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    Khartoum's continuing campaign of extermination

    Eric Reeves


    cc S M
    There is hardly any meaningful international response to the horrible suffering of up to a million Sudanese now targeted in a military campaign by President Al Bashir – who is already indicted for crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court.

    For well over a year, the world has known fully — from a wide range of sources — about military efforts by Khartoum to starve more than one million civilians in South Kordofan, and subsequently Blue Nile — overwhelmingly people of the African tribal groups in these two regions. These people are perceived by the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party (NIF/NCP) regime as the civilian base of support for the indigenous political and military rebellion by the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army-North (SPLM/A-North). The means of destruction have been various, but starvation is the potent weapon of mass destruction that is every day more fully deployed, not only in the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, but in the refugee camps in South Sudan (and to a lesser extent in Ethiopia) to which some 250,000 people have fled (OCHA Sudan Humanitarian Bulletin, October 22 – 28, 2012). Many have died during this flight or in camps that have been nearly overwhelmed by the challenges of providing humanitarian assistance in these remote regions, particularly Upper Nile State. Many more have died invisibly in Blue Nile and South Kordofan. Humanitarian indicators, discussed below in overview, are terrifying and rapidly growing worse.

    Again, the international community has known full well what was occurring, and why, since late June 2011. The consequences of Khartoum's initiation of hostilities in Blue Nile (September 1, 2011) have been equally clear from countless reports, despite the lack of access to most of the region. Refugees have told horrifying stories that have become unforgivably familiar.

    The UN Food and Agriculture Organization had declared in early October 2011 that harvests would ‘largely fail’ because of the violence Khartoum had initiated and purposefully directed at civilians and agricultural production. By December 2011 the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNet) was predicting ‘near-famine conditions’ in the Nuba Mountains by the following March (2012). And yet there were no consequential actions or commitments by the international community until early February 2012. On February 2, the United Nations (UN), the African Union (AU), and the Arab League jointly proposed a humanitarian access agreement, designed to provide critically needed food and medical deliveries in those areas controlled by the SPLA-North. A week later, the SPLM-North accepted the proposal without qualification. Since that time—over nine months ago — there has been no further movement toward actual implementation of the agreement: Khartoum continues to refuse all international humanitarian access. To be sure, the regime has changed its explanation for refusing to implement the agreement, to which it had nominally committed last June, and again in August. But the most recent comments from the regime-controlled press in Khartoum suggest retreat into a wholly predictable obduracy.

    This obduracy is captured all too well in a November 12 dispatch from Sudan Vision, which fairly trips over itself in piling lie upon lie:

    ‘Sudanese government declared a new initiative to deliver the humanitarian assistance to the affected citizens in the rebel-controlled areas in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan States, following the elapse of the tripartite initiative which became invalid after November 3rd, 2012. HAC Commissioner, Suleiman Abdul Rahman said that the new initiative will provide the humanitarian and medical assistance, adding that the initiative represents a favourable opportunity for the participation of international and regional organization to distribute the humanitarian assistance. Abdul Rahman added that the tripartite initiative did not achieve its objectives as admitted by the partners (UN, AU, AL). The partners emphasized that they faced harassment from the so-called SPLM-N which set deplorable conditions.’ (Sudan Vision, November 12, 2012, ‘Sudan Announces New Initiative to Address Humanitarian Situation in South Kordofan, Blue Nile’)’.

    It says something profoundly dismaying that the Khartoum regime feels so emboldened by international inertia and expediency that it can indulge in this bizarre concatenation of outright lies. The ‘tripartite initiative’ (of the UN, AU, and Arab League) has not become ‘invalid’: it is as valid and a great deal more urgently needed than when it was first proposed over nine months ago. On the other hand, Khartoum's ‘new initiative’ to assist ‘affected citizens in the rebel-controlled areas’ will quite certainly be a re-packaging of previous and wholly inadequate proposals, none of which begins to address the vast humanitarian crisis confronting more than 1 million people. The UN, AU, and Arab League initiative was never implemented: it is absurd to declare that it ‘did not achieve its objectives,’ a judgment certainly not rendered by any spokesperson for these organizations. Similarly, there has been no public utterance by any spokesperson to the effect that these organizations ‘faced harassment from the so-called SPLM-N, which set deplorable conditions.’ The SPLM-North set no conditions, and again signed within days of the initial ‘tripartite proposal’ last February.

    And yet despite Khartoum's mendacity and brutal obduracy, the international response will almost certainly be a reprise of unctuous handwringing and declarations of ‘demands’ that humanitarian corridors be opened. At the same time, we should expect continuing ‘engagement’ with Khartoum, engagement that extends even to discussion of lifting sanctions and providing debt relief—all this because of the agreement signed with Juba on September 27 and a deeply compromised implementing of the Southern self-determination referendum. Like Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile have been ‘de-coupled’ from the Obama administration's Sudan policy, and other international actors have been content to follow suit.

    I received today from Dr Tom Catena, the only surgeon remaining in the Nuba, more of the photographs that chronicle the effects of relentless Antonov bombing attacks in South Kordofan and Blue Nile. The victims on this occasion were two women, both in their sixties; like so many other photographs taken by Dr Catena of his patients, they are stomach-churning. I asked him in a reply email about the view from inside the Nuba Mountains of the ‘tripartite agreement’ and the international provision of humanitarian aid; his reply cuts through a great deal of the self-serving bluster from the likes of U.S. special envoy Princeton Lyman, UN head of humanitarian operations Valerie Amos, the AU's chief mediator Thabo Mbeki, and a range of voices from the European Union:

    ‘Most people here aren't aware of the tripartite agreement, and the SPLA-N leadership feels the Khartoum government will always find a way to prevent aid from reaching us. Really no one has any hope that humanitarian aid will come here as long as the [NCP regime in Khartoum] are in control.’ (email received November 12, 2012)

    The world has done nothing to convince these people that their assessment requires any revision.


    February 2, 2012: The United Nations, the African Union, and the Arab League jointly propose a reasonable and critically needed arrangement for the provision of international humanitarian assistance to acutely distressed civilian populations in South Kordofan and Blue Nile.

    February 9, 2012: The SPLM-North formally accepts the tripartite proposal.

    February 14, 2012: The members of the Security Council, ‘…call upon the Government of Sudan to allow immediate access to United Nations personnel, including access to conduct a needs assessment. The members of the Security Council further called upon the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-Northern Sector (SPLM-N) to cooperate fully with the United Nations and other humanitarian agencies and organizations, and ensure, in accordance with international law, including applicable international humanitarian law, and guiding principles of emergency humanitarian assistance, the safe, unhindered and immediate access of United Nations and other humanitarian personnel, as well as the delivery of supplies and equipment, in order to allow such personnel to efficiently perform their task of assisting conflict-affected civilian population in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile States.’ (SC/10543; AFR/2336)

    March 21, 2012: Sudan Tribune reports that Khartoum ‘has decided to withhold consent to an initiative proposed by the United Nations, African Union, and the Arab League on delivery of aid to South Kordofan pending further assessment.’

    May 2, 2012: The UN Security Council unanimously passes Resolution 2046, ‘Expressing deep concern at the humanitarian situation created by the fighting between Sudan and South Sudan, and the continued fighting in the states of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, in Sudan.’ The resolution makes a series of demands, of both Khartoum and Juba; Khartoum for its part simply ignores virtually all of these demands.

    Under Chapter 7 authority, the resolution: ‘Strongly urges Sudan and the SPLM-N to accept the tripartite proposal submitted by the African Union, the United Nations and the League of Arab States, to permit humanitarian access to the affected population in the two areas, ensuring in accordance with applicable international law, including applicable international humanitarian law, and guiding principles of emergency humanitarian assistance, the safe, unhindered and immediate access of United Nations and other humanitarian personnel, as well as the delivery of supplies and equipment, in order to allow such personnel to efficiently perform their task of assisting the conflict-affected civilian population.’

    May 14, 2012: Khartoum reiterates its rejection of all negotiations with the SPLM-North.

    June 2012: Khartoum claims to have accepted the tripartite agreement, but in fact this acceptance is wholly specious. Even the excessively cautious Valerie Amos, UN humanitarian chief, declares at the time:

    ‘While the Sudanese Government announced its acceptance of the Tripartite Proposal of the African Union (AU), the Arab League and the UN for the delivery of humanitarian assistance in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, the Government has laid out operational conditions that do not allow for the delivery of assistance by neutral parties in SPLM-N-controlled areas,’ Ms. Amos noted.

    ‘I therefore continue to call on the Government of Sudan to deliver on its stated commitment: that assistance can reach all Sudanese people in need,’ Ms. Amos said, reiterating the UN's commitment to work with all parties to ‘find an acceptable solution for the immediate delivery of assistance to all people in need.’ (UN News Centre, June 29, 2012)

    Amos made clear that the whole purpose of the tripartite agreement had been vitiated:

    ‘…the Government has laid out operational conditions that do not allow for the delivery of assistance by neutral parties in SPLM-N-controlled areas.’

    In fact, the conditions laid out by Khartoum were such that nothing changed on the ground, and the regime retained complete control over humanitarian delivery,

    ‘….based on the nine principles as mentioned below on the distribution of humanitarian aid to be carried out by the Sudanese Red Crescent (SRC) and any other NGOs approved by the Government of Sudan and observed by World Food Program (WFP) and the implementation modalities to be agreed upon.’ (Khartoum’s statement from Addis Ababa, June 27, 2012)

    August 4, 2012: In a Memorandum of Understanding signed in Addis Ababa by the SPLM-North, the Khartoum regime, and representatives of the UN, AU, and Arab League, the SPLM-North reiterates its commitment to the Tripartite Agreement, although registering concern that ‘the whole operation is dependent on the consent of the Government of Sudan on access to the SPLM/North-controlled areas.’ This reservation has proved to be more than amply justified. From the August 4 document:

    [1] ‘The Tripartite team will immediately deploy to make an assessment of the size and needs of the civilian population affected by the war within a maximum of two weeks starting from the date of signing of this memorandum;

    [2] ‘The government of Sudan agrees to a cessation of hostilities during the process of assessment and distribution of humanitarian assistance;

    [3] ‘The Government of Sudan and the tripartite partners, that is the African Union, the League of Arab States and the United Nations hereafter referred to as the two parties, agree on this Memorandum of Understanding for assessment and delivery of humanitarian assistance to the war-affected civilians in South Kordofan and Blue Nile States.’

    These terms have simply been ignored by Khartoum; nothing here specified has been accomplished; Khartoum has faced no consequences.

    September 25, 2012: Sudan Tribune reports:

    ‘Over 120 international organizations have submitted a signed letter on 21 September to the United Nations Security Council demanding that humanitarian aid to be delivered to rebel-held areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile states in Sudan. [ ] The letter stressed Khartoum's slow response to proposals to secure humanitarian access to the states, or to meet deadlines set by the international community.

    ‘The letter to UNSC reminded Khartoum of the consequences of Resolution 2046, which states that under article 41 of the UN charter; 'all parties who fail to meet their enforced obligations should face strong consequences, including the imposition of sanctions.’

    The letter states: ‘On August 5, 2012, Khartoum finally signed a memorandum of understanding with the Tripartite Partners that sets out deadlines related to the planning for and distribution of international humanitarian assistance. To date, the government has ignored the deadlines laid out in the memorandum and exhibited no indication that it intends to allow the full and unhindered delivery of aid throughout South Kordofan and Blue Nile.’

    [ Again, in May the UN Security Council, acting under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, had called on Khartoum to accept a proposal put forward jointly by the UN with the African Union and Arab League to allow humanitarian access to South Kordofan and Blue Nile. ]

    October 4, 2012: US ambassador to the UN Susan Rice declares: ‘It's long past time for the government of Sudan to take the steps necessary to implement the tripartite agreement on humanitarian access for Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, where the situation clearly remains dire and unacceptable.’

    October 9, 2012: McClatchy News reports from Nairobi:

    ‘U.S. special envoy Princeton Lyman said he'd keep pushing for aid to reach the rebel-held areas—some way, somehow. 'What we want is the tripartite agreement. Because that is the best way to get the most aid to the most people,’ Lyman said Sept. 27 in a phone interview from Ethiopia, after Sudan and South Sudan signed their deal. ‘The question for the international community is what do we do if that doesn’t happen?’

    Lyman neither answered his own question nor spoke to the larger question of why the international response to such a vast humanitarian crisis continues to be governed by the actions of a regime guilty of unending atrocity crimes.

    October 19, 2012: Agence France-Presse (Khartoum) provides an update on the tripartite agreement:

    ‘War in Sudan's South Kordofan and Blue Nile states has affected an estimated 900,000 people, but more than a year of talks has failed to get food aid into rebel zones, the UN said on Friday [October 19, 2012]. 'In Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) areas, no humanitarian staff have been able to enter from within Sudan and no food aid has been delivered, despite intensive negotiations that have been going on now for more than 16 months,’ the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said.

    ‘In one of its most strongly worded statements on the situation in the two states bordering South Sudan, OCHA said a joint initiative by the UN, Arab League and African Union for assessment and aid delivery throughout the war zone is still awaiting a 'green light.' 'Efforts to gain access to war-affected civilians have been relentless,' said OCHA. Two months ago, the government and rebels each signed memorandums with the Tripartite group to facilitate aid delivery. 'Despite various different detailed action plans that have been presented by the Tripartite since then, neither the government nor the SPLM-N have yet formally agreed on a concrete plan of action for assessment and delivery of aid,' OCHA said. 'The Tripartite has made clear that it is ready to facilitate the immediate provision and distribution of humanitarian assistance once the government and the SPLM-N agree to the plan and provide the necessary security guarantees.’

    ‘Rabbie Abdelatti Ebaid, a senior official of the ruling National Congress Party, told AFP the government is not delaying.’

    November 3, 2012: Sudan Tribune reports: ‘South Kordofan governor Ahmed Haroun vowed Saturday that no talks will be held with the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) until the defeat of the rebel group.’

    November 6, 2012: In Khartoum, the regime announces ‘the end of working according to Tripartite Agreement on Humanitarian Assistance for the two regions’ (Al-Ayam).

    Agence France-Presse reports from Khartoum: ‘There is no humanitarian crisis in war-torn South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, Sudan said on Tuesday as an international plan to get aid into the area expired without any food reaching the hungry. Despite months of talks about how to get assistance into rebel-held areas of the two border states, where fighting began more than a year ago, the number of people affected by the war has continued to increase.’

    November 7, 2012: Sudan Tribune reports:

    ‘The three parties of the humanitarian initiative for South Kordofan and Blue Nile said [they were] concerned following statements by a Sudanese officials saying his government will not extend a three month deal to reach civilians in the rebel-held areas in southern Sudan. Sudanese government and the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) failed to implement a deal brokered by the African mediators signed with the UN agencies, African Union and Arab League last August. The three-month agreement provides to deliver food and other humanitarian needs to the civilians in the areas held by the SPLM-N in South Kordofan's Nuba Mountains and some areas in Blue Nile.’

    November 12, 2012: Sudan Vision reports:

    ‘Sudanese government declared a new initiative to deliver the humanitarian assistance to the affected citizens in the rebel-controlled areas in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan States, following the elapse of the tripartite initiative which became invalid after November 3rd, 2012. HAC Commissioner, Suleiman Abdul Rahman said that the new initiative will provide the humanitarian and medical assistance, adding that the initiative represents a favourable opportunity for the participation of international and regional organization to distribute the humanitarian assistance. Abdul Rahman added that the tripartite initiative did not achieve its objectives as admitted by the partners (UN, AU, AL). The partners emphasized that they faced harassment from the so-called SPLM-N which set deplorable conditions.’ (Sudan Vision, November 12, 2012, ‘Sudan Announces New Initiative to Address Humanitarian Situation in South Kordofan, Blue Nile’)

    There is presently no alternative in sight. Clandestine U.S. efforts earlier this year were reported by McClatchy News in October:

    ‘…the U.S. rolled out a clandestine plan to send thousands of tons of food from South Sudan by road, until rains made the sole dirt track north impassable in July. U.S. officials haven’t publicly acknowledged the cross-border aid operation, but in an interview last month with Fox News' Greta Van Susteren, the Nuba Mountains rebel leader, Abdelaziz al Hilu, credited the American food aid with saving lives. 'Thanks to the American people, to the American government, that they have channelled food somewhat, and they saved thousands and thousands of lives. But it was not enough. It was not enough.’

    Not enough, indeed—not nearly enough. And although Lyman and the Obama administration have made a factitious attempt to represent this as a ‘clandestine effort,’ it is clear that they wished to appear to be doing something, as opposed to remaining utterly inert. But when Abdel Aziz says ‘it was not enough,’ this is gross understatement, though he understandably does not wish to seem ungrateful.

    There are, according to UN estimates, approximately 1 million displaced and acutely vulnerable civilians in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, and in transit to the South—and their needs are enormous. Yet one authoritative source with very substantial experience at USAID has indicated to me that no more than 3,000 tons of food were delivered into the Nuba during this year's dry season, and nothing into Blue Nile, which may in fact be the larger of the two inter-linked humanitarian crises (email received November 6, 2012). With the beginning of the serious part of the rainy season in late June, transport into South Kordofan became impossible.

    For some perspective here, humanitarian logisticians estimate that roughly 1,700 metric tons of food per month are required per 100,000 of population in need. Using the current UN figures for South Kordofan and Blue Nile, and not including Upper Nile and Unity, this means roughly 3,000 tons per week are required. This may well exceed the total amount delivered by the U.S. to the entire distressed population over the past nine months.


    [1] Letter from Nuba People, Nuba Mountains November 5, 2012

    Dear Leaders of the International Community,

    ‘We write to you from inside the Nuba Mountains and on behalf of the men, women and children who have waited in vain for your help. Since June 2011, we have been under constant attack by the Bashir regime. Hundreds of bombs have dropped on us, and missiles as well as attacks by soldiers and militia are a constant threat. In the last two weeks, bombardment by the Khartoum regime has increased intensively. Since Friday, October the 26th, the bombardment has become more brutal and covered more than a dozen of our villages. Many people have been killed, and livestock and several houses and fields of crops have been burned and destroyed. The intense bombing has begun again this week and it is a daily activity in the area.

    ‘As it is well known to you, we do not have access to food, medicine, healthcare and other basic necessities. We look around at what is left of our homes and see our family and friends weak from hunger and disease. Everywhere we look, we see children, the elderly and other vulnerable people lying on the ground helpless. The number of people dying from starvation and disease is disturbing and increasing. It is very hard for us to explain to our children what is happening when they ask us, 'Does anyone in the world know what we are going through? Why is it that no one cares about us?' For 17 months, we have been hearing you talk about us. We've heard you say that our situation is critical and that you are gravely concerned; however, we have almost given up hope that your words mean anything. [ ]

    ‘While we appreciate your commitment to remain “actively seized on the matter,” we are worried—based on our experience—that your commitment will not save our lives and the lives of our children, who have suffered long enough. Our question remains unanswered, why doesn't anyone care about us? We have a right to be protected from a brutal government and to be rescued from genocide. We have a right to have access to food and medicine like everyone else in the world. Innocent lives are being taken day and night including children, women, and the elderly right before our eyes and the world's silence is unbelievable.’

    But the world has frequently been silent in the face of a range of vast atrocity crimes committed by Khartoum, and relentless aerial bombardment of civilians and civilian agricultural production has long been one of the most egregious of these crimes.

    [2] There is an increasingly uncontrollable outbreak of Hepatitis E in the refugee camps in the border regions of South Sudan. The UN High Commission for Refugees reported from Juba (November 9, 2012):

    ‘The UN refugee agency on Friday warned that its capacity to contain an outbreak of hepatitis E among the refugee population in South Sudan was increasingly stretched at a time when funding for its emergency operation was depleted. 'The risks will grow if, as currently anticipated, we see fresh inflows of refugees from South Kordofan and Blue Nile states in neighbouring Sudan,' spokesman Adrian Edwards added. Due to insecurity and worsening humanitarian conditions in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, UNHCR staff on the ground expect thousands of new refugees to cross in the next weeks as roads become passable after the rainy season. UNHCR and its partners, including South Sudan's national health authorities, are already fighting an outbreak of hepatitis E in Upper Nile and Unity states, two regions where the disease is endemic…’

    [3] ‘Fighting is still going on in Sudan’s Blue Nile and South Kordofan states, where rebels are battling the government. Due to the escalating conflict, the UNHCR says it expects between 30,000 and 40,000 new refugees to cross into South Sudan in the coming weeks, as soon as the rainy season ends and roads become passable.’ (Voice of America [Geneva], November 9, 2012)

    [4] MSF Press release (October 31, 2012) on the psychological consequences of a war of extermination:

    ‘MSF psychologist Julia Stempel leaned over to see what the girl was drawing. A picture of a large airplane covered most of the paper. 'The children are asked to draw what frightens them the most, and almost everyone draws an airplane,' Stempel said. 'They say it's the airplanes [Antonov "bombers"] that forced them to flee.' Stempel works with five other psychosocial counsellors and ten community workers to help children and others find ways to express the feelings that come with their circumstance.’ [ ]

    ‘The chronic stress many refugees live with can manifest itself in psychosomatic symptoms such as headaches or stomach aches. And these ailments can affect not only individuals, but whole families. 'A grandmother in one of the families was suffering from a very bad depression, and just spent her day lying passive in the hut, doing this for the last three months,' Stempel said. 'The whole family lived around her in that hut, and her condition, the experiences of fleeing, plus the living conditions in the camp were so stressful for the family that one of her granddaughters stopped talking, lost appetite, and started showing depressive symptoms too. Having two members of the family suffering in that way put an extra level of stress on the family, who are already under a lot of pressure.’

    [5] The UN High Commission for Refugees (September 25, 2012), on the arduous trek made by many refugees in South Sudan:

    ‘Women, children and families fled along routes that due to conflict and the rains were dangerous and often inaccessible. Many of those who made the crossing were children and the elderly. A family of blind people crossed the border led by other village members. Women made the crossing with their newborns. They arrived in South Sudan exhausted. As the rainy season set in and the land turned into a vast swamp, UNHCR prioritized getting people from border areas to the safety of camps. 'Had the group not been relocated urgently, we would have lost hundreds, if not thousands, of lives,' says Mireille Girard, UNHCR's South Sudan representative.’ (YUSUF BATIL, South Sudan, September 25, 2012)

    In fact, many thousands of people have already died in the greater humanitarian theater; we may not have the data to create a true mortality assessment, but it is unreasonable—on the basis of evidence available—to suggest that mortality has not reached to at least this grim threshold.

    [6] Norwegian Refugee Council, September 7, 2012:

    ‘One of more than 100,000 Sudanese refugees in Upper Nile state in northern South Sudan is community leader Sila Mousa Kangi. There is no optimism or hope in Silas' voice as he explains the current situation for refugees originating from Blue Nile state, across the border in Sudan. 'I am 54 years old and I have only seen peace in very short doses. I fear that our children will suffer the same fate,' says Sila Mousa Kangi, sitting in front of his shelter made from straw and covered by a piece of plastic sheeting. 'We want sustainable peace so we can live like other people with a house and a livelihood. It is not good for people to keep asking for assistance. Many here have lost all hope.’

    ‘When we fled, we were a total of 155 people in our group, but elderly people died on the road of starvation,' says 47 year old Issa Simat, a local leader, from the Baow area in Blue Nile. The exhausted group arrived in Yusuf Batil camp on 23 May this year after a 15-day journey on foot.’

    [7] UN IRIN (September 13 and 21):

    ‘Stanlake Samkange, East and Central Africa director for the UN World Food Programme (WFP), expects more inflows into the camps as routes currently blocked by floods dry up. 'We are certainly planning for up to 30,000 more people coming in 2012. But there are many more people on the other side of the border than that,' he told IRIN. 'My biggest concern is that if this number increases significantly, then it will put additional pressure on our efforts,' he added.’

    ‘Sheikh Hamis Hamadin Isa Zaag arrived at Gendrassa refugee camp, in South Sudan’s Maban County, two weeks ago. He spoke to IRIN about fleeing the violence in Blue Nile. 'The journey was very tiresome and long. I even left most of my people behind to come alone. It took me 20 days as I was helping one of my elder relatives.’

    ‘On the way [from Markana, Damazin], I saw that most of the refugees had left most of their parents and old people behind, as many were running from air bombardments or fighting. There was also a lot of fighting. I saw people killed in front of me. The refugees went into a village and were killed by soldiers. They were killing everyone, mostly with knives. Most of the men were slaughtered using knives. At the moment, it seems some of my family have been killed—that's the information I've received—and the others have scattered. There is no way for the peace to come, but I wish there was peace coming to this country. There is nothing to eat in Blue Nile—just roots and leaves and wild fruits. There is no food, and even if you try and get out to get some food, you will be found and jailed. There is so much insecurity. It is difficult for them to move and cross the border.’

    [8] And more refugees are on the way, according to John Ging, head of OCHA in South Sudan. Ging recently warned that the crisis is far from over, or even diminishing, declaring that ‘we anticipate up to 350,000 Sudanese will be hosted in South Sudan by the end of 2013.’ This would almost double the present refugee population, putting even greater strains on relief operations that are already stretched to the breaking point.

    [9] Unity State is also poised to receive a great many more refugees, mainly from South Kordofan:

    Hundreds Flee Fresh Air and Ground Attacks and Cross to South Sudan

    ‘The UN refugee agency said Tuesday that fresh air and ground attacks in Sudan's South Kordofan state are causing a renewed population influx to South Sudan. 'About 100 refugees a day are arriving in the border town of Yida, in Unity state,' a spokesperson said, adding that the 'refugees are in poor health and without any belongings.' Some refugees told UNHCR they had also fled because of acute food shortages in South Kordofan. Many said they planned to build a shelter in Yida refuge camp before returning across the border to fetch family members’. (25 September 2012, Juba [South Sudan], UN High Commission for Refugees)

    [10] Other recent reports on the growing humanitarian crisis in the border regions:

    The October 18 humanitarian assessment by the Enough Project makes clear just how inadequate the response has been: the Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) rate is at the emergency threshold in the Nuba Mountains; 81.5 per cent of families survive on one meal a day (the figure was 9.5 per cent last year and 0 per cent the year before); Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) is over 3 per cent in all population groups sampled. SAM is a critical medical condition and without therapeutic and supplementary feeding, most children and even adults will die. The results of the daring Enough assessment were carefully reviewed by the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health prior to publication.

    Moreover, the Enough findings have been confirmed by a localized but highly detailed and revealing independent humanitarian assessment, including a finding that ‘the levels of severe’ hunger reported in Western Kadugli are particularly high, hovering at 85.4 per cent for resident households and 87.5 per cent for displaced household (confidential report: "South Kordofan Food Security Monitoring Report #1," Results from interviews conducted with households, market participants, and key informants in South Kordofan State; from the period of August 4 to August 28, 2012). Most respondents felt food security was deteriorating. The headlines to the Executive Summary of the Report tell us much that we already know, but with much greater authority:

    • ‘Food security is a concern in all locations’;

    • ‘Displaced households have been less successful in planting than resident households’;

    • ‘The outlook on the anticipated harvest is poor’;

    • ‘Health facility closures are reported in all Localities, although the numbers vary by Admin unit’;

    •’Access to drinking water varies across Admin units but appears to be particularly limited in the localities of Umm Durrain and Western Kadugli’;

    • ‘The heaviest and sustained conflict is most prevalent in the localities of Um Durrain and Western Kadugli’

    We know that Khartoum will not honour its commitments to provide humanitarian relief to these people—we know this. Will this knowledge translate into action that puts human lives—hundreds of thousands of human lives—ahead of the claims of national sovereignty by a genocidal regime? Past evidence could not be more discouraging of such hope.


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

    * Eric Reeves is based at Smith College, Northampton, MA 01063, 413-585-3326; [email protected] His new book-length study of greater Sudan (Compromising With Evil: An archival history of greater Sudan, 2007 - 2012) is available in eBook format, at no cost:

    The peoples’ position on Sierra Leonean elections

    Pan-Afrikan Community Movement


    cc N A
    This Sunday, Sierra Leoneans head to the polls where President Ernest Bai Koroma faces his main rival Julius Maada Bio. But key issues affecting the people have not featured in the campaigns.

    The Pan-Afrikan Community Movement (PACM) is a newly formed grassroots Pan-Africanist community-based movement of youths, students, women and employed and unemployed workers in urban and rural Sierra Leone. We believe and uphold the Pan-Africanist ideology of Africa’s total liberation, unity and socialist transformation. We stand for the self-emancipation and self-determination of the oppressed and exploited Afrikan masses at home and abroad. We are opposed to privatisation, racism, sexism, neo-colonialism and imperialist proxy wars in Africa. We are part of the worldwide resistance to neoliberal globalisation, the struggle for global social and economic justice and the worldwide Pan-Africanist movement.

    Ahead of the November 17 2012 presidential, parliamentary and local council elections in Sierra Leone, PACM believes that democracy means more than just voting every five years. Democracy for us means the total emancipation, involvement and reorganisation of society in all economic, social and political spheres. Democracy is not an every-five-years event; it is a process of struggle for the people to secure the full benefits of their labour and wealth of their land and to obtain the full and total emancipation of women from all backward traditional and social obstacles to their progress and to ensure that political power is exercised BY and FOR the people.

    The reality in Sierra Leone is that since the last elections in 2007, scarcely anything has changed in the lives of the majority of Sierra Leoneans. Over 70 percent of the people are still living in poverty; structural violence, corruption, inequality and identity politics remain unchanged making President Koroma’s claim of bringing ‘transformation to Sierra Leone’ a false claim.

    We in PACM are appalled that none of the political parties has a clear plan to eradicate illiteracy in their manifestoes. The current 65 percent illiteracy rate in the country is unacceptable. It seems that the APC-SLPP regime is happy to perpetuate illiteracy so that they can continue to dominate the people and rule for their selfish ends and the interest of their foreign backers – big mining companies, land grabbers, etc.

    We in PACM also express grave concern over the silence of all the political parties on the issue of the out of control large scale land grabbing by foreign multinational companies in connivance with our rulers. We note that the trend of foreign land grabbing in Sierra Leone is deepening poverty, increasing suffering, violence, hunger, landlessness, social alienation and loss of livelihoods among the poor rural farmers.

    PACM notes with alarm, the silence on the part of politicians and political parties in addressing the burning issue of economic justice and how people can more meaningfully benefit from mining, oil and other natural resources.


    Three post-conflict elections have not brought any fundamental change in the lives of ordinary people. The recent cholera epidemic is a testament to the collective neglect of the people for which the APC-SLPP are squarely responsible. The provision of the most basic needs of life – water and sanitation, health care, food, education and housing – has been neglected, with the leaders choosing instead ethnic based politics, bribery of political opponents and state violence on ordinary citizens.


    • Condemns the current political parties and their continued practice of ethnic based politics. Identity politics started under colonialism and is still used by the current neo-colonial ruling elites to serve powerful political and economic interests.

    • Calls on ordinary people of Sierra Leone to demand full accountability from ‘elected representatives’. We call on people to demand MPs regular (monthly) report to the people at constituency level. Today MPs are only interested in their own personal interests and those of private big businesses, mining companies, foreign land grabbers, etc.

    • Calls for citizens to demand that all bills put before parliament and discussed at constituency levels and voted for by constituents before such a bill is passed in parliament to enhance mass participatory democracy.

    • Urges the citizens of Sierra Leone to demand full democratization and accountability of all state institutions including the judiciary, police, military etc.

    • Demands the introduction of citizens right of recall. This means that citizens can recall an MP, a Councillor, Mayor or even the President at any time if they deem him/her unsuitable or not working in their interests.

    • Condemns any attempt by politicians to engage in violence or instigate violence during the elections. Youths cannot be blamed for the violence as politicians are the real instigators of violence for their selfish interests.

    • Calls on the masses to struggle for their own interests - clean water for every citizen, decent housing fit for human beings, quality education, decent pay and clean environment, etc.

    • Maintains that workers are the key to social transformation. Workers should demand a better life for themselves and engage in Class Struggle – the process by which the exploited and disposed workers and peasants struggle against exploitation and “owners” of banks, factories and mines for a fair distribution of wealth and the collective ownership of the means of production. Working class victory always leads to improvements in living conditions of workers, peasants and the masses generally.

    • Calls for the recognition of full labour rights and right to work, an end to casualisation of labour, living wages for all workers and right to organise and form trade unions.

    • Demands the nationalisation of all minerals – iron ore, rutile, diamond, gold, oil, gas and other strategic economic areas, under worker/community control to serve the socio-economic interests of ordinary people.
    • Calls on workers to demand six months paid maternity leave and benefits plus free child-care facilities in all places of work.

    • Calls on workers, farmers, unemployed, students, youths and grassroots groups to build mass organisations to demand their full political, economic and social rights.

    • Calls on the masses of Sierra Leone to advocate and struggle for a just egalitarian society.

    Down with elections violence!

    The people united will never be defeated!


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

    * The Pan-Afrikan Community Movement can be reached at: [email protected]

    Libya all in? Failed Nato mission exposes US generals

    Horace G. Campbell


    cc A M
    The extramarital affair cited for the resignation of CIA chief Gen Petraeus is insignificant by far compared to his belonging to a section of US military and intelligence elite pursuing a complex right-wing global agenda.

    Carter Ham has been removed as head of the US Africa Command (AFRICOM). General Petraeus resigned from the CIA on November 9. Rear Adm. Charles M. Gaouette was reassigned on October 26 as the commander of the USS John C. Stennis strike group. These three changes at the top of the US military establishment are all related to the failed NATO intervention in North Africa and the subsequent war and killings that have been unleashed by militias in Libya, especially in Benghazi. These changes exposed the new autonomy and war fighting capabilities that were being experimented where the CIA and the leaders of the military command structures such as AFRICOM and Central Command (CENTCOM) made policy independent of the executive branch and civilian leadership. This experiment shattered with devastating consequences for the entire military apparatus ensnaring generals, financial speculators, media specialists on the military and politicians.

    On October 18, 2012, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced that President Obama will nominate General David Rodriguez to succeed General Carter Ham as commander of U.S. Africa Command. Carter Ham had taken over as commander of AFRICOM from General William ‘Kip’ Ward on March 8, 2011 and had been placed before the international news as the person in charge of the NATO-led intervention in Libya, when it was assumed that the intervention would be over in one month. This war dragged on for more than one year, and a year later, after the NATO forces announced ‘success’ in Libya, the battles with the sponsored militias led to the killing of the US Ambassador to Libya on September 11, 2012. One month after the death of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others, (one State Department high tech specialist and two CIA operatives) in the US ‘facility’ in Benghazi, the internal investigations into the US military response led to the nomination of General David Rodriquez. If and when David Rodriquez is confirmed by the US Senate, AFRICOM will have been led by three different commanders in less than four years.

    Two days after Barack Obama was re-elected the President of the United States, on November 9, it was announced that General David Petraeus, a retired four-star general and Director of the Central Intelligence Agency was resigning from his position. David H. Petraeus, who had courted the press and academia to build a reputation as a successful soldier-scholar, resigned suddenly as C.I.A. director after evidence of an extramarital affair began to come into the public arena. Inside Washington, the extramarital affair was an open secret that there was a relationship with the biographer who had written, All In: The Education of General David Petraeus. This book was published in January 2012 and when Paula Broadwell appeared on the Daily Show in January to promote her biography of General Petraeus, she was full of innuendo so that those who could read the subtext of her message could discern what she was attempting to communicate. The corporate media reported that the extramarital affair had been uncovered by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and that it reflected ‘poor judgment’ on the part of the general. Between October 18, when the Commander of Africom was relieved, and November 9, when General Petraeus resigned, there had been a major effort to present information on Benghazi that would influence the outcome of the presidential elections of November 6. In military parlance, this effort of the neo-conservatives to place responsibility for the Benghazi debacle on the White House would have been a military information operation. The very close and intimate relationship between the US media, academia and the military had been refined in the new war fighting template that had been experimented since the passing of the Patriot Act and the integration between the media, high tech companies and robotic unmanned weapons of death, called drones. In this war fighting template, grand failures such as the complete fiasco in Iraq and the massive drug war in Afghanistan had been covered up with journalists and academics serving the interests of one branch of the military. This cover-up has been buttressed by partisan accounts of the role of differing Generals. The most recent book, by Thomas Ricks, The Generals: American Military Command from World War II to Today, was one representation of the new embrace between the media and sections of the military establishment. In that book, numerous generals were critiqued for their incompetence and lack of vision. Tom Ricks was joining an argument that many of these Generals should have been fired. Of General Petraeus, Tom Ricks was full of praise noting that, Petraeus showed ‘ real independence of thought ... he is an adaptive general.’ In that book, Petraeus was one with good judgment while others such as Tommy Franks and General Casey were compared to General William Westmoreland, poster general of failure in Vietnam.

    The double speak and web of sex/intrigue/corruption in the military is now blown wide open for the world to see where generals such as John Allen, Commander of the US military in Afghanistan who was supposed to be in the midst of a war, had time and space to send 20-30,000 pages of email to Jill Kelley, the woman in Tampa, Florida, who was seen by. General Petraeus’s mistress as a rival for his attentions. Media hype about ‘inappropriate communication’ with Jill Kelley cannot divert attention from the realities of the current state of warfare and insecurity in Libya where over 50,000 have lost their lives, since NATO intervened with the ’responsibility to protect.’

    For the peoples of Libya, the United Nations and the peace community, this unfolding Petraeus scandal is of particular interest because of the close relationships between the oil companies, western intelligence/military agencies and the marauding militias that are now coercing Libyan citizens. The failure of the counter-insurgency strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan had now come out in Libya. It is All in. When the information about the attack on the US ‘facility’ in Benghazi was first brought to light, there had been confusion. Was the space that was attacked a ‘consulate,’ a State Department ‘facility, ’a CIA safe house, or indeed a prison for captured militias? This confusion took attention away from the reality that elements in the military had formulated a policy to align with certain militia groups in Eastern Libya and that these militias (sometimes called jihadists) had in the past been linked to groups that the US called ‘terrorist organizations.’ France, the CIA, and the AFRICOM had aligned with these jihadists to destabilize Libya, freeze billions of dollars of assets, execute Gaddafi and kept the alliance going using Libya as a rear base in the current drive for regime-change in Syria.

    The Republicans had sought to benefit from the confusion and disinformation that had been spun by the intelligence and the military about what were the real causes of the death of the ambassador in Benghazi. There had been hearings called before the Republican-controlled Congress, the State Department issued statements, the CIA issued a timeline of the events in Benghazi on the night of September 11 and the conservative media sought to politicise the events to present a picture of incompetence on the part of the Obamas Administration. With every press release and timeline that was presented there was information that posed new questions about the rot and web of corruption of the US military. After General David Petraeus resigned, it was reported in the US press that he had travelled to Libya at the end of October to carry out his own investigation (some would say cover-up). No sooner had this information came out than it was revealed that the CIA had been holding Libyan militias as prisoners in the CIA annex in Benghazi. This information, which was delivered by Paula Broadwell in a speech before the University of Denver on October 26, deepened the intrigue about what was going on in Libya.

    Petraeus had been the commander of the US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan at a moment in the history of the United States when military information operations were as important as weapons. According to the US military doctrine in this new kind of warfare there had been the struggle to control the narrative. The US military could never control the narrative on Africa because the history of white supremacy and chauvinism precluded a clear understanding of the dynamics of self-determination in Africa. In the ten years of the absolute failures of the US military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, this effort to control the narrative had involved a massive disinformation campaign against US citizens. In the specific case of Libya, the corporate media had presented the ‘end of the war’ as a victory for the forces of NATO. The truth was never divulged that there is still fighting going on in Libya with the most recent battles at Bani Walid an explicit statement on the ongoing war.

    This ‘successful’ NATO intervention had been sold as the narrative until the death of Ambassador Stevens unfolded the layered nature of the war. Between the removal of General Carter Ham and the resignation of General Petraeus there had been the replacement of Rear Adm. Charles M. Gaouette as the commander of the USS John C. Stennis strike group. The full back story relating to Petraeus and Libya is still unfolding, but for this week we want to focus on how structures, such as the US Africa command, sought to function in a world as if the Command was a parallel government with its own access to AID resources, financing, health providers, private military contractors, and access to aircraft carrier strike groups such as the John Stennis. This was a military and intelligence integration, independent of the executive that was out of control and establishing policy.

    Carter Ham selected by the Crusaders in the US military

    When the U.S. Africa Command was launched in October 2007, William E. ‘Kip’ Ward, a United States Army four-star general, served as Commander from October 1, 2007 to March 8, 2011. General Ward, an African American, was demoted to a three-star Lieutenant General, and is now scheduled for retirement. Lt. General William Ward had been quickly removed from AFRICOM after the passing of Resolution 1970 in February 2011 when the NATO top brass and the U.S. intelligence agencies knew of the plot against the people of Libya which was to be routed through AFRICOM. As an African American Ward had developed very close relationships with African generals and politicians, even those who had been publicly opposing the US AFRICOM. Ward had been removed and demoted on the charge that he had spent excessive amounts of money allowing his family members to fly on government planes. Here was an officer who had been flying with his wife and family, disgraced by the army high command at the same moment while General Petraeus was exhibiting ‘poor judgment’ with Paula Broadwell. In November 2012, General William ‘Kip’ Ward was stripped of one of his four stars for misuse of military funds when he was head of the US Africa command. He was also ordered to repay $82,000.

    General Carter Ham had been confirmed by the US Senate in November 2010 to become the next Commander of U.S. Africa Command but the revolutionary upsurge in Tunisia and Egypt hastened the emplacement of General Ham and he assumed the post on March 8, 2011. At that moment, the US military had been divided between those who I termed the Rocks and the Crusaders. See ‘US Military and Africom: Between the rocks and the crusaders.’ Pambazuka News, March 31, 2011

    In that article I had argued that the new head of the US Africa Command was based on the selection by the Crusaders. The term Crusaders first appeared for a wider audience beyond the peace and social justice forces when Seymour Hersh used the term in an article in Foreign Policy Magazine. Then Seymour Hersh revealed that there was a faction of the US military known as ‘Crusaders, that had taken over the army.’ Hersh asserted that these Crusaders were bent on intensifying a war against Islam, and viewed themselves as protectors of Christianity. According to the article, Hersh maintained that these neoconservative elements dominate the top echelons of the US military, including figures such as former commander of US forces in Afghanistan General Stanley McChrystal and Vice Admiral William McRaven. Hersh said, ‘What I'm really talking about is how eight or nine neoconservative, radicals if you will, overthrew the American government. Took it over.’

    In May 2009, four months after the inauguration of President Barack Obama, Harper’s magazine carried a lengthy report that placed General David Petraeus at the heart of the Crusaders. The magazine carried a very detailed article on the role of the Crusaders in the military, entitled, ‘Evangelical Proselytization Still Rampant in U.S. Military.’ In this article we are alerted to the numerous fronts of the Crusaders. The information in the magazine article discussed a book published in 2005 by Lieutenant Colonel William McCoy, titled Under Orders: A Spiritual Handbook for Military Personnel. According to the article this book outlined an ‘anti-Christian bias’ in the US, and sought to counter it by making the case for the ‘necessity of Christianity for a properly functioning military.’ McCoy’s book was endorsed by General David Petraeus, who said: ‘Under Orders should be in every rucksack for those moments when soldiers need spiritual energy.’

    The war in Libya gave the Crusaders the opportunity to destroy a stable society in North Africa and unleashed 1,700 militias in the society. Not only did the Libyan invasion enable the Crusaders an opportunity to create havoc, but it placed great strains within Africa with the fallout from Libya unleashing instability all across northwest Africa. Carter Ham had been handed the responsibility to be the commander in the US Africa Command after Gen. Stanley McChrystal had been sacked. Petraeus was nurturing the media and academics to realize his ambitions and we now know that the arrogance and haughtiness of Petraeus ensured a high tolerance for ideas of European exceptionalism and the innate superiority of US citizens of European descent.

    The US Africa Command deepened the strategic concepts of General Petraeus to mobilize ‘dark’ forces to fight wars. This was based on the mobilization of financial resources and personnel outside the formal structures of the US military with the heavy use of the Central Intelligence Agency and Private Military Contractors. Nick Turse has chronicled this new direction in the planning and fighting plan of the military establishment in the book, The Changing Face of Empire: Special Ops, Drones, Spies, Proxy Fighters, Secret Bases, and Cyberwarfare, (Haymarket Books, 2012). Earlier this year Turse was been involved in a debate with Col Davis of AFRICOM over whether the US military presence was growing very fast in Africa. See ‘Fast-growing U.S. military presence in Africa.’ The debate with director of the U.S. Africa Command Office of Public Affairs, disputing in some detail a number of Turse’s points, illustrated just how sensitive the AFRICOM bureaucracy had become about the new forms of warfare with proxy fighters, special ops and drones. (See basic debate

    General Petraeus found the perfect space to set up an alternative military/intelligence policy-making unit when he requested that he be placed as head of the Central Intelligence Agency when he sought to flee the web of drugs and corruption in Afghanistan in 2011. According to the New York Times, Petraeus had blurred the lines between spies and soldiers in secret missions abroad.

    ‘The appointments of General Petraeus and Mr. Panetta were the latest evidence of a significant shift over the past decade in how the United States fights its battles — the blurring of lines between soldiers and spies in secret American missions abroad. …. General Petraeus aggressively pushed the military deeper into the C.I.A.’s turf, using Special Operations troops and private security contractors to conduct secret intelligence missions. As commander of the United States Central Command in September 2009, he also signed a classified order authorizing American Special Operations troops to collect intelligence in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iran and other places outside of traditional war zones.’ See


    It was the alliance of the Crusaders that had ensnared the State Department and the US diplomatic forces in the war in Libya. Ambassador Stevens had become a cheerleader for this cooperation between Special Operations Command and private military contractors. Christopher Stevens had left his position in the embassy in Tripoli in February 2011 to coordinate this kind of warfare in Benghazi. When NATO declared victory in October 2011, Christopher Stevens was selected as ambassador to Libya and by May 2012 he was back in Libya. However, the principal base for the Special Ops and private security intrigue was in Benghazi where the CIA was running a base for the recruitment of ‘extremists’ to fight in Syria. Stevens was caught in a battle between militias and the CIA. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, information management officer Sean Smith and CIA agents Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty were killed in the Benghazi attack on Sept. 11-12. When the news was first reported, Woods and Doherty had been identified as private Security contractors in order to divert attention away from the CIA in the Benghazi battle.

    Sean Smith, the information manager of the State Department, was a symbol of the geeks who had been mobilized for the new kind of military posture of the United States. After his passing there was mourning in the wired community. According to the New York Times, ‘Mr. Smith was an avid player of an online multiplayer game called Eve Online, in which hundreds of thousands of participants across the globe took on roles like pirates or diplomats in a science fiction setting. Mr. Smith’s online name was ‘vile rat.’ His experience was indicative of how the US military had mobilized Smith’s experience in both real and virtual worlds. Coded messages were shared in this virtual world to serve the interests of the military intelligence forces that were operating outside of the policy framework of the government.

    Sean Smith has been called a maven by his fellow gamers who have been mourning his passing. Drawing from the book by Malcolm Gladwell on The Tipping point, Smith was compared to those mavens or connectors who are ‘information specialists’, or ‘people we rely upon to connect us with new information.’ These mavens or connectors had become crucial for the new forms of warfare where the lines between the virtual war and real wars are blurred. Increasingly, the gamers draw extensively from real situations so that many of the video games are actual simulations of possible battle scenarios. The conservative militarists who conceive the masculinist forms of entertainment only recently brought out Call of Duty: Black Ops II that featured a computer animated David Petraeus as Secretary of Defense.

    Sean Smith found out tragically that real war is not a game.

    From the books of Bob Woodward we do know that former General Jack Keane (now of the Board of the Institute for the Study of War) is one of the most energetic forces aligned with the Petraeus wing of the military/intelligence establishment. The fact that Jack Keane came forward as the chief explainer for the National Public Radio (NPR), about the CIA timeline of the events in Benghazi (where Sean Smith and Christopher Stevens) died gave away the fact that Petraeus was heavily involved in the events of September 11/12 , 2012.

    It was in this interview on November 2 that Jack Keane told the world of the decision of General Carter Ham to ask for the National Mission Response Force to be deployed to Benghazi. The NMRF is a classified force based on the East Coast of the United States, 24/7 on alert, the shortest alert string we have to go anyplace in the world. In this interview Keane told the US public,

    ‘Now, those were ground forces and there were no other forces that were available and that's why he had to request forces from outside of AFRICOM's command and control. General Ham also requested a similar force that is part of the European command that - this is a classified force, special operations again. They were in central Europe training. They moved them to a base, got them equipped for combat and moved them to Sigonella. And when they arrived there, they also were told that the CIA annex had been evacuated. The problem we have is AFRICOM has no assigned forces stationed in anywhere near Libya. So we had to depend - he had to depend on alerting forces to come from the continent of Europe and the continent of North America to participate in a firefight.’

    This information on the deployment of forces by the Commander of AFRICOM was veiled but there is enough in the interview to grasp the fact that Carter Ham was drawn into a battle which the US Africa Command was not equipped for. When the Pentagon carried out its investigation about what happened in Benghazi, Carter Ham was relieved of his post as commander of AFRICOM. He had not served the usual three years. General Petraeus journeyed to Libya after Carter Ham was relieved of his post hoping to save his reputation and the forms of warfare and destruction that he had refined.


    General Petraeus had been an ambitious officer from the US military who had achieved international notoriety based on how he harnessed the resources of the media to burnish his image. Petraeus was known as an ambitious officer from the time that he was at West Point when he grasped that marrying the daughter of the superintendent of the WestPoint military academy would enhance his career. Holly Knowlton was from a historical military family in the USA whose father Gen. William A. Knowlton had been serving as head of West Point military academy when Petraeus was a cadet. Petraeus graduated in 1974 from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. , and two months before his graduation, he married Holly. Petraeus fancied himself as a soldier scholar so he pursued advanced degrees at Princeton writing a doctoral dissertation on ‘The American Military and the Lessons of Vietnam.’

    Petraeus became adept at mobilizing academics, especially social scientists, to abet his ‘ambitions.’ It was the relationship with one such publicist that brought out the full extent of the ambitious maneuvering of General Petraeus. Inside the US military, Petraeus had been known by the traditional officers as one who would do anything to ‘advance’ his career. His close relationship with George W. Bush and the ‘success’ of the surge in Iraq now stands as part of his reputation. Petraeus was a figure of disunity within the military, especially because of his close relationship to the neoconservatives. One retired officer posed the question in this way, ‘Was General David Petraeus the heroic figure his press releases suggested or a piece of fiction created, packaged and presented to the American people by the Bush Administration and its Neocon allies in the media and academia as the poster boy for counterinsurgency? (See Col. DOUGLAS MACGREGOR, Ret., The Petraeus Saga: Epitaph for a Four Star,

    The full history of General David Petraeus is now in full display but what is not widely known is how he was really a work of fiction created, packaged and promoted to the American people. Most citizens in the United States are not aware of the immense suffering imposed on the peoples of Iraq based on the ‘surge’ of General Petraeus. Inside the military there had been great differences among the officer corps and efforts to understand the experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq led to the publication of the major study entitled Decade of War. The Joint Staff study of the post-9/11 wars had been an effort by the military to understand why the US military had been a failure caught in the quagmire of corruption and drug wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    There had been no shortage of scholarly texts that had explored in great detail how the United States corrupted Afghanistan. One writer from the Washington Post was explicit when he wrote, ‘Afghan corruption, and how the U.S. facilitates it,’:

    ‘It is time that we as Americans — in government, in the media, and as analysts and academics — took a hard look at the causes of corruption in Afghanistan. The fact is that we are at least as much to blame for what has happened as the Afghans, and we have been grindingly slow to either admit our efforts or correct them.’

    Other established military specialists such as Anthony Cordesman had written extensively on theft and waste in Afghanistan. It was left to the peace writers such as Alfred McKoy to write on ‘Can Anyone Pacify the World's Number One Narco-State? The Opium Wars in Afghanistan.’

    While the name of Petraeus did not explicitly surface in these reports on drugs and corruption, his high profile as the top commander in Afghanistan and as head of the US Central Command (CENTCOM) brought a focus on him. As an adept manipulator of the media in the refinement of Military Information Operations, Petraeus nurtured the press and one of the clearest expression can be found in the new book, by Thomas Ricks, The Generals: American Military Command From World War II to Today. In this book, generals such as Tommy Franks were assailed in the same vein as Petraeus was venerated. Petraeus was mobilizing the same fawning relationship with Paula Broadwell. Petraeus had met Broadwell in 2006 while she was operating between US military intelligence and Harvard, but this relationship could not be deepened until after the passing of Gen. William A. Knowlton in 2008.


    Petraeus had endeared himself to neocons and the Christian fundamentalists as a good example of the West Point's Cadet Honor Code. The Honor Code reads simply that, ‘A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do.’

    Because of his endorsement of Lieutenant Colonel William McCoy’s Under Orders: A Spiritual Handbook for Military Personnel, Petraeus was on the radar of the right. It is not by accident that of the top politicians calling Petraeus at this time was George W. Bush. Bob Woodward in his book Obama’s Wars documented facts of the disrespect exhibited from a section of the military (Crusaders) to Obama. It is important for readers to grasp the deep arrogance of Petraeus in relation to Obama. Much of this has come out in the formulation that Petraeus attempted to ’box in’ the president over the deployment of troops to Afghanistan. Bob Woodward has recounted for history the back and forth between Obama and Petraeus and General Stanley A. McChrystal. Stanly Mc Chrystal had engineered his exit from the corruption of Afghanistan by making explicit comments about Obama which he knew would get him out of the opium war in Afghanistan.

    Barack Obama immediately appointed General Petraeus to this position as Commander in Afghanistan. Petraeus understood the stakes of the legacy of generals and it was based on his sense of history that he supported the project of Paula Broadwell to write his biography. Douglas MacGregor described the two in this way, ‘Broadwell and Petraeus were simply two people with converging agendas.’

    Between the biography of Broadwell and the book of Thomas Ricks, Petraeus was of the view that his historical legacy was secure. Inside the military there had been a major debate among the officer corps on whether officers such as Petraeus should be held accountable. Lt. Col. Paul Yingling had written a widely discussed article in the Armed Forces Journal, ‘A failure in generalship.’ With the Crusaders taking over the military, officers who followed the line of Petraeus were looked upon favourably.

    According to the profile of Petraeus by the New York Times, ‘Mr. Petraeus had been the most prominent American military commander over the past decade, the architect of the 2007 troop surge in Iraq. He stepped into Gen. Colin L. Powell’s shoes as the face of the military, and became a figure extolled on both sides of Washington’s partisan divide.’ The New York Times was fully aware of the divide between the Rocks and the Crusaders and how Obama had relied on Colin Powell to rally the Rocks to checkmate the Crusaders.

    We now know that the Obama team was not complacent as the activities of General Petraeus were being monitored. Top operatives in the administration had kept an eye on the presidential ambitions of Petraeus and Petraeus had assured Rahm Emmanuel that he was not planning to run for president in 2012. In the supportive profile of General Petraeus provided by the New York Times we are told,

    ‘Ms. Broadwell became a fixture around the Kabul headquarters of the American-led coalition in Afghanistan soon after General Petraeus assumed command in June 2010. She was seen as ambitious and as a striver who aimed to join Washington’s national security elite, and she drew resentment from officers for playing up her connection to their boss.’

    Six months after General Petraeus assumed command in Kabul and was mentoring his biographer the administration appointed Holly Knowlton Petraeus as an assistant director of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, charged with advocating on behalf of service members and their families. History will later reveal the extent of the contacts between Michele Obama and Holly Knowlton at a moment when insiders in Washington understood fully the innuendos of Paula Broadwell when she had appeared on the Daily Show.


    Weeks after the battles between the competing militias in Benghazi that claimed the lives of the CIA operations and the US ambassador, sections of the US media sympathetic to the Crusaders ‘seized on a series of reports by conservative media outlets to make the incendiary charge shortly before the election that four Americans had died because of the administration’s negligence.’

    General Petraeus said nothing publicly, but from the reports in the media and from his quick trip to Libya, it was manifest that there was a big project of damage limitation. Sections of the Conservative media had been so secure that the narrative of the adminstration’s negligence had taken hold that William Kristol, the conservative editor of The Weekly Standard, concluded that the agency was pointing its finger at the White House, which he suggested must have refused the requested intervention. ‘Petraeus Throws Obama Under the Bus’ was the headline on the Weekly Standard’s blog.

    With the timeline of the Benghazi incident presented by the CIA, the blog of William Kristol and the spin presented to National Public Radio by Jack Keane, there was only one more event that would protect General Petraeus from being exposed completely. This was the elections on November 6, 2012.

    Benghazi and Libya did not become the issue in the election in the way that the Conservatives and Crusaders had hoped. The alliance of peace and justice forces re-elected Barack Obama on November 6. Two days after the re-election Petraeus resigned.

    We are told by the media that the first time the president learnt of the investigation of the relationship between Paula Broadwell and David Petraeus was on Thursday November 8 when Petraeus offered his resignation. How would Eric Cantor know the full details of the Broadwell/Petraeus saga while the President did not know? Press reports are that the Attorney General Eric Holder had been notified as far back as the summer. It defies credibility to read that Barack Obama did not know of the FBI probe of General David Petraeus,

    ‘White House officials said they were informed on Wednesday night that Mr. Petraeus was considering resigning because of an extramarital affair. On Thursday morning, just before a staff meeting at the White House, President Obama was told. That afternoon, Mr. Petraeus went to see him and informed him that he strongly believed he had to resign. Mr. Obama did not accept his resignation right away, but on Friday, he called Mr. Petraeus and accepted it.’

    Military historians will, however, understand why the President of the United States had to sleep on the decision to accept the resignation of the most renowned general in the United States. After all, the influence of Petraeus among journalists and the Crusaders was well known. Petraeus had served as Commanding General of Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center (CAC) located there. As commander of CAC, Petraeus had been responsible for oversight of the Command and General Staff College and 17 other schools, centers, and training programs as well as for developing the Army's doctrinal manuals, training the Army's officers, and supervising the Army's center for the collection and dissemination of lessons learned.

    ‘During his time at CAC, Petraeus and Marine Lt. Gen. James N. Mattis jointly oversaw the publication of Field Manual 3-24, Counterinsurgency, the body of which was written by an extraordinarily diverse group of military officers, academics, human rights advocates, and journalists who had been assembled by Petraeus and Mattis.’

    This writer will maintain the healthy skepticism that Obama’s decision to withhold the acceptance of the resignation of Petraeus was based on the calculated step by step approach with the military that had been adopted since 2009. This writer will also withhold judgement on the recent effusive praise of Obama for Petraeus at his press conference on November 14,2012.

    There were many serving Generals who were linked militarily and socially to General Petraeus and the fallout of the web of Petraeus is now becoming more known. The information that the top commander in Afghanistan, John Allen, had ‘inappropriate communication’ with Jill Kelly, with 20-30,000 pages of email has only served to entice citizens in relation to the unfolding story. What is of importance is that John Allen followed the military doctrines of Petraeus in Iraq and Afghanistan. Even more significantly, is the fact that Allen was a supporter of the new Counterinsurgency form of destabilization that involved private military contractors.


    The Petraeus affair has served to focus on the salacious details of the extra-marital affair of General Petraeus overlooking the more fundamental question of the forms of military destruction that have been unleashed on Iraq, Afghanistan and now Libya. Within the US military establishment there had been a raging debate on whether generals should be accountable to civilian leadership. The resignation of General Petraeus, the removal of Carter Ham of Africa Command and the redeployment of Rear Adm. Charles M. Gaouette have now brought back the question of civilian control over the military. Despite the new book by Tom Ricks that had been crafted to save the reputation of Petraeus and the biography which was supposed to place Petraeus on the same platform as historic US generals, the new forms of unchecked warfare brought down the top officers of the COIN strategy of Petraeus and the Crusaders.

    Within a democratic society, the military is supposed to provide advice to military leaders and military officers are not supposed to deploy troops to engage with militias without the authorization of the civilian leadership. The NATO intervention in Libya and the subsequent CIA base in Benghazi had been an expensive experiment in new forms of warfare that brought about destruction and the deaths of thousands. After the information on CIA detention centers during the war in Iraq there had been an outcry about CIA private prisons. There are citizens in Libya who can come forward to get out the truth about the charges of Paula Broadwell that the CIA was holding prisoners in its ‘facility’ in Libya.

    US foreign policy makers had resisted the call by sections of the United Nations Security Council for a review of the NATO military operations in Libya. Through the United Nations Human Rights Council there has been a major effort by peace activists from the global south to bring private military contractors under international oversight. The Human Rights Council has established an ‘open-ended intergovernmental working group to consider the possibility of elaborating an international regulatory framework on the regulation, monitoring and oversight of the activities of private military and security companies.’

    The United States and Britain took the lead in opposing oversight of private military contractors. Commanders of CENTCOM and AFRICOM have operated over the past five years as if they were running parallel government. The war on terror had inspired the intellectual climate on counter-terror and the rationale for the bureaucratic structure of the unified command which enabled the military to also be a source of ‘independent’ policy creation.

    There was no oversight when the military budget placed unlimited resources under the control of military commanders. Why would the US AFRICOM dig wells in East Africa or hand out school books? These activities were all part of the public relations exercise to plant the idea that the US Africa Command was doing humanitarian work in Africa. The confirmation hearings for General Rodriquez will provide another opportunity to expose the CIA/Africom failure in Libya. It is well publicized by African scholars that the US Africa command has been deployed as an auxiliary force to protect US oil companies. In this protection game, there had been some sections of the top military apparatus who ventured to state explicitly that the role of Africom was supposed to check Chinese influence in Africa. General Petraeus had aggressively pushed the military deeper into the C.I.A.’s turf, using Special Operations troops and private security contractors to conduct secret intelligence missions and for fighting. As commander of the United States Central Command Petraeus had refined the trick of fighting with one group and then turning against them later. This double-cross game was taking hold in Libya in order to set back peace and reconstruction in Libya for decades so that Libya would morph into another Somalia.

    With the millions of dollars available for suborning journalists and academics and with the complicit media, the narrative about the success of AFRICOM had been widely sold within the United States. It is this attempt to control the narrative that had led to the widespread view in the United States that the NATO operation in Libya was a success. The death of Ambassador Stevens shattered this myth. The firing of Carter Ham uncovered the ways in which the CIA and sections of the military were making decisions running policy independent of the civilian leadership.

    When one connects the financial dots between CIA front companies such as IN –Q-Tel, oil companies and oil producers, one can see that global capital is also a partner with the military industrial complex and the need for perpetual war on terrorism. That is the circle which must be broken by those who seek peace.

    Petraeus and his supporters had been confident that the circle of war and destruction would continue for generations. With the support of the media Petraeus had been confident that the full details of the destruction in Libya and alliance with the militias could be kept out of the public domain. The full story is unfolding. The peace and justice forces must intensify the call for the disbandment of the US Africa Command. Africa needs cooperation and support for reconstruction. Libya needs the support of the entire international community to rein in the militias and to rebuild the society. It is time for the peace movement to refocus on the real activities of Petraeus, not on the so called extramarital affair. In fact, some commentators in Europe have commented that in Europe some generals place such information on the gossip circuit to enhance their reputation. The peace and justice forces need to focus on the interconnections between the departure of Petraeus, Carter Ham and Rear Adm. Charles M. Gaouette.


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

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

    * Horace Campbell is Professor of African American Studies and Political Science at Syracuse University. He is also a Special invited Professor at Tsinghua University, Beijing. He is the author of the forthcoming book, ‘Global NATO and the catastrophic failure in Libya’.

    Nigeria’s power privatisation will be a disaster

    A call for democratic public ownership and management of the power sector

    Kola Ibrahim


    cc D A
    Nigeria is handing over the country’s strategic power sector to private investors ostensibly to improve service delivery. This is being done despite the glaring and costly failure of privatization in other sectors. Nigerians should resist this fraud.

    Despite all attempts by the capitalist ruling class in Nigeria and its big business town criers to portray the privatisation of the electricity sub-sector in good light, the reality has continued to show that it is nothing but sheer fraud and deceit. It is an attempt to rob the public in the interest of the few rich in Nigeria and globally using the general disillusionment in the current state of the nation’s power sector characterised by erratic power supply and exploitation of people through dubious bills. More than this, the current attempt at auctioning the state utility corporation, Power Holding Corporation of Nigeria (PHCN), again reflects the bankruptcy of the rent-seeking, predatory and clearly unproductive capitalist class in Nigeria – both in politics and big business. The privatisation of the electricity sub-

    has nothing to do with solving the horrifying experience Nigerians have been made to go through with the virtual collapse of electricity infrastructures; itself caused by the deliberate plundering and sabotaging of the corporation by the capitalist class in both big business and politics. It is, on the contrary, a means by which big businesses across the board, both local and foreign, plan to profit from the misery and frustration of the generality of Nigerians.

    As Nigerian government-organised electricity privatisation is being further enmeshed in chronic fraud and deceit, the labour movement especially must take a clear revolutionary stand against this corruption-ridden policy. This privatisation if allowed, will lead to a massive catastrophe for the nation’s economy and cause untold hardship for the working and poor people who are already living on the fringe of poverty. While government may seem to be having its ways for now in the power privatisation madness, the impending catastrophe and misery it will ultimately bring will make the necessity for mass struggle against privatisation necessary. This is why the working class movement and its leadership must get the perspective right, and start in earnest to mobilise vigorously and aggressively to stop this policy. One immediate step in this direction should be a 48-hour warning strike and protest, and mass production of educative materials to enlighten the mass of the working and poor people. It is against this background that this perspective is put forward. Labour leadership, both in the electricity sector and central unions, must mobilise to demand for democratic public ownership. More important is the need for the working class movement to begin the process of building a working class political platform as a counterweight to parties of corruption and privatisation in place today.


    The Nigerian capitalist governments, led by the Goodluck Jonathan/PDP regime, have not hidden their bias for this fraudulent process. This explains why privatisation has been dogged by monumental fraud and rip-off of Nigeria as an entity by the capitalist government and its big business partners. This is clearly reflected in the manner the generating corporations have been sold off. The six electricity generating firms were sold off at the rock-bottom price of around N107 billion (around $710 million), meanwhile between 2007 and 2012, over N600 billion was spent on power generation and distribution by both the Jonathan and the Yar’Adua governments. In fact, the two main hydropower plants, Kainji and Shiroro, upon which billions of dollars have been spent to refurbish and expand, were sold for meager $760 million and $354 million respectively on a 15-year lease. These are plants with properties and facilities worth billions of dollars including the expansive and expensive dams. Indeed, in the 2012 budget, more than a billion naira was budgeted for the refurbishment of one of Shiroro hydropower plants. In addition, the 60 percent of government shares in 10 of the 11 distribution companies are to be sold for N196 billion. Reflecting the bankruptcy of government’s own process, NERC, the regulatory agency in the power sector, had earlier valued the 11 distribution companies at a rock-bottom price of N328.75 billion; yet 10 (90.1 percent) of the 11 companies were being sold for N196 billion (about 60 percent). Interestingly, according to Joe Ajaero, the General Secretary of National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), land property of the distribution companies alone is worth more than a trillion Naira. This means that all the transformers and distribution facilities worth several billions of dollars are being grossly undervalued and auctioned out.

    Even the newly completed state-funded independent power producers IPPs, upon which billions of dollars have been looted, are already being prepared for auctioning, notwithstanding the fact that they are new. According to James Olotu, the Managing Director of Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC), a subsidiary of PHCN, over $8 billion (over N1.24 trillion) was used to build 10 new power stations. However, three of the new power plants (Geregu, Ughelli and Sapele), contributing about a quarter of the expected power generation, and costing about $2 billion (N300 billion) were sold for less than N100 billion. Assuming without conceding the puerile excuse for the sale of already existing electricity firms ( that they need private investments to put them back on track), what excuse will the capitalist government use to justify the auction of new power plants, built with public funds? The remaining power plants, currently under construction, are being prepared for auctioning too.

    While government set up a liability management company, NELMCO, to shield the private buyers from the N392 billion debt incurred by PHCN, there is no explanation of who will collect the over N600 billion owed to it by government agencies and private businesses. The debt incurred by PHCN included N149.5 billion owed to Power Purchase Agreements with private power (IPP) producers. The reality however is that, while PHCN purchased power from these private power producers at market rates ( far higher than its own tariff), private companies, including big corporations, pay subsidised tariffs (guaranteed with public funds) for electricity generated from PHCN plants. Why not allow the IPPs to market their products directly to consumers, and not government subsidising their profits? This is clearly double standards meant to serve the interests of big businesses. In spite of this subsidy, many a private big business (possibly including the current buyers of PHCN parts) owes the corporation billions of naira in debt. On the other hand, at the slightest opportunity, poor and small businesses are cut off from power supply over unpaid bills. Worse still, the same government that was in hurry to auction the utility company, refused to pay up the over N400 billion it owes PHCN let alone compelling the private sector debtors to pay up their debts to the ailing company. What can be inferred from this is that starving the corporation of funds, coupled with looting of its allocation, is a good tool in stifling life out of the corporation in order to sell it for a little token.

    Indeed, between 1999 and 2007, the Obasanjo government was reported by the House of Representative Committee on Power to have spent over $16 billion (more than N2.4 trillion) on the power sector, with over 30 percent of this spent on existing PHCN power plants, without any tangible result. This amount, $16 billion is more than a quarter of the $60.9 billion estimated by IEA in its 2008 World Energy Outlook, needed to provide universal access for Nigerian households. Yet, more than 60 percent of Nigerians have no access to electricity (with less than 10 percent of the rural dwellers having access), while those who have hardly enjoy its benefits due to erratic supply, itself occasioned by dilapidated infrastructures and outdated equipment. Worse still, those who have contributed severally and collectively to this ridiculous state are the ones now bidding to take over the carcass of PHCN. For instance, firms with links to ex-generals like Abdulsalami Abubakar, Ibrahim Babangida, Olusegun Obasanjo, etc and big businessmen and women associated with looting of public funds under the guise of privatisation (like Transcorps, Otedola’s Forte Oil, Arumemi’s Rockson, and several other consortia of big businesses) have won bids to take over the nation’s electricity infrastructures.

    Moreover, the Nigerian governments in order to guarantee continuous profit making for the private businesses hiked electricity tariffs by up to 100 percent. This is meant to make PHCN profitable for the private big businesses, while Nigerians are groaning under costly electricity tariffs. This hike has not led and will not lead to better and constant supply of electricity. Rather than ameliorate the financial costs of procuring electricity, it will add to it. The simple implication of this is that private businesses are being subsidised while the public is suffering. One of the grand plans to make PHCN a cash cow for private investors is the organized attacks on the workers of the corporation by the government. These attacks, heightened by the disgraced former minister, Barth Nnaji (himself a private bidder for one of the PHCN firms), are meant to not only retrench the workforce and consequently reduce the labour cost (by making fewer workers do the work of other sacked workers, even when the corporation is already inadequately staffed), but to deny workers of their entitlements as a way of making the privatised firms profitable for their buyers.


    The central and puerile argument of the government for these shenanigans is that the firms must be made profitable for private investors to invest their capital in the expansion and maximum functioning of the firms. The reality and facts on ground however have torn this argument to shreds. In the first instance, the so-called investors are mere predators with no interest in any serious investment. As said earlier, most of the private bidders are the same set of people associated with various crises in different sectors of the economy, for example the banking crises. More than this, most of the bidding companies are mere venture capitalists, with little or no previous investment in power generation. The few with serious investment in power generation, like Oando, only generate a few megawatts mainly for their business use. Also, the Edo State governor, Adams Oshiomhole, in protesting the sidelining of the company he and three other governors promoted (Southern Electricity Distribution Company), claimed that, Vigeo Power Consortium, the company that won the bid for Benin Distribution Company, only have a geographical operation capacity of merely 500 square kilometers, but it won the bid to run a distribution coverage of over 57, 000 square kilometers. Therefore, it is clearly absurd to hand over huge and important organs of the economy to this set of people. Of course, they (the bidders) claim to have foreign technical partners, but this is just a façade. The reality is that most of the technical partners are only invited as technical operators of the companies, not as owners. What this means is that it is the venture capitalists who decide which areas to concentrate operations on in order to maximize profit. Meanwhile, the technical partners will be paid fees based on their international profit level, with the cost of operation and fees denominated in hard currencies. This, aside leading to further pressures on the exchange rate (and attendant economic problems expected in an importing economy like Nigeria’s), will mean pricing the power supply out of the reach of the working and poor people. Therefore, the privatisation is nothing short of handing over of PHCN to shylocks to make big bucks and not to expand and guarantee supply to all Nigerian; not in the distant future.

    This is further underscored by the fact that many of the so-called investors have no capital even to pay up the rock-bottom prices of these auctioned firms. Showing the bankruptcy of the government, and its desperation to serve the interests of the predatory capitalists, all the bidders need to show their readiness to buy the firms is a Letter of Credit from banks. This simply means that, there are no fundamental criteria for buying off the nation’s patrimony, possibly except your connection to the corridors of power. The so-called criteria, including the purported Average Technical, Commercial and Collection (ATCC) loss criterion, for distribution companies, are nothing but mere guesswork, that have no connection with reality, as revealed by Oshiomhole, in his reported protest conference. With this, the nation’s power sector will be controlled by financial capitalists and banks, whose sole task is the predatory extraction of profits. It is important to note that it was through this same process (of using letter of credit from banks) that fuel importation and subsequent subsidy scams were perpetrated. Trust Nigerian capitalists, they never learn new lessons – and they could not have, as their desperation for profits always blind their sense of judgment.

    Indeed, the process is so ridiculous that many shameless bank debtors, who owe government and thus the public, through AMCON, over N2 trillion, even rushed to banks to get letters of credit. It was so embarrassing that the central bank had to issue a directive to stop further loans to the 419 (number of people on the debtors’ list) debtors. Possibly, this little effort might have saved banks from another immediate crisis; however, on the long-term basis, this will lead to monumental crises. For instance, one of the debtors, Femi Otedola, who owes AMCON over N149 billion in debts was able to wriggle himself out through a clearly fraudulent process, and was able to buy one of the power generating firms. Surely, as general as CBN’s directive may sound, there will be several sacred Otedolas among the buyers, who will have to be given preferences. This is aside the fact that the privatisation will lead to a cul-de-sac in the nearest future.


    Even in cases where foreign investors directly own the privatised firms, this does not translate to improved or expanded power supply to Nigerians. On the contrary, with the virtual collapse of basic infrastructures and the precarious state of the global capitalist economy, this will mean that they would be assured of their investment returns through hikes of electricity tariffs to average global levels before thinking of any investment. Even, the cost of maintenance of the existing power plants is enough to throw any plan of investment in expansion to the last rung of the priority ladder. For instance, the cost of importing parts and equipment for maintenance will be denominated in dollar, which will lead to hikes in cost of production and subsequently higher prices for electricity. Also, the cost of procuring gas for gas-fired plants is enough to weigh down on such foreign investors to think of any serious investment in expansion.

    A case in point is the privatisation of the Ugandan electricity utility company, Uganda Electricity Board, to a British private equity and investment company, Actis. According to David Hall of the PSIRU (Public Service International Research Institute), ‘It was privatized in 2005…but the privatization has proved to be a disaster. An official report in 2009 concluded that Umeme (the new company – K.I) had ‘defrauded the government of Uganda to the tune of Shs 452 billion ( $197 million) over the last four years by over-declaring losses’; 2,000 consumers have brought a lawsuit against Umeme for over-charging, and blame privatisation: ‘consumers are being exploited more since the Uganda Electricity Board (UEB – the former public utility) was disbanded in 2001’; Umeme was rated as one of the most corrupt institutions in the country by a Transparency International survey; and the regulator has said that Umeme’s contract ‘would have been terminated a long time ago’, but a punitive compensation clause in the contract means that Ugandan consumers ‘are stuck with Umeme for the next 15 years since the 20-year contract was signed only five years ago!’” Yet Actis declared Nigeria’s power reform as ‘fantastic’!

    What this will imply is that: (1) there will be a hike in the cost of production and a hike in tariffs, (2) in case the companies face financial problems in this process and the power sector is to collapse, government will come in by using public funds to bail out private businesses, just as over N3 trillion that could not be invested in infrastructures was used to bail out a handful of banks and their owners. In fact, since 2006 World Bank had given a credit support of over $781 million for investment in power generation, transmission and distribution and gas supply. This credit, which is being guaranteed by the Nigerian government, is expected to ensure at least 25 percent profit for private investors. This means that if the investments fail, government will bear the cost with public funds; that is, while the public insure the business of private sector, the profit made is cornered by the private sector. Even at this, the so-called credit facilities will at best allow private investors, both local and foreign to continue operations at current level, and not expand the facilities.

    Of course, there are reported plans to use part of the Pension Fund, estimated at close to N3 trillion, or bank loans to fund the power sector. The reality is that this can only be a mirage; and if it comes to reality, it will never resolve the power problem as it will be mere a drop in the ocean. Even if it is used, the catastrophe it will generate can only be imagined. In the first instance, the use of pension fund, which itself is extortion from workers, shows the weakness and the predatory character of capitalism, and capitalist big business. Second, according to WEO report, close to a trillion naira (N9.2 billion) is needed yearly in investment for the next ten years to provide universal access to all households. This is more than three times the total pension fund. Removing just one tenth of this amount from the fund will lead to serious problems for not only the pension system but also Nigeria’s economy. For instance, majority of Nigerians are considered poor (over 70 percent), which will make recouping of investment from consumers highly difficult. Meanwhile, the debts will be accumulating, leading to hikes in tariff cost and negative spiral effects on consumption. Added to this is the fact that pension fund is not a fixed capital; population of pensioners will continue to rise, leading to increase in claims. This will even add to a hike in the cost of borrowing for not only the power ‘investors’ but also for manufacturing sector, and other sectors of the economy thus crowding out other sectors from accessing funds. Failure to recoup the investment will therefore lead to the deflation of the economy across all sectors. The so-called foreign investors, in this circumstance, will abandon such investments or partnerships, leading to total collapse of not only the power sector, but also other sectors of the economy, particularly the already ailing manufacturing sector.


    This has been the lot of several privatized public enterprises – NITEL, MMIA 2, Nigerian Airways, concessioned Lagos-Ibadan expressway, Steel Plants, etc. In these examples, the banking sector, itself bedeviled with crises, could not lend to investors because of the high risk of losing investment. In areas where loans were accessed like the MMIA and Nigerian Airways, the investors could not recoup investments with the rising interests; therefore there was either unraveling of the privatized firms (Nigeria Airways, later Virgin Nigeria/Air Nigeria) or a hike in the cost of service (MMIA). In many cases, the private buyers of many state enterprises abandon these firms, only to use them as collateral for other business. An example is the Osogbo Steel Rolling Company, bought by Dangote, which has been left idle for more than six years. The company is now used as an offloading depot for Dangote products like cement. Thus, it is no accident that more than 80 percent of the privatized firms have been declared to have failed by no other person than Namadi Sambo, Nigeria’s vice president and chair of the National Council on Privatization (NCP), the highest decision makers in the privatization racket. Yet, the Nigerian government wants to hand over such a strategic sector of Nigerian economy to venture capitalists.

    The main example used to justify privatization and other neo-liberal policies is the assumed ‘successes’ of the privatization of telecommunication sector. Of course, there has been liberalization of telecommunication services with estimated over 100 million active mobile lines and several mobile phones in existence. In addition, many Nigerians now have access to various communication services including internet. This is against the experience when the state was in monopoly control of the sector through NITEL. However, this is just one side of the story. The so-called 100 million lines mask the real percentage of Nigerians having access to mobile telecommunication. In reality, only less than half of this number is the actual population of Nigerians having mobile lines, as most users, based on the erratic nature of telecommunication services keep more than one (sometimes more than two) lines. This means, in a population of over 160 million, just around 60 million Nigerians, constituting 38 percent of Nigerians. If it takes 13 years for mobile telecommunication to get to less than 40 percent of Nigerians, despite huge government concessions ( five year tax breaks), it will be going to eternity for the so-called private investors in the power sector (a bigger and more capital intensive sector) to provide electricity for every household in Nigeria. This is coming on the heels of the fact that telecommunication service in Nigeria is one of the costliest in the world. Of course there have been complaints by service providers that cost of operation is high, especially energy cost; however, this has not stopped them from amassing unprecedented profits. For instance, one of them was reported to have made revenue of over a trillion naira, with at least 30 percent of this being the profit. Indeed, the leading telecommunication service company in Nigeria, MTN (a South African company with close to 40 percent of investment in Nigeria), has the highest share price in Africa, yet millions of helpless Nigerians continue to groan under high cost and poor service.

    It is worth stating that the state telecommunication company, NITEL was run down by politicians, big bureaucrats and big business people, many of whom are currently playing one role or the other (as investors, technical partners) in private companies succeeding it. While NITEL was supposedly public-owned, it was run more or less like a private fiefdom of these big bureaucrats and politicians, who use their appointments to serve the private interests of their patrons in the corridors of power and big business. Indeed, MTEL the mobile telecommunication of NITEL, was deliberately run aground by these people, while the private companies were given many mouth-watering perks. By 2006, Pentascope, a foreign private company that was contracted to manage NITEL had ruined both NITEL and MTEL with billions of naira looted from the companies, coupled with accumulated debts. The company was able to get away because it has as partners elements in governments and big business. Indeed, many private companies were, in a Senate Communication Committee Hearing on NITEL in 2009, reportedly involved in duping NITEL of billions of naira, by manipulating its facilities, in collusion with some officials of NITEL. Indeed, the telecommunication service providers were reported to have owed the company over N80 billion of unpaid fees for using its infrastructures and services.

    In cement production, the so-called privatization and involvement of private investors has not led to access to cement for millions of working class and even middle class, as the price of the product is more than four times the international market (N400). This is despite the huge concessions including favourable trade policies like tax holidays, reduction/removal of tariffs and duties, and privatization, at rock bottom prices, of state owned cement companies to private investors. Currently, there is overcapacity in the cement industry as the cost of cement is simply inaccessible to vast majority of the population; meanwhile, there is 15 million housing deficit.


    These realities are products of the precarious stage of world capitalism in its neo-liberal phase. Thus, it is not accidental that private investments in the power sector have not led to improved access. In fact, according to World Bank, less than 10 percent of the investments in power generation in Africa come from private sector, with most of the private investments being in small-sized IPPs, which in many cases are used for (private companies’) internal operations. More than this, many of the IPPs are gas-fired, which makes them very expensive and environmentally unfriendly unlike hydropower and other choices; hence the exorbitant tariffs charged by the private investors.

    This failure of private investment, and indeed privatization itself, is a manifestation of the precariousness of capitalist neo-liberalism. With the unleashing of neo-liberalism as the latest phase of capitalism since the mid-1980s, global capitalist investors have sought super-profits to recover the losses during the welfare state era. Consequently, there has been an increased drive to extract more profits from the working masses. This has meant takeover of the global economy, including the productive sectors, by venture/financial capitalists, who use their finance capitals (through stocks, equities, bonds and loans) to demand for increasing profits. While this may work for some time, it has accentuated the boom-bust cycle of capitalism, as reflected in the current global economic depression, which started in 2007 and has refused to go away. Thus, as capitalism is in greater risk than ever, investors will seek for quick profits and increased exploitation, as a way of guaranteeing their capital.

    On this basis, capitalist investors, both local and foreign, are basically not interested in developing any economy, especially a third world economy, where huge capital investments requiring longer gestation periods are needed for genuine sustainable development. Their aim is to feed predatorily on the miseries of the people, and the carcass of mismanaged state economies. Meanwhile, at the slightest instance of risk, they withdraw their capital as reflected in 2008 when foreign portfolio investors, in response to global meltdown, withdrew their investments worth over $4 billion in the Nigerian capital market within months, triggering the collapse of the already unstable cum ballooned stock market, and subsequently the banking system. It is therefore funny at best the expectation of bourgeois pundits that private capitalist investors will develop the economy, even when reality starkly stares them in the face.

    Governments, having bought into the neo-liberal ideology, have become slaves to global capitalist big business. This is exacerbated by the weak and rent-seeking nature of Nigerian, nay African, ruling and capitalist classes, who are not productive, but live on the rents and royalties gotten from multinational corporations who technically control the local economies. It is thus not accidental that the Nigerian power sector is seen as a cash cow and easy source of wealth by all sections of Nigerian capitalist class – both in the politics and big business. For instance, various elements in governments had to embark on bitter struggles in order to get part of the PHCN cake, which led to the disgraceful removal of the power minister, Barth Nnaji, whose company, Geometric Power, was part of a bidding consortium for one of the power plants. While, he was supposedly removed because of clash of interests (as he sat on the board that superintend over the auction of the power plants), there are newspaper reports suggesting he was removed because other politicians felt betrayed by his attempt to shortchange their own companies from the juicy auctions. For instance, the vice president, Namadi Sambo, who chairs privatization of state assets, has his company also involved in the PHCN companies. Indeed, the peak of the struggle was when four state governors (Edo, Delta, Ekiti and Ondo) openly rejected the privatization of one of the distribution companies – Edo Distribution Company. The governors claimed that the companies they floated, Southern Electricity Distribution Company, was shortchanged by the BPE (the agency that organizes state auctions) in the sale of the distribution company. In the real sense, these governors are only fronting for private investors, as the four states only collectively control minority shares in the company, with little or no managerial power. Surely, Nigerians should prepare for monumental catastrophe with the privatization of the nation’s power sector.


    To those who have illusions in power privatization, one can only sympathize. Privatization means turning power to business commodity not a national developmental policy. The private investors will, on the basis of the operation of global capitalism, first cannibalize PHCN properties to pay off immediate debts and loans to reduce interests and indebtedness, and give immediate profits to venture capitalists to sustain their confidence. The government is already simplifying this for them by undervaluing PHCN properties, worth hundreds of billions of dollars. Then, they will scale back operations to profitable ventures. This will mean our villages, streets, communities, businesses etc may be cut off from the grid if supplying them will not generate enough profits. This is necessary to build investors' confidence and hike the rate of return.

    This arrangement will then be used to hike the tariff so high that only a few can dare to have power for long even with the electronic meters. This will reflect in the cost of running businesses and the cost of living. The argument is simple: if you cannot afford the cost, try a generator. Meanwhile, under the current arrangement, although supply is poor, you can still relatively afford it. Under privatized arrangement, you either pay or live in permanent darkness. With this, many communities and businesses will be cut off. Moreover, unlike PHCN under public ownership, where repair and provision of electricity facilities is seen as public responsibility, with government held accountable, the main policy of the private investors will be profit maximization, and the operating mechanism will be demand-and-supply. The reality in the telecom sector is only child’s play.

    The social and economic consequences of privatization can only be imagined. For instance, many private businesses will collapse based on hiked cost of power leading to further job losses. This is aside the high cost of living that hiked tariff will mean for teeming millions of working class and poor families, and small business owners. On the contrary, the supposed money to be saved by the state will not trickle down to the poor people, as hundreds of billions of dollars amassed by the country from fossil fuel sale have not meant improved living for the working and poor people. This will lead to rise in poverty rate, which will further drive down any effort at developing the economy. Added to this is frustration and social tension this will generate, as unemployment will be rise.

    Even for those that will be able to access electricity, it can only mean more quagmires. For example, unlike in the telecom sector where you can switch from one service provider to another, if the customer services including repairs are poor, in the power sector privatization, each private owner of the generating and distributing companies will be the local monopoly (or at best all of them forming an oligopoly), with no right to choose, which is against the much-touted free market ideology. With this, consumers are trapped, as the government and the society will be at the mercy of these monopolies; even far worse than what is currently witnessed in the telecommunication sector, where options even exist. Moreover, under privatization, supply will be decentralized, so you may not even know the company supplying you (whether the distributing, transmission or generating companies), and if you know, the process of complaining will be too cumbersome. This will give easy excuses for these private companies to shirk their responsibilities, even with the existence of a regulator. For instance, despite billions being ripped off from Nigerians by telecom service providers, the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) that regulates their activities only takes actions that are at best a slap in the wrist for these telecom companies, which rather than curtailing the frauds only whitewash them. This is because these frauds have been institutionalized with the privatization itself.


    These realities should be related to Nigerians by the leaderships of electricity workers' unions and labour centres, instead of limiting the demands to disengagement entitlement alone. It is only when electricity workers oppose privatization on a principled basis that they can win any concession. Indeed, privatization, with its attendant mass retrenchment will not only lead to suffering for thousands of working class families, but will further lead to a problem of manpower in the power sector. Already, there are huge shortfalls of technical staff for the power plants in the country, which can only be resolved by massive government investment in building capacity, based on long-term plans. However, on the basis of private ownership, this can be used to limit cost of operation, as the fewer the workers, the lower the cost of operation, and consequently, the higher the rate of profit. Even when the private investors employ more workers, it will not be with the aim of long-term development of either the sector nor the country, but to ensure continuous operation to gain more profits. Thus, when there is a shortfall in profit, the reverse policy will operate – retrenchment.

    Unfortunately, the labour leaders believe that there is nothing fundamentally wrong in privatization, inasmuch as the process is transparent. Of course, the in-house unions in the sector opposed privatization initially, and even committed themselves to organizing against it; because of lack of clear-cut alternatives needed and lack of a consistent approach to resist the policy, they settled for collecting entitlements of their disengaged members. However, the biggest obstacle to defeating privatization of the power sector itself came from the leadership of the central labour unions – NLC and TUC. Despite the enormous potential to mobilize the working people to defeat this fraud, the leaderships undertook a piecemeal policy of defending only the severance disengagement of electricity workers. From the start, the central labour leaders did not oppose privatization of PHCN. Indeed, in its several positions, it was building false hope in privatization. For instance, at the Senate hearing to review privatization last year, the vice president of the NLC, Issa Aremu, was quoted to have openly supported privatization and even defended private buyers, even when over 80 percent of privatized firms were officially declared as failures. Moreover, the NLC president himself was quoted in a recent conference of one of the NLC’s affiliate unions, that the labour movement traded its opposition to privatization of PHCN for the payment of the entitlement of electricity workers. This reflects the fact that the labour leadership is not opposed in principle to privatization and its accompanying fraud. This is not unexpected as the labour movement itself is a ‘stakeholder’ (according to the NLC) in the privatization process, having membership in the National Council on Privatization (NCP). All this exposes the pro-capitalist orientation of the labour leaders. Only a revolutionary leadership of working class can lead a successful campaign and opposition against privatization.

    The failure of the electricity workers’ unions to organize mass actions and popular enlightenments and campaigns against hike in tariff, looting in the power sector, collapse of infrastructures, among others made many Nigerians to believe that their current struggle is aimed at their members’ interests alone. This comes at a time when electricity workers are seen as part of the failure of the power sector, which the government even used as propaganda against the electricity workers to force privatization down their throats. Of course, there is some corrupt tendency within the corporation’s workforce just like in every facet of the polity, which is condemnable and inexcusable as it seeks to resolve societal problem individualistically. But this, aside being just a drop in the ocean of gargantuan corruption at the top echelon of the decision-making structures, is a product of mismanagement and corruption at the top echelon of government, which only percolates the lower rungs of the ladder. For instance, in the past five years, over N4 billion has been budgeted for fueling and servicing generators by federal government. The contracts for this obviously bizarre arrangement are not given to workers but members of the ruling class. The members of the ruling class are the ones gaining from the rot in the power sector and its privatization as analyzed earlier, not the workers. More important is the fact that most Nigerians do not know that there are thousands of workers in installations, transmissions, etc, who you hardly see but spend hours they should be spending with their families to improvise on the dilapidated facilities in order to provide the little electricity we currently ‘enjoy’.

    Therefore, only through a well-coordinated, organized campaigns and mass actions, along with central labour unions, and other sister unions and pro-labour organizations, can the privatization the fraud be defeated. The possibility of victory against privatization is shown in the little industrial actions taken by electricity workers, which stampeded the privatization for several months. Had the labour movement stepped this up in a more organized manner, at least with the same energy committed to the struggle against fuel prices hike, surely Nigerian government would have been forced to make a u-turn.


    While we recognize the current failure of PHCN to function and provide electricity for Nigerians, we hold that this is a product of the deliberate rundown of the corporation by major politicians and big businesses. While PHCN (NEPA before it) was funded from public resources, its management and running were already privatized, as those who were bureaucratically appointed to run it only use it to serve the interests of their patrons in politics and big businesses. This undemocratic and corrupt management of PHCN is the main reason for its collapse, and indeed collapse of many public owned entities.

    Therefore, in place of privatization, working class movement should demand public ownership of the power sector under democratic control of workers, communities and consumers. This is a clear alternative to the current corrupt arrangement where running of the power sector is put in the hands of political patrons and big business people, who use the sector to advance their profit interests and those of their business partners. This will mean putting running of PHCN facilities and resources, including funds under democratic control, scrutiny and planning of workers and consumers in communities. Working people must also demand for the immediate arrest and prosecution of looters of power sector funds, and public takeover of private companies (including banks) involved in the monumental frauds and looting. Such companies should be put under the direct democratic control and management of the workers in such companies, and elected representatives of host communities, consumers, etc.

    With democratic control from grassroots to the national level, PHCN, and of course, other public entities can be made to serve the country effectively. Public ownership also means economic development can be properly planned with power being made an integral part of this. For instance, based on democratic planning, we can determine how much electric power we need to sustain development of other sectors of the economy – steel, manufacturing, social services, etc. From this, the resources needed for an integrated development of the power sector can then be democratically drawn out. In the power sector, with public ownership, it can be possible to determine how many graduates, technicians and technologists are needed, and this can be integrated into the education policy. By mobilizing the huge mineral wealth of the country, and recouping looted funds, Nigeria can conveniently provide universal access to electricity to every Nigerian, and provide adequate electricity to power massive economic and social development. For instance, the N3 trillion of public funds used to bail out handful of bankers will provide more than 30 percent of what is needed to provide universal access. Indeed, just 6.7 percent of the oil wealth in the past ten years will conveniently provide electricity for all Nigerians. But this will mean blocking all the major loopholes from which corrupt politicians, their big business partners and multinational corporation loot the enormous resources of the country. It will mean putting the mainstay of the economy under democratic public ownership. For example, instead of spending public fund to bail out private banks, such banks and the businesses of their fraudulent debtors can be nationalized. From this, the economy can be mobilized to resolve the immediate needs of the country – power generation, infrastructural development, massive support for small businesses, etc. This is the surest means of making electricity serve the people, and not vice versa.


    The bankruptcy of the Nigerian political class in the privatization process is not accidental, but a product of the inability of capitalism to move society forward. All the highlighted democratic planning and ownership of the power sector can never be implemented by the current set of politicians in power, as they are merely the political section of the neo-colonial, neo-liberal capitalist class in Nigeria, representing global imperialist capitalism. This is clearly reflected in every facet of Nigerian economy and polity. Despite over $900 billion realized from crude oil in the past ten years, Nigeria has remained a backward outpost of capitalism, with more than 70 percent living in penury while over 50 percent of the educated youth population is unemployed. Education, health, mass housing are still inaccessible to the vast majority of the population, while millions are malnourished and starving. Only a democratic socialist government that is built on the foundation of revolutionary movements of the working and oppressed people can develop the power sector as part of the integrated development of the economy, society and humanity as a whole. Therefore, a genuine working class leadership will see the need to link the opposition to privatization with to the political alternative of the working masses.

    This will mean that the labour movement will see the need to build a political party of the working people with clear democratic, revolutionary socialist programmes of public and democratic ownership of the mainstay of the economy, and massive investment in social and public infrastructures and services (education, health, housing, food, etc). This is the ultimate alternative for the working people. It is unfortunate that the Labour Party, established by a section of the labour leadership, has been handed over to clearly bourgeois politicians and big business people, who are using it to feather their own political and economic and political nests. The party has now become the dumping ground for all manners of politicians, who fail to get power in traditional bourgeois parties. More ridiculous is the fact that the labour leadership, have continued to mobilize for these politicians, using workers name, and mobilizing workers under the banner of these capitalist politicians a la Mimiko. With this direction, the Labour Party cannot develop ideological and political programmes to capture and oppose anti-poor policies. Working people must demand for the immediate rebuilding of a genuine working people’s party based on clearly anti-capitalist, revolutionary programmes and ideas. Such a party, built as a fighting platform of the oppressed, will easily become a pole of attraction for millions of working class people and youths who are seeking political alternative to the rot created by capitalist politicians. Only a party built as a fortress of mass struggle against all capitalist anti-poor policies can provide genuine alternative to the rot symbolized by all capitalist political parties in Nigeria today.


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    * Kola Ibrahim can be reached at 08059399178, [email protected]; P.M.B GPO, Enuwa, Ile-Ife, Osun State, Nigeria


    1. Ibrahim K, Minimum Wage Struggle in Nigeria, Unpublished, 2012
    2. Punch, Wednesday, 26/09/2012, pg 2, ‘FG to sell power firms to Elumelu, Otedola, Others’
    3. Businessday, Wednesday, 17/10/2012, pg 1, ‘Nigeria crosses major hurdle in quest for power…’
    4. Hall D. 2010, Public Disaster and Private Gain, PSIRU, University of Greenwich
    5. Vanguard, SweetCrude Report, 10/09/2012, Nigeria spends $8 billion on NIPP
    6. WEO 2010: Chapter 8 "Energy poverty - How to make modern energy access universal?"
    7. Hall D. 2007 Electrifying Africa, , PSIRU, University of Greenwich

    Why fighting corruption in Africa fails

    William Gumede


    cc S P
    Most well-intentioned corruption busting remedies in Africa fail because the root causes of corruption on the continent are often poorly understood.


    Post-independence African countries inherited deeply corrupt institutions, laws and values from colonial and apartheid governments. In the majority of African former colonies, the colonial elite centralized political, economic and civic power, exclusively reserving top jobs in the public and private sector, as well as education only to fellow colonials.

    At the time in the colony, the institutions that should have served as watchdogs against corruption: the judiciary, police, security services and rule of law, selectively served the interests of the elite classes. These institutions were more often subservient to the all-powerful colonial administrator or governor. The colonial private sector, for the most part, produced for export to the imperial market and as such were usually deeply dependent on the colonial government for licenses, contracts and subsidies. This sector rarely held the colonial government to account. With the exception of a few, colonial media sources were equally bridled.


    Instead of changing colonial era institutions, laws and values for the better, African ruling parties and leaders entrenched these deeply compromised governance systems. At African independence, the colonial elite was often replaced by a similar narrow elite class. This time, however, it was the aristocracy of the independence and liberation movements; the dominant independence leader and dominant ‘struggle’ families, or the dominant ethnic group or political faction. African independence movements were often highly centralised or strongly dominated by one leader and his political, ethnic or regional faction. The dominant structural make-up of these movements has meant that they can seamlessly fit into a similar centralised political culture very much like the colonial administration.

    At independence, the indigenous communities of most African countries were relatively poor, unskilled and without any significant holdings in the private sector. Very few grassroots cadres which formed part of the liberation movements had professional careers outside the struggle. Post independence, many were simply appointed to posts for which they had little aptitude, experience or skills to perform. Such a situation is fertile for corruption. The newly acquired state bureaucracy, military, judiciary, nationalized private industries were often seen as the ‘spoils’ of victory. A reward for the struggle of independence. The whole process often became opaque and unaccountable with ‘struggle aristocracies’ dishing out patronage – jobs, government tenders, and newly nationalized private companies - to their political allies, ethnic group(s) or regional interests.

    Giving jobs to members of the same faction, ethnic group or region meant the idea of merit-based appointments was all too often thrown out of the window. This also meant that even if the newly empowered independence movement launched economic development programs to transform the colonial economy, such reforms were hardly ever going to have any impact, given the fact that unqualified cronies were managing key public institutions, and that scarce resources were being coarsely diverted to allies, family and friends.

    Appointments to the key institutions that scrutinise as well as hold rulers to account - the judiciary, the police, and the media - became increasingly occupied by liberation aristocracy loyalists. These institutions already corrupt under colonialism continued to be perverted with a new set of management cadre who were unlikely to hold the rulers, through whose patronage they serve, to account. In many countries, this continues to be the case today.

    Those who held junior ranks in the party hierarchy but had little skills, education, or employment, found it difficult to make a decent living in the now normalized society. They too were forced to seek out, by corrupt means, the patronage of leaders that had control over the distribution of the ‘spoils’. Almost all jobs available in the newly independent country were in government, or the newly nationalised media, banks, schools, universities, etc. , Decent employment very much depended on ‘clearance’ from the liberation movement leaders or the ruling group. In most cases, those critical of the dominant leaders or their policies were likely to be excluded from work in the public and private sectors.


    Very few African countries at independence had a significant private sector: those that had, more often than not saw it nationalised by the liberation or independence movement, turned government. Where significant private sectors remain, they often existed under the threat of possible nationalisation or not securing trading licenses if they failed to toe the line. Given this, such companies were unlikely to employ anyone out of favour with the ruling elite. Partially for these reasons, post-independence, the private sector in many African countries were usually docile and unlikely to demand accountability from national governments. The private sector was often under constant threat of having their businesses nationalised or ‘indigenised’ from the new rulers.

    In some instances liberation movement governments embarked on a policy of creating a ‘capitalist class’ or new ‘indigenous’ business owners, black economic empowerment or indigenisation programs. In many such instances, political capital forms the basis of these attempts at creating indigenous capitalists. Political leaders either get stakes in newly privatised public companies, get state tenders to supply services for government, or get slices of private companies owned by former colonials, minority ethnic groups or foreign companies.

    By the 1980s, under pressure from the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and Western powers through ‘structural adjustment reforms’, the privatisation of state-owned companies saw African independence/liberation movement governments sell off state assets to individuals that were close allies of the dominant political faction, ethnic or regional group of the independence/liberation movement government. Those who benefitted from black economic empowerment, indigenisation or privatisation programs were the most jingoist and were not going to hold African governments to account.


    Before independence, the small colonial elite often lived lives of conspicuous consumption: expensive mansions and shopping trips in the capital cities of colonial empires, and lavish parties. A culture of hard work was often absent. Sadly, many of the post-independence African elite – both the political and economic empowerment classes - took the colonial elite’s conspicuous consumption standard as a benchmark for ‘success’. Not surprisingly, some poor people also wanted to emulate this ‘bling’ lifestyle – and may not have seen any problem with leaders living such lives of opulence, if they themselves remained poor.

    Such excessively lavish and wasteful ‘bling’ lifestyles enjoyed by a small elite provided fertile ground for corruption, particularly with a background of high levels of poverty, inequality and unemployment. During the struggle against colonialism and white-minority rule there was active resistance by opposition independence movements against colonial and racist regimes. This helped bolster the individual and collective self-worth of the oppressed. Sadly, however, when many of these former independence and liberation movements finally secured power, individual self-worth was now measured by the extent to which a ‘bling’ lifestyle could be secured. This provided fertile grounds for corruption. In the long-term, making significant inroads into tackling pervasive poverty, unemployment and inequality - linked to a new emphasis on values - is one of the best anti-corruption measures that can be adopted.

    During struggles for liberation and independence, progressive civil groups, whether: religious groups, NGOs, youth groups, or trade unions often joined the liberation or independence as part of anti-colonial alliance. At independence most liberation and independence movements argued that civil society, especially when they played a crucial role in ousting colonial or white-minority regimes, had now played its historic role and should be ‘demobilised’.

    After independence, significant independent civil groups, such as trade unions and farmers associations, were often incorporated as ‘desks’ or ‘leagues’ of the new ruling parties (formerly independence/liberation movement). This meant that civil society groups that held the colonial governments to account and served as checks and balance mechanisms – and importantly had the credibility and legitimacy obtained by their sterling opposition to colonialism or apartheid - abdicated this role now at the dawn of victory, leaving corruption to flourish unabated.

    Underground cultures of anti-colonial and anti-apartheid movements spawn corruption – if not replaced by democratic cultures. During independence struggles,liberation movements which fought corrupt autocratic regimes often became corrupt themselves, as they were forced to adapt to the unaccountable and opaque strategies frequently employed by their oppressors. For example, while waging an armed struggle, it was not always possible for donor funding to be reconciled with receipts, or to properly supervise how money was spent during the course of underground operations. This process or lack thereof was often referred to as ‘struggle accounting’. Unfortunately, when eventually installed in government such ‘struggle accounting’ practices continued post independence.

    During the independence struggle, many African liberation movements discouraged dissent and criticism of the movements themselves, unless in highly circumscribed ways, lest they exposed divisions within the movements of the oppressed. It was fear that such dissent could be exploited to brutal effect by the colonial government army, police and intelligence agencies.

    By their very nature, many independence movements’ struggles were secretive. They often had to act in secrecy and subterfuge to foil the intelligence and security services of the colonial or white-minority governments. Sadly, in power, most post-independence and liberation movements turned governments also governed with obsessive secrecy: lack of openness and transparency, and limitations on access to even basic information. Again, a breeding ground for corruption.

    Liberation and independence leaders were often put on a pedestal by supporters. This often continued after independence and allowed leaders to get away with corruption and personalised rule, disguised by the rhetoric of ruling in ‘the service of our people’.

    The colonial system of legal inequality necessarily forced many among the oppressed to find ways to escape the (unjust) laws and rules. Until independence in the post-colonial period sets clear standards with respect to complying with the rule of law, the masses will continue such corrupt practices. In many cases liberation/independence leaders applied the law selectively, especially when it came to wrongdoing: enjoying impunity, yet ordinary citizens were subject to the law thus a climate in which corruption flourished was created.

    Corruption further mushrooms when opposition parties are weak and irrelevant.
    In some African countries, the main opposition parties are either associated with the colonial or the minority governments, or had opposed independence, leaving them with legitimacy problems. In many instances, opposition parties were focused on ethnic constituencies.

    For far too long, African ruling parties have gotten away with blaming the previous colonial administration - apartheid government or opposition movements (which are often associated with the ousted colonial or apartheid governments) - for their own government failures. It is common knowledge that African ruling parties make it difficult for opposition movements to operate, often throwing their leaders in jail, depriving them of funds and continually threatening their very existence. By force or negotiation, many independence movements annex opposition parties making one large united party (albeit with ongoing tensions).

    Opposition parties that eventually come to power in Africa often offer few alternatives to existing corrupt regimes installed post independence.


    In many African ruling party circles, there were misguided beliefs that there were ‘no victims’ of corruption. Yet, corruption has a disproportionate impact on the livelihood of the poor. Corruption undermines the delivery of public services including public housing, healthcare, access to water and adequate sanitation, and access to reliable supplies of electricity. Corruption diverts financial and other resources that can be used for development with respect to job creation, and poverty alleviation instead weakening the capacity of the state to deliver effective services and also equally undermining the trust of ordinary people in government.

    Even the so-called ‘quiet corruption’ is damaging. This kind of corruption might not necessarily involve money changing hands, but entails factors such as absenteeism (at work by public officials) or the deliberate manipulating of rules for the benefit of front line service providers, such as teachers, doctors and other government officials” [2]. For example, a child denied adequate education because teachers did not attended classes regularly; depriving children of the necessary skills needed to play a productive part in the economy once they reach adulthood. A World Bank study showed that ‘big-time’ corruption of senior political leaders’ encouraged this sort of ‘quiet corruption’ [3].

    Most African ruling parties and leaders lack the political will needed to genuinely tackle corruption. Legislative gaps in dealing with corruption must be strengthened , andthe enforcement of internal anti-corruption controls within states must be improved. Sadly, scrutiny, enforcement and compliance in African public sectors have often been very low –creating opportunities for corruption.

    The corruption-fighting capacity of existing institutions must also be strengthened. Africans need independent anti-corruption structures, which should be led by agencies in the private sector or civil society. Such agencies will ensure that corrupt officials are brought to book, as well as forcing police and public watchdogs to follow up on cases of corruption exposed in the media and by whistleblowers. Nonetheless, these watchdogs must get the appropriate resources required to attract the best candidates and to remunerate them (and in some cases protect them) appropriately. Furthermore, these institutions must be independent from the presidential office or the executive department, such as the police or justice ministry, and be accountable directly to parliament.

    African ruling parties must punish the bad behaviour of their leaders and party members legally, socially and politically, as well as reward good behaviour. If this is highlighted and addressed publicly, governments can begin to restore the moral authority and credibility needed to deal with transgressions from ordinary citizens. Exemplary leaders will encourage ordinary citizens (themselves included) to uphold the rule of law. Civil society will have to play a role in ‘naming and shaming’ those leaders who espouse corrupt values while encouraging those who behave with integrity.

    African ruling parties must train up and bring in a new calibre of leadership at all levels. As well as being competent and honest, these candidates must operate with integrity. A system of merit must be brought into the internal party elections. Candidates must be judged on the basis of competence, moral character and genuine commitment to public service. Merit-based appointments to jobs in the public service, and in politics, will significantly contribute to reducing the patronage system of jobs for ‘pals’, which only works to foster an environment of corruption.


    In many African countries, watchdogs, enforcement agencies and regulators often lack capacity, political backing and teeth. In many other cases there are huge ’legislative gaps‘ in anti-corruption laws. Corruption thrives if there is weak capacity in the enforcement agencies, or where there are gaps in the laws. African governments must strengthen the corruption fighting capacity of existing institutions dealing with corruption. Further, enforcement and compliance in African public sectors is often very low – opening up the system for corruption.

    Sometimes, excessive administrative red tape for the most basic public services, such as getting a business license, encourages corruption. African governments should do more to make administrative processes simpler and more transparent, which will reduce the opportunities for corruption. It is important for African countries to professionalise their public services. Merit-based appointments to jobs in public services, regulators and enforcement agencies will go a long way towards reducing the patronage system of ‘jobs for pals’, which fosters the environment for corruption. More transparent methods of appointment should be introduced, including making outcomes of decisions publicly available.


    Effectively tackling African corruption necessitates more and more transparency. ’Open access to information provides a basis for government accountability and raises the barriers against capricious, self-serving intervention‘ [4].

    The solution to tackling corruption is more effective investigative journalism to uncover wrongdoing. Currently, the perception across Africa is that whistle-blowers are most likely to be prosecuted than the actual corrupt individuals. Most African corruption busters leading official anti-corruption institutions are being ousted by ruling parties as soon as they attempt to tackle official corruption head-on as this threatens the interests of powerful ruling parties and their leaders.

    Whistle-blowers and anti-corruption busters must be celebrated in African countries. Many African ruling parties and leaders only selectively punish those who they see as threats to corruption, but allow their allies to escape prosecution. This has discredited the fight against corruption across the continent. In any society there must be a sense that rules are applied fairly – if broad buy-ins and compliance are to be avoided. Being compelled to uphold the rule of law should not solely apply to those without privileged access to the dominant leadership faction of the ruling party. Fairness and transparency must also include not allowing state institutions, such as the police, security and intelligence services to be used to ‘plant’, manufacture or smear political rivals, critics or opponents. The continent needs an army of courageous people, not only to support honest corruption fighters, but to become corruption fighters themselves.


    Ordinary African citizens, community groups and civil society must not only support honest corruption fighters, but must become corruption fighters themselves. One innovation that could be introduced is citizens’ or community forums directly responsible for overseeing government departments that could keep a watch over corruption and service delivery in departments and monitor the progress of complaints. There needs to be grassroots campaigns across Africa against corruption. The masses must know the extent of corruption, the impact it has on public service delivery, and how to monitor as well as report it, and the importance of holding their elected leaders and public servants more vigorously to account.

    In the long-term the best antidote to corruption is to foster values across the continent which reward honesty and discourage dishonesty. African citizens, civil society and community groups will have to play a role in shaming those leaders who espouse corrupt values and encouraging those who behave with integrity.


    African independence movements turned governments should not solely be in the dock. Sometimes, developed countries essentially ‘buy’ the support of African leaders. This can be secured by forcing poor African countries, in global forums, to support policies that benefit developed countries, but disadvantage the very African countries supporting such policies. This is often achieved through bribery, the promise of more aid, or indeed threats to cut aid. However, this is almost never seen as corruption – yet it is.

    Alternatively, Western countries look the other way when corrupt African governments are their allies, this has in fact encouraged corruption. Western business organisations also exercabate corruption by colluding in corrupt practices. China, as a new emerging power on the block, has continued these age old practices in return for investment opportunities.

    Corruption in business is often not seen in a serious light by business leaders either globally or locally. The global financial crisis was essentially caused by corrupt and greedy bankers, traders and those working in the corporate sector. Yet, many of these business leaders and companies now flourish in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, as if they are blameless. Companies should be compelled to adhere to a set of ‘integrity’ standards (in which they would foreswear corrupt activities) when trading in government contracts.

    African public officials often dismiss international organisations’ corruption reports on Africa, saying these reports are infused by Western bias. African critics claim that such analysis overlooks corruption in Western countries and only focuses on developing countries. This is of course true, but only to some extent. The hypocrisy issue is a valid but separate debate and should not downplay the real seriousness of corruption at home.

    The duplicity of international politics and Western companies should stop. Whether it is Western countries protecting their allies by turning a blind-eye to official corruption by ruling parties and leaders in the name of the so-called ‘war on terror’, or it is overlooked in order to secure mineral or oil rights as well as lucrative contracts.


    Civil society in Western countries and new emerging powers entering Africa should also hold their governments and businesses to account to ensure they are not overseeing corrupt and opaque operations. Corrupt governments, businesses and individuals – from Western as well as new emerging powers must be named and shamed in order to feel the reputational effects of corrupt activities.


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

    * William Gumede is Honorary Associate Professor, Public and Development Management, University of the Witwatersrand; and author of the recently released bestselling ‘Restless Nation: Making Sense of Troubled Times’, Tafelberg, Cape Town.

    * This article is a briefing paper for the Foreign Policy Centre.


    1. World Bank. 2010. Africa Development Indicators 2010. World Bank Publications: Washington DC, March
    2. World Bank. 2010. Africa Development Indicators 2010. World Bank Publications: Washington DC, March
    3. Simon C.Y. Wong. 2004. ‘Improving Corporate Governance in SOEs: An Integrated Approach. Corporate Governance International. Vol. 7. Issue 2. June, p.

    Organising the ‘patience industry’ in Mozambique

    Ruth Castel-Branco


    cc M S
    There are at least 37,000 domestic workers in upper and working class suburbs of the Mozambican capital earning low wages and working long hours. Recent moves to include them in labour protection schemes could change their fortunes.

    Every morning Camarada Albertina Mundlovo wakes up at the crack of dawn, ready to battle the crowds waiting at her neighbourhood taxi rank. With over a million inhabitants, Maputo is a rapidly growing city. Urban sprawl, increased congestion and an inadequate public transport system have transformed the daily commute from Maputo’s working class suburbs to the cement city, into a costly struggle.

    Like most domestic workers, Albertina is expected to arrive before her employer leaves for work. Fearful of arriving late, she catches a public taxi in the opposite direction, then double-backs towards the city. ‘I end up paying double,’ she explains. ’But if I waited for a direct route, I would never get on. Women have lost their lives fighting for a spot.’ Employers often turn a blind eye to the transportation crisis, she argues, ’Maybe it’s because they watch cable news to escape the reality of our country.’

    The commute from Hulene to the upscale Polana neighbourhood where she works takes Albertina 45 minutes. Covered in a capulana (cloth wrap) to guard against the morning chill, she waits outside until 7:30 a.m., when her employer lets her in. With the exception of the occasional guard sweeping the pavement or municipal waste worker picking up yesterday’s rubbish, a silence hangs over the city streets. As the sun rises and apartment lights switch on, Albertina is there to greet the waking city.

    Albertina is one of at least 37,000 domestic workers working in and around Mozambique’s capital (INE 2007). They are young and old, urban residents and rural migrants, high school graduates and illiterate workers, both female and male—but mostly female. They work in the homes of millionaires and minimum wage workers, Mozambicans and expatriates, in upper class neighbourhoods and working class suburbs. Rooted in the colonial era, domestic work has become a hallmark of urban living in Mozambique.

    During the Portuguese colonial period, domestic work was highly regulated but unprotected. Following independence in 1975, regulation of this sector collapsed but domestic workers were not included into the new labor regime that emerged.

    Nonetheless, the number of domestic workers in Maputo continued to grow as refugees flooded into the city during the civil war (1976-1992); the public care system disintegrated with the implementation of International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank structural adjustment programs; and mass retrenchments with the privatization of state industries pushed formal sector workers into informal sector. Estimates suggest that today over 80 per cent of Maputo’s residents rely on the informal sector to survive. Domestic work is the second most important profession for women in the city.

    Albertina was not always a domestic worker. Originally from Marracuene, she came to Maputo during the colonial period to complete her studies, moving to a nationalized apartment in the cement city at independence. In 1977 she signed up for the Mozambican army and rose to the rank of platoon commander before getting married and being discharged.

    In 1990, Albertina’s husband passed away. As is customary, her three young children went to live with his family. She had two options—either marry one of her late husband’s brothers and live with her children, or fend for herself. Influenced by her time in the army, Albertina, who had always been stubbornly independent, opted for the latter, ’I was unwilling to bow down to anyone, to make myself inferior.’

    First, she tried her luck at making coal—a traditionally male profession. Then she became a trader at the local bus depot where miners, waiting for armed escorts to take them to the South African border during the civil war, were willing to buy virtually anything.

    Eventually Albertina re-married and moved back to Maputo. However, she refused to stay at home. She worked at a café, but was forced to stop when she fell ill with malaria. She then started a small corn grinding business. She would wake up in the morning, pound corn all day using a mortar and pestle, and sell it to neighbours in the evening. It was a successful business, but a serious haemorrhage forced her to shift to a less strenuous job. After recovering from surgery, Albertina’s sister, who was working as a domestic worker, found her a job in the home of a recently arrived expatriate.

    Nicknamed the ‘patience industry’ by domestic workers, it is characterized by low wages, long hours and rigorous schedules, humiliating tasks, unhealthy working conditions and vulnerability to abuse. Albertina finds this paradoxical given the intimate nature of the profession.

    ‘We are the pillars of their households. We protect their belongings, their families, even the money they leave lying around. I raised a child from when he was born until he was ten,’ Albertina recalls. However, even after being like a second mother to children, she says that domestic workers get no respect. ‘We have the same blood running through our veins but we are treated as an alien species.’

    Until recently, domestic workers in Mozambique were excluded from labour protections. In 2008, Mozambique’s National Assembly amended the Mozambican Labor Law through Decree 40/2008, extending protection to domestic workers. For Albertina this was an important first step towards improving working conditions ’We were treated as invisible, neutral. We knew we existed but the government didn’t recognise us. The state treated our work as voluntary work and therefore felt that they didn’t have to provide any labour protections.’

    Framed in terms of rights and responsibilities, domestic workers now have the right to a contract, set schedules, breaks, one weekend day, time off, social security and workers’ compensation. In exchange, domestic workers have the responsibility to be punctual, obedient, hygienic, loyal, and maintain good relationships with other employees, visitors and third parties.

    The approval of Decree 40/2008 reflects a growing recognition by unions, policymakers and academics of domestic workers’ contribution to the household and economy at large. According to the National Assembly, ’Domestic labor is a highly important sector in Mozambique, regarding the number of jobs this sector encompasses, as well as the social and economic implications.’ (Boletim da Republica 2008: 2). For a weakening labour movement, this growing sector has become the newest front for organisation.

    Today, there are three organisations in Maputo that represent domestic workers: the Associação de Empregados Domésticos de Moçambique (Mozambican Domestic Workers’ Association—AEDOMO); Associação das Mulheres Empregadas Domésticas (Women’s Association of Domestic Workers—AMUEDO); and the Sindicato Nacional de Empregados Domésticos (National Union of Domestic Workers—SINED). All three organisations are affiliated with the labour movement.

    Notably Decree 40/2008 does not include a minimum wage. Given that employers’ incomes vary widely, the National Assembly argues that a minimum wage would undermine the employer’s ability to secure care for the young and elderly, and also trigger mass retrenchments. Some advocates argue that it could even reduce wages: ’We have some colleagues who earn Mts 3000, Mts4000, even Mts500, and I doubt that minimum wage would be set at more than Mts2000,’ speculates Luisa Matsinhe, Secretary General of AEDOMO. ’A minimum wage will encourage employers to fire current workers, and hire new ones at the lower minimum wage.’

    However the National Union of Domestic Workers (SINED) contends that a minimum wage is necessary given the extremely low salaries in this sector.

    Albertina says that in practice, Decree 40/2008 has had no impact on her working conditions. The state has done nothing to educate domestic workers, employers and state officials about their rights and responsibilities. Rather, it has relied on unions and workers’ associations with very limited resources to perform this role. Furthermore the regulation lacks teeth. The Comissão de Mediação e Arbitragem Laboral (Commission for Labor Mediation and Arbitration — COMAL) provides a cost-effective and comparatively quick extra-judicial process for mediating conflicts. However, if employers do not comply with decisions, or if an impasse is declared at the mediation stage, it is very difficult to hold them accountable. Labour court proceedings are slow and expensive. While public legal assistance is available for low-wage workers, in practice services are very uneven.

    Her neighbour recruited Albertina to SINED shortly after it was formalised in 2008. Based in the suburb of Urbanização, SINED members initially met at the Sal do Mundo Church, before affiliating with OTM and relocating to the federation. By 2012, the union had 2,035 members.

    SINED has three main pillars of work. The first is membership recruitment. Three times a week, rain or shine, SINED organisers reach out to domestic workers at the taxi rank. ’Maintaining a constant presence is very important,’ explains Celia Mucambe, SINED’s Executive Secretary for the province and city of Maputo. ’It’s not only about recruiting members. It’s also about helping domestic workers navigate problems at work. This establishes confidence in the union.’

    Competing unions and fraudulent workers’ organisations have made some domestic workers sceptical of unions. ’Some workers refuse to talk to us,’ adds Luisa Nhabanga, SINED Executive Secretary of the National Council of Youth Domestic Workers. ’It’s only when they have a problem that they come running. Frankly I understand it. Since we started mobilising publicly, recruitment has gotten easier because they see that we’re serious.’

    Once a member, domestic workers are given an ID card by the union. The ID card also helps to legitimise the union.

    SINED members pay monthly dues equivalent to 1 per cent of their salary. With no access to payrolls, the union relies on workers to report accurate wages. However, the dues structure creates an incentive for members to underreport their salaries. Also, with no ability to deduct dues automatically, SINED struggles to collect dues from its membership. ’Some people sign up and then disappear,’ remarks Camarada Francisco Sambo, SINED Secretary for International Relations. This poses challenges for the financial stability and sustainability of the union—a common challenge among workers’ organisations in general.

    Members in good standing can access the union’s mediation services for free. Non-members are charged 15 per cent of the settlement fee. SINED’s emphasis is on conciliation rather than confrontation. ’No one wins if a domestic worker is dismissed,’ explains Sambo. ’So we first encourage workers to think about ways to de-escalate the situation by communicating with their employer on a one-on-one basis.’ If this does not work, employers are summoned into the union. ’We speak in a soft tone, we try to understand the employer’s point of view, we try to remind both parties of the long history they’ve had together,’ adds Sambo. Only a small fraction of cases are forwarded to COMAL.

    The final pillar of SINED’s work is mobilisation. SINED relies heavily on worker leaders like Albertina to help organise actions. ’You have to be an active member,’ Albertina argues. ’We want to move this union forward, to expand … from Rovuma to Maputo. Many of our colleagues are really suffering and they have nowhere to go, they don’t know that there’s a union.’

    Albertina has a wish list of improvements. First and foremost are salary increases. ’Low salaries are what kills us,’ she says. Salaries range widely in Maputo, with some domestic workers earning as little as Mts500 (less that US$20) a month others as much as Mts8000 (almost US$300). Though Albertina earns well above average, she struggles to make ends meet. She pays Mts2000 monthly in rent, Mts3000 to the xitique (a rotating savings association), Mts250 for electricity, Mts680 for a bottle of gas, Mts200 for water. This leaves very little for food, transportation and other incidentals. ’It’s a miracle that I can even make ends meet,’ Albertina reflects. ’Without the xitique I wouldn’t be able to do it.’ With six people in her xitique, every six months one member receives Mts3000.

    Second on her wish list is a less rigorous schedule. Albertina herself works an eight-hour day but many of her colleagues far exceed the nine hours mandated by Decree 40/2008. As more and more women enter the labour force and public care facilities deteriorate, households increasingly rely on domestic workers to perform the reproductive functions. One colleague, Albertina recalls, had to work until 9:00 p.m. because her employer, a single mother, was in night school and had no one to look after her child.

    Third, breaks. ’My patrão (male employer) tells me that I am entitled to a 30 minute break but it’s impossible to take because of the intensity of work. If I’m able to, I rest in the corner for a few minutes because I get dizzy ... If I’m resting my boss will come and order me around. He says one thing but he does another.’ Lunch breaks are particularly challenging because in many households domestic workers are not allowed to eat the same food as the employer. With no time to cook their own meals, many workers labour from early in the morning until late in the evening with no sustenance. ’Even a telephone needs to be recharged,’ asserts Albertina.

    Fourth, paid time off. Though mandated by Decree 40/2008, Albertina has to negotiate paid sick days, ’When I got sick, my employer allowed me to take time off to go to the hospital but expected me to come back to work afterwards. He clearly didn’t treat me like I was sick. I did not challenge him directly. Instead I pretended that I’d gotten confused and gone straight home.’ Negotiating paid time off is particularly contentious for unexpected emergencies such as illness, funerals or other family occasions, ’Let’s say your father dies today, then in two weeks it’s another family member … the employer will refuse to let you go to the funeral. He’ll say, ”How is it that in your family people are dying everyday? Soon it will be you who will die.”’

    Fifth, improvements in occupational health and safety conditions, adequate tools and compensation for workplace accidents. ’I work meat and bones, absorbing toxic substances,’ says Albertina. ’When the patrão fumigates or paints the house they go on holiday, they stay in a hotel. But they expect that I should work. Then I get sick, have to go to hospital, and don’t have money to pay.’ In addition to safety equipment such as masks and gloves, Albertina argues that domestic workers should be provided with the adequate tools to perform the necessary tasks. For instance, her employer likes to have his clothes washed by hand. The apartment does have a clothes-washing tank but it leaks. Despite numerous requests, her employer has not fixed it, so Albertina is forced to wash the clothes in plastic tubs. Hours of crouching down, with cold water splashing on her feet, have worsened a pre-existing problem with her uterus.

    Finally, Albertina stresses the importance of a written contract. Under Decree 40/2008, domestic workers have the right to a contract. However, the contract can be verbal in nature. During conflicts, a verbal contract has no standing, ultimately placing the burden of proof on the domestic worker. In this way, Decree 40/2008 does not account for the unequal power relationship between employer and employee. Domestic work is extremely precarious and workers are easily fired. A signed contract, argues Albertina, would clarify the terms of employment, formalise the employment relationship and outline disciplinary procedures.

    The passage of Decree 40/2008 coincided with a global resurgence of interest in extending labour protections to this historically marginalised sector. A sustained campaign, led by domestic workers from around the globe, culminated in the 2011 adoption by the International Labour Organization (ILO) of Convention 189 on Decent for Domestic Workers. In Mozambique, as in countries worldwide, domestic workers’ organisations are currently pressuring the state to ratify C189.

    Albertina Mundlovo recognizes that it will not be easy to secure improvements in working conditions. Ultimately, she argues, only domestic workers themselves can transform the employer-employee relationship.

    ’They [employers] don’t have a problem with the way things are. We need to be strong, to fight, peacefully. Victories require sacrifice, people died for May 1st,’ she says, referring to International Workers’ Day.

    When the stress of negotiating working conditions overwhelms them, many domestic workers choose to leave their job. However, Albertina counsels against this. ’You’re never guaranteed that your next employer will be better than your last so you set yourself up for a very unstable situation. I always say, you shouldn’t fear your employer, they are not animals, you should have respect, and demand respect.’

    Albertina does not believe that the transformation of working conditions will take place overnight. Most employers still do not recognize domestic workers’ rights. While Albertina emphasises the importance of open communication, she also recognizes that employers have discretionary power to refuse to dialogue, sometimes violently.

    With experience, Albertina herself has been able to negotiate better working conditions by cultivating a good relationship with her employer and communicating one-on-one.

    ’Pick a day when you see that your employer is calm and explain your problem,’ she recommends. ’He’s likely to apologize … but if he tries to justify his actions, to elevate himself, you need to bow down to him because he can’t accept that you’re equals. You need to be patient.’

    Willing employers may promise improvements in working conditions, but in the absence of adequate state regulation, it is a choice rather than obligation, and promises often go unfulfilled. Domestic workers walk a very thin line in demanding access to their rights, and concerns over jobs security often win out in the ’patience industry.’ Nonetheless, Albertina has hope that slowly, conditions will improve.

    NOTE: Mts: Abbreviation for the Mozambican currency; 1 Mts = USD .0349; 3000 Mts. = USD 104.70, based on a mid-market conversion rate on September 18, 2012 (source:


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

    * Ruth Castel-Branco is a Mozambican researcher and labour activist, currently based at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. This article was first published by the Workers’ Lives Series of Women in Informal Employment Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO)

    The politics of human dignity

    Lindela Figlan


    cc A S
    Despite living in dehumanising conditions in their own country, the organised shack dwellers of South Africa find dignity in working together to resist their oppression. They build the power of the poor from below.

    The meaning of dignity is often misunderstood. Many people only think of dignity in relation to the economic status of those who are better off. This is understood to mean that a person with no money is taken as a person whose life and voice does not count and is therefore a person with no dignity. It is also understood that a person with money does count and is therefore a person with dignity. But no amount of money can buy dignity.

    Money can buy many things. With money you can live in a house that will not be demolished without warning, that does not leak in the rain, that has water, toilets and electricity. With money you can even give your children their own rooms. With money you can buy your children education and know that if they fall sick or meet with an accident they well be well looked after.

    But money does not buy dignity because to be a person with dignity you must recognise the dignity of others. No person is a complete person on their own, that is without others. In isiZulu we say ‘umuntu ungumuntu ngabantu.’ This means that a person is a person because of other people. Rich people are always demanding that other people show respect to them just because they are rich. They are always forcing us to show respect to them. The politicians are the same. But there is no dignity in forcing other people to show respect to you. There is dignity in respecting the humanity of others and in being respected back.

    As poor people we do not live in dignified conditions. In fact when it rains we live like pigs in the mud. Our shacks are always burning. We do not have toilets. We are disrespected by politicians and, when we have work, we are disrespected at work. Security guards and domestic workers are often treated as if we are not fully human. Sometimes we are also disrespected by NGOs, academics and other people that think that they have a right to lead the struggles of the poor and who get very angry when we explain that for us solidarity must be based on talking to us and not for us and thinking and deciding with us and not for us.

    But poor as we are we achieve our own dignity. Some people achieve dignity in their churches. Some achieve dignity through culture, in something like a choir. And we achieve dignity in the togetherness of our struggle. Our struggle is a space of dignity. Here we can express our suffering, we can think together and we can support each other. Our struggle is also a tool to fight for a world in which our dignity, and the dignity of all people, is recognised. Our struggle gives us dignity now and it also aims to create a work in which land, wealth and political power are shared amongst the people. S'bu Zikode first called this a living communism, a communism that is fully in the hands of the people. Therefore our struggle is based on the idea that defending our dignity now is the best way to create a world that respects everyone's dignity in the future.

    Our struggle is a living politic. It is a politic that everyone can understand and which is owned and shaped by the people. It is rooted in our lives as we live them everyday. We do not see politics as something that should be left to political experts or dominated by political experts.

    Before Abahlali baseMjondolo was formed the shack dwellers in South Africa were considered by government and some other people in our society, people in NGOs, universities and the media, to be the undeserving poor. This claim came as the result of the perception that the poor are lazy, uneducated and people who do not think and therefore do not count the same as other human beings. The general public, civil society and the media could not defend the poor against this indignity. The media had little or nothing to report on anything that surrounds shack dwellers, be it good or bad, that considered us as human beings or citizens.

    We were mostly seen as a threat to society – as a problem to be controlled. When shacks were on fire radios and televisions would not air or broadcast this. On the other side the state would refuse any provision of basic services to the shack settlements or to engage us as citizens. We were always considered as people who cannot think for ourselves. Someone from somewhere else would always be hired and paid to think for us, to represent us and to take decisions on our behalf. This was the state mentality towards the poor. It was also the mentality of most NGOs and of most of civil society. It has also been the mentality of what we have called the regressive left – that part of the left that thinks that its job is to think for the poor rather than with the poor and that tries by all means, including calling us criminals and supporting state propaganda and repression, to ruin what it cannot rule.

    The rights that we have on paper were always refused in reality. This included our rights as citizens, our rights to the cities and our rights to respect and dignity. Whenever we asked for our rights to be respected, for our humanity to be recognised, we were presented as troublemakers, as people that were being used by others, or as criminals. Our request to participate in the discussions about our own lives was taken as a threat. It is important that everyone understands that in this regard civil society and the left was often no different to the state.

    Abahlali has been organising and mobilising to build the power of the poor from below. We do not organise people. We organise ourselves. When people want to join our movement we explain that they must organise ourselves and that we will struggle with them and not for them. We ask them to think about this seriously, to discuss it with their neighbours and, if they accept that we will only struggle with them and not for them, then we welcome them into the movement. It can take a long time to join our movement. You must understand it well and you must be serious.

    We do not support any political parties or vote in elections. Politicians are always using the people's suffering and struggles as ladders to build their own power. We have therefore decided that we will not keep on giving our power away. We build our own power in our communities and encourage people to also build their own power where they work, study and pray. Where possible we govern our own communities ourselves.

    Our struggle started when we rejected the authority of the ward councillors and decided to represent ourselves. Today a new struggle is starting as workers on the mines reject the authority of the trade unions and represent themselves. We are hoping that the struggles in the shacks and on the mines and in other work places can come together. But struggle is very dangerous. As the poor, in the shacks and working in the mines, we are not allowed to think and act for ourselves. It is seen as criminal, even as treason.

    We have learnt that this order is one that cannot respect our humanity. In fact this order is based on our exploitation and exclusion. This order is designed to oppress us. Therefore we have understood that, as Mnikelo Ndabankulu first said, it is good to be out of order. We are not loyal to this order. We are loyal to our human dignity and to the human dignity of others and when that requires us to be out of order we are prepared to be out of order.

    We have dedicated a lot of our energy in building a University of Abahlali where we can discuss and learn together. Here we educate ourselves to refuse to be co-opted into a system that promotes the indignity of others. We educate ourselves to refuse to be shaken by the politic of fear created by the political parties and the police. In 2009 our movement was attacked in Kennedy Road and in Pemary Ridge. Many of us lost everything and had to flee. Some of us had to go underground. This attack was aimed at destroying our movement. A senior politician by the name of Willes Mchunu said that a decision had been taken to 'disband' our movement. However we are still here. We continue to exist and to struggle in the province where warlordism and assassination is the order of the day. We continue to try to make sure that the poor remain permanently organised and strong. This has helped us to build a strong voice for the movement. As a result of the power that we have built from the ground up we have been able to speak for ourselves in many spaces that were previously barred to us. For us it is important that, just as we occupy land in the cities, we must also occupy our own space in all discussions. This is the only way that we can take our struggle out of the shacks and into spaces from which the poor have been excluded. Of course this requires us to break the protocols that maintain power in certain circles by depriving others an equal chance to participate in these circles.

    Today, as a result of our struggle and the struggles of other poor people, we see a slow shift away from seeing shack settlements as something to be bulldozed without any sense that there are human lives in these places. There is now recognition that there are human lives in the shacks. We have stopped evictions in many settlements. In some settlements we have won agreements to upgrade these settlements with proper services and houses instead of forcibly removing people to the human dumping grounds called transit camps. Basic services such as water and sanitation, refuse collection, road access, electricity etc which were being denied to us are now being rolled out. In Durban the eThekwini Municipality long had a policy that forbids electrification of any shack settlement in the city. The result of this is constant fires. Today this killer electricity policy is under review and a pilot project to roll electricity in some four settlements has begun. To survive day by day these services are needed and they are important steps on the road to winning material conditions that accord with human dignity. To talk about an equal and a just society without land, houses and services for all is bizarre. This progress has come through the years of struggle and the power of the organized poor. Of course we still have a very long road to go. And with state repression getting worse all the time that road is a dangerous one.

    As repression gets worse solidarity becomes more and more important. We see the role of NGOs and progressive forces as being to support and strengthen the work of what we call our amabhuto and the NGOs call social movements - to work with our movements in a way that respects our autonomy. We urge the NGOs to be responsive and to learn from those who are struggling about the best way to support them without assuming that we need to be given political direction or creating the dependency syndrome. In order to do so you will have to familiarise with the practices of the movements. War on Want and the Church Land Programme are some of the very few organisations that have demonstrated this culture over years. They have had to revisit their strategic planning and to remove the red tape that prevented them from being able to offer effective support when comrades are in jail and in need of lawyers, bail money or facing death threats and in need of safe homes. They have not wasted our time with donor requirements and protocols that sometimes undermine and compromise our struggles. They have never tried to impose their own agendas on our struggles. They have understood that the struggle for human dignity is often criminalised. They have understood that they oppressed have every right to lead their own struggles.

    We know that here in Britain the working class and the poor are being made to pay the price for the greed of the rich. We know that you are under attack from a government of the rich, by the rich and for the rich. We know that you are resisting. We are in solidarity with you and with your struggles. If there are ways that we can support you please let us know. You are all welcome to visit us in South Africa. There are some ways in which are struggles are very different. But we face a common enemy in the form of the system that is known as capitalism.


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

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

    * Lindela Figlan is the Deputy President of Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM) for 2012. He works as a security guard. This article was a presentation at the Anarchist Bookfair, London, 24 October 2012

    Malawi: Illusions of elite entitlement

    The quota system and higher education access woes

    Steve Sharra


    cc CFAS
    At the heart of the quota system debate is the incredibly small number of students who are admitted to Malawi’s public universities. Malawi ranks bottom in the university-age cohort of young people enrolled annually.

    Recent media reports indicate that just before the University of Malawi released its selection list for the 2012/2013 academic year in October, the Malawi government had contemplated ending the quota system of selection into public universities. The reason given was that the quota system was costly. Although the University of Malawi went ahead to base its selection on the quota system, Malawians were left wondering and debating the merits and demerits of the quota system. More importantly, the question on everyone’s mind was why nearly 50 years after independence, Malawi’s flagship university, the University of Malawi, could afford space for only 908 students out of 102,651 students who sat the 2011 school leaving certificate examination.

    In order to examine whether or not the quota system is too expensive, and what its merits and demerits might be, we first need to define what we mean by ‘quota system.’ We need to contextualise the quota system’s historical and political meanings and implications for Malawi and draw comparisons and contrasts with higher education enrolments elsewhere in the world. We will also discuss why the number of students invited to sit the university entrance examination misrepresents the true number of Malawians who qualify for tertiary and university education each year. We will conclude by reflecting on the ill logic of higher education financing in this country, which is responsible for putting Malawi at the bottom of global enrolment tables for percentages of youth eligible for tertiary and university education.


    In his remarkable memoir, ‘And the Crocodiles Are Hungry at Night’, Malawi’s celebrated poet, Jack Mapanje, recounts an episode from his days at Mikuyu Maximum Security Prison, which points to the origins of the quota system. Mapanje dedicates two chapters to the episode, Chapter 41, titled ‘Northerners as an Excuse,’ and chapter 42, ‘Chirunga Campus Riots.’ Chapter 41 talks about how Mikuyu prison played host to Malawi’s hotbed of ethnic sensitivity and antagonism. A new officer-in-charge for the prison, a Mr Mughogho, brings some changes to the prison. The diet has begun to improve, and prisoners can now eat sweet potatoes, among other foods. Then a prisoner, Mbale, escapes, leading to prison conditions being tightened and reversed to the harsh, punitive atmosphere.

    When some prisoners begin the ethnic blame game about the northerner who escaped, other prisoners point to the improved conditions brought by Mughogho, also a northerner. The discussion continues to the next chapter, where Chancellor College students have rioted, following the November 1988 publication of the Chirunga Newsletter, a student magazine. An article in the student magazine had described how the chair of the university council was overheard expressing his displeasure at ‘the large proportion of students from the north who enter the university,’ wondering ‘whether they were admitted on merit or not.’ The council chair goes ahead to suggest that a quota system would be introduced at the beginning of the 1987 academic year, in September. Students would now be admitted into the University of Malawi ‘on the basis of their district and region of birth.’

    In this particular form of the quota system, the intent is clear. It is aimed at limiting the number of students from the northern region, who are believed to be disproportionately more than their counterparts in the central and southern regions. At the heart of the quota system debate is the incredibly small number of students who are accorded space in Malawi’s public universities. Malawi ranks bottom in the university-age cohort of young people who are actually enrolled in tertiary education, according to the website

    A 2011 survey of 150 countries places Malawi at number 150, with 0.3 percent of young Malawians in the 17-22 year age range actually pursuing tertiary education. In Africa, the highest percentage in 2011 was Libya, ranked 26th in the world, at 48.8 percent. Malawi’s neighbours did slightly better: Zimbabwe at 3.9 percent, Zambia at 2.5 percent, Tanzania at 0.7 per cent, and Mozambique at 0.6 per cent.

    Curiously but understandably enough, more heat is created by the debate surrounding the quota issue than on what solutions to pursue to increase access and allow every qualified student a place in a public university or tertiary institution. Efforts by education activists to propose a quota system that uses socio-economic, gender and class indicators do not amount to much. Emotions rule and debates are considered on which side of the quota system and the ethnicity divide the proponent stands.

    A ‘win-win university quota selection system’, as suggested by education policy analyst and scholar-activist Limbani Nsapato, would consider merit on the one hand, and socio-economic factors including gender, disability and poverty, on the other. It would ensure that qualifying students from rural districts of Malawi and from marginalized backgrounds would have an equal chance of being accorded a place in Malawi’s public universities. With the exception of the gender factor, which was taken into consideration in the 2012 selection into the University of Malawi, the type of quota system suggested by Nsapato has never been attempted.


    In its September 8-14, 2012 issue the weekly newspaper Malawi News published on its front page an article titled ‘How Quota System Died.’ Written by Charles Mpaka, the article quoted an official memorandum from Finance Minister Dr. Ken Lipenga to President Joyce Banda, recommending that the quota system be abandoned on the grounds that it was expensive. A close reading of the article, based on the quoted parts, shows that rather than abandoning the quota system, the main issue raised in the memo was reducing government expenditure on public universities.

    On October 4 the University of Malawi released its 2012 selection list, while the newly instituted Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR), with Bunda College as its biggest constituent college, released its list three days later. Contrary to the reported recommendation to drop the quota system as per the quoted memorandum, the University of Malawi selection list was again based on a quota system.

    The University of Malawi published on its website a statement that said selection had been ‘done using the equitable access system of admitting candidates into public institutions of higher learning.’ The term ‘equitable access system’ is supposed to be a more politically acceptable way of describing what everyone calls ‘quota.’ The statement went further to say:

    ‘Under this arrangement, the top ten qualified candidates from each district were offered places and thereafter, the rest were selected based on merit and the size of the population of the districts they originated from to underscore that higher education, like any other form of development, should be seen to be benefiting the whole country.’


    The number of students selected into the University of Malawi for the 2012/2013 academic year is 908. The statement said a total of 8507 candidates sat for the 2012 University Entrance Examinations (UEE). Out of these 6,373 candidates passed, representing a 75 percent pass rate. For LUANAR, which based its selection on the same students who had applied to the University of Malawi, 456 students were admitted. It is important to put these numbers into context.

    The number of students who registered to sit for the 2012 Malawi School Certificate Examination was 130,000, according to spokesperson for Malawi National Examinations Board (MANEB), Gerald Chiunda, quoted in a Capital FM Radio online article. The results are yet to be released, as of writing in mid-October. But the most recent available figures, from 2011, show that 102,651 students sat the examination. Of these, 56,273 passed, representing 54.8 percent pass rate, according Zodiak Broadcasting Station’s website. Ordinarily, passing the school leaving certificate examination ought to qualify one for tertiary or higher education.

    The percentage of Malawian youth who ought to be in tertiary institutions, and are actually doing so is 0.3. It is not difficult to understand why, when you look at the numbers. In the 2011/2012 academic year only 366 students were admitted into Malawi’s second public university, Mzuzu. Of these 254 were males (69 percent), while 112 females (31 percent). In the recently released numbers for Malawi’s private and public technical colleges, the Technical, Entrepreneurial, Vocational, Education and Training Authority (TEVETA) received 16,236 applications. In their press release of Saturday October 6th, TEVETA announced that they had admitted 1,580 students.

    The question of whether or not the quota system is expensive is not at the heart of the matter. The true scandal of Malawi’s higher education system is that almost fifty years after independence, the country is unable to provide the majority of her young people an opportunity to access higher education and thereby contribute to national development. A project at Harvard University that studies higher education in Sub-Saharan Africa observes that no country has ever achieved high levels of development with less than 50 percent enrollment of its university-age population.


    The demand for higher education in Malawi has reached insatiable levels, and the country is woefully prepared for this demand. The biggest reason for this is the incomprehensible policy of the government paying for people to go to university even when they can afford it themselves. And there is no requirement for them to repay the investment. The only countries where this happens are the wealthiest ones in the global North. Even then, in countries such as the United States those who qualify for university education but are unable to afford it are given scholarships or loans.

    Student loans are not a perfect solution either. In the United States, millions of students graduate with debt burdens that threaten to bankrupt them for decades. In Britain, tuition fees have tripled, and up to 54,000 potential students who were expected to enter higher education have been unable to enrol. With youth unemployment becoming a global problem, student loans are no longer being seen as a flawless panacea. For Malawi, the solution lies in balancing the lessons from the US, the UK and elsewhere, with the irreversible need to widen access and sustainably finance a growing Malawian higher education system.

    In the days following the release of the 2012/2013 selection into the University of Malawi, elite private secondary schools boasted the numbers of students they had managed to send to Malawi’s flagship university. Students whose parents just a few months ago were paying more than K1 million a year for their children to attend elite secondary schools are now going to be paid K320,000 a year to study in Malawi’s public universities. Public universities in Malawi pay students ‘upkeep monthly allowances of K40,000 per student’ according to a recent press release announcing a raise in the allowances from K33,000 last year.

    This is due to the lopsided logic of Malawi’s publically-funded higher education. This emanates from two sources. The first one is well meaning: an obligation to invest in a public good for Malawians who cannot afford to pay for higher education. But the other one is misguided: a sense of elite entitlement. The practice elsewhere in the world is to admit all the students who have qualified for higher education, based on classroom space available. It is up to the students to look for tuition fees. Those able to afford the fees accept the offers and register as students. Those unable to afford the fees apply for the available scholarships or loans, awarded on merit and on need. This is how you grow a university. It is how everyone else in the world has managed to increase access to higher education, whereas we have stagnated.

    By admitting students on a non-residential basis and requiring them to pay for accommodation, public universities are taking steps toward widening access. But much more needs to be done. The newly established national council for higher education has its work cut out. As for the ethnic origins of the quota system, the real issue would have been to investigate the factors that lead certain districts and populations to do better than others. There are lessons to be learned from how some parents, communities and social groups encourage excellence in education. The lessons can be used to afford equal opportunities to others so as to level the playing field and provide everyone an equal chance.


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    * Steve Shara, PhD, is a 2012 fellow of the Programme for African Leadership, London School of Economics. He blogs at This article appears in the November-December issue of The Lamp Magazine.

    ELearning can solve human resource gap in Africa

    Bakary Diallo


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    Only a tiny percentage of African students are admitted to university because of limited capacity at the institutions. Developments in computer technology can address this problem, as the case of African Virtual University shows.

    Over the last decade, Africa has experienced unparalleled economic growth, putting the continent on a pedestal to become the next growth frontier. Development experts predict that economies in Africa will continue to grow at an average of six percent even when the rest of the world is currently facing a slump. McKinsey Global Institute, a leading economic research institution, predicts that financial services, retail, telecommunications, and construction sectors in Africa will attract more private-investment inflows.

    While there is so much optimism surrounding Africa’s growth potential, the continent appears to be lagging behind in training the necessary human resource to match its rosy economic growth. Although the number of students enrolling for tertiary education has been growing, the numbers are still dismally low. Only six per cent of students in sub-Saharan Africa are enrolled in tertiary institutions. However, educationists and economists have observed that if Africa is going to compete in the global economy, at least 12-15 per cent of the continent’s workforce should have attained tertiary education.

    Universities in Africa are overwhelmed by increasing student numbers. Even with the introduction of parallel evening programs, universities still appear to be struggling to deal with the growing student numbers. Universities have been unable to increase physical infrastructure to meet the growing demand. This demonstrates that the current mode of delivery has been unable to meet either current or projected demand. Therefore, under the traditional classroom teaching, tertiary education for most of school leaving children will remain unattainable.

    On the other hand, distance education delivered could offer the needed alternative. Distance education employs several methods of learning such as eLearning and correspondence to extend education to students who are unable to access facilities within the physical classroom due to time and space constraints. It is not restricted by time or space thereby enabling students to learn at their own pace and time through regular guidance from tutors and lecturers.

    While universities in the past used correspondence as a mode of delivery for distance learning programs, universities have now shifted to eLearning due to recent developments in technology. Increase in internet connectivity and access to high speed broadband connection have made it possible to increase access to online courses, including Open Educational Resources (OERs) and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC).

    The 21st century is providing increased opportunities for universities to turn to eLearning as an alternative to traditional classroom-based learning. Leading universities in the world such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard launched new initiatives integrating the latest developments on use of ICT in education. The African Virtual University (AVU) OERs are being accessed in some 193 countries worldwide.

    Africa can therefore leapfrog barriers to student enrollment by exploiting opportunities eLearning offers. The 2000 Dakar Framework for Action recognizes use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) as a key strategy for achieving ‘Education for All’ goals. In 2003, NEPAD prioritized efforts towards bridging of the digital divide between Africa and the developed world by fast tracking support to ICT initiatives in enhancing access to education.

    Distance education using information technologies has its own challenges. There is still limited internet connectivity on the continent, the high cost of connectivity as well as intermittent power disruption. Besides these infrastructure issues, there are often lack of national and institutional policies, the scarcity of experienced human resources and the perception that distance education may not offer the same quality as face-to-face education.

    However, given the pressure on Sub-Saharan countries to face the demand of access to higher education and train human capital who did not attend universities, with the progress made in laying fiber optics and in using alternative source of power, the challenges can be addressed efficiently in order to unlock the potential of ICT in education. Additionally, the emergence mobile technology is an asset Africans can count on.

    Between 2005 and 2011, AVU implemented a continent-wide program, the Multinational Project I covering 12 universities in 10 countries, and the AVU is currently implementing the Multinational Project II (2012-2016) covering 27 universities in 21 African countries, with the main objective of enhancing the capacity of universities to offer ICT integrated programs in mathematics and sciences and to increase access to higher education and training.

    This the right time for Africa to consider eLearning to address the growing demand for quality and affordable education and training. AVU and other institutions have proved that current challenges can be overcome. This requires appropriate policies and funding, meticulous planning and execution, innovation, quality control, research and development and a vast sensitization campaign. Training human capital that can sustain African economic and social development is possible.


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    * Bakary Diallo, PhD, is the rector of African Virtual University, its head offices in Nairobi, Kenya, and a regional office in Dakar, Senegal.

    The root of black landlessness in South Africa

    Motsoko Pheko


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    The ‘New South Africa’ or ‘Rainbow Nation’ is today a country of two nations: one is the extremely rich white settler minority and the other is the extremely poor African indigenous majority. All this thanks to a land law passed a hundred years ago.

    AGRI TV: Section 1(a) of the Native Land Act 1913 reads as follows: ‘a native shall not enter into agreement or transaction for the purchase...from a person other than a native, of any such land.’ Can you explain to us what this means, and what the implications were for the so-called ‘Natives?’

    MOTSOKO PHEKO: This means that the native was allowed to purchase land only from other natives, not from non-natives who were European settlers now colonially allocated 93 percent of the African country and its mineral wealth. Africans could purchase land from one another only from 7 percent of the land allocated to the Africans. It must be remembered that the Native Land Act of 1913 was precipitated by the fact that during the 1911 harvest some African farmers had garnered 3,000 bags of wheat while European settler farmers had reaped a mere 300 to 400 bags of wheat. African farmers’ produce kept mills busy in places such as Ficksburg, Klerksdorp and Zeerust. African export business was looming in the not distant future.

    As Sol Plaatje, the First Secretary of the 1912 ANC wrote colonialists asked, ‘Where will we get servants if Kaffirs (Africans) are allowed to become skilled? A Kaffir with a thousand bags of wheat? What will he do with the money? If they (Africans) are inclined to herd pedigree stock, let them improve their masters’ (colonial settlers) cattle and cultivate for the land owner- not for themselves.’

    Earlier, Earl Glen a British colonial official had said, ‘The natives (Africans) are generally looked upon by Whites as an inferior race, whose interests must be systematically disregarded when they come into competition with their own. Natives must be governed mainly with a view to the advantage of the superior race. Two things should be afforded to white colonists obtaining the possession of LAND...the Kaffir population should be made to furnish as large and cheap a supply of labour as possible.’

    AGRI TV: What is the accepted meaning of the word native?

    MOTSOKO PHEKO: The accepted meaning of the word native is indigenous, genuine, legitimate, original, aboriginal owners of a country. The Australian Aboriginal and the Africans in this country, including the Khoisan people fall in this category. That is why a Khoi king asked invader Jan van Riebeeck a pertinent question. ‘You say we must move from our land because LAND is not enough for the cattle pastures of colonial settlers as well as ours. Who then with the greatest degree of justice should give way, the native owner or the foreign invader?’

    AGRI TV: As part of his opening remarks addressed to delegates to the recent Rural Economy Transformation Conference, the Minister of Land Reform And Rural Development said that the Native Land Act was ‘essentially an act of war’ but that the restitution cannot be undertaken in an equally warlike way ‘because the constitution forbids it.’ What do you think?

    MOTSOKO PHEKO: The Native Land Act 1913 was a crime against humanity. It was genocide against the African people. It is a conundrum of conundrums that those who ‘negotiated’ so-called democracy allowed section 25(7) of the constitution which is the same thing as the Native Land Act 1913. This section of the constitution in a ‘New South Africa’ has consolidated land dispossession of the African people.

    The Minister of Land Reform and Rural Development is totally misguided and misleading when he says restitution cannot take place ‘because the constitution forbids it.’ Section 74 of this Eurocentric constitution itself, allows amendment by a two-thirds majority of Parliament voting. It is the ANC government which for reasons of its own has for many years vowed that it will not amend the constitution on the land question even if it had a two-thirds majority. This probably stems from the secret dark deals the ANC leaders cut with the apartheid colonialist regime in its 1993 ‘negotiations.’
    Constitutions however, are made to serve the majority interests of a country’s people not to make economic slaves out of them.

    AGRI TV: At the same Conference, the Deputy Minister said, ‘We need to study history to see where our country went wrong.’ What is your comment?

    MOTSOKO PHEKO: The Deputy Minister was absolutely correct. One of the great scholars and brilliant political leader of this country, Dr Muziwakhe Lembede warned, ‘One who wants to create a future must not forget the past.’

    The land question will never be resolved in this country as long as its colonial history is swept under the carpet. The Union of South Africa was established on injustice, racism and genocide of the African people. It was meant to be an ‘Australia’ on the Continent of Africa. The Union of South Africa Act 1909 clearly stated in section 44 (c) ‘The qualifications of a Member of the House of Assembly shall be as follows: He... must be a British subject of European descent.’

    Through the Native Land Act 1913, the South African colonial parliament allocated 93 percent of this African country to 349,837 colonial settlers. This colonial allocation was as follows: Cape Colony 167,546, Natal 34,784, Orange River Colony 41,014 and Transvaal 106,493. Only 7 percent of the country which colonialists now called South Africa got allocated to five million colonised Africans. This 7% was called ‘Native Reserves.’ It was an extremely poor crowded concentration camp for cheap native labour for farms and mines now owned by the colonial settlers from Europe. Today Africans in South Africa are over forty million. They make 80 percent of the country’s population.

    The so-called Freedom Charter of the ANC betrayed the anti-colonial struggle of the African people in 1955 when its preamble deceitfully stated, ‘South Africa belongs to all who live in it black and white’ while the ownership of the African country was wholly in the hands of the European colonial minority through its military terrorism backed by British imperialism. Azania (South Africa) became a British colony as a result of the Berlin Treaty of 26 February 1885.

    The fundamental objective of the African liberation struggle in this country was for equitable redistribution of land and its resources, according to population numbers. The true 1912 ANC which was led by John Dube and Sol Plaatje made this demand very clear to King George V of Britain on 20th July 1914. This was a year after the Native Land Act 1913 was promulgated.

    The London Daily News of this time, reporting about this colonial law of extermination said, ‘White races have shown little regard for the claims of the black man. They expropriating his land...taken away his economic freedom, and have left him in a worse case than they found him. How the native has been dispossessed may be illustrated by facts in regard to the Union of South Africa. Here blacks, as compared with whites, are in the proportion of Four to one; but they are in legal occupation of only one-fifteenth of the soil.’

    It is treacherous in the extreme that it is the 1955 ANC leaders who allowed a section of the colonial settlers to infiltrate the African liberation struggle. These settlers cheated them through the fraudulent ‘Freedom Charter’ (Freedom Cheater). They deceived also the world and the African people of this country that the Native Land Act 1913 did not matter since their ‘Freedom Charter’ in essence said that 13% of the land was enough for the African people. The infiltrated 1955 ANC endorsed this political fraud at the CODESA ‘negotiations’ hence section 25(7) of the ‘New South Africa’ constitution is the same thing as the Native Land Act 1913.

    The Native Land Act 1913 will be one hundred years old on 19th June 2013. Africans are still land dispossessed, criminally oppressed economically and socially degraded. This shows how the Azanian Revolution was corrupted, ruined and derailed by the captured 1955 ANC leaders. ‘New South Africa’ or the so-called ‘Rainbow Nation’ is today a country of ‘two nations.’ One is extremely rich and white settler minority which lives a ‘first world economy.’ The other is extremely poor and African indigenous majority which lives a ‘third world economy.’

    AGRI TV: Am I right in thinking that if there had been no Native Land Act the apartheid legislation might have been difficult to introduce?

    MOTSOKO PHEKO: I think you are right. Before the colonial settlers enacted the Native Land Act 1913, Africans had access to fertile land. They were prosperous farmers. They could mine minerals in any part of their country. They worked for themselves. They had economic power. Their life span was not the shortest. Their child mortality was not the highest as the case is today. The British colonial government had to import Indians to come and work on their sugarcane farms. They had to tax Africans in order to force them to come and work in the mines after the discovery of gold and diamonds.

    When this failed, their colonial remedy was to allocate five million Africans 7% of their own land. Africans then began to be victims of massive poverty, ignorance and diseases such as TB. They lost economic control of their country. The Native Land Act reduced Africans to a nation of servants and workers for foreigners. Today many Africans do not have even a piece of land to build themselves decent homes, let alone to do some farming or mine some minerals such as gold, platinum and diamonds for themselves. They have no money to educate their children. They are third class citizens in the country of their ancestors.

    AGRI TV: The theme behind the DRDLR’s what does the latter acronym stand for campaign is ‘Reverse the Legacy’ of the 1913 Native Land Act? Is it possible to reverse the so-called Legacy of the Native Land Act 1913?

    MOTSOKO PHEKO: Why was it not reversed in the first place in CODESA ‘negotiations’ and in the 1996 Constitution? Can this country afford not to reverse this glaring colonial and economic injustice? This so-called legacy is genocide. It has created massive poverty among the African people. The consequences of not reversing the Native Land Act 1913 are deadly.
    Poverty is the mother of revolutions. The Marikana Massacre of 16 August 2012 under the ANC government is a wakeup call for this country, to get its act together. There must be equitable redistribution of land and its resources in Azania (South Africa). This must be according to population numbers.

    The Native Land Act 1913 in South Africa is the colonial sister of the Balfour Declaration of 2nd November 1917 through which the British colonial government dispossessed 92 percent of the Palestinian people of their land.


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

    * Dr. Motsoko Pheko is a historian, political scientist, lawyer, theologian and author of several books among which is SOUTH AFRICA: BETRAYAL OF A COLONISED PEOPLE. During the anti-colonial apartheid struggle, he was a Representative of the victims of apartheid at the United Nations in New York, as well as at the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva. He was a Member of Parliament in Cape Town for ten years.


    Fahamu Refugee Legal Aid Newsletter: November 2012 issue available


    The Fahamu Refugee Programme is pleased to announce the November 2012 issue of the Fahamu Refugee Legal Aid Newsletter. The issue can be found here. Please feel free to share it widely.

    In this issue:

    • Country of Origin and Legal News

    • Deportation News

    • Court enjoins arrest of Sudanese asylum seekers until further decision is reached
    •Case of Singh and Others v. Belgium

    • Certain forms of serious interference with the public manifestation of religion may constitute persecution for reasons of religion

    • The Search: protection space in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, and the Philippines

    • Pilot users needed for Asylum Access Refugee Rights Toolkit


    Unsolved issues in South Korea’s domestic refugee law
    Advocacy for refugees using the domestic refugee law in Korea

    • Remembering episodes of sexual violence: the impact of post-traumatic stress disorder on evidence

    • Compilation of recent materials on Rwanda and continuing crisis of UNHCR’s recommendation that the Cessation Clause be invoked in June 2013

    • Joint NGO statement on international protection, delivered before the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Geneva, October 2012

    • Treatment of returned failed asylum seekers to the Democratic Republic of Congo

    • Petition provides hope for the delay of the anti-infiltration law to asylum seekers in Israel

    • Resources

    • Publications

    • Calls for papers

    • Conferences, workshops, and courses

    • Grants and awards

    • Vacancies

    We welcome any and all feedback, and look forward to submissions from legal aid providers, refugee advocates, refugees, and any others interested in the promotion of refugee legal aid globally.

    Comment & analysis

    On the appointment of women to Somali cabinet

    Hala Alkarib


    While the nomination to key ministerial posts shows commitment of the government to involve women, it must not mask the massive day-to-day persecution of women in Somalia. A drastic ideological change is needed.

    On 4 November 2012, the new Somali Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon announced the composition of his first Cabinet with two women appointed as part of the 10-member executive. Of particular note, Fowsiyo Yusuf Hajji Aden was appointed as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs while Maryam Kassim was appointed as Minister of Social Development. Fowsiyo’s appointment marks the first time in Somali history that a woman has been situated as head of the foreign ministry.

    The appointments require formal approval by the Federal Parliament; as such there is still a possibility that their nominations could be denied, especially as opposition to the inclusion of women in politics by conservative sections of Somalia has been felt in the recent past. Furthermore, despite legislation demanding a 30 percent quota of women in parliament, the August 2012 elections saw women win 38 of the 275 Parliamentary seats available [1], the equivalent of 13.8 percent, far shorter than the minimum number required. Nonetheless, the nomination of these two women alone demonstrates a serious recognition from the newly elected Somali government towards the role of women particularly under the current circumstances of the country.

    On the face of it, we should celebrate the elevation of women into senior political positions; however, it is important to acknowledge the fact that across Africa, engaging women in high level political offices does not automatically translate into real commitments to women’s equality. Although there are exceptions, across the continent, African governments have used the recruitment of women to high offices to project an impression of good governance, commitments to diversity and respect for both sexes. The harsh reality is that the elevation of women in politics has not automatically generated the same elevation of women in society and real and tangible changes in achieving gender equality on the ground. This is not to undermine the brave decision taken by the newly elected Somali government and the courageous women who accepted the task while they are faced with a society that has been infused with a combination of patriarchy and religious fundamentalism.

    Since the early 1990s, Somalia has been held hostage to brutal conflicts based on clan and religious militancy and was turned into the backyard of an imported fundamentalist ideology, which is backed by foreign wealth and equipped with dogmatic conceptions of religious beliefs. There has been mass displacement, breakdown of social protection mechanisms, the proliferation of small arms alongside weak police and governance, giving rise to impunity, and women have found themselves subject to gross violations of their human rights. Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), forced/early marriage and domestic violence are still rife while women in Mogadishu IDP camps have found themselves increasingly subject to rape and sexual violence. Women street vendors have recently found themselves proxy targets for groups such as Al Shabaab in lieu of legitimate military ones, with vendors murdered for having sold tea to pro-government forces. According to the UN, around 20 incidents of sexual violence are reported each day, and between July – September 2012, the incidence of sexual violence quadrupled – a period which coincides with the transition to the formally elected Somali Federal Government.

    Having said that, it’s important to understand that the suffering of women in Somalia is backed by a solid ideology which has had the upper hand for years over the Somali society and unless the newly elected Somali government addresses the ideological beliefs that justify the persecution of both men and women, change will remain problematic. The circles of religious militants in the Horn countries like Somalia and Sudan present their agendas in a religious idiom and project themselves as the only true mantle bearers of Islam. What needs to be understood and put into perspective is that what these groups are presenting is not religion, its political movements working towards gaining political power at the community, national or international levels. These actors control people by silencing all dissenting voices, including other religious voices. They do so by blackmailing people into silence, spreading fear and persecution of men and women and by crushing dissent through predominantly legitimising practises of violence against women and capitalising on the traditional subordination of women in the Horn societies.

    The rebuilding of Somalia requires a comprehensive approach towards peace and security beyond armed fighting. It is very important to secure awareness channels and accessible means of knowledge and to empower enlightened Islamic religion faith existence. This task of rebuilding awareness inside new Somalia is as important as constructing schools and health centres. The Somali government and its partners should focus on emphasising attentive polices in supporting youth and commit to enforce laws that are guided by international and regional mechanisms and seriously seek to ensure women safety and human rights in the country.


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

    * Hala Alkarib is the regional director of Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA).

    Understanding challenges of South Sudan: A rejoinder

    Christopher Zambakari


    South Sudan analyst responds to critiques of his previous articles on the challenges of building the new nation.

    I would like to take a moment to respond to two commentators who wrote responses to my articles published by Pambazuka News: ‘South Sudan in the post-CPA era: Prospects and challenges’ [1] and ‘The role of women in nation-building in South Sudan.’ [2] I will begin by responding to that written by Divine Muragijimana, Editor in Chief at Applause Africa and President, Co-founder of The Council of Young African Leaders. [3] Lastly, I will address the critiques raised by Deng Chol, Founder and Vice President at The Lost Boys and Girls of Sudan: The National Network. I am grateful for the time and effort taken by each commenter, Divine and Deng, to respond to my articles and to foster a healthy, constructive discussion on an important subject. In the next section, I will respond to questions they raised about two of my articles.

    Divine focused on leadership. She wrote that ‘the author’s devotion on problems seems to take away from a real problem that needs to be addressed.’ According to Divine, what I failed to address was the question of leadership. She urged South Sudanese to move on instead of focusing on Garang. In her own words, ‘Otherwise, the South Sudanese will find themselves facing the stagnation of the past- much like the Lumumba situation in Congo, the Che Guavaras (sic)- and the Nkrumah issue in Ghana (if not the rest of West Africa). Bottom line, South Sudan needs to get over its romance with Garang, move on and upwards (hopefully).’

    The sweeping generalisation is without any attempt to understand Nkrumah, Lumumba and Che Guevara’s legacies. What is ironic in Divine’s response is that she also fails to understand Garang’s legacy as leader, visionary, scholar and statesman. More specifically, she misses Garang’s greatest legacy and instead rushes to advise South Sudanese to move on and find new leaders. This failure is likely due to her lack of familiarity with Garang’s works and specially his New Sudan Vision, which analyzes the problems of the Sudan and charts a way forward. It can be illuminating to compare Divine’s response to a person arguing shortly after the assassination of Martin Luther King in the United States of America, telling civil rights activists that Dr. King’s dream and his contribution to the civil rights movement died with him and should be considered as something of the past. This would be unthinkable in the United States. In regard to South Sudan, Divine’s analysis is likewise devoid of historical truth and thus deficient.

    While arguing for sound leadership, she seems to completely miss the larger point: diagnosis precedes prescription. Her haste towards a solution blinds her to what made Garang such a powerful leader in Sudan and his inspirational vision. Without adequately diagnosing the problem, there cannot be a durable solution to any problem.

    Divine proposes that ‘South Sudan needs to set an example to the rest of Africa by the inclusion of both gender (sic), race and age in the new leadership bloc.’ Had Divine taken the time to read Garang’s authoritative text on the problems of the Sudan [4] and the Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan of 2011 [5] which was inspired by the New Sudan Vision, she would have realised that the Framework proposed an inclusive solution to the problem of Sudan.

    The new dispensation was set ‘to involve an all-inclusive Sudanese state which will uphold the New Sudan; a new political Sudanese dispensation in which all Sudanese are equally stakeholders irrespective of their religion, irrespective of their race, tribe or gender.’ [6] The Framework, developed by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army under the leadership of Garang was an attempt to solve the chronic problems of the Sudan in a holistic manner. A reading of the Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan (TCRSS) testifies to the enduring Vision proposed by Garang.

    I have elaborated on this in an article published by Pambazuka entitled ‘The role of women in nation-building in South Sudan.’ [7] There, I noted that the TCRSS ‘is a very comprehensive document that covers a broad range of rights for all South Sudanese and specifically includes an Affirmative Action Clause for women. It provides rights to women, as well as the right to have access to health care and education for all South Sudanese. More importantly, it does away with the legal ethnic distinction that is a common feature of many African constitutions.’ [8] I agree with Divine that leadership is important. The realisation of the New Sudan will depend on good leadership. The current failure in fulfilling the minimum of 25 percent of women in leadership position in South Sudan points towards lack of political will to implement the provisions.

    The importance of Garang’s vision was noted by Hassan al-Turabi, the ideologue of the National Islamic Front, the predecessor to the National Congress Party, after the unfortunate death of Garang. Turabi noted that Garang was ‘the man around whom all the political forces and the Sudanese have built consensus for the first time in Sudan’s history . . . his departure will greatly affect the issues he has raised and on which the Sudanese have agreed with him.’ [9] Garang recognised that the postcolonial crisis in Sudan centered on how to build an effective plural society and manage diversity through an inclusive framework. He called this framework the New Sudan.

    The realisation of the New Sudan proved daunting and South Sudanese voted to secede from Sudan in 2011. Despite independence the new state still has responsibility to build a modern state that manages diversity within an inclusive, democratic framework, where national identity transcends ethnicity, race and place of origin. This will have a profound impact not only in South Sudan but in Sudan and in East Africa at large where colonialism left a devastating legacy ‘of defining every individual on the basis of a racial or tribal political identity based on origin.’ [10] This is the same vision that the current Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF) in the border regions and the many rebel movements in Western and Eastern Sudan are fighting to realise.

    Instead of dismissing uncritically the legacy of leaders, it is instructive to learn from their successes and mistakes so as to build upon their legacies instead of tearing down everything they built and erecting a new structure in its place without understanding the points of convergence and divergence between the old and the new leadership.

    Leadership is not about dismissing all past legacies without analysis. It is the ability to articulate a shared vision and inspire others to see the future. It is the ability to walk a well-traveled path, being grateful for established direction without getting stuck in the ruts created by previous travelers. To learn and build upon the past is wisdom. To reject the past unexamined under the pretext that it is old and useless for the present is youthful arrogance.

    In the next section, I turn my attention to the points raised by Deng Chol. The call for a broader field of inquiry, an expansion of the criteria used to evaluate the ruling party in South Sudan and the one that came to power in Uganda in 1986 is welcome. Given the limited space to discuss in great details the many forms of injustices that exist in Sudan and South Sudan as well as the interaction between them in relation to context, history and deliberate government policies that produce these injustices, my article was brief. Hence, it did not venture into distinguishing between all the forms of injustices felt by societies in South Sudan or, for that matter, what Deng calls ‘state historical injustices’ and ‘historical injustices.’

    State injustices do not arise in a vacuum. They are rooted in a certain socio-historical context and carried out by certain agents, whether government, the state or various actors within society. To make sense of injustices inherited by the new government in South Sudan is to situate each in its historical context. Lastly, the TCRSS does not distinguish between forms of injustices. It uses the term broadly. It was in that spirit that I used the term as well.

    The article sought to do something else: point to current policies that, if left unreformed, will generate predictable outcomes: the disenfranchisement of women and youth. This is why the example of Uganda was deployed. Only deliberate and conscious effort by the state can lay the structure in which reform that rectifies historical wrongs takes place. Without active involvement by the state and with a weakened civil society, a divided population and political institutions still in infancy, the task ahead is very difficult. It was never my intention to present an exhaustive or conclusive comparative study of South Sudan and Uganda.

    Next, Deng wrote that, ‘So far since CPA, there have been three major political events - all of which happened before independence: election, referendum and independence. Since you [author] chose to analyse these events, by alluding to the election of governors, despite the fact that they occurred prior to our independence, I can as well critique the events as given. The right to vote and be voted in a participatory democracy is one of the key ingredients that cement the notion of the ‘government by the people of the people for the people.’ In all the three major events, men and women alike, I suspect, participated without discrimination either funded, administered or promoted by national government.’

    First, the article was not an analysis of events. It was, rather, an analysis of issues affecting women in South Sudan and their inclusion or lack thereof in the nation-building project. The CPA was not discussed. Election, referendum and declaration of independence were not discussed in detail but the focus was on outcomes that are the result of those events and current government policies towards the achievement of and fulfillment of the Affirmative Action Clause in the constitution.

    I sought to situate the issue within the larger context in which they occur. Deng’s larger questions are about democracy in South Sudan. His comments about elections of governors, qualification to run for office, the role of civil society organisations and rights of citizens are all related to democracy. Secondly, by reducing the question of democracy to election alone, Deng falls for the form of democracy instead of its substance. He mistook one small expression of a bigger process for its substance. Democracy reduced to elections, multipartyism, accountability, and transparency makes a total mockery of the process itself.

    To confine the question of woman’s representativeness in governance, which gives them a say in the decision-making process itself, and to the fact that the election of governors and the holding of the referendum all took place before independence, completely misses my point. Deng’s analysis also does not capture the plight of women in South Sudan.

    A remedial literature review would reveal the distinct nature of the problem faced by women compared to their male counterparts. Despite the fact that women constitute 65 percent of South Sudan’s total population, there is no corresponding representation in institutions of governance. A report produced by UNESCO (2011) found high illiteracy rate for both men and women in South Sudan. It showed that only 38 percent of adults are literate. However, among the women’s population, 92 percent were illiterate. Despite women constituting the majority of the population, ‘only 37 percent of those enrolled in school at primary level are girls. This drops to 27 percent in secondary school.’ [11] While literacy rate stands at 28 percent nationally, ‘it is much lower among women and girls age six or older (19 percent) than among men and boys in the same age group (38 percent).’ [12] According to another UNESCO report (2011), ‘Young girls face particularly extreme disadvantages.’ [13] With a lower entrance rate for girls than boys, completion rate is also lower for girls than boys. With some variation by states, the reality of women and girls is that they are at a disadvantage. The report recognised the urgency for a clear strategy to improve overall enrollment in addition to gender-specific policies for girls’ education. This reality is consistent with Sudan where women are at an educational disadvantage compared to their male counterparts.

    Deng is right that one must distinguish between what is the outcome of failed policies today and the historical problems inherited from the old Sudan. As a matter fact, one gets this from the report authored by Dr. Nada M. Ali and published by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP). [14] Dr. Ali notes the obvious disparity in education between men and women, boys and girls and goes on to highlight other social factors that make the predicament of women deserving of a ‘clear gendered strategy’:

    ‘The dominant division of roles within the household, along with entrenched practices such as early and forced marriage for girls, contribute to this disparity. Similarly, the weak health care system affects the health and well-being of everyone in South Sudan, but many women die in childbirth due to a lack of healthcare services and reluctance to use what services there are. South Sudan’s maternal mortality rate of 1,054 deaths per 100,000 live births is among the highest worldwide.’ [15]

    Many of these facts indeed go back to the policies of the old Sudan towards South Sudan. This fact stands in sharp contrast to the overly simplistic rationale proposed by Deng in his response. Perhaps Deng can explain to us the gendered similarities between men and women and provide the equivalent of maternal mortality among men. In what way does forced marriage for girls affect men more than it affects women? While men and women may face similar problems, there are gender-specific differences that place men and women in different situations. Deng fails to appreciate these gender-specific differences.

    The reality of South Sudan and in particular that of women was obvious before 2005 and after. Election, referendum and independence have not altered these realities. To reduce this as Deng does by arguing that women are eligible to contest in election like their male counterpart is to completely miss the reality of women in South Sudan and reduce democracy and popular participation in governance to electoral contest. Dr. Rose Jaji, a lecturer in the Department of Sociology at the University of Zimbabwe, reminded me in a discussion that, ‘women’s eligibility to participate in the country’s political processes does not translate into improvement in women’s plight unless this political participation is accompanied by corresponding policies intended to improve the circumstances of the general category of women. Rights are not enjoyed on behalf of others; they are an individual entitlement for each woman.’ [16]

    It is the particularity of the struggle of women that prompted Dr. John Garang to say that the women are the ‘marginalized of the marginalized.’ [17] This observation does not mean that women are simply marginalized like men but are at a double disadvantage. This realisation demands ‘clear gendered strategy’ as Dr. Ali pointed out in her report and general intervention to resolve other societal inequities that affect men and women alike.

    To dismiss the specific problems of women by equating them with the struggle of their male counterparts is to downplay the significance of the struggles of South Sudanese women and miss both the differences and similarities between men and women’s struggles. This blinkered analysis is unhelpful at this significant moment of great reform in South Sudan. We must grapple with the reality, as it is, no matter how uncomfortable the process might be.

    In regard to the right theory, I also pointed out that rights are the outcome of a political struggle, dismissing the notion of rights as a handout from above. So I agree with Deng that, ‘The women civil society should deploy different approaches or skills to pursue gender equality in outcomes determined by election than ones in achieving outcomes brought about by the presidential decrees.’ However, it does not serve the interest of women or help the process of achieving gender equality if every success achieved by the civil society organizations is met with an equally disenfranchising decree returning the process to a prior era.

    Deng finds it troubling that I penned my article only eight months after independence. He observed that, ‘An eight months-old nation is still at its infancy and very fragile. Should we keep our eyes on the prize instead! (sic)’ I find this comment less academic and useful for the simple reason that the job of a scholar is to critique, a right that Deng has rightly exercised in critiquing my article. If this is part and parcel of a healthy society, then why not critique the policies of a new state and a new government? That comment should be expected from a government official and not one in Deng’s position. If anything, South Sudan has much to learn from countries that have traveled this well-trodden path. Without pointing the pitfalls in the path to developing a modern democratic state in South Sudan, we risk repeating the mistakes of other states.

    Perhaps Deng should tell us when the time is right to critique national policies. Wouldn’t a more fruitful discussion and critique be proactive rather than reactive, warning about prospective pitfalls on the road instead of waiting for the country to fall into them? Or would Deng want us to wait until failures occur in order to initiate a dialogue?

    Without a healthy culture that fosters debate and discussion on what the government is doing, we can easily become complacent by remaining bystanders or, at worst yet, upholding the policies of the government even when they are detrimental to society under the warped notion that the new state is too young to critique. It is never too early or too soon to review policies that have a societal impact. The last comment I wish to address is contained in the last section of Deng’s critique. In his words:

    ‘While I follow your logic in seeing women in the forefront fighting for their rights, ‘fairness and justices’ do not have to be achieved only through a ‘prolonged’ political struggle. I am sure your logic is informed by the histories of other societal political struggle (sic), which tend to take tremendous effort, require patience and take time. Indeed, eight months is such a short time within which to lose patience or hope. With that said, the contemporary society of South Sudan needs to address its current injustices instead of deferring them for later generations simply because such rights have to be achieved through ‘prolonged political struggles.’ Every moment must be time for the justice and fairness to be exercised.’

    I find this observation illuminating in light of what Deng wrote earlier is his eagerness to resolve the problem faced by the current generation without deferring it to the next generation. How can that be if women are not included in positions where they have the ability to make important decisions that impact on them in the first place? How can a majority be treated like a minority and excluded from important decision-making processes that affect it?

    In regard to my assertion that rights are an outcome of a prolonged political process, Deng erroneously takes that to mean that we should postpone all attempts to improve social and political conditions till a latter generation. I would like Deng to show us where rights have been rightly secured without an active and organized social movement.

    A little review of social movements in East Africa would have revealed to Deng the challenge faced by these movements in regard to the reform of the state and securing rights in the broadest sense. That brief review would have shown him the conundrum faced by political parties, social movements and civil society organisations in their quest to build a democratic state that is inclusive.

    I would challenge Deng to show a country in Africa where gender equality was achieved without a prolonged political struggle, spearheaded by various political actors, civil society organisations, religious groups, and organized social movements. To assume that the required societal transformation can be achieved in the immediate time is not only naïve but sets one up for a predictable disappointment. This blindness to historical examples in East Africa and in Africa at large should be disposed of if we are to learn from the past and avoid the mistakes that other countries made in their attempt to build a modern democracy.

    In no country have rights been a gift from above. In those countries where rights have been granted as a handout from above, it has been difficult to safeguard these rights. In most cases in Africa, rights have been defined in the narrowest sense, thus reducing them to political rights instead of civil and social. Is it a surprise, then, that the imported right theory and borrowed paradigms have had the disastrous effect of stifling both social movements and redefining rights to the narrowest possible sense? The bottom line is that we need to expand the discussion of rights beyond only political rights. To settle for political rights as the only rights available is to forfeit the civil, social and economic rights essential to social democracy.

    It will serve us better to question the very premise of the knowledge we impart, the theoretical foundation informing our debates, and what we have imported from Europe and America, rather than deploying poor conceptual frameworks in an effort to understand the current subject matter. At the heart of this discussion is a distinction between forms of democracy. The current model in South Sudan with its emphasis on liberal democracy comes at a very expensive price. The experiences on the African continent suggest that where liberal democracy has thrived, social democracy has perished a slow death. History would serve us better if we used it to avoid repeating the mistakes of others — a failure to learn from history is sure to deliver an even worse situation.


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

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

    * Christopher Zambakari is Doctor of Law and Policy (LP.D.), Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts, and Rotary Peace Fellow (2014-15), University of Queensland, Australia. [email protected]


    [ii] Christopher Zambakari, "South Sudan in the post-CPA era: Prospects and challenges," Pambazuka News accessible from <>, no. 542 (2011).

    [iii] Christopher Zambakari, "The role of women in nation-building in South Sudan," Pambazuka News, no. Issue 578, accessible from <> (2012).

    [iv] Divine Muragijimana, "Response to South Sudan in the post-CPA era: Prospects and challenges (Letters & Opinions)," PAMBAZUKA NEWS, no. 543 (2011).

    [v] John Garang, The call for democracy in Sudan (edited and introduced by Mansour Khalid), ed. Mansour Khalid, 2 ed. (New York Kegan Paul International, 1992).

    [vi] The Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan, (The Republic of South Sudan: Sudan Tribune: available at: <>, Accessed on November 01, 2012, 2011).

    [vii] Garang, The call for democracy in Sudan (edited and introduced by Mansour Khalid).

    [viii] Zambakari, "The role of women in nation-building in South Sudan."

    [ix] Ibid.

    [x] Cited in, Christopher Zambakari, "In search of durable peace: the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and power sharing in Sudan," The Journal of North African Studies (2012): 4.

    [xi] Mahmood Mamdani, "An African Reflection on Tahrir Square (Text of Keynote at Annual Research Conference on Social Justice: Theory, Research and Practice, American University of Cairo, Cairo, May 5, 2011)," Makerere Institute of Social Research, Makerere University,

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

    [xiii] Nada M. Ali, "Gender and Statebuilding in South Sudan.," in SPECIAL REPORT (Washington, DC: The United States Institute of Peace (USIP), 2012), 4.

    [xiv] UNESCO, "Building a Better Future: Education for an Independent South Sudan.," in Education for All Global Monitoring Report (Paris, France: The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 2011), 7.

    [xv] Ali, "Gender and Statebuilding in South Sudan.," 4; ibid.

    [xvi] Ibid., 4.

    [xvii] I am indebted to Professor Jaji for this great observation.

    [xviii] Cited in, Ali, "Gender and Statebuilding in South Sudan.," 3.

    Advocacy & campaigns

    Urgent Action: Dozens of Sudanese women detained

    Osman Naway


    The detainees are in danger of torture and ill treatment by the security forces. They should be released immediately or formally charged and allowed access to family and lawyers.

    The Sudanese security forces in Kadugli, the capital of South Kordofan/Nuba Mountains state, started arresting women early November and interrogating them about their relations to the Sudanese Peoples Liberation Movement/North, which is fighting the Sudanese government in the region since June 2011. Witnesses informed the campaign group Arry that in the first week the women were always at the end of the day, but the campaign intensified from November 10 when15 women called for investigations were detained and are still being held.

    During the first week of November reports indicate that dozens of women were investigated and accused of supporting the rebels. On November 11, the campaign increased and the numbers of women in detention now is 33, with one man. Most of the women are married and have children in need of care. This arrest campaign comes in awake of escalating violence in Kadugli and the villages around it, as the attacks by Sudanese government forces on SPLM/N troops and the SPLM/N attacks on Kadugli have forced hundreds to leave the town. Displaced persons from the town arriving in Al Obeid in North Kordofan State reported that Ahmad Haroun, the governor of South Kordofan/Nuba Mountains State, restricted movement out of the town and civilians had to sneak out at night using dangerous paths to flee the fighting and to search for food leaving behind a ghost town.

    The names of the women and man in detention are :

    1 Elradia Suleiman Tiya - Teacher

    2 Amal Abdelfadeel Elnur- Inspector at taxation department

    3 Afaf Madeni Nasir - Sabori Village

    4 Madeni Nair - (the only man on the list and father of Afaf)

    5 Hawa Kubara Mussad

    6 Meha Ali

    7 Rabha Kaila

    8 Magda Mubarak

    9 Amal Abdelgadir - Ministry of Finance.

    10 Fatima Subahi

    11 Bahja Muwafi

    12 Samia Hussien

    13 Aisha Hussien

    14 Fatima Maki

    15 Summia Mergani

    16 Ihsan Ibrahim

    17 Fatihia Abdelmutaib - Ministry of Health

    18 Resail Murad

    19 Ihlam Abdelgadir

    20 Allia Musa

    21 Zainab Musa

    22 Amna Yousif

    23 Umelhussien Abuzaid

    24 Tayseer Abdelgadir

    25 Samia Zaroog

    26 Khadiga Mohammed Badur - university graduate

    27 Aisha Hiadan

    28 Fatima Mohamed Ali

    29 Naik Bashir

    30 Hiba Abdelrahman

    31 Rawia Mus

    32 Asmehan Ramedan Maki- Lab techinian

    33 Wijdan Ibrahim- Kadugli Radio Station

    34 Nejat Ibrahim

    Arry organization and the families of the detainees are extremely concerned about the safety of those detainees, as they are in danger of torture and ill treatment in detention. Therefore Arry organization is calling on the Sudanese government to:

    Immediately and unconditionally release the 34 detainees and insure their safety or press charges against them.

    Allow the detainees family visits and ensure them access to lawyers and medical care and reveal their detention location.

    President Omar Hassan Ahmad Al Bashir
    Office of the President People’s Palace PO Box 281
    Khartoum, Sudan, Fax: +249 183 782 541

    Salutation: Your Excellency

    Minister of Justice
    Mohammed BusharaDousa
    Ministry of Justice, PO Box 302 Al Nil Avenue Khartoum, Sudan
    Fax: +249 183 764 168
    Email : [email protected]

    Salutation: Your Excellency

    And copies to: Minister of Interior Ibrahim Mohamed Hamed Ministry of Interior
    PO Box 873 Khartoum, Sudan.

    Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country.

    The vicious attack on activist Okiya Omtatah

    Philo Ikonya

    PEN Kenya


    PEN Kenya condemns in the strongest spirit possible the attack on the person of Okoiti Okiya Omtatah on 8 November 2012 and the attempts and threats on his life which he has often spoken about. Regardless of the reasons for his attack, we know Omtatah to be a voice of free expression, a political activist as well as a writer. We know that he has lost a tooth before after an attack by the then acting boss the Nairobi Central Police Station Richard Mugwai (now transferred but who was promoted after he beat up several activists) and that case is documented. We know that Okoiti continues being a political activist and that he was attacked outside the Nairobi Police station and he lies in hospital with a deep gash on his head and more lost teeth.

    Silencing the voices of the outspoken is meant to instil fear in one and all. Insecurity in Kenya is a matter of grave concern. We urge one and all not to be intimidated and condemn this case and others fearlessly as we look to an election year. We must be secure in Kenya and enjoy all our freedoms. May justice be served to Omtatah and his attackers be brought to book. We must be the defenders of justice and peace since justice and peace have been prevented from being our shield and defender for many years now.

    Philo Ikonya
    Member, PEN Kenya
    Board Member, PEN International

    Trade justice: There are alternatives


    Trade justice organisations have published a new report titled, ‘Southern alternatives to EU Trade Policy’, which proposes a diverse set of alternative to the current unjust international trade system.

    Comhlámh, WEED (Germany) and AITEC (France) are delighted to announce the publication of their seminal new policy report Southern Alternatives to EU Trade Policy. The report, authored by eight activists and thinkers from the Global South, presents a diverse set of alternative proposals to the current unjust international trade system. It criticises EU trade policy for its negative impacts on development and poverty reduction and argues for alternative approaches to global trade and economics which prioritise eradicating poverty and hunger and are based on principles of sustainability and democracy. The report highlights that there are already many alternatives that are making a huge impact in developing countries. This timely and inspiring report reminds us that there are many alternatives, and we can learn much from global exchange and solidarity.

    The report can be downloaded on the Comhlámh website, and you can also check out our video to hear from the activists themselves.

    Greed and corruption in Zimbabwe's Marange diamond fields

    Partnership Africa Canada


    A new report has found that despite government denials, the illicit trade of Marange diamonds is alive and well, with the full knowledge and complicity of top state officials.

    Partnership Africa Canada is pleased to provide you with a copy of its latest report ‘Reap What You Sow: Greed and Corruption in Zimbabwe's Marange Diamond Fields’. It can be downloaded here:

    The report was launched on November 12 to coincide with the opening of an international diamond conference being held at Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.

    Reap What You Sow is the third investigation by Partnership Africa Canada into illicit activity in Zimbabwe's diamond sector. The report is divided into three main sections. The first looks at ongoing trade irregularities and the lack of transparency of diamond revenues, and examines ways ZANU and the global diamond industry have interacted, before, during and after the Kimberley Process imposed an embargo on Marange stones in 2009. The second examines the various revenue streams of Obert Mpofu and concludes the Minister of Mines is utilizing monies and assets divorced from his ministerial salary and known business entities. The third offers policy suggestions and recommendations that would improve the management and public beneficiation of Zimbabwe's diamond revenues.

    The biggest conclusion of this report is that despite government pronouncements to the contrary, the illicit trade of Marange diamonds is alive and well. A parallel trade in Marange diamonds continues to thrive, with the full knowledge and complicity of top officials in the Ministry of Mines, military and other key state-run mining enterprises.

    The theft of Marange diamonds is perhaps the biggest single plunder of diamonds the world has seen since Cecil Rhodes. Conservative estimates place the losses due to illicit activity at over $2 billion since 2008.

    PAC has found that while the mismanagement of Marange remains primarily a Zimbabwean problem, the global dimensions of the illegality has metastasized to compromise most of the major diamond markets of the world. Previously most of the illegal trade primarily involved South Africa, Mozambique, UAE and India. This remains the case, but greater vigilance by enforcement authorities should now extend to other centres, particularly Israel.A summary of the report's other main findings include:

    * The lack of transparency surrounding Zimbabwe's diamond revenues is a matter of critical public interest. The whole-scale theft is depriving the national treasury of much needed revenues and amplifies concerns PAC and others have shared for some time that these revenues are funding a parallel government other than the legally constituted Government of National Unity.

    * At the heart of this illicit trade is Zimbabwe Defence Industries (ZDI), a government procurement agency linked to mining company Anjin-whose joint partner is a Chinese State-owned company. ZDI's former CEO, Tshinga Dube, also now runs another mining concern, Marange Resources. ZDI's controlling interest in these two companies means that top officials in Zimbabwe's military establishment are the biggest beneficiaries of Marange's riches-not legitimate State entities or the public good.

    * While artisanal smuggling continues, as does a smaller organized trade by political elites, the biggest conduit of smuggled Marange goods happens inside the confines of the legal KP system. This is largely done through a sophisticated price manipulation scheme that sees Marange goods trade in centres like Dubai and Surat, India at twice the price they were sold for. This theft is perpetrated largely by Indian buyers and their Zimbabweans allies, with whom they are believed to share the spoils.

    * Concerns about revenue transparency go to the heart of a country's compliance with the Kimberley Process minimum requirements. Missing money means systemic breaks in that country's internal controls, including the reality that there is an illegal, parallel trade underway. Their subsequent trading makes a mockery of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme and the diamond industry's System of Warranties, an honour system that promises diamond shipments are untainted by violence and in keeping with KP standards.

    * While Minister Mpofu is not the only ZANU official benefitting from Marange's riches, his role as the chief guardian of Marange raises the most concern. His unexplained wealth is emblematic of wider problems of revenue transparency associated with this promising national resource. PAC has identified expenditures of over $20 million-mostly in cash-made by Minister Mpofu over the last three years. This figure is a conservative assessment and does not include his philanthropy, which exceeded $500,000 in 2012 alone.

    * Minister Mpofo's confirmed landholdings also place him in the top five landowners in the country, and second in his home province of Matabeleland only to the Oppenheimer family. His possession of land belonging to government agencies is likely in contravention with Zimbabwean law. The terms of the Land Acquisition Act-the legislation responsible for the dispossession of most white-owned land-explicitly limits expropriations to private and commercially held farmland, not state assets.

    * A diamond trading company, Three Waters Investments, operates from one of Minister Mpofu's Bulawayo properties at 10 Livingstone Road. This raises a perception-real or perceived-that a company, and possibly individuals, associated with the Minister is obtaining a pecuniary benefit from an industry over which Mpofu has fiduciary responsibility. It also raises questions about what role he personally played in procuring diamonds for this company and facilitating their export.

    The report makes several recommendations aimed at improving the management of, and public beneficiation from, Marange diamonds. They include:

    * The Zimbabwean parliamentary committee on mines and energy should revisit and publicize the terms and conditions of each of the joint ventures approved between 2009 and 2012, including disclosing the ownership structures of the company and individuals who sit on the boards of directors. If the contracts are found to contravene Zimbabwean law or not be in the public's good, mining licenses should be rescinded and/or renegotiated.

    * Any current or future joint ventures in Marange that involve serving or recently retired members of the army, police, or other security agencies in either leadership or ownership positions should be made illegal. A suggested "cooling off period"-the length of time after leaving a security force during which an individual could not be associated with a mining company-could be five years.

    * In order to give the public clarity and assurances that diamond revenues are properly accounted for, the Ministries of Mines and Finance should come to an agreed and publicly disclosed understanding of what each diamond mining company exports on a quarterly basis, and what taxes were collected. The Government of Zimbabwe and all companies operating in Marange should also regularly disclose in a full and transparent way all diamond production, trade and payments figures.

    * Zimbabwe should undertake to create a mandatory and publicly available registry of assets for elected officials, senior government appointees and their spouses. For the duration of an individual's term of public service any companies in which they have a share should be publicly disclosed and placed in a blind trust.

    * The Ministries of Finance and International Trade should force all companies listed and operating in Zimbabwe's extractive sector to publicly divulge the ownership structure and location of any foreign held trust accounts. Doing so would lessen the opportunity for public officials or their family members to hide pecuniary relationships to companies they may have oversight over.

    * The Kimberley Process's failure to appropriately respond to Marange's challenges, adds pressure on Industry to prove its commitment to the ethical and legal sourcing of diamonds, something that is lacking in the WDC's warranty system. With this in mind the World Diamond Council should commit itself to the Responsible Jewellery Council's Chain of Custody efforts that track diamonds from mine-site to market. Moreover, it should undertake to mainstream the best practices outlined by John Ruggie, the United Nations Special Representative for Business and Human Rights, and the OECD's Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas.

    * Should the global diamond industry-particularly in India and UAE-be unwilling to adopt comprehensive measures to protect itself from legal and illicit Marange diamonds owned by the Zimbabwean military or those shown to be undermining governance or contributing to violence, the United States, European Union and any other willing country should develop legislative measures aimed at protecting their manufacturing and consumer markets from these diamonds.

    Books & arts

    A retort to white racists

    Review of Wole Soyinka’s ‘Of Africa’

    Biko Agozino


    Soyinka presents ‘Of Africa’ as a long overdue retort to a white supremacist who had challenged him in Germany to admit that Africans are inferior, otherwise Europeans and Arabs could not have enslaved and colonised them for centuries.

    As a teenage high school student, I was enchanted by The Man Died, the prison memoirs of Wole Soyinka in which he took his fellow intellectuals to task for letting the man die in all by keeping silent in the face of the tyranny of Nigeria’s genocidal war against Biafra, including the murder of a radical trade unionist in detention to which the title referred and about which Nigerian left-wing intellectuals kept mum apparently because he was Igbo. I was puzzled by the title – why is it The Man Died and why did it derive from the strange quotation that ‘the man dies in all who keep silent in the face of tyranny’? Is that grammatically correct? My sigh school grammar teacher would have suggested that ‘the men die in all’ and not the man dies in all; by the way, how about women? In any case, did the man simply die or was the man murdered? That is a sophomoric way to read a serious work when mature readers should focus on the grave subject-matter rather than chase grammatical rats to see if the ‘t’ in their tails are meticulously crossed while the African mansion burns. No time for such childish reading of Soyinka’s tantalizing Of Africa. What of Africa? I am tempted to ask.

    Back in high school, and even now, I could not understand every word of Soyinka (I still do not need to understand every word) but I really enjoy(ed) the poetic diction and even tried to mimic him by writing with a deliberate determination not to be understood or to be read at many different levels of possible interpretations, all possibly legitimate while what Stuart Hall called the hegemonic interpretation remained to be contested and decoded from the encoding. It was my cousin, now a professor of theatre arts, who cured me of that apparent delusion after we organised a symposium to get the students of the high school where we both taught just after graduating from high school ourselves to take drama seriously and start a drama club. The students cheered me on with shouts of ‘vocab, vocab!’ They later nicknamed me Symposium behind my back!

    After my speech, a fellow teacher stood up and asked the first question: He asked if I could please explain what I was saying in plain English because he had no clue what I had just finished saying, maybe because he was a science teacher, he pleaded. The vice principal, an English teacher, felt embarrassed for him and volunteered to translate my bombastic Onitsha Market Literature performance of the Bomber Billy variety. As we left the symposium, I was so proud of myself that I boasted to my cousin that I did so well that no one could understand me, not even our fellow teacher! He turned to me and calmly told me that if that was so, then I had failed in my mission, which was to communicate a message. He was absolutely right because the aim of the symposium was to get the students to set up a drama club and I could have achieved it in two or three straight-forward sentences instead of indulging in a post-modern performance that left everyone baffled but produced none of the result that I intended: a drama club!

    So that was it then. I resolved to leave Soyinka with his mesmerising style and develop mine by keeping closer to Achebe’s proverbial clarity but I never stopped admiring Soyinka, as my Oriki or Ode to him on the occasion of his 76th birthday testifies, to the annoyance of some on the internet who carry on as if they are exclusive share-holders in Soyinka and Sons Ltd. As an undergraduate student, I wrote radio plays and a teacher in my town whose name I used in one of my plays started calling me ‘our own Wole Soyinka’ but I recoiled from that without knowing why. I guess that I wanted to be my own man and not ‘our own WS’ but it may have had to do with that misadventure with the bombastic symposium, for my plays were more Achebesque, peppered with proverbs and plotted around themes of culture conflict than the dictionary-thumping prose of Soyinka.

    Nevertheless, I still cannot read enough of Soyinka and will always seek out his new releases which I enjoy reading without reference to any dictionary. I just use the context of the words to make meaning out of his dense compositions that remain music to my ears long after the reading, perhaps because he is always witty and profoundly humorous. It is a bit like reading Jacques Derrida. I may not understand everything he is banging on about but I sure do enjoy his play with words. It is also a bit like listening to Fela Kuti’s music. I do not have to understand every new word he coins with ease in order to sway to the beat or even get up and dance. It is more like a telephone conversation (title of one of Soyinka’s clearer poems about racial discrimination); if you ask the caller to repeat what was said and then ask them to stay on the line while you check the meaning of a strange word in the dictionary, the phony magic crumbles.

    Only a high school student reads Soyinka with a mandatory dictionary in hand. Follow his rich metaphoric Yoruba riddles and you will still have fun even if you do not understand every word. Of course saying that you do not understand what he is trying to say is simply dodgy because he makes sure that the enormity of his political interventions is grasped by all who read him, whether they hide behind the masks of ignorance about this phrase or that word. No one who has commented on Soyinka’s Of Africa has claimed that the meaning of the work is obscured by the choice of difficult words or that a few printer’s devils should compel us to ignore the urgency of his clarion call while genocidal violence rages across Africa.

    When a brother announced that he got an advance copy of Soyinka’s book for review (how I envied him, I wish I could get such gigs myself) but that he did not like it and may not review it for such trivial reasons that there is no index and no references to the abundant sources, I suspected that the brother was reacting ideologically and knew that I would have to get a copy as soon as possible. Thanks to’s clever marketing of ‘those who bought those also bought that’, I did when I bought Achebe’s There Was A Country and I loved Of Africa because of the importance of the argument and because of the beauty of the Soyinkarism as always.

    Those who read my review of Achebe’s There Was A Country will know that I read Achebe’s book inter-textually with Soyinka’s and concluded that both texts complement each other very well. Where Achebe was lucid with a narrower focus on the troubles facing Nigeria, Soyinka was performative with a broader focus on the African predicament. They both argue that if Africa has nothing else to teach the world, the African example of religious tolerance is of immense importance to the modern world and should be studied more carefully for the purpose of resolving peacefully the troubles that plague us today and since our encounter with Europeans and Arabs. Achebe used the metaphor of Mbari among the Igbo as an example for Nigeria and Soyinka used the symbol of Orisa among the Yoruba as a model for Africa to make the same point of tolerance and accommodation as virtues.

    Soyinka presents Of Africa as a long overdue retort to a white supremacist who had challenged him in Germany to admit that Africans are inferior otherwise Europeans and Arabs could not have enslaved them and colonized them for centuries. Soyinka could have responded immediately to such gangster philosophy which presumes that those ripped off by the mafia are the fall guys while the mafia are the wise guys by telling the German that it is obvious that he felt superior to Soyinka; but he admits that such would not do because he was always seen as an exception to the rule of African inferiority. So he scratched his head to find a suitable response to all such challenges from white supremacists, ancient and modern – science is out of the question today because it is clearly dominated by Eurocentric methods; health is obviously not an area for African pride despite some miraculous cures by herbalists and African doctors; the economy too is dominated by Eurocentric models, ditto for modern education; music could be cited as an area of African mastery in the global popular culture but it is only a matter of taste with white supremacists still swearing by their Beethoven. But when it comes to religious tolerance, there is no doubt that the African model is a shinning example to the whole world, he argued.

    However, I do not share Soyinka’s elevation of Orisa above all other African religions as the model for African spirituality – but not for the same reason that Eurocentrists attack him. They will always say that Africa is a continent as if they are kindergarten geography teachers and as if Europe is a village that allows them to talk about European religion, or about Asian spirituality, or even about Muslim or Christian or Jewish spirituality as if these are singular monolithic blocks of faith without the diversity of communities of interpretation that is more profound in Africa due to the absence of exclusions, boundary enforcements, proselytization, forced conversions, conquest, colonisation and enslavement as tools of evangelisation in African religions. Soyinka rightly condemned the fraudulent racket of anointing Orisa adherents in the Diaspora for fees as high as $5,000 in return for useless diplomas when true Orisa priests frown at using their gifts to enrich themselves; but he could have extended such critique to certain Christian missions that fleece their flock.

    I disagree with Soyinka on Orisacentrism of African spirituality because such a stance contradicts one of his cardinal principles of Orisa faith: Thou shall not proselytise. Thus, Soyinka erred by calling on the world to go to Orisa priests for enlightenment rather than invite them to adopt the democratic tolerance of African spirituality whatever their religious affiliations. Such an error is evident when Soyinka makes the leap from the Orisa, Sango, in Yoruba religion to the priest, Sangoma, in South Africa. He also erred by saying that when Muslim community leaders told him that they had no hand in the cancelation of an opera that featured the severed heads of prophets because they did not protest it and it was eventually rescheduled and went on without an incident, Soyinka called them true adherents of Orisa worldviews. Instead of wishing for the head of an African (read Yoruba) God to be included among the severed heads for the opera, I would have expected Soyinka to radicalise the opera production by replacing the severed heads of prophets with the severed heads of certain notorious heads of state in the international community, if for nothing, to indicate that politics is the new religious orthodoxy around the world.

    The danger of ethnocentrism in Soyinka’s Of Africa is also clearly evident when he compares the Yoruba favourably against the Igbo by pointing out that readers of Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart will notice allusions to the killing of twins among the Igbo until the missionaries exploited that as an opportunity to recruit their earliest converts (yeah, right, how many twins made up the early converts?). The Yoruba, Soyinka gloats, have always venerated twins but he said nothing about the alleged enduring superstitious belief in Awure or the sexual abuse of children by some Yoruba parents under the abominable belief that such would bring them good fortune. For instance, a man from a prominent Yoruba family recently reportedly filed a divorce affidavit stating that his father was sleeping with his wife and there was little or no public outrage, suggesting that incest and ‘money medicine’ might be more common under the influence of authoritarian spiritualism.

    Soyinka could have explained that the abandoning of twins and the practice of infanticide were widespread practices in the ancient world, even in Europe, and continues today in many parts of the world long after such practices have ceased among the Igbo. Instead of indulging in a boastful swagger of ‘my ethnic religion is better than yours’, Soyinka could have highlighted the more relevant lesson in Achebe’s Things Fall Apart: That when the priestess of Agbala told Okonkwo that the spirit of his poor but artistic father, Unoka, was angry with him because he had not sacrificed a goat to his spirit, Okonkwo blasphemously asked the priestess to ask the spirit of the father if he left him a chicken to inherit. How come he was demanding a goat from him? Compare that with the Yoruba veneration of Ogun, a king that they deified and continued to worship even after he led them into war and in a drunken blindness slaughtered both adherents and enemies. Soyinka said that the remorse of Ogun afterwards illustrates the fact that even the Gods are expected to be repentant in Africa but such a sentiment is not exclusively Yoruba given that Moses, the Egyptian, told God to repent of his anger against his people.

    Soyinka is right that the African oppositionality to the dictates of oracles is rare in other religions but it is more common among the Igbo than among the monarchical Yoruba and this is entirely understandable in the democratic radical republicanism of the Igbo which Soyinka praised in his Julius Nyerere memorial lecture and which I suggested in my Oriki to Soyinka is a central thread in Soyinka’s opposition to monarchism, tyranny and inequality in all his writings. Also in Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, when Okonkwo killed Ikemefuna in obedience to the dictate of the Oracle, the priest of the earth Goddess, Ezulu, rebuked Okonkwo by asking how he could kill a child that called him father. By comparison, read the Wikipedia article on how common infanticide is throughout history (with the exception of ancient Egypt) and it remains common even in many industrialised parts of the world today.

    When Soyinka inferred that he does not know what Yoruba people will do today if some migrants from other parts of Nigeria start casting their twins to their death from the top of sacred rocks in Ogun state, he was wrongly suggesting that such a practice is still common in some (Igbo) parts of Nigeria, as the white supremacist colonial anthropologist, G.T. Basden (the teacher of Achebe’s father) wrongly suggested at the turn of the 20th century. What Soyinka got right is the condemnation of the Osu caste system among the Igbo but he failed to indicate that even this legacy of the slave raids has all but died out the way he observed that India has made progress by electing untouchables to parliament. The legitimate question that Soyinka raises for the Igbo today is whether the Osu would be welcome to the inclusive Mbari of Achebe that accommodates Europeans and that is a question that the Igbo have answered affirmatively, by and large, long after Nnamdi Azikiwe outlawed the practice of Osu caste.

    Finally, while I agree with Soyinka’s vague suggestion that the spiritual unity of Africans in tolerance should be given more respect globally; he could have made his point more clearly by addressing political and economic unity across Africa given that what he analysed as religious conflicts were really conflicts of empires that used religion as weapons for the conquest of others, the exact point that Karl Marx made when he said that religion is the opiate of the people but on which Soyinka says that Marx was wrong.

    In calling for the resolution of the crisis of exclusion introduced by colonialists in Africa, Soyinka should have gone beyond his musings that the colonial boundaries could be overcome in the direction of greater unity and not only in the direction of increased micro nationalism, and offered support for the United States of Africa; he should have gone beyond the suggestion that reparations are possible even when the victimised could be said to have been far from blameless and called for reparations for slavery, colonialism and genocide, if only to support Soyinka’s defiant memorial about the ‘Tree of Forgetfulness’ around which captive Africans were forced to march by unscrupulous African collaborators of the Trans Atlantic Slavery before they were shipped to the New World, still fighting.

    Soyinka should have directly called for reparations for the genocide against the Igbo in Biafra. Rather, he methodically avoided mentioning Biafra in the book and only did so after a Mexican journalist asked him if there was genocide in Biafra (quite unlike Achebe in There Was A Country) even when it is clear that Soyinka’s critique of what Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe calls the ‘genocidal state in Africa’ would be incomplete without Biafra, for which Soyinka suffered years of solitary confinement and during which (I hypothesize) he developed his cryptic style of writing perhaps to escape detection from the goons of genocidism. Having written testimonies to the Igbo genocide in other key texts (The Man Died, A Shuttle in the Crypt, and Season of Anomy) Soyinka has earned the right not to mention it in every publication.

    However, that foundational genocide of modern African history deserves more attention than the divisive issue of religious school uniforms that an education minister in Nigeria tried to impose long before French authorities decided to forcibly unveil Muslim school children. The importance of addressing the religious oppression of women and the honour killing of women is commendable in Of Africa especially because the representation of women in the works of Soyinka has been called to question in the past.

    Perhaps the answer that Soyinka was seeking in Of Africa can be found in secularism rather than through the elevation of ‘Thus Spoke Oranmiyan’ as the Nietzschean Oberman with Orisa wisdom for all. Certainly the US model of the separation of religion and the state, largely influenced by the peculiar conditions and the endless brave struggles by people of African descent to advance human dignity without regard to colour, gender, religion, physical ability, wealth, origin or sexuality, would be a better model for a United States of Africa. Soyinka’s rallying cry: ‘Come to Orisa’ is bound to be as divisive as any religious evangelism, conversion and imperialism. What we need is a secular democracy that is political, economic and social.


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    * Dr. Biko Agozino is Professor of Sociology and Africana Studies, Virginia Tech. He blogs at

    Uncommon diplomat: Peter Penfold and Sierra Leone

    A review of ‘Atrocities, Diamonds and Diplomacy: The Inside Story of the Conflict in Sierra Leone’ by Peter Penfold. Published by Pen and Sword, UK 2012

    Lansana Gberie


    This ‘superbly well-written, well-documented and passionate book’ reveals tragic failures of the international community in tackling the civil war in Sierra Leone.

    Peter Penfold was UK’s High Commissioner to Sierra Leone from 1997 to 2000 when his services were terminated after disagreement with Tony Blair’s New Labour government over Sierra Leone – over the so-called ‘Arms to Africa’ scandal of 1998. Blair’s government told him to keep quiet after his recall and premature retirement after 40 years of service, but he refused. Penfold became the most prominent critic of the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL), a contrivance chiefly of Blair’s Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, whose pretensions to an ‘ethical foreign policy’ had been exposed by events in Sierra Leone. Penfold has now published a much-anticipated book about his experiences in Sierra Leone and at the hands of Blair’s New Labour. The book had tremendous difficulty finding a publisher in the UK, but has now been issued by Pen and Sword, the imprint of the British army. Penfold’s old friend and collaborator in Sierra Leone, General Sir David Richards, wrote the Foreward to the book, hailing Penfold as ‘a brave and determined British diplomat of the Old School’, and the book as a ‘compelling story of one man’s resolute determination to do the right thing.’

    I first met Peter Penfold in the summer of 2003 in London. He had been recalled a couple of years back as the UK’s High Commissioner to Sierra Leone following a most tumultuous and extraordinarily effective service there, and had been seconded to the Department of International Development (DFID) on the recommendation of Clare Short, who herself would not long after leave Tony Blair’s now-discredited government. I had been invited to participate in a study, largely funded by the UK government, on making UN peace operations more effective. (The study was designed to follow-up on the findings of the famous Brahimi Report on UN peace operations in 2000). Penfold was a senior member of our team – representing DFID. Knowing of his reputation, I was awed by his presence on the team. His views carried great weight, but he was always somewhat diffident about what a foreign intervention force can achieve. Context, he would stress, matters. He was insistent on one point: external intervention (ECOWAS, UK and UN) in Sierra Leone was successful largely because it was driven by the principle – accepted by the vast majority of Sierra Leoneans – of support for the democratically elected government of Ahmad Tejan Kabbah against anti-government forces about with little or no support anywhere in the country, and about whom there was nothing ennobling. Penfold formed this view of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), the then largely amorphous and nihilistic group spearheading a brutal bush war, a few weeks after he arrived in Sierra Leone as Britain’s top diplomat there in early 1997. Everything that happened to the country since then merely confirmed his early impressions.

    We travelled as a team to Sierra Leone for the research. Once we got to the arrival hall at the airport and Penfold was spotted, the normally vacant or avaricious airport workers sprang into action, and took us all into the VIP lounge. In Freetown, there was hardly any need for prior appointments: Penfold’s name opened every office. When we went to see President Kabbah, there was a television crew waiting to record the event, and it was the lead news item that evening. Penfold, though now shunned by his own Foreign Office, was a hero in Sierra Leone: he had been crowned honorary Paramount Chief in the country, the only British official to be so honoured after Prince Phillip. This very important and much anticipated book tells us why he is still revered in Sierra Leone, and much more.

    Diplomats from powerful countries who find themselves in degraded or corrupt countries can do one of two things. They can comfortably immerse themselves into the local environment, make friends with the political and business elite, and sit out patiently until they are moved to more salubrious environments or are comfortably retired. That is the careerist option. The other option is to try and do something to influence positive change in the country they find themselves posted, to use the leverage of a representative of the important power which helps subsidise the local government can wield to get things moving in the right direction. This is the more difficult option, for it carries a grave risk. A foreign diplomat falling out with the local government, however insanitary that government is, often finds that his own bureaucracy, full of nibbling careerists who are instinctively against risk-taking, are unsympathetic, and wants to immediately rid of that awkward diplomat. As it happens, the British Foreign Office, with its sense of antique propriety and residual imperial viciousness, is the most practiced and ruthless at this kind of thing.

    Penfold’s predicament in Sierra Leone was worse. He arrived in Freetown in March 1997 to take over as UK’s chief diplomat in the country. He drove from Senegal through Guinea into Sierra Leone, adding drama to an already high-octane situation. Sierra Leone had in the months prior conducted national elections, and the new president – an articulate and presentable former UN civil servant, Kabbah – had signed a peace agreement with the RUF in neighbouring Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Those were glimmers of hope in an otherwise awfully bleak situation: the RUF war, which started in March 1992, had already killed more than 15,000 and devastated the countryside, forcing the displacement of half the population of the country.

    Amidst this carnage, the international community, including Britain, the country’s former colonial master, pretended that things were under control. Donor funding had been secured for the elections (Britain contributed $3 million), but now what? In the UN Security Council, the US vetoed the setting up of a small military observer force following the signing of the Abidjan Accord on grounds that the RUF had not approved it. Earlier, an important British humanitarian assessment report (April 1995) had fretted about labeling Sierra a ‘complex emergency’ since this would ‘unleash a whole set of responses, including the appointment of a UNSRSG [Special Representative of the Secretary General], a Humanitarian Coordinator, and new arrangements for UN working in Sierra Leone.’ This deliberate failure to act when it could have made a decisive difference must be implicated in the subsequent carnage in the country – which finally led to the deployment of one of the largest UN peacekeeping troops ever (UNAMSIL), at a cost of $2.5 million in five years.

    In the event, both the elections and the Abidjan Accord would become only seriously effective in terms of the country’s international relations in their breach: as reaction to the sanguinary Armed Forces Ruling Council (AFRC) coup of May 1997. No coup has been more ill-timed.

    Penfold had previously served in the British mission in Nigeria during that country’s civil war in the late 1960s, in Ethiopia in the 1970s during the neurotic Derg revolution, and in Uganda in the 1980s during two coups. In Sierra Leone, he quickly became a passionate advocate for the democratically-elected government, helping to fundamentally change the UK’s policy towards the country. His efforts gained immense traction when Blair became Prime Minister on 2 May 1997, a few months after Penfold took post, and only three weeks before the fateful AFRC coup. Blair’s father had been a lecturer at Sierra Leone’s Fourah Bay College, and though Blair made this discovery much later, he characteristically embraced it with missionary zeal. That changed attitudes within the British establishment towards Sierra Leone: the sentiments of a popular new Prime Minister perforce quickly became state policy.

    Blair’s earnest moral tone – he and his foreign secretary Robin Cook spoke about an ‘ethical foreign policy’ – seemed congruent with the field reports Penfold was sending back, in which Penfold depicted the war in Sierra Leone as a conflict in which there was a clear division between good and bad – on one side the legitimate, democratically-elected government and on the other a bunch of thugs without a reasonable political agenda. The AFRC coup of May 2007 made this view compelling.

    Penfold’s account of the coup and its consequences are the most stirring parts of immensely riveting book – and the best I have read anywhere. His valiant attempts – aided by other diplomats and notably the courageous Desmond Luke – to cajole the mutinous soldiers failed, but it is worth studying closely for the astonishing possibility it offered. Promised money, cars and a comfortable exile, Johnny Paul Koroma and his gang agreed to cede power back to Kabbah, but this was scuttled by the RUF, which had been invited by Koroma to join his ‘peoples’ army.’ Penfold then organised one of the most complex evacuations of foreign nationals from a war zone ever – an effort that involved several planes and warships from Britain, France and the US, among others. In the final episode in the evacuation drama, the USS Kearsarge landed dozens of heavily armed marines and positioned combat helicopters all around Lumley beach in Freetown, overlooking the main military barracks where the AFRC officers and their RUF allies had based themselves. The junta had one combat helicopter, and the Americans made a point that though they were not authorised to strike at the junta, the helicopter was a danger to foreign nationals and would be destroyed if it took off the ground. Interventionists prayed for that to happen, and at one point the junta’s only pilot was seen walking towards the helicopter. Suddenly he turned back, failing to perform a terminal service for the rest of humanity: had he moved closer, the marines would have blasted him apart along with the helicopter, and in the ensuing firefight, the rest of the AFRC thugs would doubtless have been obliterated. (That helicopter, by the way, was later used by the junta to destroy villages in places like Moyamba and Bonthe, killing hundreds, on the excuse that they were habouring Kamajors.)

    For his leadership role during the evacuation, Penfold received letters of commendation from both Blair and Cook. He was now based in Guinea along with the exiled Kabbah government. There is little doubt that without his support Kabbah, a reluctant flagbearer if ever there was one, would not have sustained the resistance against the AFRC. And it was in providing this support that Penfold, in the latter judgment of his senior colleagues in London, may have faltered. It involved what came to be famously known as ‘Arms to Africa’ scandal: an agreement between the exiled government and a British mercenary outfit, Sandline International, to supply arms to pro-government forces resisting the AFRC in Sierra Leone. Penfold was accused of facilitating the deal, though he had fully briefed the Foreign Office in London about the negotiations going on between Kabbah and Sandline’s Tim Spicer. The problem was that at that time there was a UN Security Council-mandated arms embargo on Sierra Leone, and the resolution had been sponsored by Britain. The scandal – or so the British press called it – was first publicised by Lord Avebury, an unctuous Liberal peer whose motives were extraneous to Sierra Leone’s interests. It turned out that the arms themselves never actually got to the pro-Kabbah forces: they were impounded by Nigerian troops, who must be credited – along with the pro-government Kamajor militia fighters – for unseating the AFRC and restoring democracy to Sierra Leone. But the ill-fated arms had been shipped out to Sierra Leone, and the fidgety and dull civil servants in London could not be persuaded that a law had not been broken. It didn’t matter that the spirit of the resolution clearly did not intend the ban to apply to the exiled government – who Blair called the ‘good guys’. The episode, described here in painful detail, wrecked Penfold’s career.

    It led to his early retirement, and even there he was not left alone by the British government. When he was in 2002 offered the post of Africa Program Director by the International Crisis Group (ICG), for which he was eminently qualified, the offer was quickly withdrawn ‘on the advice of senior figures in the Foreign Office’.

    Penfold is rarely judgmental about the politicians and diplomats he deals with in this book, though he is sharply critical of American machinations in the run-up to the shambolic Lomé Accord. The story of how Jesse Jackson, Bill Clinton’s Africa adviser, manipulated and coerced Kabbah into an outrageous peace agreement is now well known, but Penfold adds useful details. Jackson took Kabbah in his plane from Ghana and he refused to allow James Jonah and Julius Spencer – two of Kabbah’s closest aides, and both known anti-RUF hardliners – to travel alongside. In Lomé, American lawyers drafted both the ceasefire agreement and the final accord. Foday Saybanah Sankoh, the self-adoring RUF leader, indulged himself in an ‘orgy of food, drink and sex’ in a Lomé hotel, and mounted a bill of over $400,000, to be paid by the UN. Britain sent an inexperienced and disinterested diplomat with no knowledge of Sierra Leone to Lomé, leaving Penfold uninvited in Freetown. The result, Penfold writes bitterly, was that the US and Britain ‘acted disgracefully in forcing through the Accord.’ (The Accord in effect made Foday Sankoh Vice President and gave him control of the country’s mineral resources, including its coveted diamonds. For good measure, the flippant Jesse Jackson compared Sankoh to Nelson Mandela at the time.)

    What does Penfold really think of Kabbah, the man at the centre of all this drama? Clearly, Penfold had far greater respect for Hinga Norman – an activist minister after Penfold’s heart – and enormously admires Desmond Luke, James Jonah and the great activist at the time, Zainab Bangura. Kabbah was merely a symbol of the great struggle for democracy, though a rather flawed one. Penfold’s judgments of Kabbah are made by accretion – and two impressions stand out. Kabbah was too quick to flee Sierra Leone after the coup announcement in 1997, and in exile in Guinea, Kabbah did not once visit either the Sierra Leone government office – converted from a disused restaurant – or even the Sierra Leone embassy (where hundreds of his exiled countrymen met every day) a few yards from his house. When, in the aftermath of the devastating January 1999 attacks Penfold visited Kabbah, he found a thoroughly devastated and lonely man who had not even taken the time to visit the national stadium, where tens of thousands of his derelict people had sought shelter. (Penfold had earlier been there, distributing medicine, food and other necessities). To be fair to Kabbah, at this point he been struck – in addition to the calamities of the rebel onslaughts – with a great personal tragedy: his wife of many years had only recently died, and he was already a very broken man (he never actually recovered from that tragedy, as anyone close to him knows.)

    Penfold’s harsh judgment of the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL), which was set up in 2002 to try those ‘most responsible’ for the atrocities of the war and which recently convicted former Liberian President Charles Taylor (among others), deserves to be quoted at length. He writes: ‘Supporters of the court, citing the example of Charles Taylor…say that it demonstrates that no one can get away with such barbarous acts with impunity…However, Sam Norman’s indictment and subsequent death is a stain on the Special Court’s legacy. Who else will come forward to fight the cause of peace and democracy in the future if they face the threat of being treated as a war criminal? Resolving conflicts diplomatically elsewhere has become more difficult as a result of the Special Court’s antics. When resolving conflicts it is usually necessary to persuade both sides of the conflict to cease fighting and killing, lay down their weapons and negotiate a peaceful agreement. Often this will require not only understanding, patience and skillful diplomacy but also some form of concessions such as pardons and/or amnesties. The Special Court demonstrated that such provisions and assurances negotiated on the ground in good faith become meaningless once the juggernaut of international justice comes on the scene. What incentive, therefore, will there be for some of those involved to stop fighting.’

    It is a sobering thought – and from a man who witnessed firsthand the atrocities of the Sierra Leone – documented here in great detail – as well as the efforts to end it through negotiation.

    Of some curiosity is the title of the book ‘Atrocities, Diamonds and Diplomacy’, since Penfold never subscribed to the hamfisted view – peddled by the likes of David Crane, the Special Court’s first prosecutor – that the Sierra Leone war was all about diamonds. Diamonds were important in funding the war and ensuring the sustained interest in support the RUF by the likes of Charles Taylor, but the war was not caused by diamonds, he writes.

    This superbly well-written, well-documented and passionate book should be read by everyone interested in Africa, as well as in the grave issues of war and peace.


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    * Lansana Gberie is a Sierra Leonean academic and journalist and author of A Dirty War in West Africa: The RUF and the Destruction of Sierra Leone (London, 2005).

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