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Pambazuka News Pambazuka News is produced by a pan-African community of some 2,600 citizens and organisations - academics, policy makers, social activists, women's organisations, civil society organisations, writers, artists, poets, bloggers, and commentators who together produce insightful, sharp and thoughtful analyses and make it one of the largest and most innovative and influential web forums for social justice in Africa.

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      Pambazuka News 588: Bread, freedom, justice and solidarity

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      Egypt’s revolution: Bread, freedom, social justice and why global solidarity matters

      Comrades from Cairo


      cc J R
      The Egyptian revolution is important for all struggles against militarized power, exploitation, class stratification, and police violence. Join the resistance to the counter-revolution.

      To you at whose side we struggle,

      From the beginning of the Egyptian revolution, the powers that be have launched a vicious counter-revolution to contain our struggle and subsume it by drowning the people’s voices in a process of meaningless, piecemeal political reforms. This process is aimed at deflecting the path of revolution and the Egyptian people’s demands for ‘bread, freedom and social justice’.

      Only 18 days into our revolution, and since we forced Mubarak out of power, the discourse of the political classes and the infrastructure of the elites, including both state and private media, continues to privilege discussions of rotating ministers, cabinet reshuffles, referendums, committees, constitutions and most glaringly, parliamentary and now presidential elections.

      Our choice from the very beginning was to reject in their entirety the regime's attempts to drag the people’s revolution into a farcical dialogue with the counter-revolution shrouded in the discourse of a ‘democratic process’ which neither promotes the demands of the revolution nor represents any substantial, real democracy. Thus our revolution continues, and must continue.

      Egyptians now find themselves in a vulnerable moment. Official political discourse would have the world believe that the technologies of democracy presently spell a choice between ‘two evils’. These are: Ahmed Shafiq, who guarantees the consolidation of the outgoing regime and its return with a vengeance, openly promising a criminal assault on the revolution under the fascist spectres of ‘security’ and ‘stability’, and the false promise of protection for religious minorities (against whom the regime systematically stages assault and isolation as part of its fear-mongering campaigns); and Mohamed Morsi, the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood whom we are expected to imagine might ‘save’ us from the ‘old regime’ through the myths of cultural renaissance - all while consolidating its financial stronghold and the regional capitalist hegemony that fosters and depends on it for a climate of rampant exploitation of Egypt’s people and their resources.

      This consolidation, we are certain, will be accompanied by the subsequent marshalling of the military apparatus to protect the emboldened ruling class of the Muslim Brotherhood from the wrath and revolt of its victims: the multitude whom the leaders of the organization have historically fought by condemning and outlawing our struggles for livelihood, dignity and equality.

      According to election officials, most voters themselves (75 per cent) have chosen neither Shafiq nor Morsi in the first round of elections. We refuse to recognize the choice of ‘lesser of two evils’ when these evils masquerade in equal measure for the same regime. We believe there is another choice. And in times where perceived common sense is as far from the truth as can be, we find the need to speak out once again.

      We perceive the affair of presidential elections in Egypt as an attempt by the as yet prevailing military junta and its counter-revolutionary forces to garner international legitimacy to cement the existing regime and deliver more lethal blows to the Egyptian revolution. We ask you to join us in resisting the logic of this process that seeks to further entrench the counter-revolution.

      Our struggle does not exist in isolation from yours.

      What is revolution, but the immediate and uncompromising rejection of the status quo: of militarized power, exploitation, class stratification, and relentless police violence - just to name a few of the most basic and cancerous features of society in the present moment. These structural realities are not unique to Egypt or the Egyptian revolution.

      In both the South and the North communities resist what we are meant to accept without questioning, rising up against the narrow realist perspective that tells us that democracy is merely choosing the lesser of ‘two evils’, and that the election of either represents a choice in government rather than what it is: an affirmation of the only government that exists - that of unbridled, repressive and dehumanizing capitalist relations. We stand in solidarity with the masses of precarious and endangered people who have chosen to defend their being from an aggressive global system that is in crisis; indeed, a sputtering system that, in its twilight hours, reaches for unprecedented levels of surveillance, militarization and violence to quell our insurrections.

      We must make clear that despite the fact of the international political establishment’s praise of the ‘democratic’ nature of the first round of the Egyptian presidential elections, we strongly and categorically reject the outcome of these elections for they do not represent the desires of the Egyptian people that fought in the January 25th Revolution.

      Furthermore, we categorically reject the elections themselves in principle, for the following reasons:

      1. Even by the standards of the deceased and irrelevant systems of representation that once existed in the Global North, no ‘free and fair elections’ can take place under the supervision of a power-hungry military junta, vying relentlessly for continued political domination and the protection of their vast economic empire, so relentlessly, indeed, that no constitution exists to define the powers of any presidency. How can we tolerate a military dictatorship’s supervision of any political process when thousands of Egyptians continue to languish in the dungeons of military prison after undergoing arbitrary arrest, campaigns of systematic torture, and exceptional military tribunals.

      2. The abuse of law in favour of the power mongering of the ruling military generals: in order to run the junta's preferred candidate, former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq, the Supreme Presidential Electoral Commission has simply and blatantly disregarded the law of political exclusion recently passed in order to ban the candidacy of any members of Mubarak’s regime from running in the presidential elections.

      3. The absurdity of unlimited power concentrated in the hands of an electoral commission made up of central figures from the Mubarak era who are meant to supervise a ‘democratic’ process.

      4. The vague programs marketed by the most strongly backed candidates fly in the face of the values and object of the revolution, the very reason why we are even having these elections today and the cause for which over a thousand martyrs gave their lives: ‘bread, freedom and social justice’.

      If these elections take place and are internationally recognized the regime will have received the world’s stamp of approval to make void everything the revolution stands for. If these elections are to pass while we remain silent, we believe the coming regime will license itself to hunt us down, lock us up and torture us in an attempt to quell all forms of resistance to its very raison d'etre.

      We continue on our revolutionary path committed to resisting military rule and putting an end to military tribunals for civilians and the release of all detainees in military prisons. We continue to struggle in the workplace, in schools and universities and with popular committees in our neighbourhoods. But our fight is as much against the governments and systems supporting the regime that suppresses us.

      We are determined to audit loan agreements that did and continue to occur between international financial institutions or foreign governments with a regime that claims to represent us while thriving from exploiting and repressing us.

      We call on you to join us in our struggle against the reinforcements of the counter-revolution. How will you stand in solidarity with us? If we are under attack, you are also under attack for our battle is a global one against the forces that seek our obedience and suppression.

      We stand with the ongoing revolution, a revolution that will only be realized by the strength, community and persistence of the people; not through a poisonous referendum for military rule.

      Comrades from Cairo
      [email protected]


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      NATO's Libya blitzkrieg and the coming colonial wars

      Dan Glazebrook


      cc US Navy
      If you want a vision of Africa under AFRICOM tutelage, look no further than Libya, NATO’s model of an African state: condemned to decades of violence and trauma through military colonialism.

      The scale of the ongoing tragedy visited on Libya by NATO and its allies is becoming horribly clearer with each passing day. Estimates of those killed so far vary, but 50,000 seems like a low estimate; indeed the British Ministry of Defence was boasting that the onslaught had killed 35,000 as early as last May. But this number is constantly growing.

      The destruction of the state’s forces by British, French and American blitzkrieg has left the country in a state of total anarchy – in the worst possible sense of the word. Having had nothing to unite them other than a temporary willingness to act as NATO’s foot soldiers, the former ‘rebels’ are now turning on each other. One hundred and forty seven were killed in in-fighting in Southern Libya in a single week earlier this year, and in recent weeks government buildings - including the prime ministerial compound - have come under fire by ‘rebels’ demanding cash payment for their services. $1.4billion has been paid out already - demonstrating once again that it was the forces of NATO colonialism, not Gaddafi, who were reliant on ‘mercenaries’ - but payments were suspended last month due to widespread nepotism. Corruption is becoming endemic - a further $2.5billion in oil revenues that was supposed to have been transferred to the national treasury remains unaccounted for.

      Libyan resources are now being jointly plundered by the oil multinationals and a handful of chosen families from amongst the country’s new elites; a classic neo-colonial stitch-up. The use of these resources for giant infrastructure projects such as the Great Manmade River, and the massive raising of living standards over the past four decades (Libyan life expectancy rose from 51 to 77 since Gaddafi came to power in 1969) sadly looks to have already become a thing of the past.

      But woe betide anyone who mentions that now. It was decided long ago that no supporters of Gaddafi would be allowed to stand in the upcoming elections, but recent changes have gone even further. Law 37, passed by the new NATO-imposed government last month, has created a new crime of ‘glorifying’ the former government or its leader - subject to a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Would this include a passing comment that things were better under Gaddafi? The law is cleverly vague enough to be open to interpretation. It is a recipe for institutionalised political persecution.

      Even more indicative of the contempt for the rule of law amongst the new government - a government, remember, which has yet to receive any semblance of popular mandate, and whose only power base remains the colonial armed forces – is Law 38. This law has now guaranteed immunity from prosecution for anyone who committed crimes aimed at ‘promoting or protecting the revolution’. Those responsible for the ethnic cleansing of Tawergha - such as Misrata’s self-proclaimed ‘brigade for the purging of black skins’ - can continue their hunting down of that cities’ refugees in the full knowledge that they have the new ‘law’ on their side. Those responsible for the massacres in Sirte and elsewhere have nothing to fear. Those involved in the widespread torture of detainees can continue without repercussions - so long as it is aimed at ‘protecting the revolution’ - i.e. maintaining NATO-TNC dictatorship.

      This is the reality of the new Libya: civil war, squandered resources, and societal collapse, where voicing preference for the days when Libya was prosperous and at peace is a crime, but lynching and torture is not only permitted but encouraged.

      Nor has the disaster remained a national one. Libya’s destabilisation has already spread to Mali, prompting a coup, and huge numbers of refugees - especially amongst Libya’s large black migrant population - have fled to neighbouring countries in a desperate attempt to escape both aerial destruction and lynch mob rampage, putting further pressure on resources elsewhere. Many Libyan fighters, their work done in Libya, have now been shipped by their imperial masters to Syria to spread their sectarian violence there too.

      Most worrying for the African continent, however, is the forward march of AFRICOM -the US military’s African command - in the wake of the aggression against Libya. It is no coincidence that barely a month after the fall of Tripoli - and in the same month Gaddafi was murdered (October 2011) - the US announced it was sending troops to no less than four more African countries - the Central African Republic, Uganda, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. AFRICOM have now announced an unprecedented 14 major joint military exercises in African countries for 2012. The military re-conquest of Africa is rolling steadily on.

      None of this would have been possible whilst Gaddafi was still in power. As founder of the African Union, its biggest donor, and its one-time elected Chairman, he wielded serious influence on the continent. It was partly thanks to him that the US was forced to establish AFRICOM’s HQ in Stuttgart in Germany when it was established in February 2008, rather than in Africa itself; he offered cash and investments to African governments who rejected US requests for bases. Libya under his leadership had an estimated $150 billion of investments in Africa, and the Libyan proposal, backed with £30 billion cash, for an African Union Development Bank would have seriously reduced African financial dependence on the West. In short, Gaddafi’s Libya was the single biggest obstacle to AFRICOM penetration of the continent.

      Now he has gone, AFRICOM is stepping up its work. The invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan showed the West that wars in which their own citizens get killed are not popular; AFRICOM is designed to ensure that in the coming colonial wars against Africa, it will be Africans who do the fighting and dying, not Westerners. The forces of the African Union are to become integrated into AFRICOM under a US-led chain of command. Gaddafi would never have stood for it; that is why he had to go.

      And if you want a vision of Africa under AFRICOM tutelage, look no further than Libya, NATO’s model of an African state: condemned to decades of violence and trauma, and utterly incapable of either providing for its people, or contributing to regional or continental independence. The new military colonialism in Africa must not be allowed to advance another inch.


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

      * Dan Glazebrook writes for the Morning Star newspaper and is one of the co-ordinators for the British branch of the International Union of Parliamentarians for Palestine. He can be contacted at [email protected]
      * Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      Algeria and the Arab Spring

      Hamza Hamouchene


      cc Marcovdz
      Algeria’s fratricidal war has divided democrats, seriously damaged civil society and left a political vacuum in the face of the ruling parties. There is almost no opposition with a proper base that can take the demands of the people forward.

      A year ago, waves of uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa swept away western-backed tyrants one after the other - first Tunisia’s Ben Ali, then Egypt’s Mubarak... It seemed the list of toppled dictators was bound to go on and on. These uprisings were unforgettable historical events and the emancipatory experience was so contagious that people all over the world were inspired. Occupiers from London to Wall Street were proud to “Walk like an Egyptian”.

      These revolts had echoes in other countries because they shared the same detonators of the explosion: authoritarianism, inegalitarian development, high unemployment, poverty, endemic corruption and nepotism, a suffocated political life, repression, human rights abuses, a frustrated educated youth without horizons and parasitic bourgeoisies who continue their protected robbery, exploitation and self-enrichment.

      The peoples of this region were long confined to racist stereotypes and contemptuous clichés of the like: “Arabs and Muslims are not fit for democracy and they are incapable of governing themselves”.

      The Arab Spring shattered these stereotypes and debunked these myths. The wind of revolution has spread from Tunisia to Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, Jordan, Morocco and Oman. Algeria at the vanguard in the 1960s, a nation that inspired the entire world with its heroic revolutionary war against the French colonialists, paradoxically seemed preserved from these aspirations. The western media portrayed Algeria as being at the margin of the Arab spring, of being the exception. Of course this is an optical illusion.

      Not at the centre of the media spotlight, nevertheless the country in 2010 and 2011 saw an unprecedented number of demonstrations, strikes, occupations, and clashes with the police. In 2010 alone, the authorities counted 11,500 riots, public demonstrations and gatherings across the country. The year 2011 started with the implementation of fiscal measures introduced by the government to counteract the informal economy. These had dire consequences on the already-difficult life of the population: a substantial increase in basic food staples (30% for sugar for example). For the networks that controlled the informal market, these measures were bound to cause huge financial losses.

      The reactions converged into violent riots between January 4 - 10 in several cities. These of course were contained by a bloated police force. ‘Algiers the White’ became ‘Algiers the Blue’ in reference to the uniform of 140,000 policemen who successfully suppressed all the marches and demonstrations organised by political parties and by figures of the civil society in the following weeks.

      All this indicates that Algeria has not been spared from the wind of revolution, and like their counterparts in other Arab countries, Algerians have expressed the same aspirations to freedom and dignity. The rapidity with which the flames of revolt spread – thanks to Al Jazeera - gave the illusion that change will happen overnight and regimes will fall one after the other like a house of cards. That did not happen!

      Why is Algeria not following in the footsteps of Egypt and Tunisia in toppling dictators? A revolutionary experience along the lines of the Tunisian and Egyptian scenarios will be very difficult to reproduce in Algeria, but that does not mean that Algeria is immune or protected from the wind of change.
      Why such a task is hard to achieve

      Despotism in Algeria is collegial. It is shared and not concentrated in the hands of one person/one family that focuses all the hatred and grudges. A diffuse dictatorship like the Algerian one is harder to dislodge than those that offer a precise target to popular resentment like the Shah in Iran, Suharto in Indonesia or Ben Ali in Tunisia, just to cite a few examples. The oligarchic coalitions have a larger base than personalised dictatorships, which makes them less fragile. They are also more resistant because they conceded some power to the people, especially to the large and complex networks.

      On top of that, the oil rents contribute significantly to regime longevity and stability by pacifying the population and delaying any radicalisation of the popular anger, especially with the recent redistribution of the petro-dollars à la Bouteflika.

      The Algerian ruling elite likes to repeat that Algeria had its democratic revolution in October 1988 when the regime was forced by weeks of riots to open up to political pluralism and allowed an independent press. These gains in civil liberties were diluted and the democratic transition aborted in the civil war of the 90s that left the nation wounded, traumatised and less disposed to rise up against a regime that triumphed over radical Islamism at the expense of hundreds of thousands of deaths.

      This fratricidal war has divided democrats, seriously damaged civil society and left a political vacuum in the face of the ruling parties. There is almost no opposition with a proper base that can take the demands of the people forward.

      The spectre of the civil war and the fear of bloody violence have been exacerbated by the Libyan drama, and what’s currently happening in Yemen and Syria. The intervention in Libya was a war of regime change and was perceived as an imperialist plot in Algerians’ minds, reviving their anti-colonialist feelings. I have been told by many friends and family members: “Algeria is fine, we don’t need to go down the route of the Libyan disaster, and we don’t want the France we expelled in 1962 to come back to our country”.

      What is to be done to achieve a genuine democratic change? The conjunction of social discontents that we have seen in the last year seems insufficient to threaten a regime that has always repressed revolts in blood. There is a crying urgency for an authentic democratic opposition to revive itself and politicise the legitimate demands of the people that currently find only confused expression.

      Some people say that democratic change will come from above, i.e. from the citadels of the regime. But as long as the masses do not exercise pressure from beneath, struggle to radically change the status quo will be unfulfilled and the interests of the profiteering cast will be maintained.

      This year, Algeria will be celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of a thwarted independence, an anniversary that bears witness to the deception and disappointments that followed, a celebration tainted with bitterness as Algerians feel cheated of the fruits of independence and realise that the corrupt pouvoir betrayed the revolution. It is time for Algerians in Algeria and abroad to revive that revolutionary fervour that was admired all over the world, to renew our struggle for a true liberation and a meaningful democratic change, and to build a dynamic civil society and a strong mass-movement against authoritarianism and any form of oppression and injustice.

      In that spirit, some Algerian friends and I, inspired by the historic events of the “Arab Spring”, have founded Algeria Solidarity Campaign, an organisation based in London, which is campaigning for peaceful democratic change and the respect for human rights in Algeria. We are striving to build a platform for debate and an exchange of ideas regarding the challenges that face the Algerian people.


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

      * Hamza Hamouchene is an activist and member of the Algerian Solidarity Campaign based in London.
      * This article was first published by Opendemocracy.

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

      Resisting capitalism: How views from the global south matter

      ‘This volume constitutes scholarship of the highest quality’


      © Pambazuka Press
      In ‘Global History: A View from the South’ Samir Amin shows us how we can overcome the exploitative pressures of global capitalism.

      Samir Amin is regularly put together with three other progressive left academic intellectuals, Immanuel Wallerstein, Andre Gunder Frank and Giovanni Arrighi. And indeed, he collaborated closely with them especially during the 1970s, when they were known within academia as the ‘Gang of Four’.

      Nevertheless, his book ‘Global History: A View from the South’ (Pambazuka Press, 2011) makes clear that Amin has adopted independent positions on a number of key issues, which differentiate him from the others and provide the basis for an important criticism of Eurocentrism.

      First, he highlights the significance of the industrial revolution in England, identified as the advanced form of capitalism since 1800. While Wallerstein dates capitalism back to the long 16th century starting around 1450 (e.g. Wallerstein 1974: 399) and Arrighi downplays the industrial revolution completely in the rise to international dominance by Britain (Arrighi 1994: 209-10), Amin captures its systemic importance.

      ‘The capitalist system only reached its advanced from with the establishment of the mechanised factory in the 19th century (modern industry), a base which was essential to the deployment of the law of value specific to the capitalism mode of production (Amin 2011: 71).’

      Second, Amin’s definition of capitalism is equally different from Wallerstein’s and Arrighi’s market based definitions. For Amin, ‘the development of historical capitalism is based on the private appropriation of agrarian land, the submission of agricultural production to the requirements of the “market” and, on this basis, the continuing and accelerating expulsion of the peasant population for the benefit of a small number of capitalist farmers (Amin 2011: 172-3).’

      In other words, when assessing the transition to capitalism in Europe, there is an emphasis on enclosures in England and the constitution of private property, i.e. the way the production process is organised.

      Third, in his broad historical sweep, Amin identifies several parallel tributary systems from 500 BC to about 1500 AD, based on direct, politically enforced surplus extraction from peasant activity, and dominated by ideological authority and the existence of a universal ideology. He highlights India, China and the Islamic Orient as the three major core tributary systems plus several less significant tributary systems in the periphery including, for example, Europe (Amin 2011: 85).

      Nevertheless, in contrast to Andre Gunder Frank (e.g. Frank and Gills 1993), who thinks in terms of an integrated world system reaching back up to 5,000 years, Amin does not conclude that the trading links between these different tributary systems implied that they were part of one and the same overall system. In this sense, ‘the capitalist mode of production represents a qualitative rupture with systems that preceded it (Amin 2011: 123).’ 

      Importantly, Amin employs the concept of ‘tributary system’ as a tool for a non-European interpretation of universal history (Amin 2011: 137). In his analysis of the period between 500 BC and 1,500 AD, he outlines that Europe was little more than a barbarous and backward periphery lacking behind major tributary systems such as India, China and the Islamic Orient and their scientific, intellectual and general civilizational achievements.

      ‘Eurocentrism is thus in effect an ideology that enables its defenders to conclude that “modernity” (or/and capitalism) could only have been born in Europe, which subsequently offered it to other peoples (“the civilising mission”) (Amin 2011: 154).’ However, a modern bureaucracy, the recruitment to which was based on competitive examinations, and the establishment of a secular society, in which it was understood that it was human beings, not God, who made history - both key ingredients of capitalist modernity for Amin - had already been present within China long before similar developments in Europe. Ultimately, this implies that China too could have led the transition to capitalism.

      Overall, this volume constitutes scholarship of the highest quality. The breadth and depth of this study is amazing and testimony to Amin’s status as an internationally leading progressive scholar of the left. It helps us to understand better where we are from a non-Eurocentric perspective and thus provides indicators of how we can resist and overcome the exploitative pressures of global capitalism. 


      - Amin, Samir (2011) ‘Global History: A View from the South.’ Cape Town et al: Pambazuka Press.

      - Arrighi, Giovanni (1994) ‘The Long Twentieth Century: Money, Power, and the Origins of Our Times.’ London/New York: Verso.

      - Frank, Andre Gunder and Barry Gills (1993) ‘The World System: Five Hundred Years Or Five Thousand?’ London: Routlege.

      - Wallerstein, Immanuel (1974) ‘The Rise and Future Demise of the World Capitalist System: Concepts for Comparative Analysis’, Comparative Studies in Society and History, Vol.16/4: 387-415.


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

      * Prof. Andreas Bieler 
is Professor of Political Economy,
University of Nottingham/UK

      Email: [email protected]

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

      The Wisconsin recall vote

      Another wakeup call for the left in the United States of America

      Horace Campbell


      cc D H
      The recall election serves as a wakeup call for progressives. The future of the struggles against capitalism cannot be decided by electoral struggles, which are one of the many forms of mobilization.

      On Tuesday June 5 there was a recall election to remove Scott Walker, the Republican governor of the State of Wisconsin. Walker had won the elections as governor in November 2010 when a racist populist formation called the Tea Party mobilized millions to oppose the ideas of a new multi-racial USA based on social and economic justice. Within a few weeks after becoming the governor, Scott Walker exposed the deep conservatism of this Tea Party movement with attacks on the conditions of working peoples through what was termed ’austerity ’measures, which meant cutting back on the rights of workers. When the real target of these measures were revealed to be an outright assault on the democratic rights of working peoples, especially the right to collective bargaining by unionized state employees, there was open rebellion. This rebellion took inspiration from the uprisings in Egypt and brought international attention to the working peoples struggles in the United States.

      There were many paths before the workers in how to respond to the program of the governor. Out of these possible paths, continuous worker education drives, general strike, continuous protests, building multi-racial alliances, opposing privatization, organizing across the USA for a new system, the leaders of this movement choose the path of pushing for a recall election. This push required 540,208 signatures and by January 2012 the movement for recall had garnered close to 1 million signatures. We will argue this week that the very nature of the campaign to focus on elections acted as a tool for the demobilization of the working poor in Wisconsin and placed the struggle on the terrain that would favor the monied classes in this recall.

      The opponent of Scott Walker for the Democratic Party was the Mayor of Milwaukee, Tom Barrett. Barrett is the mayor of a city with over 50 per cent unemployment among peoples of African descent. The policies of Barrett were not fundamentally different from Scott Walker and pointed to the reality that the official Democratic Party in the USA does not have any new ideas of how to challenge the billionaires in the midst of the capitalist depression. The media and President Obama have cried that Scott Walker out-spent Tom Barrett eight to one, spending US $45.9 million in this recall election. However, while this focus on money is one indication of the corruption of the electoral system in the United States, the more profound question lies in the task of building a new movement for the poor and oppressed in the midst of this prolonged crisis of capitalism. The vote was another wake up call for those who want social justice. Last week we were alerted in Egypt to the fact that the electoral process was rigged against real and fundamental changes. This week, the Wisconsin recall vote acted as another teaching moment to alert progressives internationally that while elections can be a platform for struggles, this cannot be the only platform.


      Wisconsin is a medium-size midwestern state in the United States with a population of 5.7 million persons. This was the land of differing native peoples whose land was occupied and settled by colonizers who made this territory a state of the United States in 1848. It is a state with a rich history. This is a history of populism and labor activism and at the same time the state that produced the infamous Senator Joseph McCarthy, the Cold War demagogue. Currently, the House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan is the flag bearer for conservatism from this state at the national level and the chairperson of the Republican Party, Reince Priebus, comes from this state. The history of dispossession of the First Nation Peoples stands as a permanent statement against the idea of ‘progressivism’ that has been registered as part of the history of this state.

      Yet, in many respects this state can be distinguished from others by the long traditions of the trade union militancy since the 19th century. Worker protests and unionization had registered in this state over the past one hundred years and in the period of deindustrialization, the most militant section of the working class has been the public sector unions, that is, those employed as teachers, police officers, firefighters and state employees. During the height of the industrialization of the United States, there were numerous trade unions in Wisconsin in the building trades, construction, logging, steel, brewing and in the auto industry. In this period Wisconsin was at the top of those states with unionized workers with over 25 per cent of the working class unionized. This level of working class organization registered a decent standard of living for worker.

      However, over the past thirty years there have been constant attacks against workers and other oppressed groups. From the period that Ronald Reagan launched the attack against air control operators in the PATCO strike in the early eighties, the trade union movement in the USA had been challenged. Bill Fletcher in the Book, ‘Solidarity Divided: The Crisis of Organized Labor and a New Path toward Social Justice’, had identified the limitations of the old forms of trade union organizing, especially with the major demographic changes in the US population. Neither the left nor the traditional trade union centers are prepared to analyze the history of whiteness and the chokehold over the working classes in the United States. Conservatives have not been shy to exploit this division among the working peoples of the United States and the populist racism of the Tea Party was one wake up call for the white left. Instead of calling out the racism of the Tea Party, the white left tiptoed around the clear racist propaganda and tactics of this wedge among working peoples.

      Scott Walker was elected governor in the wave of racism that had gained momentum from sections of the population that argued that Barack Obama was not a US citizen. These were called Birthers. It was a movement supported by billionaires such as the Koch brothers who were taken aback by the multi-racial alliance that had elected Barack Obama. The Democratic Party never rose to the challenge and in fact played around with the conservatism of this movement until the Congressional elections of November 2010 placed the Tea Party representatives in key positions across the country. In states such as Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Florida there were legislators and governors who set out to roll back the rights of workers and the rights of the poor. In every one of these states the attack on the poor and black came before the attack on the organized workers. The neo-liberal ideas about the privatization of education, the privatization of prisons and roiling back entitlements of the poor were supported by a servile media that wanted to demobilize the working peoples. There was no sector of the society that escaped the heightened racism. Probably the sector that was most affected by this racism was the youth. Police brutality, stop and search, the stigmatization of youths of color and the open racist ideas came in the period of tea Party insurgency. The killing of Trayvon Martin was only one public indication of the new wave of racism when Barack Obama was the president.

      Governor Scott Walker entered office in January 2011 and within one month he placed legislation before the legislature to roll back the rights to collective bargaining by public sector employees. Prior to his election in 2010 tens of thousands of voters had turned out in 2008 to vote for a new direction in US politics, but after the election there were no forces to keep this population mobilized. Into this vacuum stepped Walker and other Tea Party governors across the United States. These state leaders gave subsidies to ‘investors’ while passing legislation to take away the democratic rights of workers. In Michigan, there was no governor who even wanted to take away the right to vote.

      Scott Walker was among the boldest of these new Tea Party leaders and he proposed legislation to drastically cut the social wage of workers. The legislative agenda of Scott Walker was justified under the need for ‘austerity’ in the midst of the capitalist depression. While supporting the bail out of over US $1 billion to the banks and financiers who supported his campaign, Governor Walker proposed a bill where public sector workers would face an average cut in income of 7% through reductions to their pensions and health care. The bill would abolish collective bargaining rights for public sector workers over anything other than pay. Pay increases would be capped to the rise in the Consumer Price Index, so public sector workers could only bargain against pay cuts and not for pay raises.

      Immediately, worker protests erupted in Wisconsin. Drawing inspiration from the Egyptian uprisings, the public sector workers occupied the state capital and dramatically signaled a new stage in the struggles for social justice in the United States. This occupation was beamed around the world as tens of thousands of workers came out in the Wisconsin cold to oppose Scott Walker. The most promising aspect of this opposition by the workers was the fact that the coercive sectors of the state, police and fire fighters, supported the strike. Teachers, students and university staff across the country came out in full force and the teaching assistants at the University of Wisconsin built the web platforms to internationalize the struggles.


      From the outset of the Wisconsin struggles, the national leadership of the Democratic Party was alarmed by the radicalization of the workers. There were other forms of protests across the nation and by September the control of public spaces by workers and their sympathizers had grown into the Occupy Wall Street Movement. This Occupy Movement built on the forms of mobilization of people in public spaces and inspired a new level of consciousness in the United States about the domination of the society by the oligarchy in identifying them as the one per cent. Economists such as Joseph Stiglitz who had served the neo-liberal agenda of Bill Clinton joined in the opposition to big capital and wrote long articles on this one per cent, “Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%.”

      Stiglitz joined a discourse on ‘inequality’ as one aspect of the liberal agenda to weaken the understanding of the importance of class struggles in the capitalist crisis. Michael Moore had made an important intervention in the making of the documentary, Capitalism: A Live Story. In this documentary, Moore had called for the arrest and imprisonment of the bankers. Workers across the Uniuted States were caught between two messages, one of inequality and the other of class struggle. It was from the oppressed Africans and radical environmentalists where there was a more robust call for a new system. The media worked overtime to discredit the radical ideas to respond tom the crisis. It was the work of big capital to support the Scott Walker initiatives while seeming to be on the side of the workers. The choices before the working people were stark, there was either going to be a prolonged struggle or the capitalists and their representatives would impose austerity measures to weaken the working classes.


      The intellectual climate set by the media and the official Democratic Party minimized the importance of measures such as occultation, general strikes or prolonged periods of worker education as to the real depth of the crisis of capitalism. In Wisconsin, there was a debate on whether there should be a general strike by the workers. This discussion of the general strike had gained momentum in the face of the clear strategy of Scott Walker to destroy public sector workers and their capacity for organizing. If the leaders of the AFL-CIO and the state workers union AFSCME had read the book of Bill Fletcher, they would have been better prepared to understand that there had to be new tactics to oppose Walker and the anti-worker sentiments sweeping the society. Instead these trade union leaders offered compromise after compromise. They offered to implement all the cuts demanded by Walker, provided he maintained the automatic dues check-off, the source of their own salaries, and preserved a role for them in negotiating the reductions in the income and benefits of their members.

      The Democratic Party and the Union Bureaucracy were aghast at the discussions on the general strike and focused attention on garnering signatures for a recall of Governor Scott Walker. While there was some education involved in the process of gathering the more than one million signatures for this recall, the process itself limited the scope for cascading activities by workers and boxed the movement into an electoral struggle.

      This demobilization through elections was deepened when the Democratic Party chose Tom Barrett as the candidate to oppose Scott Walker. Barrett is the mayor of Milwaukee, the largest urban center in the state and had stood in the election in 2010 against Walker. The fact that the Democratic Party and the trade union bureaucracy decided to go with Barrett was one more indication of how far removed the top brass of the party were from the concerns of the poor. Milwaukee had gained national notoriety for the oppression of poor blacks. The school system in Milwaukee is among the most racist in the nation and the rate of unemployment among blacks is as high as 50 per cent. Police brutality and the rates of incarceration among blacks and Latinos would have indicated that there would be no enthusiasm among the poor for the Governorship of Tom Barrett. Moreover, the same austerity that was being promoted at the state level by Scott Walker was being discussed in the back rooms at City hall by Tom Barrett. His nomination was a sure sign that there would be no massive ground operation in the black and brown communities.


      Within one hour of the closing of the polls on June 5, it was clear that the Democratic Party and the trade union leadership had miscalculated. Scot Walker won the recall election with 53.1 per cent of the votes. Barrett received 46 per cent of the votes. This was the same margin that Walker had defeated Barrett in the 2010 elections.

      Immediately when the results were declared the trade union leaders and the Democratic Party decried the role of big money in elections in the United States. The New York Times reported that Walker had spent over US $45 million with 70 per cent of the funds coming from outside of Wisconsin. The ‘progressives’ continue to point to the role of the Supreme Court Judgment on Citizens United to decry the role of billionaires in financing elections. Others in the media called the Wisconsin elections a dry run for the presidential elections in November between Romney and Obama.

      Progressive forces across the United States are debating the elections and it is from the ranks of those who call themselves socialists where there is the most sophisticated analysis. Even this analysis from socialist elements excludes the role of Barrett and his relationship to Black people in Milwaukee. The recall election serves as a wakeup call for progressives. The future of the struggles against capitalism cannot be decided by electoral struggles. Electoral struggles are one of the many forms of mobilization, but with the billions of dollars available from the monied classes to mobilize the media, it will be necessary to clarify new forms of struggles that will ensure the steady and continuous mobilization of the working class. At the time of the Civil War in the United States Karl Marx had noted that’ labor cannot emancipate itself in the white skin when in the black it is branded.’ Today, public sector workers cannot gain democratic rights when these are the social forces at the forefront of the prison industrial complex. The struggles against capitalism will be heightened by this recall defeat. Barack Obama and the Democratic Party cannot decry the power of the monied classes when the policies of the present government have been to bail out the banks and the monied classes. These forces are using the bail out money to consolidate political power in the United States.

      I will agree with those progressive forces who noted that the grassroots worked for Barack Obama in 2008. In 2012, the progressive and grassroots have to fashion new tools to work for themselves to defeat Romney and the Republicans. The grassroots must build structures that are stronger than the money and the media. In the process of building these structures they will be able to hold any politician accountable. The Wisconsin Recall election is an eye opener about the present balance of forces. The left will have to decide if they are equal to the challenge.


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      * Horace Campbell is Professor of African American Studies and Political Science at Syracuse University.

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      Nigeria: How do we make sense of our predicament?

      Sokari Ekine


      cc D M
      One terrorist attack, one plane crash with the evidence pointing to serious criminal negligence and one ‘accident’ due to an incompetent crane driver or malpractice.

      Just two days into the week and Nigeria is facing its third disaster. It started Sunday morning with yet another Boko Haram suicide bomb attack against a church. The numbers killed varies between 12 and 15 and many more injured at the Living Faith Church in Bauchi. [ BellaNaija - ] The bombings have become so normalised that they hardly warrant more than a few tweets and a column in the daily papers. The government is weak and has lost all credibility and direction, like being set afloat in the Atlantic on a flimsy raft.

      By Sunday evening the country was once again in shock. At around 3.45 -4pm Dana Air Flight 992 from Abuja to Lagos crashed into a high density neighbourhood just outside Murtala Muhammed airport killing all 153 on board.
      11 miles from the airport, the crew reported they had lost power in both engines. The plane proceeded in the direction of the landing runway, clipped a power line and crashed on top of a residential building some 1500 meters from the runway. The aircraft was 22 years old and previously belonged to Alaska Air. We are still waiting for the numbers of dead killed on the ground plus the many injured.

      As always when there is a crisis in Nigeria, Nigeria’s Twittersphere threw itself into free fall mode with all caution discarded and the noise levels reach deafening proportions. Tweeps moved between despair, disparaging self-hate, crying for God’s help and slightly patriotic calls to stand as one. What kind of a country? How does one deal with a terrible disaster in an environment lacking in basic amenities and services - roads, first responders, hospitals, lack of electricity, water? What a shambles, corruption, ineptitude, resilience, hope? How do we make sense of ourselves and our predicament...

      Chxta ‏@Chxta
      Tomorrow, we will wake and forget today's tragedy. Our govt too will forget. We will say a prayer and move on... We always do!

      Chxta ‏@Chxta
      Aside from "Let us pray" and "May God help us", is there any other thing that the people of #Nigeria do when disaster strikes?

      Yes, they can play the blame game. @SugaBelly was quick on the mark when she put the blame squarely on Indians, tweeting...

      Sugabelly ‏@sugabelly Nigerians can like to stop allowing Indians with questionable motives to be commanding them up and down - !/sugabelly
      Sugabelly ‏@sugabelly

      @bob_ij apparently the Dana staff complained that the plane was bad but the Indian management forced them to fly it anyway

      However, there were enough cries of foul for the conversation to end quickly.
      "@africainmotion: Apparently a lot of passengers were still alive even by Sunday night when we were saying ..."

      "@Chicasa: Alvana had time to send an sms to her brother before the plane leapt into flames. Some could have been rescued :-( #DanaAirCrash"

      "@Chicasa: Alvana said in the sms "Take strength in the Lord. Few minutes from now, I'll be going to meet the Lord." Amen sweetie. Rest In Peace."

      The truth is as Teju Cole points out:

      Teju Cole ‏@tejucole
      Bad things can happen anywhere. Fate is cruel. But in Nigeria, corruption, carelessness, and lack of professionalism do fate's cruel work.

      Teju Cole ‏@tejucole
      Cutting corners, praying, ignoring statistics and science, hoping for the best, giving thanks for narrow escapes. It's no way to live.

      Add to that shouting, complaining and calling on God is nothing but hot air. We must recognise our complicity in maintaining the sewers of corruption which have become so normalised that people don't even recognise their own participation. Emeka Okafor reminds us of this truth when he recalls two plane crashes in 2005 in which 117 [BelleView] and 103 [Sosoliso] people died including 75 school children. There were actually 8 plane crashes in 2005 and the last 4 years have seen the best record in the country’s history.

      “Ike Anya points the finger of blame at all Nigerians for the recent airplane crash in Nigeria, "...And if perhaps you are thinking - I am abroad, I am not involved - I say to you: “It is a lie, you too are culpable”. For each time we condoned the kleptomania and corruption of our leaders and our society, for each time we turned our backs on Nigeria, justifying our decisions to ourselves - my children are still young; I need to finish my degree; my family needs the money I’m sending back - we too are responsible. For each time you saved up all year, maxing your credit cards to the limit to go back home and live lavishly for a little while, boosting the asinine materialistic culture that thrives there, ignoring the poverty around, you are culpable..." [ ]

      Within hours of the crash tweeps were broadcasting the flight manifesto which had been published on a few websites. I am not sure how ethical or legal it is to publish before informing the next of kin but soon personal obituaries began to appear on Twitter and Facebook. The truth is as with any disaster there isn't much one can say. Everyone is sorry, everyone is variably devastated / sad, shocked / horrified. What would have previously been a self-indulgent conversation between a few people, in the age of Twitter becomes a public display of repetitive utterings as everyone feels compelled to say something even though its the same as everyone else. Which is why I felt Chikere’s frustration and why Somi’s Facebook status was so moving, genuine and much needed....[ ]

      It's difficult not to get/be ANGRY this morning.. The more#DanaAirCrash tweets I read, the more irate I get. And then what?

      Somi - AfroJazz singer ...................“rest in peace Duni
      i met a young, bright, outgoing, and beautiful woman named duni last week in a lagos wine bar. we talked about lagos living, real estate, and the challenges of moving back to africa after years in the west. she was lovely and we didn't bother to exchange details as i figured we'd surely connect/meet another time through our mutual friends. today, it was reported that 153 people died on a flight from the abuja to lagos. duni was on that plane. i did not know her well, but i wish her and her family peace. a tragic reminder not to take any day, any moment, any connection for granted”

      Writing on “Nigerians Talk” Zainab Usman goes some way to explain the massive display of mourning, anger, fear and frustration at “the helplessness” we feel as we watch and watch! [ ]

      “However, even before news of the plane crash filtered in, there was already a build up of misery and helplessness at how people are bombed, butchered and murdered with impunity, at how the victims and their families have little hope for justice, how perpetrators are not likely to be apprehended or successfully prosecuted and how ordinary Nigerians cannot shake off the feeling of being on a conveyor belt of sorts in a slaughter house assembly line headed towards a certain demise. Thus as the news of the tragic plane crash along with the gory pictures flowed in, the country was swiftly enveloped in nationwide horror, grief and sorrow such that President Goodluck Jonathan’s declaration of a 3-day national mourning period couldn’t have been more timely.”

      By Tuesday we had reached a trilogy of disasters when in Benin City, a building under construction collapsed trapping many of the workers. Too sum up the week so far. One terrorist attack; one plane crash with the evidence pointing to serious criminal negligence; and one ‘accident’ due to an incompetent crane driver or alternatively malpractice. And Nigeria continues in mourning with millions asking God for mercy and the inevitable pastor who predicted the plane crash, calling on his flock to pray, pray - the bible in one hand and some kind of magic in the other. Amidst this madness, some sanity emerges in the words of Rudolf Ogoo Okonkwo who asks, what is the point? He like me is baffled as to why people pray for the dead. I might add here MY only childhood experience of church and religious matters was via school - my family were / are unbelievers.

      “After many years of being cajoled and dragged and mandated to go to church, one of the few things I learned was that once you die, you are dead. Your report card is sealed. Nothing can change it. I was taught that after death what comes next is judgment. It doesn’t matter if you cool off a little bit in Purgatory. Your next court appearance after death is on Judgment Day.”

      I believe the only use of mourning after death is for the living to reflect on their lives. It is okay to recall the life of the dead and the impact the dead made in the lives of the living. But as far as influencing what happens when the dead gets to the Great Beyond, I believe that is what is called ‘medicine after death.” If there are people who need prayers after a death, it is the living and not the dead. [ ]

      Okonkwo asks instead of prayers we the people need to take concrete steps to ensure that the government oversees aviation; pilots refuse to fly unworthy planes; technicians do their jobs diligently and well for the rest of us, we should act as watchdogs and if necessary stop that plane from flying. Okonkwo also gives us a reality check such as the numbers of people dying on the roads in Nigeria everyday could well be equivalent to a plane crash a day - but we don’t know because there are no accurate figures; the numbers dying from childbirth, or children dying from lack of access to medical care - all these uncalled for deaths due to government negligence or one form or the other. And I might add people’s indifference to the suffering of others since hardly anyone is particularly concerned about these unrecorded and unseen daily unavoidable deaths!

      I am fairly confident in saying that most regular flyers in Nigeria have an airline story to tell. I have a few of my own - both instances due to overcrowding. Yes, overcrowding on a plane is where there are more passengers than seats so flight attendants sit in the loo and passengers bunk up in the cockpit. One of my favorite Nigerian blogs ‘Thy Glory O Nigeria” by Adeola Aderounmu reminds us that not just Nigeria, but the whole continent has become a dumping ground for other people’s waste including old aircraft, ships and recently trains “abandoned in Canada and unveiled in Nigeria” in the so called progressive state of Lagos[ ].

      Dana Air have now been grounded and their license suspended. They will undergo a “systems check” of all their aircraft, maintenance procedures, personnel and accounts. Channels TV reported an employee of Dana Air who claims the plane was faulty on the first leg of its flight - Lagos - Calabar - but the management had insisted the plane continue with passengers to Abuja

      “According to the official, “the plane has been giving faults for a very long time. There was a case when it was on the ground in Uyo for over six hours, because of delayed flight, it had a bolt. And then in Abuja it happened a few days ago, then some people went with the aircraft but they could not come back, because it had a fault there and it couldn’t leave Abuja.”
      “The same engineers that fixed it and then they sent crew to bring it with passengers to Lagos.”

      Confirming that the plane that crashed on Sunday was not supposed to leave Lagos at all, the Dana official stated that “yesterday, it (Dana Air Flight 0992) was not supposed to leave Lagos at all, but it left and then got to Calabar, gave fault and it was fixed and then they took it to Abuja, when they should have returned to Lagos but because they didn’t want to part with the little money they will make, they took it to Abuja, loaded full passengers, and then it couldn’t get to Lagos. ” [ ]

      “My Pen and My Paper published Dana Air’s defence as the management insist there was nothing wrong with the plane. [ ] The plane had already made three flights on the Sunday and was returning to Lagos for the last flight of the day. At this point in time the possibility of Dana Air being innocent is hard to believe. Whatever the reasons behind the crash, Nigerians understandably have no faith in the aviation industry or the government who are supposed to monitor and insist international standards are complied with. We the people hope the Nigerian government and in particular the Ministry of Aviation will dig deep and seek the truth without stepping into a sewer. Bodies are still being discovered and removed to the morgue for identification.

      For a timeline of Nigeria’s air crashes between 1969 and 2012, see


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      * Sokari Ekine blogs at Blacklooks.

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      Will Istanbul conference engender a common vision for Somalia?

      Mohamud M Uluso


      cc I H H
      In the light of growing Turkish influence and the confusing pattern of conflicting interests and international gatherings, will Somalis receive the help and respect they so desperately need from the Istanbul II conference?

      The title of the Istanbul II conference – “Preparing Somalia’s future: Goals for 2015” - carries an inspiring and appealing vision. What is not clear is if the Istanbul II conference will engender a common vision for a new direction or will recycle the deliberately destructive and fragmented international strategies/policies towards Somalia.

      The many gatherings – the London Conference, the Addis Ababa consultative meeting of the roadmap signatories, the upcoming conference of the International Contact Group on Piracy Off the Coast of Somalia in the United Arab Emirates followed by the meeting of the International Contact Group on Somalia in Italy - have produced or will surely produce a convoluted set of international policies for ending the transition and developing another transition roadmap in Somalia.

      The succor of Turkish government to the people of Somalia has caused various reactions. First, it has uplifted the hope and spirit of the Somali people afflicted by the combination of civil war, famine, the brutal rule of Al-Shabab, the abuses of a corrupted Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the dividing and disempowering policies of the international community. Second, it has irritated Ethiopia ,the regional power,for the potential break-up of its uncontested dominance on Somalia. And third, it has heightened the United States’ and Europe’s suspicions about Turkey’s intentions towards Somalia. The US government expressed exasperation about what it has described as Somalia's biased and exceptional gratitude to Turkey for its late and still minor support, compared to the US Government’s massive assistance to Somalia, funding the African Union military operation (AMISOM) and UN humanitarian operations.

      Turkey’s involvement in Somalia has concentrated on the humanitarian situation and social development. As I have discussed in one of my articles on the London Conference on Somalia, Somalia's expectation for self-governance [] disregarded, several conflicting strategies are contemporaneously operating in Somalia; none have shown respect for the Somali people or much regard for their aspirations, interests and rights. The expansion of the role of Turkey in the fields of politics, security, public administration and economics for Somalia’s revival is very important, but it would be another disaster for Somalia if Turkey goes along with the current political strategy designed to deepen the political chaos in Somalia.

      In 2011, possibly as a preemptive move, the British Government announced the February 2012 London Conference, the outcome of which has been seen as a promotion of foreign agendas beyond the comprehension of Somalis. Mary Harper and Sally Healy, British experts on Somalia, explained the uncertain impact of the conference in their respective post conference assessments: Will the world help or hinder Somalia?, and Somalia: After London Conference

      The Istanbul II conference is linked to the Istanbul I conference of May 2010, organized to support the 2008 Djibouti Agreement, the ill-conceived initiative of former UN Secretary General Ahmedou Ould Abdalla. The majority of Somalis have forgotten the substance and contribution of the Istanbul I declaration, which only reiterated the usual international expressions on Somalia. The Conference didn’t improve the Somali political process for reconciliation, unity, stability or recovery. As of today, Somalia is a place for countries interested in showing their participation in the international cooperation for counter-terrorism and piracy and not for state building.

      There are positive signs from the Istanbul II conference on Somalia. A paper drafted on 3rd May 2012 outlines briefly the multi-dimensional and comprehensive strategy of the Government of Turkey towards Somalia. The ultimate goal of the strategy is to lift Somalia out of the present crisis and to make it a respectable, sovereign and unified country with a strong national identity. The paper states that

      “the continued instability and insecurity of Somalia, as well as the deficiency of the state, apart from constituting a risk for the Horn of Africa and the whole continent, represents a disgrace for the international community in the 21st century and is thus unacceptable. No similar example of such a state exists in the world.”

      This is a powerful call to the international community.

      Positive views expressed in documents related to the preparation of the Istanbul II conference indicate: (a) the importance of Somali ownership in the ongoing peace process, (b) the need for a genuine and comprehensive reconciliation among Somalis as a fundamental requirement for a common vision on how to build a viable Somali state that can deliver sustainable peace and security, (c) the reaffirmation of the sovereignty, territorial integrity, political independence and unity of Somalia, (d) the conversion of the AMISOM mission into a UN Mission in 2013, for allowing the participation of forces from Muslim countries in the Somali peacekeeping operation, (e) the lifting of the arms embargo on the TFG for a loyal and professional security forces with a strong and unified command control structure for maintaining national security and as an exit strategy for AMISOM forces ( no mention about the exit of Ethiopian forces), (e) the establishment of an international fund for the restructuring of the Somali Security Sector to cover various expenditures, including regular payment of stipends/salaries, (f) the public and private partnership for political progress and economic investment, (g) the assignment of a team of Turkey advisers for public administration as well as for military and police training to Somalia, (h) issuance of a new UN resolution that supports post transition state building.

      On the other hand, there are dangerous views and positions that conflict with the positive ones. They are (1) the commitment of Turkey to the Kampala Agreement, the roadmap, the Garowe I and II principles, the Galkaio agreement, the Addis Ababa Communiqué between roadmap signatories, and the ratification of the new constitution, (2) the rejection of financial pledges at the Istanbul conference, (3) the consensus on united actions against so called “spoilers” such as UN,AU and IGAD, (4) the adherence to the TFG stabilization strategy, IGAD strategy, stability principles agreed on in London, and the Stability Fund for international coordination, (5) the support for the current TFG leaders, (6) the establishment of the Joint Financial Management Board. None of these strategies have been formulated, discussed and debated within competent and legitimate Somali national institutions.

      Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan, the former speaker of the now dissolved Transitional Federal Parliament of Somalia and an unnamed representative of Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama met with the Government of Turkey for the clarification of the final outcome of the conference and the adherence to the convoluted process for ending the transition. On May 29, 2012, a spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkey confirmed the support of Turkey, among others, for the Addis Ababa agreement – Statement of the spokesman of the MoFA of Turkey in response to a question. The support of the Addis Ababa communiqué is a fundamental violation of the provisions of the Transitional Federal Charter, the Somali interests and its political integrity for legitimate and credible governance.

      In breach of the line of governmental responsibility, the Minister of Constitution, Federalism and Reconciliation issued an accusatory press release questioning the motives of the Government of Turkey for extending an invitation to members of the civil society and politicians opposed to the TFG. In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, presidents of regional states of Puntland and GalMudug announced their objection to the Istanbul II Conference. Finally, the US Government has declared in the past that it follows the lead of its African partners for helping Somalia. All these manoeuvres and positions are directed to limit the role of Turkey in Somalia and make the Istanbul II Conference another failure.

      Will Turkey stand up tall and challenge counterproductive strategies and manoeuvres for Somalia’s survival? Two facts will clarify the route for peace and stability in Somalia. First, the substance and clarity of the final communiqué of Istanbul II conference. Second, the political actions that will take place in Somalia after the conclusion of Istanbul II conference.


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      * Mohamud M. Uluso can be reached at [email protected]

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      Destination oblivion: the failure of Western policy in Somalia

      Ahmed M.I Egal


      cc B-K
      Why has peace in Somalia been so hard to come by? Someone needs to get rid of the Western powers and their roadmap to nowhere.

      The impending expiry of the term of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Sheikh Sharif Ahmed in August this year has occasioned an unseemly rush to establish a ‘permanent’ and therefore ‘legitimate’ government in Somalia by the Western powers.

      The simple fact is that the Western powers would dearly love the ‘Somali problem’ to just go away and for that ill-fated country and its people to be consigned to the oblivion to which other peoples and nations that are peripheral to Western interests and designs have been consigned. However, the emergence of Al-Shabaab (the Al-Qaeda affiliate in the Horn of Africa) and the pirate gangs prowling the international sea lanes in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean have put paid to the easy option of consigning Somalia and its people to political oblivion in the international arena. Thus, the West is forced to seek some sort of ‘solution’.

      The current manifestation of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) was created in 2009 - under the guidance and according to the design of the Western powers - from the detritus of the Ethiopian invasion and occupation of Somalia (2006-2009) which they backed, if not actively instigated. In the light of the glaring failure of the TFG to establish effective governance even in the small parts of the country under its control, the Western powers have come up with the Somalia End of Transition Roadmap (the ‘Roadmap’) which purports to outline the steps necessary to establish a permanent government for Somalia, and end the cycle of successive transitional ‘governments’ which has prevailed since the collapse of the Siyad Barre dictatorship and the republic it ruled in 1991.

      The Roadmap procedure, under which the permanent ‘government’ is to be established, mirrors that under which the TFG was originally established in 2004 at the Embagathi Conference when the late Abdillahi Yusuf acceded to the presidency. So it is unclear why the ‘government’ to be established in accordance with the Roadmap will be any more permanent and legitimate than the TFG which it will replace.

      Further, the principal actors of this political farce, i.e. erstwhile warlords, Siyad Barre henchmen, self-appointed civil society leaders, newly minted clan elders and diaspora carpet-baggers, or ‘the usual suspects’ as I prefer to refer to them, will take their usual places in the drama, choosing the members of ‘parliament’ and ‘electing’ the president through a market process whereby the highest bidders win the auction of the parliamentary seats and so secure the presidency. The pretenders to political position in Somalia and their backers are past masters at this market-driven process of government formation, while the people for whom the ‘government’ is supposedly being formed find the process a welcome and most entertaining diversion from the Somali-dubbed Turkish and Latin American soap operas and European football that comprises their normal TV entertainment fare.

      The truly galling thing is that the situation in Somalia is very different now to that which pertained during 2000 when the ill fated Transitional National Government (TNG) was formed at Arta; during 2004 when the TFG was formed; and during 2008 when the current manifestation of the TFG under Sheikh Sharif Ahmed was formed.

      The present situation lends itself much more to the establishment of a truly national and legitimate government for several reasons. Firstly, the newly expanded AMISOM force is achieving sustained military success against the nihilists of Al-Shabaab for the first time, while the organisation itself is experiencing slow-motion disintegration from within. It is an undeniable fact that with all of Mogadishu liberated from Al-Shabaab forces and its significant degradation as a military force capable of seizing and holding territory, the military campaign against the nihilists in Somalia looks much better than it has done during the last decade.

      Secondly, there is a two-pronged dynamic within civil society that is feeding a growing momentum towards the establishment of a genuine, grass-root driven process of national reconciliation and the establishment of a truly legitimate government. Such a widespread mood of cautious optimism among the public, pregnant with the tantalising possibility of an end to two decades of anarchy and untold misery, has not been witnessed in Somalia since the brief, but heady days of the rout of the warlords by the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) back in 2006. This is evidenced by the inflow of diaspora savings into the country, particularly in the real estate sector in Mogadishu where there is a small construction boom as people have begun to rebuild their homes.

      On the other hand, there is a genuine, widespread and irreversible fatigue not only with the brutal feudalism of the Al-Shabaab nihilists, but also with the endemic corruption and cynical machinations of the TFG and the political class. This can be seen in the evolution of public perception towards the AMISOM forces from the resistance and hostility reserved for foreign invaders/occupiers a couple of years ago, to the resigned acceptance prevalent today as most people have come to view them as a necessary evil to defeat the nihilists and so stabilise the country militarily.

      This positive public mood needs to be harnessed in the service of a genuine Somali-driven process of nation-building and state reconstruction. Yet, this is precisely what the so-called Roadmap ignores and precludes in favour of establishing yet another bogus ‘parliament’ composed of members that have either bought their seats or which have already been bought and paid for. This ‘parliament’ will, in turn, ratify a constitution that has not been put to the people it purports to govern and ‘elect’ a ‘president’ that has succeeded in buying the largest number of votes with cash payments, appeals to tribal solidarity and promises of patronage and disbursements of aid monies in the future. This is the time-honoured process that has been the mark of every conference convened to establish a government for Somalia from the Arta Conference in 2000 to the Roadmap. It’s time to break this sterile and corrupt mould of nation-building in Somalia in favour of a process that may actually re-establish political consent and so produce a truly legitimate government.

      In order to develop such a process, it is necessary to shift the focus from the creation of a ‘government’ to establishing the basis for political consent to a national state. The simple fact, which the Western powers have stubbornly and incomprehensibly continued to ignore, is that the disintegration of the state in Somalia after the collapse of the Siyad Barre dictatorship is due principally to the collapse of political consent in the country which had predated the collapse of the dictatorship.

      The ensuing savagery and violence in the wake of the collapse of the dictatorship, as old grievances were settled and new vendettas were initiated, was testament to the divisiveness and social toxicity of the regime’s politics and system of rule. Siyad Barre may have been chased out of Somalia, but he left an inheritance of anarchy, tribal enmity and violence. This history is important to understand, since it underlies, informs and indelibly colours the political zeitgeist of Somalia to this day, and it is not possible to address the issue of political consent without a clear appreciation of this history and its impact upon political and social dynamics. The notion that the adoption of a federal model of government with a relatively weak centre and strong, autonomous regions will adequately address the corrosive effects of this history is not only facile and uninformed, but in fact misses the point altogether.

      The principal and fundamental unit of socio-political organisation in Somali society is the clan, and political interaction and intermediation is undertaken at the level of the clan and sub-clan. Subsequent to the disintegration of political consent with the collapse of the tribal dictatorship of Siyad Barre, and the ensuing anarchy and score-settling violence over the last two decades, it is ridiculous and dangerously naïve to assume that a ‘government’ and state can simply be grafted on to the body politic of Somalia without addressing the underlying grievances, hostilities and blood claims of the different communities, both inter-clan and intra-clan, occasioned by pre- and post-collapse history. Until these deep and fundamental issues of recent history are addressed openly and settled between the parties; until the crimes and atrocities of the past are confronted and claims of blood and honour are acknowledged and satisfied; genuine reconciliation will not be achieved and political consent for the re-establishment of the state and national government will remain an unattainable dream.

      Such a process of genuine reconciliation and national re-birth cannot be achieved through the self serving machinations of the Roadmap and most certainly cannot be promoted by the motley crew of self appointed politicians, newly minted and paid-for clan elders, diaspora carpet baggers and their financial backers (both Somali and foreign) conjured up to effect the Roadmap. The experience of Somaliland, which pioneered this approach to national reconciliation and attendant re-birth of political consent through an ad-hoc, pragmatic, hit-and-miss process evidenced by the Burao Conference of 1991 and the Borama Conference in 1993 is very helpful as a guide. The situation in Somalia is made more difficult by the fact that the majority clan there (the Hawiye) is fractured and is subject to as much division within it as between the clans. Thus, the reconciliation process must be undertaken on an intra-cland as well as inter-clan basis. This will require much traditional diplomacy, thoughtful confidence building between the parties and patience. Nevertheless, the conducive public mood in Somalia and the political space afforded by the military demise of the nihilists provides a unique window for such an exercise to bear fruit.

      Somaliland could be of great assistance in facilitating and promoting such a genuine process of reconciliation and re-establishing political consent for a new state in Somalia. However, the Western powers continue to regard formal engagement with Somaliland as an impediment to the effort to stabilise Somalia, rather than as the essential requirement for, and logical consequence of, such an effort that it actually is. The AU, for its part, views Somaliland’s success in nation-building and democratisation as a threat and challenge to the status quo on colonial borders despite the precedents of Eritrea, South Sudan and Western Sahara. Thus, it continues with its ostrich-like policy of ignoring the self-evident truth of Somaliland’s nationhood. In consequence, and unfortunately for the people of Somalia, this opportunity to seek a genuine Somali-driven solution to their anarchy and suffering will go wanting. Instead, we will be treated to yet another political farce where the usual suspects will posture, pontificate and establish yet another bogus ‘government’ which will be illegitimate, incapable of providing effective governance, but which will continue to enrich the political class while providing a fig leaf for the abject failure of the Western powers.

      Turkey is a new entrant in the group of foreign powers that have involved themselves in stabilising Somalia, and its entry as an emergent regional and economic power as well as a predominantly Muslim country is to be welcomed. However, Turkey must and should avoid falling in step with the barren and myopic mindset of the Western powers if its intervention is to bear fruit. Turkey has not been party to the failed efforts of its Western allies over the last two decades to find a solution to the collapse of the Somali state, so it is not invested in this history of failure. It must reject the conventional wisdom of its Western partners and use its fresh eyes to chart a new path; otherwise its intervention will serve only to aggrandise its own status as a leading Muslim power, while contributing nothing of consequence to the stabilisation of Somalia and the rescue of its people from continued misery and international oblivion.


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      Bahrain: The dragonfly’s eye

      Ahmed Kanna


      cc Al Jazeera
      The story of Bahrain, like other small countries, reveals the truths of a bigger story of geopolitical power and its disregard for the dignity of people in distant places.

      ‘I look in the dragonfly's eye, and I see the mountains over my shoulder’, Issa.

      Bahrain is a small country, and though the story of its own trials and troubles during the past year and a half is intrinsically valuable, it also tells a bigger story, about bigger countries. Small countries, distant provinces, and overlooked corners of empire - places on which metropolitan elites look with condescension, if they ever even bother to - often better reveal the truths of geopolitical power than is possible in the sheltered metropole. Take the example of the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia - part of the Chagos Archipelago - and its indigenous inhabitants, the Chagossians. Diego Garcia is like Bahrain a place most Americans have never heard of. Labelled a ‘Strategic Island’ by British and US Cold War planners, its population was expelled and transferred hundreds of miles away to Mauritius in the 1960s, their home appropriated for an American military base. As the anthropologists David Vine and Laura Jeffery have shown, this was, and continues to be, justified in US national security discourses by representing these islands as conveniently ‘sparsely populated’. Expulsion of Chagossians was not of great concern both because of the fact that their island was ‘strategic’ and their population ‘measured only in the hundreds’. [1] The expulsions, which resulted in ‘abject poverty’ and marginalisation on Mauritius, were further legitimised by constructing Chagossians as ‘transient contract workers with no connection to the islands’. [2]

      Today, unaccountable criminality is being visited on the people of another usually forgotten periphery of empire. In Bahrain, tyrannisation of the people also depends on the two aforementioned factors, fictions told about the victims and the condescension and hypocrisy of great powers. Instead of fictions about ‘transient workers’, however, we are presented with myths about violent Shias seeking the overthrow of the state, of the potential chaos triggered by Iranian influence in the Sunni Arab countries, of threats to vital oil supplies should democracy emerge on the borders of Saudi Arabia. And, ultimately, Bahrain is too small a fish to risk destabilising a region of far more consequential Western allies. During and after the uprisings that began on 14 February 2011, the security forces of Al Khalifa, Bahrain’s royal family, began arresting doctors who were treating injured demonstrators. Treason and spreading lies about the monarchy were among pretexts for the arrests and the inevitable beatings and torture to which the doctors were subjected. Western countries have generally ignored this, because, as the Bahraini neurosurgeon Dr. Nabeel Hamid, one of the doctors arrested by the security forces, notes:

      …what’s happening in Bahrain is so small compared to other countries, like Syria or Libya… I’m not denying that what happens in Syria is much, much worse, but also in Bahrain there is a situation which is really getting worse and worse. And if you don’t really stop it here, it may get really, really bad in the future. So you have the chance now to treat it and treat it quite nicely, and so you don’t have to wait until the violence just propagates [sic] out of control.

      Since May of this year, thousands of people have been protesting in Manama for the release of prisoners such as the hunger striker Abdulhadi Khawaja and human rights activist Nabil Rajab, along with 700 other political prisoners who languish in Al Khalifa’s prisons, people arrested simply for things they have said, meetings they have attended, or for calling for peaceful demonstrations. Meanwhile, the Formula One Grand Prix, hosted by Al Khalifa as part of its makeover of Bahrain as a resort for Western expatriates, went on without delay or mention of the political situation. At around the same time, the Bahraini Crown Prince, Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa met with Hillary Clinton in Washington to finalise a multimillion dollar weapons package for the Gulf monarchy.

      One of Bahrain’s proverbial mountains, the grey eminences that circumscribe its destiny, is clearly the United States, whose fifth naval fleet, crucial to the militarised ‘security’ of the oil-rich Gulf, resides on the tiny Gulf island. But Saudi Arabia also rises mighty in the Bahraini ‘dragonfly’s eye’. Indeed, the interests of the Americans and Saudis, by which I mean American oil and military-corporate interests and Al Saud family, are nearly identical. This even translates into the metaphors by which the Saudis conceptualise their relationships with their satellites in the Gulf Cooperation Council. Bahrain, as a Saudi diplomat recently put it, is Saudi Arabia’s Cuba. Like the United States’ jealous attempts to monopolise Cuba’s foreign and domestic conditions, Saudi Arabia will not tolerate any developments in Bahrain (or its other Gulf vassals) that it cannot control.

      As the historian and Saudi Arabia expert Toby Craig Jones put it in a recent essay, American officials have worked with Saudi Arabia in a particularly passionate attachment - as George Washington might ruefully say - for a number of reasons. Among these are the protection of the ‘political economy of oil’, in which high revenues are produced from the manufacturing of oil’s scarcity, and also, the recycling of oil revenues through the US economy. American weapons and security corporations, writes Jones, have been special beneficiaries of this arrangement, with Saudi Arabia routinely spending about 10 percent of its annual oil revenues, or $10 billion dollars annually, on US-made weapons. These weapons, writes Jones, ‘have been used most effectively not in regional conflict, but rather in the oppression of domestic forces of opposition. Indeed, it has been the domestic security forces, the kingdom’s counterrevolutionary authorities, that have been most clearly served by the American-Saudi military relationship’.

      This kind of military spending is also characteristic of the small Saudi satellites in the Gulf, none more so than Bahrain. Since 2001, the tiny emirate has increased its overall military spending by 117.5 percent, by far the highest figure among both Arab countries and Israel. Its average increase in military spending since 2001, 8.3 percent, is exceeded only by Qatar. Beginning around the same time, in the early 2000s, a selective naturalisation policy favouring Sunnis was instituted, and electoral districts were redrawn to ensure that the Shia never achieve a majority in a reorganised Bahraini parliament. While the aforementioned figures on military spending do not paint too specific a picture about the purposes or objectives of such spending, it is difficult to imagine - given what we know from the Saudi case already discussed and the larger story of the security state in the Arab region - that Bahraini military spending is not intended primarily for internal control and domestic repression. As noted by the highly informative website ‘Religion and Politics in Bahrain’, the increase in military spending along with the naturalisation and gerrymandering projects coincided with attempts by regime non-hardliners, such as King Hamad and Crown Prince Salman, at modest (neo)liberal reforms and economic diversification - political and economic ways of addressing popular discontent. Hardliners viewed this as a threat. For them, the Shia cannot be incorporated into the political system for they seek to take over the state. Reforms only encourage them. Thus, hardliners have pursued a two-pronged approach. First, marginalise the Shia. Exclude them from substantive participation in the polity through, for example, the naturalisation policies favouring Sunnis. And second, persuade Sunnis that relations with Shia are a zero-sum game and that monarchy is the best servant of Sunni interests. What ‘Bahrain's disproportionately high increases in military spending from 2001 to 2011 would seem to suggest’, then, is ‘that the country was hedging its bets against the possibility that King Hamad's reform initiative would fail to achieve the political peace that it promised, an interpretation supported by other preventive initiatives launched around the same time’.

      This is a doubly hedged bet. When the state’s own repressive instruments fail, call in big brother Saudi Arabia. This happened on 14 March 2011, when a violent crackdown that resulted in the death of four protesters failed to quell unrest in Manama. As Madawi Al Rasheed relates in a powerful analysis of the Saudi counterrevolution, Saudi troops and security forces, accompanied by a ‘tactically insignificant but symbolically meaningful United Arab Emirates commitment’, (and, eventually, troops from Kuwait and Qatar) came to rescue the Al Khalifa. She elaborates, ‘Peninsula Shield, a GCC military force, would be used for the first time, not to defend the six founding member states from external enemies but to quash a rebellion against one of their ruling families’. The official US response to this has been silence. One unofficial statement, however, was at least unintentionally honest about the US view. As Al Rasheed reports, the former US ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Chas Freeman, in a lecture to the Asia Business Forum in Riyadh in March 2011, referred to the Bahraini protesters as an ‘unruly mob’ and praised the Saudis for so swiftly and courageously responding to the ‘Iranian threat’.

      The struggles of Bahrainis - Shias in particular but also reform-minded Sunnis - have been, like those of the other Arab uprisings, courageous and inspiring. Activists such as Abdulhadi Al Khawaja, Nabil Rajab, and many others have risked their lives for fundamental principles of equal citizenship rights. Doctors such as Nabil Hamid have doggedly attempted to fulfil their medical and moral obligations to care for the injured and broken bodies of these protesters, reaping in the process a whirlwind of vengeance and repression by the Bahraini security services. These are the most important stories of the Bahraini uprising, and our focus should be on them. But as an American social scientist, a Middle East and Gulf scholar - and in fact, simply as an American citizen - I feel obligated to ask what the responsibility of the United States is in what is happening in Bahrain. The path and the struggle for the Bahrainis is clear, urgent, and immediate, and the stakes in this struggle, I hope, are clarified here. But what is it for Americans? For ultimately, as citizens of the world’s militarily most powerful state, with a deep investment and thus complicity in propping up Al Saud and its satellites, Americans bear some of the responsibility for what is happening in Bahrain. Sadly, to say the least, the chances for a frank discussion of American foreign policy emerging from within the US political establishment are virtually nonexistent.

      On 28 May, I - and, I am sure, the many other Americans repelled by Washington’s endless wars and the morally stunted culture they have spawned - endured another annual Memorial Day, in which the narratives and commemorations by our political class mentioned only Americans. As if further evidence were needed, ‘our dead’ were the only ones, as Judith Butler would say, that were grievable. Not the millions of Iraqi dead and displaced, thanks to the previous two, murderous decades that we have visited on their country, not the Afghani, Pakistani, and Yemeni dead, thanks to our courageous drones. President Obama invited the nation to renarrate the Vietnam War as a heroic episode in the epic of American martial valour. The millions of dead, napalmed, and displaced Vietnamese, Cambodians, and Laotians? Not, remotely, grievable. Not even mentionable. These are all far worse than what is occurring in Bahrain. What hope is there that we will ever take what is going on in Bahrain - let alone elsewhere - with any sense of responsibility, which implies imagination? None, unless the Occupy Movement or any other social movements to which it may give rise somehow manage to flower into a genuine and fundamental critique of the US state. In the meantime and more feasibly, we could start by rethinking our ‘passionate attachments’ in the Gulf, among other things by educating ourselves about their human effects. This would, of course, necessitate a rethinking of the merits of the US military-industrial complex and its contributions, or lack thereof, to security, both ‘ours’ and that of ‘others’. This means, in turn, exercising our imagination, seeing the interconnections between ‘us’ and ‘them’, between our choices and lifestyles and others’ life chances. It also means asking who, specifically, benefits, and who does not, from particular political-economic arrangements such as the political economy of oil. Meanwhile, people of imagination and courage - such as the Bahrainis - continue to put their lives at risk to carve zones of human dignity from within the mountains of cynicism.


      1. David Vine and Laura Jeffery, “‘Give Us Back Diego Garcia’: Unity and Division Among Activists in the Indian Ocean” in Catherine Lutz, ed., The Bases of Empire: The Global Struggle Against U.S. Military Posts, 2009, New York: NYU Press, pp. 185 – 186.

      2. Ibid., pp. 189 – 191.


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      * Ahmed Kanna teaches anthropology and international studies at the University of the Pacific. He is the author of Dubai, The City as Corporation (2011, University of Minnesota Press) and editor, with Xiangming Chen, of Rethinking Global Cities (forthcoming, Routledge).
      * This article was first published by Jadaliyya.

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      Position paper of La Via Campesina

      The people of the world confront the advance of capitalism: Rio +20 and beyond


      cc A d P
      ‘We are profoundly alarmed that the meeting will serve to deepen neoliberal policies and processes of capitalist expansion, concentration and exclusion that today have enveloped us in an environmental, economic and social crisis of grave proportions.’

      Governments from all over the world will meet in Río de Janeiro, Brasil, from June 20-22 2012, to supposedly commemorate 20 years since the “Earth Summit”, the United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development, that established for the first time a global agenda for “sustainable development”.

      During this summit, in 1992, three international conventions were adopted: the Convention on Biological Diversity, the United Nations Convention on Climate Change, and the Convention to Fight Desertification. Each of these promised to initiate a series of actions destined to protect the planet and all of the life on it, and to allow all human beings to enjoy a life of dignity.

      At that time, many social organizations congratulated and supported these new conventions with hope. Twenty years later, we see the real causes of environmental, economic, and social deterioration continuing without being attacked. Worse still, we are profoundly alarmed that the next meeting in June will serve to deepen neoliberal policies and processes of capitalist expansion, concentration, and exclusion that today have enveloped us in an environmental, economic, and social crisis of grave proportions. Beneath the deceptive and badly intentioned term “green economy”, new forms of environmental contamination and destruction are now rolled out along with new waves of privatization, monopolization, and expulsion from our lands and territories.

      La Via Campesina will mobilize for this event, representing the voice of the peasant in the global debate and defending a different path to development that is based on the wellbeing of all, that guarantees food for all, that protects and guarantees that the commons and natural resources are put to use to provide a good life for everyone and not to meet the needs for accumulation of a few.


      20 years after the Earth Summit, life on the planet has become dramatically difficult. The number of hungry people has increased to almost a billion, which means that one out of every six people is going hungry, mostly children and women in the countryside. Expulsion from our lands and territories is accelerating, no longer only due to conditions of disadvantage imposed upon us by trade agreements and the industrial sector, but by new forms of monopoly control over land and water, by the global imposition of intellectual property regimes that steal our seeds, by the invasion of transgenic seeds, and by the advance of monoculture plantations, mega-projects, and mines.

      The grand promises of Río ’92 have resulted in a farce. The Convention on Biodiversity has not stopped the destruction of biodiversity and has strengthened and generated new mechanisms destined to privatize it and turn it into merchandise. Desertification continues to accelerate due to the industrial agriculture and the expansion of agribusiness and monoculture plantations. Global warming — with all of the disasters and dramatic suffering it is already causing—has not slowed, but has accelerated and become more severe.

      The great deceit of 1992 was “sustainable development”, which social organizations initially saw as a possibility to confront the root of the problems. However, it was nothing more than a cover-up for the search for new forms of accumulation. Today they look to legitimize a new façade under the name “green economy”.

      The “green economy” and other false solutions: a new assault on the people and their territories.

      Capitalist profit-seeking has generated the biggest systemic crisis since 1929. Since 2008, the hegemonic system has looked for ways out of its structural crisis, searching for new possibilities for accumulation that support its logic. It is in this context that the corporate takeover of agreements on biodiversity and climate change have occurred, and consequently, the development of this new financial engineering called Green Capitalism.

      Governments, business people, and the organizations of the United Nations have spent these last years constructing the myth of the “green economy” and of the “greening of technology”. They present it as a new possibility to bring together environmental stewardship and business, but it is in fact the vehicle to obtain new advances of capitalism, putting the entire planet under the control of big capital. . There are various mechanisms that will be advanced by the green economy and all of them will increase the destruction. More specifically,

      The green economy does not seek to reduce climate change or environmental deterioration, but to generalize the principle that those who have money can continue polluting. Up to now, they have used the farce of purchasing carbon bonds to continue emitting greenhouse gases. They are now inventing biodiversity bonds. This is to say, businesses can continue destroying forests and ecosystems, as long as they pay someone to supposedly conserve biodiversity somewhere else. Tomorrow they may invent bonds for water, natural “views”, or clean air.

      These systems of buying environmental services are being used to take lands and territories away from indigenous peoples and peasants. The mechanisms that are most forcefully promoted by governments and businesses are the systems known as REDD and REDD plus. They say that these are systems to reduce greenhouse gas emissions produced by deforestation and degradation of the forests, but they are being used to impose, for a ridiculous price, management plans that deny families and rural communities access to their own lands, forests, and water sources. In addition, they guarantee businesses unrestricted access to collective forest areas, enabling biopiracy. They also impose contracts that tie communities to these management plans for 20 years or more and that leave indigenous and peasant territories with mortgage liens, that increases the likelihood that these communities will lose their lands. The objectives of these environmental services are to take control of nature reserves and of the territories that are under the control of these communities.

      Another initiative of the green economy is to convert plants, algae, and all other organic material (residues, dung, etc.) into a source of energy to substitute for petroleum; what is called “use of biomass”. With agrofuels, this has meant that thousands of hectares that should be covered in forests or producing food are being used to feed machines. If the use of biomass energy is effectively expanded, we will see life in the seas reduced still more because an important segment of marine species will go without food. Our soils will not recuperate the organic material that is essential to conserve fertility and guard against erosion and drought. It will be impossible to feed our animals because the food they need is ever more scarce and expensive. Also, the water shortage will worsen, either directly through the cultivation of agrofuels or because our soils no longer have the capacity to absorb and retain water due to a lack of organic matter.

      Then, they speak to us of “climate smart agriculture”, the goal of which is to convince us to accept a new Green Revolution—possibly with transgenics—and that instead of demanding effective support to defend us from the effects of climate change, we accept laughable payments that function the same way as REDD. They also seek to impose systems that are highly dependent on large quantities of agrotoxins—like direct seeding that depends on aerial sprayings of Round Up—that they would call “low carbon agriculture”. That is to say, we are obliged to accept a certain type of agriculture that will jeopardize control of our territories, our ecosystems, and our water.

      One of the most perverse aspects of the false solutions that are promoted in international negotiations is the restriction of access to and use of water for irrigation. Using the pretext that water for irrigation is scarce, it is suggested that water be concentrated in “high value crops”; meaning that export crops, agrofuels and other industrial crops are irrigated while food crops are left without water.

      The promotion of technological solutions that are not solutions at all is also part of the agenda of the discussions in Rio. Among the most dangerous are geoengineering and the acceptance of transgenic crops. Up until now, none of the solutions proposed by geoengineering have demonstrated any real capacity to solve climate problems. On the contrary, some forms of geoengineering (like the fertilization of the seas) are so dangerous that there has been an international moratorium declared aginst them. To accept Genetically modified organism (GMOs), we are told that crops resistant to drought and heat will be created, but the only thing new in GMOs are more herbicide-resistant varieties, which are bringing back to the market highly toxic herbicides like 2,4-D.

      The most ambitious plan and the one that some governments identify as “the major challenge” is to put a price on all the goods of nature (like water, biodiversity, the countryside, wildlife, seeds, rain, etc.) to then privatize them (arguing that conservation requires money) and charge us for their use. This is called the Economy of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB). It is the final assault on nature and life, but also on the means of work and the lives of the people whose livelihoods are based on agriculture, hunting, and fishing.

      This “green” capitalism has the rural commons, agriculture, land and water particularly in its sights. We are already suffering from its effects in the form of land grabs or monopolization of land, privatization of water, the oceans, of indigenous territories, the national parks and nature reserves; all these processes are being accompanied by the forced expulsions of peasant and indigenous communities.


      We, peasants and indigenous peoples, are the ones who are concentrated in the highest levels of poverty because we have been deprived of land and we have been constrained by law or by force so that we cannot cultivate and exchange freely. Nonetheless, we are people who have been resisting expulsion from the countryside, and still we are more than 90% of the rural population. Our forms of agriculture cool the planet, care for ecosystems and secure the food supply for the poorest.

      Every real solution happens to impinge upon the unbridled profits of capital, put an end to the complicity of governments and supports forms of production that effectively care for the planet. Food Sovereignty is at the heart of the necessary changes, and is the only real path that can possibly feed all of humanity. Our proposals are clear and introduce real solutions:

      We should exchange the industrial agroexport food system for a system based on food sovereignty, that returns the land to its social function as the producer of food and sustainer of life, that puts local production of food at the center, as well as the local markets and local processing. Food sovereignty allows us to put an end to monocultures and agribusiness, to foster systems of peasant production that are characterized by greater intensity and productivity, that provide jobs, care for the soil and produce in a way that is healing and diversified. Peasant and indigenous agriculture also has the ability to cool the planet, with the capacity to absorb or prevent almost 2/3 of the greenhouses gases that are emitted every year.

      The land currently in the hands of peasants and indigenous peoples is around 20% of all agricultural land in the world. And yet l, on this land the peasant and indigenous families and communities produce slightly less than half of the world’s food. The most secure and efficient way to overcome hunger around the world is in our hands.

      To secure food for all and restore the earth’s normal climate, it is necessary to return agriculture to the hands of peasant communities and indigenous peoples. To do this, we must have urgent, integrated, sweeping agrarian reform that ends the extreme and growing concentration of land that affects all of humanity today. These agrarian reforms will provide the material conditions for agriculture to benefit all of humanity and thus , the defense and protection of peasant and indigenous agriculture is up to all of us . In the short run , it is necessary to halt all transactions, concessions, and transfers that result in concentration or monopoly control of land and/or the displacement of rural communities.

      Peasant and indigenous systems of agriculture, hunting, fishing, and shepherding that care for the land and the food supply should be supported adequately with public resources that are not subject to conditionalities. Market mechanisms—like the sale of carbon and environmental services—should be eliminated and replaced with real measures like those mentioned above. Ending pollution is a duty that no one should be able to avoid by paying for the rights to continue the destruction.

      The legitimate use of what international organizations and enterprises now call biomass is to feed every living being, and then to be returned to the earth to restore its fertility. The emissions that come from wasted energy should be reduced through saving and eliminating waste. We need renewable, decentralized sources of energy, within reach of the people.


      We, peasants, family farmers, landless peasants, indigenous peoples and migrants, men and women, decidedly oppose the commercialization of the earth, our territories, water, seeds, food, nature, and human life. We reiterate what was said at the People’s Summit in Cochabamba, Bolivia: “Humanity faces a grand dilemma: to continue the path of capitalism, predation, and death, or undertake the path of harmony with nature and respect for life.”

      We repudiate and denounce the green economy as a new mask to hide increasing levels of corporate greed and food imperialism in the world, and as a brutal “green washing” of capitalism that only implements false solutions, like carbon trading, REDD, geoengineering, GMOs, agrofuels, bio-char, and all of the market- based solutions to the environmental crisis.

      Our goal is to bring back another way of relating to nature and other people. This is also our duty, and our right and so we will continue fighting and calling on others to continue fighting tirelessly for the construction of food sovereignty, for comprehensive agrarian reform and the restoration of indigenous territories, for ending the violence of capital and restoring peasant and indigenous systems of production based on agroecology.



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      International dimensions of the conflict in Eastern Congo

      Gary K. Busch


      cc F P
      The profits and riches to be gained from exploitation of Eastern Congo’s natural resources continue to propel violence, pillage and the suffering of the Congolese people.

      The African territory which includes Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been in virtually a state of war since 1995; that is at war with each other. This has engaged the national armies, militias, ‘civil defence’ groups, looters, pillagers, child abductors and abusers, rapists and murderers. Each category is not mutually exclusive. Virtually every category contains most if not all of the sociopathic designations. One can add to this the United Nations Peacekeepers whose range of social debilities accurately mimics those whose peace they are purported to be keeping.

      The wars in the Eastern Congo have been responsible for the deaths of millions of Congolese who paid the price of living in a very rich and unmanaged country with failing or non-existent civil institutions. These wars, centred mainly in eastern Congo (North and South Kivu and Maniema) have involved nine African nations and directly affected the lives of 50 million Congolese.

      Between August 1998 and April 2004 some 3.8 million people died violent deaths in the DRC. Since 2004 this number has almost doubled. Many of these deaths were due to starvation or disease that resulted from the war, as well as from summary executions and capture by one or more of a group of irregular marauding bands. Millions more had become internally displaced or had sought asylum in neighbouring countries. Rape was endemic.

      By 1996, the war and genocide in neighbouring Rwanda had spread across the border into the DRC. Rwandan Hutu militia forces (Interahamwe) were helped to escape from Rwanda by the French Army in Operation Tourquise. This allowed the creation of Hutu refugee camps in the DRC which were filled with Interahamwe escapees. Not surprisingly this attracted the attention of the victorious Tutsi in Rwanda and the Tutsis resident in the DRC (the Banyamulenge) who feared that these DRC-based Hutu camps would lead to attacks against Rwanda.

      In October 1996, Tutsi-led Rwandan troops (RPA) entered the DRC with an armed coalition led by Laurent-Desire Kabila, known as the Alliance des Forces Democratiques pour la Liberation du Congo-Zaire (AFDL). Kabila was installed in power with the ouster of Mobuto on the 17 May 1997. Kabila declared himself president, consolidated power around himself and the AFDL, and renamed the country the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The DRC's military was renamed the Forces Armees Congolaises (FAC).

      As the FAC was being reorganised the Rwandan troops took over the security in the East. They were confronted by several competing militias:

      · The Interahamwe militia of ethnic Hutus, mostly from Rwanda, which fought the Tutsi-dominated Government of Rwanda;

      · Hutu members of the former Rwandan Armed Forces, believed to be responsible for the 1994 genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda, which also fought the Government of Rwanda;

      · The Mai Mai, a loose association of traditional Congolese local defence forces, which fought the influx of Rwandan immigrants;

      · The Alliance of Democratic Forces (ADF), made of up Ugandan expatriates and supported by the Government of Sudan, which fought the Government of Uganda; and

      · Several groups of Hutus from Burundi fighting the Tutsi-dominated Government of Burundi.

      During 1997, relations between Kabila and his former backers (Museveni of Uganda and Kagame of Rwanda) deteriorated. In July 1998, Kabila ordered all foreign troops to leave the DRC. They refused to leave; claiming that the DRC troops could not defend their interests from the exile groups operating the Eastern Congo. On 2 August 1997, fighting erupted throughout the DRC as Rwandan troops ‘mutinied’, and fresh Rwandan and Ugandan troops entered the DRC. Kagame ordered his troops to attack Kinshasa to depose Kabila in the hopes that his Banyamulenge Tutsi allies in the newly formed Rwandan-backed rebel group called the Rassemblement Congolais pour la Democratie (RCD) would take over. Soon after, Museveni created the rebel group called the Mouvement pour la Liberation du Congo (MLC) to fight for Uganda’s interests and sent into the Congo thousands of Ugandan soldiers. This campaign was impeded when Angolan, Zimbabwean, and Namibian troops intervened on behalf of the DRC.

      However, this left the Eastern Congo (where the war was being fought), in the hands of Uganda and Rwanda with some sections held by the Mai-Mai and Burundi. This created a situation where the occupying forces could engage in the massive looting of eastern DRC’s riches. Numerous accounts and documents suggest that by 1997 a first wave of ‘new businessmen’ speaking only English, Kinyarwanda and Kiswahili had commenced operations in eastern DRC. Theft of livestock, coffee beans and other resources began to be reported with frequency. By the time the August 1998 war broke out, Rwandans and Ugandans (top officers and their associates) had a strong sense of the potential of the natural resources, especially coltan, and their locations in eastern DRC.

      The Ugandan decision to enter the conflict in August 1998 was defended by some top military officials who had served in eastern Zaire during the first war and who had had a taste of the business potential of the region. The Ugandan forces were eager to move in and occupy areas where gold and diamond mines were located. In September 1998 this looting was put in the hands of General General Salim Saleh (born Caleb Afande Akandwanaho, 14 January 1960), Museveni’s brother, a proven money-launderer, drug dealer, resource thief and plunderer. Salim Saleh formed a company which would supply the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo with merchandise, and would return with natural resources. The project never materialised in this form, but took the form of pure looting and pillage under the protection of the President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni.

      Despite their claims of a security concern generating their interest in the DRC, some top army officials clearly had a hidden agenda: economic and financial objectives. A few months before the 1998 war broke out, General Salim Saleh and the elder son of President Museveni reportedly visited the eastern DRC. One month after the beginning of the conflict, General James Kazini was already involved in commercial activities. He already knew the most profitable sectors and immediately organised the local commanders to serve their economic and financial objectives.

      This was mirrored in the activities of the Rwandans. At the heart of the financial setting was the Banque de commerce, du développement et d'industrie (BCDI) located in Kigali. This was the initial vehicle through which all revenues were passed at the initial stages of Rwandan and Ugandan engagement in the DRC. Then, when the war broke out the Rwandans retained the BCDI as their conduit and the Ugandans set up their own. The extraction of minerals rose to a fever pitch as hostilities began with no attention to safe or rational methods of extraction.

      In September 1999, the UPDF local commander demanded the extraction of gold from the pillars of the Gorumbwa mine galleries in which dynamite was used. The galleries collapsed, leading to the death of a number of Congolese miners. Some months later, Ugandan soldiers who came to mine in the same area contracted respiratory disease. Even when the local commanders were informed about the dangers of these activities, there was an acceptable level of tolerance for death and disease

      Local Congolese have been mining for years for their own benefit as artisanal miners. The novelty of their involvement lies in the fact that some of them were used as ‘convincible labour’ to mine gold, diamonds or coltan. In the Bondo locality within Equateur Province, young men from 12 to 18 years were recruited by Jean-Pierre Bemba. The Ugandan allies trained the recruits and shared with them the idea that the Ugandan army was an ‘army of development’ that aimed at improving ordinary people's living conditions. After the one-hour morning physical training session, they were sent to gold mines to dig on behalf of the Ugandans and Bemba.

      In Kalima, the RPA commander Ruto enrolled two teams of local Congolese to dig coltan; these Congolese worked under the heavy guard of Rwandan soldiers. In the Kilo-Moto mineral district, Ugandan local commanders and some of the soldiers who guarded the different entry points of the mining areas allowed and encouraged the local population to mine. The arrangement between the soldiers and the miners was that each miner would leave at the entry/exit point one gram of gold every day. On average 2,000 individuals mined this large concession six days a week. It was so well organised that the business ran smoothly. On average 2kg of gold were delivered daily to the person heading the network.

      The other form of organised extraction by the occupying forces involved the import of manpower for mining. Occupying forces brought manpower from their own countries and provided the necessary security and logistics. In particular, Rwanda utilised prisoners to dig coltan in exchange for a sentence reduction and limited cash to buy food. There were 1,500 Rwandan prisoners in the Numbi area of Kalehe alone. These prisoners were seen mining coltan while guarded by RPA soldiers.

      The illegal exploitation of natural resources went beyond mineral and agricultural resources. It occurred in respect of financial transactions, taxes and the use of cheap labour. Local banks and insurance companies operating in Goma, Bukavu, Kisangani, Bunia and Gbadolite dealt directly with Kigali or Kampala. A system of tax collection - enforced in some cases - was implemented by MLC, RCD-ML and RCD Goma with their established Ugandan and Rwandan counterparts. In the rebels’ own words, these taxes were aimed at ‘financing or supporting the war effort’.

      Indeed, part of the funds collected was sent to Kigali (in the case of RCD-Goma). In the case of the former RCD-ML and MLC, not only was part of the taxes sent to Kampala but also individual colonels would claim direct payment from RCD-ML. In Bunia and Bukavu, people protested, demonstrated and denounced this practice of abuse. In areas controlled by Bemba, peasants carrying palm oil on bicycles had to pay taxes on the bicycles. In the mining sector, direct extraction was carried out in three ways, namely (a) by individual soldiers for their own benefit; (b) by locals organised by Rwandan and Ugandan commanders; and (c) by foreign nationals for the army or commanders' benefit.

      This was the pattern of exploitation of the DRC and its human and mineral wealth even when peace agreements, like the Lusaka Accords which supposedly ended the war, were signed. Instead of warring armies Eastern Congo became controlled by warlords and militia groups whose exploitation took the form of pillage, rape and murder. Most of these groups have affinities with either the Rwandan or Ugandan governments which handle the physical trade in the wealth which is exported. The Rwandans have been backing ‘rebel’ military warlords like Laurent Nkunda or Bosco Ntanganda. These provide the fig leaf for Rwanda’s continuing rape of the Congo. Others do the same for Uganda. They operate with impunity. The people most responsible for the continuing atrocities are protected. These include Yoweri Museveni, Salim Saleh, Paul Kagame, James Kazini, Moses Ali, James Kabarebe, Taban Amin, Jean-Pierre Bemba, Laurent Nkunda, Bosco Ntanganda, Meles Zenawi and a long list of people whose culpability is without question; many of whom have been named for atrocities again and again. Bemba was finally brought to the ICC to stand trial. This was more to do with his political opposition to Kabila Junior and the Central African Republic than his depredations in the Eastern Congo.

      Theoretically, the United Nations has teams of peacekeepers in the DRC as MONUC (United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo); since 1 July 2010, MONUC was renamed the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO). The track record of MONUC is not impressive. In the words of a Zimbabwean general: ‘They are like tits on a bull. They are there but serve no useful purpose!’ Two of the inbuilt reasons for their lack of success was (1) relying at the beginning on the French military who encamped at Ituri and refused to leave the city because the rebels killed two French officers on the first outing; and (2) relying on Rwandan troops to co-ordinate the fight against the rebels they are covertly supporting in the name of MONUSCO. This scheme offers limited optimism for the Congolese. In fact many peacekeepers of the MONUC were engaged in rape, murder and pillage for their own account. Some have been prosecuted and sent home. Their presence in the DRC adds to the fears of the population.

      As this conflict is continuing, the world has turned its attention to another battle nearby; the fight against the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). The LRA is a Ugandan organisation with a bloody history. The Ugandan reaction to the LRA has been equally brutal. In September 1996 the government of Uganda put in place a policy of forced displacement of the Acholi in the Gulu district into displacement camps. Since 1996 this policy has expanded to encompass the entire rural Acholi population of four districts - one million people. These displacement camps have some of the highest mortality rates in the world with an estimated 1,000 people dying per week. The LRA has derived most of its support from the displaced and dominated Acholi people who have been driven from their homes and whose families remain in displacement camps.

      Joseph Kony (born 1961) is the head of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) He has declared that the LRA will conduct a political, military and spiritual campaign to establish theocratic government based on the Ten Commandments in Uganda. The LRA say that God sent spirits to communicate this mission directly to Kony. The LRA has earned a reputation for its untrammelled violence against the people of several countries, including northern Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Sudan. The LRA has abducted and forced an estimated 66,000 children to fight for them, and has also forced the internal displacement of over 2 million people since its rebellion began in 1986. There were many international attempts at peace and an end to the abduction of children by the LRA between 1996 and 2001. All of them failed to end the abductions, rape, child soldiers, and civilian casualties including attacks on refugee camps. After the September 11th attacks, the United States declared the Lord's Resistance Army a terrorist group and Joseph Kony a terrorist.

      Following the breakdown of peace talks in late 2008, the National Security Council authorised AFRICOM to support a military operation (one of the first publicly-acknowledged AFRICOM operations) against the LRA, which was believed to be in the Congo at the time. AFRICOM provided training and US$1 million in financial support for ‘Operation Lightning Thunder’ - a joint endeavour of the Ugandan, Congolese and South Sudan forces in Congolese territory launched in December 2008 to ‘eliminate the threat posed by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA)’. According to the United Nations, the offensive ‘never consulted with partners on the ground on the requirements of civilian protection. Stretching over a three-month period, it failed in its mission and the LRA scattered and retaliated against the Congolese population; over 1,000 people were killed and up to 200,000 displaced.

      This battle against the LRA has to be seen as a continuation of the battles in Eastern Congo. In October 2011, US President Obama authorised the deployment of approximately 100 combat-equipped U.S. troops to central Africa. They will help regional forces ‘remove from the battlefield’ Joseph Kony and senior LRA leaders. ‘Although the U.S. forces are combat-equipped, they will only be providing information, advice, and assistance to partner nation forces, and they will not themselves engage LRA forces unless necessary for self-defence’, Obama said in a letter to Congress.

      There is no doubt that the LRA is a vicious, sociopathic organisation which engages in brutal behaviour. However, the people who are leading the fight against the LRA (Yoweri Museveni and Paul Kagame) have committed and continue to commit equally outrageous crimes and attacks of a similar nature, especially among the displaced wanderers of the Eastern Congo, but are feted and rewarded by the US Government for their willingness to provide mercenaries for the US ‘War on Terror’ and the protection of the newly emerging oil industry in their countries and region. Unfortunately, the area in which the LRA conduct their atrocities is exactly where major new finds of oil have been discovered.

      Underpinning the Western interest in the region is the discovery of oil in Kenya, Uganda and along the shores of Lake Albert. The war between Sudan and South Sudan has made it imperative to find a route for the oil to reach the ports of the Indian Ocean as the Sudan pipeline is closed to them. The routes out all go through the territory of the rump of the remaining LRA (there are less than 600 fighters left). This struggle against the LRA has allowed the US to continue its policy of building African mercenary armies to fight its battles against ‘Global Terror’ in the Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Kenya. It supplies weapons, instructors and communication facilities to the Ugandan and Rwandan armies to combat the LRA and to fight against the US’ enemies in Somalia. Unfortunately this has also empowered the Ugandans and Rwandans in the rape of the Eastern Congo in the name of fighting the LRA.

      In 2009 Heritage Oil discovered oil in Uganda. There have also been sizeable finds in Kenya. In May 2012 Kenya announced its second profitable oil discovery in two months; and large oil deposits in the remote northern Turkana region. Kenya has become the latest African country to join the great African oil boom, following recent discoveries in Uganda and the DRC. Even Rwanda and Burundi will benefit from this oil as part of the East African Community (EAC). The EAC can count on a better energy future with the discovery of oil in Kenya, in addition to the substantial reserves in Uganda and the gas discovered in Tanzania. There are also explorations in the Lake Kivu Graven in Rwanda. South Sudan, with its large oil reserves, has applied for membership of EAC. There are large oil and gas fields in Somalia. Africa is the main continent in the world with frequent and substantial new findings of oil and gas. A joint report by the African Development Bank, African Union and the African Development Fund observed that oil reserves in Africa grew by over 25 per cent, while gas has grown by over 100 per cent since the late 1980s.

      This ‘new horizon’ of African oil and gas has started to attract the big fish of the international oil industry, Chevron, Shell, Exxon, Total and the Chinese oil giants. This extraction process and the refineries which will accompany the flows will require vast sums of cash up front; money the Africans don’t have. There is a symbiosis involved in the activities of ‘Big Oil’ and Africa. Big Oil has the money, Africa has the untapped oil and gas and, most importantly, the military to protect the prospective investments. The US does not have the public support for the sending of combat troops to East and Central Africa. It does have the equipment, cash and trainers to create surrogate forces in the area. In this, having a common enemy, like the LRA, is a convenient hook on which to hang a commercial policy. The LRA doesn’t have to be strong; it just has to be considered vicious and beyond the pale. It matches those criteria. The US interests and the Ugandan and Rwandan military ambitions overlap and the two armies are being paid vast sums to act as US surrogates. Museveni and Kagame are feted by the West as valuable allies, despite their activities in the DRC.

      This policy is likely to continue the unrestrained pillage of the Eastern Congo and the continued misery, poverty, fear and violence of and to the Congolese people. The Congolese echo the question posed originally by the Tribune of the People, Tiberius Gracchus, ‘Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?’ (‘Who is going to protect us from our protectors?’).


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      * Dr. Gary K. Busch is an international trade unionist, an academic, a businessman and a political affairs and business consultant.

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      South Africa: Victory as students strike over sacked workers

      Micah Roshan Reddy


      cc J P
      The hunger strike is the latest victory for workers, with encouraging support coming from a wide range of political ideologies – from anarchists to left-leaning liberals and radical members of the youth wings of the governing ANC-led alliance.

      This year has borne witness to some staggeringly large student protests, with over 200,000 recently taking to the streets of Montreal in opposition to tuition fee hikes. But a less spotlighted action took place last week at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. On Sunday 20 May, a group of thirty-two Wits students bedded down in the stark, cold foyer of the university’s main administrative building and began an ‘indefinite hunger strike’ to protest the unfair dismissal of 17 catering workers.

      The workers had been fired by Royal Mnandi – an outsourced service provider contracted by the university – after they refused to abide by a company decision to redeploy them. Workers were angered by what they felt was inadequate consultation in matters that effected them. They claimed that the move would have meant an increased transport burden for them, which would have further stretched their already thinly spread wages.

      The incident led to days of concerted protest action in May in solidarity with the sacked workers. A mass rally and a highly successful boycott of Royal Mnandi involving over 2,000 students, many from working class backgrounds, preceded the hunger strike.

      By the time students were preparing to go hungry the company had still not budged and Wits management, staying true to character, absolved itself from any responsibility to protect the dignity and rights of contract workers on campus. In its response to the hunger strikers management gave the convenient and predictable excuse that its hands were tied because of legal obstacles. It claimed that it had no place getting involved in a labour dispute between an outsourced company and the workers of that company.

      As in the past, Wits management was attempting to abdicate its moral responsibility to those who ensure the smooth functioning and general wellbeing of the university, but who are not technically under its employ and to whom management is thus not legally accountable. Of course, this is part of the reason Wits outsourced labour in the first place.

      Over the last decade Professor Lucien van der Walt and several other Wits academics have attempted to highlight the links between outsourcing at South African universities and developments in the national and global political economy. As van der Walt’s work has shown, outsourcing at Wits is symptomatic of successive ANC-led governments’ neoliberal macro-economic policies, starting with GEAR (Growth, Employment and Redistribution strategy) in 1996, and continuing with the launch of the not-so-paradigm-shifting NGP (New Growth Path) in 2010.

      GEAR’s emphasis on fiscal austerity and its vision of a more ‘competitive’ and market oriented higher education sector led to cutbacks in public spending for universities. Small wonder then that in the early 2000s, despite serious opposition, Wits management under vice-chancellor Colin Bundy pushed through a major restructuring plan, a key component of which was the outsourcing of “non-core” services to cut costs. It was also assumed, quite unproblematically, that this would equate to greater efficiency. The effect of outsourcing was to reduce the labour force and transform it into a cheaper, more exploitable, and more ‘streamline’ one.

      Of course, the real beneficiaries of outsourcing at Wits have been the owners, shareholders and executives of the contract companies, many of whom are closely connected to high profile politicians and key policy makers who shape and drive government strategies like GEAR.

      The case of Mvelaserve, the holding company of Royal Mnandi, is telling in this regard. In 2010, two individuals with intimate connections to leading government figures joined the Mvelaserve board when it unbundled from the Mvelaphanda Group, headed by ANC bigwig Tokyo Sexwale, and listed separately. Flora Mantashe, the wife of ANC secretary general and former trade union leader Gwede Mantashe, was one. The other person to join was Nozuko Mbalula, wife of then Deputy Police Minister Fikile Mbalula.

      So as a handful of businesspeople reap profits from outsourcing on campus, for workers it has come at great cost. Hundreds lost their jobs at Wits, others have lost benefits and had their wages slashed. Job security has been threatened by the redrawing of contracts, making them temporary and flexible and giving employers greater scope to punish “troublesome” workers who assert their rights. The casualisation of labour gave employers the upper hand and dealt a serious blow to trade unionism. For workers and their allies on campus, the whole experience of outsourcing was a highly demoralising one.

      But the Wits Workers Solidarity Committee – an alliance of workers, students and staff that coordinated the hunger strike – has gone some way towards filling the gap left by the partial retreat of unions from campus. In recent months the committee has painstakingly managed to achieve some important gains, helping workers claw back some of what they lost. It has put pressure on management and outsourced companies to improve working conditions, raised awareness about worker issues and spoken out against draconian employer tactics and the complacency of university management.

      The hunger strike is the latest victory for workers, with encouraging support coming from a wide range of political ideologies – from anarchists to left-leaning liberals and radical members of the youth wings of the governing ANC-led alliance. As the week ground on the foyer of the occupied administrative building had become a vibrant hub of protest strewn with blankets, mattresses, placards and pamphlets.

      But as students were growing progressively weary and hungry there was still no sign that the company would reconsider its actions or that management would engage with the issue of dismissed workers in any meaningful way. This state of affairs prevailed until, finally, as the week drew to a close, management buckled. In a rare show of goodwill, management officials came down from the 11th floor of the Senate House building and personally told the strikers that they would agree to open negotiations with the company over the matter of the dismissed workers.

      It remains to be seen what will transpire at the negotiating table and whether or not the dismissed workers will be reinstated. But for now the discernible change in management’s attitude marks a potentially significant precedent. Wits activists have reminded management of its responsibility to students and workers, and they have shown that companies will not be allowed to get away with unfair and heavy-handed labour practices.

      The protest at Wits was a tiny but nevertheless important blip in a vast constellation of student resistance taking place at universities the world over; a constellation with a common thread – cuts to university subsidies and the commodification of education – running through it. We may not be seeing a repeat of 1968 quite yet, but the rumblings are there and the protests are likely to intensify as economic woes deepen and universities are increasingly commercialised and made inaccessible to the poor and working class youth. The recent student upheavals in Chile, which has one of the most market-driven and unequal higher education systems in the world, may be a taste of things to come.


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      * Micah Reddy is a former student at Wits University, currently based at the university doing research. He is an intern at the Afro-Middle East Centre. He writes in his personal capacity.

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      Lightning and rainbows

      Paula Akugizibwe


      cc P T
      A painting on a wall sparks a bit of animosity when area residents realize it is done in Arabic. But later a lively conversation about change ensues.

      It’s a long ride from the swanky swag of Cape Town’s Convention Centre to the gritty unaffectedness of the township of Philippi. We are in town for a conference on inequality. Thousands of words of analyses, mind-bending philosophies, but inequality doesn’t get much clearer than the trip to Philippi.

      I am in the networking zone, surfing a sea of intellectual encounters, when I encounter Tunisian graffiti artist eL Seed. He’s carrying bags full of canisters, on his way to Philippi to do some street art. “We’re leaving right now, come!” eL Seed’s got this lightning-and-rainbows enthusiasm about his art. It’s contagious. I grab my bag.

      The mood is edgy on the drive. The anti-gravitational thrill of sharing beauty, grounded by a discomfiting self-awareness steeped in the pungent scent of privilege, the space from which we operate. eL Seed is grappling with the contradiction. “Do you think they’ll be offended?” He asks me. “Like, who does this guy think he is, that he can just walk into our community and do his art?”

      I want to say no. No, of course not, a thing of art is a thing of beauty, a gift from the heart is never misplaced. But who am I to say? We are bringing art and asking nothing in return except that most sacred incorporeal asset – personal space.

      “I don’t know,” I tell him. “You’ve linked up with people in the hood; I think that’s the important thing… ?” The question mark. It lingers uncomfortably through the rest of the drive. The politics of ‘giving’ are not for the ‘giver’ to decide.

      The township of Philippi was established as a residential zone by South Africa’s apartheid government in the 80s. It was one of the final mass relocations of black people to the distant outskirts of Cape Town. Three decades later, government policies have shifted, but foundational geopolitics remain cemented in the country’s economic and social architecture. The place we are going today used to be a rubble dump for the Philippi area. Now twenty thousand people call it home – Sweet Home, to be precise, is its name.

      We leave the car by the main road and follow a meandering path through tin structures until we find ourselves at the Sweet Home community centre. The management receives us without fuss, then leads us to the wall they would like painted. It’s opposite a spaza shop emblazoned with Coca-Cola logos, aptly named Western Breeze; and next to an empty plot of land in which a beautiful dark horse paces, tethered to the pole of a broken gate. Everywhere electric wires hang low, like a messy spider-web.

      eL Seed gets painting. Passer-bys join him in preparing a background, and less than an hour later, a dull beige wall is transformed into a vertical array of bold colours. And then the calligraphy begins in Arabic, the visually sumptuous language of his art.

      Meanwhile the horse, evidently weary of a life in captivity, seizes this moment to make her escape. A child sounds an alarm and our attention is suddenly pulled from the wall towards the sight of the horse trotting away, an untethered rope bumping uselessly through the dust behind her as she makes a run for the highway. Her watchers leap into hot pursuit, and a few minutes later she is sullenly led back to her hitching station. Metaphors flash through my head.

      Back at the wall, the progression of calligraphy is causing some excitement, and occasional spurts of hostility, when residents discover that el Seed is using Arabic.

      One man confronts him. What do you want here? What is this thing you’re writing?

      He grabs the sketchbook from which eL Seed is painting and wedges it down the front of his trousers, jiggling his pelvis daringly.

      You want it? Come get it!

      (“I think he had a crush on you,” Kent will tease on the ride home.)

      eL Seed enters into a few minutes of negotiation, which mercifully do not end in crotch-searching. The book is returned and the art goes on.

      But the politics of language persist. This is an insult, another passer-by exclaims, gesturing disdainfully at the wall. “Why doesn’t he write in English? I don’t like this Arabic thing.”

      “But Arabic is what he knows,” I reply. “So that’s what he can share. How come you don’t like Arabic?”

      He glares at me suspiciously. “You, who do you worship? God or Allah?”

      “I don’t see the difference,” I venture cautiously.

      “If you worship God,” his finger stabs towards the wall, “you can’t accept this.”

      “But Allah is also God, in Islam?”

      “Yes, that’s what I’m saying! You’re a Muslim!”

      “No I’m not a Muslim, but I’m also not a Christian.”

      “For me!” He beats his chest. “I am a Christian. So this is an insult, for me. He must write in English.”

      English. English. A history of insult to the African spirit. The yokes we embrace. The wars we fight over languages and gods that are not our own.

      ‘The fact that I am writing to you in English already falsifies what I wanted to tell you. My subject: how to explain to you that I don’t belong to English though I belong nowhere else.’ – Gustavo Perez Firmat.

      He eventually leaves, calmed down by a friend who remains behind in the group of observers, absorbing the scene with visible amusement. “I like this,” he says. “Even if I don’t speak the language. I know what it means. When I walk past I can say, oh, this is something nice to look at.”

      A few days later I speak with Forrest, a local resident who organised the painting with el Seed. He tells me he is concerned about the progress of development. “I don’t fight for myself as an individual,” Forrest says, “I fight for the community.” He is matter-of-fact, not interested in the politics. I ask him if he thinks art is an important part of the community’s development. “Yes,” he responds immediately. “Those children who were playing football outside need jerseys. There is this other wall we want painted. Whoever can contribute something, they should come.”

      Not everyone is convinced. A sister approaches me, sceptical without animosity. “How does this help us? she asks. We need jobs.”

      I am silent.

      “I’m here every day – you see all of us here, we have no employment. The politicians are always talking about jobs. Every time they want your vote, they come, they say they will give you a job, they will give you a house, they will give you water.”

      She counts them off on her fingers, an infinite bouquet of bullshit promises.

      “We have a lot of problems here, she says, staring at the wall.”

      I nod and we stand in silence for a little while, watching the painting, then she asks me where we’re from. I run through the nationalities of our small group – Tunisia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa.

      “Tunisia.” Her brow furrows. “Where is that?”

      “North Africa, in the West. Actually, they’ve also had big problems with unemployment and the government. There was a revolution there last year.”

      She glances at me briefly now. What happened?

      “Well, people organised a campaign against the government, they took to the streets and removed the president from power.”

      “And it’s better for them now?”

      I hesitate. I want to say yes – or what’s the point of the story? What’s the point of that dream, that drug, that theatre, that therapy, that elusive release that we all crave so much, that moment called Revolution? I think of the few articles on Tunisia that I’ve seen recently, and remember words like ‘violence’ and ‘intolerance’ and ‘ignored’. Reality. How anti-climactic. “To be honest, I’m not very sure,” I tell her, “but eish – let’s hope!” Shrug. A fake inflection creeps into my voice, trying its best to make my doubt sound more optimistic. Hope. What an analgesic.

      She says nothing. We turn back to the wall.

      As eL Seed is putting the final touches on the painting, the sun edges through the clouds, casting the exquisitely etched words into layers of light and shadow:

      “It is impossible, until it is done.”


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      On Intisar’s Zina charges and stoning sentence

      What is behind religion?

      Hala Alkarib


      cc L A
      The recent sentencing to death by stoning of a young woman accused of adultery stands against all the values, traditions and heritage of the Sudanese and signifies the reactionary political agenda of a tyrannical regime.

      On 22 April 2012, Sudanese judge Sami Ibrahim Shabo sentenced to death by stoning a young woman accused of Zina (adultery). Her name is Intisar Sharif Abdalla, married and a mother of three little children. The judgement itself is ruthless under any Islamic Sharia and Fiqh interpretation; stoning hasn’t been applied to a woman for adultery in Sudan despite the country’s fundamentalist religious legal system. The Islamic Fiqh Hudud (corporal punishment) in crimes such as cutting of limbs, the punishment for theft, and stoning to death, the punishment of Zina are silently suspended, yet not lifted from the criminal code and remain present in Sudan’s legal system.

      Intisar was accused of having a relationship and being impregnated by a man that wasn’t her husband. After being reported by her brother, initially she and her co-accused both denied the charges. Later the case was reopened again by the brother and Intisar confessed to committing adultery. The most disturbing aspect of this case is that the admission of guilt and judicial sentencing comes following a period of sustained beatings by her brother who brought forward the case. The absence of legal representation and clarification of the procedures for the woman in question, whose first language is not Arabic, is equally troublesome. She was taken to court where Judge Sami Ibrahim Shabo of Ombada General Criminal Court in Omdurman city of greater Khartoum state, sentenced her to stoning to death after one court session. Lawyers only gained access to her after the judgement was made. The man co-accused with Intisar was released based on his mere denial of the charges of Zina!

      Intisar’s case highlights the fickle application of international human rights conventions and legislation that Sudan has voluntarily become party to, such as the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention against Torture and the African Charter and its protocol on the rights of women. This case demonstrates the difficulty of reconciling Sudan’s current legal jurisdiction and its regional and international obligations as a member of international and regional communities. This contradiction is as well reflected in the massive polarisation taking place in Sudan at the moment as well as challenges to peaceful coexistence between the different nations inside the country.

      Furthermore, the stoning judgment stands against all the values, traditions and heritage of the Sudanese. Given the fact that the application of Zina has so far been dormant in Sudan, this case ought to be read within the broader political and cultural dynamics at work in Sudan currently, and in particular the religious discourses out of which justification for Zina is derived. These discourses, which I briefly outline below, point to the fact that there is more at play than the moral justifications given for this harsh judgement.

      There are significant and complex differences among the Islamic Fiqh schools regarding the conditions required for a valid Zina confession and for testimonial evidence. These differences are based on the varying levels of different arguments within Fiqh schools. For example while some Islamic schools require the Zina confession to be uttered four separate times and require the presence of four witnesses during the act of Zina, the Maliki school (dominant in Sudan) considers either one’s confession or the presence of four witnesses as sufficient. However, in cases of pregnancy as a result of Zina, the majority of opinion in the Maliki Fiqh School agrees that the duration of a woman’s pregnancy can last up to seven years before she is subjected to court trial. [1]

      A closer look at the classical Islamic schools, mainly the Sunah schools (Madahib) and the scholarship that emerged in the 8th century on the Islamic legal system shows that, they all tried to prevent the conviction of women for Zina and avoided stoning as a brutal form of punishment. It is unacceptable that now, 12 centuries later, a judge sitting in Sudan, or in any other part of the Muslim world for that matter, would rule out all accumulated knowledge, wisdom and various accumulated attempts of interpretations given the complexity of the issue, and choose to sentence a young woman to death.

      The sentencing of Intisar comes in accordance with Article 146 of the Sudanese Criminal Code. However, ultimately what the Islamic Sharia of Sudan’s criminal code reveals is the deeply rooted discriminatory nature of Sudan’s legal system generated from the ruling regime’s ideology which perceives women as purveyors of moral wrongs and seeks to banish illegal aliens.

      The repression of women in Sudan is illustrated in the Sudanese legislative system’s approach towards women. Both Sudan’s criminal and family codes are engineered through a mix of criminal and moral prohibitions which blur the distinction between the creation of law in the service of promoting a particular public interest and the imposition of moral precepts based on specific ideological conviction. The de-anchoring of the law from a clear standard of general public interest leaves Sudan’s legislation in relation to personal matters particularly open to exploitation as a tool to express the temporary interests of the authorities in control. A good example is the public order police of Sudan’s Special Forces that are assigned to terrorise women and interrogate them by observing their personal behaviour, their dress code, their mobility and their exposure in the public sphere. Ultimately the ideology behind the articles and the application of the Sudanese criminal code is meant to enforce the tyranny of the ruling regime through alienating women by crippling their public participation, both of which have a paralysing effect on society as a whole.

      Politically, Intisar’s sentencing is significant. She is originally from South Kordofan, the most recent region where civil conflict erupted in Sudan. Following the independence of South Sudan, gender and racial profiling and discrimination is dominating the current political scene in the country. In addition, the fluidity of Sudan’s current legal system poses a serious threat to thousands of women currently living in the country, enduring and suffering under the violence generated by Sudan’s unjust legal system and its brutal enforcement.

      This violence ranges from lashing to long term imprisonments of poor women street vendors, students, and others working in the fringes of society, all of whom are regularly subjected to accusations of prostitution, intention to commit Zina, and indecent dressing. The rationale behind Sudan’s criminal code is based on vague definitions of guilt, yet it very assertively delegates the power of judgment to the enforcers to interpret it as they wish in line with the reactionary political agenda.

      Intisar is currently shackled by metal chains and imprisoned in Omdurman women’s prison in Sudan together with her four month old baby, where she is being re-victimised and burdened again by the complex layers of Sudan’s heavy political baggage and unjust legal system.


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      1. The notion of ‘dormant pregnancy’ stipulates that a foetus can lie dormant in its mother’s womb for up to seven years.

      Open letter to President Barack Hussein Obama

      ‘What About We People Who Are Darker Than Blue?’

      Norman (Otis) Richmond (aka Jalali)


      cc US Gov
      Black Music Month is going unnoticed by President Barack Obama.

      President Barack Hussein Obama, the first African president of the United States will be remembered for bombing Libya and murdering its leader Muammar Gaddafi. Libya is not in the Middle East. The last time I checked it is on the African Continent.

      He has also dropped a bomb on the cultural front; he is attempting to crush the unity of Africans at home and abroad. Even the former Mayor of Toronto, David Miller, proclaimed June Black Music Month during his tenure in office, but not so with Obama. By not recognizing Black Music Month and changing the name in 2009 you have taken a step backward Mr. President.

      Back on 2 June 2009, President Obama did issue a statement in support of what he then and now refers to as African American Appreciation Month. In one fell swoop he took an international music and nationalized it. The music of Africans in American music is international music.

      Recall, it was The Black Music Association created by Kenny Gamble, Ed Wright and others that brought together Stevie Wonder and Bob Marley and the Wailers, in concert, to demonstrate this fact. Kwame Brathwaite captured Wonder and Marley in action in a historic photo.

      Sir Duke Ellington pointed out nearly a century ago that we as a people must call our music ‘Negro’ (Black) music so others could not dishonestly claim it as theirs. Black music is one of the many gifts that Africa and Africans have presented to the world.

      President Obama gave a brilliant speech at El–Azhar University in Cairo in 2009. The 44th president has proven that he is one of the most intelligent, (if not the most intelligent) head of state in the history of the USA. The president’s speech was like a vintage Earth, Wind & Fire performance. However, it was just that - a performance.

      Mumia Abu-Jamal pointed out, ‘But in truth Obama had them at Salaam-Alaikum, the universal Muslim greeting meaning “Peace be unto you.” Peace, it’s sad to say, is hardly a reality when one’s own government is at war with its own people.’ The recent events in Egypt
      and the Middle East proved Mumia to be on point.

      While the President was touring the Middle East in 2009, he failed to recognize the 30th anniversary of Black Music Month. More than one person has raised the question that perhaps he didn’t know. I find this unbelievable.

      In 2009 he hosted Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind & Fire and Sweet Honey in the Rock at the White House. He had even invited Odetta to sing at his inauguration; however, she joined the ancestors before that historical event.

      How can a man who spent most of his adult life in Chicago claim to be totally unaware of Black Music Month? Chicago is the home of Mahalia Jackson, Martin Luther King’s musical lieutenant; Sam Cooke; Curtis Mayfield; Jerry Butler; Mavis and Pop Staples; Ernest Dawkins; R.Kelly; Common; Kanye West and Lupe Fiasco.

      The June 2009 issue of Ebony Magazine, which I bought in the middle of May, was dedicated to Black Music Month. This issue has Jada Pinkett Smith on the cover, and features a photo of President Obama and the First Lady, Michelle Obama, with Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham

      After being called out by The Caribbean World News Network, President Obama did rightly proclaim the month of June, National Caribbean American Heritage Month. President Obama issued this statement on 2 June 2009.

      According to the 6 June 2009 issue of the New York Times, he signed a proclamation establishing the Ronald Reagan Centennial Commission. The commission is supposed to organize activities to mark the 100th anniversary, in 2011, of President Reagan’s birth. What about we people who are darker than blue, President Obama?

      If a Ronald Reagan Centennial Commission is in order what about a Black Music Month Commission with people like Randy Weston, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Jayne Cortez, Cassandra Smith, Amiri Baraka and Queen Latifah? Raynard Jackson of Philadelphia has opined, ‘It’s a
      no-brainer to do a town hall meeting with singers, producers, and songwriters during Black Music Month.’

      The music of African people has been an international force since the Fisk Jubilee Singers, experts in choral-arranged Spirituals from Nashville, Tennessee, conquered Europe in 1873. Since that period Jazz, Calypso, Reggae, R&B, Hip-Hop and African beats have come to be the most popular and influential art forms in the world. Bob Marley, Louis Armstrong and Miriam Makeba are known all over this small planet we call Earth.

      The great saxophonist Archie Shepp once said, ‘What Malcolm X said John Coltrane played.’ This was the expression of Africans in North America; the same thing occurred in the Caribbean and in Africa.

      In the Caribbean, Walter Rodney (Guyana) and Bob Marley (Jamaica) were the concrete expressions of this phenomenon in the 1970s and early 1980s. On the mother continent, Thomas Sankara (Burkina Faso) and Fela Anikulapo Kuti (Nigeria) are examples of music and politics complimenting one another in the 1990s.

      Despite this influence on the planet, it was only 32 years ago that the Black Music Association (BMA) persuaded the US government to recognize Black Music Month. In June 1979, around the time the Sugarhill Gang's ‘Rapper's Delight’ was being released, Kenny Gamble led a delegation to the White House to discuss with President Jimmy Carter the state of Black music.

      At the meeting, Carter asked trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and drummer Max Roach if they would perform ‘Salt Peanuts’, to which Gillespie replied that he'd only do so if the president, (who made a fortune as a peanut farmer) provided the vocals.

      Since that great and dreadful day when Carter butchered the song, June has officially been designated Black Music Month.

      It must be mentioned that in 1979, the world was witnessing a revolutionary breeze as Maurice Bishop and the New Jewel Movement seized state power in Grenada; Daniel Ortega and the Sandinistas swept the counter revolutionary forces out of power in Nicaragua like a
      broom; and the Shah of Iran was dethroned after being installed in power by the CIA in 1953.

      The soundtrack to all of this was Gene McFadden and John Whitehead’s, ‘Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now’ which was released in 1979. Recall, ‘Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now’ was played at the 2008 Democratic National Convention on the night Illinois Senator Barack Obama accepted the
      Democratic Party nomination for President of the United States.

      Since 1984, thanks to the efforts of the Black Music Association/Toronto Chapter, Toronto Mayors June Rowlands, Barbara Hall and Mel Lastman, successively, have recognized June as Black Music Month. On the 25th anniversary of Black Music Month, Mayor David Miller presented the proclamation at City Hall. The late Milton Blake, Jay Douglas, Michie Mee, Norman (Otis) Richmond (Jalali) and others participated in this event.

      When broadcaster and community activist the late Milton Blake and Norman (Otis) Richmond created the Black Music Association's Toronto Chapter in 1984, the intention was to plug African-Canadian music makers into the international music market.

      At that time, 1984, the only African Canadian that was internationally known was Oscar Peterson. Since that time Eric Mercury, Harrison Kennedy (as a member of the Chairmen of the Board), Deborah Cox, Devine Brown, Glenn Lewis, Kardinal Offishall, Drake and others have conquered the world - musically.

      By not recognizing Black Music Month from 2009 until 2012, you have taken a step backward, Mr. President. Grenadian Prime Minister Maurice Bishop told us 30 years ago, ‘Forward Ever. Backwards Never’. One of the greatest Africans to ever grace the planet, Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah, said the same thing 20 years before that.


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      Uganda: the wrong transition?

      Lucy Hovil


      cc UN Photo
      Long before the ICC, or even Invisible Children, made Kony an Internet sensation, local activists were shouting themselves hoarse trying to get the world to understand the broader context of the conflict in the north – President Museveni’s stranglehold on the country for almost three decades.

      The momentous occasion of the ICC’s first verdict against the Congolese militia leader, Thomas Lubanga, has attracted considerable amounts of discussion – and a fair amount of self-congratulation – within the international justice community. And why not? After all, it symbolises the coming of age of an international court that has become the centrepiece for promoting international criminal justice in some of the world’s most troubled and troublesome spots, and the individual prosecution of the worst of offenders has to be a huge step in the right direction.

      Or is it? Are we making progress, or are we simply deluding ourselves that progress is being made? Is there not a significant danger that the energy being put into individual prosecutions is not only taking up huge amounts of resources that could be better re-directed elsewhere (a well-rehearsed argument against expensive prosecutions) but – and arguably more importantly – is also somehow de-railing other approaches to bringing about justice? What if a little bit of justice (as represented by Lubanga’s guilty verdict) is actually jeopardising a fuller realisation of justice for those who have been on the frontline of today’s vicious and dirty wars?

      The example of Uganda is worth exploring in this respect. Since the ICC Chief Prosecutor identified Uganda as a situation of concern in 2003, Uganda has become internationally recognised as a country in transition from conflict to peace. And the showpiece of that transition has been the issuing of arrest warrants against Joseph Kony and his senior commanders. The consequent flurry of activity by international human rights advocates, keen to see their new Court test its mandate in the relatively uncontroversial waters of a state referral, ensured that considerable attention was focused on Uganda as a result. More recently, the release of the infamous and much blogged about Kony2012 initiative has not only re-ignited this attention, but has made Kony a media sensation. At the heart of this attention is the assumption that international criminal justice somehow holds the solution to Uganda’s problems: it is key to ensuring an end to the war and generating a meaningful transition to a peaceful future for those in the north.

      While undoubtedly there is some veracity in such an assumption, what if, in reality, the focus is on the wrong transition? What if the transition in Uganda that needs to take place is not primarily about moving from conflict to peace but about moving from authoritarian rule to democratic governance – one of the ‘old-style’ transitions that started in the democratic transitions of Latin America and Eastern Europe, and was later transported to Africa? What if the war in northern Uganda (which has now subsided in Uganda but been displaced in all its brutality to neighbouring countries), and its anti-hero, Kony, are the sideshow, not the real event? And, most importantly, what if well-meaning attempts at deploying international criminal justice are not only misguided but are actually, in their distraction from the main impediment, detrimental to the broader transition? With so much attention on Kony and the LRA (or what is left of it), it is vital that these wider and, I would argue, more important questions, continue to be asked.

      It is precisely these concerns that local activists in Uganda have been trying to raise for decades. Long before the ICC or even Invisible Children made Kony an internet sensation, local activists were shouting themselves hoarse trying to get the world to understand not only the appalling impact of the conflict in the north, but its broader context – a context in which President Museveni and his National Resistance Movement have held the country to ransom for almost three decades. Kony is a symptom (albeit a brutal one) of poor governance and the mismanagement of resources over the past decades in which the country has seen over 20 rebel groups operating since Museveni came to power. Yet this context has somehow been overlooked.

      Of course, while the ICC and its international justice minders have never claimed to be anything more than part of the solution to the war in the north, it is important to recognise that in practice its involvement has fundamentally altered the parameters for promoting both peace and justice. As a result, the basis for the real transition that needs to take place – one that addresses the deeply embedded structural injustices that lay at the root of the conflict – has been somehow occluded by an overwhelming focus on a seemingly demented rebel leader. Yet in reality, the rot that lies at the heart of current Ugandan governance structures has not only remained untouched by the ICC’s course of action, but has become further entrenched.

      For sure, the temperature has cooled considerably in northern Uganda: hundreds of thousands of people have returned to their homes and no longer live in constant fear of being attacked by armed combatants. Although Kony and three of his senior commanders are still at large (as much of the Western world is now all too aware thanks to Kony2012) and the threat of an LRA re-armed by their comrade-in-arms, President Bashir, is ever-present, some of the rawness has gone out of the discussion. Yet many of the root causes of conflict remain unaddressed, overlooked and occluded by a discussion that continues to focus on the wrong villains.

      Repeatedly, insufficient recognition has been given to the fact that the Court’s involvement fundamentally re-aligned the scales: the intervention of the ICC and the emphasis on criminal prosecutions of a few senior LRA figures has dominated the discussion such that other forms and targets of justice have been made to look inferior or unnecessary. In particular, the emphasis on legal justice has obscured the broader demands for political justice. For meaningful and durable justice and peace to be experienced in northern Uganda – and Uganda as a whole – something far bigger and better needs to be envisaged. For sure, the prosecution of Kony and his senior commanders might be part of an overall solution to conflict in the country, but it will only lead to justice if it supports the wider pursuit of justice – and doesn’t jeopardise it. And let us make no mistake: the kind of sabre-rattling typical of initiatives such as Kony2012 emphasises a military solution – and specifically a US-aided military solution – which both justifies US military presence in Uganda, and fails to recognise that military solutions against the LRA (with or without US help) have not only failed dismally for almost three decades but have only led to increased suffering. At best, the root causes of conflict in northern Uganda, and the terrible suffering experienced in northern Uganda and neighbouring states, might be alleviated by the arrest of Kony; but they certainly will not be resolved. Something far braver needs to take place for that to happen.

      That is not to suggest that the prosecution of individuals who have created carnage with impunity should be thrown out the window. Instead, it is to caution against seeing a guilty verdict (or even an arrest) as a silver bullet that will automatically create a peaceful and just society – and one that has to be pursued regardless of the broader implications. If the pursuit of prosecutions lands up de-railing an incredibly fragile process of transition – or, worse, if it somehow offers a smokescreen to individuals and governments who most need to be held to account – then surely we need to be asking some soul-searching questions. Ultimately, we need to be careful to ensure that the dramatic satisfaction of singular truth (as personified in the arrest of the evil incarnate) does not undermine the plural narratives that might help us to inch towards real structural change.

      EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is based on a paper on Uganda civil society engagement with the ICC that is part of a new series by International Refugee Rights Initiative, “Just Justice: Civil Society, International Justice and the Search for Accountability in Africa.” See


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      Political kidnappings in Angola

      Rafael Marques de Morais


      cc S J C
      The puzzling question remains: Why would the two political activists be kidnapped when the protest they had planned had already been aborted?

      A group of former presidential guards had planned to march towards the presidential palace on May 27 in protest against the social and economic conditions in which they were living. The date is filled with symbolism. In 1977, a march towards the presidential palace was used to justify the massacre of tens of thousands of people by the late President Agostinho Neto and his supporters, as a purported measure against a coup attempt. The tragedy of May 27 is still an open wound in Angolan society and a traumatizing event for many families who never recovered the bodies of their loved ones or knew what happen to them.

      The protest of last week did not materialize as the Military Bureau of the Presidency (Casa Militar) and the Presidential Guard Unit (UGP) met with the leaders to address their concerns. But, on the same day, a local FM broadcaster, Radio Despertar, reported the abduction of a lone protester, Alves Kamulingue, aged 30, in downtown Luanda after midday.

      His wife, Elisa Rodrigues, told Maka Angola, she first learnt of her husband’s kidnapping from a friend of his, Isaías Cassule. Two days later, on May 29, the family of Isaías Cassule, aged 34, informed the local media that he went missing too.

      A whirlwind of speculations ensued. Most of them derided Mr. Cassule as capable of staging his own disappearance for self-promotion or of striking a deal with the regime to discredit critics. Thus, several interested groups have been discouraged to take up the issue strongly, to avoid falling foul upon the reappearance of those missing, with no story of abduction to tell.

      Mr. Cassule, who has a regular job as a private security guard, is known in the youth protest circles as a persona non-grata. He has made his views known on the organization of protests to negotiate personal financial gains with the regime. While many of the youth organizers have braved through arrests, severe beatings, convictions, and constant harassment, Mr. Cassule is also known for failing to turn up at the protests that have been swiftly repressed by the police and armed pro-government militias.

      The two missing men and Alberto António dos Santos form the triumvirate that leads an informal gathering of some individuals, known as Movimento Patriótico Unido – MPU (United Patriotic Movement). The latter is a former auto mechanic in the Military Bureau of the Presidency (Casa Militar). This connection set in motion a chain of reactions that local analysts are grappling to make sense of.

      The root of the announced protest lies in the layoffs of several hundreds of presidential guard reservists from two companies that had been set up by Casa Militar to integrate them into civilian life. “In 2002, we were demobilized and transferred to Brigada Especial de Limpeza [a garbage collection company] as garbage collectors. In 2010, we received news that the company had been extinct, less than a month later after we went on strike, and staged a public protest to demand our salaries in arrears”, said Neto Zumba, 45, who served as a presidential guard for 17 years. Neto Zumba also explained that the workers set up a commission to negotiate on their behalf, took the case to court, “but Casa Militar did not answer to the courts summons”.

      Unable to find legal or administrative redress, the group decided to call for a public protest and sought support from civil colleagues, who had also lost their jobs at Casa Militar, to draft a letter to the authorities to inform them of their plans. These were Alberto António dos Santos, who has links with the Movimento Patriótico Unido, and Bunga André Garcia.

      In turn, Alberto António dos Santos invited Isaías Cassule for their movement of a few to join the protest. Both Mr. Santos and Mr. Zumba explained that Mr. Cassule then suggested incorporating in the letter a broader cause of protest, rather than just the social conditions of the former presidential guards. Thus, the letter included the social and economic conditions of the ex-combatants from the three former liberation movements: the ruling MPLA, UNITA and FNLA.

      The soldiers delivered the letter on April 2, to give plenty of time for the authorities to respond to their demands, upon which they were willing to cancel the protest. Neto Zumba also added that once the organizers announced, on a local private FM radio station, their resolve to take to the streets, other groups of former soldiers and ex-rebel fighters, pledged their support and participation.

      On May 12, at 10 AM the head of BCom, the other company set up by Casa Militar, met with representatives of the ex-presidential guards outside the national football stadium 11 de Novembro, in the outskirts of the capital city. According to the testimonies of both Alberto Santos and Neto Zumba, colonel Moniz of BCom, who is himself an ex-officer at the presidential guard, simply said that someone else would talk to the representatives.

      “Shortly thereafter, General Bento Kangamba turned up and said that he was meeting with us on behalf of General Simão, chief finance officer of Casa Militar, to resolve our problems”, said Neto Zumba.

      But the meeting did not go smoothly because, according to Neto Zumba, the general only offered to arrange compensations for the former presidential guards and not the civilians who had lost their jobs at Casa Militar. As complaints flared up, the meeting was adjourned. General Kangamba set up a new meeting for May 14, at the provincial headquarters of the ruling party MPLA, but he never showed up. Then, a commission of three former presidential guards received a call to meet with senior officers at the presidential palace, in which they received instructions to collect documents from all the petitioners in order to solve their demands.

      “In light of this meeting, we cancelled the protest as we expected our situation to be finally resolved, but other groups which had joined us wanted to take to the streets anyway”, said Neto Zumba.

      The soldier who led the commission to the presidential palace, Ricardo Colino, referred to the phone call the author made to him, to learn about the meeting at the presidential palace, as “an aggression against my physical integrity.” Nevertheless, he stressed that “we are taking care of the issue at a high level. The Presidential Guard Unit and Casa Militar are addressing our problems and that is all I have to say.”


      The puzzling question remains on why would the two political activists be the target of a kidnapping when the protest had already been aborted?

      Initial suspicions befell on general Bento Kangamba, a shadowy businessman and owner of a football club, Kabuscorp. He has been publicly denounced on several occasions as the driving force behind the pro-Dos Santos militias who have been terrorizing anti-regime protesters and abducting some. The vice-president of Kabuscorp, Mr. Raúl, was personally involved in the kidnapping and torture of two youth protesters on March 10 this year.

      General Kangamba is a member of the Central Committee of MPLA, and is close to President Dos Santos, whose niece he is married to. On June 4, General Kangamba denied, on the Catholic-run FM broadcaster Rádio Ecclésia, any involvement with the militias. “Have I been promoted to the rank of three-star general to command militias? This [accusation] is lack of respect. It is envy”, he said.

      As for Isaías Cassule, his capture at nightfall on May 29 unravelled as an elaborate trap. Alberto António dos Santos recalls the string of events:

      “He [Cassule] called me in the morning to inform me that someone had filmed the kidnapping of Alves Kamulingue, and wanted to share the images with us. I met him at his house and off we drove to the rendezvous. After 20 to 30 minutes into talking to Tunga, who said he had the video, several men encircled us to grab us. I slipped out of one’s hands and ran away.”

      But Mr. Cassule’s family has issues with his account. “We are concerned about the behavior of Mr. Santos, because he should have come to us to explain how he managed to escape capture and the other did not”, said his uncle Tomé Nzambi. In his defense, António Alberto Santos justified that he is in hiding for fear of being kidnapped too. He said he explained to the family, over the phone, that if his protection can be guaranteed, he will have no problems in speaking directly to the family. Mr. Nzambi explained that him and other relatives, including a brother of the missing who is a police officer at the Provincial Police Command, have searched police stations, hospitals, jails and morgues for Mr. Cassule or clues of his whereabouts, but to no avail.

      A senior police source contacted for this report declined to comment on the kidnappings “for lack of information.”


      Isaías Cassule is a former child soldier turned politician. Until 2008, he was the Bengo provincial secretary of the now defunct Angolan Party for Democratic Progress (PADEPA), which regularly staged public protests against president Dos Santos regime. With the same frequency, the police used arbitrary violence to quell them, and often threw the leaders in jail. In 2001, the leadership of this party staged a remarkable sit-in protest outside the presidential palace, and for the action they were severely beaten up, locked up and released days later.

      Yet, in 2008, Isaías Cassule joined a pro-MPLA faction of the party, which had been armed to destroy this promising political outfit of youth leaders. He spent up to 20 days in jail, in the same year, but without due process, for acts of vandalism against party properties in possession of the ousted leadership.

      PADEPA is also the previous connection among Isaías Cassule, Alves Kamulingue and Alberto António dos Santos.


      The Angolan Constitution has enshrined the right of citizens to protest, and without the need for any kind of authorization. It establishes that, for protests in public places, local authorities shall be informed with anticipation, only to ensure public safety. On June 2, president José Eduardo dos Santos reiterated the constitutional right to protest but downplayed the significance of the regular demonstrations against his regime as being small in numbers. He further dismissed the protests, which his security apparatus has been squashing, as imitations of what has happened in other countries. He was referring to the Arab Spring that toppled several dictators in the region. The president’s view is that “we want to imitate what others are doing, even when these often, this imitation, results in negative practices, in search of models that cannot be adjusted to our traditions, habits, customs and sometimes even the laws we have adopted.”

      Now, the president needs to clarify if the political kidnapping of protesters is part as well of the traditions, habits, customs and the laws he mentioned, and provide evidence of his claims. Otherwise, the president will ultimately answer for such violence, just as Mubarak did in Egypt.


      * Please do not take Pambazuka for granted! Become a Friend of Pambazuka and make a donation NOW to help keep Pambazuka FREE and INDEPENDENT!
      * Rafael Marques de Morais is founder of Maka Angola, where this article was first published.

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

      Violence: The way of politics in Angola

      Rafael Marques de Morais


      cc J G
      Violence against the youth, who have been organizing anti-government protests, is the most prominent aspect of the campaign by the regime to entrench itself in power. Yet, a more sinister operation has been unfolding: kidnappings and torture.

      On September 3, 2011, up to six armed men surrounded youth protest leader ‘Pandita Nehru’ nearby Independence Square, in Luanda, where he and several others planned to hold a protest that morning. The assailants took him south, on a trip out of the city, to a deserted coastline, known as Palmeirinhas, where, in 1977, the dominant faction of MPLA held summary executions of hundreds of dissenters and innocents, burned their bodies with petrol, and buried them on sight.

      The captors interrogated ‘Pandita Nehru’ on who was behind the protests, beat him up and taunted him with an argument, among themselves, on the wisdom to execute him right there. Ever since, he has been mostly off the radar.

      On March 7, 2012, at around 4 PM, Mário Domingos, aged 27, and Kimbamba, aged 30, were on their way to meet other fellow protest organizers to sort out the logistics of a protest they had called for March 10. A few hundred meters from the meeting point, up to 10 armed and masked individuals rounded them at gunpoint, in front of police officers.

      “I grabbed a bar of the mobile police station, the assailants discharged electric shocks on us, beat us up, stripped us of our cell phones and documents in front of the police officers, who just watched unmoved,” said Mário Domingos.

      The victim said they were hauled into two vehicles without license plates and driven off a few meters to the premises of the state-owned Provincial Water Company (EPAL), which has high walls, as people were assembling in the street. In the company’s yard, as told by Mário Domingos, the abductors beat them up and fired at them with teasers (electrified darts) to immobilize them, and drove off. The victims were presented before the vice-president of Kabuscorp Football Club, Mr. Raúl.

      “Mr. Raúl promised us money to stop organizing protests against President José Eduardo dos Santos,” explained Mário Domingos. Kabuscorp, in which former Brazilian world champion Rivaldo plays, is owned by General Bento Kangamba, who is also the president of the club. The general, a member of MPLA Central Committee, is also part of the presidential family, by marriage to Dos Santos’ niece.

      He has been accused on several occasions of being behind the pro-dos Santos militias who have been targeting protest leaders with vicious attacks and abductions. On June 4, general Kangamba denied, on the Catholic-run FM broadcaster Rádio Ecclésia, any involvement with the militias. “Have I been promoted to the rank of three-star general to command militias? This [accusation] is lack of respect. It is envy,” he said.

      However, Mário Domingos and Kimbamba witnessed Mr. Raúl issuing orders to his club thugs. “He said that we were stubborn elements who wanted to be heroes and die for the people. So, he told his men to get rid of us.’” The abductors took the victims to a landfill.

      Mário Domingos added: “There we were tortured with electric shocks, beaten up as they pleased. But there were some people around who heard our screams and came forth. They [assailants] took us to the cars again, and drove us to a quieter landfill where they continued with the torture, but there were scavengers there too who heard us screaming.”

      His story is also a case study on how president José Eduardo dos Santos and his close associates dispose of incalculable sums of money and other resources to corrupt people in order to maintain the status quo.

      Last year, on August 27, the day before celebrating his birthday, president Dos Santos met with Mário Domingos, Luís Bernardo and Fernando Yannick, all leaders of the informal youth gathering called Movimento Revolucionário de Intervenção Social – MIRS (Revolutionary Movement for Social Intervention). The meeting was part of a deal negotiated with the president of the Executive Commission of Luanda City, general José Tavares Ferreira, who is part of the presidential inner circle.

      According to Domingos, the deal was part of a strategy, “to transform our movement into a satellite organization of MPLA, for us to do solidarity work on their behalf, and hold counter-demonstrations to support president Dos Santos.” By the time of the meeting with the president, the movement had already received US $4 million in an escrow account, six pickup trucks Mitshubishi L200, and six apartments in the Chinese-built town of Kilamba. “The governor of Luanda at the time, José Maria, sent his driver to the bank with us, where we cashed in the equivalent of US $700 thousand in cash. Then the governor’s driver took us home,” Mário Domingos.

      “From the association Akwasambila, in which the president is an honorary member, we received six truckloads of food and other goods for us to give away. The trucks belong to the municipal administration of Sambizanga, which was ran by general Tavares,” he further explained.

      Some of the leaders of the movement happily switched sides and went ahead with “donating” the food and goods given to them by general Tavares in some social centers, always in the presence of members of the municipality and of the state security. But Mário Domingos decided to use the pick up trucks and some of the petty cash given by the governor to support the logistics of a demonstration set for September 3, by another loose group led by rappers.

      As Mário Domingos insisted in leading a double political life, the authorities troubled him on September 9. At 7 AM, the police raided his house, seized the gifts he had received, and jailed him for 45 days without due process. “The police planted drugs behind a new TV set I had bought for my mother in-law, and justified my imprisonment as a drug dealer,” he said. He also revealed that he received various death threats while in jail.

      One of the recurrent strategies the regime has used to bribe activists is to offer them houses, cars and other material incentives but without the proper paperwork, to facilitate the retrieval of the gifts, once the corrupted fails to be loyal or simply becomes irrelevant.

      Mário Domingos claims that Luís Bernardo and Fernando Yannick, who remain sided with the regime, were only allowed to keep the pickup trucks. The apartments and the money simply vanished. He also said the previous governor of Luanda, José Maria, had personally offered him one of the most recent Range-Rover models, which he just drove from the car stand.

      Now, the authorities are threatening to close the garage he inherited from his father, in which he makes a living as an auto-painter, besides extended threats and “advice” to his family for him to toe the line.

      On March 10, police officers and plain clothed officers, who had been monitoring youth protest leader Gaspar Luamba, a law student, stopped the taxi he was travelling in, and hauled him off to the 10th Police Station, in Cazenga, Luanda’s largest slum. They tortured him in the cell, and released him after three hours, as news was already out on the police’s involvement in his abduction. These events and all manners of harassment have led many youngsters, identified as potential leaders, to flee their homes and to seek safe houses.

      But, rather than deterring the anti-regime sentiment and subdue people, this strategy only keeps stocking public anger.

      Ironically, the scattering of these emerging youth groups and their leaders, as well as their lack of structural organization, has rendered the regime’s strategies of violence and corruption ineffective. Such strategies only give cannon fodder for Angolans to come to terms with the intractable wickedness of President Dos Santos and his regime.


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      * Rafael Marques de Morais is founder of Maka Angola, where this article was first published.

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

      Bilderbergers beware

      Populists confront US-European ‘.0001%’ in Washington

      Patrick Bond


      cc Siro 09
      The secretive Bilderbergers aren’t normally a protest magnet. But last weekend, protesters hurled creative abuse at the black limousines rolling past towards the Chantilly Marriott Hotel.

      Near the Dulles International Airport west of Washington last weekend, I found myself a couple of dozen meters away from a formidable gathering of 150 powerbrokers – the Bilderberg Group – whose capacity to move money and influence events rivals even the upcoming G20 meeting in Mexico, last month’s G8 summit in Camp David and NATO military meeting in Chicago, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) Spring Meeting in April, or the World Economic Forum in Switzerland in January.

      The secretive Bilderbergers aren’t normally a protest magnet, but for my purposes, while passing through Washington, this was the best opportunity to hear their critics from the libertarian-populist strain of US civil society. Hundreds of protesters jammed the sidewalk all weekend, mainly motivated by a call to ‘Occupy Bilderberg 2012’ made by Alex Jones, who has a radio audience of three million and a lurid website (“There’s a war on for your mind!”).

      Protesters hurled creative abuse at the black limousines rolling past towards the Chantilly Marriott Hotel entrance, and to protect them, police arrested a few activists who dared step onto the road. These particular masters of the universe first met at a hotel (The Bilderberg) in Holland in 1954, co-hosted by Dutch royalty, Uniliver and the US Central Intelligence Agency. The obscure brainstorming session would become an annual intellectual and ideological “testing grounds for new initiatives for Atlantic unity,” according to Sussex University scholar Kees van der Pijl, perhaps the world’s most rigorous scholar of transnational ruling classes.

      Often compared to the Trilateral Commission (US, European and Japanese leaders), Council on Foreign Relations think tank in New York and Bohemian Grove confab (near San Francisco) as low-profile talk shops for key strategic role-players, the Bilderberg Group’s website explains that its “regular, off-the-record discussions helped create a better understanding of the complex forces and major trends affecting Western nations in the difficult post-war period. The Cold War has now ended. But in practically all respects there are more, not fewer, common problems – from trade to jobs, from monetary policy to investment, from ecological challenges to the task of promoting international security.”

      By inviting a few outside the US-Euro axis, Bilderberg organisers send signals about which regions are considered important – and Africa doesn’t feature. On this year’s agenda were “Transatlantic Relations, Evolution of the Political Landscape in Europe and the US, Austerity and Growth in Developed Economies, Cyber Security, Energy Challenges, the Future of Democracy, Russia, China and the Middle East.”

      The 2012 guest list included the top managers of international banks, oil and chemical companies, high tech firms, the World Bank and World Trade Organisation, plus rising government leaders, philanthropists and old imperialists like Henry Kissinger.

      This crew is bound to draw the ire of many victims, yet instead of the kind of Occupy protests I witnessed in London last month – a march through The City with socialists and anarchists furious about parasitical banking practices – or at Wall Street’s Zuccotti Park last year and in various subsequent anti-bank protests by US leftists, the weekend’s Bilderberg protest displayed paranoia about the conspiracies being hatched in the Virginia hotel.

      These include everything from the vetting of top politicians – after all, Tony Blair, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama came to Bilderberg to ‘audition’ just as their star rose – to imposing ‘Agenda 21’ sustainable development strategies, to arranging potential world hyperinflation via the next bail-out round for the shaky financial sector. Conversations revealed fears of a one-world government taking away the patriots’ guns and imposing a solution to climate change.

      Many of these libertarians believe climate change is a plot by Al Gore to impose world carbon taxes. If only – for Gore is actually instead a self-interested huckster for carbon trading, which is failing miserably in Europe, as well as in the US (except California) in the wake of the 2010 closure of the Chicago Climate Exchange.

      Mind you, some such conspiracy theories are sufficiently close enough to an accurate reading of power to be taken semi-seriously. But it should be patently obvious that at least since 1987 – when CFCs in our old fridges and deoderants were banned by a UN Montreal Protocol so as to prevent the ozone hole from growing – all subsequent world-government ambitions to regulate ecology, manage trade, fix finance, coordinate military activity and address the myriad of other world problems have been dismal failures.

      This is where I found myself differing most with Jones’ supporters: never before in history have world elites been so tempted to address global-scale crises, but – thanks to the adverse power balance represented by neoliberal ideology in the 1990s, neoconservatism in the early 2000s and some fusion of the two since Obama came to power – never before have they acted so incoherently.

      Today, the very words ‘global governance’ appear a contradiction in terms. Scholars in this field whom I met at Sussex University for a ‘SouthGovNet’ conference on ‘Rising Powers’ last month were well aware that the subimperialist group of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa cannot yet do imperialism’s heavy lifting, even when it comes to what is considered a ‘global public good’ – non-collapsing international financial networks – via the desired G20 re-bailout of the IMF (the BRICS are objecting to giving their $100 billion share of the $430 billion that Christine Lagarde now seeks for a rainy European day).

      Van der Pijl’s exceptionally rich study of Bilderberg and subsequent US-European geopolitical maneuvres, The Making of an Atlantic Ruling Class (which thankfully Verso Press is about to reissue), provides the theoretical underpinning that I feel Jones’ passionately conspiratorialist followers desperately need, if they ever aim to properly judge the world’s complex combinations of structure and agency.

      As Marx remarked, “People make their own history, but not under conditions of their own choosing.” Developing an analysis of political-economic structure – the background conditions – is the vital missing element short-circuited by the libertarian right’s shallow habit of name-calling Bilderbergers ‘Illuminati!’

      How do we best understand the Bilderbergers, then? In his most recent major article dissecting their agenda, based on the 2007 meeting, van der Pijl insists, “The West, capital, and the state emerged in a single process in which mutual relations are not external and optional but internal, embodied in transnational classes.”

      Such elite networks are, Antonio Gramsci wrote in The Prison Notebooks, like “international political parties which operate within each nation with the full concentration of the international forces. But religion, Freemasonry, Rotary, Jews, etc., can be subsumed into the social category of ‘intellectuals’, whose function, on an international scale, is that of mediating the extremes, of ‘socializing’ the technical discoveries which provide the impetus for all activities of leadership, of devising compromises between, and ways out of, extreme solutions.”

      Likewise, van der Pijl sees the Bilderberg Group as an ‘international’ of corporate capital, although possessing a narrower base than the Davos crew because of its Atlanticist character. Hence the biggest geopolitical and economic threat to the Bilderbergers is China.

      Initially, he observes, the mood was welcoming, because “Beijing’s decision to peg the Chinese currency on the dollar in 1994 was seen as a move to tie its fate more emphatically to the US economy and a further commitment to become integrated into the expanding West at the height of the Clinton globalisation drive.”

      However, van der Pijl continues, “The Chinese challenge to the West and the response to it were in 1996 still in a benign stage and were soon beginning to mutate into a different direction,” namely putting China right after Iraq and Iran on Washington’s enemy list, roughly a decade ago.

      Five years back, van der Pijl identified Bilderberger priorities from a list that an insider informant had jotted down: dividing Iraq, invading Iran, controlling other oil and gas supplies, creating more EU-type unions in the American Hemisphere, and “talking about China as the World’s next Evil Empire.”

      Retroactively, in 2012, it is fanciful to imagine Washington’s power to fracture Iraq and to compel more economic ‘unions’, in the sense of a single currency, fallen trade barriers (amplifying NAFTA) and increasingly centralised state coordination. As for the other projections five years ago, recall that the bubbly pre-crisis economic period had not yet ended and Peak Oil was feared at an early date (before the fracking boom), so the Bilderbergers’ bravado is not surprising.

      But they were nervous, too, of a coming political storm, remarked van der Pijl. Representing both BP and Goldman Sachs in 2007, Peter Sutherland (former WTO director) “was quoted as saying that it had been a mistake to have referenda on the EU constitution. ‘You knew there was a rise in nationalism; you should have let your parliaments ratify the treaty, and it should be done with.’ Kissinger said words to the same effect concerning unification of the Americas, stressing the need to mobilise the enlightened media behind its propagation.”

      What kind of political storm did the Bilderbergers chat about last weekend, in the wake of so much revolt across the world? In his 2007 paper, van der Pijl was correct to warn against “US rightwing anti-globalists with a strong conspiratorial bent who consider Bilderberg a permanent quasi-world government rather than a nodal point (among several others) of the Atlantic ruling class as it evolves and seeks to work out a strategic consensus.”

      But if the Bilderbergers agreed upon a strategic consensus, it was probably extreme neoliberalism, taking advantage of financial capital’s crises by bailing out the banks and imposing financial capital’s austerity agenda. With Greek, Spanish, Portuguese, Irish and Italian social pressure rising, we can anticipate many more such populist concerns about the anti-democratic IMF, European Central Bank and financial institutions.

      (To illustrate, near where I live in South Africa, the mysterious men from Moody’s rating agency are this month arm-twisting the state to reinstate a hugely unpopular highway tolling strategy in the Johannesburg-Pretoria region, in the face of both trade union and middle-class white revolt.)

      So there is no doubt that world banker domination – which should have been reduced by the 2008-09 financial melt – will continue. Only the occasional sovereign default – Argentina (2002), Ecuador (2008), Iceland (2008) and maybe Southern Europe this year – or imposition of exchange controls (as rediscovered by Malaysia in 1998 or Venezuela in 2003) reduces the banksters’ grip.

      Yet the libertarian protesters’ fear of the elites has only superficial commonality with the Occupy movement’s more robust approach. The latter want a forward-moving ‘system change’ – as we heard from Occupy COP17 in Durban outside the climate summit last December – whereas nationalistic US nativism offers no grounds for broad-based alliances.

      As expressed in a fairly typical protest banner on Saturday, “Warning to secret societies: you are pissing off American patriots. We have machine guns also.” The macho, self-described ‘paleo-conservative’ narrative plus the occasional undercurrent of anti-semitism is not language heard from Occupy’s collection of socialists, anarchists, liberals, Greens, labour, civic activists, youth and the progressive faith community.

      The strongest political effort by these libertarian anti-Bilderberg protesters is to attempt the election of Texan member of Congress, Ron Paul, as president, and with 20 percent popularity, he remains Mitt Romney’s only irritant within the Republican Party as the November showdown with Obama now looms.

      But with Obama continuing to molly-coddle Wall Street (e.g., still no prosecutions for the great 2008-09 financial theft) and openly declaring himself a militarist – personally approving drone assassinations in the Middle East and delighting in the Stuxnet cyberwar attack on Iran, according to The New York Times last week – the paranoid streak about Washington’s surveillance and proto-fascistic policing also resonates.

      So long as they leave their guns behind, I wish them well, because to have directed a great deal more media attention and popular hostility against the ‘.0001%’ gathered in the Marriot last weekend, was a public service that the rest of our world should now build upon. But, hopefully, with political values more aligned to rainbow than Rambo.


      * 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 the Centre for Civil Society in Durban, South Africa.

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

      Advocacy & campaigns

      Equatorial Guinea: Opposition figure pardoned

      Judicial reforms needed


      Dr Mansogo was convicted for professional negligence and sentenced to three years in prison in a politically motivated trial.

      (NEW YORK, JUNE 6, 2012) – The pardon by President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea of Dr. Wenceslao Mansogo Alo, the prominent political opponent and human rights defender, is a positive step, Human Rights Watch, Physicians for Human Rights, and EG Justice said today. The groups said, however, that the country’s judicial system, which pursued the unjust and politically motivated charges against Dr. Mansogo, is riddled with problems that need to be addressed.

      State radio in Equatorial Guinea announced on June 4, 2012, that Dr. Mansogo and co-defendant Asunción Asumu are among several prisoners pardoned by President Obiang, the world’s longest-serving head of state, who celebrated his 70th birthday on June 5. Mansogo’s release from Bata central prison was expected to take place on June 6. It remains unclear whether he has been granted a full pardon or whether conditions will be imposed on his release.

      “The decision to release Dr. Mansogo surely comes as a relief after he has spent nearly four months behind bars in dire conditions,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “But it also demonstrates that power in Equatorial Guinea rests in the hands of one man, the president; given the lack of evidence in the case, an independent judiciary would never have charged or convicted Mansogo in the first place.”

      President Obiang exercises inordinate power over Equatorial Guinea’s judiciary. Lawyers assigned to sensitive cases concerning human rights or national security have reported that judges say they need to consult with the office of the president regarding their decisions. The country’s constitution recognizes the principle of judicial independence, yet it designates the president as the “chief magistrate” of the country and permits him to name judges without parliamentary approval.

      Recently adopted constitutional changes further institutionalize the lack of judicial independence. For instance, they extend the president’s considerable power by allowing him to chair the body that controls judges, the Supreme Council on Judicial Power, as well as to appoint the other six members.

      Mansogo was arrested on February 9, convicted on May 7, and sentenced to three years in prison for professional negligence in a politically motivated trial. The court also granted the prosecution’s request for an order to close Mansogo’s private health clinic and ordered him to pay five million CFA (US $10,000) to the patient’s family and a fine of 1.5 million CFA (US $3,000) to the government of Equatorial Guinea. Mansogo was also barred from practicing medicine for five years.

      The government of Equatorial Guinea has a long-established pattern of pursuing its political opponents in the courts and later granting pardons to some of those convicted. President Obiang typically has granted amnesties to commemorate special occasions. For example, in June 2011, he released 22 political prisoners on his 69th birthday.

      “Serious judicial reforms should be immediately implemented to put an end to politically motivated prosecutions and denial of basic freedoms,” said Tutu Alicante, the founder of EG Justice and an exile from Equatorial Guinea. “The people of Equatorial Guinea deserve the rule of law and respect for human rights every day of the year, rather than pardons on the president’s birthday.”

      Human Rights Watch, Physicians for Human Rights, and EG Justice called on the government of Equatorial Guinea to immediately reinstate Mansogo’s medical license and seek to have the court orders to close the clinic and levy fines against him dismissed. As Mansogo was wrongfully detained, he should be compensated for his detention, during which time he lost income and incurred unnecessary legal fees.

      Dr. Mansogo should immediately be allowed to reopen his clinic and resume practicing medicine so that he can provide his patients with the professional care they deserve,” said Hans Hogrefe, Washington Director of Physicians for Human Rights. “The government of Equatorial Guinea must respect his professional obligation to care to the needs of all those in his community.”

      The groups also called for the reinstatement of Ponciano Mbomio Nvó, one of Mansogo’s lawyers, who was suspended from legal practice for two years for criticizing the government in closing arguments in Mansogo’s trial.

      For more EG Justice reporting on Equatorial Guinea, please visit:

      For more information, please contact:
      In New York, for Human Rights Watch, Lisa Misol (English, Spanish): +1-646-515-6665 (mobile); or [email protected]
      In Washington, DC, for EG Justice, Joseph Kraus (English, Spanish): +1-202-256-8939 (mobile); or [email protected]
      In Washington, DC, for Physicians for Human Rights, Megan Prock (English): +1-617-301-4237; or [email protected]

      Open letter to Commonwealth Secretary-General


      CHRI's concern about the human rights situation in The Gambia

      Dear Secretary-General,

      Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) was most encouraged to hear of your recent visit to The Gambia. We write to emphasise our concern at the human rights situation there and urge you to maintain constructive engagement with President Yahya Jammeh.

      The Gambia’s human rights record has repeatedly come under international scrutiny because of repeated reports of threats, intimidation, harassment and violence against government critics, journalists and human rights defenders. This is exacerbated by the charges of related unaccountable actions of agents of the state. We reiterate the concerns raised at Gambia’s Universal Periodic Review in 2010, and expressed repeatedly by the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights, as well as by other prominent actors.

      CHRI is gravely concerned about the draconian legislation in place that impedes the realisation of human rights. Laws such as the Criminal Code (Amendment) Act 2005, and the Newspapers Registration (Amendment) Act 2004, have created offences such as sedition, criminal defamation and false publication. These offences are levelled against journalists, human rights defenders and government critics and subsequently most self-censor to avoid reprisals. We urge action to get the government to repeal laws that curb the rights to free expression.

      In addition to repressive legislation, there is a clamp-down on human rights defenders. The recent convictions this February, of four activists peacefully protesting against the regime, for instance, demonstrate the climate of intolerance and intimidation. We stress the need for the government to respect the role of human rights defenders and refrain from restricting their work, and abide by the commitments espoused in the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

      As you may know, there is credible evidence that document allegations of torture, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and detention. The Gambian government should thoroughly investigate allegations of abuse and hold perpetrators to account in line with international standards.

      We also draw your attention to the recently reported arrests of eighteen men and two women on charges of homosexuality. Secretary-General, we have followed with appreciation, your recent affirmations that the Commonwealth is an organisation committed to equality. In this spirit we urge you to critically speak out about the arrests and criminalisation of same-sex sexual conduct in The Gambia.

      CHRI welcomes the news that the Commonwealth will be working closely with the Gambian government to establish bodies such as a national human rights institution, a human rights division within the judiciary, and an anti-corruption commission. Whilst these are important developments, CHRI would however like to point out that the human rights landscape in the country remains marred by impunity and that public institutions lack credibility. It therefore remains important for the Commonwealth to press the Gambian government to take effective steps to buttress the integrity and legitimacy of future independent institutions and government bodies.

      The Commonwealth is in the process of reforming itself to sharpen its impact. As you mentioned, this includes working with governments to achieve the Commonwealth values enshrined in the Harare Declaration. CHRI would encourage you to use the Gambian case as a prime opportunity to implement this resolve.

      We urge the Commonwealth to press President Jammeh to fulfil the obligations expressed in the human rights instruments Gambia is a party to, and be guided by the standards of the Commonwealth.


      Maja Daruwala,


      Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative

      Fears for health of Darfuri detainees as hunger strike continues

      Press release 3/6/12


      A doctor examined the detainees and told them that they were in a bad condition and should stop their hunger strike.

      Two Sudanese men being held at Campsfield House Immigration Removal Centre (Kidlington, near Oxford) have refused all food and vitamins for 11 days, in protest at their detention and treatment. Visitors to both are deeply concerned for their health, and at the standard of medical care they are receiving; the men are willing to continue striking “to the extreme” until they are released or removed to a country they regard as safe. A demonstration in their support, held in central Oxford on June 1, was welcomed by the detainees.

      Malik Ivrahim Adam has been detained for six months, and Mohamed Suliman Tagal for two months. Malik is from Geneina, Darfur, and left Sudan fleeing political persecution. His brother was killed for his political affiliations in 2007.

      Mohamed, also from Darfur, came to the UK to seek medical treatment for a gunshot wound to the leg which he received when the Sudanese Armed Forces attacked his village in 2007. He was imprisoned without charge in Kober Prison, where he was constantly deprived of sleep and kept in handcuffs for a month; he was released in May 2011, when he fled to Juba, South Sudan. On arrival in Dover, his initial screening asylum interview was carried out while he was still affected by a concussion; after three days’ detention in Dover he was moved to Campsfield on 26 March 2012, where he has been ever since.

      Mohamed cannot walk for longer than 15 minutes and has chronic pain in his leg, for which he wants medical attention. Malik cannot talk for long before a severe cough prevents him from continuing, as well as having long-term problems with his stomach which predate his arrival in the UK. Despite all this he says the only medical treatment he receives is one tablet, with no medical attention for specific ailments.

      Both men were given a disclaimer to sign alleviating UKBA of responsibility for any health damage as a result of the hunger strike, which they refused to do. Malik saw a lawyer on his first day at Campsfield but has had no contact since, and Mohamed has no legal representation. They are willing to be removed to a safe country, even South Sudan; however, Mohamed was told that he cannot be removed to South Sudan, and that even removal to France, where UKBA says they have evidence that he has been, could take a long time. He fears that if sent back to Khartoum, he could be met at the airport and “disappear.”

      Since the protest against their indefinite detention began, Malik has been given a date of June 18 for removal to Italy; he is pleased to leave Campsfield but fears conditions will be no better there. By June 18 he will have taken only water for 26 days.

      Four other Darfuri men who had been refusing food have been released and two Sudanese men were moved to Harmondsworth, described by UKBA as a “long-term centre” for detainees, in the early hours of Friday morning, where they continue their hunger strike. One, Tarik Adam Rhama, is believed to be from the Nuba mountains, a region currently the target of ethnic cleansing by the Sudanese government, and where bombings of civilians are a daily occurrence.

      Sharif Abdulrahman Mohammed, another detainee at Campsfield, was forced by a pre-existing medical condition to stop his hunger strike, but also demands his release. He came to the UK after escaping imprisonment in Sudan, where he was attacked by Janjawid, and has visible wounds from his treatment there.

      UPDATE 10PM 3/6/12

      Mohammed Suliman Tagal and Malik Ivrahim Adam were today examined by a doctor at the instigation of Campsfield, who told them that they were in a bad condition and should stop their hunger strike. In view of Campsfield's previous negligence, neither detainee trusted a doctor arranged for them by Campsfield and both are asking to be seen by a doctor from Medical Justice. They have both been moved to London tonight but do not yet know where they are being moved to.



      To arrange an interview with Mohamed Suliman Tagal or Malik Ivrahim Adam, please contact Tim Flatman (07595 908 405, [email protected]) or Nazar Eltahir (07810 890 901, [email protected]).

      A petition has been created at:

      Born again in the United States of Uganda


      Born Again in the United States of Uganda is the story of how well financed U.S. evangelicals, fundamentalists and neoconservatives conspired in the incitement of hatred against gays and how this led to the introduction of the ‘Kill the Gays’ bill to Uganda’s parliament.

      (The taster video illustrates the fervour and campaigning in Uganda that accompanied the proposal of the Anti-Gay Bill.)

      The documentary will explore how the U.S evangelical right invests heavily in financial and advocacy effort in influencing religious Africans to shun gay rights. We will follow LGBT activists and Anti-Gay religious activists as both groups battle to fight for their rights and beliefs.

      The documentary’s director Samantha Asumadu carried out some initial filming in 2010 (Please see taster video for a short edit of this). She shadowed Bishop Kiganda (an anti-gay activist) and spent some time with Pastor Ssempa (an anti-gay preacher). She will return to these two characters and will film Ugandan LGBT activists as they proceed with their court case against Scott Lively for inciting hatred against homosexuals. Samantha will also visit the U.S and will conduct interviews to investigate the influence of ‘The Family’ ‐ a Washington-based extreme right, neo‐conservative Christian group populated by both democrat and republican senators on the Anti-Gay bill. They have been inextricably linked with Uganda since the 1990s when they teamed up with President Museveni to create the Uganda National Prayer Breakfast.


      Scott Lively headed a conference in 2009 in Uganda, titled "Seminar on Exposing the Homosexual Agenda", in which he characterised the gay movement as an "evil institution". In the same presentation, Lively told audiences that homosexuals were a threat to children, committed child rape and "recruited" children into homosexuality.

      Among the attendees was Ugandan parliamentarian Hon. David Bahati. One month later, Bahati introduced the "Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill", which criminalised gay-rights advocacy, depriving LGBT activists of freedom of assembly, association and the right to be free of discrimination. It also called for the death penalty for being a "serial offender for the offense of homosexuality".

      At the same time, Ugandan tabloids and state-owned media called openly for persecuting homosexuals in what became a major campaign against them. After a number of attacks against homosexuals, many went into hiding.


      Ugandan Member of Parliament, David Bahati, has said the confusion over his the Anti gay Bill, which he introduced in 2009, resulted from ignorance about Ugandan parliamentary procedure. The new submission includes a decision to drop references to the death penalty, originally mandated for "serial offenders" or people found guilty of a number of other homosexual acts. Life imprisonment terms contained in the first bill have also been dropped.

      "We are reducing the prison sentences to two to seven years. Even the life imprisonment is not there," adding that the bill would take into account what "other people say".

      Julian Pepe Onziema, director of programmes at Sexual Minorities Uganda, was in parliament when Bahati reintroduced the bill. "It was really scary and traumatising, seeing MPs from the opposition camp and the incumbent camp cheering the bill and calling it 'our bill'," said Onziema, who is transgender.

      The bill was shelved under international pressure but was reintroduced in October 2011.

      What is clear: The American evangelical right invests as much financial and advocacy effort in influencing religious Africans to shun gay rights as do pro-gay rights western non-governmental organisations working in Africa.



      Samantha Asumadu is a British film director, producer and campaigner. In 2009 she directed The Super Ladies, a documentary film for AlJazeera English about female rally drivers in Uganda. It was first broadcast in September 2009 and then in March 2010 and 2011 as part of their International Women’s Day programming. She has worked on many projects in East Africa including BBC Panorama: Addicted to Aid, Congo: Combating Illegal Mining of Coltan for Deutsche Welle, Acid Attacks in Uganda for Agency France Presse and has done breaking news interviews and filming for CNN, Sky News and France 24.

      Associate Producer:

      Pablo Navarrete is a British-Chilean journalist, researcher, editor and documentary filmmaker. He released his first feature-length documentary ‘Inside the Revolution: A Journey into the Heart of Venezuela’ in 2009. Before that he worked with John Pilger as the Venezuela researcher for Pilger’s documentary ‘The War on Democracy’. In 2010 he produced 2 short pieces on Colombia for ‘Al Jazeera English’. He recently completed a feature documentary on Colombia’s civil war and the role of the US government and is currently co-directing a feature documentary on Venezuela’s ‘Hip Hop Revolucion’ movement. He has covered contemporary Latin American political issues for various media outlets, including 'Al Jazeera English', 'The Guardian', 'The New Statesman' and 'Counterpunch'.


      I began filming 'Born Again in the United States of Uganda' in 2010. Many months have gone into researching and investigating the background of this situation and getting to know the primary characters. Uganda is a complex country, a favourite of donors and the media alike. However I believe both the media and donors have only skimmed the surface of why this bill was introduced. I lived in Uganda for nearly three years and as a journalistic filmmaker I am committed to trying to find & tell the many-layered stories that are part of the country.

      The anti-gay bill has been covered extensively in the international media – I will further investigate and explain that Uganda is not a country of crazies out to kill homosexuals (though there are a few people like that, the same as in the UK). International groups heavily influence both politicians and Pentecostal pastors. One of the reasons for this is these groups will finance them with very few questions asked how the money is spent. The LGBT community in Uganda show great fortitude in their attempts to defend themselves physically and fight for their rights as humans, however the battle is far from over.


      The funding will finance the travel to and remaining filming in Uganda. This time I will be following the LGBT activists letting them tell the story from their point of view and taking a rare look into their lives which have been forced further underground by the hatred incited by the anti-gay bill. I will continue to film the religious leaders I have been following. I was meeting with a gay activist, in a safe place in Kampala. He was one of the few men ‘out’ in Uganda, however he was murdered in a hammer attack last year. This was said to be a domestic dispute with his partner. I will be able to employ a local camera crew, as I did for my first film. It will also fund the travel to and filming in the U.S in February 2013. I will be able to purchase archive footage of anti-gay meetings such as the one described above.


      The filming will be wrapped up by March 2013 and will then go into post production stage, which will take 3 months. I will be accepting offers from broadcasters in the U.K, U.S & Uganda to televise it. I will also be entering the film into the major mainstream festivals and hold a premiere in London, which you are all invited to!


      Contribute. Spread the word. Help us get more support by sharing this page on your facebook, twitter and other social networking sites!

      To show our appreciation for your support, we’ve chosen rewards for each donation level. You can also support this film by spreading the word to your friends and family, by posting this link on Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, you name it and by liking our Facebook page (and visiting our website

      The more you spread the word, the more potential donors the campaign reaches, which means we're that much closer to hitting the ultimate fundraising goal and finishing ‘Born Again in the United States of Uganda’.

      We are truly grateful for any support you can give, monetary or otherwise.

      Thank you.

      Another Tunisia is possible, in another Maghreb and in another World

      Monastir (Tunisia), 12th to 17th July 2012


      We invite you to join us in Monastir from the 12th to the 17th of July where we will launch together the process towards the World Social Forum 2013.

      At the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011, Tunisian people, quickly joined by Egyptians, have launched a global wave of protests, insurrections, revolutions, indignation and occupations, which spread all over the world.

      From Maghreb to the Middle-East, this wave has initiated a deep political upheaval. In Europe, it is a source of inspiration for all those who struggle against austerity. In the United States of America, it questions the power of financial institutions, of banks and of the weight of debt (be it households’ or students’ debt). In Chile, Quebec or Mexico, it takes the shape of mass mobilizations for the free access to education. In Senegal, it has definitely planted the claim for a real democracy, which would put an end to corruption, prevarication and nepotism.

      Everywhere, they articulate the desire for a real and direct democracy with the violations of fundamental rights caused by zombie-capitalism. They all share the certitude that another world is possible, based on our struggles and the alternatives we are exploring on a daily basis.

      The economic, financial, social, ecological and climate crisis are not, in any way, fatalities. Debt and austerity do not represent the impassable horizon of our future. We won’t pay a debt that is not ours: public or odious, it was imposed to us by financial institutions, by banks, by financial advisors seeking for their personal enrichment (and the one of their shareholders), even if it ends up destroying the planet and our lives. We’re not condemned to undergo violations of the freedom of movement, nor to accept that European and North-American countries turn into fortresses, built on racism and inequalities. Against any form of occupation, colonization and war, we can fight for the rights of the people, and their freedom to decide for their destiny, their borders and their future.

      From the streets of Kasserine to those of Montreal, through Tahrir Square, Puertal del Sol, Zucotti/Liberty Square, Syntagma square, etc.: this is the other world that we, the 99%, are currently building.

      We invite you all to join us in Monastir, from the 12th to the 17th of July, for a global preparatory Assembly to the next World Social Forum, which will also take place in Tunisia, in March 2013.

      We’ve already planned a series of meetings and discussions with Tunisian organizations involved in the 2011 revolution. We will also welcome an international flotilla expressing its solidarity with migrants, which will join Monastir from the European shores through Lampedusa; have meetings between the young actors of the revolution in the Maghreb/Mashreq region and indignados, occupiers and activists from the Senegalese Y’en A Marre movement, etc.; host an assembly of Maghreb/Mashreq social movements; have a seminar on welfare policies and common goods; host a meeting of the council of the African Social Forum and the International Council of the WSF, etc.

      For more information:
      [email protected] [email protected] - [email protected]

      3,000 Bedouins attack Egyptian reactor site


      The Egyptian government, amid opposition by Bedouins and environmentalists, has reaffirmed its nuclear energy program.

      CAIRO — On Jan. 13, an estimated 3,000 Bedouins and environmentalists stormed Dabaa, located along the western Mediterranean coast. Officials said the government has estimated damage at the reactor construction site at $80 million.

      Prime Minister Kamal Ganzouri said Egypt would continue with plans to construct the first of up to eight nuclear energy reactors. In a meeting with the Cabinet on Jan. 17, Ganzouri said the government followed all requirements in the acquisition of the land allocated to the nuclear reactor at Dabaa.

      “Those that are trying to stop the project are doing so illegally,” Ganzouri said.

      “We believe there are commercial interests aligned with the previous regime [of former President Hosni Mubarak] who seek to stop the project,” an official said.

      International Cooperation and Planning Minister Faiza Abu Al Naga said the attack on Dabaa was organized and designed to loot equipment at the construction site. Ms. Abu Al Naga said rioters stole computers, earthquake monitoring systems, transformers and cables.

      “The Bedouins with claims will be given compensation,” Ms. Abu Al Naga

      On Jan. 19, Egypt’s official Al Ahram daily reported that radioactive material was stolen from Dabaa during the violence. Al Ahram said a container with radioactive material was stolen while another was broken and some of its contents removed.

      Bedouins from the Gamat tribe have asserted that they owned the Dabaa site and have not received compensation. On Jan. 13, 41 people were injured, including 29 soldiers, in an attack by Bedouins on the construction site.

      “The government will be firm on this issue to prevent any precedent,” Ms. Abu Al Naga said.

      Books & arts

      Are you that place?


      Are you that concrete jungle
      Crumbling under the weight of
      Maneuvering, manipulative matatus
      Where passengers are shuka’d at whim

      Are you where darkness whispers sweet lullabies
      Or where lights play dirty tricks

      Where money is mobile
      And glass ceilings tower as high as KICC

      Where freedom is plastered on bus stops
      And injustice deeply rooted
      Into territorial boundaries

      Where few attest their tribe is indeed Kenyan

      Where tusker runs like maji

      Where unga is revolutionized
      And revolutions are most definitely not televised

      Where radios relentlessly relay well kept secrets

      Where the rain commands the city
      And payday drives traffic

      Where the likes of Kibera & Sinai make way
      For the likes of Karen & Spring Valley

      Are you the capital of thieves and robbers
      Or a mega polis of IT geeks, business gurus and self made men

      Where every pocket is packed with dreams
      But not every dream packs pockets

      Tell me, Nairobi, are you that place?

      © Nebila Abdulmelik, February 2012
      [email protected]

      Shailja Patel: Dressed in scarlet she strides danger zones

      A review of ‘Migritude, when saris speak’

      Philo Ikonya


      In ‘Migritude’, Shailja Patel bares her soul, mine and yours, the world’s. And out come storms of life that fill every cranny you know, a gust that nobody should stop.

      Shailja’s words have no borders. Her muse is a huge gust of power that carries them everywhere also after print. My copy was left with my friend at the Polish embassy in Nairobi. Months later, it found its way back to me. I treasure it. This is part one of ‘Migritude, When Saris Speak published’ by LiettoColle in both Italian and English.

      It is autographed:

      “ Sister in the word, Comrade in the struggle. Your courage feeds my hope, May my words seed your soul.” - Shailja.

      I have read ‘Migritude’ many times. Literature that grips the heart and mind and hurts whilst speaking beautifully is sacred. Each time I am challenged by the way ‘Migritude’ opens the cruel bowels of the world and yet leaves me proclaiming hope and love. It is crafted so fabulously so that its text is like an illuminated manuscript with each letter crafted with intent and purpose. Her performances, like at the World Social Forum in Nairobi, are impeccable. Gripping. Concentrated. Renewing.

      In ‘Migritude’, Shailja Patel bares her soul, mine and yours, the world’s. And out come storms of life that fill every cranny you know, a gust that nobody should stop. If you have read ‘Migritude’ or watched Shailja Patel perform it, you know that experience.

      Indeed humanity stands there naked in her eyes. She undresses it using fabrics. The power of woman is almost magical. She talks about weavers and takes your breath away with insight and originality. When she finishes we slowly return from the world she takes us to as an audience but we are changed. Then everyone gets up to give a standing ovation. It is mesmerising.

      Each time I read this book, I am left the promise that I will return to those pages. A librarian told me that that poetry books are short and easy to read and so she expected me to return Anna Akhmatova’s poetry in a couple of days. I found that I wanted to keep the book longer. I did. I returned it and bought my own copy, to keep with me.

      There are authors who want us to stay with them. They create homes for us in their words. Today’s reading of ‘Migritude’ has touched me deeply, lured me, possessed me. I am responding with these words. It is a book you can read and still find something you missed in your earlier reading.

      The persona is the author who is courageously interpreting her life and those of others. Thunderous. A sari may speak conformism to you but do not expect any stereotypes here. She is striding without a sari! If you are looking for those who conform for the sake of respectability and safety, telling a story without their own guts, do not look here. She has come a long and bold journey. She is part of the journey of all too. How many other writers kept the dream of humanity alive in a people thrown out of a country overnight, writing about them? Staying with them in the imagination?

      Shailja Patel is gazing at nooks that many feared to look at. Then she will make you touch them with the pad of your finger. She is defining a people the world, not just East Africa, has failed to understand in many ways. She is speaking of a fear which many of us could never have seen through her own eyes. She deserves a great hearing because she is not enclosed in speaking for one group, she is in sync with all those who have experienced such rejection; she speaks for them.

      “The image that haunted my childhood: a man on the Nairobi railway platform who held his toddler child and cried. Cried aloud, through a wide open mouth. Soldiers had boarded the train just outside of Kampala, dragged his wife off while we watched. Too terrified for the child on his lap, the carriage of mute numb people, to resist.”

      Beauty is always within the work. Holding imagery at its highest level of brilliance, she tells us that she makes the work “out of the sari that wraps me in tender celebration. Like the mother I discover. I make it our for the mother I got in all her wounded magnificence.” She has known wounds “that’s left my throat choked!” From an early age she knows many negative words which have the suffix ‘ion’ and which deprive people of a nation.

      Repression: “how can you ever walk in a sari if you stride like that?”

      Oppression: “And we know with the hopeless rage of third world citizens African passport holders that the sum of their lives and labour dreams and sacrifice was measured sifted, weighed found wanting by the INS” .

      Humiliation: “Darkie sing us an Indian song!” “Two Pakis….. . Sorry ladies. We only do teas for hotel guests.” Right from the familiar circle a child knows at age six and before, life’s pains are present.

      “So I make this work with rage
      Every smug idiotic face I’ve ever wanted to smash…”

      ‘Migritude’ is a work of art that is so wrapped up in the art and history. It awes you with its power. She first goes straight to the depths of global injustice. The poet talks about “mousoleen” named after Mosul in Iraq.

      “A fabric so fine, you could fit a 30 yard length of it into a matchbox. Egyptians used it to wrap mummies.”

      This is a poet who takes a position on issues. She is not the type that anyone can groom to be their mouthpiece. She will tell it from her mind and heart. The failures we call success come up one by one and the poet makes you place them correctly after centuries of acceptance of superficial facts as history. And she is not alone. She is a sister, a daughter, a lover, a mother, a migrant, a troubadour with a trousseau and she is in the we. “We carry the visions of whole peoples. We push ourselves to breaking point to manifest them.”

      Often alone, she does not lose herself. “I have been unprotected. I have been naked and exposed. I have been clothed and armoured.” But she carries on. “We do not start anything we will not finish. We don’t stop until we’re done.”

      She does not lose her connection with her body. With anybody. With everybody. Not her father. Not you. You will not stop seeing those calluses on his fingers which this daughter would have too. The poet brings deep insight into issues of race, gender, sexuality and hope in being. This is where the world is a microcosm.

      “It began as a teardrop in Babylon. Where the sunlight came from Astarte, shameless goddess of the fecund feminine. The boteh.”

      So moving are the words about the people whom the world calls migrants. So deep and significant for the world today. Often invisible and not seen as anything else but a burden, what do they have to offer?

      Her mother is inside history in the present and past. She is our mother in any part of the world, who protects what is most valuable in us. A Madonna loving like a virgin. A mother the poet describes in one of the strongest metaphors one encounters in a description of a mother. “… in all her wounded magnificence”. A mother we can all relate to for we love her, she wants the best for us and yet we must move on and seem to cast away some of what she thought dearest. A moment of recognition that many know with its pain.

      “Mother, I will never live the cocoon of safety you dreamed of for your daughters. Do you see? I will always be called to stride across danger zones, to shout forbidden words to other fugitives.” Things may change. Mother will learn to cross some of the borders because mothering is powerful in recognizing being. Later the poet reads from her mother, a letter that reflects that change. Mother writes:

      “Since you have stubbornly refused to get married, it seems your mangal sutra has to come from your mother instead of your husband!”

      Twice in this work, the poet says of her, “… in all her wounded magnificence!” and one does not get tired of that description which opens up an entire meditation.

      The poet is off to make words which snake this world. She heals the world too. It is a lifelong and strong commitment. In Shailja Patel’s world famous recitals, you can touch her dedication. You can touch her thread of life in the arts. Her golden thread around her wrist. This poetry is written in her blood and with her blood.

      “Something is bursting the walls of my arteries something/
      is pounding it’s way up my throat like a volcano/
      rising/ finally/I understand/Why I’m a poet”

      “This work which filigrees and inlays all your legacies. This work which snakes across borders, dodges visa controls, this is my intention, declaration, lifelong execution.”

      She is a poet bringing out all those voices we strangled and put into suitcases in Idi Amin’s times in Uganda. The disappeared. She is a poet opening the wounds that we want to superficially heal. She is the cutting edge of a sharp knife which we need to cut the lies out of our fabric and make sense of history. She promised you no less. “Have you ever sliced a heart on a curve? Which piece would you keep?”

      Shailja tears apart the way history is written and taught by the powerful, a subject in which much manipulation of thought is introduced. She scoffs at that. She shreds all that she was taught in Hospital Hill School, Nairobi Kenya. She wants history open with its intestines, blood and oxygen. Singing about Shaka Zulu to the tune of these are a few of my favorite things. The kernel of violence in so many is sown? The choice to teach ignorance in the name of history is painful, a strategy. So that Kenya is Gikuyu and Mumbi. So that Mau Mau is not a struggle of Kenyans but of the biggest tribe. So that tribalism is comfortable. So that the so called “Other” is always on the run. It has not only started now. It is not done alone by some strange dictator suddenly coming out of nowhere.

      She knows about sealed documents. The many the British have hidden away. She quotes Caroline Elkins in ‘Imperial Reckoning: The Untold story of Britain’s Gulag in Kenya’. Blood and rape. The shameless murders and extirpation of a humanity hidden away from the eyes of the world. And how it continues in the politics of the day in Afrika.

      “British Foreign Office Documents describe Idi Amin as: A man we can do business with.”

      Shailja Patel knows and she is not half-engaging. She takes them on for many who could not. “I know what I carry in my suitcase. I carry a family. I carry my history. Over my saris, I wear my sisters”

      Suitcases. People always on the move. ‘Migritude’ is the home of very deep pathos. A people who can only call the world home when it is impossible to thrust roots anywhere. It is a very personal story, felt in every breath and everyday.

      “I learn like a stone in my gut that/third generation Asian Kenyan will never /be Kenyan enough/ all my patriotic fervor/ will not turn my skin black/of immigration spikes/my mother straps my shoulders back with a belt/ to teach me to stand up straight.”

      “Rath thodi ne vesh ja ja, the proverb I grew up on. The night is short and our garments change. Meaning: Don’t put down roots. Don’t get too comfortable. By dawn, we may be on the move.... Travel with children. Travel many days later especially to America and the hours and hours in queues waiting for visas, dehumanized. And still. “Invest only in what we can carry: passports, education, jewellery.”

      Idi Amin is not the only person who rejected East African Asians. Some intellectuals, citizens and politicians in Kenya still bear a grudge against them. And everywhere most of them have gone, they have only flourished. In England, they rate among the most successful people in all that they strove to engage in after Amin Dada. Uganda beckons them back. Humanity and inhumanity. Where is the learning?

      The writer takes us from Babylon to Uganda, to Kenya, to America and India, East, south, north and west without losing her compass. Her direction is humanity and she fails not. I know I can say that we shall never hear the last of ‘Migritude’. That when finally this poet calls her work done, we shall only be beginning to see the immense classic Shailja has delivered to the world. It is a work for the screen.

      Turning history inside out, smelling it out, touching it…She asks again and again:

      “How many ways can you splice a history?” Shailja is so great at questioning. The question mark ought to be the biggest part of the alphabet in history. Otherwise we shall not know how “musoleen” became “muslin” and “Kashmiri” “Cashmere”.

      It is not easy to define the poet. Take your power Shailja, probe us. Press hard. Provoke us son and daughter of Patel. Make us throw up as traditionally, and you are African in every sense, that is the only way the people are healed … showing their wounds, pus and blood out! You make us cry and cringe and act. Activist! You make the British Empire tremble. And you read them your poetry on every stage, reciting it too at the Cultural Olympiad 2012, untamed.

      Capitalism is the force you would like to see in the past and dead. “There was a force called capitalism. .. In 1813, Dhaka musoleen sold at 75% profit on the London market, yet was still cheaper than the local British fabric. The British weighed it down with 80% duty. But that wasn’t enough. They needed to force India to buy British cloth. So down the alleyways of Dhaka stamped the legionaries- British, this time, not Roman. Hunted out the terrified weavers, chopped off their index fingers and thumbs.

      How many ways can you clone an empire? Dice a people, digit by digit?”

      So that the calluses on any mechanic’s hands mean a lot to you. You went to see children in poor areas of Nairobi learning how to box on a podium created to claim their land taken by a bank. You defended the local activist without wings, using your own flights, paying the price. You are.

      And I learn. Now I know why in Eldoret Loreto school uniforms ( I was clad in one) and those of many other top schools of the rich were bought at Gulabs. The empire extended. You tell me that: “In 1846, Britain annexed the vale of Kashmir, fabled paradise of beauty, and sold it to Maharaj Gulab Sing of Jammu for 1 million pounds.”

      When Shailja Patel pens, she is a surgeon on power in the world and its visible rottenness in our lives. In ‘Migritude’ she compresses history into thoughts that choke us with their truth. It is alive in us like biting red ants.

      At a time when support for contemporary literature from Kenya has fitted into a description of those who would eschew history, remaining empiricist on a curious observation of tribe on tribe with the well heeled cheering on so that the wounds of colonialism and capitalism are bandaged, Shailja Patel defies.

      She is a free spirit. She is raging. Her volumes following upon this one may take long to complete as she perfects her recitals and publications but one day we shall all have to acclaim her poetry.

      ‘Migritude’ is a complex weaving, a work of genius. The poet is genuine in her vision of the world. It is not possible to be honest today about the failure of the economy, sexual abuse and be passive. Be a casual observer. One has to engage beauty and as Professor David Rubadiri used to say in class, find out what is “heterogeneously yoked together” as the metaphysical poets did. A simple route fails. Shailja Patel holds up a thousand mirrors in one big reflection of the intricacies of power. True that the media concentrates on tragedies as her mother writes and says but also true that you cannot see the beauty of life and not rage at the pain in which she is abused.

      Shailja Patel is a forerunner in the art of speaking truth to power in slam poetry and has influenced many, from rappers to writers and poets who sing with this openness. She set the pace. There is not time for navel gazing here. She is out there and speaking! See how she deals with rape here, Rape is rape is rape is rape.

      “May the redness overtake them. Many red ants feast in their groins, scorpions nestle in their beds, blood vessels explode in their brains, organs rupture in their bellies... May they never escape the redness of their hands, on their dicks, the bitter nausea of it on their tongues, the have of it before their eyes, the drum of it in their ears.”

      Somewhere in my imagination when I walk the planet barefoot, I meet Shailja Patel in many places. I know her. She is that woman with unmatching headgear like the one Maya Angelou writes used to wear to school and which her son as a child told her not to wear it. A scarlet cape will be draped on Shailja’s sari even when it does not match. No, not in a sari, in jeans. She is that person who shares a little flour cake in Kibera with three others. She is still wearing “a pure wool scarlet cape that hangs down to her knees. Sleeves like wings,” because she carries her sisters in her. Because she does not need to be black to be African; because no one needs to be any colour to be anything.

      All of us are crossing borders. She is bending examining gun shot wounds in Palestine and Israel. She is in hidden places in Nairobi, Kampala, California and Israel reading documents and writing on. She is striding without a sari on. She is reading justice. Speaking justice. Living justice.


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

      * Philo Ikonya is a Kenyan poet and activist.

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

      ‘From Françafrique to Mafiafrique’ by François Xavier Verschave

      Peter Wuteh Vakunta


      Verschave is convinced that the inception of Françafrique calls into question the meaning of political independence granted to French colonies in Africa more than five decades ago.

      In a 69-page well-researched book titled ‘De la Françafrique à la Mafiafrique [From Françafrique to Mafiafrique], Francois Xavier Verschave exposes the underbelly of France and its covert activities in Africa. He contends that Françafrique has evolved from the status of a postcolonial contraption conceived by Charles de Gaulle more than five decades ago to keep French-speaking African countries in perpetual bondage to that of a global mafia organization masterminded by unscrupulous mercenaries like Bob Denard, Le Floch-Prigent, André Tarallo, and Benard Courcelle and ilk.

      Verschave notes that the substance of his book grew out of testimonies given by Africans who want to tell the stories of their plight and wanton pillaging of their respective countries by France, the ex-colonizer:

      “I have simply documented the testimonies of thousands of Africans who came to inform us of their experiences in their home countries. They observed that their countries have been torn apart and put asunder by colonial policies implemented by dictatorial governments.

      “This Franco-African policy that I have christened Françafrique is a neocolonialist caricature that has extremely deleterious consequences.

      “Françafrique is sustained by the French and Africans. Thus, Africans are certainly playing a crucial role in promoting the domination and pillaging of their continent…”

      Verschave does not mince words in his condemnation of the nefarious effects of Françafrique on the political economies of the entire African continent: “….”[6] The intriguing thing about this diabolical caricature is that both Africans and French are acting in collusion to sustain it, and therefore share collective blame for its existence. In Verschave’s words, “ ” (8).All Francophone African heads of state are painted with the same brush, however, Gnassingbé Ayadéma, Omar Bongo, Juvénal Habyarimana, and Denis Sassou Nguesso were seen as lynchpins of Françafrique until their demise. Denis Sassou Nguesso, who has outlived them, now coordinates the dirty job of France in Africa.

      Verschave resorts to the anology of the iceberg in a bid to accentuate the unfathomable dimensions of Françafrique. According to him, only the tip of the iceberg is visible to the rest of the world; the rest is a closely guarded secret known only to its perpetrators in very high positions of power in France and Africa:

      “Françafrique is like an iceberg. It has a visible face, the part that is exposed to the world, portraying France as the best friend of Africa and bastion of human rights, etc. Then, there is the invisible part that amounts to 90% of France’s relations with African countries submerged: the network of mechanisms put in place to keep Africans in bondage with the complicity of African allies.” (10).

      Needless to belabor the point that Verschave is being terribly sarcastic when he refers to France the best friend of Africa and the bastion of human rights. Even those who have never set foot on the soil of this European nation are aware of the fact that the French motto: liberté, égalité, fraternité, or Liberty, equality, fraternity is a loud-sounding nothing.

      Verschave adumbrates four main reasons that motivated Charles de Gaulle to put Françafrique in place to serve as a postcolonial control mechanism. The first reason is the leverage that France has at the United Nations, where allied nations back her up in the event of a vote. The second is France’s dire need for strategic raw materials (timber, cocoa, coffee, crude, etc). The third reason is the astronomical sums of money that African heads of state send to France each time presidential polls are conducted in France. The fourth reason is linked to the role France played as an ally of the United States of America during the Cold War era. Both countries were in alliance to keep the African continent out of the ambit of Communists. Verschave is convinced that the inception of Françafrique calls into question the signification of political independence granted to French colonies in Africa more than five decades ago. As he puts it, “For these four reasons, the French instituted a system that made the independence of African nations a non-starter.” (10)

      To ensure the success of Françafrique, De Gaulle handpicked a fine strategist in the person of Jacques Foccart to implement his policies in Africa. Foccart’s starting point was to select a bunch of African lackeys nicknamed “les amis de la France” or “Friends of France.” Many of these so-called friends of France are francophone African presidents holding French nationality. Notorious among them was Omar Bongo who passed away a few years ago and was succeeded by his son, Ali Bongo.

      Of the several strings that France uses to tie up African nations in order to keep them in a vicious circle of dependency, Verschave singles out the Franc CFA as the most effective. He notes that the acronym “CFA” means “Colonies françaises d’Afrique”, which could be translated as “French colonies in Africa.” Insightful revelation! Who knew that more than five decades after gaining independence from France, francophone African countries remain French colonies?

      As Verschave puts it, “This convertible CFA franc has facilitated capital flight from African nations to France for decades. During electoral campaigns in France, you would hear citizens in Cameroon or Togo complaining that the State has become broke and is unable to pay civil servants. The reason is that all the money has been sent from Yaoundé or Lomé, for example, to France to fund the political campaigns of presidential candidates.” (14)

      The political implication of all these machinations is that Africa is now saddled with demo-dictators who were not elected by the populace. These unpopular leaders are constantly being propped up by France because they implement French hidden agenda on the African continent. Whether one is looking at the scenario in Cameroon, Togo, Gabon or Congo-Brazzaville, the rules of the game remain the same: dictators buy their tenure at the helm of their countries with astronomical sums of money sent to the Champs Elysée in briefcases. France then sends mercenaries and secrets agents to make sure that elections are rigged in favor of their henchmen in Africa.

      In the words of Verschave, here is how the system works:

      “Transparent ballot boxes and envelopes are sent to these countries; and then the French say: ‘you see, they are advancing toward t democratic governance; let’s help them get there; but at the same time, France sends experts particularly savvy in the art of election rigging to install vote-counting computers that are a little special: so, whereas the electorate has kept vigil day and night to ensure that their ballots are properly counted; whereas they have voted at 70% or 80% in order to chase the dictator awau from power, the tallies declared often sure that the dictator has been re-elected with 80% of the votes cast…” (20)

      So much for electoral gerrymandering and fraud à la française in Africa! Little wonder the Biyas, Bongos, Nguessos, Derbys, Ayademas, Mobutus, Boignys and ilk are presidents for life! One take-away from a reading of this instructive book is that the brunt of the underdevelopment of Africa should be borne by France and Africans alike given that African leaders behave like frightened chicken and give the French free rein to manipulate them. Worse, Africa is blighted by two cankers: debilitating corruption and corrosive ethnocentrism.

      To borrow words from Verschave, “In my opinion, there are two neo-colonial poisons: the so-called fatality of corruption and the institutionalization of tribalism.” (65).

      In a nutshell, François Xavier Verschave’s ‘De la Françafrique à la Mafiafrique’ is a treasure trove of information. This masterpiece would serve as an eye-opener for those who are unaware of the strategies that France has used to under-develop Africa over the years. It is recommended reading for students, professors and researchers in the domain of Francophone studies. Africans and friends of Africa should read it with an open mind.


      * Please do not take Pambazuka for granted! Become a Friend of Pambazuka and make a donation NOW to help keep Pambazuka FREE and INDEPENDENT!
      * Professor Vakunta works at the United States Department of Defense Language Institute in Monterey-California.

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

      Podcasts & Videos

      Africa Today discussion on West Africa


      In this broadcast, Africa Today speaks with Dame Babou, Senegalese journalist and host of 'Africa Time' and Hamadou Tidiane Sy of on recent developments in West Africa - the coup in Mali and the Tuareg insurgency in Northern Mali.

      Cuba, a revolution in motion


      In this podcast, Africa Today speaks with Dr. Isaac Saney on Latin American Studies, Race in Cuba, and Cuba's role in Southern Africa. Dr. Saney is the author of 'Cuba a Revolution in Motion'.

      Global: Seeds of Freedom


      The film Seeds of Freedom charts the story of seed from its roots at the heart of traditional, diversity rich farming systems across the world, to being transformed into a powerful commodity, used to monopolise the global food system.The film highlights the extent to which the industrial agricultural system, and genetically modified (GM) seeds in particular, has impacted on the enormous agro-biodiversity evolved by farmers and communities around the world, since the beginning of agriculture. You can watch a preview of the film through the URL provided.


      Diamond jubilee, Diamond injustice



      The world joins the Queen of England to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee on the throne.

      Gado: Janet Museveni for president


      Change is about to sweep Ugandan politics after decades of Museveni rule...

      Zimbabwe update

      Zimbabwe: Fears of military coup mount


      Fears are mounting that Zimbabwe’s military will seize power in the event of President Robert Mugabe’s death or electoral defeat. A top army general said they would not allow anyone who does not share the ideals of the veteran ruler’s Zanu PF party to lead the country. 'As the military, we do not only believe, but act in defence of these values and we will not respect any leader who does not respect the revolution,' Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) chief of staff Major General Trust Mugoba said.

      Zimbabwe: Police target MDC supporters


      Police have fired tear gas to disperse supporters of Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's MDC party outside a courthouse. About 200 demonstrators gathered outside the high court in downtown Harare on Monday 4 June to protest charges being brought against 29 activists of the former opposition appearing there for a bail hearing. The activists are seeking bail on charges of murdering a police officer a year ago.

      Zimbabwe: SADC meeting a game-changer, says Biti


      MDC-T secretary general, Tendai Biti has described the Sadc meeting in Angola as 'probably the most important post-GNU summit' adding the regional body had made it clear that new elections could not be held without political reforms. President Robert Mugabe had hoped Sadc would endorse his push for new elections to go ahead this year even if political reforms that include the writing of a new constitution are not completed in time. But Biti said the troika meeting told coalition parties to implement all agreed electoral, political, security sector and media reforms over the next twelve months. However, Zanu PF spokesman, Rugare Gumbo accused the MDC formations of misinterpreting the Sadc resolutions saying the bloc merely said reforms should be implemented within 12 months. 'We still have seven months before the end of the year. I am confident within the next few months, we will have implemented the reforms in time for elections in 2012,' he said.

      African Union Monitor

      Angola: Angola oils campaign to secure AU vote for SA


      Angola is bankrolling a concerted campaign to secure SA's efforts to win support for Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to lead the African Union (AU) with a $200,000 pledge to finance lobbying ahead of the AU summit. Oil-rich Angola, signalling its foreign policy ambitions on the continent, has combined in the campaign with SA, which is chartering aircraft to take teams of cabinet ministers to lobby around the continent.

      Malawi: AU summit hosting cancelled over Sudan's al Bashir invite


      Malawi has said it will not host the African Union summit in July because the bloc insisted on inviting Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir, wanted on international war crimes charges. 'After considering the interests of Malawians, I want to inform Malawians that the cabinet met today and decided it was not interested to accept the conditions by the African Union, therefore Malawi is not hosting the summit,' Vice President Khumbo Kachali told journalists in a brief speech broadcast on state radio.

      Women & gender

      Cameroon: The complexities of matrilineal inheritance


      James Elangwe, 87, belongs to the Balues, the only clan in which inheritance passes through the female line. But this doesn't mean that women inherit. Instead, it means that when a man dies, the first son of the man's sister inherits. Elangwe says matrilineal inheritance puts women at a greater disadvantage than patrilineal inheritance because wealth leaves the immediate family. Elangwe's wife belongs to a tribe where inheritance passes from father to son in a patrilineal system. Women cannot inherit, but he says at least it stays within the immediate family if there is a son.

      Morocco: Calls for legalized abortions grow louder


      Hundreds of Moroccan women a day are resorting to backstreet abortions, a leading doctor has estimated, prompting calls for reform in a country where the termination of pregnancies remains illegal. Campaigners say some of those resorting to illegal abortion are the victims of rape, driven at least in part by the social stigma attached not just to having a child out of wedlock but even having suffered rape.

      Nigeria: Gender inequality at worrying levels


      The 2012 Gender in Nigeria Report launched recently shows that gender inequality is at highly worrying levels. There is a lack of gender balance in the economy, education, politics, health, access to justice and almost all areas of human development. According to the report, 'Nigeria's 80.2 million women and girls have a significantly worse life chances than men and also their sisters in comparable societies; 60-79% of the rural workforce is women but men are five times more likely to own land. '

      South Africa: Traditional bill ‘dead in the water’


      After weeks of countrywide public hearings on which hundreds of thousands of taxpayers’ rands were spent, the department of justice and the select committee on security and constitutional development received a rude wake-up call on the controversial Traditional Courts Bill, reports City Press. Most of the provinces either rejected the bill or asked for massive changes. In what can be described as a victory for rural women, who have waged war against the bill since it was tabled in 2008, the department of justice will have to go back to the drawing board.

      Human rights

      Egypt: Court acquits 13 officers of killing protesters


      An Egypt court acquitted 13 police officers who were accused of killing six people and injuring 18 others on January 28 and 29, 2011, during the uprising that ousted the former regime, outside a police station in Giza. The six men were killed in what was known as the Friday of Anger that saw hundreds of others die at the hands of the police, who tried to suppress the uprising. The police officers defense accused the families of the dead of trying to prosecute the officers 'out of greed' as they were accused of aiming for state compensation.

      Libya: ICC sends team to Libya after delegation detained


      Representatives of the International Criminal Court arrived in Tripoli on Sunday to try to secure the release of a detained delegation visiting Muammar Gaddafi's captured son, a Libyan official said. The four-member delegation was being held in the western mountain town of Zintan after one of its lawyers, Australian Melinda Taylor, was found carrying documents regarded as suspicious for Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, a Libyan lawyer and a militia member said.

      Sudan: Ban death by stoning


      The sentencing of a young Sudanese woman to death by stoning for adultery presents numerous grave violations of domestic and international law, Human Rights Watch said. The sentence also underscores the urgent need for Sudan to reform its legal system in accordance with its human rights obligations, Human Rights Watch said. Intisar Sharif Abdallah, whose age has not been determined but is believed to be under the age of 18, was sentenced by a judge on 22 April 2012, in the city of Omdurman, near Khartoum. Since her sentencing, she been held in Omdurman prison with her five-month-old baby, with her legs shackled.

      Zimbabwe: Call for end to rights violations


      The Kimberly Process intersessional in Washington, with Human Rights Watch (HRW) urging the diamond monitor to tackle what it calls continuing human rights violations in Zimbabwe's Marange fields. The meeting, which ran from 4-7 June 2012, will take up a range of topics related to the mining and trading of conflict-free rough diamonds. Human Rights Watch Africa director, Daniel Bekele urged the Kimberley Process, under the chairpersonship of the United States, to address the ongoing rights abuses in Zimbabwe’s Marange fields and the lack of transparency by mining companies operating there.

      Refugees & forced migration

      Africa: Call to reverse soaring adoption rates


      As the number of African children adopted by people outside the continent reaches record levels, experts, activists, government officials and academics have called for the practice to be stemmed, warning that adoption was too often motivated by financial gain rather than the best interests of the children involved. Between 2003 and 2011, for example, at least 41,000 African children were sent abroad for adoption from Africa, according to a study entitled 'Africa: The New Frontier' for Inter-country Adoption by the African Child Policy Forum (ACPF).

      Africa: Israel starts rounding up Africans for deportation


      Israeli authorities have began a roundup of South Sudanese migrants ahead of their deportation, three days after a court ruled that their lives were no longer threatened in their homeland. 'The deportation operation is getting under way. We are starting the job,' Interior minister Eli Yishai told independent television station Channel Two. 'We told the infiltrators from South Sudan to come voluntarily; whoever doesn't, with the Lord's help we shall get them all...they'll be put on a plane,' he said.

      Africa: Migrants targeted in Jerusalem attack


      Four African migrants have been hospitalised after a deadly arson attempt on a Jerusalem building in which they were living. The incident, which police described as 'very serious', took place in an old two-storey building in a poor neighbourhood near the city’s Mahane Yehuda market.

      Kenya: Enhancing information and transparency for IDPs


      ARTICLE 19 has recently highlighted the critical issue of the right to information for internally displaced persons (IDPs). The international NGO delivered practical training sessions on the Right to Information for internally displaced persons to regional leaders and representatives of local community based organisations. Over 20 participants from the Coast province attended the training sessions held in the Rift Valley, Western and Nyanza regions of the country. The program aims to build the capacity of IDP leaders and civil society organisations to request and utilise government held information.

      South Africa: Migrants and deportation in South Africa


      South Africa receives more asylum seekers than any other country in the world with people mainly coming from Zimbabwe, the DRC, Burundi, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Somalia, as well as from countries further afield to escape poverty, insecurity and political turmoil. Up to 1.4 million of South Africa’s refugees and asylum seekers are Zimbabwean, representing almost 15 per cent of Zimbabwe’s population. This is according to a new report, 'Perils and Pitfalls ‐ Migrants and Deportation in South Africa', from the Solidarity Peace Trust/Passop. This report brings to light the discrepancies between the legal requirements around deportation of migrants and the anomalies in its practical application. It is clear from the findings that South Africa is falling short of its lofty legal standards in the manner that the various government agencies are dealing with this huge challenge.

      South Sudan: Airlift of 12,000 ends


      An 'exceptional' airlift of almost 12,000 South Sudanese ended with a final flight from Khartoum on Wednesday but thousands more continue to live in makeshift conditions while they, too, await transport to the South, officials said. One hundred Southerners took the last chartered plane from Khartoum to South Sudan's capital Juba, Jill Helke, chief of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in Sudan, said.

      Uganda: Land row delays resettlement of Congolese refugees


      The continued arrival of refugees fleeing post-election violence and militia activities in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in western Uganda, and the government’s efforts to resettle them, have created a land row that has already cost the life of a government official. Alphonse Nteziryayo, commander of Rwamwanja settlement, in Kamwenge district, had accompanied humanitarian aid workers to assess the land the government had set aside for the settlement of Congolese refugees in Uganda when he was attacked and killed by squatters, who had settled there.

      Africa labour news

      South Africa: Strike threat as state holds civil servants in deadlock


      Unions have given the government 24 hours to agree to terms to avoid a wage dispute that would throw the public service sector into disarray. Public sector unions have united in rejecting the government’s wage offer, which – as it is now – would see salaries in these sectors increase by 6.5 per cent and the housing allowance by R100. Unions are demanding an 8 per cent wage increment and R1,500 housing allowance, while the state is offering R900 for a housing allowance, an increase from the current R800. This adjustment would be effective for six months only.

      Elections & governance

      Angola: Parties to get state funding


      All political parties in Angola will benefit from government financial support, it has been announced. Parliamentary Affairs minister Norberto dos Santos said every party and recognised coalition would be allocated at least $90,000 (9.6 million Kwanzas). The money is meant to help the parties prepare for parliamentary elections scheduled for August 31. Dos Santos said 77 parties and seven coalitions recognised by the constitutional would be funded.

      Egypt: Call for presidential vote to be cancelled


      Egypt’s popular political leader and former presidential hopeful Mohamed ElBaradei has said the upcoming presidential runoff in the country should be canceled. He argued that the real battle in Egypt was 'writing Egypt’s new constitution and canceling the presidential elections, because the legitimacy of one of the candidates is highly doubtful', referring to presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq, who was Mubarak’s last prime minister.

      Egypt: Liberals quit constitutional meeting


      Egyptian liberals have walked out of a meeting to select members of a panel to write the country's new constitution, charging Islamists of trying to take seats allocated for secular parties. The walkout could throw the writing of the constitution, which would lay out the powers of the presidency, into further disarray at a time when uncertainties mar both the course of the presidential runoff election on June 16 and 17 and the legality of parliament.

      Egypt: Rally against Mubarak verdict continues


      Egyptians continue their million-man march in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez to voice their anger at the lenient sentence handed to ousted dictator Hosni Mubarak. The protesters gathered in the capital's iconic Liberation Square and other cities to urge the retrial of Mubarak and his two sons, demanding the death penalty for the octogenarian dictator. The demonstrators also called for unity among all political parties to prevent the re-emergence of the Mubarak-era dictatorship.

      Ghana: Rawlings wants wife to 'rescue' Ghana from crisis


      Ghana’s former President Jerry John Rawlings has given the first hint that his wife, Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings, might enter the presidential race in December. It is not clear whether the former First Lady would do so as an independent candidate or form a new party. Not too long ago, Nana Agyeman was rejected by delegates of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) when she took on party leader President John Evans Mills.

      Guinea: President warned to keep off Sierra Leone politics


      Guinea President Alpha Conde has ignited anger among a section of Sierra Leone’s opposition for a statement seen as interference in the latter’s politics. President Conde Saturday openly declared support for his Sierra Leonean counterpart in the forthcoming elections. The Guinean leader made the pronouncement as the two leaders inaugurated a new highway linking Conakry and Freetown, the respective capitals of the two states.

      Libya: Assembly election postponed


      Libya has postponed its landmark election for a constitutional assembly to July 7 because of technical and logistical issues, the head of the electoral commission said. The first elections since the fall of the country's longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi were due to be held on June 19. Two hundred representatives are to be elected and tasked with drafting the country's constitution, but authorities say they need more time to vet candidates.


      Kenya: Law review needed over oil discoveries


      The Energy ministry says it will re-examine laws to satisfy the emerging demands of transparency, disclosure, fairness and justice in the sharing of oil revenues among explorers, host governments and the local communities. 'The recent positive development in the exploration of fossils, especially petroleum and coal, also calls for a review of the current legal and regulatory frameworks to cater for emerging needs,' said the Energy PS Patrick Nyoike. ‘The National Energy Policy recognises that. We have a five- year window to put issues in place,' he told stakeholders discussing a draft Bill.

      Nigeria: Nigeria urged to prosecute 16 foreign firms for bribery


      A Nigerian civil society group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked the Nigerian government to prosecute 16 foreign companies involved in bribery in the country. In a statement made available to PANA in Lagos Sunday, SERAP said it would seek leave of court for an order of mandamus to compel the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Mr Mohammed Adoke, to act if the companies are not prosecuted 'within 14 (fourteen) days from the receipt and/or publication of this letter (to the AGF).'

      South Africa: Communications tender finding a victory of civil society


      The Writing Rights blog has an article about a communications tender that was awarded to TBWA/Hunt Lascaris in December 2010 by the Western Cape provincial government. During 2011, a group of civil society organisations lodged an independent and separate complaint with the Public Protector about the legality of the procurement of the tender. This group of complainants consisted of Ndifuna Ukwazi (NU), Social Justice Coalition (SJC), Open Democracy Advice Centre (ODAC), Right 2 Know Western Cape and Equal Education (EE). Recently, the public protector found, among other things, that it was improper for two of the premier's special advisers to be on the bid evaluation committee.

      South Africa: Hawks investigate cell giant


      Crime-fighting unit The Hawks have said they were investigating the MTN Group - Africa's largest mobile phone operator - over allegations of bribery related to its Iranian licence. 'We can confirm that we are conducting a formal investigation,' McIntosh Polela, a spokesman for the unit, said. Turkcell Iletisim Hizmetleri, based in Istanbul, is suing MTN in the US for $4,2bn, alleging the SA-based company bribed Iranian government officials, arranged meetings between Iranian and SA leaders, and promised Iran weapons and United Nations votes in exchange for a licence to provide services in the Islamic Republic.

      Uganda: Dominion pull-out begs questions about mysterious Ugandan oil company


      The withdrawal of Dominion Uganda Ltd from exploration around Lake Edward - an area which, according to independent petroleum geologists, may hold between 90 million and 1.1 billion barrels of oil - leaves a plethora of unanswered questions swirling around an industry that, in Uganda, remains no more transparent than a dollop of waxy crude. Why did Dominion pull out? What happened to a ‘Letter of Intent’ its parent company, UK-based Ophir Energy, signed in March 2012 with Canadian wildcatter, Octant Energy Corp., giving Octant an 80 per cent share in, and operatorship of, Exploration Area 4B? Did the government of Uganda approve these deals? And where does this leave the mysterious Alpha Oil - a Ugandan owned company that, in one of the sector’s best kept secrets, for many years held a five per cent stake in Exploration Area 4B?


      Africa: Can cities or towns drive African development?


      Rapid urbanization is an important characteristic of African development and yet the structural transformation debate focuses on agriculture’s relative merits without also considering the benefits from urban agglomeration. This UNU-WIDER Working Paper argues against an ‘agro-fundamentalist’ approach to African development, but says the short-term imperative of reducing poverty necessitates further agricultural investment.

      Namibia: State, miners head for clash over nationalisation


      Namibia's Chamber of Mines believes that the government has no role to play in the country‘s mining sector apart from regulating the operating environment. The position is likely to put miners at loggerheads with the state, which is following the global trend of resource nationalism. Namibia in 2011 declared all minerals - except zinc and fluorspar - strategic and handed over all exploration rights to state miner, Epangelo Mining Limited.

      Uganda: No development plan for the oil region, officials admit


      As midwestern Uganda gears up for oil production that will entail billions of dollars in investments, a range of central government officials interviewed by Oil in Uganda admit that there is no overall development plan for the region, and no mechanism for coordinating the efforts of different departments. 'Government has not designed any development plan for the oil region. We did not even have a development plan for the oil refinery in Hoima District until recently when the Ministry of Energy came up with one,' admits Johnson Mugume, a senior advisor to the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development. The refinery plan itself, he adds, is still in its infancy and will take years of work to finalise.

      Health & HIV/AIDS

      DRC: Cholera outbreak worsens


      A growing cholera outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo has claimed nearly 400 lives and affected more than 19,100 people since January, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). 'The total number of cholera cases in 2012 is around 90 percent of cases reported last year. Since January 2011, 983 people have died from the outbreak affecting eight of 11 provinces of the country,' Yvon Edoumou, OCHA spokesman, told a news conference.

      Global: Treat pneumonia and diarrhoea and save infants, says Unicef


      According to a report released by the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), pneumonia and diarrhoea are the leading killers of children under five years despite the fact that there are a number of cost effective interventions to curb these illnesses. Far fewer children are dying today than 20 years ago – In 1990, 12-million child deaths were recorded, compared to 7.6-million in 2010.

      Malawi: Where Is HIV/AIDS on Banda's to-do list?


      Malawi's new president, Joyce Banda, has inherited an unenviable to-do list from former president Bingu wa Mutharika, and AIDS activists are hoping that bolstering the donor-dependent AIDS response will be one of her most urgent priorities. A lot is at stake. An estimated 10 per cent of the adult population is HIV-positive, with about 70,000 Malawians newly infected with HIV every year. Yet the country is almost entirely dependent on external funding for its AIDS programmes, and ambitious plans to scale up treatment have been derailed after the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria rejected a succession of funding proposals.

      South Africa: Stavudine trial causes split


      AIDS activists and researchers are at loggerheads over the planned South African trial of a lower dose version of the controversial antiretroviral stavudine, which has in the past been responsible for debilitating side-effects in HIV patients. In the one camp, the Treatment Action Campaign, Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors without borders) and the Treatment Action Group have serious concerns about the proposed trial.


      Swaziland: Mass caning violates human rights


      Save the Children Swaziland condemned teachers for beating all the children at a school after one pupil made a noise in assembly. It said the school violated their human rights. The mass caning happened at Lusoti Primary School. Parents have now asked the Ministry of Education and Training to investigate.

      Swaziland: Teachers vote for strike


      Teachers in Swaziland have voted to strike indefinitely, almost certainly closing down schools in the kingdom. A total of 98.7 per cent of Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) members who took part in a vote opted for a strike. The strike for a pay increase of 4.5 per cent is due to start on 13 June.


      South Africa: The Ikhaya Project


      Ikhaya (Home) is a part of the Photo XP community project supported by Greatmore studios, co facilitated by Zanele Muholi and Lindeka Qampi. It is a collection of 60 hours of photographic memories that were taken in different areas of Khayelitsha. All of them are black lesbians between 21 and 31 years of age, from various places within and outside of Khayelitsha. So far 2012 PhotoXP has been exhibited at three (3) different events in May 2012. The first Ikhaya show was at Greatmore Studios on the 10th May, followed by Exuberance on the 12th May 2012 which was part of UCT GIPCA event. The recent, third show was during the OSISA: Money, Power & Sex conference on the 22-24 May 2012 at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.

      Uganda: New documentary on pre-colonial gay life


      Gay rights activists in Uganda have launched a new documentary tracing gay love in pre-colonial Ugandan society. Kabaka Mwanga II, widely believed to have been gay, ruled Buganda from 1884 to 1897. The documentary, 'Gay Love in Pre-colonial Africa: The Untold Story of Ugandan Martyrs' was premiered in Kampala last week ahead of the 3 June public holiday to commemorate the burning to death of Ugandan martyrs.

      Racism & xenophobia

      South Africa: NGOs join forces in Malema hate speech case


      The Freedom of Expression Institute and Section 16 have applied to become friends of the court in the hate speech case against Julius Malema. The Freedom of Expression Institute and Section 16 have applied to become friends of the court in the hate speech case against Julius Malema. 'Hate speech is a very important and delicate issue for South African democracy,' said Melissa Moore, executive officer for the non-governmental organisation Section 16.

      South Africa: Safe House


      This post from the blog Africa is a Country reflects on the film Safe House, starring Denzil Washington, which was filmed in Cape Town. Washington had previously been quoted as saying he felt more comfortable making the film in a 'black' country, but as Loren A Lynch points out, the film perpetuates Hollywood stereotypes. 'The majority of audiences rarely see past guise of set dressing into the political and racial implications of not only the film but also of the film industry itself. Western audiences remain content with Hollywood’s constructed perceptions of both countries and cultures outside of their own, when in reality the differences stick out almost as much as Denzel Washington in a “brown” country.'


      Africa: African nations agree to put a price on nature


      Ten African nations have pledged, ahead of Rio+20, to include the economic value of natural resources in their national accounts. Africa has taken the lead in the quest to persuade nations to include the full economic value of their natural resources in their national accounts, with the promise last month by ten of its nations to do so. The heads of state or government of Botswana, Liberia, Mozambique and Namibia, along with ministers from Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa and Tanzania, signed the 'Gaborone Declaration' at the Summit for Sustainability in Africa (24-25 May), co-hosted by the government of Botswana and the nongovernmental organisation Conservation International.

      Global: Confronting the advance of capitalism at Rio+20


      Governments from all over the world will meet in Río de Janeiro, Brasil from 20-22 June to commemorate 20 years since the 'Earth Summit', the United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development. In this statement, La Via Campesina says they will mobilize for the event, 'representing the voice of the peasant in the global debate and defending a different path to development that is based on thewellbeing of all, that guarantees food for all, that protects and guarantees that thecommons and natural resources are put to use to provide a good life for everyone andnot to meet the needs for accumulation of a few.'

      Global: Monsanto DroughtGard corn 'doesn't outperform' non-GMO alternatives, report claims


      New genetically altered corn aimed at helping farmers deal with drought offers more hype than help over the long term, according to a report issued by a science and environmental advocacy group. The Union for Concerned Scientists (UCS) said the only genetically altered corn approved by regulators and undergoing field trials in the United States has no improved water efficiency, and provides only modest results in only moderate drought conditions.

      Mozambique: Establishing environmental flows in the Zambezi


      Forty years ago, the Incomati flowed through the Magudi District of Maputo, in majestic splendour, more than 700 metres wide during the wet season. Now, except during extreme flooding, the river broadens to a little more than half that width during the rains, and dwindles to a trickle during the dry season. The lower water levels in the Incomati River are attributed to increased demands upstream, where thousands of new arrivals draw water for irrigation, domestic use and livestock. The diminished river can no longer support the diverse aquatic plant and animal life that it used to.

      Nigeria: Bid to save rain forests


      Nigeria was recently approved $4million from the United Nations Reducing Emissions through Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) programme to conserve rainforest trees. Part of this was used to carry out 'REDD readiness', a series of workshops and campaigns aimed at forest communities and oil companies. The aim is to help them get to grips with conservation and the importance of curbing carbon emissions. Most of Nigeria's UN REDD money will be poured into Cross River, a reward for what its officials describe as government’s 'conscientious efforts to save the forests'. In a country that has lost over 90 per cent of its lowland rainforests, Cross River has been recognised as Nigeria's environment capital and contains over 50 per cent of Nigeria’s remaining rainforest. Many on the ground are already aware of the REDD money and expectations are high.

      Land & land rights

      Africa: Behind every land grab is a water grab


      Food cannot be grown without water. In Africa, one in three people endure water scarcity and climate change will make things worse. Building on Africa’s highly sophisticated indigenous water management systems could help resolve this growing crisis, but these very systems are being destroyed by large-scale land grabs amidst claims that Africa's water is abundant, under-utilised and ready to be harnessed for export-oriented agriculture. In this report, GRAIN looks behind the current scramble for land in Africa to reveal a global struggle for what is increasingly seen as a commodity more precious than gold or oil - water.

      Global: The legal niceties of land theft


      A paper in the Journal of Peasant Studies situates the current land rush in its historical context, focusing on legal mechanisms. 'Even before capitalist transformation this feudal-derived machination was an instrument of aligned class privilege and power, later elaborated to justify colonial mass land and resource capture. Now it is routinely embedded in the legal canons of elite-aligned agrarian governance as a way to retain control over the land resources which rural communities presume are their own.'

      Zimbabwe: ANCYL warns of Zim-style land invasions in South Africa


      Farm invasions are 'inevitable' should white South Africans not voluntarily hand over land to the government, says the ANC Youth League. “If they don’t want to see angry black youths flooding their farms they must come to the party. Whites must volunteer some of the land and mines they own.' Lamola was speaking at the end of a youth league policy workshop held in preparation for the ANC policy conference later this month.

      Food Justice

      Global: Brazilian farmers sue Monsanto


      Five million Brazilian farmers are locked in a lawsuit with US-based biotech giant Monsanto, suing for as much as 6.2 billion euros. They say that the genetic-engineering company has been collecting royalties on crops it unfairly claims as its own. The farmers claim that Monsanto unfairly collects exorbitant profits every year worldwide on royalties from 'renewal' seed harvests.

      Malawi: Farm Input Subsidy gets K40 billion


      Malawi’s Farm Input Subsidy program, touted for improving food security for the past six years, has been allocated a whopping K40.6 billion in the 2012/13 budget which represents about 60 per cent of the Ministry of Agriculture allocation. 'The major allocation is for the Farm Inputs Subsidy Program (FISP) which has been allocated a total of K40.6 billion for the purchase of 150,000 metric tonnes of fertilizers comprising 75,000 metric tonnes of Urea and 75,000 metric tonnes of NPK fertilizers which will be distributed to 1.5 million farm families at a price of K500 per bag,' said Lipenga when he presented the financial plan.

      Media & freedom of expression

      Africa: First pan-African health journalism network created


      Journalists from across Africa announced the creation of the first continent-wide professional association of health journalists. The new organization, the African Health Journalists Association, aims to improve the quality and quantity of reporting on health issues so that people across the continent can make healthy choices for their lives. The group’s media coverage will encourage the best possible public health programs and policies throughout the continent.

      Egypt: Verdicts, lifting of emergency law not enough to guarantee free expression, say IFEX members


      Recently, Egypt's 30-year-old emergency law expired and former President Hosni Mubarak was sentenced to life in prison for failing to stop the killing of protesters during Egypt's uprising. Yet the future for free expression in Egypt remains in doubt, say the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) and other IFEX members.

      Ethiopia: Government steps up control of information


      Ethiopia’s only ISP, state-owned Ethio-Telecom, has just installed a system for blocking access to the Tor network, which lets users browse anonymously and access blocked websites. At the same time, the state-owned printing presses are demanding the right to censor the newspapers they print.,42735.html

      Uganda: Amid assaults on press, Uganda police promise reforms


      Inspector General of Police Kale Kayihura is forming a new press unit of police to act as an ombudsman for complaints by journalists and as a public relations department. 'The inspector general is committed to professionalizing the police force,' Simon Kuteesa, who will run the new unit, said. 'We are not re-inventing the wheel here - it's all part of a strategic initiative.' The new unit is expected to be operational in three months, he said.

      Social welfare

      Africa: The evolution of social welfare systems


      Considering the debate generated by healthcare reform in the United States and the gradual withdrawal of the French state from public-funded social action, one might think that social protection is an endangered idea. On the contrary, the right to security is an integral component of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 22) and an important part of the Millenium Development Goals (MDG), as conceived by the United Nations. This Global Voices blog examines social welfare systems in several African countries.

      News from the diaspora

      Global: The African Diaspora in the Indian Ocean world


      Over the course of nearly 20 centuries, millions of East Africans crossed the Indian Ocean and its several seas and adjoining bodies of water in their journey to distant lands, from Arabia and Iraq to India and Sri Lanka. The African Diaspora in the Indian Ocean World traces a truly unique and fascinating story of struggles and achievements across a variety of societies, cultures, religions, languages and times.

      Haiti: Cholera and the right to water


      Scientists have shown that the cholera pathogen came to Haiti with foreign UN troops who carried the bacteria in their bodies, and whose military base was dumping its sewage into a nearby river. The imported disease has claimed more than 7,000 lives and continues to ravage communities across Haiti. Read more about the this issue on the website.

      Conflict & emergencies

      Africa: US army brigade to deploy


      A brigade will deploy to Africa next year in a pilot program that assigns brigades on a rotational basis to regions around the globe, the US Army announced in May. Roughly 3,000 soldiers - and likely more - are expected to serve tours across the continent in 2013, training foreign militaries and aiding locals.

      CAR: Security hopes improve after main rebel groups disband


      A near decade-long insurgency which stoked insecurity in the Central African Republic’s (CAR) northern regions has eased after the disbandment in May of two main rebel groups there, bringing hopes for stability. The Popular Army for the Restoration of Democracy (APRD) and the Republican Forces Union (UFR) dissolved and their fighters begun to disarm under peace agreements with the government.

      DRC: US ‘concerned’ about M23, silent on Rwanda role


      The United States said last week it is 'concerned' about a troop mutiny in the Democratic Republic of Congo and by 'recent reports of outside support' for mutineers operating under the name M23. But the US statement refrained from identifying Rwanda as the reported outside supporter of the M23 rebellion led by Gen Bosco Ntaganda. While expressing support for the DRC’s recent move to arrest Ntaganda, the US did not explicitly call on Rwanda to aid those efforts, even though Rwandan military officials are said to be supplying the M23 leader with weapons and recruits.

      Kenya: Ministers killed in helicopter crash


      Kenya has been plunged into mourning after Internal Security minister George Saitoti and his assistant Joshua Orwa Ojodeh were killed in a helicopter crash in Ngong Forest. The accident occurred on Sunday minutes after they had taken off from Wilson Airport in a new police helicopter, heading for a fundraiser in Mr Ojodeh’s Ndiwa constituency. The cause of the crash was yet to be established.

      Liberia: Border closed after attack


      Under mounting pressure, Liberia on Saturday announced it was closing its border with neighbouring Ivory Coast following a fatal attack on UN peacekeepers. Seven Nigerien UN peacekeepers died in the attack on Friday which also claimed the lives of eight civilians and an Ivorian soldier. Both the UN and the Ivorian government believe the attackers came from Liberia.

      Libya: At least 16 killed in two days of Libya clashes


      Fighting between government forces and tribal fighters in the southern Libyan town of Kufra has continued for a second day, officials said. At least 16 people have died since the clashes began on Saturday, with women and children among the dead. Libya's government has been struggling to maintain security since the ousting of Muammar Gaddafi last year.

      Mali: Rebel groups 'clash in Kidal'


      Two rebel groups that seized northern Mali two months ago have clashed following protests in the town of Kidal, witnesses say. A source told the BBC that fighting broke out between Tuareg MNLA rebels and the Ansar Dine Islamist group on the third day of protests in the town. Last month, the two groups agreed to merge and turn their vast northern territory into an Islamist state.

      Somalia: Al-Shabaab offer 10 camels for Obama's 'capture'


      A senior official of the radical Islamist Al-Shabaab group has announced that his movement was ready to reward anybody bringing in information leading to the killing or capture of top American leaders. Sheikh Fu’ad Mohamed Khalaf alias Shongole specifically mentioned US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Sheikh Shongole was reacting to a statement from the US State Department putting a bounty of $33 million for the capture of top Al-Shabaab leaders. 'We are offering 10 camels for any information concerning (Barack) Obama,' said Shongole.

      Somalia: Tension in southern Somalia as Al-Shabaab mobilise forces


      Somali militants Al-Shabaab are amassing troops in lower Juba region, reports indicate. Consequently, tension was mounting among the civilians over an imminent major military operation. 'Militants loyal to Al-Shabaab (the radical Islamist group) were Wednesday seen positioning ‘technicals’ (battle wagons mounted with machine guns, in and around the town,' a resident in Kismayu, who did not disclose his identity for security reasons, told the local media.

      Sudan: Rival Sudans fail to agree on disputed border


      Sudan and South Sudan have broken off security talks after failing to agree on a demilitarised zone along their disputed border. After 10 days of talks, the two sides were unable to agree on Friday where to draw a demilitarised buffer zone along the 1,800km-long border. Khartoum's delegation accused South Sudan of making new land claims, most importantly to the Heglig oilfield whose output is vital to Sudan's battered economy. The southern army had temporarily occupied Heglig during the recent fighting.

      Internet & technology

      Global: Study questions Twitter's role in disaster aftermath


      A study has cast doubt on the innovative role that some claim Twitter, the 'microblogging' social media tool, can play in generating new information during disasters, although it did find that 'tweets' speed up the exchange of existing information. An analysis of tweets sent by people in the United States following the emergency at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant found that most linked to traditional news outlets, such as the New York Times and CNN, for updates.

      eNewsletters & mailing lists

      South Africa: Ndifuna Ukwazi release first e-newsletter


      South African social justice organisation Ndifuna Ukwazi have released their first e-newsletter. Visit the website through the URL provided to subscribe.

      South Africa: Thinking Africa newsletter available

      2012-06-11 Africa Newsletter 6th Issue.pdf

      The second issue of the Thinking Africa Newsletter for 2012 is available. Articles include:
      - uBuntu, the Law and Public Secrets
      - Conference on Land Practices reminder
      - uBuntu and Subaltern Legality
      - Programme of the Thinking Africa 'uBuntu: Curating the Archive' colloquium, 9-20 July 2012.

      Courses, seminars, & workshops

      KILOMBO 2012: Annual Event of Kilombo Centre for Civil Society and African Self-Determination


      This is to invite you to Kilombo 2012, which is an event on Africa, Africans and Social Justice. This is going to be an annual event and the first which is Kilombo 2012 will lay the foundation for launching the Kilombo Centre for Civil Society and African Self-Determination.

      The event, which is also a festival for the ending of neo-colonialism in Africa, will take place at the Woezor Hotel, Ho, Ghana from 24th to 26th August 2012.

      Participants should register through [email protected] or phone 00233241498912.

      Registration fees are 20 US Dollars or 15 Pounds Sterling.

      There are very limited places.

      Get in touch early so that you can make necessary visa arrangements.

      Below is the content of the programme:

      Friday 24th August

      - Opening Rally - The Challenges of Post-Colonial Africa

      Saturday 25th August

      - Discussion on the book African Awakening - The Emerging Revolutions, published by Pambazuka Press

      - Sudan and the Sahel Zone Conflict: Myth or Reality

      - Crisis of Anti-Colonial Liberation Movements in the Post-Colonial Era

      - Women in the Struggle for Social Justice in Post-Colonial Africa

      - Philosophy of Social Justice and Decolonisation

      - The Post-Colonial State and the Crisis of Petit-Bourgeois Experiments

      - Culture as a facilitator of African Unity

      - Spirituality and the Struggle for Social Justice

      - Media and the Struggle for Social Justice

      Suday 26th August

      - Communication Technology and Organisng for Social Justice

      - The Challenges for Internationalism Today

      - Panafricanism: the African Continent and the Diaspora

      Closing Plenary: Ways Forward Out of Africa's Post-Colonial Crisis

      Explo Nani-Kofi

      Director, Kilombo Centre for Civil Society and African Self-Determination

      P.O. Box CT 2007

      Cantonments - Accra



      Panel discussion of Walter Rodney's How Europe Underdeveloped Africa

      2012-06-11 james flyer _ 8 june (2).jpg

      Walter Rodney's classic study, 'How Europe Underdeveloped Africa' has just been republished by Pambazuka Press. You are invited to a Panel Discussion on the book at the Cipriani Labour College, CLR James Auditorium, on Wednesday June 13 at 6 PM. Click on the link for more information.

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