adult–child relationship to take root in Uganda. The following are some reflections that emerged during that process.

      What needs to happen to prevent violence against children? It has become clear that violence against children is a complex problem with deep roots in social norms and the power dynamics of interpersonal relations. The problem is compounded by acculturation over generations and therefore requires a holistic response. Achieving social transformation around such an issue calls for calibrated interventions that are rooted in analysis, and action at all levels of the community’s social ecology. This transformation involves working through four interdependent and synergistic drivers of change.

      Creating a national dialogue about how we relate with children In view of children’s insistence that interpersonal violence is contextual, and not merely an event or an act, our core focus must be on the nature of the relationships between adults and children. This may sound like a daunting enterprise given the intimate nature of such relationships, but if we recognise that individuals are part of a social ecosystem and that their beliefs, attitudes and behaviours are deeply influenced by their social environment, then we begin to see opportunities for fostering a dialogue without being intrusive. In the Ugandan context, and presumably elsewhere too, given that the social ecosystem is in a state of flux, with values, identities and even ‘culture’ evolving rapidly due to a wide range of forces, these interpersonal relationships are increasingly organic and contextual. Therein lies a profound opportunity to transform the experience of childhood, particularly in relation to younger children, where adults may be more open to exploring their competencies and preconceived notions of what parenthood means.

      However, this opportunity is contingent upon creating a dialogue that is incubated with some degree of expertise. As a facilitator of this dialogue, it is important to bear in mind that change is a process. Individuals need to hear an idea from multiple trusted sources. They need time to assimilate its import, to experiment with its implications, and finally they require support to integrate the idea into their behaviour. Thus the dialogue needs a sound theory of change underpinning its execution and guiding the sequencing of innovations. This will ensure that individuals are not being asked to change their behaviour when they are still exploring the validity of the idea, or that investments are focused on creating a supportive infrastructure when individuals are experimenting with new ways of behaving. If executed with humility, responsiveness and fine-tuning of innovations along the way, this strategy will have benefits at multiple levels and potential implications in areas as diverse as child development and survival, as well as educational, health and social outcomes. Generating momentum Once new ideas have started to gain a foothold, it is important to engage in a wide range of activities that generate a larger-scale alignment with the goal of creating violence-free childhoods. This involves developing and strengthening capacity to build the bridge between the rhetoric of the innovation and the behaviour of individuals who are grappling with those new ideas. Investment in processes such as discussions, public forums, community-based committees and protagonists, learning centres and peer learning networks that animate these ideas can serve to fertilise the overall dialogue and promote wider receptivity. There may also be opportunities to influence early childhood experience by working through health systems, and later childhood experiences through schools, both of which are accessed regularly during these years. Generating momentum involves reaching out to key ‘gatekeepers’ within the community to nurture legitimacy. Persuading existing decision makers at various levels of the community that the innovation is mutually beneficial will align their support behind the issue. For example, there may be opportunities to engage healthcare providers by integrating new ideas about violence-free childhood into existing campaigns focusing on child survival during the early years, or on mother-to-child transmission of HIV. Teachers too could be engaged by linking the quality of education with the prevention of violence against children.

      Endorsements from influential personalities such as a healthcare provider, a popular musician or a respected local leader can add weight to a strategy. If schools see the benefit to educational outcomes, if religious institutions see the potential for social cohesion, and if local government officials see their areas of governance benefiting from the outcomes, the social capital necessary may be generated to tip the balance in favour of the new ideas, allowing them to flourish.

      Practical action Ideas and inspiration create the motivation for change but are not sufficient to bring it about. Enough individuals with influence in their community need to act for the ‘tipping point’ to be reached. It is therefore crucial that inspiration is not allowed to evaporate because of an absence of practical imagination. Practical ideas for how action can be taken must be readily available at this stage of the process. Thus credible, context-specific, creative methodologies for action must be invented, documented and disseminated to frontline actors. For example, what kind of school could nurture a different kind of relationship between students and teachers? How can it be created? What are the steps involved, and who will take the action? Practical imagination is perhaps the most critical part of the overall enterprise. If individuals do not have the support to convert their beliefs and ideas into practical day-today actions, then they will soon fall back into old ways of behaving.

      Sustaining change The final element in the enterprise requires investment in ensuring that achievements are consolidated to avoid regression. This involves taking a longer-term view of social change and looking beyond quick pay-offs. What legislative and policy framework is in place and how will it affect resource investment at the national and regional levels? It requires analysis of all childspecific legislation such as social or education policies or annual budgets, ensuring that the broad mandate of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is integrated within their provisions. Currently this is an area that generates much debate. Many organisations invest in ‘advocacy work’ without doing the meticulous preparatory work that could make the policy reform or implementation meaningful. Uganda, for example, is awash with policy provisions that never affect the day-to-day lives of children. Inevitably, such a disjuncture breeds cynicism, mistrust and – most importantly – a loss of belief that the laws and policies of the land can have any significant effect on the lives of its citizens. It is also easy to lose faith in agencies that purport to advocate on behalf of children, but are not perceived to produce any results.

      Clearly, such an erosion of faith in the laws and policies of the land is harmful. Even if they are ineffective, laws and policies provide a moral and legal basis for making claims. They create an opportunity to challenge duty-bearers and make demands for action. It is therefore important that those who seek meaningful transformation invest imaginative energy into going beyond policy development, and venture further into how such provisions can be realised in the lives of individuals. Exploratory strategies such as strategic litigation, popularising policy provisions, dramatising implications and insisting on local mechanisms for upholding the policy may mitigate some of the cynicism that is currently undermining the faith individuals have in this approach.

      A final word. Sustaining change requires nurturing an accessible ‘change infrastructure’ consisting of institutions, values, capacities and practices that promote justice on an ongoing basis. It means working with local leaders to ensure that community-based response mechanisms are in place and accessible to children who experience violence. It involves working with schools to ensure that they have policies in place to deal with school-based violence against children. It involves working with parents and neighbours to reconceptualise childhood in a positive light. When this work is done well, it changes the operational paradigm irreversibly.

      In summary, a complex problem such as violence against children needs a holistic response. It requires the integration of approaches that work at multiple layers of the social ecology. It requires foresight to imagine what is currently not visible, discipline to resist ‘quick fixes’, and resilience to persist way beyond project and funding cycles. This may seem like a daunting prospect for any agency considering how to invest its resources in preventing violence against children. It may even be unrealistic to expect a single agency to ensure that all the pieces are in place. However, if such thinking informs our analysis, it can enable us to position ourselves wisely within the overall enterprise. It can enable us to ask relevant questions and collaborate strategically with others doing different pieces of the work. It may enable us to make an informed judgement about how likely our investment is to yield the meaningful outcomes we all seek. Imagine this as our reality 30 years from now: we have transformed the social norms that perpetuate violence against children. We have built the change infrastructure necessary for the experience of childhood to be accessible to a large number of children worldwide. We are beginning to see the first cohort of children emerging into adulthood with their sense of self not limited by the threat of interpersonal violence, and their vision for the future coloured with possibilities. What kind of world might they end up creating? What might they think of the legacy we have created for them? What value might you put on such an inheritance for succeeding generations?


      * Please do not take Pambazuka for granted! Become a Friend of Pambazuka and make a donation NOW to help keep Pambazuka FREE and INDEPENDENT!

      * Dipak Naker is Co-Director, Raising Voices, Kampala, Uganda.
      * This article was originally published in Bernard van Leer Foundation Early childhood matters, June 2011 Issue 116, Hidden violence: protecting young children at home.
      * Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.


      1. For discussion of how children participated in this research, see ‘From rhetoric to practice: bridging the gap between what we believe and what we do’ (Naker, 2007).


      Naker, D. (2005). Violence Against Children: The voices of Ugandan children and adults. Kampala, Raising Voices/Save the Children. Available here.

      Naker, D. (2007). From rhetoric to practice: bridging the gap between what we believe and what we do. Children, Youth and Environments 17(3): 146–158. Available here.

      The London conference on Somalia: Rhetoric and reality

      Muuse Yuusuf


      cc F O
      Will the rhetoric at the London meeting change the reality on the ground in Somalia? Maybe. But the motives of Prime Minister David Cameron and other world leaders, especially those from eastern Africa, are not above suspicion.

      Since the collapse of the central government in 1991, over 17 conferences have been held to reconcile Somalia’s different stakeholders and factions. Most of these conferences, sponsored mainly by the international community, have failed to resolve the seemingly never-ending Somali conflict. The question is, will the London conference make any difference this time?

      From the outset, I cannot help but to compare the conference with previous reconciliation conferences held in foreign countries. Just like the past ones, the London conference seems a top-down process in which some powerful foreign leaders have taken the lead to ‘coerce’ Somalis to reach some form of a political agreement. The 1993 UN-sponsored Addis Ababa conference, held at the height of the civil war, was one of those top-down conferences, which failed Somalis. While different Somali factions were negotiating political settlement, the United Nations Secretary General Boutros-Boutros Ghali, supported by president Bill Clinton, both determined to make the UN a peace-enforcing organisation in the post-cold war era, was threatening to place Somalia under a UN trusteeship unless Somali factions reached a political agreement. The Addis conference failed for the following reasons. [1]

      First, UN sponsors of the conference wrongly assumed armed factional leaders as representatives of all sections of the Somali society in a war-torn country where representation and legitimate authority were bitterly contested issues. Indeed, while self-appointed factional leaders enjoyed the comfort of luxury hotels in Addis Ababa, as Somali leaders did in London, the nitty-gritty business of resolving daily clan conflict at village, district and regional levels were left to traditional leaders who were marginalised from the process. This was at the height of the civil war when society was disintegrating into fiefdoms, and powerful clans or factions easily manipulated and intimidated fearful and weaker communities.

      Second, a pressurised time framework of a few weeks with foreign-led agenda was allocated to the conference to force factional leaders to come up with a comprehensive political roadmap of nation building. In fact, while factional leaders were discussing the huge issues of state building, the Security Council adopted resolution no. 814 in March 1993, which authorised the United Nations Mission of Somalia, known as the UNOSOM II. The resolution made the UN effectively the highest authority in the country. The fact of the matter was the UN leadership hurried up the process because it wanted a political agreement to coincide with the authorisation and deployment of the UNOSOM II forces in Somalia to replace the earlier UN missions (UNOSOM-I). In other words, to say to the world, here is an agreement reached by Somalis to be supported by the UNOSOM II. The pressurised time factor destroyed any hope of a real reconciliation among Somalis considering the importance of allocating plenty of time to traditional Somali conflict resolution process.

      The main outcome of the conference was an ‘agreement’ document signed by unscrupulous ‘leaders’ with no intention of implementing them for their parochial interests. They had even exploited flaws in the process to undermine it, claiming it was ‘forced on’ them by external forces, although this was true to some extent. Regrettably, any hope of implementing the Addis Ababa agreement, which was to establish a transitional national council, was destroyed by the massacre of the Pakistani peace-keeping troops by General’s Mohamed Farah Aideed’s faction. This led to a manhunt operation to arrest the belligerent general who was an obstacle to the UN’s mission. The huge and ambitious nation-building mission was aborted prematurely and the UNOSOM II was terminated after some American helicopters were shot down and a few UNOSOM soldiers killed in the fighting involving General Aideed’s militia and the UNOSOM forces.

      Another reconciliation conference, known as the Mbagathi process, held in Kenya, was more or less similar to the Addis Ababa one because regional powers, such as Ethiopia supporting different Somali factions, were accused of dictating the outcome of the conference. Daniel Arap Moi, former president of Kenya, was reported admitting the reconciliation process could not be entrusted with Kenya and Ethiopia because of the two countries’ fear of Somali nationalism and a Greater Somalia. [2] The outcome of the two-year long or so conference was the formation of a government dominated by warlords, which was unpopular among Somalis who saw Ethiopia as the long hand behind the Mbagathi process. The Transitional Federal Government (TFG), rather than promoting peace and reconciliation among Somalis, became a warmongering government and led Ethiopian forces to invade southern Somalia in 2006 after a political fallout between the TFG and the Islamic Courts Union over power sharing.

      Just like the previous two conferences, sponsors of the London conference assumed most Somalis were represented at the conference by the leaders of Puntland, Somaliland, Galmudug, the Transitional Federal Government, and Ahlu Sunna Wal-Jama (ASWJ), a religious Sufi organisation, which is fighting the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab extremist group. The reality on the ground is most regions in central and southern Somalia are under the control of the Al-Shabaab who have not participated the conference. Therefore, once can assume the views of the Somali people under their rule are unknown and were not taken into consideration at the conference. The question that imposes itself is then, how could one pretend that most Somalis were represented in the conference?

      Even, for the sake of argument, if we accept the argument that members of the current transitional parliament, which was formed through a selection criterion, represent all Somalis regardless of where they live the fact of the matter is that these MPs do not have any real presence or constituencies on the ground. They are merely a bunch of people who are being holed up in some office buildings in Mogadishu, tormented by Al-Shabaab’s daily attacks. The main point here is, the issue of representation was not really addressed in the conference, although leaders of Somaliland who have been boycotting reconciliation conferences attended the conference.

      Despite the rhetoric made by the leaders of the conference that the future of Somalia lie in the hands of Somalis, looking at the conference closely, it would seem it was dominated by foreign powers from Kenya and Ethiopia with their national interests at heart where their forces are deeply involved in Somalia to other foreign powers whose warships are in the Red Sea, chasing Somali pirates. The few Somali leaders in the conference seemed to have been sandwiched between powerful world leaders, in which the British prime minister, in a photo opportunity, was shown standing in front of these mainly third world leaders as though he was a colonial master marshalling his troops. And worst of all, president Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, the symbol of Somalia’s sovereignty, was missing from the photo. Perhaps he was deliberately excluded!

      Somali leaders were treated as good guests and some of them were welcomed by the prime minister himself who entertained them at No. 10 Downing Street. However, the burning question is whether the ownership of the conference was really in the hands of Somalis, or they were just listening to a political dictate by some foreign leaders, including USA’s foreign secretary, Hillary Clinton, who clearly stated the current Transitional Federal Government’s term in office should not be extended beyond August 2012.

      Let alone respecting Somalia’s sovereignty where Kenyan and Ethiopian forces are violating the country’s territorial integrity on a daily basis, by telling Somali leaders what they can or cannot do, the conference has breached one of the basic principles of international diplomacy which is not to tell other heads of states directly what to do. The message to instruct another world leader is subtle and not direct. Given Somalis’ notorious factionalism and their non-ending squabble over power, it was probably right to tell them bluntly the TFG’s time in office was over. However, the way the message that was conveyed was like telling a child they have to go to bed by 10pm! This was disastrous diplomacy, and in international diplomatic language it normally means war between the concerned heads of states.

      After all Somalia, although is going through difficult and testing times, is still a sovereign state and its territorial integrity are protected by international laws and conventions. In case you have forgotten, Somalia was once a respected leader in Africa’s diplomatic and military fields. From 1960s, Somalia enjoyed a relatively stable democratic system where governments were borne out of legitimate elections. Indeed, Somalia was one of the first few African countries which had an elected president who then retired from politics and lived in his country peacefully until his death. This was president Aden Abdulle Hersi, the first Somali president.

      At the regional diplomatic stage, Somali leaders played a leading role in ending the white minority rule in Rhodesia and South Africa as they campaigned for the self-determination of the peoples of Mozambique and Angola. They were also good mediators who played an important role in resolving conflicts between some African states. A classic example of this was when Somali leaders averted an imminent war between Julius Nyereere of Tanzania and Idi Amin of Uganda in 1972 through diplomacy.

      Furthermore, at the height of its national pride, the proud Somali Republic once severed its diplomatic relationship with the United Kingdom in 1963 as a protest against Britain’s draconian decision to annex the Somali region in its former east Africa colony to Kenya, although the overwhelming majority of Somalis voted to be united with their brethren in the Somali Republic. This could have happened at the London conference when Somali leaders were told what to do with their future, which was interference in their internal affairs, but the only difference this time is Somalia is a broken country with no political, economic or military clout. Sadly, any country can bully Somalia.

      Despite world leaders’ rhetorical agreements on actions intended to defeat terrorism and eradicate piracy and their support for the African Union’s peace-keeping forces in Somalia, the loudest message that came out of the conference was not to extend TFG’s term in office beyond August. However, the question is, what next? Although it was agreed to convene a constituent assembly which is representative of the views of all Somali regions, which will then select a parliament based on clan representation to replace the current transitional assembly, the reality on the ground may suggest otherwise. For example, although leaders of the break away region of Somalia (Somaliland) have agreed to the principles concluded at the London conference, Somaliland leaders have not signed to the Garowe Principles which laid down the foundation of convening the constituent assembly.

      Indeed, Somaliland leaders have not participated in any of the political agreements mentioned in the conference’s communiqué, including the Djibouti Agreement under which the current TFG was formed, the Roadmap, and the Kampala Accord, which reconciled Somali leaders. Although the assumption was peoples in Somaliland were represented in these political agreements by some members of the current transitional parliament who hail from Somaliland, the reality on the ground is peoples in the break away region have their own elected parliament.

      It is therefore one thing to make or ‘coerce’ Somaliland leaders to sign an agreement, which includes agreements they have never been part of, but it is entirely different thing to implement such agreement on the ground for obvious reasons. One can only speculate why Somaliland leaders have accepted the London principles; this may include their wish to please the British government in the hope Britain will be sympathetic to their quest for recognition as an independent state, although the British government, defending the United Kingdom against secessionists in Scotland, have categorically said no to such request.

      Furthermore, it is one thing to promise to convene a constituent assembly, but it is entirely a different matter when you examine realities on the ground in a country where competing political factions rule different regions. The biggest question that the conference has failed to answer is: How on earth can one expect realistically to organise a constituent assembly, which is supposed to be representative of all Somali views, within six months? The time framework is very short and unpractical considering Somalis’ notorious factionalism in which different groups or ‘spoilers of peace’ would do any thing to disrupt any political programme that do not serve their interests. Even to organise elections or other huge political events in mature democratic countries require resources and time, at least six to one year. To expect Somalis to organise such important political event in a six months’ time is asking too much from a country with no good infrastructure and no mature political institutions, a country recovering from a long and protracted civil war.

      On the other hand, although their power is being weakened by the combined forces of Ethiopia, Kenya, AMISOM and Somali forces, the Al-Shabaab movement still controls vast areas in central and southern Somalia and its leaders are not willing to talk to the TFG at least as the Taliban in Afghanistan are doing at the moment by talking to the Americans and the Afghanistan government. Therefore, they are a formidable force which can disrupt the process of organising the conference. Indeed, only this week a suicide bomber has killed four people in front of the presidential palace in Mogadishu.

      If any thing, even if the constituent assembly which will be selected by the TFG, Puntland and Galmudug assisted by traditional leaders was held successfully, the likely outcome of their political deliberation is to select members of a new federal parliament which will be based on the 4.5 clan-quota as the case was in the previous parliaments. The only difference this time is the number of parliamentarians, the lower house, will be half of the current 550 members, as there will be an upper house of 54 members, representing federal states. The rhetoric about the emerging federal structure envisioned in the Roadmap, the Garowe I and II principles seems to be far away as long as the break away region of Somalia insists on its quest for independence although its leaders seem to have accepted some kind of a federal structure by signing the agreement concluded at the London conference.

      In conclusion, if Mr Cameron, the British prime minister who is feeling invincible after his military victory in Libya, has decided to do something about the unabating Somali conflict to enhance his country’s national interests, he has succeeded in doing so to some extent. He has re-focussed world’s attention at Somali pirates who are not only threatening his country’s commercial interests, but are also jeopardising the multi-million international trade that passes through the Gulf of Aden every day. He has made clear to the world that the Al-Qaeda inspired Islamic extremists in Somalia are not only poisoning young minds with extremist ideologies, but are also exporting their terror activities down to the streets of British cities and towns where young Somalis are being recruited to carry out terror activities inside and outside Somali. He has promised not to tolerate such threats coming from what he described a ‘failed state’.

      On the other hand, it has also been reported recent oil exploration in Somalia, particularly in the Puntland state, might have encouraged Britain to take the lead in resolving the Somali conflict in the hope a stable Somalia will be a good source of oil for Britain. If that was one of the motives behind his action, then he did succeed on this front as well because leader of the Puntland state of Somali was present at the conference. If Mr Cameron’s ulterior motive was to fulfil Britain’s moral responsibility towards Somalia for being a former colonial power, he has demonstrated to the world that Britain is doing something about the Somali conflict. Mr Cameron can now sleep peacefully with a clear conscience feeling he has done something about the Somali predicament.

      However, the real question is whether too much rhetoric from the conference will change realities on the ground? It is unlikely the current statuesque will change soon. Al-Shabaab will probably be a nuisance for sometime; the break away region has already refused to negotiate with other Somalis, and any new parliament/government will be more or less the same, a bunch of MPs selected through a clan-based criterion with no constituents on the ground.

      Despite above short-comings, by making leaders of the break away region of Somalia to come to the negotiating table with other Somali stakeholders for the first time, Mr Cameron has done a favour to the Somali people given how they have been boycotting any reconciliation conference involving wider Somali stakeholders. As a unionist, I welcome the British government’s efforts in supporting Somali unity especially at a time when it is defending the unity of the United Kingdom against Scottish secessionists.


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      * Muuse Yuusuf is a freelance writer and blogger.
      * Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      Sudden interest in Somalia points to suspect Western corporate interests

      Rasna Warah


      cc P C
      Even if the London Conference on Somalia hosted by the UK government last month may not have been yet another business opportunity for Western governments and companies, the timing is certainly suspect.

      In her book The Shock Doctrine, Canadian author Naomi Klein argues that Western governments often use humanitarian relief and reconstruction as an excuse and an opportunity to force poor or strife-torn countries to adopt neoliberal economic models that ultimately serve the interests of Western corporations.

      Citing examples from Chile, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Russia, Argentina, among other countries, she shows how political and economic turmoil has been used as an entry point by Western countries to introduce economic reforms that would ordinarily be unpopular with local populations.

      In Iraq, for instance, after the ouster of Saddam Hussein, US companies made a fortune providing security and other services to Iraqis, all in the name of promoting democracy and good governance.

      In Chile, the US government actively undermined the presidency of Salvador Allende, a left-leaning democrat, and supported the coup that brought Augusto Pinochet to power.

      Pinochet, in turn, unleashed neoliberal reforms that were in line with US interests.

      In Sri Lanka, after the devastating tsunami of 2004, land previously occupied by fishing villages was taken over by big hoteliers.


      Klein refers to these events as “disaster capitalism” — “orchestrated raids on the public sphere in the wake of catastrophic events, combined with the treatment of disasters as exciting market opportunities.”

      While I would not go so far as claiming that the London Conference on Somalia hosted by the UK government last month was yet another business opportunity for Western governments and companies, the timing of the conference is certainly suspect.

      Facing massive unemployment and recession at home, Western countries may be looking at Somalia as an opportunity to expand markets and revive local industries.

      It is possible that Western countries have woken up to the fact that Somalia represents an untapped source of natural resources and a destination for Western goods.

      Somalis are in need of virtually every service, and have huge infrastructure shortfalls, which could be filled by Western companies.

      Also, the country’s resources have remained under-exploited for 20 years, and its leaders could be persuaded to give rights and concessions to Western companies in exchange for aid.

      Indeed, two days after the London conference, the Guardian newspaper reported that Britain was seeking oil-drilling rights in Somalia.

      The Canadian company Africa Oil has apparently already begun oil exploration in Puntland.

      Is aid the carrot that is being used to obtain these rights? It’s possible.

      In London, Somali Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohammed Ali told the Observer that in the future, a share of natural resources would be offered in return for help with reconstruction.

      “There’s room for everybody when this country gets back on its feet and is ready for investment,” he said.

      And who exactly is in charge?

      Questions are also being raised about who will drive the reconstruction project.

      BBC journalist Mary Harper, the author of the newly-published book Getting Somalia Wrong?, told this writer that despite the impressive groundwork done by Britain in engaging with, listening to and learning from Somalis, the final communiqué emanating from the London conference appeared “rather thin and vague on many key issues.”

      For instance, the question of who exactly will be in the charge of the country once the tenure of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) expires in August this year is not spelt out clearly.

      The conference endorsed the establishment of a Constituent Assembly to replace the TFG, but its task seems to be focused purely on governance issues, such as the preparation of a constitution, the establishment of institutions and preparations for elections.

      But this Assembly will not manage donor funds. Nor will it manage or collect taxes from ports and airports.

      The task of managing Somalia’s economy appears to rest with the newly-established Joint Financial Management Board, comprising representatives from Britain, France, the European Union, the World Bank and the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) (and later any future government), which aims to “increase transparency and accountability in the collection and efficient use of public revenues, as well as international development aid, and which will help strengthen Somali public financial management institutions.”

      The Board’s stated objectives are to minimise corruption, maximise the use of funds in the public interest and improve accountability and transparency on where and how Somali revenues and donor funds are spent.

      At face value, this appears to be a step in the right direction given the corruption and financial incompetence within the TFG, United Nations agencies and humanitarian organisations.

      Lack of trust in the TFG’s and the UN’s ability to deliver development to Somalia and use funds appropriately was probably what prompted the establishment of the Board.

      Somalia is desperately in need of a financial facility that can monitor how donor and domestic funds are used.

      However, Canada-based Abdirizak Mohamed, editor of Hiraan Online, is worried that the Board is yet another nail in the coffin of Somalia’s sovereignty.

      “We may have lost our sovereignty when we allowed African troops into Somalia and when the UN Security Council expanded the mandate of Amisom a day before the start of the London conference. But now with this new Management Board, comprising European donors and the World Bank, we have lost our independence to manage our resources.”

      The presence of the World Bank in the Board also raised questions about the philanthropic intentions of Western donors.

      Is Somalia going to be revived through loans from the Bank, and if so, will Somalia be in debt before it is on its feet?

      The other issue that is not clear is whether the oversight function of the Joint Financial Management Board will supersede agreements that prevent donors from monitoring UN agencies.

      The European Community has signed a Financial and Administrative Framework Agreement (FAFA) that does not allow it to do external audits of UN projects that it funds.

      The UN is expected to manage EC contributions in accordance with its own rules and regulations, which allows for a lot of pilfering and mismanagement.

      Will the FAFA agreement be overlooked in Somalia?

      Non-traditional donors

      The glaring absence of non-traditional donors, such as Turkey — which has made significant and tangible contributions to the reconstruction of cities such as Mogadishu in recent months — from the Board suggests that perhaps the real intention of the London conference was to diminish Turkey’s influence in Somalia and impose a West-friendly regime to ensure that Western companies and corporations benefit the most from the reconstruction project.

      Since the Board will not only decide how money is used but where, it could decide to undertake projects that are most beneficial to countries represented on the Board (i.e. Britain, France and the European Union), rather than allow for more open and competitive bidding for projects.

      Some analysts feel that the London conference was hastily convened to influence a conference on Somalia being organised by the Turkish government in June, which might have come up with alternative solutions that may not have pleased Western governments.

      Many Somalis have welcomed Turkey’s aid to Somalia, partly because Turkey is seen as a “neutral” partner, and as a secular Muslim nation, is culturally more acceptable to Somalia’s largely Muslim population.


      The dominance of traditional Western donors in the Joint Financial Management Board also suggests that the development paradigm being pushed in Somalia will be aligned to the Western neoliberal model that calls for increased liberalisation, deregulation, privatisation and cutbacks.

      However, this model cannot work in Somalia where regulation is actually needed to stabilise and revive the economy and where state institutions are either non-existent or too weak to regulate markets and the economy.

      The London conference, while purporting to come up with a “Marshall Plan” for Somalia, also failed to recognise that a Marshall-like plan can only work in countries (like post-War Germany) that already have well-established institutions and industries that can be revived through an injection of funds. Somalia has neither.

      While businesses such as mobile phone companies are thriving in Somalia, they are not regulated or taxed, though an informal system of taxation has developed whereby “taxes” are paid to faction leaders, local administrations, Islamist groups, port militias and armed men at roadblocks.

      The lack of an established tax regime in the country and the absence of regulatory bodies means that industries operate informally, even when they are highly profitable.

      While Somalis are known for their entrepreneurial culture and their ability to take risks, the injection of donor funds (most likely followed by the recruitment of Western companies to deliver services and infrastructure) could cause a sudden volatility in the economy, and fuel resentment of foreign-owned businesses.

      Chatham House analyst Adjoa Anyimadu told the Guardian: “There’s already a lot of scepticism from parts of the Somalian community about the reasons for the sudden focus on Somalia and the reasons behind the UK’s interest.

      "The potential for things to go wrong is high, for the population to feel they are being undermined or invaded by foreigners.

      "Al Shabaab has little credence with many Somalians but a foreign intervention could create a common enemy.”

      Africa’s role underplayed

      The London communiqué is not completely silent on the role of African countries in Somalia’s recovery, but their role is mostly confined to the area of security, terrorism, in particular.

      There is reference to the achievements and sacrifices of “Amisom and other forces” — and an endorsement of the UN Security Council’s decision to expand the mandate and raise the troop ceiling of Amisom — but Uganda and Burundi are not mentioned by name, nor are Kenya and Ethiopia cited for their recent efforts in removing Al Shabaab from the country.

      Nor is there any recognition of Kenya having borne the brunt of the Somali refugee crisis by hosting the largest refugee population in the world for the past 20 years.

      It seems as if Britain and Prime Minister David Cameron decided to hold the London conference to take the shine off the work done by African countries in bringing about stability to the country, and to take credit for work that had already begun long before they decided that Somalia needed the world’s attention.

      This is not to say that an international conference focused on Somalia’s myriad problems was not needed. But it has managed to make the process about the West’s involvement rather than Somalia’s rescue.

      Ali Ghedi, an MP in the current government, says that by expanding Amisom’s mandate, for instance, the international community showed that it was not ready to build local capacity or invest in an effective Somali army.


      Harper, who covered the London conference for the BBC, is of the opinion that the Somaliland example of a home-grown democracy “has demonstrated that, when left to themselves, Somalis can form a viable nation-state.”

      Somaliland (which is not internationally recognised) is located on the northern edge of the Horn of Africa and declared itself independent of the rest of Somalia in 1991. It has since emerged as the most peaceful region in the country.

      Harper added: “Time and again, delegates at the (London) conference insisted that this was not about telling Somalis what to do, that it was about helping Somalis do it for themselves.

      "But the outcome appeared to do the opposite, with plans for outsiders to play a central role in monitoring the economy, dealing with Somalia’s security issues and ensuring that the political transition ends in August.

      "It seems that the ‘international community’ cannot help telling Somalia what to do, an approach that has backfired over the past 20 years, and possibly made the situation worse than it might have been if Somalia had been left to its own devices.”


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      * Rasna Warah is a columnist with the Daily Nation in Kenya. This article was first published by The EastAfrican weekly.
      * Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      Have politicians joined warlords and profiteers in the plunder of Somalia?

      Rasna Warah


      cc F O
      Somalia’s transitional administration is mired in corruption. Like other players in the lawless nation, the government has contributed to the suffering of its own people.

      I can usually spot a whistleblower from a mile away. He or she has that furtive look of a hunted animal.

      Words and emotions are guarded. Secrecy borders on paranoia as the whistleblower decides who to trust and who not to.

      I can tell who is a whistleblower because I have been to that dark place where knowledge is more dangerous than ignorance.

      I, too, have experienced the horror of having crossed a boundary I did not even know existed.

      C. Fred Alford in his book, Whistleblowers: Broken Lives and Organisational Power, notes that the greatest shock for whistleblowers is learning that what they believed about their organisation is, in fact, not true.

      “For many whistleblowers this knowledge is like a mortal illness,” he says. “They live with it, and it with them, every day and night of their lives.”

      So when I met Abdirazak Fartaag, I knew what to expect. I could see that he was not quite sure whether to trust me.

      I could hear the anger in his voice when he sensed that perhaps I did not believe him. It was only when I assured him I knew where he was coming from that he began opening up.

      Fartaag has done what perhaps no Somali has done in the last 20 years. He has uncovered the secretive dealings of the Transitional Federal Government when he was head of Somalia’s Public Finance Management Unit from 2009 to 2011.

      During his tenure, he witnessed a series of financial irregularities, including misappropriation of public funds, crooked banking practices, concealment of government expenditure receipts, and cash payments to politicians by foreign governments.

      He witnessed politicians accepting cash donations in suitcases from some Arab countries, irregular withdrawals from Somalia’s Central Bank by individuals, and highly personalised payroll systems that undermined the morale of civil servants.

      Fartaag, a citizen of Canada, was frustrated by these highly irregular practices and wanted the government to adopt more stringent and accountable financial management systems.

      But his audit reports and recommendations were largely ignored by the government, including the Office of the Prime Minister, to which he reported.

      He eventually lost his job, but he did not lose his passion for unearthing the TFG’s weak and corrupt financial management practices.

      Fartaag’s reports have now been made public, and have received some media coverage, but he is not convinced that things will change.

      On the contrary, the TFG has denied the report’s findings, and has shown little interest in investigating his allegations.

      “They call me a traitor,” he told me over a cup of coffee in a Nairobi café. “And they send me curses through text messages.”

      Most whistleblowers will tell you that they view their act of whistleblowing as a sign of loyalty to the organisation, not betrayal.

      When they blow the whistle, they believe they are protecting their organisation. In Fartaag’s case, he thought he was protecting the Somalis.

      They have been the victims of not just corrupt governments, but all manner of groups and people who have taken advantage of the chaos and lawlessness in the country and made a killing in the process.

      First, the warlords robbed Somalis of a safe environment in which to live. Cities and infrastructure were destroyed as clans fought for supremacy.

      The UN and humanitarian aid agencies made the situation worse by colluding with corrupt politicians and profiteers to divert aid, including food.

      More recently, Al-Shabaab, which imposes draconian restrictions on the Somali people (including forbidding them watching football and movies) has been depriving Somalis of their basic rights.

      But while we can question the intentions of these groups, it is heart-breaking to learn that Somalia’s government has also contributed to the country’s underdevelopment.

      According to Fartaag, politicians have not only been robbing state coffers, but the country’s future.

      The last thing Somalia needs is a government that joins all these profiteers in looting the country, thus further depriving the Somali people of much-needed infrastructure and services.

      If Fartaag’s findings are indeed true, then the TFG has a lot to answer for before it leaves office in August this year.


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      * Rasna Warah is a columnist with Daily Nation in Kenya, where this article was first published.
      * Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      Why climate-smart agriculture won’t work

      Khadija Sharife


      cc W E C
      Much of the energy expended by official ‘world-savers’ – governments, policy wonks, multilateral institutions and the like – is devoted to devising news ways to cash in on the next ‘development’ era.

      In his great novel, A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens identifies, strips down, amplifies, and speaks to the tensions innate in the human existence. For in our world, brutality and exploitation are equally matched by goodness, courage and the human capacity to change.

      It is for this reason that Dickens, whose novels engaged the structural reality of oppression, begins his Tale with the words, ‘Iit was the best of times, the worst of times, the spring of hope, the winter of despair…the age of wisdom, the age of foolishness…we had everything before us, we had nothing before us.’

      More than anything else, the novel stands as documentation of brute power systems structured by vulgar indifference to the living, present and future.

      And any unconscious person born into these systems become part of their reproduction.

      Dickens’ words stand true for all time, and they repeatedly popped into my head during the Durban-hosted 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

      Much of the energy expended by official ‘world-savers’ – governments, policy wonks, multilateral institutions and the like, was devoted to devising news ways to cash in on the next ‘development’ era.

      Better than the usual crude formula of hunger and poverty captured in the image of slum-babies with swollen belly, was the same lethal cocktail hooked on a new cashable cause: mega-climate crashes.

      Descending like rabid dogs were multinationals, directly or indirectly, sponsoring various events; and ‘development specialists’ from the Big International NGOs (BINGOs), many creating future consultancy contracts for themselves. Too many of the latter were funded by the former in ‘partnerships’ that profit the partners and peril the planet and its peoples. (As an article published on The Africa Report, ‘big foundations comprise just 2 per cent ….lobbying for narrow interests such as carbon trading, receive more than half of all funding.’ Citing a report authored by Sarah Hansen, titled Cultivating the Grassroots, the article continued, ‘The report described how the $10 billion in 'green funding' during the past decade had failed to generate any 'significant policy changes at the federal level in the United States since the 1980s.' Just 11 per cent of funds was connected to social justice issues, from which most ecological degradation usually stems. But large funds largely elided the impacted communities, primarily those of color.)

      Peppering the landscape were also idealistic - and opportunistic - students (as well as some fashionable slummers) parachuting in without visa delays and costs thanks to their developed-world passports. Most people from both groups assumed that such credentials would immediately, and magically, add some value to ‘Africa’.

      The streets stank of hope, hedging, opportunism, hypocrisy, and deal-making. The civil society march of several thousand, culminating in a shameful obeisance to UNFCCC leaders Christina Figueres, was an organized and self-defeated sham without any proper message except ‘do more!’, which in turn legitimized what former Bolivian UN Ambassador Pablo Solon** termed ‘genocide’ planning by the UNFCCC. Before joining the UNFCCC, Figueres was a carbon trader, and to signify the COP17’s failure on even their own for-profit terms, the carbon markets promptly crashed.

      Meantime, local politics also added a toxic element. Durban municipal manager Mike Sutcliffe’s paid ‘supporters’ garbed in green with UNFCCC and Durban logos, happily beat some activists after yanking their placards away. They were paid, it is estimated, some $25 per day, plus the free tracksuit.

      What serious attempts, then, at opposition? To their great credit, many local movements and genuine foreign counterparts tried their utmost to move mountains. But where were the leaders of the global social justice movements, always so vocal, invading our email boxes daily for marathon click-athons – to save the wolves, babies, whales?

      At one point, I and another member of the Africa Report COP17 team passed a bunch of security officers who were briefed not to be ‘soft’ to those without adequate credentials.

      Whose credentials shone from the start?

      For one, those of Kumi Naidoo, the Durban-born head of Greenpeace. Ever eager to please, it seemed, he managed to scupper the ‘Occupy Cop17’ peaceful civil disobedience at the ICC death-trap, by gently reminding activists that their presence would upset the officials. His reasoning? “Nobody can accuse us of disrupting the negotiations, all we want to show is our support of the most vulnerable in the negotiations”.

      Would Naidoo’s version of moderation have broken apartheid? Brought basic rights for people of color in the US? Is it better to leave the dirty system in place than upset the overseers?

      Greenpeace and other organizations such as dominated the process, dumbed it down, and diminished the potential for transformation. After all, who needs Shell, when the local-born leader of one of the largest global green-muscle resistance movements, cleans the room out for them?

      God forbid peaceful occupation upset the people with big banks accounts, polluting the world, unchecked.

      Any journalist camping out at the Occupy COP triangle and the like, would have been sorely disappointed at the lack of a civil disobedience story. As Dickens wrote, “along the streets, the death-carts rumble, hollow and harsh.”

      In this, Naidoo disappointed many people in the extreme. I was told by young activists that Naidoo was a hero. I imagined, thus, that while managing the politics, he would not compromise the integrity of the ecological justice. That he would lead from the front, fearlessly. I imagined he would inspire and command his ‘troops’ to peacefully occupy the convention centre, lock in the ministers, and force them toward the only logical conclusion: curbing emissions drastically.

      But power was once again carefully deposited by the BINGOs to the same political baby-steppers --- sans diapers. Once again, the shoes of hopeful people were forced to trudge through crap.

      Take the World Bank’s newest initiative: climate smart agriculture.

      “COP 17 in Durban offers a unique opportunity for Africa to shape the global climate agenda and establish an agriculture work program that is informed by science,” said the World Bank on their Climate Change website.

      The Center for Civil Society (CCS) commissioned by the EJOLT (Environmental Justice Organizations, Liabilities and Trade), recently produced a book on CDM’s in Africa*, peeling back the greenwashing of projects, including climate smart agriculture.

      What’s it about?

      The push behind the newest agricultural ‘revolution’ is driven by many factors ranging from multinationals such as Monsanto, eager to embed the money-making intellectual property of genetically modified seeds, to that of mega-dam proponents. But we would not be wrong to identify its most visible proponents: the World Bank and South Africa.

      The momentum of both, in fact, is closely intertwined: in September 2011, three months after she collided with ‘climate smart’ ways at the UN Food and Agricultural Organization’s (FAO) event in Rome, Agriculture Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson began advocating the ‘climate smart’ concept, she organized the Bank-funded meet and greet with Africa’s agricultural ministers. The UN’s FAO would have been a good ambassador: in their document on the concept, the FAO states, ‘Climate-smart agriculture is rooted in sustainable agriculture and rural development objectives which, if reached, would contribute to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of reducing hunger and improved environmental management.’

      According to this FAO report, not only is the agricultural sector the most vulnerable – in Africa, over 90 percent of small farmers will experience drastic crop reduction in the next few decades – but it is also one of the leading producers of GHG, estimated at 14 percent , and ‘a key driver of deforestation and land degradation, which account for an additional 17 percent of emissions.’

      The concept extends, in many instances, to the entire economy, including ‘environmental issues, for example energy and water, as well as social issues, such as gender, and economic issues. Achieving the four dimensions of food security (availability and access to of food, utilization of food for adequate nutrition, and stability of food supply) needs to be the overall goal of food production and distribution systems in developing countries.’

      The Trojan horse is green-wrapping well-established and known practices such as conservation, within the context of the key solution: ‘Financial mechanisms …that can blend and coordinate funding from different sources, including public, private, agricultural development and climate financing.’ As South Africa’s Department of Agriculture revealed that ‘considerable finance will be needed to rapidly implement climate-smart agriculture.’

      The country, the gateway facilitating exposure, particularly through the recent COP17, irrevocably backs the concept, using justice-speak (‘agriculture is the economic foundation…employing about 60 percent of the workforce and contributing an average of 30 percent of gross domestic produce…’) to motivate for the location of solutions in neoliberal market-mechanisms.

      How will this be realized? ‘The whole proposal of Climate-Smart Agriculture was developed around the possibility of developed countries offsetting their carbon via international carbon market - REDD, REDD+ and soil carbon market. (The UN-REDD Programme is the United Nations Collaborative initiative on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD) in developing countries.) Climate-Smart Agriculture comes packaged with carbon offsets,’ writes ActionAid.

      Unpacking the reasons why initiatives such as ‘climate-smarts’ soil market won’t work , ‘there is no soil carbon market currently, if there were a market, it would not provide revenues to farmers, the system will be biased against smallholders, to sustain finance from an offset market, developed countries must keep emitting, soil carbon markets are a distraction from addressing real adaptation needs and mobilizing real funding to support adaptation’, and that ‘soil carbon markets are a diversion from real obligations of rich countries: to reduce emissions and to provide substantial, stable, predictable, new and additional public finance.’

      But before any of these issues can be considered, – and aside from the fact that many African farmers, cultivating just one or two hectares of land for subsistence would earn perhaps $3 per annum – most African farmers don’t hold legal rights to the land on which the banking scheme is intended to take place.

      Smuggled through in the process - as solutions - are high-cost environmentally destructive ‘inputs’ such as fertilizer and pesticide, genetically modified seeds, mega-dams and ill-designed irrigation projects, geared to sustain not Africa’s food needs, but rather, commercializing crops through the usual power structures.

      The process is already under way: Inter-Press Service (IPS) detailed of the venture: ‘The very first project to sell soil carbon credits in Africa is underway in Kenya. Funded by the World Bank, some 15,000 farmers and 800 farmer groups are changing their practices to sequester carbon for a 20-year period. The costs to set up the Kenya Agricultural Carbon Project along with the costs involved in measuring the carbon and marketing the credits are estimated at more than one million dollars, said Anne Maina of the African Biodiversity Network in Kenya.’

      “During the question and answer session at the launch of the Bank’s third ‘tranche’ of its BioCarbon Fund (which finances soil and forest-based initiatives), a young woman spoke up who had worked for a Bank-funded soil carbon project in Kenya,” said Keith Brunner, Global Economic Accountability Research/ “She referenced a report from her organization which revealed how the focus on carbon finance and mitigation has posed real dangers for food security and rural community livelihoods, with most of the finance ending up in the pockets of private companies and project developers.

      “A representative from CARE International working in Africa piped up and said that they are facing soil carbon projects where the financial break-even point for the farmers won’t be reached for 10 years.

      ‘…The World Bank sees an immense new investment frontier, through the creation of agriculture-based carbon offsets which can be bought and sold on global markets.”

      “Crush humanity out of shape once more, under similar hammers, and it will twist itself into the same tortured forms,” write Dickens. “Sow the same seed of …oppression over again, and it will surely yield the same fruit according to its kind.”

      But the good news, as Brunner points out, is that civil society can make a difference.

      “Thanks partly to heavy organizing and a letter signed by over 100 civil society organizations from Africa and around the world calling for the UN to reject efforts to consider agricultural soils within carbon markets, it didn’t happen.

      “At least, not yet,” he cautioned.

      If civil society – including doctors, lawyers, journalists, receptionists, farmers and the like, are to prevent such shenanigans from happening, power must be taken back, narratives put into context, realities broadened. Civil society, like the monk Martin Luther, must nail these theses – in all their diversity and differences and similarities, to the global doors of power. This must be done through global umbrellas represented by local movements that represent real – as opposed to internet or consumer – constituencies.

      First in line should be the microphones of NGOs and development specialists who claim to represent the public interest. Such green ‘peace’, as espoused by these specialists, is structuring the foundations of myriad global wars over ecologies claimed by the wrong people for the wrong purposes.
      This is not to say that Greenpeace and other similar organizations are wrong in the substance of their arguments, but simply that lack of strategic implementation at the right time, targeting the right people, is as necessary as research advocacy, particularly for movements that claim the stage in such circumstances. Failure to do so reinforces and even legitimizes the power of those who commit the wrongs Greenpeace claims to stand against.

      This, after all, is one of the key lessons of Dickens book: the danger when revolutionaries begin to perpetuate the same horrors, through the same tactics, as the oppressors.


      * Please do not take Pambazuka for granted! Become a Friend of Pambazuka and make a donation NOW to help keep Pambazuka FREE and INDEPENDENT!
      * Khadija Sharife is a journalist and visiting scholar at the Center for Civil Society (CCS) based in South Africa.
      * Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.


      *The author assisted in the process.
      ** Solon – interviewed by the author COP17 - did not resign from the Bolivian government during the genocidal planning of the TIPNIS highway in Bolivia, though he issued a strongly worded letter against the mega-development plan.

      UN body ‘appalled’ by Israel’s racial segregation policies

      Adri Nieuwhof and Mireille Fanon Mendès-France


      cc J A I
      Israel is criticised for violating the right to equality in a new report by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The committee underscores its unease at allegations of ongoing discrimination against Ethiopian Jews.

      An advance version of the CERD report indicates that racial prejudice can be found in almost every facet of Israeli life (‘Concluding observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination,’ 9 March 2012).

      CERD is a body of legal specialists who monitor the implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which states that any doctrine of superiority based on racial differentiation is scientifically false, morally condemnable, socially unjust and dangerous.


      According to its report, key legislation in Israel runs counter to that convention. Israel’s Basic Law (the closest thing it has to a written constitution) does not contain a commitment to equality or to prohibit racial discrimination. Neither does Israeli law contain a proper definition of racial discrimination.

      The CERD paper is a response to a 183-page document that Israel submitted to the committee earlier this year. Whereas Israel is required to provide a formal update on its progress in eliminating racial discrimination every two years, it has tended to miss the deadline. Its latest update was an attempt to bring together three separate reports that were supposed to have been sent to the committee in 2006, 2008 and 2010 respectively.

      Israel’s report was restricted to issues within its internationally-recognized borders, with no mention of its treatment of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. But the CERD paper takes Israel to task for racial discrimination both within the state and in the territories it occupies, including the Syrian Golan Heights.

      Among its litany of complaints, CERD managed to make four small positive points about Israel’s record between 2004 and 2010. For example, it welcomed a law banning violence in sport.


      CERD has expressed particular concern about the segregation between Jewish and non-Jewish communities in Israel. For example, there are two separate systems of education — one in Hebrew and one in Arabic — and two separate systems of local government — for Jewish municipalities and ‘municipalities of the minorities.’

      The committee underscored its unease at allegations of ongoing discrimination against Ethiopian Jews (also known as Falashas) in Israel. More than 50 percent of Ethiopian Jewish families in Israel live below the poverty line, while the corresponding figure for white Jewish Israel families is 16 percent. Ethiopian Jews encounter a range of problems in Israel such as frequent verbal abuse of a racist nature and being restricted to low-paid jobs (‘The tribulations of being an Ethiopian Jew’, IRIN, 9 February 2012).

      Noting that Israel denies Palestinians (including Bedouins) equal access to land and property through a number of discriminatory laws on land issues, CERD ‘strongly recommends’ that Israel revokes any legislation that does not comply with the principle of non-discrimination. The same applies to laws and bills that would make social and economic benefits dependent on completion of military service.

      The committee explicitly addresses the situation of vulnerable indigenous Bedouin communities in Israel. It calls on Israel to halt its ongoing policy of home demolitions and forced displacement.


      Furthermore, Israel should revoke legislation which prevents family reunification between Palestinians holding Israeli citizenship and residents of the West Bank and Gaza, and which severely affects the right to marriage and choice of spouse. The fundamental right to family life is enshrined in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

      Israel should act against the tide of racism and xenophobia in public discourse, according to CERD. All racist and xenophobic statements by public officials and religious leaders directed against Palestinians and against asylum-seekers of African origin should therefore be strongly condemned.


      CERD refutes Israel’s claim that the convention against racial discrimination does not apply to its conduct in the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights. The committee refers to de facto segregation in the West Bank, with two entirely separate legal systems and sets of institutions for Israeli settlers and Palestinians. The committee is ‘appalled at the hermetic character of this segregation.’

      While it continues to expand Israeli settlements, Israel systematically denies construction permits to Palestinian and Bedouin communities in the West Bank. Israel should guarantee Palestinian and Bedouin rights to property and access to land, housing and natural resources — especially water — and eliminate any policy of ‘demographic balance,’ CERD states.

      Moreover, Israel should halt its blockade of Gaza and urgently allow all construction materials necessary for rebuilding homes and civilian infrastructure into the strip.

      The committee also berates Israel for the increase in the arrest and jailing of children and their trial by military courts, and the policy of administrative detention, whereby prisoners are held without charge or trial. And it draws attention to the monetary and physical obstacles faced by Palestinians in Gazan seeking compensation before Israeli tribunals for loss suffered, especially during Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s three-week bombing offensive in late 2008 and early 2009.

      CERD also expresses its disquiet at the impunity enjoyed by settlers for racist violence and acts of vandalism. Ninety percent of police investigations into settler-related violence during the period 2005-2010 were closed without prosecution.

      In the Golan Heights, the indigenous residents are denied equal access to land, housing and basic services, according to CERD. Family ties have been disrupted since the territory’s illegal annexation by Israel in 1981.


      The timing of the CERD report coincides with another Israeli assault on Gaza, which left at least 26 Palestinians, including five civilians, dead and another 80 persons wounded, most of them civilians. Israel has shown — once again — its total disregard for international law.

      Israel’s impunity should end by holding the state accountable for its violations of international law including the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. These laws are in place to guarantee that all people can live in international peace and security. For now, the State of Israel considers itself above international law.

      With the world’s most powerful governments refusing to hold Israel to account, it is essential that people of conscience step up their commitment to the campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel. CERD’s report shows why Palestine solidarity activists, social movements, churches, trade unions and other concerned citizens have every reason to continue and intensify their work.


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      * Adri Nieuwhof is a consultant and human rights advocate based in Switzerland. Mireille Fanon Mendès-France is a member of the UN Working Group on People of African Descent.
      * This article was first published by Electronicintifada.
      * Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      The role of women in nation-building in South Sudan

      Christopher Zambakari


      cc UN Photo
      The challenge of gender parity in South Sudan is less in the provisions of the constitution but more in implementation of the rights provided for at the state and local levels.

      It has been close to eight months since the Republic of South Sudan became independent. The process of state and nation-building is well underway. On 7 March, South Sudan’s President, Salva Kiir, issued four decrees announcing 90 ambassadors to be deployed throughout the world in various diplomatic and foreign services posts. Presidential Decree No. 18/2012, [1] No. 19/2012, [2] No. 20/2012, [3]and No. 21/2012 [4] appointed 10 Grade (1), 43 Grade (2) and 37 Grade (3) ambassadors. Out of the total of 90 ambassadors, nine were women: three from Grade (2) and six from Grade (3). This only represents a ten percent of women ambassadors, most of whom are Grade (3).

      The Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan (TCRSS) [5] stipulates that at least 25 percent of seats and positions in each legislative and each executive organ of the state [6] needs to be allocated to women as part of Affirmative Action designed to redress historical injustices. [7] This is also extends to judiciary, [8] Council of Ministers, [9] to Independent Institutions and Commissions.[10]

      The move by the Government of South Sudan (GOSS) has already come under criticism from Ambassador Sitona Abdella Osman, who pointed out that there is a great imbalance in the appointment of ambassadors and demanded that the current constitution be revised to solve the imbalance. While the reaction from Ambassador Osman is understandable, the problem does not rest in the current constitution which is very clear about the representation of women. The problem arises from its implementation. The current breakdown shows that the minimum of 25 percent has not been met. It points less towards the constitution but more towards the political will to implement the provisions.

      Amending the Constitution will not solve the problem raised by Ambassador Osman. Only a prolonged political struggle for the rights of women can ensure that the imbalance is redressed. Political rights are an outcome of a political struggle and not a gift from above. To think of fundamental rights as a handout of seats in various organs of government is to reduce the struggles and gains made politically by women throughout South Sudan to a mere allocation of positions. It ultimately defeats the purpose of a political struggle for rights.

      In light of this development this article reviews the mandated Affirmative Action embedded in the constitution and discusses whether South Sudan has lived up to its requirement for women. This article further argues that the country cannot achieve its political, economic and social objectives without a successful integration of women into the nation and state building projects.


      The Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan, promulgated right before the declaration of independence on July 9, 2011, is a very comprehensive document that covers a broad range of rights for all South Sudanese and specifically includes an Affirmative Action Clause for women. It provides rights to women, as well as the right to have access to health care and education for all South Sudanese. More importantly, it does away with the legal ethnic distinction that is a common feature of many African constitutions. [11] The challenge in South Sudan is less in the provisions of the constitution but more in the implementation of the rights provided for at the state and local levels. It is in the former where the success of the reform of the colonial state can best be observed.

      When the constitution was promulgated, it took account of the plight of women. The TCRSS set out to rectify historical injustices that have affected women. To do so it included an Affirmative Action Clause designed to increase the number of women in key positions throughout institutions of governance. Part II of the TCRSS (The Bill of Rights), Section 16 (1-5) provides for several rights for women, one of which is ‘the right to participate equally with men in public life.’ [12] Section 16(4) mandates that all government institutions must promote the following: ‘women participation in public life and their representation in the legislative and executive organs by at least 25 percent as an Affirmative Action to redress imbalances created by history, customs, and traditions.’ [13] Other rights include ‘equal pay for equal work’ [14], provision for ‘maternity and childcare, medical care for pregnant women’ [15] and the ‘right for women to own property and share in the estates of deceased husbands.’ [16] Part IX, Ch. II, Sec. 142(3) provides that the National Government ensures that 25 percent of the seats on Independent Institutions and Commissions shall be allocated to women. [17] Part VI, Ch. III, Sec. 108(3) deals with the National Council of Ministers and requires that the President shall ensure that at least ‘twenty-five percent of members of the Council of Ministers are women.’ [18]

      South Sudan has ten states and ten governors. [19] But only one state has a female governor, Warrap State. [20] There are currently seven Presidential Advisors. Six are male and one is female. Out of 29 ministerial portfolios, five are occupied by women. [21] There are 15 members on the Austerity Measures Committee established by the president. [22] No woman sits on that committee. Three are currently ten Grade 1 Ambassadors. All ten positions have gone to male ambassadors and none to women. There are 27 undersecretaries and only four are women. Other organs of government [23] show a similar pattern, all failing to reach the 25 percent mark; most don’t even attain half of the required quota. There is a wide discrepancy between the professed ideal, the constitutional mandate and the reality on the ground.

      To make sense of this discrepancy, it is instructive to look at one of South Sudan’s neighbours and how it dealt with a similar historical injustice. The country is Uganda and from one of its leading scholars, Mahmood Mamdani, [24] we learn that when the National Resistance Movement (N.R.M.) took power in 1986 it introduced a reform in a ‘broad coalition of government by allocating a number of seats in the new legislative body’ for groups that have been historically disenfranchised: women, youth, and workers. [25] Given the tendency to see rights simply as a gift from above, new members of the legislature were captured by the ruling power. For the representative of youth and women’s groups, they felt ‘so thankful and beholden to the ruling power’ they functioned less as representatives of the disfranchised groups who have won political rights through a political struggle and acted more ‘as the regime's 'representatives' to women and youth!’ [26] This was however not the case with the trade unions which objected to the ruling party’s tendency to capture, divide and conquer. The outcome was a concession resulting in rights ‘extended in response to a definite struggle.’ [27] The success of trade unions lay in their organizational capability and tenacity to stand up to the ruling power without conceding ground.

      The lesson of Uganda is that:

      ‘Rights acquire the most significance where the issue of state power appears to be clearly settled, most notably as the result of a protracted armed struggle, itself evidence of both the limited development and organisational weakness of the so-called 'civil society' or non-state sectors. However, such an outcome is likely to exacerbate this contradiction, because to have been successful, the armed struggle has almost certainly been supported by many civilian activists, and yet upon victory the new regime proceeds to reorganise the state, and only from that standpoint to develop an agenda for social change. If this is combined with a hegemonic perspective that sees in the growing insistence on greater democracy nothing but a demand for 'bourgeois' rights, nothing but fresh evidence of 'counter-revolution' rearing its ugly head under new conditions, the danger is that civil society is likely to be left even weaker than before!’ [28]

      While trade unions successfully defended their autonomy, youth and women’s representatives were incorporated into the ruling power, thereby neutralizing their ability to self-organise, mobilise and maintain autonomy in the face of a central power that sought to deny the right to self-organisation of various group interests. [29] The tendency of postcolonial régimes in the region has been the monopolising of power that goes hand in hand with a preoccupation with capturing organised political entities and subsequently incorporating them into the ruling party. The tendency to effect a democratic change from above has not produced qualitative benefits in the African context. Such an attempt in South Sudan should be actively discouraged and resisted by members of the civil society organisations. This technology of rule has a tendency to paralyse and ultimately neutralise the ability of civil society organisations to self-organise in order to keep the ruling structures of power in check.


      In discussing the role of women in the nation-building project in South Sudan, a good place to start is the statistics on the referendum, which according to Ms. Lula Riziq, director of the South Sudan Women's Empowerment Network, showed that, of the total number of registered voters, 52 percent were women. Today women make up 65 percent of South Sudan’s total population. [30] For South Sudan to optimize its full potential it will need to integrate the mass by straddling both the urban and rural population into the nation and state building projects. For a durable peace and sustainable development, these projects will need to include women and youth. The reason is simple: the youth make up the majority of the population of South Sudan with 72 percent under the age of 30. [31] In short, South Sudan will need to invest in developing its human capital.

      The blood that was shed during the civil war, the suffering inflicted on people as a direct consequence of war, affected both men and women. Sudanese women, specifically in the south, played a significant role in the war, fighting and supporting the multiple armed movements. According to experts, women also suffered sexual violence throughout the struggle. [32] Sudanese women play a central role in Sudanese society, in physical and psychological welfare as well as conflict prevention and peace-building. Today, their post-conflict status is among the lowest of all groups in South Sudan, regardless of ethnic background. As a member of the Sudanese community in the United States, I have seen the efforts that Sudanese women put into building strong, vibrant and healthy communities. From Boston, to Phoenix, Portland to Washington, Sudanese women play a role in shaping community life, engaging in conflict resolution, assisting with fundraising when a member is in need, nurturing healthy families, raising future generations and providing for family needs all over North and South Sudan.

      The success of the referendum also bears testimony to the role of women in the political process in South Sudan. South Sudanese women were mobilised around the world to educate community members about the referendum in addition to leading voting centers in registering and making sure the election was transparent, fair and credible. However, the recognition of these roles has been slow. Today, much is demanded from the South Sudanese women and yet little legal, economic and political recognition is given to them.

      A sustainable policy will also require the education of men in Sudanese communities alongside their female counterparts. Without the incorporation of men, the reform can only be partially successful. It requires the integrated work of men and women to make the South a stronger, healthy and prosperous place to call home. Given that South Sudanese women are affected by both the political and economic forces, a constructive effort must engage women in the post-CPA era for building the new nation. In regions plagued by conflict, such as South Sudan, Eastern and Western Sudan, women have been subjects to some of the worst marginalisation, oppression and violence perpetrated by various groups within and outside the region. These various crises have inevitably transformed women into heads of households without granting them the legal status, political power and other social, symbolic and cultural benefits.


      The development in the new republic thus far as it relates to gender equality and the redress of historical injustice is inconsistent with the tenets of the conceptual framework of the new South Sudan. When the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) convened for the First Convention in 1994, Dr. John Garang, the late chairman and Commander-in-Chief of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) identified the challenges facing women throughout Sudan and acknowledged that ‘women were the marginalized of the marginalized. [33] So if men were marginalized in the Old Sudan, then women, in both North and South Sudan, were doubly marginalized and faced a challenge that their male counterparts did not. Given that that Old Sudan and the New Sudan were mutually exclusive political projects, [34] the only solution was to bring forth the new Sudan. This model recognized multiple histories, identities, diversity of religions and races, in a plural society. [35] It promised justice and equality for all stakeholders ‘irrespective of their religion, race, tribe or gender.’ [35] It was this framework that inspired the framing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) [36] and later the Constitution in South Sudan. [47]

      The new republic in the South cannot achieve its political, economic and social objectives without a successful integration of women into the nation-building project. Progress in the South will depend to a larger extent on how the state integrates the mass into the nation-building project. The success of the republic hinges on its ability to democratise the nation-building process by integrating and educating its population with a special emphasis on women and the youth, the groups that make up the majority of the population in South Sudan.


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      [i] Christopher Zambakari is a candidate for a Law and Policy Doctorate (LPD) at the College of Professional Studies, Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts. He can be reached at: Christopher Zambakari <[email protected]>. The author would like to thank Rose Jaji, University of Zimbabwe, and Tijana Gligorevic, Roseman University of Health Sciences, for their insightful comments and constructive feedback on the earlier draft of this article. He would like to extend his gratitude to Lula Riziq, Director of South Sudan Women’s Empowerment Network, Lily Akol, and John Nassar for providing valuable inputs and sources for this article.
      * Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.


      1. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (Cpa) between the Government of the Republic of the Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Sudan People's Liberation Army.
      2. Garang, John. "Speech of the Chairman and Commander-in-Chief to the First Splm/Spla National Convention." Nairobi, Kenya: Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army: Secretariah of Information and Culture, 1994.
      3. GOSS. "Government of the Republic of South Sudan - Ministries." Government of the Republic of South Sudan, GOSS.
      4. Gurtong Trust. "President Kiir Names Austerity Measures Committee: The President of the Republic of South Sudan H.E. Salva Kiir Mayardit Has Issued a Presidential Order No. 08/2012 for the Formation of the Austerity Measures Committee." Gurtong Trust,
      5. Mamdani, Mahmood. "The Social Basis of Constitutionalism in Africa." The Journal of Modern African Studies 28, no. 3 (1990): 359-74.
      6. Riziq, Lula. "Sudanese Advocacy Networks in Solidarity." Juba, Sudan: South Sudan Women's Empowerment Network (SSWEN), 2011.
      7. Southern Sudan Centre for Census, Statistics and Evaluation. "Key Indicators for Southern Sudan." Juba, Sudan: Southern Sudan Centre for Census, Statistics and Evaluation (SSCCSE). 2010.
      8. Sudan Tribune. "South Sudan’s Women Warriors Suffer in Peace." Sudan Tribune, Sudan Tribune.
      9. The Republic of South Sudan. "Presidential Decree No. 18/2012.". Juba, South Sudan: Office of the President of the Republic of South Sudan. Available here, 2012.
      10 ———. "Presidential Decree No. 19/2012." Juba, South Sudan: Office of the President of the Republic of South Sudan. Available here.
      11. ———. "Presidential Decree No. 20/2012." Juba, South Sudan: Office of the President of the Republic of South Sudan. Available [url=>[/url].
      12 ———. "Presidential Decree No. 21/2012." Juba, South Sudan: Office of the President of the Republic of South Sudan. Available here, 2012.
      13. The Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan. The Republic of South Sudan: Gurtong Trust: available [url=<>]here[/url], 2011.
      14. UNESCO. "Why Education Will Foster Stability in an Independent South Sudan." Paris, France – Buenos Aires, Argentina: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 2011.
      15. Zambakari, Christopher. "South Sudan and the Nation-Building Project: Lessons and Challenges." International Journal of African Renaissance Studies. 6, no. 2 (2011): 32–56.
      16. ———. "South Sudan: Institutional Legacy of Colonialism and the Making of a New State." The Journal of North African Studies Forthcoming in Spring (2012).


      [1] The Republic of South Sudan, "Presidential Decree No. 18/2012.," (Juba, South Sudan: Office of the President of the Republic of South Sudan. Available at: <>, 2012).

      [2] The Republic of South Sudan, "Presidential Decree No. 19/2012," (Juba, South Sudan: Office of the President of the Republic of South Sudan. Available at: <> 2012).

      [3] The Republic of South Sudan, "Presidential Decree No. 20/2012," (Juba, South Sudan: Office of the President of the Republic of South Sudan. Available at: <>, 2012).

      [4] The Republic of South Sudan, "Presidential Decree No. 21/2012," (Juba, South Sudan: Office of the President of the Republic of South Sudan. Available at: <>, 2012).

      [5] The Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan, (The Republic of South Sudan: Gurtong Trust: available at: <>, 2011).

      [6] Ibid., Part XI, Ch. I, Sec. 162 (7)

      [7] Ibid., Part II, Sec. 16(4a)

      [8] Ibid., Part VII, Sec. 122 (6)

      [9] Ibid., Part VI, Ch. III, Sec. 108 (3)

      [10] Ibid., Part IX, Ch. II, Sec. 142 (3)

      [11] Christopher Zambakari, "South Sudan: Institutional Legacy of Colonialism and the Making of a New State," The Journal of North African Studies Forthcoming in Spring(2012): 6.

      [12] The Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan., Part II, Sec. 16 (3)

      [13] Ibid., Part II, Sec. 16 (4a)

      [14] Ibid., Part II, Sec. 16(2)

      [15] Ibid., Part II, Sec. 16(4c)

      [16] Ibid., Part II, Sec. 16(5)

      [17] Ibid., Part IX, Ch. II, Sec. 142 (3)

      [18] The Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan., Part VI, Ch. III, Sec. 108(3)

      [19] GOSS, "Government of the Republic of South Sudan - Ministries," Government of the Republic of South Sudan,

      [20] Gov. Nyandeng Malek Deliec

      [21] GOSS, "Government of the Republic of South Sudan - Ministries".

      [22] Gurtong Trust, "President Kiir Names Austerity Measures Committee: The President of the Republic of South Sudan H.E. Salva Kiir Mayardit has issued a presidential order No. 08/2012 for the formation of the Austerity Measures Committee," Gurtong Trust,

      [23] This includes among others: South Sudan Judiciary, South Sudan Legislative Assembly, South Sudan Council of States, Office of the President, Top Presidential Aides.

      [24] Mahmood Mamdani is Professor and Director of Makerere Institute of Social Research in Kampala and Herbert Lehman Professor of Government at Columbia University, New York City.

      [25] Mahmood Mamdani, "The Social Basis of Constitutionalism in Africa," The Journal of Modern African Studies 28, no. 3 (1990): 370.

      [26] Ibid.

      [27] Ibid.

      [28] ibid., 371.

      [29] Ibid., 370.

      [30] Lula Riziq, "Sudanese Advocacy Networks In solidarity," (Juba, Sudan: South Sudan Women's Empowerment Network (SSWEN), 2011).

      [31] UNESCO, "Why Education Will Foster Stability in an Independent South Sudan," (Paris, France – Buenos Aires, Argentina: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 2011).

      [32] Statistics and Evaluation Southern Sudan Centre for Census, "Key Indicators for Southern Sudan," (Juba, Sudan: Southern Sudan Centre for Census, Statistics and Evaluation (SSCCSE). 2010).

      [33] Sudan Tribune, "South Sudan’s women warriors suffer in peace," Sudan Tribune,,29415

      [34] John Garang, "Speech of the Chairman and Commander-In-Chief to the First SPLM/SPLA National Convention," (Nairobi, Kenya: Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army: Secretariah of Information and Culture, 1994), 43.

      [35] ibid., 19, 25.

      [36] The Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan., Part I, Art. 1, Sec. 4

      [37] Ibid., Part II, Sec. 14

      [38] The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) Between The Government of The Republic of The Sudan and The Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Sudan People's Liberation Army.

      [39] Christopher Zambakari, "South Sudan and the Nation-Building Project: Lessons and Challenges," International Journal of African Renaissance Studies. 6, no. 2 (2011): 47.

      What do the new World Bank poverty statistics really tell us?

      Robin Broad and John Cavanagh


      cc G L
      The statistics upon which most poverty elimination strategies are based are extremely misleading and often steer experts toward the wrong solutions.

      Now here is what sounds like a New York Times headline to celebrate:

      ‘Extreme Poverty in Developing World Is Down Despite the Recession, Report Says.’[i]

      That report would be a 6-page World Bank briefing note, the press release for which is titled: ‘New Estimates Reveal Drop in Extreme Poverty 2005-2010.’

      Echoes The Economist: ‘For the first time ever, the number of poor people is declining everywhere.’

      If it were only that easy. Let us dig into what the World Bank's new briefing note really tells us and ask two questions: Do the statistics really show a fall in extreme poverty across the world? And, what policies lie behind the changing poverty figures?


      * The figures do not tell us anything about the impact of the recession: The actual data cover 1981-2008; figures ending in 2008 cannot possibly tell us anything about the impact of a recession that started in the United States in late 2008. The briefing note alludes to ‘preliminary estimates’ for 2010; based on these, the Bank makes the bold assertion that the Millennium Development Goal of halving poverty (defined as $1.25/day) from its 1990 level was achieved in 2010. But, preliminary estimates are, well, just preliminary estimates. These are extrapolated from significantly smaller samples. Hence, the data cannot back up the Bank's confident claim because, again, the real data end in 2008. We have been following World Bank projections and estimates for decades now and have found them highly unreliable - and typically over-optimistic.

      If one sticks to the 1981-2008 period, China is the key: Between 1981 and 2008, the entire drop in the number of people living in ‘extreme poverty,’ that is those who live below $1.25 a day, is accounted for by China - where the number of extreme poor fell by 662 million. Over this period, the number of people living below $1.25 a day outside China actually rose by 13 million, and hovered around 1.1 billion people throughout this period. More people fell into poverty in South Asia over this period (interesting, given India's rapid growth over the past decade) and in sub-Saharan Africa. Hence, a more accurate headline would have read:

      ‘Numbers in poverty plunge in China over past three decades from 1981-2008, while rising marginally in the rest of the world.’

      To extend this last point: As we have argued elsewhere, in countries such as South Africa, where government services are generous, $1.25 a day goes further than, say, in Haiti. Furthermore, as nations grow rapidly, as have China and India over the past decade and a half, the amount of money needed for people in the cash economy to maintain a decent standard of living also rises. As for those who subsist in rural areas on less than $1.25 a day, many consume much of what they produce. Many live in self-built homes and depend on traditional medicines. While their poverty may be ‘extreme’ by the Bank's monetary measure, their quality of life may be much better than that of their urban counterparts, even though their incomes are often smaller.

      Related to this, our experience living with poor families in rural areas suggests that it has been the opening of their natural resources to global agribusiness, factory fishing fleets and corporate interests that often leads to real poverty. Millions have been pushed off their land over the past few generations into urban slums where they live in squalor, although they may bring home a few dollars a day. In sum, the statistics upon which most poverty elimination strategies are based are extremely misleading and often steer experts toward the wrong solutions.

      This raises the other question of what policies are behind the figures:

      * Neoliberalism and poverty: What is behind the data that shows those in poverty outside China increasing in most regions from 1981 to 2005? This period coincided with the heyday of corporate-friendly neoliberal policies in most countries. So the data could be read as a confirmation of what critics of neoliberalism have been saying: the wave of market fundamentalism contributed to increases in the numbers of people in poverty. That data also reveals that in one region, sub-Saharan Africa, the percent of people living below the poverty threshold also rose over this period. We hardly need to point out that in the one country where poverty plunged - China - leaders did not pursue blind neoliberalism, but instead combined state direction of much of the economy with market-openings in selected sectors.

      * How about the subsequent period from 2005 to 2008, a time range during which the data reveal poverty numbers and rates falling in all regions of the world? As opposed to 1981-2005, this was a period of spreading cracks in the neoliberal Washington Consensus. It was also a period of rising of commodity prices and rising of balance of payments surpluses in many Southern countries. As a result, many Southern countries were able to repay the IMF and World Bank and wean themselves from World Bank and IMF loans and neoliberal conditionality.

      Hence, the new World Bank poverty figures may tell a very different story from what has been suggested elsewhere: The numbers in poverty outside China rose during the heyday of neoliberal policies, and began to fall as the grip of those policies was loosened after 2005.


      * Please do not take Pambazuka for granted! Become a Friend of Pambazuka and make a donation NOW to help keep Pambazuka FREE and INDEPENDENT!

      * Robin Broad is professor of international development, School of International Service, American University. John Cavanagh is director of the Institute for Policy Studies. They are authors of ‘Development Redefined: How the Market Met Its Match.’ You can follow their work through the blog they write for YES! Magazine.
      * This article was first published by [url=[Triple Crisis[/url].
      * Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      END NOTE

      [i] Annie Lowrey, New York Times, March 7, 2012 print edition. Online version has a different title: "Dire Poverty Falls Despite Global Slump, Report Finds"

      Modern slavery of Ethiopian women

      Billene Seyoum Woldeyes


      cc Wikimedia
      Bilene Seyoum raises critical points concerning the safety of Ethiopian domestic workers in the Middle East, suggesting that governments in the region could be institutionalizing a form of modern day slavery.

      She mostly comes from a poor community. She is female, which introduces a whole new dimension to her experiences in a foreign land. She’s mostly Christian, newly converted to Islam to meet the demands of her work. She’s black African. Add to that she hardly speaks a word of Arabic. She might not even speak the official language of Ethiopia. She has probably never been to Addis Ababa until she began her process for migration, which can serve as a testing ground for what to expect in the metropolis of the Arab states. This concoction and intersection of class, gender, religion and race ultimately puts her in the bottom rung of the social strata in the Middle East. She has no information and whatever bit she has does not paint the correct picture. Once she lands in the Middle East, she is at the mercy of her employers. She has no telephone access. She has neither friends nor family to call upon. She is confronted with jealous wives and sex-seeking husbands. The Ethiopian Embassy, where one may exist, is unreachable to her because she is locked up and has no means to access her consulate. She is the modern day slave fighting for survival.


      There is a piercing and disturbing pain that comes from witnessing the anguish and pain of another human being gripped in the relentless embrace of suffering. There is an even sharper pain that resonates with the realization that the intersection of class, gender, religion and race plays a huge role in the source of that person’s agony. And when that person is country folk, the sorrow felt in response to their torment in foreign lands is indescribable. Not because of an inability to feel the same for anyone in a similar situation, but because of a local understanding of the circumstances that paved their tumultuous path.

      That piercing, disturbing, sharp pain and sorrow is what I have been feeling upon watching the viral video of Alem Dechassa, an Ethiopian domestic worker in Lebanon, being dragged by her hair and physically abused by her male employer in front of her Embassy grounds. Two days after the release of this video, reports came out that Alem Dechassa had committed suicide at the psychiatric hospital she had been admitted to. She is shown fighting for survival with every inch of breath and energy left in her.

      Alem’s story is one that in Ethiopia we have become all too familiar with. The rural girl or woman who is burdened with the responsibility to take care of her family or is bridled with a passion for self development, which the reality of her small rural community cannot afford her in its humble offerings. And so the journey that requires her to shed her language, religion, culture, name, family and all that is familiar becomes much more alluring.


      A few weeks back I find myself in a modest hair salon in the city of Bahir Dar by Lake Tana. Conversation in there is bubbling about the next wave of women making their way to the Middle East in search of better opportunities. A young woman who is friends with one of the employees in the hair salon has come in to get her hair done before her departure the next day. I ask her where she is going and she replies with caution of her flight from Addis Ababa the next evening to Saudi Arabia. I am afraid to ask her more lest my queries and my worries about the life of a domestic worker in the Middle East should come off as patronizing. Nevertheless, I proceed with one commonly asked and somewhat irrelevant question, “Is it better?” It’s irrelevant because I know she has come this far with the choice in mind that indeed it was better. Yet I ask her anyways, to get her perspective on the journey ahead of her.

      She is cautious in her responses but she is also fierce. There is determination in her voice projecting to her listener that this journey is one with a purpose and end time. She has processed her contract through a “legitimate” agency she shares with me. She adds that the Ethiopian Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs have provided them with training on what to expect there, what their rights are, that they are not to give away their passports, and that they are within their right to change to different employers within the first three months of each contract. She assures me that the problem cases arise when processed through the illegitimate sending agencies only. She plans to return back with cash in hand in a few months time to start up something in Bahir Dar.

      If her dreams go as planned, it is better. Who am I to doubt that while sitting in my seat of privilege? Even my cousin has made a better life for herself after some short years in Bahrain in domestic servitude. That is if we do not factor in her near death experience when her employer’s mother poisoned her and the other time when her employer’s brother attempted to rape her.

      But how long do we continue to “not factor in” these instances accepting them as “minor” hiccups in these women’s progress to self development?


      There is a socio-economic concept that posits that when a certain country X enforces strict regulations say on taxation or labor standards, foreign direct investment will seek out another country with less stringent regulations. In essence, flexible regulations enable the “race to the bottom”. I found this theory somewhat worthy of mention upon reading a news article from earlier this month in which it is stated that Saudi Arabia alone is seeking up to 45,000 Ethiopian domestic workers per month to meet its requirements. This increase in demand is attributed to Saudi Arabia’s placement of “a ban on recruiting workers from the Philippines and Indonesia after those countries imposed stricter employment conditions.” (Shane 2007)

      This is a classic example of the Saudi Arabian government denying its responsibilities to create hospitable working conditions for migrant workers, and rather preying on countries like Ethiopia who are still in the process of strengthening their support systems for domestic workers going abroad. If in essence the Saudi government is refusing to honor better pay and living conditions for the thousands of women who flock there, would it be an overstatement to suggest that they are institutionalizing a modern form of slavery?


      Should all fingers only be pointing to the government for a resolution? Do we as citizens not have a part to play in information sharing and raising awareness? Can we who cry out in condemnation of the many Alem stories not put our minds together and come up with a bridging solution that can alleviate some of the symptoms of this problem before our girls and women depart? Can we not collaborate with the few human rights organizations working in these respective countries?

      This is the moment when I wish for an Alem2012 viral campaign video that would generate the same fervor for action and worldwide condemnation of the Middle East track record for treatment of migrant workers.

      To the governments of Middle East countries who are host to our domestic workers, I insist, our women and girls are not bottom of the rung for us.


      * Please do not take Pambazuka for granted! Become a Friend of Pambazuka and make a donation NOW to help keep Pambazuka FREE and INDEPENDENT!

      *Billene Seyoum Woldeyes is a poet, writer, feminist activist and blogger. Her writing can be found at
      * Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.


      Shane, D (2012). Saudi seeks 45k new Ethiopian maids per month.

      Siemens makes illegal windmill deal in occupied Western Sahara

      Peter Kenworthy


      cc I B
      According to international law, it is illegal to trade or dispose of resources in occupied Western Sahara without the consent of Western Sahara’s indigenous population who also have to benefit from any such dealings.

      The German multinational, Siemens, has landed an order for the construction and maintenance of 22 windmills to be built in a wind farm in Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara. The order is part of a larger deal with Moroccan company Nareva Holding.

      “The wind farm is expected to be commercially operational in the summer of 2013” and the order includes “supplying, installing and commissioning the windmills, as well as five years service,” according to a press release from Siemens.

      The problem is that, according to international law, it is illegal to trade or dispose of resources in occupied Western Sahara without the consent of Western Sahara’s indigenous population, the Saharawi’s, who also have to benefit from any such dealings.

      And this is not the case with the deal between Siemens and Nareva Holding, or any other dealings with resources from occupied Western Sahara, says Abba Malainin from the Western Saharan liberation front, Polisario. “The Saharawi’s were not consulted in this economical dealing between Morocco’s Nareva Holding and Siemens Denmark. Nareva has no right to strike economical deals in our illegally occupied land because it is dealing in something that it does not own.”

      Siemens has solemnly promised that the company’s business dealings will not violate international law by joining the UN’s Global Compact – an initiative that compels participating companies to “support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights” and “make sure that they are not complicit in human rights abuses.”

      “Siemens is expressly committed to upholding the Compact’s ten principles,” Siemens insists in a 2010 sustainability report. “We have committed ourselves to observing human rights … and ensure that these basic rights and principles are also observed in our supply chain.”

      But by working in occupied Western Sahara, Siemens has broken these promises. Human Rights Watch speaks of Moroccan authorities acting with “impunity” and the ”evidence of torture and serious mistreatment” against the indigenous population of Western Sahara. the Saharawi’s, and International Crisis Group speaks of the Moroccan regime’s “disproportionate use of force” and it “frequently resorting to torture and arbitrary arrests.”

      And apart from being accomplices to these human rights violations, those who deal with Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara are destabilising not only Western Sahara but also the entire region.

      “All trade with Western Sahara legitimises Morocco’s illegal occupation of Western Sahara,” says Morten Nielsen from the Danish NGO Africa Contact, who sent a letter to Siemens last Friday to try to persuade the company to cancel the deal.

      “Such deals undermine the peace process between the Saharawi’s and Morocco, and helps to maintain and amplify the hostility in a region divided on the question of the colonisation of Western Sahara. This issue is a destabilising factor in a region that borders on the European Union.”


      * Please do not take Pambazuka for granted! Become a Friend of Pambazuka and make a donation NOW to help keep Pambazuka FREE and INDEPENDENT!

      * Peter Kenworthy writes for Africa Contact.
      * Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      Conversations with my stream of consciousness (2)

      Remembering Alex Ibru

      Cameron Duodu


      cc M G
      Violence has been visited personally on some of the most illustrious sons of the country in recent years.

      STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS: You promised, during our last conversation, to talk about Mr Alex Ibru, publisher of the The Guardian newspaper of Nigeria, who passed away on 20 November 2011.

      ME: Yes. I once visited the Guardian offices when I was in Lagos. And guess whom I ran into? Francis Awuku, former editor of the Sunday Mirror of Ghana. In those days, a lot of talented Ghanaians with good qualifications went over to Nigeria to work. Because our currency, the cedi, had hit rock bottom.Ghanaian teachers in particular were in great demand in Nigeria. Then in 1982, the Nigerians turned on these Ghanaians who had contributed so much to Nigerian life, and turfed hundreds of thousands of them out. The Nigerians didn't say so, but their action was a tit-for-tat for what had happened in 1969, when Ghana expelled thousands of Nigerians who, it claimed, did not have "residence permits". These callous actions of both countries caused a lot of suffering to their citizens. Fortunately, the coming into existence of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in 1975, has put an end to those types of actions by neighbouring Governments in West Africa.

      When I saw Francis Awuku in Lagos, he was working as a sub-editor on the Lagos Guardian. I was so surprised that I yelled, “Francis! What are you doing here?” Everyone turned to look at me. Francis replied with a catch-phrase we had: “One short man!” In the 1960s, Francis had been part of a delegation of Ghanaian journalists who visited Nigeria, and who had come back with a funny record by a Nigerian singer entitled, “One short man!” The language was a bit difficult to understand, but the song seemed to be about a short man who tried to woo a beautiful, tall woman. It gave us a lot of reason to laugh at the Accra Press Club.

      SOC: So, did you meet the Publisher of the Guardian at that time?

      ME: No – I met Mr Alex Ibru in London. I did a story on the Ibru family for South Magazine, in which one of his brothers, Goodie, featured prominently. Goodie was then chairman of the company that owned the best hotel in Nigeria at the time, the Ikeja Sheraton. I was very impressed with Goodie. When I visited his residence, I noticed that he was a connoisseur of art and had quite a collection of art works. When one doesn’t know Nigerians, one may get impression that all that Nigerians care about is money. But even some of their richest people are sometimes interested in works of art. For instance, the owner of one of their biggest businesses, the mobile phone tycoon, Chief Michael Adenuga, Chairman of Glo-Mobile, is a connoisseur of the works of the American jazz guitarist, Earl Klugh!

      SOC: I thought we were on Alex Ibru?

      ME: Well, having mentioned music, let me tell you this: one of the very richest Nigerians, the late Chief M K O Abiola, started life as a band leader! He had a tiny band, which played at weddings and funerals, and did not charge money, but asked to be paid in food. He then sold the food which the band could not consume – that’s how he paid his school fees. Abiola was a singer – when he sang, the stammering that bugged him all his life disappeared….

      SOC: I bet you’re going to tell us about Abacha, who imprisoned Abiola, and died before he could release Abiola, and Abiola himself died in prison shortly after Abacha had died? And General Abdulsalam Abubakar and all that?

      ME: Well, isn’t it all interesting?

      SOC: Yes, but we haven’t got all year, have we?

      ME: Well, I visited Alex Ibru at his flat in London. Very posh – on top of a Mercedes Benz leadership just across from the banks of the Thames river in Chelsea. A mutual friend had suggested that I should write for his Weekly Guardian and I went to talk to him. He told me that much as he would like to ask me to write for the paper, he would much rather I was commissioned by its editorial people. “I like to carry my editors with me, “ he said. In those days, communications between London and Lagos were difficult and I couldn’t see how the idea could be pursued. But I was wrong. He actually mentioned it to the chap who was editor of the paper at the time, Andy Akporugo, and when I ran into the editor on a trip to Lagos, he mentioned to me that Mr Ibru had told him of our conversation and he wanted to know whether I would carry the idea forward. But I’d by then become committed to another publication and never did write for the Weekly Guardian.

      Alex Ibru died at the age of 66. His story is one of the most pathetic examples of how violence has been visited personally on some of the most illustrious sons of the country in recent years. The Nobel Prize-winning author, Wole Soyinka, for instance, once had to hop it out of Nigeria fast, on the back of a motor-cycle taxi known locally as "okada"! that has marked Nigerian social and political life in recent years. He reached safety in Benin....

      SOC: And where is Ibru in all that?

      ME: Sorry oh. Alex Ibru was born in Lagos in 1945, but his family hailed from Agbarha-Otor in the Ughelli north local government area of Delta State. He was the youngest of five brothers. The eldest, Olorugun Michael Ibru, was at one stage, described to me as the richest man in Nigeria, with a chain of businesses to his name. Alex Ibru studied at Ibadan Grammar School and Igbobi College, and then went on to Trent Polytechnic (now Trent University) where he studied Business. At 25, barely out of the Polytechnic, he founded a successful business called Rutam Motors in 1970. By the time he founded The Guardian newspapers in 1983, he had become quite wealthy.

      What he brought to the newspaper scene in Nigeria was that he recruited a large number of outspoken academic types to run the paper and write for it. Among these stars were Stanley Macebuh and Yemi Ogunbiyi. By the time General Sani Abacha seized power in Nigeria in 1993, the Guardian had become so glamorous that Abacha, in a bid to bask in its reflected glory, invited Alex Ibru to become his Minister of Internal Affairs. Like many of those who were seduced by flattery to join Abacha’s administration, he probably thought that he could influence the dictator to become more 'liberal' in his methods. But Abacha only wanted to use Ibru's name to polish his image. To his credit, Ibru did not attempt to influence his editorial staff to use the paper to support Abacha, and in August 1994, Abacha banned the paper because its stance was too critical of his administration.
      Inexplicably, however, Ibru chose to remain as a minister in Abacha’s administration, on spite of Abacha's display of mistrust in Ibru's paper.

      The ban on The Guardian was lifted after a few weeks, but the relationship between Abacha and Ibru had soured and Ibru left the government in 1995. In 1996, Ibru was driving home from work when his car was sprayed with machine-gun fire on a famous bridge in Lagos called Falamo Bridge, in Ikoyi. Ibru was seriously injured and lost an eye. But he survived and was flown to Britain for further medical treatment. Abacha’s then security chief, a certain Mustapha, has been standing trial for the attempted assassination of Ibru. Ibru may never have fully recovered from the injuries he sustained in the assassination attempt, and no doubt, the injuries were partly responsible for his death at the relatively early age of 66.

      SOC: Ok, what next?

      ME: Don't worry, just trust me. I don't want to drop names by heart, so be patient.


      * Please do not take Pambazuka for granted! Become a Friend of Pambazuka and make a donation NOW to help keep Pambazuka FREE and INDEPENDENT!

      * Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.


      REDRESS to mark 20 years with literary event


      REDRESS helps torture survivors to obtain justice and reparation.

      REDRESS, an award-winning organisation that helps torture survivors seek justice, will be marking its 20th anniversary with a Literary Evening and a drinks reception on April 24th.

      The Literary Evening will take place at The Tabernacle, Notting Hill, and will feature readings from prominent writers that have canvassed the topic of torture and human rights in their work.

      Roma Tearne, Haifa Zangana and Patricio Pron will be among the authors participating and Lindsey Hilsum, Channel 4 News International Editor, will chair the event.

      In addition, a number of our clients who have undergone torture will present readings during the evening. The readings will be followed by a discussion with the authors, other panellists and the audience.

      The event will begin at 6:30 pm and will end at 8:30 pm (followed by a drinks reception). The Tabernacle is located at 35 Powis Square, Notting Hill, London, W11 2AY.

      You can find the full programme and the authors’ bios here.

      This is the link to buy the £15 tickets.

      For assistance, contact Catie Harvey at [email=[email protected][[email protected][/email] or 020 7793 1777.

      Comment & analysis

      Loopholes in Ghana’s budgetary process

      Ron Singer


      cc K C
      Parliament is supposed to play a key oversight role in budgeting, but that is not the case in Ghana. This is one of the areas of institutional reform that need urgent attention.

      This report is a summary of a conversation with Honourable Albert Kan Dapaah, Chair, Public Accounts Committee, Parliament of Ghana on Thursday, 3 November 2011. Dapaah is a senior National Patriotic Party (NPP) member who held four portfolios in the previous administration (2001-08), but who is universally regarded as an incorruptible corruption fighter. The PAC is a non-partisan Government committee whose mandate is to monitor the budgetary process.

      STEP 1: Formulation/preparation by the Executive branch of the annual budget to make sure it conforms with medium- and long-term policy goals. This, quite simply, does not happen.

      STEP 2: Presentation of the budget to Parliament for approval. Parliament is supposed to question seriously the budget prepared by the Executive. Again, this does not happen. The main reason is that the process is politicised. Whips keep party representatives in line. Also, there is a voice vote, which precludes individual accountability. In this regard, Ghana is unlike the US, for example, where the media holds legislators responsible for their votes. This fact goes a long way toward accounting for the scandals that have surrounded recent large, bad loans made by the Ghanaian government.

      The approval process is also hamstrung by the one-week limit for debate. Few of the 239 parliamentarians even get to speak; and even those few are carefully selected by the party whips. Interestingly, what qualifies a parliamentarian to speak is not only his/her political affiliation, but seniority. Since seniority in the Ghanaian parliament stems from having been elected repeatedly, it can reflect either accomplishment in the delivery of services to one’s constituency or demagoguery: rhetorical skills.

      A big criticism of the whole budgetary process is that the mass of Ghanaians have no say in it. Even parliamentarians are not involved in planning the budget, and they are restricted from raising or lowering allocations in the proposed budget to particular ministries. Thus, putative parliamentary independence in Stage 2 of the budgetary process is illusory. In fact the only government in the modern era that witnessed parliamentary rejection of its budget soon gave way to Jerry Rawlings (1981-92).

      STEP 3: The implementation phase. The allocated monies go to the ministries. An accounting system is supposedly in place to provide a variance analysis in the way these monies are spent, such as when ministers go over budget. A computerised accounting system called BPems was instituted at great cost, but did not work. A new, very costly system, GifMis, is currently being developed. The constitution also requires annual statements of expenditures from each ministry, but, in practice, these are never rendered.

      STEP 4: Auditing: The Auditor General audits the accounts of all ministries, sending the information on to Parliament for review and possible action. This is a key accountability measure but, again, it does not work; in the first place because the AG can’t audit spending records which do not exist. Although the AG is also supposed to be independent, the office is, in fact, under presidential control. During the NPP regime, an inherited AG was fired; the same has happened under the current administration, the National Democratic Congress (NDC). Also, Finance would seem to be a key ministry to be audited, but the minister of Finance is the one who sets the AG’s budget, typically under-funding the office.

      In the US and Canada, with reliable accounting systems in place, 75 percent of auditing focuses on management and only about 15 percent on systems. In Ghana, without reliable accounting systems, the AG spends 80 percent of their efforts on financial audits. Ironically, the same absence of accounting systems also makes it difficult or impossible to catch those who misuse budgets. This futile focus keeps the AG too busy to deal with more important management issues, such as procurement, debt and environmental regulation.

      When the auditor has completed his investigations, a report is issued to parliament, which passes it on to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which is the only independent, non-partisan committee in parliament and hence, in the entire budgetary review process. The membership is proportional to parliamentary representation, so currently 13 members belong to the NDC and twelve, including the chair, to the NPP.

      Right now, apart from the leadership, only two parliamentarians even have offices, the chairs of the Finance Committee and of the PAC. But the PAC labours under constraints in its fight for parliamentary accountability. They lack even a single professional research assistant. By contrast, the Ghana Centre for Democratic Development (CDD), an eminent civil society organization (CSO), has several such assistants.

      After the AG explains his/her report to the PAC, the latter contacts all ministries that were audited (that is, found to have violated budgetary procedures). Parliament can also ask to be party to the audits, as can the president, but only with the approval with a group of respected elders, the Council of State. The PAC then holds a public hearing to which the media are invited, and at which the audited Ministers are named and shamed. Although their reputations may be temporarily tarnished, one can ask how lasting the effects are.

      What next ensues? Dismissal, sanctions or prosecution are in the hands of Audit Reports Investigative Committees (ARICS). But since each ministry has its own ARIC, the consequences of malfeasance are, in effect, left in the hands of the malefactors! Recognizing this weakness, in 2000 a law was passed establishing a new Financial Administration Court to supplement the ARICs. But the then Chief Justice decreed that the law establishing this court was unconstitutional. In or about 2003, another law was passed that would have circumvented the constitutional objection to the previous one by making the new court a division of the fast-track High Court, an existing institution. But a new CJ found a new flaw in this arrangement, and the matter is still unresolved. Meanwhile, by default, an already existing Economic Crimes Court does the job of enforcing audits.


      Meting out punishment is one thing. However, 80 percent of the current PAC’s recommendations for reform involve not chasing malefactors, but improving accountability measures in the budgetary process. An administrative body, not a court, is now advocated for these reforms. Asked to predict the outcome of these efforts, Kan Dapaah says, ‘I will make sure this happens. I will get MP support.’ Especially as oil looms as an engine of economic growth, corruption also looms larger in Ghana. Not that Ghanaians are any more venal than, say, Canadians, but in Ghana the door to the vault is wide open. The only way to close it is through instituting real accountability mechanisms.

      Change must begin with the balance of power among groups in society. Currently, the political class rules Ghana, but CSOs such as the CDD must be given a bigger role in public affairs. The change would enable frustrated reformers within the system to finally gain some traction. It would also help if CSOs devoted less of their efforts to criticizing individual parliamentarians and more to pushing for systemic reform.


      Asked about his financial oversight of the four ministries for which he held portfolios in the course of the reign of his own party, the NPP, Kan Dapaah admits that some of these ministries were audited. However, the constitution keeps the minister, a political appointee, from participating in the financial affairs of his ministry. By law, these are the purview of civil servants. The minister is also too busy to keep his finger on the financial pulse of his ministry. Would it even be a good idea to let political appointees do this? It would be a tricky business to come up with a method of intra-ministerial governance that balanced the need for oversight by the minister with the need to keep finance separate from politics. Instead, let’s concentrate on systemic reform, the main theme of which would be to create real, working checks and balances to the power of the Executive and his party in the budgetary process.

      Kojo Asante, research officer for governance and legal policy at the CDD, vouches for Kan Dapaah’s record during the previous administration. Asante said that, even when he was a minister, Kan Dapaah pushed for reform. This was highly unusual, since ruling parties in Ghana almost always try only to ‘reform’ the opposition.


      * Please do not take Pambazuka for granted! Become a Friend of Pambazuka and make a donation NOW to help keep Pambazuka FREE and INDEPENDENT!

      * Ron Singer interviewed Albert Kan Dapaah twice for his forthcoming book, Uhuru Revisited: Interviews With African Pro-Democracy Leaders (Africa World Press/Red Sea Press). The other focus of the interviews was the path by which Kan Dapaah traveled from a small village in eastern Ghana to his current position.
      * Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      Nigerian deniers of Biafra genocide

      Osita Ebiem


      cc Wikimedia
      The deniers of the Nigerian genocide may deny it as much as they like, but their denial will never erase the fact that this heinous crime occurred.

      In recent times it has become a full-time job for some dubious and dishonest Nigerians to deny the Biafra Genocide, also known as Nigeria Genocide in Biafra. Some go to the ridiculous extent of saying that it never happened. Such ones are wishful thinkers. They would have wished that there were no records of any kind that have helped to preserve for posterity the dangers of fear and hatred. Despite the abundance of so many records of the steady incidents of murderous killings and lootings of the particular Igbo ethnic group by the rest of the Nigerian citizens that started in the colonial days, some Nigerians shamelessly deny these facts.

      The first incident in which the murder of Igbo ethnic people took place in Nigeria was in Jos in 1945 and the second one happened in Kano in 1953. In both cases thousands of Igbo people with their families were brutally murdered and looted. The reason for the murders: fear and hatred. And the hatred runs so deep and ingrained in the Nigerian psyche that soon after Nigeria’s independence the ethnic/religious cleansing killings quickly turned into a pogrom.

      The Nigerian government and its peoples, driven by unfounded fear and hatred, became actively engaged in carrying out state-sponsored hate-murders and hate-lootings of the ethnic Igbo people. Post independent Nigeria has witnessed the unremitting genocidal program of ethnic/religious cleansing of the Nigerian state of the Igbo ethnic people.

      Nigeria’s independence from the British happened in 1960 and starting from 1966 till today, the Nigerian state and its citizens have murdered over five million Igbo and other Biafran people in their process to cleanse the country of the people they hate and loathe so much. But the Biafra Genocide that lasted from 1966 to 1970 saw the killing of 3.1 million Igbo/Biafrans ethnic peoples. Within that period that is regarded as one of the darkest in human history, the Nigerian state and all its citizens and in cahoots with some allied nations of Great Britain, USSR, Egypt and the Arab League remorselessly murdered many millions of defenceless Igbo/Biafran children, women and men through shelling, bombing, strafing and starvation.

      The genocide period of 1966 to 1970 was presided over by the accursed and unrepentant chief genocidaire Yakubu Gowon. It is reported that the man now runs a religious program called “Nigeria Prays”. What a mockery and smear on the sensibilities of a decent world. Just as in legal terminology so it is true in religion, “He that comes to equity must come with clean hands”. Whoever must come to God in prayers and supplication must come with a humble heart, acknowledge and change from his wicked ways and make atonement by restitution. Then they can offer their prayers and sacrifices and expect answers from a God who frowns at and condemns injustice and the murder of the innocent. When the murderer opens their hands in prayer the good Lord looks away in anger because he will not look at the soiled hands that are full of the blood of innocent children, women and men. To pray to a just God the murderer or genocidaire must first acknowledge their heinous crime against humanity, actively elect to change and turn from their evil ways, confess publicly to their evil doings and restore the victim to their original state of being before he violates and destroys them.

      But there has been a bright side to the total darkness. There are some people who have sacrificed so much and stood up against the damning Nigerian darkness on behalf of all Biafrans and lovers of justice all over the world over the years. These people have continually reminded the world of their responsibility of not forgetting the Biafra Genocide. It is the courage and perseverance of these excellent men of honour and faith that serve as the forte and hope of all decent human beings all over the world. By the efforts of these gallant fighters against injustice and crimes against humanity, the world-our world-becomes a better place, secure and prosperous. Their actions will continue to embolden and feed the fire of hope of the oppressed, murdered and looted peoples everywhere in our world.

      The deniers of the Nigerian genocide may deny as much as they like about the Biafra Genocide, but their denials will never erase the fact that this heinous crime occurred against the Biafran peoples. But they may need to be reminded that Biafrans are not telling their story for the record in order to elicit any form of sympathy from Nigeria or Nigerians. The Nigerian state, Gowon and all its citizens are reprobates who are forever past any form of redemption. Redemption is always the imputation on the offending person or a group; the grace that translates the wicked from their weakened state of perdition and certain doom into the state of strength and success that comes from the confidence of having “clean hands”. This translation can only happen when the offending person or party acknowledges wrongdoing and becomes humble, willingly changes and does right by the victim. The truth is that so long as a person or people continue to choose to live a lie and in deny the truth, they will never be accorded the grace to translate into the realm of success and prosperity.

      Lies can be equated with social darkness and whoever, be it a person or country that lives a lie lives in total darkness and remains condemned to perpetually grope in the hellish darkness of frustration, failure and poverty. Needless to say that Nigerias’ and Nigerians' lot has ever remained that of a people covered in an impenetrable and hopeless darkness. Nigeria will never escape this total darkness of hopelessness and poverty until it is broken into pieces and their greatest fear comes to pass; Biafra becomes free and independent of Nigeria. Other people in other places who have fought bitter wars and tend to have come out as better societies did so because they had been honest and bold and found the courage in themselves to acknowledge the truth of their situation. Those in the wrong found the strength to accept being in the wrong when the violence subsided, hence it seems that every society that has seen great progress began to experience prosperity and advancement after a fight; should we then seek far for the answer on why Nigeria's case is so different? Nigeria and Nigerians deny and run away from the truth and as such they will continue to head away from progress and prosperity. Any society that embraces lies will invariably continually live in poverty and total darkness.

      Let all Nigerians who shamelessly deny the Biafra Genocide go ahead and pride themselves in their damnable state of darkness and endless retrogression but they may also be reminded that Biafra's defeat in 1970 was only a temporary setback in the people’s unstoppable march towards self-redemption (Self Determination). Biafra and Biafrans shall get there soon and Nigeria and Nigerians shall not have the last laugh. Someone may need to tell the unrepentant Nigerians and their country that they have not heard the last of and from Biafra and Biafrans. But most importantly, on a final note and on practical terms, let Nigeria and Nigerians who deny the truth know that the time has finally come for them to answer for their heinous crime against humanity; the Nigeria and Nigerians Genocide on Biafra and Biafrans. The guilty shall pay.


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      * Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      Sex toys to save Zimbabwe’s homosexuality in prisons

      Marujata Kwenda


      cc C F
      If there is any meaningful change it should be providing condoms, which the government has refused to do.

      There are days when people make jokes and you laugh so hard; and then you are reminded that it is not a joke. Politics in Zimbabwe may not be necessarily of interest to most unless there is bashing of homosexuals, because of its outspokenness by President Mugabe. Tactics that have been used over time are tiring, but to stop the spread of homosexuality with sex gadgets is just something. The recent claims by the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) Senator Ms. Sithembile Mlotshwa are not only ridiculous but also discriminating against homosexuals.

      So maybe after some time, politicians realize there is a buck to be made, and one figures curbing homosexuality would be especially good for a country like Zimbabwe; really? You see if we believe the Senator for a moment, importing the sex toys would be so expensive given that so far they are banned from Zimbabwe. Would this ban be lifted on this brilliant idea that will save homosexuality from spreading? Even soft pornography magazine and films are banned. In any case, consuming porn and using sex toys does not necessarily replace sex with humans for most people unless they are really unable to be with other people for whatever reasons there might be.

      I gather this might make someone’s pocket fat should a tender be released for these sex gadgets that the Senator is yet to unveil for all to see. What part of the budget will this be coming out of seeing that in the recent weeks civil servants have been on strike over pay rise? It is such lunacy to even start thinking of the toys as an intervention.

      If there is any meaningful change it should be providing condoms, which the government has refused to do and with that prisoners cannot receive visitors. Could this also be another way to curb “infection” from homosexuality by refusing prisoners their rights to visitors?

      What is shocking is the lack of knowledge over homosexuality or ignorance thereof by the Senator. After several years of the economy folding and unfolding, it’s time that people are aware of being caught out by politicians who bring such false and manipulative information to gain favor with people. When are people going to actually wake up and realize that people have died not form homosexuality but dire poverty caused by structural violence of policies made by our governments selfishly?

      If you want to make money sing homosexuality and you might just be in the next richest people magazine; the church makes money out of it, the government claims lack of achievement over homosexuality when they have just opened boxes of a new fleet of cars. Does anyone ask why not us? That is a question to you my Zimbabwean, wherever you are, because you want to make a dollar after the destruction of the economy. Have you been made poor by homosexuality? I am sure your answer is a no.

      In a Save the Children report in 2009, it was stated that at least 10 out of the 13 million people of Zimbabwe were living in abject poverty. With hyperinflation in the last years before the dollarization in 2010-2011, there are still many people who are dying of hunger; and the numbers have increased. The gap between the rich elites and the poor has also escalated and this seems no cause for alarm except for what homosexuality will do. Homosexuality bashing is an old story and serious citizens need to understand that they are being robbed of their rights to live dignified lives because of being misinformed about homosexuality. Chances are taken that people will not ask questions; and politicians like Senator Mlotshwa will get away scot-free, embezzling funds meant for improving infrastructure and using them as tenders they will take upon for these sex gadgets.

      Children are going to school because there are no teachers willing to teach for nothing in the schools- thankfully there are few good-hearted souls educating our children for just a meal.

      Citizens will lose rights to better health, education and clean water; the roads are no better and prisoners can buy sex gadgets instead to stop and curb homosexuality. Wake up and smell this stink in sexualized politics Zimbabweans and Africans.


      * Please do not take Pambazuka for granted! Become a Friend of Pambazuka and make a donation NOW to help keep Pambazuka FREE and INDEPENDENT!

      *Marujata Kwenda is growing writer currently working on her first novel.
      * Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      Advocacy & campaigns

      Oakland Institute's Open Letter to the Government of Ethiopia


      The Oakland Institute, which has been producing some critical reports on land grabs in Africa, reports how the Ministry of Agriculture in Ethiopia has suspended land allocations to take time for assessment.

      Every once in a while things happen and you know that you are doing your job.

      Last week the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Government of Ethiopia issued an incredibly defensive, attacking press release that targets the Oakland Institute as launching a ‘crusade’ against their development efforts. (See

      Today the Ministry of Agriculture has suspended land allocations to take time for assessment. (See

      Oakland Institute welcomes the announcement by the Ministry of Agriculture that it will reassess its policies promoting land investments. However, we ask for a full-scale transparent investigation to be completed by an independent committee comprised of media, academic experts, and civil society members from Africa and beyond. Secondly, we believe that such an assessment will need that all Environmental and Social Impact Assessments (ESIAs) for large-scale land deals be made available to the public. Such documents are essential information for communities to be able to give free and informed consent prior to the investments moving forward.

      And lastly, we respectfully ask that the Ministry also backs its claims that its land lease scheme in lower Omo and elsewhere will actually result in accelerated and sustainable development to end poverty in Ethiopia. More concretely, it is essential that accounting of revenue garnered through such land deals be reflected in the federal and state budget and made available for review to ascertain the much-hailed benefits of large land deals and to determine what contribution is being made to the national economy and its trickle down effect.

      Read Oakland Institute's Open Letter to the Government of Ethiopia here:

      * The Oakland Institute is an independent policy think tank whose mission is to increase public participation and promote fair debate on critical social, economic and environmental issues.

      Petition campaign on behalf of Chagos Islanders

      Elena Landriscina


      Human rights group wants Obama administration to remedy the harms that Chagosians have been suffering.

      The Chagos Islanders are an indigenous population that lived peacefully for generations in the Chagos Archipelago (located in the Indian Ocean). They were forcibly expelled from their homelands in the 1960s and 1970s so that the United States could build a military base on Diego Garcia. Both the United Kingdom, which controls the island, and the United States, which operates the military base, have refused to allow the Chagossians to return or to offer any just form of redress for the harm they have caused. The small community of Chagossians that are still alive reside in nearby islands of Mauritius and the Seychelles -- mostly in poverty and at the fringes of society.

      As a law student, I am part of a group of human rights advocates that have launched a White House petition, asking the Obama administration to remedy the harms that the Chagossians have been suffering.

      The petition needs to get 25,000 signatures by April 3rd in order for the White House to issue some response.

      Please sign the petition here.

      Sign on to protect the right to water


      Efforts are being made to remove the human right to water and sanitation from the Rio+20 negotiating text.

      Dear Friends,

      This is an extremely urgent appeal to all who believe in the human right to water and sanitation. Please read this, sign-on and circulate the letter so that we do not lose the historic recognition of the right to water we achieved in 2010!

      We need to act quickly because in New York today, Nis Christensen, the Danish Head of the Rio+20 Secretariat confirmed to me that the European Union is trying to remove the human right to water and sanitation from the Rio+20 negotiating text. We had a leaked copy of the amendments the EU is proposing which removes recognition of the right and I put this to Mr. Christensen in a session today where he confirmed that this was true.

      We must not allow this to go unchallenged and I am asking you to act now by signing this letter so that we protect the recognition of the human right to water during the Rio+20 negotiations in New York this week and next!

      Below the letter is a bit more background but please sign the following by sending your name, organization, country to [email protected] before Thursday, March 22nd, World Water Day!

      We will send the following letter to all UN Missions on World Water Day and follow-up with direct lobbying of governments here in New York.

      We the undersigned representatives of civil society organizations and social movements,

      Seeking to protect the United Nations historic recognition of the Human Right to water and Sanitation by the General Assembly and Human Rights Council through resolutions A/Res/64/292 and A/HRC/15/L/14 respectively,

      Concerned by European Union amendments to the UNCSD Zero Draft text which seeks to remove recognition of the Human Right to Water and Sanitation,

      Call upon all UN Member States, including those of the European Union, to respect their legally-binding obligations to respect, protect and fulfill the Human Right to Water and Sanitation as embodied in the two cited resolutions, the UN Declaration of Human Rights, the Convenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convenant on Civil and Political Rights and all other relevant international laws, treaties, covenants or declarations,

      We further demand that the negotiations for Rio+20 and the proposed Green Economy not lead to increased violations of the Human Right to Water and Sanitation through the introduction of mechanisms designed to implement markets, property rights and trading regimes for water.

      We call upon all UN Member States to work with civil society and social movements to create the water ‘Future We Want’ which must include respect for water as a human right, public trust and commons.


      Name, Organization, Country

      Further Background:

      If the EU and the other governments are successful in removing the Human Right to Water and Sanitation from this text, it will have a devastating effect on the obligations which were agreed to at the General Assembly under Resolution A/Res/64/292 and reaffirmed at the Human Rights Council under A/HRC/15/L/14 and subsequently by 2 other HRC resolutions and a WHO resolution.

      One week ago the recognition of the right was removed from the Marseille World Water Forum declaration (this was led by Canada), but that corporate forum is illegitimate, has no legal standing in the United Nations and has never recognized the human right to water and sanitation; while the Rio+20 negotiations are the most important negotiations currently at the United Nations.

      If the original Zero Draft text is changed as they have amended it below, it will signal that the right is not in force and could lead to the effective abrogation of the right, practically if not legally.


      67. We underline the importance of the right universal access to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights. We commit to achieving universal access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2030. Furthermore, we highlight the critical importance of integrated water resources management for sustainable development, including poverty and hunger eradication, public health, food security, hydropower, energy, agriculture and, rural development as well as for maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem services.

      There is still time to fight back against those who abstained in the original vote on the human right to water and sanitation and are attempting to undermine this right before it is even 2 years old. There are many troubling parts of Rio+20 which we need to highlight and push back on, including the move to commodify and financialize nature, but we must start with stopping the EU on human rights and then build more pressure on the other issues.

      The G77 and the European Union will be key in deciding this and more specifically we need to ensure the African Union is not convinced to support a false Green Economy. I will send more on this later…

      Below is a list of the 42 member states which abstained, a good number of these were opposed but felt they could not vote against because of the immense pressure that we brought to bear upon them in 2010. We must again ensure they realize the world is watching.

      In solidarity,

      Anil Naidoo
      Blue Planet Project
      Council of Canadians

      Ugandan LGBT persons speak out

      Kasha Jacqueline


      Uganda Universal Periodic Review session 19th Human Rights Council, Geneva, Switzerland. 16 March 2012.

      Thank you Madam President

      On behalf of 7 LGBT organizations in Uganda, we commend the Ugandan government on the tremendous improvement in many sectors in recent years.

      We also thank the government for positively engaging with the UPR process and accepting many of the recommendations from other states.

      We are, however, very concerned by the rejection of recommendations regarding the rights and safety of LGBT persons. Uganda has accepted three recommendations which commit it to investigating and prosecuting attacks and intimidation against LGBTI persons, as well as to proactively take steps to prevent such attacks and discrimination. But the Government has rejected recommendations that would address the root causes of these violations – specifically the continued existence of criminal laws and inflammatory homophobic and transphobic rhetoric by government officials.

      Madam President, we ask what specific measures the Government will take to implement the commitment to protect LGBT persons. The Anti-Homosexuality Bill was reintroduced in parliament in February. One week later a workshop on the human rights of LGBTI people was shut down by the Minister of State for Ethics and Integrity. How does the State plan to respect the rights of sexual minorities when it continues to violate their rights to freedom of association and assembly?

      Uganda is due to host the Inter parliamentary Union. Through you Madam President we urge the International community to challenge the Ugandan Parliament on the anti human rights nature of the Anti homosexuality Bill.

      We call on the State to stand by its commitments and to now take active measures to show their opposition to the Bill. Finally, if this unnecessary, unconstitutional and dangerously discriminatory Bill is passed into law, we would call on this Council to hold Uganda to account. This Bill, if enacted, will inspire unprecedented hate crimes and violations in every area of life. We want Uganda to know the world is watching.

      I thank you.

      World Water Forum paves way to privatize nature, undermine right to water in RIO+20

      Statement by Maude Barlow, Chair, Council of Canadians, and Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director, Food & Water Watch


      The World Water Forum held in Marseille, France was an opportunity for multinational water companies to make money out of nature.

      For Immediate Release

      March 17, 2012

      Marseille - The 6th World Water Forum this week, despite lagging attendance and Sarkozy reneging on his promise to attend, has still been an opportunity for multinational water corporations to solidify their plans to further privatize nature at Rio+20. Thanks to Canada’s successful effort to weaken language in the forum’s ministerial document regarding the human right to water, and as demonstrated by the banking industry’s plans to integrate water trading into futures markets and to create derivative water-based financial instruments, the privatization of water has accelerated dramatically, creating a setback for right to water as resolved by the UN.

      We have already seen the ‘casino of hunger’ created by speculation on commodity crops. The global food crisis that caused millions to starve was caused by a tidal wave of Wall Street speculation. Now the same economic interests are proposing the same type of financial mechanisms to create a ‘green economy,’ while the real agenda is creating a speculative market with the potential to create great wealth for the corporations and economic institutions promoting this strategy.

      At the opening plenary of the Alternative World Water Forum, which drew approximately 5,000 attendees, the UN special rapporteur for the right to water and sanitation, Catarina de Albuquerque, said, ‘Be vigilant. The Marseille Ministerial Declaration is already being used at the Human Rights Council in Geneva to weaken these rights.’

      The Council of Canadians, Food and Water Watch and many other organizations have sent a letter to governments to publicly denounce the Ministerial Declaration.

      At Rio+20, where global leaders will meet to make commitments towards carbon reductions 20 years after the UN’s first Conference on Sustainable Development, multinational corporations are playing a key role in lobbying for the financialization of nature, complete with futures markets and other derivative based financial instruments to enable water speculation.

      We can’t survive a mortgage crisis for water. It’s not a truly green economy that these interests are promoting. It’s a greenwashed economy, which will do nothing to help mitigate climate change, water shortages or other pending environmental disasters.

      Since 1985, the Council of Canadians has brought people together to act for social, economic and environmental justice in Canada and around the world. With chapters and members across the country, the Council of Canadians is Canada’s largest public advocacy organization.

      Food & Water Watch works to ensure the food, water and fish we consume is safe, accessible and sustainable. So we can all enjoy and trust in what we eat and drink, we help people take charge of where their food comes from, keep clean, affordable, public tap water flowing freely to our homes, protect the environmental quality of oceans, force government to do its job protecting citizens, and educate about the importance of keeping shared resources under public control.


      Darcey Rakestraw, +1 202-210-0152; drakestraw(at)fwwatch(dot)org

      Kate Fried, +1 202-683-4905; kfried(at)fwwatch(dot)org

      Meera Karunananthan, +1 613-355-2100; mkarunananthan(at)Canadians(dot)org

      Letters & Opinions

      Contaminated Japanese food for Africa

      Kaori Izumi


      I just got information that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Japan has agreed with the World Food Programme to export canned fish, including that produced in disaster-affected areas to the following countries: Ghana, Congo, Senegal, Cambodia and Sri Lanka.

      It is reported only in Japanese so far. We are trying to find out if there is any data on the level of radiation contamination. The total budget is 10 billion yen. Green Peace Japan has already found some cesium from mackerel canned fish sold in some super markets in Japan.

      In many parts of Japan, including Tokyo, it is becoming hard to find radiation-free food. A cooperative we buy food from started with measuring radiation and disclosing the level of contamination so people can decide whether to buy it or not. As the Japanese government is thoroughly contaminating the whole of Japan through sending out nuclear contaminated waste from the disaster, we have no choice but to take up an additional struggle to stop it. Tokyo has already started receiving nuclear contaminated waste from disaster affected areas and is experiencing increasing level of contamination through burning the waste, from which a high level of radiation is measured. This is absolutely insane, but highly related to a business society closely related to the mafia.

      Anyway, my point is that we do not want contaminated food sent to feed people -who are already in poor health with low immunity - as food aid. Imagine HIV affected people with low immunity receiving even a small dose of cesium, which would kill them. And nobody can prove the cause.

      Mamdani's article on Kony video an eye opener on Rwanda

      Antoine Lokongo


      Professor Mamdani's article on the Kony video is an eye opener for the situation in Rwanda as well. He writes: ‘The solution is not to eliminate the LRA physically…At its core the LRA remains a Ugandan problem calling for a Ugandan political solution.’

      By analogy, the solution in Rwanda is not to eliminate the Hutu physically…At its core the Hutu problem remains a Rwandan problem calling for a Rwandan political solution.

      We Congolese have had enough to bear the brunt of the Ugandan and Rwandan internal problems which they export into our country.

      Simone Gbagbo: it is time for progressive women to speak out

      Uchenna Osigwe


      Simone, wife of President Laurent Gbagbo of Côte d’Ivoire, is a political prisoner. The only reason why she’s in prison today is because her husband was overthrown in a military coup by the forces of the man under whose order she’s currently languishing in jail. Simone didn’t commit any crime. Indeed she won her parliamentary seat handily in the 2010 elections, and unlike the presidential election, that election result wasn’t contested by opposing parties. As women around the world celebrate International Women’s Day, and given that the month of March is dedicated to attracting attention to women’s issues, one needs to ask why there’s silence from all quarters about the ignoble treatment Simone Gbagbo is being subjected to.

      Secretary Clinton said in her message to mark the day that many women are prisoners of conscience around the world. She was recently in Côte d’Ivoire, did she not think that First Lady Simone doesn’t deserve the humiliating treatment she’s been going through since the coup d’état that ousted her husband?

      Nicholas Sarkozy had threatened to take Gbagbo and his wife to the ICC in the Hague if he didn’t hand over power to his chosen candidate in the 2010 Ivoirian presidential election. Sarkozy is a French, not an Ivorian citizen. Why he should have such a personal stake in who becomes president of a sovereign country is puzzling. And so he has made good his threat. Laurent Gbagbo is already being held in the Hague as a political prisoner, on trumped up charges, and his wife is rumoured to be on the waiting list.

      When the French forces used their superior military power, using mainly aerial bombardment, to penetrate and desecrate the Ivoirian presidential palace, the world was shown a dishevelled Simone, sitting beside her husband, evidently being manhandled by the marauding soldiers. The French press made a big show of how their military prowess was used to achieve the ‘victory’ in Côte d’Ivoire. We know what soldiers normally do to their women captives. Gbagbo’s son, Michel, is also being held captive, just for being Gbagbo’s son. Desmond Tutu was on target when he said that what’s happening in Côte d’Ivoire may appear to be victor’s justice.

      Neither Gbagbo nor his wife committed any crime that warrants such ignoble treatment. He was faithfully following the laws of his country in the disputed elections. On top of that, he asked for an international delegation of internationally acclaimed men and women of integrity to come and verify the disputed election results, with the pledge that should such a delegation ascertain that his rival won the election, he would hand over to him in an orderly manner. His rival refused to make such a pledge, and refused to accept such a delegation. Gbagbo’s language was the language of a man who was sure that he won the elections. If in doubt, compare it to the languages of Mwai Kibaki of Kenya after the 2007 hotly contested elections, which he lost, or that of Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe after the 2008 equally hotly contested elections, which he also lost, or finally, to that of Joseph Kabila of the DRC after the 2011 elections that international observers, among them the Carter Centre, clearly said were not credible, and which Kabila lost anyway.

      Given this scenario, on what grounds should this woman continue to be humiliated by the military ‘victors’? After being detained without trial for much longer than the laws of the country permitted, Gbagbo, his wife, and close allies, (one of whom, the interior minister, was extra-judicially murdered in front of his principal, President Gbagbo), were charged with phantom ‘economic’ crimes. The reason was simple: there was no Ivorian law under which they could be credibly charged. And the economic crime charge was laughable. Any person who cares to do a little research could easily discover that the economy of Côte d’Ivoire improved greatly under Gbagbo - he took the country from one that was highly indebted to one whose debts were brought under tight control, thereby ensuring a very strong growth - despite having to fight an intractable war, financed from overseas, for a decade. Indeed the person who sparked the post electoral crises was the one who illegally declared himself president because his foreign masters had assured him that the ‘international community’ would be lined up in his support, a feat they went ahead to achieve with their very powerful media. The new authorities seemed rather confused about how to handle the President, for no sooner had they started with the trial for the ‘economic crimes’ than he was again kidnapped and sent to the Hague where he’s being accused of committing ‘crimes against humanity.’

      For the record, there was indeed a crime against humanity during the post electoral crises, but it was committed by the rebel forces of Gbagbo’s rival, the forces that are now part of the regular army of the country. The crime was committed in the glare of a horrified world in the town Douekué where more than 800 civilians were butchered in very horrific manners. So far, no one has been charged for that crime.

      Simone didn’t commit any crime. There is no reason for her continued incarceration. Progressive women and first ladies around the world should speak up for the liberation of one of their own. Simone might have frailties like every human being, but being married to a man who was the president is not a crime. No woman should be punished for that. And no woman should be punished for standing with her beleaguered husband, especially when that husband had not committed any crime but was merely doing his duty as stipulated by the Constitution he swore to respect and protect. As at the time of the military putsch, Gbagbo was the only legitimate president of his country. The man to whom the ‘international community’ handed the country over as a prize had to get the Chief Justice to swear him in, despite the fact that he had claimed to have been ‘sworn in’ before in his hotel suite.

      Before she met Laurent Gbagbo, Simone was already a well-established political figure in her own right in Côte d’Ivoire. She didn’t need any help from the men to win her own elections. Indeed both she and her husband met on the terrain of political activism. Maybe that’s why they are afraid of her.

      In her speech to mark this year’s International Women’s Day, Secretary of State Clinton has this to say, among other things: ‘Too many women have found their attempts to participate in government, in the economy, and in society blocked. Women still disproportionately suffer from poverty and violence. Their voices are muffled and their presence denied at the places where critical decisions are made. They face nationality laws that deny them equal rights to citizenship. And women and girls are all too frequently deprived of access to reproductive healthcare, education, and the credit needed to launch small businesses.’

      In Simone Gbagbo we have a woman who rose through many obstacles in a society dominated by men, to become a prominent political figure in her own right. She doesn’t deserve the kind of treatment she’s getting from the present authorities in her country. No woman deserves to be treated the way she’s being treated simply because she married a man who happened to be president. I think Clinton should know this quite well, which is why she could use her very powerful voice to help in galvanizing other progressive women and first ladies to ensure that Simone is freed without further delay. And that she gets redress for her illegal incarceration and abuse.

      * Uchenna Osigwe, Ph.D. (Laval University, Quebec)

      The guise of growth

      Jack Lindstrom


      I’m involved in the Occupy movement, so I absolutely agree that capitalism is the system perpetuating these problems. My question is, what, if anything, can American activists do that will be to Africa’s greatest benefit? Sorry if this question is vague, naïve, or frustrating - it seems your article is suggesting that what the western world needs to do is in fact to stop meddling with Africa - but one thing activists can do is to agitate to stop such meddling, both in the form of exploitation and in the form of creating dependence.

      (These comments are in response to The guise of growth: The paradox of generosity by Luam Kidane.)

      It seems to me that the majority of Americans and Africans have a common enemy: multi-national corporations and the capitalist system and military might that keep their power in place. Of course, even average Americans hold the dual role of victim and victimizer: although we must contend with the unequal powers of the corporations and the wealthy ourselves, we also buy the products made possible through the exploitation of Africa’s resources and fund the maintenance of American hegemony through taxes. The solution to both of these roles appears to be to attempt to dismantle the power of the corporations such that they are unable to continue their exploitation.

      This, of course, will be a long, protracted struggle (one that, arguably, people have been fighting for at least a century, and which Occupy has merely rejuvenated), and so far, the initial battles have been to improve the lives of already middle-class Americans. This is, unfortunately, important in order to get the majority of the American populace on board (especially since most of them still favour capitalism), but it would be ideal, in my opinion, if our efforts could also be to the more immediate benefit to Africans. It just seems more fair to me. My heart really isn’t into protecting homeowners from foreclosures while millions around the world are starving.

      Occupy has been pushing a boycott of Shell Oil due to its environmental destruction in Nigeria, but is that really the sort of action Africans want? Or should I not even be asking these questions because they smack too much of white privilege? Would it be better if I just ‘know my place’ and help my fellow Americans defend their houses from banks, and forget about Africa?

      I’d love to hear your perspective on this. :) Sorry if the answer is fully evident. If it is, I haven’t come across it in my readings yet.

      Thank you!

      Podcasts & Videos

      Getting Somalia Right: Part II


      Somalia is no stranger to international interventions, having been colonised and invaded throughout its history. On 23 February, an international conference was held in London to plan a roadmap for Somalia’s future, with some arguing that this conference has stripped Somalia of its sovereignty. Following on from Part One Part Two of this SOAS Radio special looks at the conference and what implications it might have for the country’s future with studio guests Quman Jibril, a Somali independent research consultant who has a special interest in international refugee protection and advocacy; Mary Harper, BBC Africa Editor and author of the new book, 'Getting Somalia Wrong?' published by Zed Books; and Mohamed Haji Ingiriis, a Somali researcher currently pursuing a Masters degree at the London Metropolitan University.

      Global: A history of an occupation


      Al Jazeera has premiered the first part of a two-part documentary on the Occupy movement. The film was made for Fault Lines, the award-winning public affairs documentary program. Part one of the film can be watched through the link provided.

      Global: The March TaxCast


      The March edition of the TaxCast by the Tax Justice Network is available. The 15 minute podcast follows the latest news relating to tax evasion, tax avoidance and the shadow banking system. The March show covers Apple i-tax dodging, reclaiming Arab Spring country assets, the rich country club of the OECD and the ABCs of setting up letterbox companies.

      Zimbabwe update

      Zimbabwe: Activists’ term is suspended


      A Zimbabwean magistrates’ court has given six activists accused of plotting to oust President Robert Mugabe a two year suspended sentence and fined them $500 each. The six who include a university lecturer and former Member of Parliament Munyaradzi Gwisai were on Monday found guilty of a conspiracy to incite violence by a Harare magistrate.

      Zimbabwe: Prosecution case against MFL leaders ‘shaky’


      The prosecution case against three Mthwakazi Liberation Front (MFL) leaders who are facing treason charges is shaky, their lawyer has said. Defence lawyer Sabelo Sibanda said the prosecution team has failed to produce evidence to prove that MFL leaders Charles Thomas, John Gazi and Paul Siwela, distributed flyers calling for the separation of Matebeleland and other parts from the rest of Zimbabwe.

      Women & gender

      Global: Women in informal employment and growth


      This page on the Women in Informal Employment: Globalising and Organising website explores the two-way linkages between informality and growth: the impact of the informal economy on economic growth, and the impact of economic growth on the informal economy. How much and in what ways does the informal economy contribute to economic growth? Or does the informal economy account for low productivity and low growth? Does the size of the informal economy shrink during economic growth and expand during economic slumps or downturns? Is it, in other words, counter-cyclical or pro-cyclical?

      Global: World Courts of Women on Poverty launched in the US


      Four American cities are gearing up to host regional meetings of the World Court of Women on Poverty in the US Founded by Tunisian activist Corinne Kumar, the World Courts of Women (WCW) are public hearings featuring testimonies of survival and resistance from people on the margins. Since 1992, there have been 37 Courts in cities around the world, including the International Court of Women on Crimes Related to Population Policies in Cairo, Egypt in 1994; the World Court of Women against War, for Peace in Cape Town, South Africa in 2001; and the World Court of Women on U.S. War Crimes in Mumbai, India in 2004.

      Morocco: Rape victim suicide spurs calls for reform


      Hundreds of protestors rallied in Rabat on 17 March to press for a review of the legal exemption allowing a rapist to marry his victim, following the suicide of a Tangier teenage girl. Amina al-Filali, 16, drank rat poison last week in Larache, after being forced to marry her rapist. Under Moroccan law, rape is punishable by several years in prison if the victim is a minor. Marriage to the victim, however, shields the perpetrator from prosecution.

      Uganda: Kony2012 Campaign blurring realities

      Statement by women civil society groups


      'While the idea of this campaign against the LRA leader Joseph Kony is welcome, the steam it has created overshadows the real concerns of the sufferers and survivors of this conflict in Uganda. Many former child soldiers and former abductees, women and girls are now struggling with so many challenges such as reproductive health problems, post traumatic stress disorders, food insecurity and livelihood support among others.'

      Human rights

      Global: UN experts urge human rights' standards in development goals


      A group of independent UN experts has urged member states to include universally-agreed international human rights norms and standards, as well as accountability mechanisms, in the goals that will emerge from a UN sustainable development forum in June. 'Global goals are easily set, but seldom met,' said the 22 human rights experts in an open letter to governments, as the first round of informal negotiations ahead of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) holding in New York, US.

      Malawi: Human rights activist Kapito narrates his arrest ordeal


      Human rights activist John Kapito says there was drama at a hotel in Lilongwe on Saturday afternoon when over 25 police officers swooped on him as he made his way out. Kapito said within minutes, his car was surrounded by the officers, scrambling for it as they opened every door and boot in search of 'harmful' materials. Contrary to police's earlier charge of illegal possession of forex, Kapito said a new charge of alleged possession of materials carrying seditious works emerged.

      Malawi: Human Rights Watch condemns Malawi


      An international rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) says the Malawi government's recent arrests and threats against critics reflect its broader crackdown on free speech and other basic rights. Deputy Africa director at Human Rights Watch Leslie Lefkow said arresting government critics was the latest sign of increasing repression in Malawi. He asked President Bingu wa Mutharika to take urgent steps to end the harassment and arrests of people seen as opposing the government.

      Refugees & forced migration

      Africa: Calais residents show solidarity with migrants


      Solidarity with migrants in the city of Calais - a migrant bottleneck in Europe - is not limited to organisations, reports IPS Africa. 'Some local residents have also become involved on an individual basis with the transient foreign population that has passed through the city. Some have put up migrants in their own homes – despite the fact that such activities are punishable by five years imprisonment or a 30,000 euro fine under Article L622-1 of the French Foreigners Law.'

      Kenya: 'I never regret being in Dadaab'


      IRIN's freelance journalist Moulid Iftin Hujale, in this third installment of his account of life in the Dadaab refugee complex in eastern Kenya, describes how since November 2011 there have been a a series of abductions and road-side bombs, which the Kenyan police attribute to people linked to Somalia's insurgent Al-Shabab group. '...the past four months have been quite tough and very scary with unprecedented grenade explosions, killings and rigorous police operations; Dadaab has never been the same again.'

      Libya: Navy struggles to stem migrant flow


      Libyan authorities are struggling to cope with a post-revolution influx of migrants, many of whom are using the Mediterranean country as a stepping stone to Europe, according to this Al Jazeera video. Mustafa Joha, the commanding officer of Tripoli's naval base, says that the country's coastline is too vast to patrol effectively, especially since NATO forces destroyed most of its ships during the country's war.

      Mozambique: Growing numbers of Portuguese seeking economic opportunities


      The Financial Times reports on how Portuguese people are fleeing their homeland in search of economic opportunities in Mozambique. The paper estimates that there are 20,000 Portuguese people in Maputo with the number of people registering at the Portuguese consulate up by 10 per cent in recent years.

      Social movements

      South Africa: Ratanda residents rekindle Heidelberg protests


      Hundreds of residents of Ratanda, Heidelberg gathered on the streets on Tuesday 20 March to continue their protest over power cuts and the cost of electricity, Gauteng police said. On Monday, violent service delivery protests in Ratanda were met with police water cannons, stun grenades, rubber bullets and tear gas. In the Western Cape, meanwhile, residents in Grabouw protested over school infrastructure.

      Africa labour news

      Swaziland: Threat of public service strike


      All public service unions in Swaziland are threatening strike action for a 4.5 per cent pay increase. This comes at a time when the Swazi Government is trying to reduce its public sector salary bill by 10 per cent to try to save the kingdom’s economy from meltdown.

      Zambia: Strikers threatened with dismissal


      Michael Sata has threatened to dismiss all public service workers and replace them with staff from his own political party if they take threatened strike action. The staff have threatened to go on strike over prolonged negotiation over salaries and other conditions of service. During his election campaign Sata announced a 100 per cent salary increase for health sector workers, who have since expressed their concern that the promise would not be fulfilled.

      Emerging powers news

      Latest edition: emerging powers news roundup


      In this week's edition of the Emerging Powers News Round-Up, read a comprehensive list of news stories and opinion pieces related to China, India and other emerging powers...

      1. China in Africa

      Tanzania China sign deal to improve trade
      The government has signed a memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT) in a bid to improve trade and investment between the to countries. The signing of the MoU was one of the outcomes of the Tanzania-Zhejiang Business Forum held in Dar es Salaam over the weekend. The two parties said the agreement seeks to improve business and investment relationship between Tanzania and China’s Zhejiang Province for the mutual benefit of both sides.
      Read More

      ECOWAS-China Business Forum opens in Accra
      Vice President John Dramani Mahama on Tuesday opened the second ECOWAS-China Business Forum with the hope that a strong partnership would emerge to enhance production capacities, address supply side constraints and boost intra-West Africa trade.
      Read More

      2. India in Africa

      India, Africa set trade target of $90 billion by 2015
      India and Africa have decided to revise bilateral trade upwards to $90 billion in the next three years, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said. Earlier, both the sides had set a target of $70 billion to be achieved by 2015. It had stood at $62 billion in 2011.
      Read More

      Central African Republic woos Indian investment
      The Central African Republic Monday sought Indian investment in the country's road, rail, hydro-power and uranium mining projects. "Being a landlocked country, Central African Republic requires transportation network which includes train, road and air networks. We are here to invite Indian companies to look at opportunities in developing these infrastructure," said Anicet Parfait Mbay, transport minister.
      Read More

      ‘SA and India cement cordial ties’
      The cordial and mutually beneficial political and economic relations between SA and India are yielding positive results, the SA High Commissioner to India, Reverend Harris Majeke, said on Monday. He was speaking at a business seminar hosted by the Department of Trade and industry (the dti) at the Taj Coromendal Hotel in Chennai, India.
      Read More

      Sunil Mittal appointed co-chair of India Africa Business Council
      The India-Africa Business Council (IABC), which was announced by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during the India-Africa Forum Summit in May 2011 with an aim to provide an institutional platform to strengthen economic ties between business communities of Indian and the African continent, will hold its inaugural meeting on March 17, 2012 in New Delhi.
      Read More

      Projects worth $30 billion discussed at India-Africa conclave
      More than 200 projects worth almost $30 billion in sectors like infrastructure, mining, agriculture, telecom and healthcare was discussed at the 8th edition of the India-Africa conclave that concluded Tuesday. Over 1,100 delegates, including 36 ministers from India and several African countries, participated in the three-day India-Africa Project Partnership conclave, its organiser said.
      Read More

      3. In Other Emerging Powers News

      Trade with Brazil Hits U.S.$6 Billion
      Trade between Nigeria and Brazil has reached $6 billion, according to the Ambassador of Nigeria to Brazil, Mr. Vincent Okoedion Okoedion. He said this during an investment forum in Sao Paulo, Brazil yesterday. Although the trade was in favour of Nigeria, it was basically from oil export as Nigeria remained the biggest exporter of oil to Brazil, a statement from the ministry of Trade and investment said.
      Read More

      South Africa trade mission to Brazil
      The South African delegation on a trade mission to Brazil was receptioned in the city of Curitiba this past week by the local trade association (ACP) in partnership with the Federation of Industries in the State of Paraná (FIEP). The mission received the support of the consulate general of South Africa in São Paulo and the Department of Trade and Industry of South Africa, and was composed by delegates from the wine industry, energy, civil engineering, architecture and tourism sectors.
      Read More

      BRICS about global governance, says China
      Global governance and sustainable development will be the two items of focus at the upcoming 4th BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) summit in New Delhi, China said on Tuesday. The aim for the BRICS countries is to come together to form economic, social and financial bonds during the summit, Ma Zhaoxu, vice-minister for foreign minister told a press conference on Tuesday.
      Read More

      Better coordination needed among Brics nations on international political issues
      The fourth summit of the Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) group of countries in New Delhi on March 29, represents a high-water mark in South-South cooperation. It signifies the will of the five nations to act jointly in global economic and political spheres to further expedite the move away from domination of the planet by erstwhile colonial powers.
      Read More

      4. Blogs, Opinions, Presentations and Publications

      Chinese foreign minister on Beijing’s firm foothold in Africa
      China’s burgeoning influence around the world has reshaped global affairs, not least, the economic and political issues. In a recent interview with more than 500 journalists at the Great Hall of the People, China’s Foreign Affairs minister Yang Jiechi spoke on a wide range of issues and underlined his country’s foreign policy and external relations.
      Read More

      Elections & governance

      Egypt: April 6th Movement demands participation in drafting constitution


      The April 6 Youth Movement has issued a demand to have at least one member involved in the process to draft a new constitution for Egypt. The movement issued a statement saying that they reject parliamentary proposals on drafting the new constitution. The movement said that 'the temporary majority of the parliament does not have the power to elect the members of the constituent assembly slated to draft a permanent constitution for Egypt and all of its communities'.

      Egypt: Military looking to keep its grip at least on economy


      Estimates suggest that military-connected enterprises account for 10 per cent to 40 per cent of the Egyptian economy, reports the LA Times. 'It is an opaque realm of foreign investments, inside deals and privilege that has grown quietly for decades, employing thousands of workers and operating parallel to the army's defense industries. The coming weeks will reveal how the military will maneuver to protect its authority and financial holdings as it prepares to hand power to a new president and civilian government in June.'

      Guinea-Bissau: Kumba Yala boycotts presidential run-off


      The runner-up in Sunday's presidential election in Guinea-Bissau has said he will not participate in a run-off vote. Former president Kumba Yala has claimed the first round of voting was unfair. Provisional results from Sunday's poll gave ex-prime minister Carlos Gomez 49 per cent of the vote out of nine candidates. Kumba Yala came in second with 23 per cent.

      Kenya: Date set for probe into Kibaki ‘ICC claims’


      A parliamentary team scrutinising a dossier claiming that President Kibaki is being investigated by the International Criminal Court will start hearings on Monday. The dossier claimed that Britain was working to have two ICC suspects, Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and Eldoret North MP William Ruto, jailed to pave the way for Prime Minister Raila Odinga to ascend to the presidency.

      Malawi: Police step up security


      The Malawi Government has stepped up security in the country’s major cities, with armed riot police officers seen patrolling all over. This has raised questions among people who are not used to such heavy security. There is now more security after sporadic political riots that started in Area 24 in Lilongwe where UDF MP Atupele Muluzi was stopped from holding a rally. The development also follows the tension that preceded the Public Affairs Committee (PAC) conference in Limbe whose objectives included mobilising key stakeholders and efforts towards a common agenda and collective redress to Malawi’s political and economic challenges.

      Malawi: Protesters torch police station as discontent rises


      Anti-government protesters torched a police station in Malawi's capital on Monday 19 March, raising tension in the destitute country that was last year rocked by the police killing of 20 people in similar protests. The latest outbreak of violence followed the weekend arrest of the chairman of the government's Human Rights Commission. The commission had sharply criticised the administration of President Bingu wa Mutharika for the July 2011 crackdown, accusing his government of using unjustifiable violence and arrests to intimidate its critics.

      Morocco: Suppression of peaceful protest condemned


      The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information has condemned the continuation of the Moroccan security services suppression of peaceful demonstrations that began one week ago in the town of Beni Bouayach in the countryside of northern Morocco. The demonstrations continued for the whole week against the marginalization of the people there and for demands of greater social justice.

      Senegal: Sall supporters celebrate after Senegal win


      Thousands of people are celebrating in the streets of Dakar after preliminary results showed Senegalese opposition candidate Macky Sall has won over Abdoulaye Wade, the incumbent president who sought a third term in office. Sall supporters gathered in the streets of the capital on Monday, chanting, dancing and sounding car horns. Wade conceded election defeat and congratulated Sall, as preliminary results gave an overwhelming lead to his runoff rival.

      South Africa: Cosatu to square off with ANC


      Simmering tensions between the ANC and its ally Cosatu are expected to come into sharp focus at a high-level meeting. Said to be aimed at thrashing out differences over e-tolling and labour broking, the two issues over which Cosatu called a one-day strike and led well-attended protest marches earlier this month, the meeting is expected to encompass broader underlying issues that are fuelling discord in the alliance.

      South Africa: Court orders NPA to hand over record of Zuma charges


      The Supreme Court of Appeal has upheld an attempt by the Democratic Alliance for access to the records that led to the suspension of criminal charges against President Jacob Zuma in 2009. The DA wanted a review of the decision, by then acting National Director of Public Prosecutions Mokotedi Mpshe, to drop charges against Zuma before he was elected president. The SCA ruled that Mpshe should hand over the record to the registrar of the Supreme Court of Appeal within 14 days.


      South Africa: No probe into MTN corruption claims in Iran


      South Africa will not probe allegations that mobile operator MTN paid bribes to win a license in Iran, in exchange for Pretoria backing Tehran's nuclear program, the foreign minister said Monday. MTN - which operates in 21 countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East - has said it would investigate the allegations, but denied any wrongdoing. MTN owns a 49 per cent stake in the Iranian telecom Irancell, which holds the operating license.


      Africa: The impact of the European debt crisis on Africa’s economy


      This UNECA background paper reviews the potential impact of the European debt crisis on Africa and offers policy advice on the actions that African leaders need to take to mitigate those negative effects. To that end, it overviews the characteristics of the euro area debt crisis, before discussing the risks it poses to Africa and the possible channels through which its effects may be transmitted.

      Egypt: Debate rages over foreign aid


      As dozens of employees of the nongovernmental organizations raided in December by Egyptian officials await trial, Egyptian citizens debate the charges against them, reflecting various views of the progression of democracy in the country. Meanwhile, US congressmen and the leaders of several organizations contribute their opinions during congressional hearings on the future of aid to Egypt.

      Global: An international perspective on Occupy Wall Street


      'For me the Occupy Wall Street movement expansion is, first, a clear sign of the fact that there are many more people than we can imagine wishing to change the world; and, second, that the tools and institutions we have to make it possible for people to participate in politics are absolutely insufficient and inadequate.' This is according to Chico Whitaker, a Brazilian activist and organizer who helped launch the World Social Forums in 2001, in an interview with US Social Forum news.

      Global: South Africa's presence 'drags down Brics'


      A year later and South Africa has still not convinced the world or the creator of Brics why it belongs in the exclusive emerging-giant grouping that includes Brazil, Russia, India and China. 'It's just wrong. South Africa doesn't belong in Brics,' said Jim O'Neill, global chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, who coined the term 'Bric' 10 years ago. In an interview with the Mail & Guardian in London this week, O'Neill was highly critical of South Africa's position in this political bloc. 'South Africa has too small an economy. There are not many similarities with the other four countries in terms of the numbers. In fact, South Africa's inclusion has somewhat weakened the group's power.'

      Global: The staggering rise of the South?


      This paper argues that the unprecedented acceleration of growth in the developing world in the new millennium in comparison with advanced economies is due not so much to improvements in underlying fundamentals as to exceptionally favourable global economic conditions, shaped mainly by unsustainable policies in advanced economies. For Latin American and African commodity exporters, gaining greater autonomy and achieving rapid and stable growth depend on their success in reducing reliance on capital flows and commodity earnings.

      Global: Urgent international action needed to combat social inequalities and environmental risks


      Social justice and environmental protection are equally urgent and intrinsically linked universal goals, with coordinated global action needed on both fronts at the UN’s ‘Rio+20’ Conference on Sustainable Development in June, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a message to an audience of development experts, civil society leaders and government officials at the first Global Human Development Forum in Instanbul.

      Global: WTO Torn asunder?


      Trade envoys of India, Brazil, and South Africa have warned industrialised countries not to hijack the Doha multilateral trade negotiations by adopting the controversial plurilateral approach to liberalise trade in services. A plurilateral agreement allows member countries to voluntarily agree to new rules. In contrast, in a multilateral agreement all members have to be in agreement. This, they say, could ultimately undermine 'the possibility of resuscitating the Doha Round'. The Doha Development Agenda was launched almost 11 years ago to correct the historical imbalances and asymmetries in the global trading system and was designed to enable poorer countries to integrate into the system.

      Health & HIV/AIDS

      Africa: Political instability hinders maternal health progress


      Political instability, civil strife and humanitarian crises in Africa have over the past decades reversed countless maternal health development gains on the continent, health experts warn. 'African countries with good maternal health statistics are generally those that have long-term political stability. This shows that stability is a fundamental basis for development. If it doesn’t exist, other priorities overtake,' Lucien Kouakou, regional director of the International Planned Parenthood Foundation (IPPF) in Africa, told IPS.

      Global: Countries failing to report cholera outbreaks, says report


      Cholera infections are ten times higher than the number of cases reported to the World Health Organisation (WHO), according to new estimates of the global disease burden. Cholera is caused by eating food or drinking water contaminated with the Vibrio cholera bacterium. The disease causes watery diarrhoea and severe dehydration that can be fatal. In a study published in the Bulletin of the World Health Organisation this month (1 March), researchers from the International Vaccine Institute, in South Korea found a more accurate estimate of the global cholera burden is nearly three million cases a year, and around 93,000 deaths - the majority in children under the age of five.

      Mali: Unrest hinders fight against fistula


      The turmoil in northern Mali is thwarting efforts to treat and prevent obstetric fistula, say health experts and local NGO workers. It is just one example of the fallout from the latest fighting between Tuareg rebels and the Malian army, triggered when rebels began attacking northern military posts in January. Since then, some 195,000 people are estimated to have been displaced by fighting, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

      Swaziland: Miners hardest hit by TB


      Health-e news reports on Musa Ernest Nkoko, a 52-year old ex-miner with multi-drug resistant (MDR) tuberculosis. He lives in KaShoba in the Lubombo region of Swaziland with his wife and five children aged between 9 and 27 years. Co-infected with HIV, Nkoko says he has been on treatment for MDR-TB for the last four years. The disease has diminished Nkoko’s lung capacity and rendered him too weak to do any work, and he and his family relies on his wife’s income as a part time cleaner.


      Africa: Lobby for new Commonwealth charter on LGBTI rights


      Britain’s Kaleidoscope Trust has submitted its recommendations for changes to the Commonwealth Charter and called for an agreed timetable to end the criminalisation of LGBT people. The call came in response to a request by the Royal Commonwealth Society for proposals to amend the new draft Charter of the Commonwealth. Eighteen countries in Africa are currently part of the Commonwealth of Nations (with Zimbabwe having departed in 2003).

      Liberia: Sirleaf backtracks on reported anti-gay remarks


      Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has been forced to backtrack on alleged comments published by the UK newspaper, The Guardian, which suggested she was opposed to gay rights. While holding a joint interview with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair in Monrovia, the president had been asked a question about an anti-gay Bill being debated by Liberian lawmakers. The Guardian reported Mrs Sirleaf as responding: 'We’ve got certain traditional values in our society that we would like to preserve...We like ourselves just the way we are.'

      Nigeria: Call for Nigeria to abandon new homophobic Bill


      The National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is examining the Same Gender Marriage Prohibition Bill. The draft law foresees three years of prison for those entering a marriage with someone of the same sex, or already in one. The Bill does not exclude tourists or expatriates in Nigeria. Those ‘witnessing, abetting and aiding the solemnization of same gender marriage’ face fines of up to 50,000 Nigerian naira (approximately EUR 230), and imprisonment for up to five years.

      Racism & xenophobia

      South Africa: Clashes over school conditions


      Black and coloured Grabouw residents guarded their schools against attack from either side following violent protests, the Cape Times reported on Tuesday. Coloured Pineview residents and black Siteview residents clashed on Monday 19 March. Police had to form a human shield to prevent the groups from entering each other's territories.

      South Africa: Learning to be racist in South Africa


      The shocking video Afrikaner Blood by Elles van Gelder and Ilvy Njiokiktjien from the Netherlands has just won first prize in the World Press Photo multimedia category. This slideshow comprises photographs of young white South African teenagers who attend a holiday camp set up by a right-wing racist group.

      South Africa: Zille's education refugees comment draws fire


      As the debate over Helen Zille’s use of the word 'refugees' in relation to the education crisis in the Eastern Cape raged on the social network site Twitter late last week, an ANC provincial coordinator raised eyebrows by calling her a 'racist bitch'. Zille’s remarks on ­Twitter that Eastern Cape pupils were ­moving to schools in the ­Western Cape in order to access better educational resources, and calling them 'education refugees' sparked fierce debate on radio talk-shows and social network sites. Asked why he called Zille a 'racist bitch' on a public site, Mphila said: 'She is racist and is behaving like a bitch.'

      Zambia: Students severely beaten in Russia


      Three Zambian students were severely beaten in Saint Petersburg Russia on the night of 18 March, leaving one of the students in a coma. Police are studying records of CCTV cameras to establish the circumstances of the incident which many believe was a racist attack. Racist assaults are frequently committed by skinhead gangs, which have grown in number in recent years in Russia and specifically Saint-Petersburg.


      Global: Illegal logging makes billions for gangs, report says


      Illegal logging generates $10-15bn (£7.5-11bn) around the world, according to new analysis from the World Bank. Its report, 'Justice for Forests', says that most illegal logging operations are run by organised crime, and much of the profit goes to corrupt officials. Countries affected include Indonesia, Madagascar and several in West Africa.

      Global: Large dams 'unsustainable'


      Numerous non-governmental organisations used the World Water Forum (WWF) held in Marseille as an opportunity to remind the international community about the serious global impacts of large dams all over the world. Defined as dams higher than 15 metres or with a reservoir volume of at least three million cubic metres, large dams number no less than 48,000 worldwide and present numerous issues, not least of which is a considerably negative impact on the livelihoods of local populations.

      Global: Rising number of farm animals poses environmental and public health risks


      The global population of farm animals increased 23 per cent between 1980 and 2010, from 3.5 billion to 4.3 billion, according to research by the Worldwatch Institute for its Vital Signs Online publication. These figures continue a trend of rising farm animal populations, with harmful effects on the environment, public health, and global development. Both production and consumption of animal products are increasingly concentrated in developing countries. In contrast, due in part to a growing awareness of the health consequences of high meat consumption, the appetite for animal products is stagnating or declining in many industrial countries.

      Nigeria: 11,000 Nigerian villagers sue Shell over oil spills


      The Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell has been hit by a swarm of 11,000 villagers seeking compensation for oil spills which they said have polluted their waters and devastated farmlands. The villagers from Bodo community, a network of 35 villages in Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger Delta are set to square off against the oil company in a London Courtroom with Martyn Day of law firm Leigh Day & Co. saying the spills devastated a once-thriving fishing community.

      Sierra Leone: Illegal fishing vessels escape fine


      Three illegal fishing vessels - the Five Star, Marcia 777 and the Kum Myeong 2 - have fled Sierra Leone, escaping fines for doing illegal fishing and transhipment in the country's Inshore Exclusion Zone, IEZ. The disclosure was made by the Project Coordinator of Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF), Andy Hickman at a press briefing held at the conference room of the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources.

      South Africa: Venda communities say no to CoAL mining


      Venda's cultural and ecological diversity are increasingly threatened by land grabbing, development projects, tourism and now mining. Coal of Africa (CoAL), an Australian mining company, has proposed the Makhado Coking Coal Project. If this goes ahead, the community faces severe ecological, social and economic damage to their ancestral homes. The biggest concern is water because this is an area where water is already scarce.

      Land & land rights

      Egypt: Citadel Capital part of land-grab in South Sudan


      Saudi Arabia and China are buying up significant parcels of agricultural land in South Sudan. So is Egypt. Egypt’s Citadel Capital is buying land in South Sudan, with designs on agricultural production to help feed Egypt’s growing population.

      Global: Report highlights land grab water concerns


      A new report by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) points out that millions of hectares of farmland in Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America have been leased to foreign countries, sovereign wealth funds, and private corporations over the past four years with little or no explicit legal agreement on how water can and will be used on the acquired properties. With 70 per cent of global water withdrawals used in agriculture, the rapid increase in cultivated farmland will require significant quantities of water to sustain production.

      Global: UN human rights body criticises Canada over resource extraction


      The Canadian government has not addressed the issue of persistent poverty among indigenous peoples, nor implemented the right to free, prior and informed consent, before undertaking projects that affect them or their lands. This was among the conclusions, reached last week, by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD). CERD also expressed concern over the impact of Canadian corporations, particularly mining companies, on the lands of indigenous peoples in other countries.

      Sierra Leone: Land deals beginning to stir discontent


      Foreign land investment is on the rise in Sierra Leone and, as with many of its neighbours, the government wants more companies to come in to boost the economy and spur much-needed agricultural development in rural areas. Sierra Leone ranked 180 out of 187 countries on the UN human development index in 2011. But as more and more companies flock to the country to lease large tracts of land, murmurs of protest and unrest are cropping up among local populations who are unhappy with the way the deals are done; and civil society groups are growing increasingly concerned that foreign land deals are not producing the win-win scenarios they had hoped for.

      Media & freedom of expression

      Egypt: Freedom of association in jeopardy


      After a fact-finding and advocacy mission on freedom of association and the situation of civil society organisations conducted in Egypt from 11-14 February 2012, the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN) and the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders - a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) - have published the findings of the mission, and noted that one year after the Revolution, the conditions for the enjoyment of freedoms of association and peaceful assembly in Egypt have significantly deteriorated. 'Our organisations are particularly concerned about the direct attacks by the government against Egyptian and international human rights NGOs.'

      Gabon: CPJ urges authorities to drop legal proceedings against journos


      The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called on Gabonese authorities to drop legal proceedings against six journalists in connection with articles raising questions about use of a presidential plane. According to a CPJ statement, two of the journalists have fled the country fearing arrest after being summoned by police for interrogation.

      Kenya: Police assault three journalists, detain one


      Kenyan authorities should hold responsible police officers who assaulted three reporters last week and drop a baseless legal case against one of them, the Committee to Protect Journalists said. At least 10 police officers in plainclothes surrounded Suleiman Mbatiah, a reporter for the Daily Nation, after he took photographs of an undercover traffic operation in the western town of Nakuru on 13 March, according to news reports.

      Liberia: Call for protection of female journalist


      The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has called on President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to make it her priority to protect the life of Mae Azango, a female reporter of Front Page newspaper who has been threatened for having published last week a story on the Sande society which practices Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Liberia. 'The threats made by the Sande society are unacceptable and a throw-back to dark ages of journalism which have no place in a modern democracy led by a female president for that matter,' said Gabriel Baglo, Director of the IFJ Africa Office. 'The Government of President Sirleaf should warn the Sande society of its direct responsibility for any attack on the journalist’s life.'

      Mali: Soldiers shut down news media


      Reporters Without Borders has condemned the occupation of the headquarters of the state radio and TV broadcaster ORTM by renegade soldiers since yesterday and the interruption of broadcasting by many other radio and TV stations as a result of an apparent military coup against President Amadou Toumani Touré. 'Whether this is a real coup or just a mutiny, we are appalled that soldiers have occupied the state broadcaster and taken control of its broadcasts,' Reporters Without Borders said. 'As it is often the case in such circumstances, control of news and information is primordial and the media are among the mutineers’ first targets.'

      Mali: With coup, quiet #Mali generates noise on Twitter


      While the future of Mali's hitherto free press is unclear, the Twitter narrative during last week;s coup demonstrated the ways in which traditional media are increasingly less relevant in any case. 'Marking papers, with one ear tuned to RFI. But def got more quality reporting from Twitter today about #Mali than from any other medium,' tweeted Philippe M. Frowd, a MacMaster University doctoral student living in Canada.

      Somalia: Lucky escape for Somali journalist


      A journalist working with the independent Shabelle broadcaster in Mogadishu, Mr Mohydin Hassan Mohamed alias Husni, was Sunday attacked by two men armed with pistols. The attackers struck as Mr Mohamed was walking along Madina Avenue, near his home in Wadajir District in south Mogadishu. One bullet brazed Mohamed's chest as he fled.

      Social welfare

      Madagascar: Addressing toilet taboos to improve sanitation


      In Madagascar's east coast city of Tamatave, a local taboo against having a toilet in your house or on your land has complicated the task of trying to improve the region's dire sanitation situation. Nationwide, more than 10,000 people, of whom two thirds are children under five, die prematurely from diarrhoea annually, according to the World Health Organization, which attributes 88 per cent of these cases to poor quality water and sanitation.

      Conflict & emergencies

      Eritrea: Leader says US behind Ethiopia raids


      Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki accused the United States of plotting cross-border raids by Ethiopian troops, saying the two allies were out to divert attention from a festering border spat in the volatile Horn of Africa. Addis Ababa, Washington's main ally in the region, said it attacked military bases used by rebels inside Eritrea earlier this month.

      Mali: Relative calm returns to Mali capital


      Life in the Malian capital Bamako is slowly returning to normal after mutinous soldiers seized power, toppling the democratically elected government of President Ahmed Toumani Toure. Fuel stations and market stalls reopened on Sunday after a decrease in the gunfire and looting that followed Wednesday's (21 March) overnight coup. The military junta that ousted Toure has ordered all soldiers back to barracks, but rebels in the country's north exploiting the coup have been pushing towards three northern towns, the Reuters news agency reported.

      Somalia: EU approves attacks on land bases


      The European Union has agreed to expand its mission against Somali pirates by allowing military forces to attack land targets as well as those at sea. In a two-year extension of its mission, EU defence ministers agreed warships could target boats and fuel dumps. Up to 10 EU naval ships are currently on patrol off the Horn of Africa.

      Somalia: Rush to complete Somalia mission before Kenyan poll


      Citing insiders, this article in The East African says there is a renewed sense of urgency within Amisom to complete the military operations by end of July, as the election fever in Kenya starts to gather pace. Kenya’s elections are closely watched in the region both for their potential to disrupt landlocked neighbours, and now for regional security, given the country’s current centrepiece role in Somalia.

      Sudan: Deal between the two Sudans hit by fresh demands


      Khartoum could dishonour an agreement if Juba did not withdraw alleged support for rebel groups operating in Sudan, officials said. The demand came a day after Sudan's ruling National Congress Party (NCP), argued that agreeing on security was a deal breaker for the agreement. The 'Four Freedoms' agreement signed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, guarantees citizens of the two countries the right to own property, live, work and move between the two nations.

      Uganda: African Union to launch force for Kony hunt


      The African Union has said it will deploy a 5,000-strong military force to hunt down the leader of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity. The force - with troops from Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and the Central African Republic - will be led by Uganda where the LRA, headed by Joseph Kony, abducted and massacred civilians in a decades-long armed rebellion. The AU announced the launch of the force after Kony's global profile shot up recently thanks to a celebrity-backed internet campaign to bring him to justice.

      Internet & technology

      Africa: Scramble is on for social media users


      With the popularity of social media platforms continuing to grow, users should brace themselves for more and more players in the market. Google last week raised its stakes in the battle for South African social media users with the launch of its Google+ platform in Zulu and Afrikaans. In the same week, Yookos, an 'Africa-specific' social media network, announced its entry into the space, claiming 6-million users across the continent.

      Africa: The rise (and rise) of mobile phones


      This USAID infographic looks at the rise of mobile phones in Africa, predicting that there will be one billion phones on the continent by 2016.

      Libya: Libya sues Zambia over network


      Libya's investment authority says it is suing Zambia's government for seizing its controlling share in a mobile phone network. A Libyan telecommunications enterprise that owns 75 per cent of the Zamtel network says the seizure last year by the government of newly elected President Michael Sata was 'illegal and unconstitutional'. The investment authority said in a statement that the network filed demands at the Zambia High Court for $480-million worth of compensation in asset value along with unspecified additional payouts for operating losses should the business not be handed back.

      West Africa: Will new UN initiative to recycle E-Wastes succeed?


      Four months ago, 178 nation states voted to prohibit all exports of hazardous wastes, including electronic wastes. Yet, so-called 'e-wastes' - particularly from discarded mobile phones - continue being dumped across the developing world, especially in West Africa. In an attempt to stem this 'rising tide', two UN agencies last week signed a new agreement to facilitate collection and recycling of such wastes.

      Fundraising & useful resources

      Egypt: A biographical history of the Egyptian revolution


      Students at the American University in Cairo have created a biographical history of the Egyptian revolution. Many of the personalities profiled are not widely known in the Western press, but have been important in the evolution of events in Egypt.

      The Africa/Asia/Latin America scholarly collaborative program

      Research grants call for applications 2012

      2012-03-26 for Proposals Research Grants.pdf

      The Collaborative Tri-continental Program was launched in 2005 by the Latin American Council of Social Sciences (CLACSO), the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) and the Asian Political and International Studies Association (APISA) with the purpose of carrying out high quality social science research and enhancing the production of knowledge suitable for fostering southern perspectives on critical issues, and feeding these into global debates. The Program includes an annual South-South summer institute, research conferences, and grants for advanced research. The research grants are intended to promote collaboration among researchers from the South and to stimulate analytical empirical studies on topics of relevance for their regions and for the Global South.

      Courses, seminars, & workshops

      Is Fanon Finished?


      It is the pleasure of the Masters programs at the American University of Paris to host an international and bilingual conference on contemporary critical and experimental engagement with Frantz Fanon’s work, co-organized by Lisa Damon, Sousan Hammad and François Huguet.
      The conference will take place at AUP and at the Lavoir Moderne Parisien and is open to everyone.

      On Friday March 30th, from 9:30 to 17:30, at AUP (B-33), 33 Ave. Bosquet, 75007

      On Saturday March 31st, from 10:00 to 17:00 at the LMP, 35 rue Léon, 75018

      Fifty years after many of the African, Asian and Latin American liberation struggles resulted in the construction of independent nations, a new wave of uprisings and social movements have emerged worldwide to overthrow dictatorial regimes and demand revision of the global socioeconomic status quo. Frantz Fanon’s work was key in setting the ideals and modes of action for a generation engaged in changing its present. Is there anything to actualize from his praxis?

      ‘Testing’ his ideas in contemporary local contexts from Nigeria and South Africa to Palestine and Venezuela, what is translatable and what must be discarded? How do Fanonian problematics help clarify, or instead obscure, a sense of our own situatedness in the present?

      Speakers include, amongst others: Alice Cherki, biographer and colleague of Frantz Fanon in Algeria, author of Frantz Fanon, portrait and La Frontière invisible, violences de l’immigration who will address the relevance and modalities of teaching Fanon today; Nigel Gibson, activist and scholar, author most recently of Fanonian practices in South Africa: from Steve Biko to Abahlali baseMjondolo who will trace Fanon’s concept of the ‘rationality of revolt’ through
      the black power and liberation movements of the 60s to today’s social movements; Nacira Guénif-Souilamas, socio-anthropologist and maitre de conférences HDR at Paris 13, author of Les féministes et le garçon arabe and La république mise à nu par son immigration, who will question what it means for Fanon to have died as an Algerian and the gaps in his critical insight stemming from his identity as a heterosexual male; Ghassan Hage, professor at the University of Melbourne and author of White Nation: fantasies of White Supremacy in a multicultural society, who will examine Fanon’s critique of negritude in order to ask how one can argue for cultural specificity without falling into the trap of essentialism; Ella Shohat, professor of cultural studies at New York University, author of forthcoming Race in Translation: Culture Wars Around the Postcolonial Atlantic (2012), will examine Fanon’s figures of “the Black”, “the Jew”, and “the Arab” in the context of the politics of translation of The Wretched of the Earth into Hebrew (2006).

      But also Nils Schott, George Ciccariello-Maher, Feargal Ionnrachtaigh, Alain Anselin, Norman Ajari, Omar El Khairy, Will Hansen & Umma Aliyu, Donna-Dale Marcano, Olivier Haddouchi & Marguerite Vappereau.

      Full program details on

      For more information please contact [email protected]


      Global: Race and class re-appraises Malcolm X at Oxford Union


      A new issue of Race & Class features an article on 'Malcolm X at the Oxford Union' in 1964. Saladin M. Ambar, who examines Malcolm's speech and the context in which it was given, reveals a key change in Malcolm's thinking on nationalism in response to the call for decolonisation in Africa and the extension of human rights to other marginalised groups throughout the world.

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