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      Pambazuka News 580: Challenges to globalisation from the South

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

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      Pambazuka News (English edition): ISSN 1753-6839

      CONTENTS: 1. Features, 2. Comment & analysis, 3. Advocacy & campaigns, 4. Obituaries, 5. Books & arts, 6. Letters & Opinions, 7. African Writers’ Corner

      Highlights from this issue

      Dear Subscribers

      We are taking a break next week to recharge our batteries. So, there will be no Pambazuka News on Thursday 12 April 2012. We hope you don't suffer to many withdrawal symptoms. We assure you we will be back on 19 April 2012.



      Tuareg Rebels in Mali Declare Independence: Part of an African Awakening for Self-Determination?

      Interviewed by Amy Goodman, Democracy Now!

      Firoze Manji


      cc Magharebia
      The president of Mali, Amadou Toumani Touré, has formally resigned after soldiers ousted him in a coup in March, with power set to be transferred to Mali’s National Assembly after elections later this month. The soldiers say they seized power because of Touré’s alleged mishandling of a rebellion of ethnic Tuareg rebels, who have succeeded in capturing several key northern cities, declaring their independence and now calling for international recognition. Officials claim the rebels are a mix of Tuareg separatists and Islamists with links to al-Qaeda. We speak with Firoze Manji, editor-in-chief of Pambazuka News, a pan-African social justice website. He was formerly the Africa director for Amnesty International. Manji recently co-edited a book called "African Awakening: The Emerging Revolutions." Manji argues the political unrest in Mali, Senegal, and beyond is "driven by the fact that over the last 30 years our people have lost all the gains of independence," due in large part to what he calls neoliberal policies imposed on many African countries by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. "People feel that their governments are more accountable to the banks and to the international multinational corporations than they are to their citizens," Manji says.

      The South challenges globalization

      Samir Amin


      cc B d P
      The increased strength of emerging countries of the South confronts the challenges of contemporary globalization.

      The current situation finds the decline of old centers (USA, Europe and Japan), in crisis, in opposition to the impetuous growth of emerging countries (China and others). There are three options: the current crisis spreads to the emerging countries and seriously hinders their development; they nevertheless continue to grow and lead to a revival of capitalism, more focused on Asia and South America; the development of emerging countries deconstructs globalization as it is now and produces a truly polycentric world in which they will combine and confront, progressing towards democratic and popular alternatives and violent restorations.

      The most popular thesis argues that the victories of the anti-imperialist struggles of the past have paved the way not for socialism, but for a new rise of capitalism. The main argument of my criticism of this view stems from the finding that the historical capitalist model, which is now considered the exclusive model, was established from its beginning based on the production and reproduction of global polarization. This feature is itself the product of the mass expulsion of the peasantry from the land, upon which capitalism's expansion was founded. This model was sustainable only because the safety valve of mass immigration to the Americas allowed it. Reproduction of this same model is strictly impossible for the peripheral countries today -- they comprise nearly eighty percent of the world population with almost half of it rural -- five or six Americas would be needed to "catch up by imitation." Catching up is an illusion; progress in this direction can only lead to a dead end. This is why I say that the anti-imperialist struggles are potentially anti-capitalist. If you cannot "catch up," you must "do something else." Of course transformation in the sense of long-term visions of "development" of emerging countries is by no means "inevitable." It is only necessary and possible. The current success of emerging countries in terms of accelerated growth within global capitalism and by capitalist means reinforces the illusion that a catch-up is possible. The same illusion was accompanied by the experiences of the first wave of "the awakening of the South" in the twentieth century, even though they were experienced as a "catch-up by the socialist road."

      Today the triad's collective imperialism deploys all economic, financial and military weapons in its possession to perpetuate its domination of the world. Emerging countries that deploy strategies to eliminate the advantages of the triad -- control of technology, exclusive access to the world's natural resources, and military control of the planet must come into conflict with the triad. This conflict helps dispel any illusions about these countries' ability "to advance within the system" and gives the popular democratic forces the possibility to influence the course of events in the direction of progress on the long road of transition to socialism. To date the emerging countries have seen that their growth has accelerated within capitalist globalization through capitalist measures. If these countries have been oriented to pursuing this path, based on giving priority to exports, then the economic crisis that struck the old centers has in turn seriously affected them.

      The conflict between centers and the countries in the periphery is a given of the first order in the history of capitalist deployment. This is why the struggle of the peoples of the South for their liberation must question capitalism itself. For imperialist rent associated with the global expansion of capitalism, historically still dominated by the triad, is not only a major source of profits for monopoly capital, it also conditions the reproduction of society as a whole. So it's no coincidence that the South is still "the storm zone," of repeated revolts, potentially effective ones. It is clear that the ruling classes of the so-called "emerging" South have chosen a strategy that is neither passive submission to the dominant forces in the world system, nor is it declared opposition to them: it's a strategy of active interventions upon which they base their hopes to accelerate their country's development. Yet, the societies of the South are now equipped with measures that enable them to eliminate the imperialist centers' means of control. These societies are able to develop on their own, without falling into dependence. They have a potential of technological expertise that would allow them to use technology for themselves. By recovering the control of their natural resources, they can force the North to adjust to a less harmful method of consumption. They can move out of financial globalization. They are already challenging the monopoly of weapons of mass destruction that the U.S. wants to reserve for itself. They can develop South-South trade -- goods, services, capital, and technology. More than ever before, delinking is the order of the day. It's possible. Will these societies do this? And who will do it? The ruling classes in place? The popular classes that come to power?

      Probably at first it will be transitional regimes with a national /popular character.

      From 1500 to 1900, only "Westerners" shaped the structures of the new world of historical capitalism. Of course, the conquered peoples of the peripheries resisted, but they were still ultimately defeated and forced to adjust to their status as subordinates. The twentieth century opened -- with the "awakening of the peoples of the peripheries" -- it was a new chapter of history: the Iranian revolution of 1907; that of Mexico (1910-1920); China (1911), a forerunner of 1949; 1905 in the "semi-periphery" nation of Russia, a forerunner of 1917; the Arab-Muslim Nahda; the founding of the Movement of Young Turks; the Egyptian revolution of 1919 and the founding of the Indian Congress Party were the first manifestations. The peoples of the peripheries rallied under the flag of socialism (Russia, China, Vietnam, Cuba) or those of national liberation associated with varying degrees of progressive social reforms.

      Governments and peoples of Asia and Africa proclaimed in Bandung in 1955 their determination to rebuild the global system based on the recognition of the rights of nations that until then had been subjugated. This "right to development" was the basis of the globalization of that era, the implementation in a multi-polar negotiated structure, imposed on imperialism and forcing it to adjust to these new exigencies. Industrial progress initiated during the Bandung era did not follow imperialist logic but was imposed by the victories of the peoples of the South.

      This first wave of awakening of the peoples of the peripheries was exhausted for multiple and combined reasons concerning both its own internal limits and contradictions and the success of imperialism, which managed to invent new ways of controlling the global system and reinforcing its control of technological innovation, access to global resources, control of the global financial system, of communications and information, and of weapons of mass destruction. But the moment of triumph of the new collective imperialism of the triad of the United States, Europe and Japan was short. A new era of chaos, wars and revolutions has opened. In this context the second wave of awakening of the nations of the periphery, already begun, is now prohibiting the collective imperialism of the triad from envisaging the possibility of maintaining its dominant position by means other than military control of the planet.

      The history of the global expansion of historic capitalism is that of an accumulation financed mainly by the dispossession of peoples of the peripheries for the benefit of those of the centers. Its inception was the conquest of the Americas, followed by the slave trade and colonization. Dispossession has not just hit the peasant population -- the overwhelming majority of peoples in the past. It destroyed the capacity of industrial production (manufacturing and crafts) of regions at one time more prosperous than Europe itself: China and India among others.


      The path of development of historical capitalism is based on private ownership of agricultural land, the submission of agricultural production to the requirements of the "market" and, starting from there, the gradual and accelerated expulsion of the peasant population for the benefit of a small number of capitalist farmers, who were no longer peasants, and who end up as only an insignificant percentage of the population (five-ten percent), but were able to produce enough to feed all the people of the countries concerned, and could even export significant surplus production. This capitalist road was possible only because Europeans had the huge safety valve available represented by immigration to the Americas. Now this safety valve simply no longer exists for the peoples of today's peripheries. In addition, modern industrialization will be able to absorb only a small minority of the rural populations concerned, because, in comparison with industries of the nineteenth century, today's incorporate technological advances -- a necessary condition of their efficiency -- which minimizes the workforce they employ. The capitalist path can't produce here anything else but what "the planet of shanty towns" produces and reproduces indefinitely with cheap labor. In Europe, North America and Japan -- the capitalist road associated with the outlet of emigration and to the profit of imperialism -- created -- albeit belatedly -- the conditions for a social compromise between capital and labor (particularly visible in the post-Second World War era with the Welfare State). The conditions of a compromise following this model do not exist in the peripheries of today. This path can only find its social base among the new middle classes, which become the exclusive beneficiaries of this development.

      Without doubt the dominant image of reality does not allow us to imagine that we could immediately question the global capitalist order. The ruling classes of the South, defeated, have largely agreed to accept their role as subordinate compradors; the peoples without recourse, engaged in the struggle for daily survival, often appear to accept their fate or even -- worse -- to feed themselves on the illusions that these same ruling classes swallow.


      China has a very special place in the heart of the so-called "emerging countries." Not only because of its size, but also because of the success of its profound industrialization and its particular method and effective response to the agrarian question, both of these made possible by the socialist revolution and Maoism. The relationship between the power exercised by the Party apparatus (a party that still claims to be "Communist"), the social sector on which it is based (basically the "middle classes," major beneficiaries of the ongoing development, but also the capitalists) on the one hand, and on the other hand the popular classes (workers and peasants), is, therefore, unique. Its transformation, in a negative sense (that of an open capitalist restoration) or positive (defined by the terms of a "social compromise" favorable to the popular classes) is still subject to possible divergent trends. The choice between the forms of democracy associated with social progress on the one hand, or "conventional" forms of democratization, to which the middle classes can perhaps aspire (but this is not even certain), is at the heart of the challenge which the social forces of right and left face here.

      The dominant discourse claims that the legacy of underdevelopment is being overtaken by an Asia that is "catching up" by inserting itself in the heart of the capitalist system, not by breaking with it; and appearances reinforce this vision of the future. That would be a capitalism that thereby loses its imperialist character at least in regard to East Asia and South America. The future result of this evolution would be a multi-polar world, organized around at least four areas: the United States, Europe, Japan and China or seven areas if we also add Russia, India and Brazil.
      I find the analysis on which this reasoning is based lacking. First of all, because the forecast does not take into consideration policies that Washington plans to put in motion to defeat the Chinese project. Ultimately, the permanent military installation of the United States in West Asia is a military threat directed primarily against China. In addition, Europe has still failed to conceive of itself breaking with the Atlantic Alliance, which places it in the wake of the United States, and for both similar and other special reasons Japan remains deferential towards its protector on the other side of the Pacific Ocean. Furthermore, the days of the triad's collective imperialism are still far from over. Second, it is misleading to measure "success" only by the economic growth rate and using this rate to project beyond a few years has doubtful validity. The possible continuation of growth in Asia depends on many internal and external factors that react in different ways depending on the one hand on the social modernization of strategic models chosen by the local ruling classes and also on external reactions. Beyond what the quest for continued growth represented from the viewpoint of ecological balance of the planet, the conflict with the countries of the imperialist triad, that were up to now the exclusive beneficiaries of all the resources of the planet, is because of this fact only going to get sharper.

      The dominant discourse attributes the success of post-Maoist China solely to the virtues of the market and the opening to the world. Yet during the three decades of Maoism (1950-1980), China had already experienced exceptional growth at rates double those of India or of any major region of the Third World. However, the performances during the last two decades of the century are even more extraordinary. These unique achievements would not have occurred without the economic, political and social bases constructed during the previous period.

      But the imperialism of the triad is based on new ways mentioned above instead of the former monopoly of industry. The imperialist centers' new privileges are used to deepen the polarization in the world, not to reduce it. In this sense to characterize them as "emerging countries" is an ideological farce; these are countries which, far from "catching up," are building the peripheral capitalism of tomorrow. China is no exception; it is already a subcontracting workshop for the profit of capital and the consumption of the imperialist centers!


      The Chinese ruling class has chosen the path of capitalism and "market socialism" as a shortcut for the gradual introduction of the structures and the basic institutions of capitalism, while minimizing the pains and bumps of the transition to capitalism.
      What possibilities does this route offer to today's China? Alliances between the powers of the state, the new class of large private capitalists, the farmers in areas enriched by the opportunities the available urban markets offer them and the already expanding middle classes are already in place. But this hegemonic bloc excludes the vast majority of workers and peasants. Any analogy with the historical alliances built by some European bourgeoisies with the peasantry (against the working class) is artificial, as is subsequently the historic compromise between capital and labor associated with social democracy.

      The capitalist development model at work is based on giving priority to exports, upon which is grafted the growth of consumption of the middle class. This is the model par excellence of peripheral accumulation. Following this path implies what we see already: a barbaric exploitation of workers that recalls the nineteenth century, an ecological disaster. As a counterpoint, an authentic model of development is necessarily based on giving priority to expanding the domestic market for the benefit of the working classes, reinforced by the development of production of capital goods. These two paths are in opposition within the political and social conflicts in China. The weakness of a pro-capitalist hegemonic bloc in China is causing the difficult problem of political management of the system.

      "China is a poor country in which only a few poor people are to be seen." China feeds twenty-two percent of the world's population even though it contains only six percent of the arable land on the planet. That is where the real miracle lies. To attribute its main origin to the great age of Chinese civilization is incorrect, for while it is true that until the industrial revolution China had a technological development more advanced overall than all other large regions of the world, its situation deteriorated for a century and a half and resulted in the spectacle of large scale poverty comparable to that of peripheral countries ravaged by the imperialist expansion, like India and others. China owes its remarkable recovery to its revolution. I would place Brazil, "a rich country in which you only see poor people," at the other end of the spectrum of situations created by the global capitalist expansion.

      The Chinese revolution has brought modernity into the country's social system. Chinese society is well and truly modern and that can be seen in all aspects of the behavior of its citizens. By modernity I mean this historic and cultural break after which people consider themselves responsible for their history. This modernity explains why there is not seen in China the expression of these para-cultural neuroses that plague people elsewhere, for example, in Muslim countries, in Hindu India, in sub-Saharan Africa. The Chinese live in their moment, they do not nourish themselves with this sort of nostalgia for a reconstructed mythological past that characterizes their zeitgeist. They have no "identity complex." The modernity in which China swims is a major asset for its future. Revolution and the plunge into modernity transformed the Chinese people more than any other in the Third World today. The Chinese popular classes are self-confident; they know how to fight, and they know that struggles pay off. Equality has become a core value of the common ideology. The fighting in the social struggles is remarkable. The Chinese workers' combativeness in social struggles is remarkable. The authorities know it and simultaneously repress, try to prevent crystallization of struggle fronts that go beyond the local horizon (by prohibiting the autonomous organization of the working classes) and reduce dangers by the art of "dialogue" and manipulation.

      The future of China remains uncertain. The battle of socialism in this respect has not yet been won. But neither has it been yet lost. In my opinion, as I have already tried to show above, it will not be lost until the day when the Chinese system renounces the right to land for all its peasants. Until then, the political and social struggles can sway the course of evolution. The ruling political class directs its efforts to controlling these struggles solely through wielding its bureaucratic dictatorship. Fragments of this class also consider circumventing the emergence of the bourgeoisie by the same means. The bourgeoisie and middle classes as a whole have not decided to fight for an "American style" democracy. With the exception of a few ideologists, these classes accept the "Asian style" autocratic model without difficulty, provided that it allows the deployment of their consumer appetites. The popular classes fight on the grounds of defense of their economic and social rights. Will they manage to unite their fights, devise suitable forms of organization, produce a positive alternative approach and define the contents and means of a democracy capable of serving it?

      The only alternative option that can ensure the stability of the country's development can only be based on giving priority to expanding the internal market, on the basis of social relations regulated so as to minimize social and regional inequalities and, consequently, the submission of relations outside those logically required for this impulse.


      Having already surpassed one billion people, and with an economic growth better than the global average, India is ranked among the rapidly rising powers of the twenty-first century.
      The reason for my doubts about this country derives from the crucial importance of the fact that independent India has not tackled the major challenge of radically transforming structures inherited from its shaping by colonial capitalism. British colonization essentially transformed India into a dependent agricultural capitalist country. To this end, the British systematically established forms of private ownership of agricultural land that excluded the majority of the peasantry from access to it. The majority of the peasants found themselves transformed into a poor, practically landless peasantry. The price paid for taking this "capitalist approach" to agricultural development is the incredibly poverty-stricken conditions in which the vast majority of Indian people live. And independent India reduced its promises to the peasantry to a semblance of agrarian reform with no real impact. This choice manifested itself fully through the "green revolution," which strengthened the position of the dominant rural classes. When, as in West Bengal and Kerala, the local communists went a little further -- as much as the Indian constitution permitted -- the positive results in social and economic terms were not negligible and popular support for the proponents of the reforms was strengthened.

      In India, the hindrance to progress constituted by this colonial inheritance is aggravated by the persistence of the caste system. The “lower castes” (today known as the Dalit) and the tribal populations account for a quarter of the population of India (around 250 million people). Deprived of all rights, especially of access to land, they are a mass of "semi-slaves" and collective property of the "others." The persistence of this situation reinforces the reactionary ideas and behavior of the “others” and benefits the exercise of power by and for the benefit of the privileged minority, contributing to neutralizing any protest by the exploited majority who are stuck between the minority exploiters and oppressed Dalit people.

      The Congress Party governments of independent India implemented a national plan typical of its time, influenced by the victories of the national liberation movements of Asia and Africa after the Second World War. From the outset, the colonial power had carried out a systematic de-industrialization of India – which was advanced at the time -- to the benefit of Britain, which was in the process of industrialization. Independent India has given top priority to its industrialization. This process, designed with a high degree of systematization at least in the first period of the first Nehru Plans, associated large private Indian industrial capital to companies in the public sector, promoted to fill the gaps in the production system inherited from colonialism by accelerating growth and strengthening basic industries.

      These differences between the national Indian model and that of Communist China account for the visible differences in the results in the two countries. The growth rate of industrial and agricultural production in India has remained roughly at levels far below those of China. Moreover, whereas growth in China was accompanied by a marked improvement in the popular classes’ standard of living, this was not the case in India where growth exclusively benefited the new middle classes (who were the minority, although their expansion accelerated to the point of increasing in a period of some 30 years from five to fifteen percent of the overall population of the country). The poverty of the dominant popular classes remained unchanged, even worsened slightly.

      Unlike China, India is a multinational country and British colonization had managed to impose its power precisely by playing on the diversity of peoples (and states) in India. Regarding the assets of the national liberation movement: its success in this field is unparalleled elsewhere in the colonial world. This movement is actually managed to unite the ten major nations making up the country into one "Nation." Regardless of the qualities of that Nation ("Bharat" in Hindi, hence the concept of Bharatva, which can be translated as "Indianness"), which appear "questionable" from a "scientific" point of view. India has indeed been a nation from then on, the reality of which is binding on all its components. And to this day the feeling of belonging together outweighs the assertion of local characteristics (among others, language). The national liberation movement has had in this respect only one failure: that in its desire to involve Muslims in the creation of the new Indian Nation. Here the British managed to defeat the Indian national plan and impose the creation of the artificial states of Pakistan and Bangladesh. The fact remains that the Muslims who remained in India (15% of the total population), even if they sometimes seem to "pose a problem" (a problem that the cultural nationalist Hindus exploit, even when they aren't stirring it up), are actually and properly integrated into all aspects of social life and politics. The secular Indian state, that even the Hindu cultural nationalist wave failed to call into question, is the source of this success.

      No doubt one might qualify this evaluation as broadly positive. The repression of the demands of the Sikhs (which cost the life of Indira Gandhi), and the Kashmir quagmire show the limits of the system's capacity to properly manage the "national question" (even if they characterize it differently). But it is still true that regarding all the great nations of the "Indo Aryan" North and
      "Dravidian" South, the powers of Delhi were able to find formulas to properly manage the problems, and thus give federal unity (in fact much more centralized than the terms of the Constitution suggest) a solid reality.

      The experience of modern-day India demonstrates the unquestionable superiority of democracy and the futility of arguments in support of autocratic management often claimed to be more effective. This remains true despite the evident limitations and the class content of bourgeois democracy in general, and the reality of it in India's experience. To the credit of the national liberation movement (Congress and the communists), this option was probably the only effective way to manage the various social and regional interests (even if limited to those of the privileged classes) and to win popular support for the plan of the minority making up the hegemonic bloc.

      The erosion of the national populist plan was as unavoidable in India as it was elsewhere on account of its inherent limitations and contradictions. This and the delegitimizing of power that accompanied it gave rise to an offensive by obscurantist forces that have a name: Hindutva. This term designates the affirmation of the priority of adherence to the Hindu religion defined as the "real identity" of the peoples of the country, as opposed to the concept of “Bharatva,” which refers to the nation. Of course, this “Hindu” affirmation does not challenge the colonial legacy concerning land ownership or the respect for the hierarchical caste system in particular. In this respect the obscurantist illusions serve perfectly the interests of the comprador and imperialism powers. The “specificities” with which their para “national," even para-anti-imperialist, discourse is filled are absolutely worthless. They fuel a renewal of the practice of the (in this case anti-Muslim) “communitarianism” that the colonial power used, in its day, to counter the rising aspirations of secular, democratic, modernist national liberation.

      This regression, however, was accompanied by a renewed radicalization of social struggles. Evidence of this can be seen in the Naxalite offensive and the sudden entry of Dalits in the political and social struggle. Further evidence can be seen by the stated commitment of all the middle classes to democracy or even to secularism. This explains why the collapse of the almost exclusive legitimacy that Congress had enjoyed, failed to produce a “definitive victory” for the right. Building a progressive social alternative necessarily implies that appropriate responses are given to four sets of challenges.

      First challenge: to find a radical solution to the Indian peasant problem based on the recognition of the right of all peasants to access to land in the most egalitarian conditions possible. This, in turn, means the abolition of the caste system and the ideology that legitimizes it. In other words, India must progress toward as radical a revolution as that of China!
      Second challenge: to create a united labor front that integrates segments of the relatively stabilized working classes and those that are not. This challenge is common to all countries of the modern world and particularly all those of the periphery of the system, which is characterized by the enormously destructive effects of new pauperization (massive unemployment, lack of job security, excrescence of wretched “informal” conditions).

      Third challenge: to maintain the unity of the Indian sub-continent, and to renew the forms of association of the various peoples that make up the Indian nation on a reinforced democratic basis. To defeat the strategies of imperialism which, as always, pursues, beyond its tactical options, its objective of dismembering the "great states," which are better able than microstates to withstand the assaults of imperialism.

      Fourth challenge: To focus international political options on the central issue of reconstructing a “front of the peoples of the South” (the solidarity of the peoples of Asia and Africa first and foremost) in circumstances that, of course, are no longer those that presided over the formation of the Non-Aligned Movement at the “time of Bandung” (1955 - 1979). To give the highest priority to the objective of derailing the U.S. plan for military control of the planet and thwart the political maneuvers of Washington whose purpose is to prevent any serious rapprochement between India, China and Russia.

      The political and social forces that prevent India from moving in the above-mentioned directions are considerable. They constitute a “hegemonic block” that accounts for a fifth of the population -- behind the great industrial, commercial and financial bourgeoisie and the big landowners, the great masse of well-off peasants and middle classes, the high bureaucracy and technocracy. These 200 million Indians are the exclusive beneficiaries of the national plan implemented so far. No doubt, at the present time of extreme neoliberal triumph, this block is collapsing under the effect, among others, of the end of the upwards social mobility of the lower middle classes who are threatened with loss of job security, and even impoverishment if not outright poverty. This situation provides the left with the opportunity to develop tactics, if it can, to weaken the coherence of these reactionary forces in general and in particular their comprador approach, which is the transmission belt for globalised imperialist domination. However, it also offers opportunities to the Hindu right in the event the left fails.

      The minority that makes up this block is, therefore, in a situation that excludes the reproduction in India of the historic capital/labor compromise on which the social democracy of the developed West was founded. The management of the coherence of this hegemonic block through political democracy, such as it is in India, does not lessen its reactionary class dimension. On the contrary, it is the most effective way to establish it. This hegemonic block is well and truly “integrated” into the rationale of dominant capitalist globalization and so far none of the various political forces through which it is expressed challenges it. The reasons are therefore clear as to why the “Indian national project” remains fragile, vulnerable and incapable of delivering its own stated objective: to transform India into "a large modern capitalist power."

      This vulnerability results in the frequently opportunistic behavior of the Indian political class, justified most often by short term “real-politic” arguments. Faced with the United States plan for overall (military) control of the planet and the collective imperialist alignment of the triad (United States, Europe and Japan) -- despite the tooth-gnashing of some of its partners -- the Indian political class appears so far unable to conceive and implement the necessary counterattack. That would entail the creation of a front uniting India, Russia and China, all threatened in equal measure by the compradorization resulting from the expansion of the new imperialist collective. India’s rulers do not properly value this perspective, including those associated with most determined government programs to undermine the Hindu/comprador right. They continue to give priority to their “conflicts” with China, perceived as a potential military adversary and a dangerous financial rival in the markets of globalised capitalism. They even believe they may be able to “use” a possible rapprochement with the United States in order to become its major ally in Asia.


      Brazil's situation is quite different from China's. Here none of the problems inherited from the colonial past has so far found the smallest beginning of a solution, especially the fundamental agrarian question. The power of the arrogant bourgeois ruling classes -- capitalists and landowners, technocrats in their service, segments of the middle class who are beneficiaries of economic growth -- is indisputable. The characterization of Lula as "a model statesman" by the Western media is not surprising. The strategy he is carrying out -- the neoliberal capitalist option -- associated with measures to redistribute wealth designed as a means of "reducing poverty" (without addressing the sources of it) -- is exactly what advocates of intelligent sectors of those political forces in the service of maintaining the domination of imperialist oligopolies.

      Next we come to a group of other "emerging" countries, or potentially such, which are -- aside from their diversity case by case -- at a double disadvantage. I am referring to countries in Southeast Asia (Thailand and Malaysia in particular) to South Africa, Iran and Turkey. First of all, they are not of continental size and therefore have less means to "negotiate" with the imperialist triad, when they are not simply excluded from this perspective (Iran). On the other hand, just as India and Brazil, they have never found a solution -- even a partial one -- to the legacy of earlier phases of imperialist domination, once more particularly regarding the agrarian problem. The powers in place in these countries suffer from a credibility gap, or at least they do in the eyes of their popular classes. They are therefore fragile and vulnerable, susceptible, if not to being overthrown by some "victorious revolution," to being forced to move to the left if the social struggles know how to put in place an alternative social block to those on which their power lies.

      Another country -- even in Asia -- is certainly on track to emerge: Vietnam, whose revolutionary heritage (similar in many respects to that of China's -- a radical agrarian revolution) weighs positively in favor of potential solutions more favorable to the popular classes than elsewhere.


      Another stratum of countries in the South is made up of a disparate yet similar group in that they are "rich" (in terms of GDP per capita) and that their wealth is based exclusively on the exploitation of abundant natural resources -- oil and gas in particular. These countries face a particularly difficult challenge to overcome: getting out of their integration in imperialist globalization based almost exclusively on this "wealth," to industrialize, create (or recreate) a non-existent agriculture. Some of these countries almost certainly cannot do so by themselves: the Arab countries of the Gulf with oil, Libya, Gabon. Venezuela belongs to this stratum, but it nevertheless decided to get out. The difficulty of succeeding in doing this is visible, and great. The temptation of a compromise half-solution -- to use a good portion of oil revenues for poverty reduction -- is strong. The desire to do more and better is just as visible. But it runs up against, in all the countries of this stratum, particularly strong economically dominant classes marked by their comprador culture and therefore ultra-reactionary.

      The triad considers the countries of the former Soviet Union -- including Russia -- as destined to enter the world of the peripheries that it dominates, just as is happening with the countries of Eastern Europe -- the CEE -- "The Latin America of Western Europe," especially of Germany. It is still possible for Russia to successfully resist this fate, pulling the Ukraine, the Caucasus and Central Asia behind it. But it can only do this seriously if it develops the possibility of going beyond the horizons of a purely "national capitalist" plan to renew a disconnected social plan, oriented toward socialism.

      The defeat of Mexico is currently one that is total, but not necessarily final. Annexed as "province outside of the United States" by the unacceptable NAFTA, to which the Mexican ruling class was nevertheless fully ready to submit, Mexico will no longer get out of its rut except through reviving its splendid revolutionary tradition, inaugurated in 1910, then suspended, that we could hope to see reborn with the New Zapatistas.

      Argentina will remain "ungovernable." This country pays a heavy price for the "advance" which a century ago placed it in the lead of the peripheral countries enriched by their inclusion in the capitalist/imperialist system of that epoch. Peronism inherited these illusions and tried to prolong them with an early industrialization. It failed in that it did not create the necessary conditions to avoid recovery/reintegration of its modernized system in the global system that still dominates the country.

      The countries of the South that were truly "excluded" from the benefits of capitalist/imperialist development make up another group facing challenges of a different nature. Here we find the majority of African countries and Arab and Islamic worlds. The interest that imperialism brings to these countries exclusively concerns their natural resources (agricultural land coveted by agribusiness, oil, minerals). The important thing to note is that the interventions of the imperialist powers are almost always of extreme brutality here. The difference that separates this world from the "marginalized" South of the emerging countries is that while in the latter the ruling class has a plan -- even if only a national bourgeois one -- in the first this class has really no plan other than that of adapting itself to the daily demands of existing globalization.

      The image of the contemporary world is that steps forward being taken despite all, more marked in Latin American countries than elsewhere. The reason for this success -- despite their vulnerability -- is twofold. On the one hand it is the product of a strong sense that the continent must come out of its extreme dependence on the United States, which has been affirmed and reaffirmed every day from the Monroe Doctrine (1823) up to and including Obama. But these advances would have been unthinkable without the entry into action of powerful popular movements.


      The terms in which the challenge is to be analyzed must consider three views of reality: peoples, nations and states.

      It is possible to construct a hegemonic bloc made up of different dominated and exploited classes, a bloc alternative to the one that allows the reproduction of the system of domination of imperialist capitalism, exercised through the comprador hegemonic bloc and the state devoted to its service.

      By nations we refer to the fact that imperialist domination denies the dignity of "nations" shaped by the history of societies of the peripheries. It systematically destroys the components that give them their originality, in favor of a trash "Westernization." The liberation of peoples is then associated with the nations that they make up. The slogan, "Nations want liberation," should be understood in a sense complementary to the struggle of peoples and non-confrontational with it. The liberation in question is not the restoration of the past -- the illusion of backward-looking cultural nationalism -- but the invention of the future starting from the radical transformation of the historical legacy, instead of the artificial importing of a false "modernity."

      The reference to the State is based on the need to recognize its autonomy of power in its relations with the hegemonic bloc upon which it bases its legitimacy, even if this bloc is popular and national. Not only because the popular and national progress should be protected from the permanent aggression of still dominant imperialism in the world, but also-- and perhaps especially -- because "to make progress in the long transition" in turn requires "developing the productive forces," i.e., to carry out what imperialism prohibits countries of the periphery from doing: erasing the legacy of the global polarization that is inseparable from the global expansion of historic capitalism. The program is not synonymous with "catching up" in imitation of models of the capitalism centers; a catching up that is impossible and moreover is undesirable. It requires a different approach to "modernization/industrialization" based on the effective participation of the popular classes for its implementation and for their immediate benefit at every stage of progress.

      "States want independence." This must be understood as having a dual purpose: independence (extreme form of autonomy) with respect to the laboring classes and independence from the pressures of the capitalist world system. The "bourgeoisie" (more broadly, the ruling class in the commanding positions of the State, whose ambitions always take the path of bourgeois evolution) is simultaneously national and comprador. If circumstances allow it to expand its degree of autonomy vis-à-vis the dominant imperialism, it chooses the path of "national interests." But if circumstances do not allow it, it chooses the path of "comprador" submission to what imperialism requires. The "new ruling class" (or "leading group") is still in an ambiguous position in this plan even when they are supported by a people's block, because of the "bourgeois" tendency that at least partially animates it.

      The proper articulation of these three instances of reality determines the success of progress on the long road to liberation. It is possible to further strengthen the progress of the people, the liberation of the nation and the achievements of state power. If, on the contrary, the contradiction between the popular will and the state is allowed to develop, the advances in question may be foiled.

      Because neither the people nor the nation nor the states of the periphery have a comfortable place within the imperialist system, "the South" is the "zone of storms" of permanent uprisings and revolts. And recent history has been mainly that of the revolts and independent initiatives (meaning independent of the dominant trends throughout the capitalist imperialist system in place) of peoples, nations and states of the peripheries. It is these initiatives -- despite their limitations and contradictions -- that have shaped the most crucial transformations in the contemporary world, far more than the progress of productive forces and the relatively easy social adjustments that accompanied the centers of the system.

      The long decline of obsolete capitalism/imperialism and the long transition to socialism constitute two antagonistic poles of the challenge. The decline by itself does not produce progress on the path toward socialism; on the contrary, the logic of the responses that capital gives the answers to this challenge leads toward the slippery slope of barbarism -- "apartheid on a world scale." Nevertheless, this decline simultaneously creates the conditions for a commitment to take the path to the long transition to socialism.

      How are these two possible futures entwined? "The other world" under construction is always ambivalent; it carries within it the worst and the best, both "possible" (there are no laws of history before the events occur). A first wave of initiatives of the peoples, nations and states of the periphery was put into action in the twentieth century until about 1980. A second wave of initiatives is already underway. Some "emerging" countries and others, like their peoples, are fighting against the tactics by which the triad's collective imperialism is using to perpetuate its rule. The military intervention of Washington and its subordinate allies in NATO have been frustrated. The globalized financial system is collapsing and autonomous regional systems are being formed in its place. Technological monopolies of the oligopolies have been set back. The recovery of control over natural resources is on the agenda. Grassroots organizations and parties of the radical left in struggle have in some cases already defeated neoliberal programs or are on the road leading to this defeat. These initiatives, primarily and fundamentally anti-imperialist, carry with them a potential that allows them to embark on the long road of socialist transition.


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      * Samir Amin is director of the Third World Forum. Article translated by John Catalinotto.
      * Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.


      1. More can be found, with full bibliographies, in :Samir Amin, Beyond US hegemony, Zed, London 2006; particularly chapters 2 (China) and 4 (India).

      Aid, resistance and Queer power

      Hakima Abbas


      cc Wikimedia
      If aid is not in the interests of African peoples’, why would aid conditionality be a tool for African social justice?

      LGBTIQ Africans are currently at the crux of an ever-increasing conservative (dare I say fascist) assault perpetuated primarily by the ruling elites in collusion, and often financed by, global right wing forces using the apparatus of the state and institutions such as the Church. African progressive forces, through LGBTI and Queer movements and allies in the feminist, academic, human rights and social justice communities, have been resisting this onslaught and attempting to bring to bear a new understanding and discourse on so-called LGBTI issues in Africa notably by contextualizing these in the ever growing democratic regression and class struggle on the continent.

      In light of this situation, global attempts to stand in solidarity with African LGBTI persons and communities have brought these issues to the forefront of international attention. Western policy makers, often at the demand of European and US civil society, have responded with several forms of intervention including the threat of tying development aid to human rights protection of LGBTI persons. These attempts have not always been met with elation by Queer communities or movements in Africa. In order for us to understand some of the resistance within the Queer movement to the use of aid as a stick to African governments to shift their policies and laws towards LGBTI persons, we have to deconstruct and understand the foundation of aid in general, the history of aid in Africa as well as the context and politics of Queer organizing.

      In the 1950’s as Africa was gaining independence and attempting to create South-South alignment outside of the cold war allegiances, the development paradigm was gaining grounds in international affairs with the United States of America (US) in particular positioning themselves as the benefactor of both a crumbled post-war Europe and of Europe’s former colonies. The Union of Socialist Soviet Republics (USSR) also sought to gain ideological alliance based on socialist principles and effects.

      While the war was cold for most of the world, it was cataclysmic in Africa where legitimate governments were overthrown, proxy wars were fuelled, natural resources exploited and economies devastated. With capitalism offering little in the form of social and economic rights for the masses, as was the call during the struggle for independence, what it did offer was ‘aid and development’, while its liberal proponents further expounded the virtues of a singular brand of democracy and human rights (read as civil and political).

      The end of the USSR would spell the dominance of liberal capitalism, and therefore dominance of the aid and development discourse in Global North-South relations. It is with much fanfare that developed nations continue to pledge significant sums of money in aid to countries of the Global South, but none more than in the continent of Africa. However, a large proportion of aid pledges to Africa remain unfulfilled while another large proportion of aid serves to contribute to the donor nation, being tied to services and products provided from companies in donor countries. Most foreign aid has been provided in the form of loans, bearing high rates of interest and creating a crippling debt crisis that has perpetuated the underdevelopment of African economies.

      Africa today pays more in debt servicing than it receives as aid from Western countries and blocs: it is estimated that while Africa receives less than $13billion in aid annually, it spends $15billion annually on debt repayments. For every dollar that an African country receives in grants, it pays $13 in interest on debt. While some aid conditionality is used to protect and promote human rights, the majority of conditions are elaborated to entrench further dependence on donor countries creating for example trade preferences, sole contractor agreements, etc.

      Aid, as it is currently constructed between the West and Africa, is therefore not sufficient to redress the conditions that maintain the levels of poverty in Africa despite the continent being one of the richest in raw materials. Rather the aid and debt crisis is a reflection of the historical and present relationship that Africa and the rest of the world maintain. In short, it is about power – a relationship based largely on dependence and exploitation. I have argued elsewhere (1) that while many are focused on reforming the aid architecture, African energies should be spent on seeking alternatives such as fair trade, reparations and cancellation of odious debt.

      So if aid is not in the interests of African peoples’, why would aid conditionality be a tool for African social justice? The language of human rights has been lauded by liberal western democrats who assume that they must coerce Africa into understanding notions of equality and justice without acknowledging the devastating effects of globalized neo-liberal economic policies and the limitations of elective democracy as practiced by two party states with only one acceptable ideology. In the last decade LGBTI issues have been put squarely in the geopolitical arena. In Africa, the homophobes are using the very notions of citizenship and African identity as rhetoric to exclude and oppress LGBTI persons and communities. This does not come in a vacuum of oppression.

      Indeed a democratic regression and looming economic recession has created systematic entrenchment of various forms of oppression. Notably, oppressions that seek to exert power over bodies and sexuality are gaining ground in an increasingly fundamentalist state and religious rhetoric armed with populist power. On the flip side, LGBTI issues have gained ground in the international arena as a barometer to determine who the ‘good liberal’ countries versus the ‘bad backward’ ones are. With racist undertones about the ‘barbaric’ and ‘uncivilized’, it has been written that the ‘cultures’ and ‘traditions’ of the Black and Brown peoples of the world have not yet been civilized enough to tolerate gay and lesbian people. And with this undertone, ‘gay rights’ (terminology used as if it should suffice to encompass the collective diversity of LGBTIQ equality and liberation) has become a card on a bad deck for Western governments to use as political mileage internationally, again with much fanfare. It is truly unfortunate, because behind some of these efforts there are indeed individuals who sincerely seek to stand in solidarity with LGBTI communities and people all over the world. And perhaps that is the place at which we start, a discussion about what we understand by genuine solidarity and how to achieve it.

      Receiving criticism from the African LGBTIQ movement about their broad aid withdrawal statements, some Western governments have rather talked about a redirection of some aid to civil society movements who are working on LGBTIQ rights and equality. All movements need resources and there is a myth that the LGBTIQ movement in Africa has been inundated with funds, and will continue to be because of the special interest bestowed upon it by Western governments. The reverse is in fact true: on very little, the African LGBTIQ movement has made great strides. If funding is to genuinely be a strategy for solidarity, the African LGBTIQ movement must be afforded the space to dictate its own funding priorities. In spite of the divergent opinions that will inevitably exist, there are certainly priorities that can be agreed among a broad spectrum of activists. The movement also needs to begin to set the parameters of what money is acceptable given the political framework in which the movement operates and seeks to have an impact on.

      Aid conditionality for LGBTI rights is currently being used to show muscle for an otherwise vulnerable minority, but this action, not taken with the full consultation ignores the adverse effect that the action would actually have on LGBTI Africans. All Africans would suffer if, for instance, our education and health systems were further crumbled. Certainly, the withdrawal, or threat therein, of foreign aid only reinforces the argument that homosexuality is a Western construct. And of course the homophobes, knowing full well the illegitimacy of their argument, encourage this connection as when President Museveni talked about why he withdrew the Anti-Homosexuality bill ignored or obliterated the significant widespread Ugandan and African movement to fight the bill, but focused only on Western pressure thus stirring backlash.

      An emerging Queer movement in Africa is engaging in this context and conversation not from the point of view of ‘gay rights’ but from a framework of queer liberation. Attempting to dismantle the binary notions of gender and sexuality to talk about pluralism and complexity. This movement seeks not to separate LGBTI issues from the broad spectrum of issues that affect all Africans including Queer Africans. This implies that what affects Africans negatively is indeed bad for Queer Africans but also, and critically, that the reverse holds strong.

      There are a myriad of opinions in the LGBTIQ movement about the use of aid as a tactic. This is exactly as it should be and reflects the plural and multifaceted nature of a steadily growing movement. Just like sanctions for South Africa became a tactic that the liberation forces had to debate and build consensus around internally: whether the effects on Black people could be counterbalanced by the potential victory over the Apartheid system. So, too these are tactics that must be debated, discussed, and decided by the African Queer movement. When difficult measures that will impact whole communities and nations are used, they must be used responsibly, as an urgent resort and always with the decision making of those directly affected. Nevertheless, while aid for LGBTIQ rights and equality are being discussed, significant shifts in global geopolitics almost render the discussion futile. With so-called ‘emerging’ powers wielding as much political and economic clout as former colonial powers, the aid system is likely to significantly transform and aid conditionality may be rendered obsolete. In this context, the Queer African movement must again consider how to make global alliances, with whom and with what tactics, and must continue to engage critically on the nature of genuine solidarity with these allied partners.


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      * Hakima Abbas is the Executive Director of Fahamu Network for Social Justice.
      * This article was first published by Sxpolitics.
      * Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.


      (1) ‘Aid and Reparations: Power in the Development Discourse’, Hakima Abbas with Nana Ndeda (2009) published in ‘Aid to Africa: Coloniser or Redeemer?’, by Pambazuka Press (Edited by Hakima Abbas and Yves Niyiragira), ISBN: 978-1-906387-38-9.

      UNCTAD shows signs of spunk again

      Five challengers of the neoliberal jackboot

      Vijay Prashad


      cc Wikimedia
      Slowly, the South has tried to revive UNCTAD, whose policy framers have become a bit more aggressive in their defence of an alternative to neo-liberalism.

      The governments of the five large countries of the Global South, met in New Delhi this week for their fourth summit. These five countries-the “BRICS” states- Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, are home to forty per cent of the world’s peoples, and their share of the world’s Gross Domestic Product is now just over 25 per cent.

      Most of what was said at the summit, and in its Delhi Declaration, was hot air, as one has come to expect of such meetings. However there are at least two significant developments that set this summit apart. First, the BRICS states not only repeated their critique of the world economic order and North Atlantic financial hegemony, but they offered new policy guidelines and institutions as a counterpoint. Second, the BRICS states have taken some more steps toward the rejection of the North Atlantic’s political leadership over the planet. It is not clear on this second point where the BRICS states propose to plant their own flag, but what is clear is the frustration with the NATO agenda in North Africa and West Asia and with the North Atlantic agenda in the trade debates that will take place in Doha, Qatar next month.

      Little of this summit came into the papers of the North Atlantic. Part of this is to be expected, as newspapers generally abjure stories about seemingly dull trade negotiations and routine political meetings. No wonder that the news of the Arab League in Baghdad this week is simply about the fact that it is happening there for the first time since 1990 than about what the Arab states shall discuss in the way of trade deals and Syria. The character of the debates and the measures taken are not going to be reported at all. All that we shall hear is that the Arab League will not take a position on Syria consonant with what the West would like. That is the measure of the North Atlantic presses’ interest in that summit. On the BRICS summit, even the financial papers have been silent. The only report in a major paper was banal (Yardley 2012) . It repeated the old saw that the BRICS is more a photo-op than a genuine political bloc. As Ananth Krishnan of The Hindu said of Yardley’s report, it “puts up a straw man,” hoping that the BRICS is a bloc “which it isn’t, and then shoots it down in 800 words.”

      Typically, the BRICS states have been wary of a frontal assault on neo-liberalism or on the policy arrangements favoured by the North. What one has seen has been a kind of sniping from the margins, asking for this or that policy that favours the North over the South to be reconsidered, or for this or that policy to allow individual BRICS states to benefit alongside the North. Accommodation has been the order of the day rather than transformation. A flavour of this residual neo-liberalism remains in the Delhi Declaration and in the BRICS Report, a study prepared by Kaushik Basu, the Indian Prime Minister’s advisor and the ill-named Carl Marks Professor of International Studies at Cornell University. There is enough in the report and the declaration about synergies and complementarities, of best practices and growth prospects to fill a dozen tumbrels. These texts do not give a good sense of a clean break with neo-liberalism.

      Where you have to look is in the margins. The key is to be found in paragraph 17 of the Delhi Declaration which considers “UNCTAD to be the focal point in the UN system for the treatment of trade and development issues.” The Declaration also “reiterates our willingness to actively contribute to the achievement of a successful UNCTAD XIII, in April 2012.” UNCTAD is the UN Conference on Trade and Development, based in Geneva, and since 1964 a thorn in the side of the Atlantic world. Sustained attack on UNCTAD by the Atlantic powers since the 1980s pushed it into a corner, and made it largely irrelevant as the Atlantic world took its business into forums, such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), where it was able to rule the day. Slowly, the South has tried to revive UNCTAD, whose policy framers have become a bit more aggressive in their defence of an alternative to neo-liberalism.

      One example of this new motivation is in UNCTAD’s 2011 Report, which is a carefully argued assault on the power and influence of finance capital. In Chapter 5, on commodity markets, UNCTAD argues that the commodity boom cannot be explained by rising demand from the BRICS states. Instead, the culprit can be found amongst the index investors, the speculators whose commodity trades are motivated by “factors totally unrelated to commodity price fundamentals.” What explains the rise in commodity prices, including food and oil, is “the greater presence of financial investors, who consider commodity futures as an alternative to financial assets in their portfolio management decisions. While these market participants have no interest in the physical commodity, and do not trade on the basis of fundamental supply and demand relationships, they may hold – individually or as a group – very large positions in commodity markets, and can thereby exert considerable influence on the functioning of these markets.” Reining in finance capital from commodity markets will do a whole lot more for food and fuel prices than offshore drilling, the XL pipeline or the subsidies to ADM and Cargill.

      UNCTAD’s studied criticism of finance capital and its insistence on reform of the financial sector has earned it the ire of the Global North’s mandarins. In the negotiations toward a consensus document for the UNCTAD’s April 2012 meeting, the North has put up as many obstacles as possible. Its seasoned negotiators have fought to remove all reference to the financial crisis from the document, and to insist that UNCTAD deal only with its core mandate. They expanded the draft text from 24,000 words to 30,000 words with issues having to do with the World Bank’s favourite idea,” good governance,” and with matters of freedom and democracy – all, incidentally, outside the UNCTAD mandate. Each paragraph had to be minutely scrutinized by the North’s negotiators, slowing down the process and thereby making a mockery of it. On19 March the Swiss Ambassador to UNCTAD, Luzius Wasescha, pointed out gleefully that at the rate of progress (three hours per paragraph) it would take 487.5 negotiation days to get through the draft. This was the strategy of what he called “creating chaos.” The US statement on 19 March was just as snarky, “The [UNCTAD] Secretariat should not pursue issues outside UNCTAD’s mandate – such as the reform of global financial systems. Not only does this particular issue stray far beyond UNCTAD’s mandate and its expertise, it also faces strong opposition by many members,” namely the United States. How finance can be seen as “far” from issues of trade and development boggles the mind.

      Such mischief has finally enraged the BRICS states. They have thrown their support behind the UNCTAD round, and have pledged to work in a united fashion to contest the North’s protectionist policies regarding its agriculture, to push for reform of the financial system, and to create an autonomous development platform for the South. To the point about the financial reform, the Delhi Declaration pointed out, “It is critical for advanced economies to adopt responsible macroeconomic and financial policies, avoid creating excessive global liquidity and undertake structural reforms to lift growth that create jobs.” A majority of the world’s workers are now in vulnerable employment or in the informal economy. Austerity programs make life harder for these workers, who are often made to carry the burdens for family members who lose formal sector employment. Austerity might create GDP but it will not create jobs.

      Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff told the press that the monetary policy of the North “brings enormous trade advantages to developed countries, and results in unfair obstacles to other countries.” To counteract this, there is now a move to create economic linkages outside those of the dollar-denominated financial system dominated by the North. The BRICS states created a new credit facility in local currencies, so that BRICS states and others can now trade with each other without recourse to the dollar or other such “international” currencies. This reduces the transaction costs for intra-BRICS trade as well as threatens the dollar from its pedestal as the main currency of international trade.

      The BRICS states directed their finance ministries to research the possibility of the creation of a new development bank, a Bank of the South (a BRICS version of the South American Banco Sur, founded in 2009 with an initial capital outlay of $20 billion, to supplant the hegemony of the World Bank and the IMF). The new BRICS bank, it is hoped, will mobilize resources for infrastructure and development in the BRICS states and in other developing countries. If it were influenced by the Banco Sur, the BRICS bank could be a practical venue for the creation of a new institutional foundation outside neo-liberalism.

      The US delegates to UNCTAD told the body on 19 March that the UN organization must “move past tired old debates from another era.” But these debates, such as over financial system reform and development for the vast mass, have returned in the deliberations of the locomotives of the South. Whatever the limitations of the regimes in Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – and there are many limitations in each of these countries – it is undeniable that they are forcing open a new debate in such forums as the UNCTAD meetings to be held in April. There is no indication that neo-liberalism will fall to its knees on its own. There is only slightly more evidence that the BRICS states have had enough of the arrogance of the North in the policy debates that chain the world’s peoples in poverty and despair. A small crack of sunlight between the BRICS and the Atlantic powers is all we need. Once more into the breach, dear friends, once more.


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      * Vijay Prashad’s new book, Arab Spring, Libyan Winter can be purchased here: Arab Spring, Libyan Winter, is published by AK Press.
      * Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.


      Yardley, Jim. 2012

      Senegal and Mali: two coups, two reactions

      Lessons for West Africa’s new democracies

      Dayo Olaide


      cc T C

      cc E P
      The AU and ECOWAS need to act consistently and decisively to protect and uphold democracy when it is threatened by either military or civilian coups.

      In the last two weeks Africa’s democracy encountered two major events. In Senegal, a new President Macky Sall emerged after a failed ‘civilian coup’ staged by outgoing President Abdoullaye Wade, 85, to have a third term. Mali was not so lucky as Coupists, led by Captain Amadou Sanogo, sacked elected President Amadou Toumani Toure (ATT); frustrating the country’s democracy and presidential elections scheduled for 19 April 2012. Both events are epochal in many regards. On the one hand, demonstrating the beauty of democracy, and on the other, revealing the ever present danger that democracy faces in Africa.

      Both events hold important lessons for civil society, electorates and political parties in West Africa’s new democracies. But more importantly, for ECOWAS and AU, whose role as democracy watchdogs risks falling into disrepute as a result of the double standards they display in the face of threats confronting democracy and constitutional rule in the continent.

      The case in Mali is clear and therefore needs no long explanation. Disgruntled soldiers, mutineers, seized power from an elected president. The reaction is all round condemnation throughout the continent and among its friends. Against the robust frameworks, protocols and conventions, that have emerged in the last two decades to promote and protect constitutional rule, the reactions are an understandable and welcome development.

      The reaction was however different in Senegal in spite of the similarities in situation. Like in Mali, where Captain Sanogo and his allied soldiers sacked an elected government to suspend the constitution and impose unpopular administration, Wade’s third term bid would have resulted in imposition of unpopular government on the people, in addition to progressive weakening of key institutions and rules which the administration had pursued through constitutional amendments.

      Throughout his 12 years reign, President Wade amended the constitution fourteen times (i.e. once every ten months on average) with the acquiescence of a weak parliament that acted in cahoots with Wade as a rubber stamp. Wade also used the discredited Constitutional Council to validate his candidacy and disqualify Youssou N’dour and others four weeks before the February 2012 election, throwing the country into major violence that resulted in at least six deaths, disruption of work and destruction of properties.

      The development drew global concern but there was no attempt by either the African Union or ECOWAS to stop the illegality that was brewing in one of Africa’s most stable democracies. Observers at different times feared the worse for the country; a violence on the scale of what the sub-region witnessed in Cote d’Ivoire, but neither the AU nor ECOWAS, both of which have roundly condemned Captain Sanogo in Mali, intervened in Senegal to stop the illegality that Wade pursued by exploiting gaps, which he created or contributed to, in the rules in order to perpetuate his administration.

      The outcome of the elections is a deserved one for the Senegalese public and opposition that worked hard, on their own, against Wade’s political machine as he tore apart key institutions and rules in what could have significantly affected the course of democracy in Senegal. In June 2011, Wade proposed an amendment to replace the constitutional requirement of 50% plus 1 with 25% in order to win presidential elections. It was the fifteenth amendment after the previous fourteen that passed swiftly. It didn’t seem like a big deal that the fifteenth would pass, but a previously disinterested Senegalese public suddenly awoke to stop the amendment, where the parliament had become thoroughly compromised. The protest birthed a civil movement, M-23, that would later become the arrowhead of the citizens’ campaign against Wade. With the benefit of hindsight, Wade and his team would have been drinking champagne at the end of the first round elections with his 34% of votes cast, if the amendment had not been stopped. On another occasion, after securing approval of the discredited Constitutional Council - a body appointed and constituted by Wade - which disqualified Youssou N’dour, the popular musician with strong appeal among youths and rural electorates, the same constituency that Wade targeted for his third term bid, it was left to Senegalese electorates to stop Wade at the polls. At this time, the civilian coup was already in motion but there was no AU or ECOWAS.

      Even when pundits thought that the Council’s endorsement was all Wade needed to win, Senegalese voters made the difference. Y en a marre, a civil movement, led by hip-hop artists, mobilized voters nationwide to register and collect their voters card, in so doing boosting confidence in the ballot and avoiding possible violence that could have thrown the country into major crisis. The strategy contributed to the defeat of Wade’s third term bid. The belief of the people in the ballot to decide the fate of their country is quite instructive for Sierra Leone where eight months to go to the November elections, the country is dangerously polarized and inching towards the precipice. There is an urgent need in that country to engage political parties and electorates to stem the threats.

      Perhaps the ability of Senegal’s opposition to unite when it mattered most is the most important lesson for West Africa’s new democracies with elections lined up in the year. At the second round, an overrated power of incumbency confused pundits to give the opposition no chance against Wade. But against the power of a united opposition coming together to work for Macky Sall, the incumbency factor failed woefully. The uniting of opposition, now regarded as the game changer, finally nailed the coffin on Wade’s inordinate ambition.

      In a region where it is anathema for oppositions to work together, the capacity of Senegal’s opposition to unite at critical moments must be commended. The significance rests not only in the rarity of oppositions working together in the region; but that it happened within three weeks after the end of first round elections. It was superlative to see opposition parties, set aside their differences and for candidates, many near or past their prime and who would never have another jab at the exalted office, put aside personal ambition to save the nation. This feat together with active and vigilant civil society stopped Wade’s civilian coup that could significantly rewrite the course of democracy in Senegal.

      A situation whereby elected presidents, who swear to protect the constitution, end up messing up the same through kangaroo referendums to remove term limits and run for third, fourth and as many terms as they want – as is the case in Niger, Cameroon, Chad, Burkina Faso and Gabon - is condemnable and does not qualify to be described as democracy. It is ‘civilian coup’ and no less condemnable as military coup d’états. Sadly neither the AU nor ECOWAS and various regional commissions that have roundly condemned the military takeover in Mali find anything wrong in the serial ‘civilian coups’ that is now spreading in the continent.

      The silence and failure of these bodies to condemn and sanction this infamous development is emboldening other African heads of states and raises moral questions about AU, ECOWAS and others as democracy watchdogs. In Niger, former President Mamadou Tandja used the parliament to rubber stamp the outcome of a discredited referendum and was only stopped by a counter military coup. Similarly in Chad where Idris Derby removed term limits (with the acquiescence of a biased parliament). In the Chad case, the referendum passed through and Derby is now sitting in the presidency for the fourth term. In Nigeria, Obasanjo’s attempt was only foiled by a resilient Nigerian population. The ghost of a third term looms large in Nigeria under President Goodluck Jonathan, as the administration pursues a secret agenda. Cameroon’s Paul Biya has become a Life President for the country after removing term limits; the same in Burkina Faso, Gabon, Uganda and Zimbabwe. None of these civilian coups have been sanctioned by AU or any Regional Economic Communities (RECs). Even more dangerous is the fact that none of the conventions and protocols promoting and protecting democracy, elections and governance envisage this new trend, making coups against the constitution safe and appealing to African heads of states.

      The African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance and several protocols and conventions on democracy hold a common inherent goal of enthroning and protecting constitutional order and succession through the ballots in Africa. In this regard, the new practice of ‘civilian coup’, like the type attempted by Wade, is a serious danger that must be confronted now in the continent. Notwithstanding what advocates of the developmental state may think, it is dangerous in Africa for any government to stay longer than two terms against constitutional provisions. Wade’s third term bid aimed to circumvent popular wishes as expressed in the constitution. Unlike Mali, the act was being perpetrated by an elected government. It is nonetheless as condemnable as the military coup which has now thrown Mali back in its journey to democracy. If it had been successful, the effect in Senegal could not have been any different from Mali; imposition of an unpopular regime, weakening of laws, institutions and practices of democracy.

      Even though Mali’s ATT’s sin was ‘incompetence’, according to the coupists, it points to impending danger facing democracy as it fails to meet expectations of economic and political freedom in many parts of Africa. In Senegal, the nationwide mood for change, which saw the end of Wade and beginning of Macky Sall, stems from the corruption and mismanagement which deprives Senegalese access to basic utilities and impoverishes the majority. Similarly in Mali, where two decades of interrupted civilian rule have continued to jeopardize the country’s sovereignty as a result of unmet expectations among civilian and military populations. Both cases are expressions of the fundamental challenges confronting many African democracies; where rather than deliver economic freedom elected presidents, governors and mayors privatise state resources to service their families and friends while immiserating their citizens.

      The two events in the last two weeks call for reflections on the meaning that African head of states and various global, regional and continental bodies give to democracy. Africa’s democracy faces an uncertain future where a few people who control state resources end up having enough to eat while the majority live in penury and hopelessness. Similarly, where elected governments use state apparatus to circumvent the constitution in order to remain in power. On the other hand the Afro-pessimism that is expressed in Western literatures is covering the fault lines and dangerous regression underneath the economic growth fuelled by a commodity boom in Africa. From Senegal to Nigeria, Mali to Mauritania, Benin to Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea to Togo, citizens in West Africa, especially the resource dependent ones, are in search of the benefits of democracy that goes beyond the rituals of regular voting every four to seven years.

      As was demonstrated in Senegal, the mainstay of Africa’s democracy, it is the citizens who must be schooled in democratic principles and ethos to play this important role and protect democracy against anti-democratic forces that run and control many political parties in Africa. The continent needs transparent and accountable political parties, peopled by competent, knowledgeable and energetic young men, women and youths, as important checks against hegemonic rule of incumbents across the continent. More importantly, the continent needs a vigilant and bold African Union and regional commissions to protect the sanctity of democratic frameworks, norms and practices, sanction anti-democratic ambitions and prevent the descent of the continent into a new era of arbitrary rule that was once its defining feature. The risk of this descent is real and worsening with continuing unemployment, corruption and lack of access that citizens daily confront in the continent. The time to act is now for AU and ECOWAS.


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      * Dayo Olaide is Economic Governance Officer at Open Society Initiative for West Africa
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      Mali and the French indecency

      Mireille Fanon-Mendes-France


      cc Wikimedia
      How can these westerners be so cynical to oblige people they formerly colonised to use their democratic paradigm whilst their countries are grappling with the same model that hides xenophobia, unbridled racism, injustice and misery?

      Following the military coup perpetrated some days ago in Mali, before Malian and French presidential elections in forthcoming weeks, ministers of the French government appealled for the “re-establishment of the constitutional order”. The minister of Foreign Affairs and the minister of cooperation therefore confirmed that “the return to the constitutional order was an absolute imperative”.

      However, what constitutional order are they talking about? The Malian president since his election in 1991 was not able to set up an accountable, strong and independent executive power. Therefore, if this coup is deemed to be a “nonsense” by many, no one is surprised about it, “as much as the security problem of the country seems to be out of control of president Touré”, specified Aminata Traoré at the Radio France International (RFI).

      Since some months ago, the Malian army was facing, without equal military power, an armed rebellion that has captured a number of towns in the north of Mali under the leadership of the National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad (MNLA), essentially made of Touareg fighters. This movement has acquired weapons freely smuggled from Libya, at the borders of the two countries; this is a tangible consequence of the NATO intervention favoured and claimed by France.

      This intervention has opened the Pandora’s box of the Libyan arsenals in an extremely poor region, that has a strong potential, but which remains abandoned. No economic development, no service delivery to local populations was assured. The standoff has been amplified by economic programmes imposed by international financial institutions. Added to this are the structural adjustments, the orientation of export-driven agricultural production, the systematic openness of the Malian economy to the world market imposed on a state that is unable to resist, but constrained to accept a liberalism that excludes free movement of the people.

      A part from the Maghreb buffer-states, which are given the task of hampering migrant transit, the home countries of migrants are playing the role jail-states for their own citizens. Hence, Europe does a proxy on its incapacity to provide an answer to the migration problem in externalising its politics of repression so as to contain the influx of migrants. France on her side, regardless of all she can say, continues her colonial paradigm of French-African opaque relations and the guilt-blurred partnership between French and African elites that allow for the looting of Malian resources. The interests of former French colonialists have been preserved and foreign interests are the most dominant ever.

      As for the socio-economic side, the management of the country is a continuous disaster; and on the strategic side, the defence accords have allowed for the setting up of permanent bases; and in airports, police controls are done under foreign oversight, more specifically French.

      Mali does not escape to the disgusting balance sheet: Malian people have not yet freed themselves from oppression, misery, injustice, abandonment that alienates them and they still live under a virtual yoke of the former colonial masters.

      Yet, Mali has a rich history and her geographical position should have prevented Western countries’ and their allies’ influences. Now, the country is faced with the boiling Arab world and a Europe that is going through a systemic crisis. Mali should have been the factor of positive stabilisation in a coveted region and targeted by the new ultraliberal order of misery and violence. Mali should have played the role of antidote to balkanisation in West Africa.

      Mali will not be what we expected; the way paved by the wind of independences was trapped by the creation of new states and the poisoned colonial heritage of ethnic conflicts.

      The freedom for which people fought for is still confiscated by a political leadership supported by the former colonial masters. The domination has only changed its appearance; the emancipation of people who were colonised is still to come. The former colonial masters are still in charge and continue to rule supreme.

      Mali is the current example. The same French ministers attempt to instruct with force and authority the country to remain in the elections programme that was scheduled for this month and insist that the elections be held as soon as possible because the authority must respect the constitutional electoral calendar, and that June 8 should be the deadline. They even asserted that there is no problem in organising this election since a provision in the Malian constitution stipulates that the speaker of the national parliament can sit in for the president of the republic if the latter is not in the position of keeping up with his state duties.

      How can these westerners be so cynical to oblige people they formerly colonised to use their democratic paradigm whilst their countries are grappling with the same model that hides xenophobia, unbridled racism, injustice and misery?

      The colonial domination, coupled with some variations and adaptations has renewed itself and is undertaken in a mere good neo-colonial consciousness. It has been made possible thanks to the instrumentalisation of the “eternal war” and generalised by the extra-continental concept of terrorism that authorises, on the ground, the presence of foreign military forces in order to protect the interests of multinational corporations. Are these foreign forces going to intervene in Mali in the name of the illegal “responsibility to protect” so as to control for their own profit the Sahelian land that has mineral potential not yet explored.

      It is sad to notice that the neo-colonial period is set to end with an unfortunate note of recolonisation, taking new shapes, but made possible by time bombs left by colonial powers. Yesterday, it was Sudan; today it is the turn of Mali and tomorrow? The partition of some African States seems clearly inscribed in the ongoing neo-colonial project.

      While the world is staggering under the yoke of the economic and financial crisis in the name of the implementation of the new unilateral world order, ordinary people are the direct victims of this unbridled, inhumane and violent liberalism. In the name of an unjust and illegal globalisation, people a deprived the right to own their resources. The recolonisation of the World is one of the means the powerful nations found to ensure their hegemony.

      Solidarity with the people of Mali and their real political forces for a national and autonomous resolution of their internal conflicts is the right route for justice and peace.


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      * Translated from French for Pambazuka News by Medard Abenge.
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      Macky Sall’s election restores hope to Senegal

      Amy Niang


      cc S D
      The most salient outcome of the presidential elections in Senegal is a heightened, irreversible sense of empowerment; the notion that ordinary people constitute the first and most important institution in a democracy.

      After months of tension, fuelled by ex-President Abdoulaye Wade’s obstinate bid for a third term, there is a great sigh of relief that Senegal has managed peacefully to elect a new president. Most Western countries and international representations had advised their nationals and employees to pack and leave before the country collapsed into post-electoral chaos. But Wade’s positive reaction to Macky Sall’s victory helped diffuse the sort of violence and disorder many observers had predicted.

      So Senegal gets to keep its ‘triple A rating’ as an experienced democracy despite an unprecedented violent election season that has left more than six people dead. Wade is known to be a wily old fox and an avowedly strategic politician, but he seems to have got it wrong this time around. His ‘constitutional coup’ was thwarted by popular determination, starkly expressed in the commanding victory of Macky Sall (known simply as ‘Macky’). Wade recognised his defeat in a dignified fashion as early results showed that his former protégé had trounced him. The smooth change brings hope in a West African sub-region beset by coups (such as the recent one initiated by mutinous soldiers in Mali).

      Senegal’s relatively ‘free and fair’ elections are good news in an unstable region but how long will we continue praising and applauding African leaders for stepping down after a defeat? In the end, Wade had no choice but to leave. As with the elections in 2000, private radio, TV stations and news websites meticulously reported the results live as they came out from every local polling station. Half an hour after the vote closed on 25 March, the results were instantly relayed via Twitter and Facebook. It soon became clear that Sall had notched up a clear majority in mainly densely populated urban centres as well as with the Diaspora. It would have therefore been difficult for the government to manipulate or create confusion around the results. In this sense, the media contributed tremendously to making the elections more transparent.

      Wade is seen as having conspicuously failed in upholding the ideal for which he was elected in 2000. Sall’s victory was, in some respects, a welcome opportunity for a dignified exit by a battered octogenarian president constrained by the distributional demands of party comrades and private interests. The hoped-for ‘Senegalese spring’ did in the end happen, but through the polls. What Sall’s victory demonstrates is that people’s belief in the voting card can be a powerful weapon against bad leaders. In a country where an ineffective judiciary has perpetuated a culture of impunity, elections remain crucial in advancing popular aspirations for justice and economic improvement. Sall’s victory is the result of a long civic war that has resisted the manoeuvrings of Wade and his party. Although Sall has worked hard in the past four years, travelling across rural Senegal, sympathising with farmers’ plight and reaching out to grassroots organisations, his landslide victory is, more than anything, a sanction against the Wade regime. The most salient outcome of the elections is a heightened, irreversible sense of empowerment, the notion that ordinary people constitute the first and most important institution in a democracy.


      The expectations of the Senegalese in the aftermath of Macky’s election are extraordinary, but they are tantamount to the challenges that face the country in all sectors. The educational system is being crippled by a very long teachers’ strike and it is not even clear whether the school year can still be saved. Macky has inherited a heavily indebted and bankrupt state (public debt is about 35 percent of the gross national product). He will have to ride roughshod over private and party interests in order to become the ‘president of all Senegalese’ as he’s promised.

      The Senegalese have already been deceived by a man whose ascent to power held tremendous promises for change (Sopi). One of the greatest tests for Macky will be his attitude to corruption on the one hand, and respect for the conclusions of the Assises Nationales — a nation-wide consultation amongst opposition parties, civil society groups and the wider population on political and economic governance, institutional stability and the need for a separation between the executive, the legislative body and the judiciary. The return of open political dialogue will depend on the ability of the PDS (Senegalese Democratic Party), Wade’s party, to compel its highly mobilised and radical elements to return to a measure of orthodoxy from which they have been aroused by their desperate attempt to cling on to power.

      The Senegalese expect Macky to be bold enough to bring to justice those who have mismanaged or swindled public money. He will have to prove his detractors wrong; they say that he doesn’t stick his neck out enough. Macky has got to prove that he has not only broken with the practices associated with Wade’s rule, namely an egomaniacal style, a clientalist model between politicians and the religious leadership (the marabouts) who trade their support for money and privileges, the omnipresence of family in state affairs, and the banalisation of institutions. It is hoped that the election of Macky may well signal the end of the personality cult of the president, in the sense that Macky will be under much greater scrutiny throughout his term.

      Wade ruled Senegal as a monarch so it was only natural for him to want to hand over to his son Karim. His rule had come to install Senegal in a permanent psychosis whereby the tyranny of the political clock trumped all priorities. More crucially, Macky is expected to break with the phenomenon of ‘transhumance’ whereby members of a defeated party join the winner of an election in order to keep their privileges, which vitiates the rules of the political competition and make a mockery of people’s choice. In a nutshell, what is expected of him is a new form of governance, a more ethical approach to public money and a return to political orthodoxy.

      Unlike Wade in 2000, Macky’s honeymoon period will be short as demands in terms of the resolution of pressing issues such as the cost of basic goods can no longer be deferred. There is high order placed on redressing flouted institutions, on the reinstatement of accountability and virtue in public management, on the restoration of social cohesion endangered by Wade’s demagogic politics. The question is how to establish trust, or restore it where it has fallen apart? How do you heal a bruised, divided country?

      The tasks that lie ahead are enormous, not least because the resolution of the Casamance conflict can no longer be postponed. The low turnout in the south of Senegal is nothing more than a result of continued isolation due to the low-intensity, but destabilising, conflict that has plagued the region for over 30 years. It is thus a reflection of disaffection; the people of Casamance have learned to expect very little from elections, they are inured to unmet promises from Senegalese politicians. In 2000, a newly elected Wade had promised to resolve the conflict within 100 days. 12 years and thousands of victims later, hundreds killed or maimed by antipersonnel mines, many having deserted their villages to escape violence, ransoms and other exactions, forgotten Casamance, once the breadbasket of Senegal, has been dying a slow death. On 25 March, in the department of Bignona and other parts of Casamance, rebel incursions disrupted the vote and precluded the fair expression of people’s preference.


      Macky’s reputation is that of a quiet, discreet strategist and competent technocrat. These are qualities he will need in order to run a country where the cost of living has spiralled in the last 10 years whilst salaries have remained low. Wade’s hazardous, erratic style of governance with no clear policies was responsible for his poor record. More than any previous president, he invested the most in education but had very little success in actually improving it. Despite 40 per cent of the government’s budget supposedly being put into education, the sector has never been in worse shape. On the other hand, he used scare public resources for prestige projects: an African Renaissance statue (£22 million) and a private jet, whilst the country was plunged in darkness for months because of an unprecedented crisis in the energy sector.

      Macky is also well known to the Senegalese public. He ascended through the ranks of the PDS thanks to Wade. A geological engineer by training, he was several times minister (2000-2004) and prime minister (2004-2007) under Wade, then president of the National Assembly before the big fall-out that motivated him to create his own party in 2008, the Alliance for the Republic (APR). The rebellious protégé had had the audacity to summon the president’s son Karim to account for a colossal 300 per cent budget overrun in the management of infrastructural works he was in charge of.

      Wade’s 12 years have been marred by numerous corruption scandals, improper tender procedures involving his ministers, particularly his son, who held the largest portfolio in the last government. Despite having put in place one of the best reforms in the area of tenders and public procurement, recurrent nebulous practices under Wade have weakened the legal monitoring structure and made a mockery of the reforms. Wade amended the constitution 15 times between 2000 and 2011. The last straw was an attempt, in June 2011, to impose a law that would not only allow him to be elected with only 25 percent of the vote, but also to carry to fruition his ultimate plan to hand over power to Karim. This was thwarted by an extraordinary popular mobilisation that never subsided and was to eventually lead to his demise.

      From 85 year old Wade to 51 year old Macky, there is a definite change in generation taking place. Furthermore, unlike previous Senegalese presidents, Macky was educated in Senegal and he has a good knowledge and experience of the country. The Senegalese want radical change however, but they are unlikely to see very much of that. Having been trained in Wade’s liberal school and indebted to a large coalition of politicians, the most important of which symbolise ossified politics and old practices – Moustapha Niasse, Ousmane Tanor Dieng, Abdoulaye Bathily, Amath Dansokho and many others, Macky will most likely have to compromise on principles.

      So there might not be much change after change (Sopi), but there is hope (Yakaar) for a better future. And to celebrate hope, Youssou N’dour has promised a series of free concerts throughout Senegal. As an entrance ticket, he wants to see a ballot paper bearing Wade’s photo collected from the dustbins of polling stations.


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      Egypt's looming economic shock doctrine

      Sharif Abdel Kouddous


      cc N N
      The Egyptian economy will need of some kind of financial aid within the next few months to avoid a severe downturn.

      Egypt is teetering on the edge of an economic crisis. Cast adrift in a deepening political quagmire over the past fourteen months, the economy has now reached a critical juncture, as the country faces the pressing challenge of financing a large budget deficit as rapidly dwindling foreign currency reserves threaten to crack apart an already fragile situation.

      Yet, more than a year after the launch of a revolution driven in large part by economic grievances, the budgetary and fiscal proposals being considered to secure external financial assistance are geared more towards furthering Mubarak-era policies than to promoting social justice.

      The state deficit for the fiscal year that ends in June is expected to exceed 140 billion Egyptian pounds ($23 billion), or about 8.7 percent of expected economic output, according to the Minister of Planning and International Cooperation. Meanwhile, the central bank's foreign reserves have been shrinking by roughly $2 billion every month, precipitated by a sharp decline in tourism and foreign direct investment since the revolution began.

      Over the past year, the government has used up more than $20 billion to prop up the local currency. In February, foreign reserves stood at $15.7 billion, enough for just three months of imports, and with it, the looming prospect of devaluation.

      Egypt, like many developing countries, relies heavily on imports, including for staple items such as wheat. (Egypt is the world's largest importer of wheat, relying on foreign supplies for about 60 percent of domestic consumption). A currency devaluation would increase import prices across the board, severely deepening the recession and prolonging any economic recovery.

      "The economic situation is dire but really the Achilles Heel comes with the balance of payment position and mainly with the fact that we don't have enough dollar reserves," says Amr Adly, the head of the Economic and Social Justice Unit at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.

      In January, the military-appointed interim government formally requested a $3.2 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The government says it needs $11 billion to avoid a balance of payments crisis and signing a deal with the IMF is expected to open the door to aid packages from the United States, the European Union and the Gulf. The IMF requested the Egyptian government draw up an economic reform plan supported by political consensus in order to secure the loan.

      "The IMF has become quite smart lately in the sense that they don't impose direct conditionality in order to give money," Adly says. "They ask the government to design the program and they have to accept it so they can release the tranches. So it is indirect conditionality because they won't give you the money unless they approve of the plan."

      The Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of International Cooperation and the Central Bank drafted a reform program to present to the IMF, the details of which were not released publicly—although a copy was leaked to the media. While the plan’s proposed policies are extremely vague—with few specifics and little in the way of proposed timetables—the document includes the classic phrase associated with IMF loans across the developing world: "structural adjustment," and with it, a slew of controversial economic amendments.

      Aimed at slashing the budget deficit, the document proposes tax reforms to increase government revenues. While lacking any concrete details, it mentions amending income taxes by broadening the pool of tax paying citizens—echoing the polices of Mubarak's finance minister, Youssef Boutros-Ghali—with no proposals for a move towards progressive taxation.

      Reforms to sales tax laws and the possibly of instituting a Value Added Tax are also mentioned. Sales taxes, while easier to implement from an administrative standpoint, are indirect and regressive by nature, targeting different sectors of society with the same taxes when they purchase goods, regardless of income level. In Egypt, where half the population lives below the poverty line and spends the biggest proportion of their income on basic goods, sales taxes place a higher burden on the poor majority.

      The document also includes an element of energy subsidy reform—long a contentious subject within Egypt's government budget. Energy subsidies absorb a whopping 95 billion Egyptian pounds ($15.8 billion) of Egypt's budget outlay, or roughly 20 percent. Beneficiaries span the board, from taxi drivers to multi-national corporations—particularly those in energy-intensive industries like cement. Yet the government's proposal for subsidy reform remains ill-defined and does not indicate which particular energy subsidies will be cut. Even if they were to target the 19 percent that goes to industry, as many have called for, no measures are outlined to counter any attempts by corporations to pass the rising costs to the end-consumer.

      "In a word, the government reform plan is lousy," says Samer Atallah, assistant professor of economics at the American University in Cairo. "It's basically neoliberal economic policy that doesn't seem to get the new reality of Egypt."

      Egypt's last IMF loan came in 1991 to help alleviate the country's $35 billion foreign debt crisis. The government was forced to adopt a set of structural adjustment policies as a condition of the deal that laid the groundwork for a sweeping wave of privatizations throughout the next two decades. The farming sector was deregulated and a 10 percent sales tax was introduced, among other economic and financial reforms.

      "These policies had an extreme adverse affect on the majority of Egyptians," Atallah says. "People talk about economic indicators that improved after these programs such as the budget deficit and the balance of payments but these measures don't reflect the daily lives of the majority of poor people in Egypt."

      Negotiations surrounding the current IMF loan come at a time of growing political turmoil in Egypt and the signing of any agreement hangs in the balance. The powerful Muslim Brotherhood, which controls nearly half the seats in parliament though it's political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, has locked horns with the ruling military council in recent weeks after largely walking in lockstep with them for much of the past year. The Brotherhood is pressing the generals to remove the military-appointed government, led by Prime Minister Kamal el-Ganzouri, and appoint a new one before the completion of the so-called transitional process in June. The group is also coming under fire for its dominance of the constituent assembly and, most recently, for reversing its previous pledge to field a presidential candidate.

      The IMF has made clear that any agreement is conditional on broad political backing, which in practice means the support of the Brotherhood since it will likely lead the next government, whether it comes before or after the Supreme Council's scheduled handover of executive authority to a newly-elected president.

      The Brotherhood has said it supports the request for an IMF loan but first wants the government to produce a more coherent plan. After meeting with an IMF delegation that arrived in Cairo for talks in mid-March, the Brotherhood issued a statement critical of the economic reform package as "general and vague" and said the government did not outline "how this loan will be used, or how it will be paid off."

      For its part, the IMF delegation said the talks were fruitful and a technical team is scheduled to return this week to "continue work on Egypt's economic program which could, in turn, be supported by the Fund," according to IMF spokesman David Hawley.

      The IMF deal has also come under heavy criticism for the complete the lack of transparency that has surrounded the talks. "The fact is this economic reform program was never presented publicly and was never put up for a serious public debate," says Ahmad Shokr, a founding member of the Popular Campaign to Drop Egypt's Debt.

      The Campaign monitored news reports regarding international commitments made by the post-Mubarak transitional government over the past year. It found at least $8 billion in financial assistance had come into the country through various sources. "Where has all this money gone? What is it being used for? Were there any conditions attached?" asks Shokr. "Now they want to go borrow an additional $3.2 billion? That should be unacceptable."

      The shroud of secrecy on economic affairs is nowhere more prevalent in Egypt than within the army, which maintains a sprawling business empire that accounts for between 15 to 40 percent of GDP. Utilizing a mass conscripted labor force, army divisions manufacture everything from television sets and off-road vehicles to bottled water and fertilizer.

      Since Mubarak's ouster, which brought the military to power, the army has provided the ailing Egyptian government with no less than 12 billion Egyptian pounds ($2 billion), including a $1 billion loan to the Finance Ministry to prop up foreign reserves.

      "We have an army that has a separate budget totally away from the control of civil government. It's beyond belief," Attalah says. "The way this was discussed in the public discourse was 'wow we should be grateful for the army that stepped in and helped our economy.' For God's sake this is our money!"

      The ruling Supreme Council, and the successive governments it has appointed in the post-Mubarak transitional period have repeatedly laid the blame for Egypt's economic difficulties on the revolutionary protest movement and widespread labor strikes. While political protests have dwindled in number and frequency as of late, labor protests, primarily in the form of strikes, have continued unabated and have, in fact, increased in recent weeks as workers push for the revolution to tackle long-standing socio-economic grievances.

      Yet the pressing issues the economy now faces—particularly the depletion of foreign reserves—are more likely the offspring of a badly mismanaged political transition that has forced the country into a fiscal cul-de-sac. Despite a major political upheaval compounded by economic troubles plaguing Europe—Egypt's main trading partner—the Egyptian economy grew by nearly two percent in 2011. Egypt's current economic woes are primarily confined to the super-structure—monetary issues like the budget deficit, balance of payments, inflation—rather than the infrastructure, which remains largely unchanged.

      "The military council are the ones to blame, it's not about the revolution," Adly says. "They were the ones in control and they managed the political transition in a very stupid way, either deliberately or not."

      Successive military-appointed governments, as well as the central bank, did little to mitigate the problem of foreign reserve depletion in the aftermath of Mubarak's ouster. Possible measures, like applying restraints on imports or restrictions on capital outflows (as much as $12 billion was transferred abroad in 2011), were ignored. Meanwhile, an enduring climate of political instability has kept investors and various forms of financial assistance from re-injecting foreign currency into the economy.

      By most accounts, the Egyptian economy will need of some kind of financial aid within the next few months to avoid a severe downturn. It remains unclear when or if an IMF loan will be signed or what economic reforms will be agreed upon by the Muslim Brotherhood. What is becoming clear is that signs point to a continuation and deepening of many of the same policies that stirred up last year's revolt.


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      * This article was first published by The Nation.
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      Zimbabwe: Diamonds could undermine justice, democracy and development

      Centre for Research and Development, Mutare, Zimbabwe


      cc C G
      The continued theft of large quantities of diamonds by dealers and cartels is a threat to national security and may undermine the work of the inclusive government in Zimbabwe.

      Three years after the commencement of commercial diamond mining in Marange, and five months after the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) removed an international ban on Marange diamonds, there are fears that diamond mining operations in Marange could undermine the work of the inclusive government, democratic transition and sustainable economic development in Zimbabwe. Whilst there is no doubt that all the four mining companies doing business in Marange have brought in state of the art mining equipment and have established infrastructure that meets the Kimberly Process (KP) minimum standards, fears abound that Marange diamonds could be used to undermine democracy in Zimbabwe through opaque business deals involving the country's political elites and their business-cum-political allies in Asia and the Middle East. Diamonds may also be retarding genuine economic development by over-reliance on one commodity and through failure to invest diamond revenues wisely in other sectors of the economy.

      All the four mining companies in Marange, namely Anjin Investments, Marange Resources, Mbada Diamonds and Pure Diamonds, have now been certified compliant by the KPCS. Following the KP green light, the Ministry of Finance announced that it is anticipating $600 million from diamonds in 2012, whilst the Minister of Mines, Dr. Obert Mpofu said Zimbabwe can earn as much as $2 billion from diamonds annually. However events unfolding on the ground suggest that a sizable percentage of diamonds coming out of Marange is smuggled out of the country by syndicates.

      On 17 March 2012, an Israeli pilot was arrested at Harare International Airport whilst trying to smuggle out of Zimbabwe 1,300 pieces of diamonds estimated to be worth $2.43 million. According to the state controlled Herald Newspaper, Mr Shmuel Kainan Klein is employed by CAL Airlines of Israel as a pilot and has a house in Borrowdale, Harare. ‘The diamonds in question were taken to the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe for assay and weighed 1,7 kilogrammes with a caratage of 8486,66 valued at $2,437,708.24’, added the Herald. Mr Klein (58) was not formally charged and immediately granted $5,000 bail.

      The volume of diamonds Mr Klein was trying to smuggle could not have been obtained from artisanal miners who are now finding it hard to continue their operations in Marange. A recent visit to Marange by civil society groups and the media proved that security in Marange is water tight with hands free security cameras and high perimeter fences around all the mining concessions. Chances of anyone tempering with the security cameras in place are very slim given that there are several security cameras which are monitored through CCTV. Various systems are in place to ensure that everyone is under some sort of surveillance. From Marange diamonds are flown to company headquarters in Harare where the diamonds are stored in a vault before being auctioned. Security at the storage centres is also reportedly water tight. It is therefore baffling that diamonds of large quantities continue to evade the KPCS despite the certification of all diamond mining companies in Zimbabwe. The attempted smuggling of diamonds by Mr. Klein raises a lot of questions on the implementation of the KP minimum standards in Zimbabwe. It is also crucial to evaluate the implementation of the Kinshasa agreement reached between Zimbabwe and the KP in Kinshasa in November 2011 in light of the continuation of massive smuggling of diamonds.

      Proponents of the Kinshasa agreement argued then that if Zimbabwe was allowed to export her diamonds, there would be improved accountability and a reduction in illicit trade involving Marange diamonds, blamed by civil society and progressive governments within the KP for undermining the scheme.

      However, questions still abound as to whether the government continues to smuggle diamonds in spite of the KP approval for exports. Others argue that as long as the state diamond regulator, Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation, and its sister company, Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe, remain subject to EU and US sanctions, there is no way diamond smuggling from Zimbabwe can end. However the manner in which the diamonds were being smuggled and the fact that the suspect was searched, arrested and brought to court suggests that it was most likely a criminal adventure involving untouchable individuals and entities and has nothing to do with the operations of central government. But given the sensitivity of diamonds, not only in Zimbabwe, but also in other diamond producing countries - mainly due to the potential revenue they contribute to the treasury and as a way of protecting the image and integrity of the Kimberly Process - one would have expected Mr. Klein to be remanded in custody whilst full investigations are taking place.

      The swiftness with which the Israeli diamond dealer was granted bail is troubling in the extreme. In light of the large consignment involved, it cannot be ruled out that the suspect will take the opportunity granted by the courts to interfere with accessories and or witnesses to the case. It is also likely that assistance may be provided by the smuggling syndicate for Mr. Klein to leave the country and avoid trial.

      This is not the first time pilots have been implicated in smuggling Marange diamonds. In 2009, the Centre for Research and Development did research in Mozambique which revealed that pilots of passenger planes flying out of Mozambique were part of the syndicates involved in smuggling Marange diamonds. This was not surprising at all given that there was a thriving market for diamonds smuggled from Marange in the town of Vila De Manica in Mozambique, less than 30km from the Zimbabwean border. The diamonds were bound to leave Mozambique anyway since Mozambique does not have cutting and polishing factories. The existence of a thriving illicit diamond market in Mozambique was enough sign that Mozambique was a safe haven for cartels, including pilots, involved in illicit diamond deals. Pilots flying out of Harare to the Middle East and Asia have also been implicated in diamond smuggling syndicates. In the case of Mr. Klein he is said to have intended to leave for South Africa on a South African Airways (SAA) flight number SA23. ‘It is alleged he was clad in a pilot's uniform when he presented himself to the passenger screening point which was manned by a Civil Aviation Authority security officer’, reports the Herald. He is also said to have arrived aboard a South African flight as a passenger but did not have his passport stamped as he disguised himself as a crewmember. It is not clear whether the SAA crew knew of Mr. Klein's mission and whether they assisted him to misrepresent himself to the Zimbabwean authorities.

      In April 2011 two Indians were arrested in possession of 9.7kg of diamonds which they claimed had been smuggled from Zimbabwe. These sad developments cast a dark shadow on efforts by the Inclusive Government to maximize revenue collection from diamonds. Finance Minister Tendai Biti presented a budget of $4 billion for 2012 of which $600 million is expected to come from diamonds. However, with the current level of opaque deals involving Zimbabwean diamonds it is less likely that the target of $600m will be reached. Moreover, the fact that an individual can arrive in Zimbabwe and smuggle diamonds worth $2.43m within a few hours leaves several unanswered questions about how much Zimbabwe is losing to cartels and dealers and how much difference this lost revenue could make to the lives of ordinary Zimbabweans, whose life expectancy at 33.5 years for women is the lowest in the world. The low life expectancy is attributed to a poorly funded health delivery system, a high unemployment rate estimated at above 70%, and widespread poverty.

      The continued theft of large quantities of diamonds by dealers and cartels is a threat to national security and may undermine the work of the inclusive government in Zimbabwe. There is concern that powerful quasi state institutions may be clandestinely selling diamonds to starve the Ministry of Finance, whose plea for diamond revenue transparency has so far not been heeded. In its report on the involvement of the security sector in diamond mining in Zimbabwe, Global Witness expressed concern that this may undermine democracy by enabling 'securocrats to set and fund their own agenda, with little control or scrutiny exercised by elected politicians'.


      Zimbabwe is in the process of crafting a Diamond Act to address the existing loopholes. However, much depends on the political will to ensure that every diamond is accounted for and that diamond contracts are negotiated in a transparent manner, which involves several stakeholders such as Parliament, Cabinet and civil society. Mining licenses that are obtained corruptly will always lead to opaque business practices that do not benefit the ordinary citizen.

      The Center for Research and Development believes the proposed Diamond Act should address the following:
      - Clearly defined rules of investor identification and contract negotiations
      - A well defined, transparent and accountable system of marketing diamonds
      - Harmonisation of government ministries and departments dealing with diamonds
      - Eligibility of persons to serve on the mining boards
      - Consultation with affected communities and compensation of families in cases where relocation is to take place with special reference to the Vancouver Declaration on Human Settlements
      - Clearly defined obligations of mining companies to the communities where they operate
      - A legal framework for artisanal / small scale miners to curb both human rights abuses and illicit diamond deals that do not benefit the treasury
      - Upholding the rule of law and respect for human rights in the diamond supply chain
      - Beneficiation / value addition
      - Establishment of the School of Diamonds to develop local expertise in diamond mining, cutting and polishing
      - Minimum and maximum sentences for people caught in illegal possession of diamonds
      - Environmental protection.


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      One hundred years of African intellectual activism

      Naledi Pandor


      cc Julen
      Address by the South African Minister of Science and Technology at the Archie Mafeye memorial lecture.

      It is no accident that the founding leaders of post-colonial African countries - men like Nkrumah, Nyerere, Mandela – were able to articulate ideologies and visions of nationalism that were both political and cultural.

      The idea of African Nationalism always contained some notion of cultural affirmation.

      Significantly, for African intellectuals the cultural counterpart to African Nationalism was not ethnic identity but a pan-African one: Negritude, or African personality.

      African intellectuals looked to anchor nationalism - or in Terence Ranger’s famous term, to find a “usable past” – in its histories and cultures.

      Historians set out to tell Africa’s past, not merely to glorify it and its ancient kings and empires, but also to establish the humanity of African people.

      And so in the heyday of independence and nation building, it was history that had its own major ‘schools’: those of Ibadan, Dakar and Dar es Salaam being among the best known.

      The issues debated were development issues, the paradigms were the overturning of modernisation theory with new theories of underdevelopment and a relentless focus on different types of modes of production.

      These were exciting times in the full flush of political independence. The names of scholars who have stood the test of time were Samir Amin, Issa Shivji, Mahmood Mamdani, and Giovanni Arrighi.

      But in South Africa, where decolonisation lagged behind the rest of Africa, our intellectual trajectory was different to what took place in the north.

      And we were very much more wary of ethnicity, a point which Archie Mafeje made most clear in his much cited 1971 article on ‘tribalism’.

      We were able to draw on an intellectual tradition that goes back to the origins of Pan-Africanist thinking with its concern to rid Africa of white imperial domination.

      This tradition goes back to the early 1880s when John Tengo Jabavu founded the first secular newspaper, Imvo Zababantusundu in the Eastern Cape. It was continued in the early twentieth century by John Langalibalele Dube (author of the first Zulu language novel), R V. Selope Thema (journalist, editor, historian), Pixley Ka Isaka Seme ( a Columbia and Oxford trained lawyer), and Solomon T Plaatje (linguist, journalist and author) – all of whom were associated with founding of the ANC.

      This tradition was continued at Fort Hare, where a small group of academics made important early contributions to the study of African society and culture.

      The role Fort Hare played in South Africa’s struggle for liberation, and its influence across the continent, can be ascribed to the convergence of great minds on one campus. The number and profile of leaders that Fort Hare has produced over the years illustrates its reputation as the cradle of African intellectual leadership.

      But apart from Fort Hare, where are the South African schools of intellectual activism like the ones in Dakar, Ibadan, and Dar es Salaam?

      A little history will help at this point. In 1959 the Extension of University Education Act established separate institutions for black students, it created university apartheid.

      At that time South African universities related to the state in a number of different ways that have contributed to the present forms of African intellectual activism.

      The first type was the Afrikaans-medium institution with a firm relationship to the apartheid state. Intellectual outputs, teaching and research exemplified a symbiotic link between institutions and various arms of government. These institutions were, in Edward Said’s words, the “proving ground of patriots” and political conformity drove their daily agenda.

      The second type was the English-speaking, primarily white institutions. These maintained a relationship with the state at a respectable distance. It is from intellectuals at some of these institutions that debates about the policies of a future democratic South Africa occurred.

      The third type was the black university. Historically, black institutions became sites of struggle in the turbulent 70’s and 80’s. Sadly they never fully became the proving ground for intellectual activism. Political struggle consumed much of the time at these institutions and students and staff were unable to find the space for the development and emergence of intellectual excellence.

      Our institutions now have political freedom, academic freedom, and intellectual independence.

      The issue that arises is: has there been a complementary increase in intellectual activism?

      The answer is no, and the reasons for this are many and complex. I cannot possibly identify and address them all.

      We have not seen a fundamental curriculum shift that “Africanises” our universities.

      We have not witnessed an intellectual reclamation of educational territory from pre-democratic domination.

      We have not seen a sustained attempt to suture and bandage the spiritual wounds of apartheid.

      Even more peculiar, we have not seen a strong outpouring of patriotic intellectual practice.

      When I think about our special needs in this regard, I think about the way in which remarkable individuals in the past have resolved the challenges to ‘mainstreaming’ their concerns. I think about Z.K. Matthews at Fort Hare. I think of Jakes Gerwel at the University of the Western Cape.

      To my mind these men and women are organic intellectuals.

      In the past they worked in opposition to the cultural hegemony of the day; today they work for the creation of a new national identity.

      The space for intellectual activism now exists in our democratic culture. Yet we find that much of current African intellectual activism takes place in the diaspora, mainly in the US.

      Today there are over 70 dedicated African Studies centres in the US. Moreover, the US African Studies Association has over 2,500 members, among whom are many women and African Americans. In this network most of the better-known names of the contemporary African diaspora intellectuals have come to rest: Akyeampong, Appiah, Asante, Mamdani, Mudimbe, Nguni, Zeleza, and Soyinke. Our own Nolutshungu, Mafeje, and Magubane are a generation or older than these current trendsetters.

      Yet there are real signs of regeneration and renaissance here and in the rest of Africa.

      Let me refer to a few signs.

      First, new shoots of scholarship at African universities are beginning to grow again; there is an increase in student enrolments, there is investment in buildings and in staff. Despite the poor hand that was dealt to Africa in global trade and the global system in the 1990s, the current commodities boom has brought a new sense of wealth and hope for the future to many African countries.

      Second, there are international bodies that are committed to the regeneration of universities in Africa. In particular, the rejuvenated Association of African Universities (AAU) is now able to lobby for universities in a way that was not possible before.

      Third, into the vacuum that the run-down universities of Africa left in the 1980s, there emerged scholarly networks like Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA), Organisation for Social Science Research in Eastern and Southern Africa. (OSSREA), SAPES, AAPS, AERC and Association of African Women for Research and Development (AAWORD) that became significant sites of research and debate. Out of the vacuum has come a scholarship that leading African intellectuals regard as first-rate.

      How can we benefit here in South Africa from the African intellectuals teaching and researching in the diaspora? What steps does government need to take in order to encourage the global circulation of new and old knowledge?

      We have policies and programmes in South Africa – our flagship programmes are the SA Research Chairs initiative and our Centres of Excellence initiative - to encourage African research and development in our universities.

      We have to make them work for us; we are making them work for us.

      Thank you.


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      Nigeria: A Bill of Rights for road, marine and rail users needed

      Fidelis Allen


      cc M B
      A bill of rights that protects Nigerians from insecurity and violence on the roads is also needed alongside the coming bill of rights for air travellers.

      ‘Travellers Bill of Rights for the unfriendly sky’ was the title of a recent report in a daily newspaper in Nigeria, in which the civil aviation authority notes that Nigerian air travellers will soon heave a sigh of relief. [1] Now that frequent fliers will soon have a bill of rights that will protect them from the abuse of unnecessary delays, unfriendly flying and so on in Nigeria, can we also expect a bill or rights for road travellers who are mostly poor Nigerians without the cash to fly? The roads are bad, full of pot holes, infested with kidnappers, armed robbers, gas or fumes from cars that are not roadworthy, money-extorting police officers and so on.

      The lots of the road traveller are indeed diverse and troubling, within cities, inter-city, inter-state and even in the countryside. Unmistakably, aviation matters fall within the exclusive list of the federal legislative divisions in Nigeria. Road and marine transportation however are generally areas in which all three tiers of local, state and federal government are currently free to engage with service delivery. Unfortunately, it seems that policies, rules, regulations and laws in this sector sometimes portray a dangerous class orientation in Nigeria. The coming Bill is not a bad one. But those who fly are those basically living above the line separating rich from poor. At least, this is an assumption that seems real. After all, how many poor people on the national minimum wage of N18,000 can afford a domestic flight from say, Port Harcourt to Lagos or Abuja. For N18,000 is also the average amount needed for a single adult flying on these domestic routes. Road transportation remains the only alternative for the poor.

      In January this year, a mass transit bus that left Port Harcourt for Abuja met its waterloo around the Lokoja axis. Passengers were not only robbed of their monies and personal belongings; all the girls in the bus were raped by the thieves, an experience that is now becoming common on the roads. I cannot forget my own experience in January 2007 on my way from Lagos. I needed to be in Port Harcourt the following morning, do some transactions and return to Lagos, but it was late and I could not catch a flight from Lagos that evening. The alternative was a night bus, which I gladly but fearfully boarded. Just somewhere after Ore, for those familiar with that road, at a very bad spot, where the driver had to slow down, suddenly young men with guns started jumping into the bus from the front. The bus had just one door adjacent to the driver’s seat. The disappearance of the driver and conductor was also swift, shocking and magical, leaving us alone with the thieves who numbered about 16. It was the first time I had ever had such an experience on a night journey. The thieves ordered every one out after emptying our pockets of money. I remember a particular woman whom they insisted must give them N300,000 which they claimed she had. This went on for close to one hour. Eventually we were all asked to lie on one another in the middle of the road, on which trucks and other vehicles were supposed to be plying, with our eyes closed or level to the ground.

      The Nigerian police came ten minutes after the thieves successfully robbed us. Fortunately, none of the women in the bus were raped. But the memory is unpalatable. And I vowed to myself never to travel by road nor undertake night journeys again in my life. It took an extra 24 hours to arrive in Port Harcourt; a journey that should have ended seven hours after the incident. This was because we eventually had to spend the whole night at that spot, as we did not know the whereabouts of our driver and conductor. The trauma, devastation and frustration were enough to decide, as I did, never to travel in the night again. Yet there are many others who cannot take such a decision. They are probably getting robbed at other times too. Insecurity on the roads will be the next monster that will mar the Nigerian nation if nothing is done now.

      We cannot quantify the value of effective security and smoothness of the roads for road travellers. The local economy and prosperity at the level of individual economic trading concerns - even for farmers who need to transport their farm produce to neighbouring villages, towns or markets - currently depends mainly on unsafe roads and crude marine transportation. Another dimension to this is the rate of automobile accidents on Nigerian roads. Most of the time, it is because road users are either trying to avoid bad spots, are driving at top speed for fear of robbery attack, or driving cars that do not receive regular maintenance. Alcohol plays a negative role as well. The public transport operators are not excluded from the problems. Marginal public regulation and control to ensure standards does not only add a dangerous dimension, it has become rationalised with inefficiency and poor service delivery by government workers in relevant ministries at the state and federal government levels. The local government councils constitute a different problem area. They set up task forces that become a problem for the free-flow of traffic for road users on inter-state or inter-local government journeys.

      The rail system has long broken down. But how did we get here? This is something working in many parts of the world. For Nigeria, the rail system was basically a colonial creation to facilitate transportation of agricultural produce from the hinterland to the ports for easy export. It was not intended to serve the local domestic transportation needs, which is why one must keep wondering why the post-colonial state in Nigeria has deteriorated so badly in service delivery. Governments are fast withdrawing from public service delivery on the excuse of privatisation. Yet, there are many areas where this is not working. The responsibility of fixing the roads is not any private investors. Maybe eventually, the roads will be privatised, at which point one can be sure that some poor people will never think of travelling again. Resources for effective and efficient air, marine, road and rail transportation in Nigeria are available. This has been the truth, especially since the Nigerian state began to flaunt itself as oil resource rich. It is clear that the oil resource has only encouraged corruption and class-oriented programmes. It is no surprise then that only the rich can fly in Nigeria.

      Recently I was in the city of Geneva where the tram, which is free for commuters, is powered with energy generated from a lake in the city. It was amazing, but it called my attention to the wroth in Nigerian cities’ transportation deficiencies, where the numbers of cars alone emit dangerous substances that can kill residents faster than any other disease. The poor are left to solve their own problems while the rich: oil block owners, oil workers, politicians in Abuja, States and local governments, local petty bourgeois, foreign capitalists, top civil servants, some neoliberal local and foreign professional NGO practitioners and so on, are now seemingly being able to extract a bill of rights for travellers from the political class. But who will do the same for road travellers? Who takes responsibility for the wroth in the country’s road, marine and rail transport systems? The problem is even worse for riverine states and communities like Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta, Lagos, Cross Rivers and so on, where villages separated by water do not even have well organised transport systems facilitated by government to reduce the pain of the poor. In some of these villages, for instance in Rivers State, oil companies make huge money from oil wells, but leave their host communities stranded with nothing, not even the assistance needed in the area of inter-village transportation of goods and persons. A bill of rights that protects Nigerians from insecurity on the roads, compels government to fix the roads, resuscitate or build a modern rail system, ensures a developed marine transport system and so on, is also needed alongside the coming bill of rights for air travellers in Nigeria.


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      * Fidelis Allen,PhD, is based at the Centre for Civil Society, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Howard College Campus.

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      ‘Freedom never rests’

      An interview with James Kilgore by Andre Marais

      James Kilgore


      cc J & M K
      The novel exposes the bitter betrayals and collusion between a new, deeply flawed political elite and multinationals, and tells the story of a rebirth of grassroots activism.

      Kilgore’s remarkable debut novel ‘We Are All Zimbabwean Now’ (2009) is a wonderful piece of fiction. It tells the story of an idealistic young American’s growing disenchantment with Mugabe. A member of the SLA (Symbionese Liberation Army, a US left-wing urban militant group), Kilgore fled a Federal explosives charge in 1975 and remained a fugitive for 27 years. Until US secret services captured him, he was in southern Africa spending most of his time as a political activist, researcher and teacher.

      In his latest novel, ‘Freedom never rests’, he creates a very believable political drama in the context of delivery protests in South Africa, with a strong-willed trade unionist as its main protagonist. Addressing these issues is somewhat of a rarity in current South African fiction. Amandla! had the chance to interview him.

      ANDRE MARAIS : In this novel, you return back to Africa and Southern Africa, any reason for this?

      JAMES KILGORE : I lived in southern Africa for 20 years. My kids were born in southern Africa. I met my wife in southern Africa. During my time in the region, I immersed myself in the political struggles of the day. When I was arrested and extradited to the US to serve six and a half years in prison, I felt as if I had been ripped away from my roots. Writing about southern Africa helped me to maintain an emotional connection to this place where my family and friends lived, where my comrades continued their struggles for popular power and the fabled better life for all.

      ANDRE MARAIS: What was the main inspiration for the novel?

      JAMES KILGORE: In the introduction, I write about this. The moment of inspiration came when I was incarcerated at the Federal Detention Center in Dublin, California. As I got out of the shower, I peeked into the empty stall next to me. The shower was going full blast, spraying a thick stream of hot water, all going to waste. It would be a month before anyone came to rectify the situation. Every time I saw that water gushing out I thought of communities in South Africa that I had visited and researched, places where municipalities and private providers were squeezing every last cent out of the poorest water consumers. So that water was my initial spark, but then I thought beyond water, thought about people organising, trying to make sense out of the new dispensation in South Africa and attempting to figure out what their stance should be toward the new ruling party if it failed to deliver on its promises. These were complicated political and historical questions, issues of organisation, economics, ultimately part of the global struggle against the neoliberal order. So my story about water got bigger and bigger. Then I had to bring it down to the personal level, to develop characters who could play out the complexities of this political period. That’s where the lead character, ex–shop steward revolutionary, Monwabisi Radebe, was born, along with his tension-filled marriage to Constantia.

      ANDRE MARAIS: Can you say a little about the setting of the Eastern Cape and the service delivery protest?

      JAMES KILGORE: I chose the Eastern Cape simply because it was the real heartland of the ruling party, the home of Madiba, Govan Mbeki and so many others. It was more symbolic than an attempt to portray the deepest details of the Eastern Cape. In reality, this story could have taken place in almost any part of South Africa. Service delivery protests are everywhere. People still have not reached the promised land of the RDP.

      ANDRE MARAIS: What and whom are your major influences as a writer of political fiction?

      JAMES KILGORE: My models are somewhat little known these days: B. Traven and Victor Serge. Traven was a German fugitive who lived out his life in Mexico and wrote a series known as the ‘jungle novels’. They told the story of the rise and fall of the Mexican Revolution. Serge was a Bolshevik who became disenchanted with the Soviet Union. He spent time as a political prisoner in France and the Soviet Union and wrote most of his fiction while incarcerated. Many of his manuscripts were destroyed by the authorities but his masterpiece, The Case of Comrade Tulayev, provides us with a shining sample of his potential and insight. Many others are important for me as well, African writers like Ngugi wa Thiong’o and Sembène Ousmane. And I’m a big fan of less political authors like Zora Neale Hurston, Zadie Smith, Dave Eggers and Armistead Maupin, who have such great insight into issues of race and gender.

      ANDRE MARAIS: In your latest novel you seem to sketch some very convincing characters and believable scenarios – to what extent is your distance from the situation helpful on the one hand and a disadvantage on the other?

      JAMES KILGORE: I don’t think distance helped at all. I spent hours and hours trying to think myself back into South Africa, back into the times and situations I experienced, trying to remember sights, smells, peoples’ sense of humor and irony, the rhythms of their speech. I believe I could have written a better book if I had been able to go to South Africa and write it, but I couldn’t. I was in prison. I had to try to compensate by being meticulous with the things I could research, the details of the political context.

      ANDRE MARAIS: While your novel exposes the bitter betrayals and collusion between a new, deeply flawed political elite and multinationals, it also tells the story of a rebirth of grassroots activism. Can you say a little about this?

      JAMES KILGORE: That’s what the title is all about – freedom never rests. Freedom is something that changes over time. It’s not a static concept. Elections, for example, seem to be the ultimate victory for the freedom struggle, but after awhile, they lose their power. Electing people who genuinely serve the popular interest becomes harder and harder. So I’m trying to probe how complicated this struggle for democracy really is and yet despite such complications people like my lead character, Monwabisi Radebe, remain true to their ideals. Still while he was a man of principle, Monwabisi couldn’t quite figure out how to be effective in the new order. Should he remain true to the party? Should he help others who want to forge an alternative? Or should he just try to do the best he can for his wife and family? Very difficult questions which confronted and continue to confront everyone who sincerely believes in the importance of a democracy that includes economic justice and grassroots political power.

      ANDRE MARAIS: I would describe both as optimistic works, which is different from a lot of the angst ridden political fiction coming out of South Africa at present. How much SA fiction do you read and did you deliberately set out to give your work an optimistic spin?

      JAMES KILGORE: I guess I remain an optimist. I’ve lived through three failed revolutions – the US social movements in the sixties and seventies, Zimbabwe in the eighties, and South Africa post-1994 (which we can call a success in some way at the political level but definitely a failure as a revolutionary project ). I still maintain belief in the old adage ‘every cook can govern’, belief in the power of workers, rural people, the ‘povho’ to eventually create a society different from anything we’ve experienced to date.

      I read J.M. Coetzee’s ‘Disgrace’ when I was in prison and it made me very angry. He’s a great writer in terms of all the elements of the craft – character, the power of his language and all that. I could never pretend to have his level of skill. But I asked myself: Why, out of all the tragedies of the South African situation, did he have to pick the alienation of a white academic to try to explain what happened post-1994? This US writing guru John Gardner, who is fairly moderate in many ways, once said that the task of the genuine fiction writer is to tackle the big questions of the day, the questions that are vital to society. Coetzee ran away from this.

      I did try to tackle some of these big questions in ‘Freedom Never Rests’. For me those were things like: What form does democracy take? How must people organise themselves in order to reverse the inequality and racism of apartheid? Will elections suffice? Will a TRC suffice? Will a traditional political party be enough to carry out a fully fledged transition to democracy? And, in the era of neoliberalism, how can workers and poor people fight back? These are big questions that people in their daily lives are grappling with as they try to gain access to basic necessities that the rich and powerful have no interest in providing. So I have an optimistic slant in that I try to show people constantly engaging with these questions. But I’m also not trying to pretend that there are easy answers or formulas we can apply. And my characters, even the ones I love, like Monwabisi, Florence Matshaka and Mama Mehlo, don’t live happily ever after. But as they used to say in the black freedom struggle in the US, they keep on keepin’ on.

      ANDRE MARAIS: How much writing did you do in prison?

      JAMES KILGORE: A lot. I came out with manuscripts of eight novels. Some handwritten, some written on typewriters. I also wrote a screenplay of my first novel, a few dozen poems and a couple dozen short stories. I’ve been out for two and a half years and I’m still ploughing through that material and trying to get more of it ready. My third novel, which is a murder mystery, involving the killing of an undocumented Zimbabwean woman in California, features a crime-solving team which includes some white ex-prisoners and a black South African woman. The characters bring together different strands of my own life and speak to the potentials for solidarity amongst the marginalised in this era.

      ANDRE MARAIS: What’s your take on the Occupy Wall Street protests?

      JAMES KILGORE: They are a wonderful breath of fresh air in that they have raised the issue of economic and social inequality in the US and around the world in a way that nothing has done in a long time. I admire the occupiers, despite the limitations of their movement in terms of class and race.


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      Why Africa's biggest football club will give up the beautiful game

      Simon Allison


      cc B S K
      Al Ahly are very bitter because no justice has been done after scores of their number were killed in the worst incident of violence inside a stadium since Roman gladiators massacred slaves in arenas.

      You might think this story is about football. It has all the right ingredients: players, teams, stadiums and associations. But this is not a football story. This is the story of a revolution, and what happens after a revolution. It's Egypt's story, and it's grim reading. Something must be deeply wrong for Africa's biggest club to want to stop playing football.

      There was a strange inevitability about Al Ahly's announcement that they would be withdrawing from all competitions held under the aegis of the Egyptians Football Association (EFA).

      The club and its supporters are bitterly, violently angry, and with reason: scores of their number were killed in the worst incident of violence inside a stadium since Roman gladiators massacred slaves in arenas. Seventy-four people died following a match between Cairo's Al Ahly and Port Said's Al Masry, at the stadium in Port Said.

      The circumstances of the violence are still murky, but there is plenty of cause for suspicion - exit gates that weren't opened, the ease with which Masry fans were able to get on the pitch and then at the Ahly fans, the security forces standing by and watching it all happen. It was a massacre, and Ahly want the perpetrators punished, starting with the most obvious culprits: Al Masry club and its administration.

      So when the EFA announced its punishment last Friday, Al Ahly was not happy. Al Masry received a two-season suspension and a three-season stadium closure, which is effectively one and two seasons respectively given that this year's cancelled league is included in the count. Al Ahly too received a rap on the knuckles with a four-match ban and fines for some of its management.

      This was not the kind of punishment Al Ahly had in mind. "We are devastated - and really furious," board member Khaled Mortagy said. "We believe this has nothing to do with justice." They wanted a much harsher penalty - a five-year ban, and relegation to Egypt's lowest division.

      Mortagy is right, of course; this has nothing to do with justice.

      Football in Egypt has always been politicised, for years the only outlet for any kind of opposition to Hosni Mubarak's regime. Men who couldn't join political parties or vote against the regime in free elections took their pent-up anger and frustration onto the terraces, hurling abuse at the policeman who were used as proxies for the regime itself.

      And Mubarak is thought to have tacitly permitted this, knowing that an oppressed society needs some kind of pressure valve or it might just explode in his face. Which it did eventually, of course, and when it did the football fans were in the frontlines, fighting hard with the police and Mubarak's hired thugs in Tahrir Square. Ahly fans, together with those from hated rivals Zamalek, led the charge.

      But in the aftermath of the revolution, the people who had inherited Mubarak's state - the interim military government - couldn't allow this open defiance of authority to go unchecked. Or so the theory, believed passionately by Ahly fans and most of Egypt's activist movement, goes.

      What better way to punish them and to discredit football and its fans than to unleash Al Masry's fans on the Ahly support. They wouldn't have needed much prompting given the long-standing rivalry between the two clubs - lax security at the ground, an "accidentally" locked exit and a few unidentified thugs to do a little stirring would do the trick nicely. If that was the ploy, it worked better than anyone could have anticipated.

      And then in the aftermath, it's that same military government that gets to dispense justice. In the criminal proceedings, it seems no coincidence Al Masry fans were being charged with murder while the policemen present were getting off with negligence. And as for the football association itself, its board is now entirely staffed by military government appointees after the previous board was forced to resign. Whether this is even legal under Fifa rules, which forbid government involvement in the activity of football authorities, remains to be seen.

      So, faced with this unsatisfactory justice, with little or no chance of redress, Al Ahly has gone for the nuclear option. Mindful of their position as the biggest and most successful club, not just in Egypt but in the whole of Africa, their board announced on Wednesday that they would be withdrawing from all Egyptian competitions. Take a second to appreciate the magnitude of this decision. It's like Manchester United quitting the Premier League, or Kaizer Chiefs refusing to play in South Africa any longer.

      And it's not as if they can go play anywhere else - the football world just doesn't work like that. And without domestic football, they can't play any continental football. So that's it: this is the end of one of the world's greatest football clubs.

      Unless, of course, their demands are met. Specifically, they want the board of the EFA replaced and they want Al Masry's punishment reviewed and aggravated.

      This presents Egypt's military government with a headache of mighty proportions. They're already facing riots in Port Said by Al Masry fans who think the sentence is too harsh, riots which killed a 13-year-old boy. These will only get worse if the sentence is made harsher. But Egyptian football without Al Ahly is simply unthinkable; it forms an integral part of the cultural fabric of Egyptian life. Doubtless more than a few members of the military council are Ahly fans themselves, if not the hardcore ultras that fought Mubarak.

      Even more concerning for the military, however, is Ahly's willingness to remove itself from the state completely. The revolution has given Egyptians a taste for taking power into their own hands and what better way for a football club to do that than to simply refuse to participate in state-organised activity?

      This is one of the greatest dangers of a revolution. Power is deceptively easy to displace, but deceptively hard to replace. And it is not always easy for a country to stay together in that power vacuum.

      Look at Libya. It barely functions as a unified country any more, the transitional government is fighting battles in the south to maintain control and a movement pushing for autonomy in the east - where the oil is - is gaining popularity by the day. In other words, everyone is trying to look after themselves, because the state can't, meaning that suddenly identity and loyalty becomes regional rather than national.

      A similar process is happening in Egypt, of which Al Ahly's withdrawal is the highest-profile example - this time, people retreating into their football identities rather than geographic or tribal affiliations. It's happening in parliament too, with liberal parliamentarians walking out of sessions and boycotting constitution-drafting panels because they are considered too Islamist, even though Islamists were elected as a large majority in parliament.

      Slowly the Egyptian state is fragmenting under the weight of all the different expectations placed upon it. The decision of Al Ahly football club to stop playing football is truly not about football at all. It's about right and wrong, life and death, justice and peace. Let the games begin. .


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      * This article was first published by Daily Maverick.
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      Birthing Justice: Women in Peace-Building

      Peace amidst war for resource control

      Beverly Bell


      cc Amnesty Int'l
      The fight for resource control has led to the eruption and escalation of all manner of conflict and violence in the Niger Delta. It’s all about power and control in light of the oil revenue.


      Welcome to Birthing Justice: Women Creating Economic and Social Alternatives. The series features twelve alternative social and economic models which expand the possibilities for justice, equity, and strong community. They are based in the US, Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Some are national-level, some global-level. Some are propelled by people’s movements, some forced or adopted into government policy. In first-hand narratives, women describe their role in having created the models and show us their unique perspectives and challenges in the movements.

      Below is the first narrative of Birthing Justice. Accelerating commodification of water, oil, land, and nature over the past few decades has resulted in a global power play, wresting precious resources away from communities that have lived sustainably with them for centuries. Oil is one example where the domination of multinational companies has led to mass displacement, seeded social conflict, and fundamentally disrupted the relationship between indigenous communities and their environment.

      Groups the world over are striving to defend an alternate understanding of the earth and how we should treat it, however. They view entities such as oil as part of the global commons – the set of natural resources, basic services, public spaces, and cultural traditions that should be part of a public trust to be enjoyed by all – rather than as commodities to be bought and sold. Another way to conceive of these assets is through the Spanish term for them: el bien común, the common good. Behind the commons is the fundamental idea that life, information, human relationships, popular culture, and the earth’s riches are sacrosanct and not for sale.

      Everywhere, indigenous peoples are claiming their autonomy over their territories, which includes the right to self-government and control of everything over, on, and in their lands. At this moment, some 30,000 indigenous peoples from the Ecuadorian Amazon are embroiled in legal battles with Chevron for contaminating their water and destroying the health of entire villages. This past January, a broad-based coalition of US and Canadian groups stalled the Keystone X-L pipeline project and are working to uphold this decision. And for decades, indigenous people everywhere have been defending their lands and the earth’s resources in epic battles. On top of this, communities are working to repair the divisions that corporate and governmental repression has wrought. Women have been central to these efforts. Throughout the world, women are working to make peace in areas torn by war and resource conflicts. Sometimes this means creating a peace zone, a space of safety in the midst of violence. In other places, women are at the forefront of efforts to end national or regional conflicts.

      Emem Okon is part of one such endeavor in the Niger Delta, where oil companies and government have created a climate of violence and fear. We’re excited to kick off the Birthing Justice series with Emem’s story, and we hope it will inspire you to be a part of the movement to honor, share, and celebrate the earth’s resources.


      I am a community mobilizer with a passion for mobilizing women for action, for peace, and for their rights. I work with Kebetkache Women Development & Resource Centre in oil-impacted towns and villages – that is, areas where the oil companies are drilling – in the Niger Delta.

      Here, we have Shell, we have Chevron, we have Exxon-Mobil, among others. Two problems are the neglect of the region in terms of development, and also the degradation of the environment by the oil companies. There are serious cases of oil spills and gas flaring – horribly toxic for the environment and the people. The whole fight for resource control has led to the eruption and escalation of all manner of conflict and violence in the Niger Delta. It’s all about power and control in light of the oil revenue.

      In all the dimensions of conflict, the culprit is the oil companies. They play divide and rule so that communities are fighting amongst themselves, and gangs are fighting amongst themselves. The government and its security forces collaborate with the oil companies, and whole communities are disrupted violently by the military. In May 2009, for example, the military invaded some communities in the Delta [displacing up to 20,000 people]. Other massacres have happened before.

      We also have violence as a result of the activities of gangs of youth and men who politicians bought arms for, with money that’s circulating from the oil industry. Most of them are unemployed and the weapons are being used against the [financiers’] enemies. Women suffer most when violence and conflict erupt as it has in the Niger Delta. A lot of women have died, a lot of women have been raped, and a lot of girl children have had to stop going to school because of the violence. Women are also exposed to strong violence by the culture and traditions which subject them to inhuman and degrading treatment.

      Because the society is patriarchal in nature, women haven’t been involved in decision-making or governance. But now, women have had to sit up and talk about the human rights abuses and also the violence they’re experiencing. Kebetkache, the women’s group I’m with, works with community women in 15 oil-impacted towns and villages in the Niger Delta to build their capacity and facilitate their participation in community affairs and advocacy. We started by mobilizing women for peace marches in the Ogoniland, Emohua, Ogbakiri, and Tereama communities.

      After the peace marches, when we saw the women’s interests and their desire to act, we started training them in conflict management and peace-building. Then the women went back and did trainings with others in their communities. A whole lot of women got involved. And now, they’re going into secondary schools and community youth groups to carry out peace management. Then the youth will set down the training for others. The women have also been on radio, talking about peace and calling on policy-makers to enjoin the violence in the Niger Delta. We’ve called on the boys and men in the gangs to drop their weapons of violence, and on the government to do something to reduce violence in the region.

      We believe that women, as mothers and wives and lovers, are in a better position to talk to the men who are perpetuating the acts of violence. And we’re causing the violence to go down. Since 2007, we’ve gotten more than 1,600 boys and young men to surrender their weapons to the police and to make the decision not to be involved in violence. A lot of them have withdrawn from gangs and are no longer part of them. We’re trying to negotiate with the police so they don’t arrest those who turn in their weapons. We’re calling for a general amnesty for the gang members, for the government to rehabilitate the youth and reintegrate them back into the society.

      If there’s a solution at this moment between the oil companies and the government – because they are collaborators – the women will still not benefit because they don’t participate in decision-making. There is a need to integrate gender into all levels of power to enable women to participate and become full beneficiaries of the oil revenue. That’s why we’re advocating for women to be part of government and part of whatever bodies are set up to address the issues of the Niger Delta. More and more, women are getting involved in this campaign for increased women’s participation. We’re doing a lot to challenge patriarchal programs, to educate community leadership on the need for women’s decision-making.

      We’re confronting domestic violence, too. We’ve been trying to outlaw it, like has already happened in some other states. With other gender-sensitive laws, like those prohibiting female genital mutilation and widowhood practices, we’ve made copies of the laws and given them to traditional rulers from communities. The future depends on whether women can change the story of the Niger Delta and bring about peace. We believe it has to happen. We women will not relent until this happens.

      To learn more about Emem Okon’s organization, Kebetkache Women Development & Resource Centre, please see kebetkachewomen.


      • Educate yourself on how US dollars support war-making. For example, out of each dollar tax payers paid in federal income taxes in 2010, 31.9¢ went to fund current and past wars, while only 1.3¢ went to diplomacy and foreign affairs. Pay attention to the decisions your elected leaders make about military and defense spending through the National Priorities Project.

      • Organize a community action that draws attention to what could be accomplished if the military budget (now over $1.2 trillion for Iraq and Afghanistan) was spent on peaceful exchanges, environmental health, community learning, health care, etc.
      • Lobby your local and national representatives to change spending priorities. Visit the Friends Committee on National Legislation website to learn about lobbying for peace.
      • Become a war tax resister by refusing to pay government taxes that fund wars around the world. Learn how from the National War Tax Resister Coordinating Committee.
      • Join a national group organizing for peace, such as: Code Pink, Veterns for Peace, United for Peace and Justice,, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom,, Military Families Speak Out,, American Friends Service Committee,, Pax Christi USA,, Peace Action,, Student Peace Action Network,
      • Join a group challenging corporate control of natural resources, such as: Friends of the Earth International,, Rights Action,, True Cost of Chevron Network,, Remember Saro-Wiwa,, Stakeholder Democracy Network,, Justice in Nigeria Now,, Rainforest Action Network,, Amazon Watch,, Rainforest Alliance,, Forest Ethics,, Forest Stewardship Council,

      * Please do not take Pambazuka for granted! Become a Friend of Pambazuka and make a donation NOW to help keep Pambazuka FREE and INDEPENDENT!
      * Beverly Bell has worked with Haitian social movements for over 30 years. She is also author of the book Walking on Fire: Haitian Women's Stories of Survival and Resistance and is working on the forthcoming book, Fault Lines: Views across Haiti’s New Divide. She coordinates Other Worlds, which promotes social and economic alternatives. She is also associate fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies.
      Copyleft Beverly Bell. You may reprint this article in whole or in part. Please credit any text or original research you use to Beverly Bell, Other Worlds.

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

      Renewed contradictions for Ronnie Kasrils

      The leftist spy who came in from cold Pretoria

      Patrick Bond


      cc R T P
      After a chilly period as a genuine revolutionary trying to find a way forward within a blatantly corrupt version of ‘post’-colonial neoliberal nationalism, Kasrils should be warmly welcomed for any initiative he pursues.

      ‘I don’t have the stomach or the taste to serve any more at this level,’ said the normally ebullient Minister of Intelligence Ronnie Kasrils, as he quit after fourteen years of service to the South African government. It was late September 2008, just after Thabo Mbeki was palace-couped.

      Kasrils’ intelligence service was by then an international laughingstock, with spy-versus-spy intrigue spilling out wide across the political landscape. His own troops were locked in unending, ungovernable, internecine battles against each other’s factions, using hoax emails, other disinformation and extraordinary political contortions unknown in even the ugliest Stalinist traditions of the African National Congress (ANC). Recall that Mbeki’s police chief Jackie Selebi was also the head of Interpol, and to have the mafia penetrate such high levels made South African security farcical at best.

      None of this was Kasrils’ fault, of course; such fights continue to this day, and leading police officers Bheki Cele and Richard Mdluli have allegedly amplified the Mbeki-era traditions of graft. But the intrigue was so murky in September 2008 that when an obscure judge made an offhanded, seemingly flippant remark about Jacob Zuma being a victim of political conspiracy, it was a catalyst for the ANC’s Zumites to unceremoniously evict Mbeki seven months before his term was due to end.

      To last so long in that immoral swamp required a firm constitution, and to then extricate from the mire was a heroic task. Kasrils was (and remains) the continent’s highest-profile revolutionary from the white race, and in spite of all the muck nearby, he exudes an exceptionally powerful moral influence. Kasrils also played crucial leadership roles as minister of water, deputy minister of defense, and leadership in the ANC’s Umkhonto we Sizwe armed wing and SA Communist Party dating back nearly five decades.

      The contradictions he faced during his era in power were overwhelming. They deserve, I believe, serious consideration; in some cases, much more decisive resolutions than we’ve witnessed; and now renewal, in the dialectical spirit. Exploring and transcending both the exercise of power (thesis) and counter-power activities by progressive civil society (antithesis), in order to find a new synthesis and yet new contradictions, is my objective in the coming pages.


      Last week Kasrils visited us at the University of KwaZulu-Natal as a Time of the Writer festival guest at the Centre for Creative Arts and speaker at the Centre for Civil Society’s seminar on authoritarianism and corruption. A student here in the early 1960s, he reminisced about his disputes during economics classes with the ‘reactionary’ Professor Owen Horwood – later an influential apartheid Finance Minister – because of Kasrils’ opposition to Bantustan policy.

      He returned for this visit because in 2010, Kasrils’ beautiful biography of his late wife Eleanor, The Unlikely Secret Agent, won SA’s main book award (the Sunday Times Alan Paton non-fiction prize) and his compelling autobiography Armed and Dangerous had its third edition in 2004. His presentations last week celebrating writing, women and radical politics were thoughtful and humorous.

      Like most who meet Kasrils, it took me only four discussions to depart so charmed as to confess I will now blindly follow him on any madcap adventure – albeit one in September 1992, when he marched 80 000 protesters to the ‘Ciskei’ government’s doorstep, left dozens to return home in coffins, after pro-apartheid armed forces opened fire. But dangerous as he has been, armed or not, this is the kind of mensch who would have us cracking up on our way to the gallows, more gregarious and fun-loving than any lefty I’ve ever known.

      That charm in turn calls for even more critically-sympathetic reflection about how a South African nationalist-communist spy might come in from the cold. We might attempt this via the dialectic method, which respects tension and contradiction, which contextualizes so as to point the way forward to social progress, and which seeks to understand interrelations of economy, politics, society and nature.

      Kasrils was quite right to finally quit the Pretoria regime, as he witnessed extreme abuses of power within his beloved ANC, and on occasion was attacked – without merit, he insists – for allegedly being a guiding force in the network of Mbeki supporters trying to halt Zuma’s presidential push.

      The worst of it, he recounts, was when in early 2006 the Young Communist League leadership accused him of setting up a ‘honey trap’ for Zuma, who was accused of rape a few weeks earlier by an openly HIV+ lesbian known as Khwezi. The future president was acquitted after a trial in which misogynist patriarchy by Zuma and his supporters was on blatant display.

      Kasrils had known the 30 year-old victim for a quarter of a century (as had Zuma) because her parents provided a safehouse during anti-apartheid military missions deep in Durban’s townships. He was drawn in against his will in a peripheral way, making clear that Khwezi should sort out the charge with professional aid, not old family connections to the Minister of Intelligence. But that moment was when the break with Zuma became irreparable.

      Given his despondency about the ANC’s subsequent trajectory, time and time again in several conversations Kasrils reminded of what he is accused of sounding like by journalist Alistair Sparks: an end-of-apartheid verligte (Afrikaner enlightened reformer). But now Kasrils feels there is far more at stake: saving not only the liberal gains that the likes of FW de Klerk (verligte-in-chief) grudgingly surrendered two decades ago, but also reviving prospects for a broader left turn in coming years.

      Given Kasrils’ larger-than-life personality, the best approach might well be to treat him as would Karl Marx, as recommended in Das Kapital: ‘Individuals are dealt with here only in so far as they are the personifications of economic categories, the bearers of particular class-relations and interest.’

      You could add race/ethnic, gender and generational relations as well, since most of these divisions are also being amplified under conditions of class apartheid. Unfortunately, Kasrils is yet to pronounce on deeper-rooted economic policy corruption – i.e. the numerous neoliberal policies adopted after 1994 – aside from firmly endorsing the country’s 1996 structural adjustment policy (‘Growth, Employment and Redistribution’, GEAR), at the time, as part of the Arms Deal.

      Instead, Kasrils’ current focus on corruption highlights mainly the acquisitiveness of the political-bureaucratic petit bourgeoisie, aspiring to great wealth for little effort.


      His naming as ‘WaBenzis’ several former colleagues – including the late defense minister Joe Modise and current SA Communist Party chief Blade Nzimande – certainly helps personify the problem. As Kasrils griped in our seminar, ‘South Africa is regaled by one revelation after another involving luxury limousines, lavish banquets, expensive hotel bills and other extravagant follies.’

      His own ‘economic category’ might be described best as a small-c communist. Kasrils’ trajectory of race/class-suicide began on Sharpeville Day in 1960 when, as he told the Time of the Writer audience, his white colleagues at Johannesburg’s Lever Brothers film advertising division were stunned when he sided with black staff, as reports came in of the 69 murders. As for his hostility to Zionism, Kasrils (from a Jewish background) came to understand the Israeli occupation of Palestine and became the continent’s leading campaigner for Middle East justice and the ‘one-state’ solution needed to avoid making permanent the region’s bantustanization.

      He sums up the rise and fall of his vision for a socialist South Africa simply and accurately: ‘Regarding national liberation, as Vladimir Lenin put it, the character of the outcome depends upon the organised strength of the working class. For quite a period of time we saw the left rising and becoming strong and then post-1990 we see the rightwing agenda becoming so strong with its alignment to capital.’

      You can’t argue with that, but the depth and intensity of South Africa’s contradictions require more than a simple class correlation as explanation. Instead, with dialectical method, Lenin remarked how social development ‘proceeds in spirals, not in a straight line; a development by leaps, catastrophes, and revolutions; “breaks in continuity”,’ leaving us to link what we observe at surface level into ‘a uniform, and universal process of motion, one that follows definite laws.’

      Theoretically, those laws of exploitation, it seems to me, were initially understood best by Marx in Kapital in 1867, elaborated in North-South (and capitalist-noncapitalist) terms by Rosa Luxemburg a century ago, and translated to African post-colonialism by Frantz Fanon fifty years ago. The critiques of capitalism, imperialism and nationalism by these revolutionary theorists still work well today, especially in a South Africa where migrancy, gendered roles and deep racial divisions in the division of labour, ecological degradation and capitalist crisis tendencies persist and indeed worsen.

      But it is in the realm of degenerate political leadership that we see Kasrils’ next set of contradictions, as he gradually breaks from the ANC and loses all respect for the Communist Party (or so it seems), while lauding trade union and other civil society activism. He quoted from Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth in his seminar last Friday, aiming these words at his former comrades who lost touch with the masses: ‘Privileges multiply and corruption triumphs, while morality declines.’

      Fanon’s subsequent three sentences are yet more appropriate: ‘Today the vultures are too numerous and too voracious in proportion to the lean spoils of the national wealth. The party, a true instrument of power in the hands of the bourgeoisie, reinforces the machine, and ensures that the people are hemmed in and immobilized. The party helps the government to hold the people down.’


      By many accounts in critical civil society, the 1997 Arms Deal was the font of South Africa’s large-scale corruption, the source of so many contradictions that drive Kasrils’ dialectic. He had, after all, spent the late 1990s arguing the case for the deal, on grounds that it could ‘stand up to the closest scrutiny’ because the process was ‘meticulously professional and objective.’ For the two leading experts on the Arms Deal, Paul Holden and Hennie van Vuuren, ‘It almost beggars belief that this claim could be made.’

      Kasrils also notified parliament of ‘Major offset or counter-trade agreements so that for every rand spent abroad, the same amount will be invested in SA. Such packages will be of enormous benefit to our GEAR strategy. A tremendous boost to our economy and Treasury.’ Latest estimates from the Sunday Independent are revealing: of R114 billion promised in Arms Deal offsets, only R4 billion was delivered.

      Kasrils’ defense last Friday was that the post-apartheid armed forces desperately needed the highest-technology weapons, but this did not leave his audience convinced. Exclaimed anti-corruption campaigner Marianne Camerer, ‘How can you sleep at night?!’

      Kasrils’ answer: he’s sleeping well because as far as he could tell, the Arms Deal didn’t corrupt at ministerial executive level in major transactions, though he now concedes that at secondary level, the company-to-company transactions had plenty of holes. Schabir Shaik’s facilitation of the French firm Thales’ access to Zuma – for a reported R500 000/year – was an obvious example, and as Kasrils later put it, ‘Zuma was by then willing and ready for corruption.’

      It was recently revealed that Zuma spokesperson Mac Maharaj was another conduit for Thales dirty funds, via an offshore account. These were men Kasrils relied on for life-and-death missions during the armed struggle against apartheid, though in at least in one case, Mo Shaik (who is now moving from heading the SA Secret Service to a Development Bank of Southern Africa job), there was finally a reconciliation with Kasrils.

      But as Kasrils told me, this wasn’t the same Zuma he’d gotten to know as commander during MK operations, ‘a simple, decent comrade.’ Kasrils’ unsatisfactory theory of corruption seems largely based upon the numbers of wives and children that the former exiles were responsible for upon returning to South Africa two decades ago.

      It’s a potentially racialising theory because as he pointed out in seminar, the white middle-class radicals who returned from abroad weren’t faced with anything like the same material pressures of household reproduction. And so when Kasrils began raising the critique of Zuma’s corruption within the Communist Party, for example, he confided that he found no resonance from black comrades, only from whites and Indians.

      I asked whether, like other vocal critics of South Africa’s elite transition who were purged from the Party because they were communists (the names Jara, Satgar, McKinley come immediately to mind), this fate would befall Kasrils, he smiled and confirmed he was no longer in leadership nor a member of a branch – but hadn’t been expelled. Yet.


      Looking more broadly at morally-exhausted nationalism, what of the so-called Zanufication of the ANC? The phrase was first used by SA Communist Party deputy leader Jeremy Cronin in 2002, and the backlash from Mbeki’s ranks was so strong that a humiliating apology was wrenched from the country’s next-highest profile white revolutionary.

      True, Kasrils quickly confirmed, Zimbabwe’s Zanu(PF) ruling elite is ‘absolutely disgusting. We were their guests in exile and so we were mum over the Fifth Brigade [i.e. the Mugabe government’s mid-1980s’ massacre of 20 000 Ndebele people]. But you do that and you’re caught in a trap.’

      Yet in 2005, in the midst of Mugabe’s most zany, self-destructive activity, Kasrils pronounced in a speech that his regime and South Africa’s shared a ‘common world view’ and would ‘march forward shoulder to shoulder’.

      When asked about this contradiction, Kasrils replied: ‘Sometimes it’s the context. They were our guests on that occasion, and we were signing a standard Defense Accord.’ He looked deeply regretful, but tragically, there is nothing incorrect about his remark.

      Kasrils did, in retrospect, warmly endorse the SA Transport and Allied Workers Union’s April 2008 refusal to trans-ship three million Chinese bullets from Durban to Zimbabwe; Mugabe had ordered them to prepare for potential electoral defeat. (According to some reports, the Zimbabwe army finally acquired these via Angola after all the other ports in the region were declared no-offload zones for the weapons by courageous dockworkers.) Ten months later, the same unionists declared they would not unload Israeli goods, which warmed the progressive world’s heart, especially that of the newly-retired Kasrils, who stepped up his exceptionally admirable Palestine advocacy.

      Of course, blowback from the ANC’s pro-Mugabe policy occurred in late May 2008, when with refugees streaming across the border to escape Zanu(PF) violence, more than sixty murders and 100 000 terrified displacees resulted from a heartbreaking xenophobia outbreak. ‘We are not just seeing spontaneous xenophobic attacks,’ Kasrils told journalists at the time, ‘There are many social issues at the root of the problem, but we have reason to believe that there are many other organisations involved in sparking the attacks.’

      Really? There was no grounding for such conspiracy theory within sound intelligence. As Kasrils confessed, ‘Of course we were aware something was brewing. It is one thing to know there is a social problem and another thing to know when that outburst will occur.’ Stupidly, his National Intelligence Agency director general initially blamed xenophobia on a ‘Third Force’ that was ‘deliberately unleashed ahead of next year’s general election.’

      To his credit, Kasrils later admitted these were ‘misguided’ theories, and regarding official impotence, ‘there has not been the kind of intelligence that has been able to, say, pinpoint exact details. Even now, two weeks into the mayhem, there’s not that great a possibility of being able to say.’

      Resolving that particular contradiction, today Kasrils is a high-profile board member of Cape Town’s most effective anti-xenophobia organization, People Against Suffering, Oppression and Poverty.

      But what happens next, if there’s another stolen election in Zimbabwe like those of 2000, 2002, 2005 and 2008? Contrary to hopes within that country’s democratic movement, Kasrils does not foresee Zuma intervening to ensure a free and fair election through enforcement of Mbeki’s September 2008 Global Political Agreement. In contrast, he says, ‘I thought Mbeki was getting the better of Uncle Bob. There were some changes in the election modalities, thanks to Mbeki’s niceties.’

      This isn’t how Zimbabweans see it, for in March 2008, Mbeki laid down the law just as the opposition Movement for Democratic Change felt they had clearly won the majority of votes in the presidential election’s first round, having verifiable cellphone photos of poll results in each station immediately emailed to Harare headquarters for independent counting. Mbeki was the spoiler by ordering that Morgan Tsvangirai agree to a run-off vote in June, a race from which he soon had to withdraw because hundreds of his supporters were being killed or injured.

      What if this happens again? Kasrils is adamant: ‘Sanctions. Absolutely, what else is there to do.’

      Given the ANC’s ongoing commitment to Zanu(PF), it would be a great service for Kasrils to help open this debate if Zimbabwean comrades request it. The precedent is, once again, the Congress of SA Trade Unions’ threatened mid-2000s blockade of the Zimbabwe-SA border at Messina.


      Another area of contradiction in which Cosatu’s support is vital, is the Secrecy Bill, the legislation that Kasrils originally introduced in early 2008 but that he now virulently opposes. As the Mail&Guardian reported four years ago, ‘Kasrils portrayed it as striking an enlightened balance between the need for secrecy and the constitutional imperative for open and accountable government. However, the M&G raised concerns that it would lead to a blanket of secrecy over government affairs.’

      By mid-2008, Kasrils’ internal ministerial review commission – consisting of Joe Matthews, Frene Ginwala and Laurie Nathan – warned of very negative consequences of providing ‘so sweeping a basis for non-disclosure of information,’ reminiscent of ‘apartheid-era secrecy laws.’

      That commission criticized Kasrils on several other grounds: ‘The enormously wide mandate initially given to NIA to gather political intelligence, that some current methods of intrusive surveillance are unconstitutional and that a policy culture persists in the spy agencies that insists they should be allowed to “bend the rules” when necessary.’

      Again to his credit, Kasrils recognized many of these problems, and by late 2011 he was in the lead of the civil society campaign against the newer and even more totalitarian version of the bill. It was, he claimed at a Wits University rally, ‘turning into a Frankensteinian monster, a dog’s breakfast of toxic gruel.’

      Kasrils also attacked parliamentary oversight: ‘All of those in the committee dealing with the bill, from every single party, are all woefully failing.’

      These are the kinds of dialectical discussions which Kasrils invites: vast contradictions in past practices, conjoined with an ability to track degenerative trends and openly speak out today.


      That reminds me of the last time I ran into Kasrils, on September 3 2002, when dozens of protesters disrupted the ‘Water Dome’ conference panel his Director General Mike Muller had arranged with European privatisers as part of the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development. Kasrils was livid, accusing me (!) of organizing the humiliating toyi-toyi (a task for which this armchair academic is quite incapable).

      A decade ago, this was one of South African society’s hottest issues, along with the Mbeki government’s denial of AIDS medicines that left more than 330 000 people to die unnecessarily, according to a Harvard Public Health School study. Many of us were called ‘ultra-leftists’ during this era, because from around late 1999 in Durban’s Chatsworth township and Soweto, a new left had emerged to contest urban social services.

      The argument, especially against Kasrils’ predecessor Kader Asmal, was that the 1994 water White Paper mandated full cost recovery, ignoring the implicit promise for a Free Basic Water ‘lifeline tariff’ mandated in the Reconstruction and Development Programme. Asmal, whom I briefly served as an advisor, was cross that a water-rights advocacy movement was rising, and he very decisively rejected Free Basic Water, once – to deter me raising this with his staff again – writing me the sternest letter that I’ve ever received (probably drafted by Muller).

      There was great delight in February 2000 when Kasrils announced that at least 6000 liters per household per month would be provided to all residents of South Africa free. The catalyst was his meeting a Transkeian peasant who had turned away from one of Asmal’s water taps and gone to a dirty river for water, simply because the 100 percent cost recovery fetish of Asmal and Muller meant the new piped water was unaffordable.

      Kasrils’ policy reversal represented to many of us the finest of the ANC’s traditions, so different from the staged imbizos that Mbeki was running around the country, none of which led to policy changes.

      The problem reached tragic proportions in August 2000 when Ngwelezane officials took the 1994 White Paper seriously and cut off more than 1000 households because the R56 ($8) connection fee was too high. That same month, Kasrils drove the Free Basic Services policy into the ANC’s municipal election platform for the December 2000 vote. By 2001 the promise had become policy – yet with a catch: Muller ensured that the consultancy that was most responsible for opposing Free Basic Water during the Asmal years (Palmer Development Group) was the outfit chosen to design its municipal implementation.

      The only outcome possible was sabotage of Kasrils’ intentions. Ironically it was here in Durban – the model for the 6000 liters because a drum was provided to residents that was actually cheaper for the city to fill each month than send out small bills and make collections – that the sabotage was most decisive.

      From 1997-2004, according to municipal data, the real price of Durban residential water doubled, leading to a drastic contraction in consumption by an estimated million of the city’s poorest residents (by one third, from 22 000 to 15 000 liters per household per month) – even during epidemics of AIDS, cholera and diarrhea. The reason for this was that after the small tokenistic amount, the next block’s price rose so high so quickly that it was soon considered the second most inequitable (behind Pietermaritzburg) in all South Africa, and the worst of five major cities surveyed by the United Nations a few years later.

      This city, regrettably, was the model for Free Basic Water, yet it should have been understood as an example of South Africa’s most venal public policy: brutal neoliberalism applied to social services but with tokenistic welfarism. In other words, the struggle for decommodification in which Kasrils had initially appeared as a top-down hero, was now twisted into a system for even deeper state surveillance and disciplining techniques, such as pre-payment meters.


      Was Kasrils a water privatizer? Definitely not, he repeatedly claimed. Yet his earlier commitment to ‘public-private partnerships’ (a euphemism for commodification, commercialization and as in this case, privatization) hit hard here in Durban, home to the country’s leading grassroots environmental justice campaigning group, the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (

      Kasrils arrived in mid-2001 to open an industrial waste-water recycling plant in South Durban, owned by the world’s largest water privatizer, Paris-based Vivendi, claiming, ‘Durban has not only implemented some very effective water conservation and demand management programmes, it has also managed to be extremely innovative in the ways in which to provide water to poor and indigent households.’

      Actually, protesters were up in arms about those rising prices and disconnections. From Chatsworth they filed the first court injunction requested by any South African community group against municipal cut-offs, on grounds of water rights. They lost, but the anger at water commodification grew here and everywhere.

      Yet at the Vivendi plant’s opening, Kasrils announced, ‘Public-private partnerships enable a synergy between the best that Government and the private sector have to offer.’

      The ‘best’? This was true for Vivendi profit-taking and for two huge South Durban polluters which were its only water purchasers, the Mondi paper mill and the Sapref oil refinery owned by Shell and BP. Their price of water was cut nearly in half by Vivendi, from R5.40/kl to R2.80, because Durban municipality priced the incoming water to Vivendi so generously.

      But at the same time, SDCEA activists were demanding these firms be closed, in part because they were primary causes of the world-leading asthma rate of 52 percent at the nearby Settlers Primary School.

      Then there was the financial downside. South Africa would pay a steady profit stream to Vivendi’s French shareholders, in an era in which the country’s balance of payments deficit soared to amongst the world’s worst (by 2009 this left South Africa with the reputation as the riskiest of 17 peer emerging economies, according to The Economist).

      Ironically, fairly sophisticated R&D capacity in the South African engineering sector for water recycling already existed, given that the Durban wastewater treatment facility utilises merely sand and carbon filters, ozone and chlorine.

      Asked about these in an interview last weekend, Kasrils rebutted that at least the Durban municipality’s capital was saved for redeployment elsewhere, thanks to the French investment.

      Yet implicit rates of return and profit/dividend outflows were so substantial that it would have made sense for the city to have taken on the project internally, if merely for the sake of expanded municipal capacity and ownership. It would have been a much better use of money than building a second world-class stadium – now considered a white elephant – with the city’s large reserves a few years later.

      Indeed, Engineering News reported that by 2014 there will be an estimated $240 million in South African water and wastewater outsourcing revenues, so to permit foreign, for-profit suppliers into this market without developing national and local capacity was a misjudgment.

      Setting aside the deal’s flawed economics, a more extreme political contradiction loomed: Vivendi wasn’t a good business partner, in contrast to Kasrils’ 2001 claim about the world’s largest water privatiser: ‘a number of French companies heeded the call to withdraw from South Africa in the interests of breaking the apartheid government through economic sanctions. I believe it was in 1985 that the French government decided to stop all new investment in South Africa, a year before the European Union made a similar ruling.

      Kasrils then offered this specific praise: ‘Vivendi Water respected this decision and it was only after the release of Nelson Mandela and his inauguration as our first democratic president that Vivendi took the decision to invest locally.’

      Yet simultaneously, Vivendi’s operations in other countries were rife with corruption, as the 2001 report ‘Dirty Water’ by Friends of the Earth International showed. The month after the South Durban deal was done, in the Italian city of Milan, ‘a senior manager in Vivendi’s water division was convicted for bribery and received a prison sentence’ while four years earlier, ‘junior French minister Jean-Michel Boucheron was jailed for two years’ and fined the equivalent of a million rand after a Vivendi bribe was revealed.

      In another case, according to the Dirty Water report, Vivendi executives were ‘convicted of bribing the mayor of St-Denis to obtain the water concession.’ Vivendi privatization in Puerto Rico was already recognized as a world-class consumer disaster, and in England in 1998, Vivendi’s waste disposal operation ‘was listed by the Environment Agency as the second worst polluter in the UK.’ A year later, Vivendi was hit with seven prosecutions for waste management pollution. Health and safety violations were rife in Vivendi operations by the late 1990s.

      Perhaps most ironically, in 2003 Vivendi changed its name to Veolia, and quickly became one of the leading targets of Palestinian activists demanding sanctions and disinvestment. By 2006, Irish campaigners started to succeed against the world’s largest water firm, as contracts were canceled due to Veolia’s participation in Israel’s occupation of Palestine.

      According to campaigners, Veolia ‘is helping to build and operate a tramway linking illegal settlements in East Jerusalem with Israel. Not only do the settlements contravene article 49 of the 4th Geneva Convention forbidding an occupier transferring its own civilians into the territory it occupies, but in most cases the establishment of the Israeli settlements involved war crimes too. The tramway tightens Israel’s hold on occupied East Jerusalem, ties the settlements more firmly into Israel and undermines chances of a just peace for the Palestinian people.’

      The BDS fight against Veolia has included a great many victories, all of which were after Kasrils left the water ministry. To his credit, the 2001 grand opening can be revisited and Palestinian solidarity politics renewed in only one way, which he has provisionally agreed to: a ‘street closure’ of Veolia’s South Durban plant, one day soon. This would resolve several interlocking privatization contradictions created by Kasrils eleven years ago, and push forward one of the world’s most difficult dialectics of economy-society-nature.


      But there were many other contradictions associated with early 21st century water politics, and this is only a partial list of civil society grievances against Kasrils recorded at a meeting he hosted at the time of the World Summit on Sustainable Development in mid-2002:

      • The SA Municipal Workers Union opposed the private-sector and NGO-oriented rural water programme and the promotion of public-private partnerships in municipal water delivery;

      • Some community organisations, social movements and NGOs, mainly affiliated to the National Land Committee and Rural Development Services Network, complained that most taps installed after 1994 quickly broke and that millions of South Africans remained without water, arguing that Kasrils did not take seriously the RDP promise of 50 litres per person per day of free water;

      • Environmentalists in the Group for Environmental Monitoring, Environmental Monitoring Group, Earthlife and the Soweto and Alexandra civic associations complained that Kasrils championed unnecessary Lesotho dams;

      • Many civic groups protested intensifying municipal water cut-offs, with fierce demonstrations in the townships of Gauteng, Durban, Cape Town and several smaller towns;

      • Criticism continued against low infrastructure standards, such as mass pit latrines in urban areas.

      Because of the failure to resolve any of these state-society contradictions over water commodification and ecological destruction, Kasrils grand opening to the left with Free Basic Water soon appeared as a shut door. ‘You were seen as our main enemy’, he told me last week, ‘because when we offered 25 liters you ungratefully insisted on 50,’ and yes, in retrospect, there was a degree of self-defeating, arrogant posturing by myself and many others on the independent left, especially after the empowering march of 30 000 people against the ANC government and World Summit in late August 2002.

      The tensions ratcheted up, and in his April 2003 budget speech to parliament, Kasrils went after the jugular of the man who had actually surpassed him as the most notorious white revolutionary living in South Africa, John Pape, of the International Labour Research and Information Group in Cape Town. Noting that a few months earlier, Pape was extradited to the US to stand trial for his early 1970s participation in the Symbionese Liberation Army (an urban guerilla group in California best known for kidnapping newspaper heiress Patty Hearst), Kasrils attacked him as a ‘phoney revolutionary.’ (And me and a few others, too.)

      Pape, according to Kasrils, ‘glorified the use of incorrect information in a paper entitled “Down With Missionaries and Objective Academics”. He encouraged his labour education colleagues not to present facts to help workers make their own decisions but rather to “lead” them to support their desired positions and courses of action. I have nothing personal against the man but misleading working people by withholding concrete facts or deliberately providing them with incorrect information is no basis for long term political success.’

      Had Kasrils ever read this 1998 paper? If he had, I sense he might have agreed with Pape’s actual concerns, on the one hand, that, ‘The missionary sees union members as passive zealots who chant slogans and repeat key phrases without being able to analyse or criticize,’ and on the other hand, that ‘The objective academic sees unions as debating societies, not as organizations engaged in struggle.’

      Seeking a route out of these traps, as even a Los Angeles Times reporter could recognize, Pape’s main thesis was the opposite to Kasrils’ allegation. He argued ‘that union leaders had to cultivate critical thinking among their members, not lock-step militancy.’ The newspaper cited these sentences from Pape’s article: ‘It is dishonest to pretend we don’t have opinions. But it is also destructive to use our views as a sledgehammer to hit people over the head. Sledgehammer tactics will silence differing opinions.’

      Indeed at the time, that appeared to be Kasrils’ objective: sledgehammering his critics.

      With Pape in prison, fellow researcher David McDonald replied to Kasrils’ charges: ‘It is morally reprehensible that Water Affairs and other government agencies have not been researching the cutoff situation themselves and sharing this information with the public. Apparently they would rather attack academics whose data does not fit their rosy picture of service delivery than do the difficult work of research themselves.’

      McDonald added, ‘Sadly, the cutoff saga continues, and the new white paper on water services makes it clear that cost recovery remains at the heart of government’s water delivery strategy. Those who do not pay their bills will continue to face the wrath of budget-conscious bureaucrats.’

      Kasrils’ rejoinder was that thanks to his policies, no one should be cut off entirely – because of the guaranteed free supply. Rebutted McDonald, ‘“Free services” are just part of this cost recovery continuum. Once the meager supply of free water is consumed, water flows will be restricted or cutoff if not paid for, despite the fact that millions of low-income households cannot afford to pay for the water they need. The city of Durban, the first to introduce free water, is still cutting off as many as 1000 households a day.’

      Johannesburg townships witnessed the toughest battles over water, and at one point in 2004, Kasrils attacked the openly socialist Anti-Privatisation Forum (APF) for destroying the pre-payment meters which Kasrils endorsed as a delivery system for at least the basic minimal free supply of 25 liters per person each day.

      As he wrote in This Day newspaper in April 2004: ‘Attempts by misguided activists such as the APF to stop municipalities from managing their water systems sill probably undermine people’s water supplies and turn the hard won “right to water” into an empty tap, the right to a healthy environment into an open sewer.’

      APF leader Trevor Ngwane replied: ‘Does Kasrils not know that these devices are banned in Britain, where they are considered a public health threat. Here we have AIDS, and tens of thousands of our people dying from diarrhoea, cholera and dysentery each year. So the threat of losing access to water – and hence our lives – is even more immediate.’

      Ngwane continued, ‘Last May, Kasrils promised he would help by “naming and shaming”
      municipalities like Johannesburg which disconnect people and deny them lifeline supplies. We are still waiting for Kasrils to make good on his promise. Good riddance if, in the next cabinet, he is moved somewhere less damaging to the public health.’


      A decade ago, this was the destructive tone of the debate between the impotent left-left and those few in the ANC’s left flanks who exercised a certain kind of delimited power. The early 2000s conflict was as acute in relation to Johannesburg water as it was for access to AIDS medicines. In 2001, another French firm – Suez (whose subsidiary was implicated in corruption associated with Lesotho dam construction) – was hired to commercialise the city’s retail supply, and let the rich continue to pay a relatively lower post-apartheid price compared to poor people (even Palmer Development Group data showed), while unemployment and inequality soared in South Africa’s meanest city.

      I lived in Johannesburg then, and worked at Wits University’s public policy school. It was not hard to break with Asmal over his decision to hire the same corrupt construction firms to build the second Lesotho dam in 1998, since those two dams were responsible for quintupling the price of water to consumers, as well as destroying sensitive ecologies.

      In 1999, Kasrils as the new water minister inherited the Lesotho Highlands Water Project, which soon became the highest-profile corruption case in the Third World. Even the World Bank began to debar some of the dozen multinational corporations convicted of bribing Lesotho officials, one of which (the giant Canadian civils firm Acres International) effectively closed due to the revelations.

      In last week’s UKZN seminar, Kasrils claimed that he and Muller were the driving forces in speeding up Bank investigations, yet from our perspective in civil society, Pretoria was regularly turning a blind eye to corruption by the same firms. I have found no account of Kasrils’ own attempt to deter further SA government contracts with SA firms like Group Five, Concor, LTA, Ninham Shand, Knight Pièsold and Keeve Steyn, or others associated with the LHWP corruption, and in overseeing the second Lesotho mega-dam’s construction, the same firms were hired.

      Subsequently, as Kasrils confirmed with genuine disgust during our seminar, the main Basotho official guilty of taking bribes, the head of the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority, Masupha Sole, served a few years in jail but in August 2012 was rehired as a top Authority official.

      There was another problem, though: it appeared Kasrils had a Soviet-era fascination with massive dams, something that at least Asmal had tempered by chairing the World Commission on Dams from 1998-2001. After copious evidence of mega-dam destructiveness, that Commission suggested quite restrictive conditions for dam-building, and as a result was rudely rejected by the World Bank and also by Kasrils and Muller.

      In May 2001 after a trip to China, Kasrils witnessed what can reasonably be called the most extreme attack by human beings on nature, the Yangtze River’s Three Gorges Dam: ‘I must state my admiration for the determination and care with which the Chinese government is promoting this vast undertaking.’

      This contradiction is formidable, and last December, when I visited the upper reaches of the dam’s impoundment near Chongqing, I witnessed why the Chinese government itself confessed, a few months earlier, their struggle to address ‘urgent problems in terms of environmental protection, the prevention of geological hazards and the welfare of the relocated communities’ (there were nearly two million people displaced).

      Four years earlier, Yangtze River Forum secretary general Weng Lida also admitted these ‘problems are all more serious than we expected,’ and other senior officials worried about frequent landslides, pollution, and environmental ‘catastrophe’, some in the wake of several ‘major chemical spills and algae outbreaks that have contaminated the country’s rivers and lakes, leaving millions of people without safe water for days and weeks at a time,’ according to Probe International, a Three Gorges Dam watchdog.

      Even Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, a geologist, conceded pollution control was lacking at the Three Gorges dam. There is also a new awareness of how a dam in central China I visited, Zipingpu (upriver from the town of Dujiangyan), had caused the May 2008 earthquake that killed more than 80 000 people.

      These eco-social antitheses to Kasrils’ hydropower thesis have not yet created a new synthesis, but last week he remarked that he’ll soon go back to central China for another look at the Three Gorges, given that he’s in the process of setting up a China-South Africa Friendship Society. Such a society, we agreed, should seek civil society linkages – after all these are the two leading countries I know of in protests per capita – and avoid some of the sleazier relations that characterize China’s interests in Africa.


      After a few days of contemplation, I am certain that the way that John le Carré’s great novel The Spy Who Came in From the Cold was described by Time magazine – ‘a sad, sympathetic portrait of a man who has lived by lies and subterfuge for so long, he’s forgotten how to tell the truth’ – is the polar opposite of how to understand Ronnie Kasrils’ renewed life on the left. After a chilly period as a genuine revolutionary trying to find a way forward within a blatantly corrupt version of ‘post’-colonial neoliberal nationalism, in which his own best instincts were confounded by an adverse power context and bureaucratic distortions, Kasrils should be warmly welcomed for any initiative he pursues, and I look forward to doing so, in coming months and years.

      (It might be easier to accuse others around Kasrils of ongoing lies and subterfuge, including his main water policy advisor Muller, a National Planning Commissioner who, dangerously for Gauteng and Mpumalanga residents, appears to be in Mbeki-style denial about the region’s Acid Mine Drainage crisis. Another is the man who self-interestedly misinformed Kasrils about Joe Slovo’s seven months as housing minister, the World Bank’s Billy Cobbett, before Kasrils delivered the Eastern Cape’s 2010 Slovo Memorial Lecture through remarkably rose-coloured glasses.)

      The method above, in which older contradictions are explored against newer wisdom and recommitments – e.g. on the Secrecy Bill, Zimbabwe, xenophobia – isn’t fool-proof, and many further debates remain about areas of nuance regarding the Arms Deal, water pricing, dam-building, wastewater privatisation and the like.

      What seems profoundly different, though, is an appreciation by Kasrils that a very wide range of progressive social actors, including once-derided ultra-lefties (like myself), could perhaps be part of that renewed movement leftwards, ‘in spirals, not in a straight line’ (Lenin). We can only hope that with his exuberance and unfailing energy, Kasrils continues to spiral up and outwards, gathering more former skeptics like myself along for his ride.

      But for those others facing situations in which power can be exercised as decisively as did Kasrils, likewise we might wish for further ‘catastrophes’ and ‘breaks in continuity’ – like those ‘eight days in September’ 2008 – to hasten the working of the dialectic. If we’re correct, then further contradictions regarding the fight against class apartheid require exploration, to get us to that ‘universal process of motion, one that follows definite laws.’

      Along with Ashwin Desai and Trevor Ngwane, there’s a strong sense I’ve had in recent years that the ‘uneven-and-combined’ character of South Africa and its urban social resistances require much fuller treatment (,68,3,2523). As that too proceeds, I will always think back to the March 2012 conversations with Ronnie Kasrils about his own contradictions, and seek to renew these in some way in search of a better understanding of power: an understanding that he too is grappling with so courageously, given how far he has come in from the cold of Pretoria.


      * Please do not take Pambazuka for granted! Become a Friend of Pambazuka and make a donation NOW to help keep Pambazuka FREE and INDEPENDENT!
      * Patrick Bond directs UKZN Centre for Civil Society.
      * Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      Conversations with my stream of consciousness (4)

      Remembering Generals Ankrah and Mobutu

      Cameron Duodu


      cc T L
      'I must say I was more than happy when Ankrah was removed from office in April 1968 and General Akwasi Afrifa, a far more polished and liberal officer, became head of state.'

      STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS: I am still waiting to hear about General Sani Abacha of Nigeria....

      ME: Listen man, Abacha was, without doubt, the most notorious character in West African history – if not African history – and you can't make me get rid of him just like that.

      SOC: Oh? You're not serious?

      ME: Do you know anyone who would hang nine activists – including a famous writer, by the name of Ken Saro-Wiwa – on the day a Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference opened, knowing that appeals had gone to the conference to appeal to him to spare the men's lives?

      SOC: No!

      ME: Abacha did. Do you know any head of state in Africa who could single-handedly salt away between $2 and $3billion?

      SOC: No!

      ME: Abacha did. This is no fable. The Swiss Government has traced most of the money and sent it back to the Nigerian government. Do you know any head of state in Africa who would invite back the winning candidate in an election (Chief Moshood Abiola, winner of the June 12, 1993 election in Nigeria) – who had escaped into exile because the military had 'annulled' the election and there were threats to his life – and then jail him and murder his wife (Kudirat Abiola)?

      SOC: No!

      ME: Abacha did. And ironically, he and his victim, Abiola, both died in 1998 – within a month of each other.

      SOC: No?

      ME: Yes. So just wait and let me come to Abacha in my own good time. You won't regret it. Right now, I am more interested in exploring the lunacies associated with military rule in Africa. In Ghana, the military carried out lunacies even when they weren't in power. You may remember that in 1979, a group of young military officers carried out a coup against their senior officers who were then in government?

      SOC: That was the JJ Rawlings group, wasn't it? The Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC). Blood-thirsty lot, right? They executed eight senior officers including three former heads of state – Generals Fred Akuffo, Kutu Acheampong and Akwasi Afrifa, right?

      ME: Right. But they did one thing right. They said they would hand over power to an elected civilian government in three months, and they did exactly that.

      SOC: Amazing. The soldiers usually find ways of staying in power once they taste power and discover how good it is to have the entire resources of the state at their disposal. So when these guys left office after three months, as they had pledged, they became heroes. Except to the government they had handed power to – that led by President Hilla Limann (who ruled Ghana from 24 September 1979 to 31 December 1981.) Limann's military intelligence outfit fed him with reports that Rawlings wanted to overthrow him and return to power.

      The atmosphere they created in the country was so charged that I was not surprised when one day, I read a terse report in one of our papers -- no doubt put in by the Military Intelligence people -- stating baldy that an unspecified number of “military personnel” were being tried for attempting to cause disorder -- or something similarly vague. The rest of the report was so uninformative that I could hardly make a story out of it. The official military public relations outfit was uncommunicative when I tried to obtain more information for a story for the BBC World Service.

      But I managed to put a story together and send it to the BBC. In those days, most of the Ghanaian media were lacking in curiosity, to say the least. So everyone who wanted to know what was going on in Ghana listened to the BBC.

      SOC: Didn't Limann himself confront you about your reports to the BBC? Must have been uncomfortable?

      ME: Yes, most unpleasant. One day, I was at the State House in Accra covering a conference on Ghana's gold resources when President Limann, having finished his speech, got up to leave. We all stood up for him. As he passed, he stopped dead -- just by me. Pointing at me, he said in an accusatory tone: “You! Every time I leave this country, they tell me “Cameron Duodu has reported this. Cameron Duodu has reported that…” Before I could think of something sharp to retort with, like, “My job as a correspondent is to tell the world the truth!” he had walked on…

      I felt outraged. I’d known Dr Limann when he was a member of the Ghana Constitutional Commission of 1968-69, and a mutual friend, a nice guy called Kambong, had introduced us and had said to me in prophetic words: “This man is very learned. He will one day be Ghana’s President!” I’d liked the man and had once visited him at his lodgings in the Airport residential area in Accra. He it was who’d first shown me the then unpublished report of the Constitutional Commission… As President, he'd invited a group of newsmen to come and have lunch with him, and he and I had engaged in a surreal tete-a-tete whereby he'd mistaken me for someone else he'd met whilst he was a student in Paris. I tried to correct him, but he was in full flow, disclosing examples of student mischief-making that shouldn't pass the lips of a President. I had to be at my diplomatic best, not letting him lose face by exposing his lapse of memory, and yet trying not to bask too much in the reflected glory he was directing at me. It was tough. The other newsmen looked at us transfixed. I managed to stop him short by saying, "Please, Mr President, make sure your men don't do anything that will embarrass you if I report it to the world." He laughed it off. And now, he was complaining that when he was abroad, he was told of things I'd reported that didn't please him? I wanted to remind him of what I'd told him that day in the Castle. But before I could retort, he was gone.

      SOC: Limann was not the first head of state to reproach you in public, though, was he?

      ME: No! My real bete noire was Lieutenant-General Joseph Ankrah, who became head of state after President Kwame Nkrumah was overthrown by the military on 24 February 1966. He became Chairman of the National Liberation Council (NLC) which claimed to be restoring the democracy that President Nkrumah had destroyed in Ghana. One day, I attended a press conference in the Castle, headquarters of the Government. This was after the 17 April 1967 attempted coup led by Lt S B Arthur (known as the “Guitar Boy” coup because after Arthur had taken over the national broadcasting station, he played a song called “Guitar Boy” by the Nigerian musician, Sir Victor Uwaifo.)

      SOC: I know you're dying to talk about Victor Uwaifo's other song, Joromi and how many girls you danced with to that tune....

      ME: No,no: I am sticking to the military theme. Do you know why Arthur's coup failed? After taking over Broadcasting House, he went to his girlfriend's house, in an armoured reconnaissance car called a Ferret. He went to find out whether she'd recognised his voice when he'd made his coup announcement! By the time he got to Burma Camp, officers had gathered in the mess discussing what was happening. One of them told him that they had assembled to hear his instructions. He wanted to go in armed, but was politely reminded that one didn't go to the mess armed. Instead of saying that mess rules were suspended for the time being, he meekly put his sub-machine gun somewhere and entered the mess. He was promptly put under arrest and put in a guardroom. Meanwhile, the other officers in Accra disarmed his men and put them in the cooler. Later, Arthur was court-martialled and executed, together with his co-conspirator, Lieutenant Moses Yeboah. One funny Air Force helicopter pilot who liked Western films, used to joke about Arhur's stupidity, isaying: "Signor, when you want to coup, coup! Don't go talking to girl-friend!" (adapted from The Good The Bad And the Beautiful, a Western film in which a would-be murderer corners his enemy in a bath tub, but begins to talk threateningly, instead of shooting, and the man in the bath-tub manages to produce a gun and kill him).

      SOC: Yes. But back to the Castle. Lt-Gen E K Kotoka had been killed in the attempted coup. And they were holding a press conference to tell the nation about what had happened. You got up and ...

      ME: I got up and innocently asked Ankrah, “Sir, are you going to appoint another officer to replace General Kotoka on the Council?” (There's hardly ever any solid news to be obtained at a Government press conference – they are mostly public relations exercises meant for the national radio and are a waste of one's time, unless one always asks hard-nosed questions.)

      But my perfectly legitimate question caused Ankrah to explode: “You are the people who are spreading rumours!” he barked at me. “When we made the coup, did we say that when one of us died, we would replace him with another officer?”

      All the journalists sitting with me seemed to shrink into their seats.

      Gee-whiz! You merely ask a question at a press conference and the head of state breathes fire on you? If I wanted to spread rumours, why would I ask the Government a direct question?

      Jimmy Markham, a former colleague of mine at the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (sadly now deceased) and a sharp-witted guy, later made fun of Ankrah: “Ankrah said ‘When we made the coup’! But where was he when Kotoka and the others were making the coup? They merely called on him to ‘gift’ him the chairmanship – to his complete surprise -- after the coup had succeeded! He knew nothing about the coup!” Jimmy laughed at his own witticism but I didn't join in. The Ankrah menace was hanging rather heavily over me.

      SOC: It was an eye-opener, wasn't it? You -- and others -- thought that with the overthrow of Dr Kwame Nkrumah, dictatorship had ended for ever in Ghana. But dictatorship is a human weakness. It can affect the whole culture of a nation. Ankrah's antics provoked the brilliant remark from the Legon Observer newspaper that what was going on in Ghana, post-Nkrumah, was “the same thing different”.

      ME: Don't I know it! By the way, that was not my only encounter with Ankrah. General Mobutu Seseseko of Zaire came visiting Ghana in the latter part of 1967 to confer with Ankrah prior to the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) summit that was to take place in Kinshasa in September 1967. After his talks with Ankrah, Mobutu held a press conference, with Ankrah presiding. Mobutu strongly spoke in favour of negotiations as a solution to the civil war that was then raging between Nigeria and Biafra. He waxed quite eloquent about his own efforts to make peace in Zaire with rebel Generals who tried to secede – he boasted that he gave them big jobs in Kinshasa! (This was a subtle hint on how General Yakubu Gowon of Nigeria could solve the Biafran secession problem). I detected how his mind was working and asked him: “Will you be sharing your experience with General Gowon? And if he doesn’t listen to you, will you then recognise Biafra?”

      General Ankrah [once again] exploded: “Don’t embarrass him!” he shouted at me. “He is not Gowon?”

      Again, everyone looked at me. At the end of the press conference, a foreign diplomat I knew tapped me on the shoulder and said softly, "Cameron, always remember you are living under a military regime!" I must say I was more than happy when Ankrah was removed from office in April 1968 and General Akwasi Afrifa, a far more polished and liberal officer, became head of state. I remembered Afrifa from 1966, when I flew down to Accra from London to cover the 1966 coup....

      SOC: No, you may not talk about Afrifa right now...

      ME: Okay. But may I go back to Ankrah for just a moment? A military aide of Ankrah's once told me that on an official visit to Canada, Ankrah told the Canadian Prime Minister of the time, Mr Lester Pearson, that he thought the US should drop an atom bomb on Vietnam and end the war there! The guy said the Canadian PM, a very erudite man who espoused a very enlightened attitude to world conflicts, was shocked by Ankrah;s ignorant statement. He told Ankrah sarcastically, “I am sure when you arrive next door – in Washington – the man in the White House (‘LBJ’, Lyndon Baines Johnson) “will be “very interested to hear you say that”. Ankrah's aide said he felt ashamed to have a head of state who could make such a crass statement and who was so dumb he could not tell when other statesmen were throwing sarcasm into his face.

      SOC: Hey, didn't we start with an uninformative newspaper report in 1981 about the arrest of soldiers in Ghana for plotting a coup? What did you find out?

      ME: Er, apparently, only one officer was arrested. He was called Captain Effah-Dartey. The Government announcement of his arrest was opaque to the point of being incomprehensible.

      So I commented, in my dispatch to the BBC, that the omens for democracy in Ghana were not good if an "unnamed Ghanaian citizen could be arrested and tried at an unknown location by unnamed people, for an unspecified crime!".

      After my dispatch was broadcast, President Limann's people hit the roof. The Special Branch (the security police) came to my house. They said their Director wanted to see me. I went with them, trying not to alarm my family.

      The Director of the Special Branch told me that the Government was not pleased with my report on the BBC. I replied: "Then the Government should stop doing things that will make me send reports that do not please it."

      The Director had nothing more to say to me. At last, he sasid I could go.
      As I got up to leave, my professional cheek took over. I asked him: "By the way, what is the correct name of the Captain who has been arrested?"

      He said :"I think it is Effah-LARTEY". ("You think?" I said. In my head. I chuckled to myself). Then, I left.

      Later on, when I got to know that the name of the arrested officer was Effah DARTEY, I could not help laughing. I wondered to myself: "If the Director of the Special Branch does not know the correct name of an arrested army officer, then what sort of security system do we have in this country?"

      On 31 December 1981, although he was under a 24-hour surveillance, Flight-Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings was able to carry out a military coup and overthrow the Limann Government. Ghana then entered a long, dark period of repression -- all of which I am sure Ghana would have been spared, if the Limann administration had not allowed its military intelligence to lead it by the nose but had trusted the people of Ghana by ruling in a truly democratic fashion and stopped making unnecessary enemies.


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      Trayvon and the fugitive slave mentality

      Robert Gooding-Williams


      cc W C W
      It appears that whites may hunt down blacks with immunity from arrest so long as they leave behind no clue that they were not acting to defend themselves.

      Before he temporarily stepped down from his position last week as chief of the Sanford, Fla., police department, Bill Lee Jr. gave an explanation of his decision not to arrest George Zimmerman for killing Trayvon Martin. Lee said he had no reason to doubt Zimmerman's claim of self-defense. Though Lee is no longer in the spotlight, his words linger for at least one compelling reason: his explanation bears an eerie resemblance to cases brought under the Fugitive Slave Law during the Antebellum period. Today, a legal standard that allowed the police chief to take Zimmerman at his word recalls the dark past of slave-owners claiming their property. The writings of Martin Delany, the African American political philosopher and activist, shed light on the uncanny resemblance.

      The message from a Michigan judge: If a white man is pursuing a black man, don't interfere.

      During his trip through the free states west of New York to solicit subscriptions for the North Star, the newspaper that he and Frederick Douglass published, Martin Delany regularly corresponded with Douglass.

      One of his letters to Douglass, dated July 14, 1848 (Bastille Day), details the events of the so-called "Crosswhite affair," which involved a court case brought under the Fugitive Slave Law of 1793. The presiding judge for the case was John McLean, associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Delany's philosophical analysis of McLean's charge to the jury is enlightening. A little background may be helpful.

      In 1843 Adam Crosswhite, his wife Sarah, and their four children, after learning that their master Frank Giltner intended to break up the family, fled Carroll County, Ky., where they lived as slaves. After traveling through Indiana and southwest Michigan, the family settled in Marshall, Mich., where a fifth child was born, and where close to 50 blacks, many of them escaped slaves from Kentucky, already resided.

      Only a few years had passed when in 1847 Frank Giltner's son, David Giltner, and his nephew, Francis Troutman, came to Marshall with two other Kentuckians to arrest the Crosswhites and reclaim them as Frank Giltner's property under the Fugitive Slave Law. That law authorized slave owners residing in one state to enter another state to recapture their property.

      Soon a crowd of more than 200 people gathered at the Crosswhite home, some of whom strongly supported Michigan's status as a free state. One man, Charles Gorham, a local banker, protested Troutman's attempt to seize the Crosswhites, after which Troutman was arrested, tried, and fined $100 for trespassing. In the meantime, the Crosswhites were spirited out of Marshall and escaped to Canada.

      Delany's discussion of the Crosswhite affair came more than a year later when he arrived in Detroit during a trial (Giltner v. Gorham) in which suit was brought against Gorham and other members of the Marshall crowd concerning their role in hindering the arrest and abetting the rescue of the Crosswhites. Ultimately the jury was hung and the case discharged, yet Delany dwells on it due to what he considers to be the implications of McLean's charge to the jury. In particular, Delany responds to the judge's elaboration of his charge in his reply "to an interrogatory by one of the counsel for defense":

      It is not necessary that the persons interfering should know that the persons claimed are slaves. If the claimant has made the declaration that they are such, though he should only assert it to the fugitives themselves - indeed, it could not be expected that the claimant would be required the trouble of repeating this to persons who might be disposed to interfere - should any one interfere at all, after the declaration of the claimant, he is liable and responsible to the provisions of the law in such cases.

      Delany's main point against McLean is that the fact that the judge holds interfering persons to be criminally accountable shows that he takes the 1793 Fugitive Slave Law to carry the presumption that any individual, having declared that one or another "colored" person is an escaped slave (whom he is entitled to arrest), is simply to be /taken at his word/, and so cannot legally be interfered with in his effort to arrest that colored person. In conclusion, then, Delany reasons that the Fugitive Slave Law reduces "each and all of us [that is, each and all colored persons] to the mercy and discretion of any white man in the country," and that under its jurisdiction, "every colored man in the nominally free reduced to abject slavery; because all slavery is but the arbitrary will of one person over another."

      On Delany's account, the effect of the Fugitive Slave Law, at least as Judge McLean interprets it, is to subject all unowned black persons to the domination of all white persons. For by requiring that the self-proclaimed slave catcher be taken at his word, the law leaves unconstrained the ability of any white person to arrest and seize any black person. In effect, it renders all titularly free blacks vulnerable to the power available to all whites in exactly the way that, according to Frederick Douglass, a black slave is vulnerable to the power exercised by his or her white master.

      The affinity to the Trayvon Martin incident is perhaps obvious. Chief Lee's statement that Zimmerman was not arrested for lack of evidence sufficient to challenge his claim that he had not acted in self-defense ("We don't have anything to dispute his claim of self-defense") appears to imply that, absent such evidence, a white or otherwise non-black man (there is some controversy as to whether Zimmerman should be identified as white, or Hispanic, or both, although no one seems to be claiming he is black) claiming self-defense after killing a black man is simply to be taken at his word. It is hard to resist the thought that race matters here, for who believes that, had an adult African American male killed a white teenager under similar circumstances, the police would have taken him at his word and so declined to arrest him?

      In contrast to Judge McLean, Lee does not propose that, if a certain sort of declaration has been issued, interference with a white man's attempt to seize a black man would be illegal. Rather he argues that, if a certain sort of declaration has been issued - "I acted from self-defense"- a white or other non-black person who has admitted to killing a black person cannot legally be arrested if the police have no reason to dispute the truth of his declaration; or more technically, if in keeping with sections 776.032 and 776.013 of the Florida Statues the police have no "probable cause" to believe that Zimmerman did not "reasonably believe" that killing Martin was necessary "to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself." Though the two cases are different, we should notice that Lee, like McLean, intends to highlight considerations that legally constrain action (interference in one case, arrest in the other ) in the face of an assault on an African American. This should give us pause to worry that Florida's Stand Your Ground legislation, in its application to cases where whites (or other non-blacks) kill blacks and then claim self-defense, could prove to be the functional equivalent of a fugitive slave law.

      In short, it appears that whites (or other non-blacks) may hunt down blacks with immunity from arrest so long as they leave behind no clue that they were not acting to defend themselves; or, to echo Martin Delany, that Florida's Stand Your Ground law threatens to render some citizens subject to the arbitrary wills of others.

      If it seems a stretch, finally, to paint Zimmerman in the image of the slave catchers of yesteryear, recall that he himself invited the comparison when, while stalking the African-American teenager against the advice of a 911 dispatcher, he complained, using an expletive to refer to Trayvon, that they "always get away."


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      * Robert Gooding-Williams is the Ralph and Mary Otis Isham Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago. He is the author of "Look, A Negro!: Philosophical Essays on Race, Culture, and Politics" (Routledge, 2005) and "In The Shadow of Du Bois: Afro-Modern Political Thought in America" (Harvard 2009).
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      Comment & analysis

      As a Ugandan citizen, I demand justice or death

      Vincent Nuwagaba


      cc J G
      A personal account of human rights abuse in Uganda raises questions about the role of mainstream human rights organisations supported by international donors.

      My pen has since the beginning of 2011 been silent. So many people have been wondering as to what could have happened to me but some have insinuated that I joined Museveni’s ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM). And just like the French saying goes, ‘La bouche qui manger ne parler pas’, meaning that a mouth that is eating doesn’t speak, some people think I am now eating with the ruling cabal. On the contrary, I am still wondering as to why the ruling NRM wants to exterminate me using state institutions that are mandated to protect our rights and our lives.


      On 8 February 2012, I went to Speke Resort, Munyonyo for a workshop organised by the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC). The Uganda Prisoners’ Aid Foundation (UPAF) was invited to present a civil society perspective of the state of prisoners’ rights in Uganda. As UPAF’s research coordinator and a person well-conversant with not only prisoners’ rights but also human rights generally, given that I am an ex-prisoner and a human rights defender and scholar, the UPAF chairman Mr. J.K. Zirabamuzale assigned me to write the paper. The agreement was that when he presented it, I would be around. I have in the past attended UHRC workshops whenever our organisation is invited and I have been at the forefront of quite a number of human rights activities together with UHRC and other human rights organisations.

      This time when I arrived in the conference room, I found Ms Christine Nading, Assistant Commissioner of Police Legal speaking. The issues she raised demanded that they be responded to by a person who knows the conduct of the police thoroughly – not the one who reads about the police in newspapers and watches them on television sets. I accordingly, wrote a chit for UHRC’s Roselyn Karugonjo-Segawa asking to be given time to respond to Christine Nading. I thought I was doing the most diplomatic thing only to be told a short while later that I was not supposed to be in that function. I explained to them that our organisation (UPAF) was invited and that we were presenting a paper.

      I was kicked, humiliated, dehumanised and brutalised by the police at the orders of Roselyn Karugonjo-Segawa, UHRC’s Director of Monitoring and Inspections, and Gordon Mwesigye, the UHRC Secretary. In a human rights function, organised by the Uganda Human Rights Commission to prepare for the Universal Periodic Report (UPR), a human rights defender who has sacrificed too much, suffered at the hands of the police, been put in jail for advocating the rights of the voiceless is subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by the very people who are mandated to protect all Ugandans’ rights. Shame on Roselyn Karugonjo-Segawa and shame on Gordon Mwesigye, and if these people were human enough they should have resigned from their offices on that very Wednesday of 8 February 2012.

      After roughing me up, I was driven to Kabalagala Police station in the UHRC vehicle. From Kabalagala, I was driven to Butabika Mental Hospital in the Police Patrol vehicle. When I reached the Out Patient Department (OPD) of Butabika, the policemen who had taken me there were embarrassed when the hospital staff told them, ‘the man is sane, why have you brought him here?’ Meanwhile before reaching Butabika I was deprived of my Bata shoes, my shirt, money and many other possessions. They left me there and I walked on my own half-naked as they had deprived me of my shoes and my shirt.


      I was lucky to find a friend who took me to his home and gave me lunch, a shirt and shoes and Sh5,000 for my transport. The following day on 9 February 2012, I went back to Butabika and this time I had gone to talk to the hospital administration to warn them against pandering to the whims of those that are persecuting me on political grounds. What befell me instead was total hell. Dr Julius Muron ordered the hospital guards to arrest me and take me to the police. At the police post, Muron himself said, ‘This man is perfectly sane, he doesn’t have any mental or psychiatric problem but he is causing chaos within the hospital’. He then added, ‘Keep him here and charge him’. I was then locked up at the police post. Later I learnt that when one of the policemen came (he wears civilian attire and therefore he could be the Criminal Investigation Detective), he told Muron that they had no way to charge me because I hadn’t committed any offence.

      Thereafter, I was grabbed by the hospital guards at the orders of Dr Julius Muron and taken to Kirinya ward from where Dr Muron subjected me to 18 injections, nine on each side of the buttocks and later dumped me into a side room which is an equivalent of the solitary cells from which they torture some prisoners in Luzira. Later I became unconscious and I regained my consciousness after 12 days on 21 February.

      I have been told that if one of the support staff members who happens to be my relative (whose name I will not reveal now for fear of reprisals) wasn’t there to feed me by forcefully opening my lips, get mushrooms for me, wash me and nurse me like his own son, I would definitely have died.

      Without any sense of shame, even when I regained my consciousness, I was kept on drugs; the same drugs which almost claimed my life in 2008. On the 23rd I left Butabika without any formal discharge.

      The Pan Africanists at Makerere who saw me were shocked and suggested that I must go for a medical examination. At first I hesitated but every passing day, I am losing weight at a rate that has gotten me worried. All the very small sized trousers that I had already shelved cannot even fit me.

      Meanwhile as Dr Muron did whatever he did, I was deprived of my property – my laptop computer, my shirt and jacket, my pair of trousers, my wallet containing huge sums of money, my belt, my phone, shoes and a bible. When I went to Butabika, I was initially only given a phone and Sh100 but later, they gave me a pair of shoes and a bible.

      I have in the past sued Dr Tom Onen together with the Attorney General under civil suit 92/2009. Sadly, although neither the Attorney General nor Dr Onen filed a defence and therefore I was waiting for ex parte judgement, I was shocked to learn that my case was dismissed on 28 August 2009 at a time when I was on remand in Murchison Bay Prison Luzira on trumped up charges of assault and threatening violence. The ‘crime’ I had committed though, to which I pleaded guilty, was opposing the increment of fees in public universities by up to 126 percent.

      After suing Dr Onen, I was declared persona non-grata in Butabika and I was tortured, traumatized and tormented several times by the police and Butabika Hospital guards at the orders of a one Grace Lubale, a former Butabika Hospital Administrator. Grace would tell me, ‘Nuwagaba, you sued us; you are therefore not allowed to step here’. Even when I would go to visit the victims of political persecution and the thieving political establishment such as Gaudence Tushabomwe, who was conned of her money by an organisation that had links with the ruling party, I would be tormented.

      The UHRC whose mandate is to ensure the protection and defence of our rights has also fallen victim and it is at the forefront of the perpetration, perpetuation, orchestration and promotion of injustice.

      When I reported to the president about my ordeal, some of the young men and women initially seemed interested in giving me a fair hearing. With time, however, Justus Karuhanga, President Museveni’s former legal officer told me, ‘Nuwagaba, you can go to court and sue the government’. I am interested in knowing whether or not the office of the president ever had a hand in the dismissal of my case without even giving me a ruling.

      The courts, which are supposed to be temples of justice, cannot dispense justice to the unsung victims such as Nuwagaba. The Ugandan media can only write about a personality whom they feel can sell their papers; the so-called human rights organisations of which I am a member to some cannot inspire hope. They employ people whose interest is not promoting human rights but making money. Many of our human rights organisations, if not all, get money from donors purportedly to help the voiceless citizens. What they do instead is write accountability papers for the donors and they give no accountability to the voiceless citizens on whose behalf they get the funding. In analysis, they con, cheat and dupe the donors who give them money to help the voiceless.

      I know I am broaching a hot subject but I must not keep silent. I have taught in the university and have worked with civil society organisations. I have seen only one genuine human rights organisation in Uganda called Uganda Prisoners’ Aid Foundation under the stewardship of J.K. Zirabamuzale. It is the only organisation that does human rights work even when it has no funding from anybody and none of the staff is a salaried employee.

      I have seen discrimination, sectarianism, and inequality perpetrated by the so-called human rights defenders. No wonder many of them do not have the wherewithal to challenge the government where it goes wrong.


      I am a Ugandan citizen, not anybody’s subject. Like I have stated before when I wrote to IGP (Inspector General of Police) Kale Kayihura, I am an ethnic Mukiga and the Bakiga have never had a king. Accordingly, we have never been subjects. I am a firm believer in non-violence and my icons are Jesus Christ, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and our very own Norbert Mao. Whoever feels threatened by my words must him/herself be suffering from schizophrenia. I have several times been thrown in jail for no offence committed. In 2008 I escaped death by a whisker as Dr Onen was used to kill me; just recently Dr Muron wanted to kill me and I don’t know whether I am safe yet. As a citizen, I demand justice or death.


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      [url=] Friend of
      Pambazuka[/url] and make a donation NOW to help keep Pambazuka FREE
      and INDEPENDENT!

      * Vincent Nuwagaba is a human rights defender. Vincent blogs at and can be reached via email at vnuwagaba[AT]

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      A promising future for the country.....

      An inspiring future for the girls

      Nubian Club


      cc SOS S UK
      The involvement of several Sudanese sects, groups, and institutions in the campaigns and events for women is our desired success as an organization working to support women's rights.

      We celebrate this year's International Women's Day (IWD) under the slogan "Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures". This slogan is taken from the internationally agreeable logo, which embodies a lot of contents in support of women and their rights all over the world; the slogan was chosen particularly as the youth group in our country is considered as the largest among the population, exceeding 65 % of the total population.

      Affirming the importance of this day for us, we fully know that our action is a modest contribution in order to draw attention to the necessity of promoting and enhancing the role of women in the Sudanese society; despite the fact that many other bodies perceive women as reproductive tools rather than productive human beings who have an effective input in the process of building and developing the communities. This is one of the defective views that attempt to hinder women and socially isolate them.

      We affirm our commitment to the issues that we address in order to empower women and achieve gender equity in the society, and there is no way for bargaining on our positions towards these issues; only when we deviate from our core principles which we abide by in all of our programs and activities, which of course include the tradition of celebrating IWD. This day is integral to the global efforts towards the development of women, and which cannot be considered, in any way, as a transient moment of celebration. IWD increases the value of solidarity and advocacy for women's issues starting from, but not limited to, the women in conflict and war areas, women who suffer from poverty and lack of health services and women in the cities and rural areas who lack fair laws and where there is an absence of an equitable society.

      We further more affirm that our annual celebration of IWD on 8 March, does not imply any reduction in our strenuous efforts to advocate and support women in all parts of Sudan. It is rather a work parallel to all of the efforts aimed at identifying the violence posed on women, women's rights, and the announcement of advocacy and support that enable women to enjoy their human dignity-and to attract other groups in this society to join the voice that calls for justice and gender equality. Accordingly, the celebration on this day cannot be separated in any way from what we and other actors are doing in this area.

      We have always affirmed and will continue to assert that the violence against women that takes place in Sudan is not instantaneous and cannot be addressed through the immediate standpoints and the "Day to Day" methodology. That is why we called for the non-exploitation of women, particularly, as a disguise within the political conflicts, and also called for the treatment of women within the framework of the law and the respect for human/women’s’ rights, with special focus on the issuance of laws that deal with the increasing sexual harassment and violence against women including rape and the repeated physical assaults.

      The development of a permanent constitution for Sudan is the affair of none and inclusive to nobody either. The international laws are present and operative in the organization of the life and the communities all over the civilized world, and they have become a part of the Interim Constitution of 2005. Therefore any abandonment to these laws is considered a crime against the country and the citizens, especially since the call for a democratic society in which human rights and privacy are respected, has become a global call. Accordingly, there is a need for an agreeable commitment to translate the constitutional provisions into valid powerful laws in order to bring balance to laws under the Constitution. This inescapable commitment is highly needed for the development of a constitution that prioritizes the respect for women and reflects the awareness of the legislators about gender and gender sensitivity.

      The involvement of several Sudanese sects, groups, and institutions in the campaigns and events for women is our desired success as an organization working to support women's rights . We particularly mean the young men and women with their varied interests, the media, and service institutions, and this confirms that we are moving in the right direction. We hope that all the components of the Sudanese society will take part in this celebration and all activities that support the women.

      Long live the unity of the Sudanese women...long live our beloved country


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      Advocacy & campaigns

      Guide to Using the Protocol on Rights of Women

      A guide to using the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa


      Equality Now and the Movement for Solidarity for African Women’s Rights (SOAWR) recently produced “A Guide to Using the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa for Legal Action.” The Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa is renowned for its strong and comprehensive provisions on women’s rights. The how-to guide aims to equip activists with strong tools to protect and advance women’s rights at the local, national, and regional levels.

      The guide is on the SOAWR website.

      To learn more about Equality Now and its work promoting the rights of women, please see its website (in English, French, and Arabic).

      On a related note, on March 9, 2012, Cote d’Ivoire ratified the Protocol. For a map of African countries that have signed and ratified the Protocol, please see the SOAWR website.

      Angola: Violent crackdown on critics

      Human Rights Watch


      Increasing violence and threats raise concerns about 2012 elections.

      (Johannesburg, April 1, 2012) – The Angolan government should immediately end its use of unnecessary force against peaceful anti-government protesters, human rights activists, journalists, and opposition politicians, Human Rights Watch said today. Ensuring that people can exercise their basic rights to freedom of association, expression, and peaceful assembly, and prosecuting those who violate those rights, is crucial for creating a peaceful environment for parliamentary elections slated for later in 2012, Human Rights Watch said. On April 4, Angola will celebrate 10 years of peace since the end of the decades-long civil war.

      Since January 2012, Angolan authorities have banned and cracked down on five anti-government rallies and arrested at least 46 protesters, 11 of whom courts sentenced to prison terms of up to 90 days. This appears to be an attempt by the government to curb an incipient protest movement promoted by youth groups and others since March 2011, Human Rights Watch said. Human Rights Watch also expressed concern that state media appear to be promoting anonymous groups that incite violence against anti-government protesters.

      “The increasing violence against protesters, observers and opposition politicians signals a deteriorating rights environment ahead of the upcoming parliamentary elections,” said Leslie Lefkow, deputy Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The Angolan government should take urgent steps to end this crackdown on peaceful protest and activism.”

      Uniformed police, in apparent coordination with armed police in civilian clothes and other security agents, violently attacked anti-government protesters in the capital, Luanda, on January 27, February 3 and March 10. In Benguela, on March 10, police arbitrarily arrested a demonstration leader, a human rights activist, and a bystander, and on March 17 police prevented a further protest from taking place. In Cabinda, on February 4, police violently attacked striking health workers.

      Uniformed and plainclothes police and people believed to be allied to the government have acted with increasing violence and total impunity during peaceful protests, Human Rights Watch said. The police have not intervened to protect peaceful demonstrators and opposition politicians who were being violently attacked by armed individuals, seemingly acting in coordination with and under the protection of the police.

      Interior Minister Sebastião Martins recently denied any police involvement in the violence. The evening after the March 10 crackdown, state television aired threats by anonymous groups that claimed they were defending the peace against anti-government protesters.

      Investigations announced by the authorities into the violence have not resulted in prosecutions of attackers identified by demonstrators and eyewitnesses. And new politically motivated assaults, threats and harassment against protesters and observers have been reported.

      On March 10, youth groups called for demonstrations in Luanda’s Cazenga neighborhood and in the city of Benguela, to protest the appointment in January by the Superior Council of Magistrates of Suzana Inglês as chairperson of the National Electoral Commission. Opposition parties contend that her profile does not comply with legal requirements for the position and that she lacks impartiality as a senior member of the ruling party’s women’s mass organization. Some opposition parties had agreed to join the protests.

      In the days before the March 10 demonstrations, groups of unknown individuals harassed, intimidated and beat several protest leaders in Luanda. In the afternoon of March 9, a dozen people wearing sunglasses and hats forced their way into the home of Dionísio Casimiro “Carbono,” a rap musician and protest leader, and beat him and other youth protesters, injuring three of them. On March 7, six people in several cars abducted, beat and injured two protest organizers, Mario Domingos and “Kebamba,” who were on their way to the demonstration site in Cazenga. The victims filed complaints with the police.

      In Benguela and Luanda, days before the planned protests, pamphlets were circulated, allegedly from unknown youth groups that claim to defend peace. The pamphlets called on people not to join the protests, which they allege were aimed at creating instability in the country.

      On the morning of March 10, in Cazenga, a dozen police in plainclothes, including sunglasses and hats, and armed with wood and metal clubs, knives and pistols attacked a crowd of 40 demonstrators and a number of bystanders, injuring a protest leader, Luaty Beirão “Mata Frakus,” and two other protesters. Demonstrators and three journalists covering the event - from Voice of America, Rádio Despertar and a freelance journalist - sought refuge in nearby private residences to escape the violence.

      Witnesses told Human Rights Watch that the police agents at the site withdrew when the armed police in civilian clothes arrived, and did not intervene against their assaults, despite calls for help. Journalists and demonstrators heard shots being fired behind them while they were fleeing.

      That afternoon, unknown people attacked and seriously injured Filomeno Vieira Lopes, a senior leader of the opposition party Bloco Democrático, and Ermelinda Freitas, the party’s municipal secretary, in Luanda’s city center. Both were waiting for a colleague who had volunteered to rescue journalists and injured demonstrators in Cazenga. Freitas told Human Rights Watch that two police agents were present during the attacks but did not intervene, ignoring calls for help by the victims and bystanders.

      That evening, the state television, Televisão Pública de Angola (TPA), aired, during prime time, a phone call from an anonymous person alleging to speak for a group of citizens who claimed responsibility for the crackdown. Denying any link to the police and the authorities, the caller threatened to “react” again “with determination” to any anti-government demonstration. State television did not, at any time, air a statement from protesters, opposition parties or the civil society organizations that publicly condemned the violent crackdown.

      On the morning of March 10 in Benguela, police deployed rapid intervention units, dog squads, and water cannons, around the city. Uniformed and plain-clothes police, armed with pistols, dispersed a crowd of around 60 peaceful demonstrators and arrested three men: Hugo Kalumba, a demonstration leader; Jesse Lufendo, an activist from the human rights organization Omunga, who was taking pictures, and a taxi driver who was there as a bystander.

      On March 16, a court in Benguela sentenced the three men to 45 days in prison on charges of disobedience and aggression against police agents, despite the lack of any evidence against them. In court, the organizers showed evidence that they had informed the authorities about the protest in advance, according to legal requirements, and had requested police protection. They said the authorities responded only orally, two days before the planned rally, banning the protest under the pretext that the initially planned site was less than 100 meters away from the seat of a political party. The detained men were later released on bail.

      On the following day, the authorities banned another protest in Benguela called by Omunga, demanding the right to peaceful assembly, under the pretext that the organization had not completed its legal registration. Faced with massive police deployment on March 17, the organization called off the protest.

      Harassment, intimidation, and violence against participants and supporters or perceived sympathizers with the protests have continued since.

      In a second attack on Freitas, the municipal secretary for Bloco Democrático, seven people one of them masked, forced their way into her home on March 23. They threatened her and her family and stole computers, flash drives, photo cameras, and personal documents.

      On March 21, Coque Mukuta, a journalist at the privately owned Rádio Despertar, found a pamphlet at his residence in Cazenga from an alleged “movement of the youth organized to defend peace.” Human Rights Watch saw the pamphlet, which contained a hand-written note addressed personally to the journalist: “You should move to another neighborhood. Beware, bandit. You are not afraid, but beware.”

      Earlier in the year, police violently cracked down on a strike in Cabinda and on two protests in Luanda’s peripheral Cacuaco neighborhood.

      On February 4, police arrested 21 health workers union strikers in Cabinda city, including two senior union officials. The health workers had gone on strike in the whole province on January 30, to press for improvements of working conditions and the disbursement of overdue subsidy payments. Police deployed rapid intervention police, water cannons, and dog squads, dispersed and violently attacked the strikers in front of union’s office, where the strikers had withdrawn after being forced to move from in front of the hospital. They were released on the same day without formal charges. A union official told Human Rights Watch that police also temporarily arrested, jailed, and mistreated a striking nurse in Cabinda’s interior city Buco Zau on the same day.

      On January 27, police dispersed a demonstration by Cacuaco residents demanding water and electricity and arrested 12 demonstrators. On January 31, a court sentenced eight of them to 90 days in prison plus fines and acquitted the others. The imprisoned demonstrators were later released on US$400 bail.

      On February 3, public order and rapid intervention police armed with military assault rifles dispersed a crowd of around 50 youth, local residents, and family members of the jailed protesters, calling for their release. A protest organizer told Human Rights Watch that a dozen police in civilian clothes, armed with pistols, violently beat participants. Police arrested 10 demonstrators, but released them on the same day without charge. The organizers said they had informed the authorities in advance about the demonstration, but had not received any response.

      Human Rights Watch has reported extensively on unnecessary or excessive use of force by police at antigovernment protests, and threats, intimidation, and arbitrary arrests of journalists and political activists by police and other security agents in Angola, in the past year, including a crackdown on an anti-government rally on December 5, 2011 in Luanda.

      Many demonstrators involved in demonstrations since March 2011 have told Human Rights Watch that they have been subjected to intimidation, received anonymous phone calls threatening them and their families, and been followed by people in cars. Some said they filed complaints, but have not been able to get any information from the police about whether an investigation had taken place.

      “The Angolan government should respect people’s fundamental rights to peaceful assembly and free speech rather than punishing critics and the political opposition,” Lefkow said, “The repressive actions of the government do not bode well for peaceful parliamentary elections.”

      For more Human Rights Watch reporting on Angola, please visit here


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      Call for April 17: International Day of Peasant Struggle

      La Via Campesina


      (Jakarta, 2 March 2012) April 17 is the International Day of Peasant Struggle, commemorating the massacre of 19 peasants struggling for land and justice in Brazil in 1996. Every year on that day actions take place around the world in defence of peasants and small-scale farmers struggling for their rights.

      In recent years, we have suffered from the implementation of new policies and of a new development model based on land expansion and land expropriation, commonly known as land grabbing. Land grabbing is a global phenomenon led by local, national and transnational elites and investors, with the participation of governments and local authorities, in order to control the world's most precious resources.

      Land grabbing has resulted in the concentration of the ownership of land and natural resources in the hands of large-scale investors, plantation owners, logging, hydro-power and mining companies, tourism and real estates developers, port and infrastructures authorities, and so forth. This has led to the eviction and displacement of the local populations - usually farmers -, the violation of human rights and women rights, increased poverty, social fracture and environmental pollution. Land grabbing goes beyond traditional North-South imperialist structures: the involved transnational corporations are based in the United States, Europe, Chile, Mexico, Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and South Korea, among others.

      Financial institutions such as private banks, pension and other investment funds have become powerful actors in land grabbing, while wars continue to be waged to seize control of natural wealth. The World Bank and regional development banks are facilitating land and water grabs by promoting corporate-friendly policies and laws, providing capital and guarantees for corporate investors, and fostering an extractive, destructive economic development model. Meanwhile the World Bank and some other institutions have proposed seven principles of Responsible Agricultural Investment (RAI) that are supposed to prevent abuses but in fact legitimize farmland grabbing by corporate and state investors. La Via Campesina and key allies have protested against this initiative for the past two years.

      Land grabbing is a global phenomenon based on the corporate domination of agriculture through control over land, water, seeds and other resources. It is justified by many governments and policy think tanks through claims that agribusiness will modernize backward agricultural practices and guarantee food security for all. However widespread those claims may be, they have been shown to be entirely false in the real world.

      The key players behind land grabbing prioritize profit over people’s well-being: they produce agrofuels if this is more profitable than food production, and they export their food production if this is more lucrative than selling it at home. In this race to profit, the corporate sector is increasing its control over food production systems, monopolizing resources, and dominating decision making processes. Business lobbies have strong political influence that often overrides democratic institutions; in addition, they act with the complicity of local and national elites (traders, politicians and community leaders) who fail to protect their own people from predation.

      Land grabbing has been dispossessing peasants, small-scale farmers and indigenous peoples, especially women and the youth, from their sources of livelihoods. It is also ruining the environment. Indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities are being expelled from their territories by armed forces, increasing their vulnerability and in some cases even leading to slavery. Market-based, false solutions to climate change such as the fashionable concept of "Green Economy" are forever finding new ways to alienate local communities from their lands and natural resources.

      Therefore La Via Campesina calls on all of its members and allies, fisher-folk movements, agricultural workers organizations, students and environmental groups, women organizations and social justice movements to organize actions around the world on April 17 in order to display massive popular resistance to land grabbing and highlight the struggle against corporate control over land and natural resources.

      Let’s unite and fight:
      • To stop land grabbing and reclaim grabbed land – the land should be in the hands of tillers.
      • To implement genuine agrarian reform in order to bring about social justice in rural areas.
      • To end the control over billions of people’s lives exercised by a few investors and transnational companies.
      • To oppose the principles of “responsible agricultural investment” (RAI) proposed by the World Bank as it can never be “responsible” for investors and corporations to grab farmers' land.
      • To strengthen the agriculture production model based on family farming and food sovereignty.
      On April 17, groups and people are invited to organize a direct action, a film screening, a farmers market, a land occupation, a debate, a protest, an art exhibition, or any other event highlighting the same goal.
      • Inform us about your plans by sending an email to [email protected]
      • Subscribe to our special mailing list by sending a blank email to [email protected]
      • Send us reports, pictures and videos of your action!
      • We will publish the map of actions around the world on
      • Join our facebook event


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      Actions planned for 17 April 2012

      Initiated by the small-scale farmers'Alliance ‘Stop land grabbing’

      La Via Campesina


      The first objective is to make the hands-on struggle led by small-scale farmers’ organisations and/or local groups, supported by other organisations, partners, allies, visible.

      According to the final declaration and the action plan approved by the participants of the International Conference « Stop land grabbing » which took place in Nyeleni in Mali from 14 to 17 November 2011, La Via Campesina and the Coordination Nationale des Organisations Paysannes in Mali are in the process of setting up the small-scale farmers’ Alliance « Stop land grabbing » based on the Dakar Appeal

      There was a unanimous agreement at the Conference that small-scale farmers must be the driving force behind this Alliance ‘ Stop land grabbing ‘. In this way the Alliance will be comprised of farmers’ organisations and local small-scale farmers’ groups who are directly involved in the struggle against land grabbing.

      NGOs and other organisations are invited to show their support by signing the Dakar Appeal and, depending on their capacity, provide physical, moral, material and/or financial support to the actions and strategies which respond to the concerns and projects of small-scale farmers’ communities and organisations involved in the hands on struggle. They can also help to make the fight visible and create, for example, a link from their website to the Alliance’s blog ( etc.

      The small-scale farmers’ Alliance ‘Stop land grabbing’ is therefore the physical network, a collection of groups and organisations involved in the hands on struggle, the objective of which is:

      ➢ To make the hands-on struggle led by small-scale farmers’ organisations and/or local groups, supported by other organisations, partners, allies, visible.
      ➢ To mobilise, communicate and establish a balance of power from a local to an international level by means of actions, events, legal proceedings, etc
      ➢ To strengthen awareness within organisations, on the part of policy makers and of public opinion.
      ➢ To generate support for these struggles.

      It was also declared at the International Conference at Nyeleni that the theme of 17 April 2012 would be land grabbing. This will be a good opportunity to take action together and consolidate the Alliance ‘Stop land grabbing’.

      In order to achieve this we feel it is important to organise a strong synergy of communication and actions as well as to share information and inform one another of how our struggles are progressing. For this there is a common poster, an appeal, the final declaration and action plan of the Conference, a blog stopauxaccaparementsdesterres by means of which you will be able to share your actions and results with press releases, photos, etc, naturally in liaison with La Via Campesina web site.

      It’s time to activate relationships with partners, local organisations etc, to invite them to join in this day of action and to take part in our projects, strategies, perspectives, etc.

      Let’s make this day into a strong common front to say « Stop land grabbing » and build the small-scale farmers’ Alliance.

      Appeal to organisations and small-scale farmers’ groups: Send information of your actions against land grabbing to [email protected] so they can be published on the Alliance’s blog!

      Globalise the struggle, globalise hope !

      For more information :
      ➢ The address of the small-scale farmers’ Alliance’s blog

      Contacts :

      Chantal Jacovetti: [email protected]
      Boaventura Monjane: [email protected]

      Launch of Greenwash Gold 2012 Campaign

      London Mining Network


      Monday 16 April, 7 - 9pm, Amnesty International UK Human Rights Action Centre, 17-25 New Inn Yard, London EC2A 3EA.

      April 16 marks the 100 day countdown to the start of the Olympics: 100 days for some of the world's most disreputable corporations - like Rio Tinto, Dow and BP - to keep using the Olympics as a smokescreen for environmental and human rights abuses the world over. The list of Olympic Sponsors reads like a "rogues gallery" of some of the most controversial corporations in the world. It makes you wonder if they included "how much pollution, turmoil and displacement has this company been responsible for?" as one of the selection criteria. Meredith Alexander, the ex Olympic 'Ethics Csar' who stepped down over controversial sponsorship decisions, will be introducing members of communities impacted by Olympic sponsors all over the world, and we will be launching a new, participatory campaign to stop Dow, BP and Rio Tinto from winning at the 2012 Olympics.

      Drinks and light refreshments available. Sponsored by Bhopal Medical Appeal, London Mining Network and UK Tar Sands Network.

      For directions see here.

      See London Mining Network's new report.


      Remembering Adrienne Rich

      Benjamin Doherty


      She is one of the most influential poets of the late 20th century.

      American poet, activist and teacher Adrienne Rich passed away yesterday at age 82. She is one of the most influential poets of the late 20th century.

      In the 1960s, she was involved in anti-war and women’s, black and queer liberation struggles, and her poetry engaged these issues. During the Clinton Administration in 1997, Rich famously refused the National Medal of the Arts, writing:

      “There is no simple formula for the relationship of art to justice. But I do know that art–in my own case the art of poetry–means nothing if it simply decorates the dinner table of power which holds it hostage. The radical disparities of wealth and power in America are widening at a devastating rate. A President cannot meaningfully honor certain token artists while the people at large are so dishonored.”

      Her 1980 essay “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence” challenged second-wave feminists to see heterosexuality in practice as a kind of sexual inequality and a characteristic of men’s power over women. Addressing her feminist peers in the essay, she writes:

      “Feminist theory can no longer afford merely to voice a toleration of “lesbianism” as an “alternative life-style,” or make token allusion to lesbians. A feminist critique of compulsory heterosexual orientation for women is long overdue.”

      She adds:

      “I am suggesting that heterosexuality, like mother-hood, needs to be recognized and studied as a political institution–even, or especially, by those individuals who feel they are, in their personal experience, the precursors of a new social relation between the sexes.”


      During her activist career, Adrienne Rich was involved with New Jewish Agenda which broke Zionist taboos around Palestinian existence and right to speak. In 2009, she endorsed the Palestinian call for academic and cultural boycott of Israel despite having reservations:

      “Until now, as a believer in boundary-crossings, I would not have endorsed a cultural and academic boycott. But Israel’s continuing, annihilative assaults in Gaza and the one-sided rationalizations for them have driven me to re-examine my thoughts about cultural exchanges. Israel’s blockading of information, compassionate aid, international witness and free cultural and scholarly expression has become extreme and morally stone-blind. Israeli Arab parties have been banned from the elections, Israeli Jewish dissidents arrested, Israeli youth imprisoned for conscientious refusal of military service. Academic institutions are surely only relative sites of power. But they are, in their funding and governance, implicated with state economic and military power. And US media, institutions and official policy have gone along with all this.”

      Adrienne Rich’s essay “Someone is Writing a Poem” considers the power and constraints of art to intervene in politics, and is a crucial read for any artist-activist.

      In paradise every
      the desert wind is rising
      third thought
      in hell there are no thoughts
      is of earth
      sand screams against your government
      issued tent hell’s noise
      in your nostrils crawl
      into your ear-shell
      wrap yourself in no-thought
      wait no place for the little lyric
      wedding-ring glint the reason why
      on earth
      they never told you


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      * This article was first published by Electronic Intifada.
      * Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      Mama’s song

      Akwasi Aidoo


      March 29 was a sad day... We lost Adrienne Rich, one of the most inspiring poets we were blessed with. She gave our dreams a soul called social justice.

      I couldn’t help but quickly script a medium between a lyric & an elegy for this beloved "shero" of our times. Adrienne Rich, one of the most influential and widely read writers of the feminist movement, took on sexism and racial oppression in her poems and prose.

      Mama’s song flew
      day after day through
      crackling ceilings of the Harmattan clouds
      in rainbow stitches of harmonic pleas
      and fell back streaming TearLoads
      of memory naked.

      Singing for life
      A l w a y s

      Her notes went long ways
      to the beats of our hearts
      like the southern sun breaking
      through the clouded sky
      except the anguished spaces
      in its ancient rhythms that said no one
      but no one
      can tame the melodies of griotics on
      this scorched earth called home.


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      Books & arts

      China and Angola: A marriage of convenience?

      Marcus Power and Ana Cristina Alves (eds)


      © Pambazuka Press
      The first book to focus on China’s involvement in Angola presents perspectives from both countries.

      There has been an explosion of attention on China’s interests and activities in Africa and on the wide spectrum of Chinese actors involved in countries across the continent, but the terms and implications of the China–Angola partnership remain unclear. This book focuses on the increased co-operation between Angola and China, explores how relations with China have bolstered regime stability and boosted the international standing of the Angolan government, and investigates the extent to which collaboration serves their separate interests in the immediate and the longer term.

      This book offers a rich overview of relations between the countries: the authors examine some of the labour, infrastructure and policy issues arising from Chinese involvement, from the perspectives of Angola’s oil, construction, retail and wholesale sectors. They show the need for better local control to tackle the shortcomings and foster the benefits of cultural, economic and professional interchange. A fascinating survey reveals Angolan workers’ perceptions of Chinese employment practices and of Chinese workers.

      The book also explores Chinese perceptions of Angola and the relationship, discerns some notable shifts since the early 1980s and demonstrates the importance of grassroots interactions which have often been overlooked in accounts of China–Angola relations.

      Marcus Power is a reader in the department of geography at the University of Durham

      Ana Cristina Alves is a senior researcher with the Global Powers and Africa programme at the South African Institute of African Affairs


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      Podcast on 'African Awakenings' book launch


      This is a podcast prepared by Mbonisi Zikhali based on the launch of the African Awakenings book that we held last night in Ottawa hosted by Octopus Books, Inter Pares, Carlton University and Friends of Pambazuka.

      Mp3 File

      Letters & Opinions

      South Africa: On Hellen Zille’s comments

      Statement by the Mandela Park Backyarders


      Zille's comments brought back memories of the Afro-phobic attacks of 2008; but this time, invoking such phobia between people already living in South Africa.

      The recent statement made by Helen Zille which refers to Eastern Cape migrants as refugees and her subsequent justification of the term, illustrate her failure to understand how apartheid has misguided not only those blacks who were and continue to be oppressed, but also privileged white people.

      On Sunday, Zille appeared on Radio Zibonele in Khayelitsha saying that she was not aware that her statement would create anger and frustration amongst black people.

      This explanation by Madam Helen is quite similar to the common excuse of a school child that is warned by his or her parents not to wear school shoes after school hours. Yet, despite the warning, the child continues to wear his or her shoes and later, when confronted by the parents, claim that they just did not know what would happen to the shoes.

      A similar situation occurred with Martinicans who, as a colony of France before the World War 2, considered themselves French and attempted to deny themselves their own ethnicity and race. But French sailors and officials saw them through the lens of racial prejudice thereby making it impossible for Martinicans to truly ever be equal in the eyes of the French.

      Madam Helen is no different from French sailors. We need to remind Madam Helen that before European outcasts and refugees colonised Africa and other parts of the world, there was no such name calling that sought to humiliate one because of his or her place of origin. It was the Europeans who created artificial borders in Africa, dividing up the continent and confining blacks in Bantustans in South Africa and elsewhere, thereby turning them into refugees in their own country. Artificial borders and the bifurcated state were accompanied by racism.

      So it is in this context that we should look at the term “refugee”, which informed Madam Helen’s comments and by which she has insulted black people. She continues to look at black people through the lens of artificial borders that perpetuate racism and division in our country.

      Zille's was a reckless and a racist comment. It can easily lead to black on black violence such as what we have seen recently in Grabow.

      To us, Zille's comments brought back memories of the Afro-phobic attacks of 2008; but this time, invoking such phobia between people already living in South Africa.

      Rumours even abound in our township that Madam Helen was also alleged to have said that Eastern Cape migrants who left Cape Town during their festive holiday should be forced to remain in Eastern Cape in order to minimise influx. We wish to remind our fellow poor citizens that this alleged statement targets black migrants in ways reminiscent of 2008.

      To us Madam Helen did not have to declare herself a racist in order for her to be one. By tracing back our history and where we come from we can safely arrive at the conclusion that artificial borders and racism are inseparable. By invoking artificial borders and divisions amongst blacks, no matter their ethnic background, Zille is invoking racist prejudice amongst South Africans

      Therefore, we call on the people of South Africa to demand an apology from Helen Zille.


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      Letter to the editors of Amandla!

      John S. Saul


      The real question worth arguing about soberly is: Does the ANC (or the SACP for that matter) have the capacity to right itself and become a real instrument of genuine liberation of the South African people in the post-apartheid period?

      Although all too familiar with the hard, even bitter, kind of South African political “debate” on the left and centre-left that too often turns potentially comradely exchange into a mind-numbing dialogue of the deaf, even I was a little taken aback by the tenor of Jeremy Cronin’s response to my questioning approach to the celebration of the ANC’s 100th Anniversary (both texts published in Amandla!, March, 2012).

      Readers can assess our respective arguments side by side in that issue for themselves so I won’t reiterate them again here. I will, however, take note of the hectoring, even demeaning, nature of Cronin’s intervention since it seems to me to exemplify one very real problem that we have in making further progress on the left in South Africa.

      For his intervention is framed by two observations that can only be characterized as mere sneers, as crude insults. He begins by suggesting that I feel “personally...let down” by the ANC failure to realize a more progressive practice post-apartheid. But let me be clear: I do not feel, nor does my writing for even a moment evoke, any sense the ANC owes me or my “cohort” (whoever that might be taken to be) one damn thing. Surely one can feel disappointed with an outcome without feeling one has been personally betrayed!

      But is it not, instead, the poor of South Africa who have been “betrayed”? I’m not sure that this is the exact word I would use; nonetheless, the point of my article is, precisely, that the ANC continues to owe the poor of South Africa a much greater effort than the party has yet demonstrated to expand the meaning of South Africa’s liberation beyond simple “national freedom” (and beyond, as well, the sort of “liberation” promised in the name of private-sector, elite-centred, “Black Empowerment”). Bluntly put, the ANC should be seeking to help realize a much more fulfilling and egalitarian future, in class, gender, democratic and even racial terms, for the vast mass of poor South Africans. Yet, instead of “liberation” cast in such expansive terms, the party (and the new black elite it chiefly represents) has, all too comfortably, settled for a bald “recolonization” of South Africa by global capital.

      What then follows in Cronin’s Amandla! article is a text in which he seems more often than not simply to concede ground to my substantive arguments (and those of Peter Alexander whom I quote). Yet he then chooses to conclude his piece by capping his broader “argument” against my original intervention with yet another ad hominem slur, one designed, apparently, to altogether dismiss my right to speak with any credibility. After all (Cronin here quotes Zizek to crown his case) I’ve been pursuing, all these years, “a well-paid academic career in the West” and now merely “rage against” the ANC when “it in any way disturbs my complacency.” Kid’s stuff, this.

      The real question: does the ANC (or the SACP for that matter) have the capacity to right itself and become a real instrument of genuine liberation of the South African people in the post-apartheid period? Worth arguing about soberly and carefully, I would have thought. Some of us were already somewhat skeptical about any such prospect for South Africa under ANC leadership during the apartheid period itself. Now our worst fears have been realized and we broach, seriously and circumspectly, the case, and the social basis, for a counter-hegemonic alternative. In such a sober context, just do me one favour, Jeremy. Please don’t trash the messenger.


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      Re: A fresh look at Malcolm X

      Mboya Ogutu


      I suppose, there is no time even an excellent work will please all "stake-holders".

      For someone with the stature of Malcom X, time and space will continue unfurling a myriad intepretations on his life.

      He is, as Marable says a part of the Black Aesthetic in America.

      To us in the Motherland, Malcom X represents our hope and idea of freedom and dignity for the diaspora Africans.

      What Marable has revealed is an extremely complex, protean and fearless African with a special love for his people.He was a man always learning.

      Although some aspects of Malcom's life, as revealed in the book are somewhat disconcerting, one is left with a humbling thought that Marable points out:

      His fiery and incisive oratory and telling truth to power was a marvel and extremely important during his time.

      I find Marable's coverage of Malcom objectively respectful without subservience or sheer myth-making. Malcom X still comes out as an awe-inspiring Afrikan man. Period

      Let’s not joke with the emotive land question.

      Cheruiyot Collins


      The key issues around past historical injustices and gender perspectives must be at the center of the land question for it to make meaning in Kenya’s national development discourse.

      “When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said ‘Let us pray’. We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land,’’ said Desmond Tutu. As in most African states, the link between land, politics, community interests and national development is strong in Kenya.

      On 6 April 1994, President Juvenal Habyarimana's plane exploded in the skies above Kigali. Violence engrossed the country. It shook Rwanda. It shook the world. Two months ago I visited a memorial site for the Rwandan genocide in the outskirts of Kigali; the experiences of the 1994 Rwandan genocide are gloomy. Summarizing the Rwandan genocide as “a failure of humanity” and a case of ethno-tribal conflict of the African jungles’ is not enough. Coupled with other factors, land contributed to this conflict through the unfair and inequitable land distribution and population pressure tightening cut-throat contests for scarce land, ultimately shaping the communal distrust.

      Kenya is currently in a land reform process, recently the Cabinet approved three bills; the National Land Commission (NLC), the land bill and the land registration bill now set for debate in parliament. The 2012 national land commission bill seeks to form the NLC and the County Land Management Boards, whilst the 2012 Land bill aims to nationalize and consolidate land laws around land related resources. The Land registration bill seeks to guide land registration in the new counties.

      Chapter five on land and environment of Kenya’s constitution is ambitious and therefore there is a need to be cautious in its implementation knowing that contexts differ; therefore the National Land commissioners must not be textbook oriented experts and elites clogged with thoughts of tribal analysis packaged as nationalist; instead they should view things with open minds.

      It is important that due attention and care be accorded to historical injustices committed to the voiceless communities of Kenya; this would take us away from the Rwanda route of “years of complaints” by the communities.
      Throughout this process, the key issues around past historical injustices and gender perspectives must be at the center of the land question for it to make a mark of meaning in Kenya’s national development discourse. Due attention must focus on rights of users, land access, tenure, ownership, use and control from both current and historical perspectives; due attention must also be given to the rot and putrefactions in the international trade rules and subsidies rigged to favor the global giants.

      Key issues putting pressure on land use include population pressure, climate change, declining soil fertility, demand for global food and fuel security, desertification, exclusion of locals in governance and management, and inter-ethnic resource conflicts especially in areas originally expropriated for resettlement and inadequate capacities in the land sector. Secured access to land is a prerequisite for sustainable agriculture, national development and prosperity for all.

      Land is a key factor in any meaningful production process. According to Euripides, "what greater grief than the loss of one's native land." This validates African people’s struggle to retain their ancestral homelands and to gain independence from the colonial slavery and external occupation.
      Land remains the definitive form of social, political, communal, national, and cultural, economic security, expression and identity. People’s right to land is central in the struggle against poverty, since landlessness is a principal ground of poverty. National and county policy makers and implementers should enshrine justice and equality, hostile view of community voices, gender spectacles for all, rights of Pastoralists, indigenous peoples, regulating market forces, well behaved foreign investor, and accessible legitimate policy engagement talks-UNCLEAR WHAT WRITER IS TRYING TO SAY HERE. Land is here to stay with us and its importance is best captured by the Hebrew proverb, “He is not a full man who does not own a piece of land. "

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      Cheruiyot Collins is a Pan-Africanist working in Nairobi.
      * Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      African Writers’ Corner

      We are watching you

      Benedict Wachira


      We were not there when you enslaved our forefathers
      We were not there when you showed us your brutality through colonisation
      We were not there when you forcefully stole our resources

      We know what you did to Kimathi, Kwame, Lumumba, Modibo, Barka, Samora,
      Sankara, Hani and all those who opposed your interests on our continent
      But that was in the past

      Today we were born, we have grown and we are watching you
      We are watching you as you continue plundering the Congo
      We are watching you as you steal our minerals through force when corruption
      We are watching you as you put up your AFRICOM bases in Djibouti, and your
      Lilly-pads all over
      We are watching you as you dump nuclear waste on Somali coast, and as you
      support their terrorists from behind the scenes
      We are watching you as you suppress our economies every time they threaten
      your hegemony
      We are watching you as you continue to corrupt and to compromise the
      leaders that your system imposes on us
      We are watching you as you succeed in brainwashing some of us with your
      powerful global media

      We were painfully watching you, as you negated the rule of law in Ivory
      Coast, through the gun
      We were painfully watching you, as you murdered our Brother leader, through
      the gun
      We were painfully watching you, as you took Zimbabwe’s economy to its knees

      Today, your killing instincts are leading you into CAR, in the guise of
      following some Kony fellow
      Today, your killing instincts are taking you into Mali, in the guise of
      restoring ‘democracy’
      Today maybe, Niger, Nigeria or Algeria will be where you will sent your
      religious crap heads and divisive empty heads

      But what you may not know is that
      Today we were born, we have grown and we are watching you

      The Sankaras are in their thousands
      The Kimathis are in their thousands
      The Kwames are in their thousands
      The Samoras are in their thousands
      The Hanis are in their thousands
      The Gaddafis are in their hundreds of thousands

      Maybe you cannot see us
      Because the only avenues we have are the demonstrations, the blogs and the
      never aired press conferences
      Continue thinking that we are asleep, or that we are some ‘lazy
      intellectual African scums’
      Yes, we are few in numbers, but what we lack in numbers, we compliment with
      our energy and zeal

      Our forefathers foresaw this age
      An age where you would view us as some backward people
      An age when some of us would view us as a lesser people
      That was why they left for us the magnificent Pyramids all along the Nile
      Pyramids that you once claimed were built by you, Pyramids that you today
      claim were not built by humans
      That is why they left for us the Great Zimbabwe
      So developed they were, that you once claimed that the builders came from
      That is why the left for us the complicated underground structures all over
      Structures that make a child’s play of your subways and skyscrapers
      That is why they left for us the arts and cultures
      With rhythms that you cannot understand

      All these are a reminder, So that when we see them, we may hold our heads
      up high, we may be proud of what we achieved, and we may remind ourselves
      that we need to regain our lost glory, and bring humanity back into the

      Just like the phoenix, our continent is burning, and the heat is preparing
      us, preparing us to rise
      Just like the lion, we will soon roar, and we will care for nothing, but
      our freedom and dignity

      We have studied your ways
      You use your military superiority to rule on us
      You take advantage of our goodness to splash your wrath on us

      You may not hear our voices, neither do we care
      We are organizing
      We have learnt from our past
      But most importantly
      We are learning from your past and present

      And when we rise
      And when the fire starts to burn
      You will realize that the generation has arrived
      And we shall not forgive, we shall have no mercy, we shall keep our Utu
      We shall use your methods to instill humanity into you
      A worse fate will meet your local stooges and puppets
      For we have seen that love can’t work for you

      And we shall end all this
      Once and for all
      Because we are tired of watching you

      1st April 2012

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