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      South Africa: a country at odds?

      Social discontent and the ANC leadership

      Thabani Mdlongwa, Azwifaneli Managa, Lwazi Apleni and Bertha Chiroro


      cc G V
      The just concluded ANC conference at which Jacob Zuma was re-elected party president came against the backdrop of growing violent discontent among ordinary people who are dissatisfied with government performance.


      As the African National Congress (ANC) prepared for its 53rd elective conference at Mangaung starting this week, at which President Jacob Zuma won a second term as the country’s president amidst high levels of social discontent, a number of questions came to the fore. Whilst this was a party congress, the whole of South Africa and Africa watched the event carefully and posed several questions that ranged from leadership issues, the evaluation of the Zuma administration to a balance sheet of the ANC’s performance. One of the persistent questions was whether the ANC was experiencing a leadership crisis as evidenced by the internal fissures and upheavals or whether these were part and parcel of the general discontent because of the neoliberal system. Has Zuma’s first term in office delivered the goods in terms of policy decisions in health, education, job creation and the general well being of the people of South Africa? What has been Zuma’s performance record. Has the leadership team laid the foundations for economic progress and, above all, will the set of new ANC leaders be in a position to rule the country “until Jesus comes again”, as stated by President Jacob Zuma himself?

      The ANC conference was held in a context which allows for a number of pertinent issues surrounding socio-economic transformation, especially the Eurozone economic crisis, a region that consumes 17 percent of South Africa’s exports. This has an impact of productivity and job losses within a globalised environment which South Africa and other African countries are a part of. The internal tragic events such as the Marikana Mining killings as well as the wildcat strikes in the farming areas of De Doorns, Ceres and Robertsons, which almost brought the agricultural industry in the Western Cape to a standstill, also paint a picture of instability and unrest that calls for urgent discussion and attention.

      This paper discusses the violence that has accompanied expressions of social discontent that has become endemic among South Africans and raises the issues of leadership as pertinent in forging a transformative agenda for the country. The paper argues that among other issues discussed at the ANC congress, inequalities and poverty are a ticking time bomb. It further highlights the fact that the recent wildcat strikes in the mining and farming sectors that have spiralled out of hand are evidence that the socio-economic conditions of the majority of South Africans are untenable and therefore require the urgent attention of all stakeholders (Government, political parties, civil society, NGOs and the private sector). Thus, the leadership that emerged from the Mangaung elective conference should be able to lead the country through the turbulent global political environment and the social economic and environmental uncertainties that the country continues to face.


      Post-liberation ANC elective conferences are usually defined by the context in which they occur. The very first one, the 49th ANC conference, was held in Bloemfontein in 1994. The context was celebrating the party’s defeat of apartheid and mapping the way forward for the new government. There was indeed a sense of excitement and high expectations for changing the lives and the dignity of South Africans. However, whilst the ANC’s congress raises a picture of a country at odds, succession politics is usually carried out through party procedures, nevertheless without ruling out ethnic, religious, corruption and intraparty and divisive conflict. [1] The importance of the ANC leadership conference lies in the fact that whoever is elected as the party president is most likely to lead the country as president in 2014. Although Mangaung was not a national election it provided the opportunity for those who are interested to see a successful, stable and democratic South Africa selecting a leadership that has a vision and viable strategies and policies to solve the country’s problems of joblessness, inequality and poverty, rather than allegiance to certain factions.

      South Africa’s proportional representation electoral system although admired by most African countries as conducive for inclusiveness and a more accurate representation of parties, better representation of political and racial minorities, better representation of women and above all little opportunity for gerrymandering, one of its major weaknesses is its lack of accountability of the MP to the electorate as the party list electoral system leaves the power to appoint and remove an MP to the political parties. Mangaung should have been used to practically select leaders who are credible and capable of solving the complex problems of a democratic South Africa. Anarchy should not be the preferred choice for a country that seeks to uphold human dignity after the end of apartheid.

      Whilst all political systems experience leadership change, the process of leadership change varies according to the extent that it is governed by established procedures and accepted rules and the ANC as an institutionalised party has rules and regulations in the selection of its party leaders. However, crises often impact on succession debates and the process by which a country’s leader is selected.

      In most countries leaders acquire their positions through ascription, succession, nomination, appointment and self-appointment. [2] This involves issues of legitimacy, authority, influence and above all power. Basically, leadership is about power, how it is maintained, distributed, exercised and legitimised. Political leaders are the primary holders and controllers and distributors of power and resources in a particular institution. [3] Most often liberation credentials determine access to power and resources and followers usually judge their leaders on the basis of where they were during the liberation struggle. Some leaders are loved and revered because of what they stand for. South Africa’s former President Mandela is regarded as a patriarchal, charismatic and reconciliatory leader. [4] Leaderism also refers to leaders who set themselves up as the champions of the people. [5] While leaders agree on issues and problems what stands out more is how they deal with the issues and problems at hand. Leadership style is also important for South Africa as a nation and on the continent. Leadership style is about how the leader carries out decisions, methods and ways of dealing with others. This may involve the desire to influence, control and dominate other groups or an agenda. [5] This may involve other attributes such as silencing decent, or operating a system of clientelism and patronage which leads to corruption. However, when a nation seeks to elect a leader hopefully it seeks a leader who can produce results such as improved standards of living, basic development indicators, abundant new sources of personal opportunities, educational opportunities, medical care, freedom from crime, a strengthened infrastructure [7]; or simply “ a better life for all”.

      In other words leadership and the quality of leadership is important for South Africa not only for the country to deal with its internal problems but to assume and carry with it the mantle and responsibilities of its fractured nation and the continent as a whole. Indeed the country has provided this leadership role in climate change talks, trade talks, reform of multilateral institutions and the IMF and World Bank. Issues of equity, inclusiveness are central to South Africa’s foreign policy, as such its leaders should be able to “walk the talk” internally and abroad in order to produce results for the peoples. Such is the burden that the South African leadership carries at home and abroad. Thus, as a recommendation the leaders of South Africa when chosen should be able to lead with the cognisance of a heavy burden and should be prepared to do things differently and challenge the status quo in order to address the challenges of poverty and inequality in an inclusive and pragmatic way.

      Thus the background for the 53rd ANC elective conference in Mangaung, held every five years, and in which succession sagas play themselves out could not be more challenging. Furthermore, the conference was of great magnitude not only because of the 100th year of the ANC but because of the burning issues such as the mining crisis, which brings in debates about nationalisation, the image of the police, corruption in government circles, as well as the high levels of social discontent about poverty and inequality that are clearly evidenced by the Marikana tragedy, the violence on the farms among other issues and the issue of a capable leadership that can redistribute wealth and deliver services to the predominantly blacks living in poverty.

      The leadership that has emerged from Mangaung have to grapple with a number of challenges that include the turbulent global financial market and social economic and environmental uncertainties that the country continues to face. The anarchy that prevailed at the ANC’s Polokwane conference in 2007 set a bad precedent which has continued to engulf Africa’s oldest liberation movement. The aftermath of Polokwane is remembered for the factionalism and the defeat of former President Thabo Mbeki who was seeking an unprecedented third term. The run up to the 2007 Polokwane elective conference was also infested with a series of violent protests from different communities on the issues of service delivery, unemployment and seasonal wage disputes. Although the gross domestic product had jumped from 3 to 5 percent by 2004 and unemployment dropped from 31.2 percent in 2003 to 23 in 2007 [8], there was still massive discontent about inequalities and people’s voices not being listened to in the public discourse and a sense of alienation of society by the political elite. [9]

      Elective conferences and leadership changes are important in the country’s political structures and policies. Some change in leadership might lead to policy change. An elective conference allows a window of opportunity during which policies and objectives come into question and some leadership change may be a way of adapting to a new political and social environment [10]. Did Mangaung provide South Africa with the set of leaders it deserves? One that can steer the country through uncertainties, define or redefine a set of policies, and bring a new epoch different from Polokwane in 2007?

      This remains to be seen. While all political systems experience leadership change the process of leadership change varies according to the extent that it is governed by established procedures and accepted rules [11]. However, in Africa succession and change is often regarded as bringing very little change without changing major policies. [12] Crises often impact on succession debates and the Marikana massacre has set in motion the context of a troubled nation that requires effective leadership at every level.


      The recent Marikana mining tragedy and the ongoing strike action in various industries coupled with service delivery protests have sent two clear messages. First, that the majority working class people of South Africa are fed up with the current government not meeting their basic needs. Second, the huge social inequalities (gap between the rich and poor) that currently exist in the country will not be tolerated by people anymore. SA has reached a breaking point and will never be the same again in the aftermath of the Marikana mining tragedy. The mining tragedy, in which 46 people lost their lives, was not just a coincidence or an event that occurred out of the blue. There were early signs of violence early in the year with the violent illegal strike at Impala Platinum mines in Rustenburg where three people died fighting for a decent living wage [13]. Despite these warning signs, authorities did not take them seriously and just looked at them as isolated incidents. [14] When the strike at Marikana started, there were signs that the strike would be violent and protracted and needed strong policing to prevent it from disintegrating into chaos.

      A common characteristic of all the wildcat strikes and protests in the mining sector has been the violent nature of these illegal strikes. The real issue though is social inequality .According to inequality measures such as the gini-coefficent, which measures the inequality among values of a frequency distribution (for example levels of income) South Africa ranks as one of the most unequal countries in the world. [15] According to the household survey of 2010, 10 percent of earners in South Africa take away 101 times the earnings of the bottom 10 percent of the population. [16] The gap between the rich and poor people in South Africa is fast increasing and poor people are fed up that they live in deep poverty yet the bosses for whom they work live in luxury. Recent reports have shown that Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of most of these large mining firms like Anglo Platinum and Goldfields earn in the excess of R20million a year yet their workers receive meagre wages and the social conditions that they live in resemble a squatter camp [17]. Growing anger over lack of service delivery, coupled with the huge inequalities, has been simmering for some time and one could argue that the Marikana mining tragedy is just a tip of the iceberg.

      Recent developments such as the revival of the Democratic Social Movement (DSM) are signs that there is a certain level of disillusionment. The DSM emerged as an alternative force of the working class out of the crisis in Marikana and other mines across the country. [18] The DSM is said to be a splinter group that broke away from the ANC in 1996 after the ruling party adopted what it calls “neo-liberal policies”. [19] The DSM is not linked to Julius Malema, who has also been calling for the nationalisation of the mines. [20] According to the, spokesperson for the Marxist orientated movement, Mametlwe Sebei, they are “calling for the nationalisation of mines under the control of management by workers”. [21] The long-term goal of DSM is to have the country’s mines nationalised. [22] One can see that these new developments in the socio-political framework of the country cannot be taken lightly.


      Whilst the Marikana tragedy attracted domestic and international attention with comparisons to the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960 [23], government’s reaction to the tragedy was characterised by denialism and ignorance. Although the president left the 32nd SADC summit in Mozambique due to the crisis back at home he failed to show empathy by not attending the memorial service. [24] President Zuma’s non-show at the memorial service gave an opportunity to the embattled former youth league firebrand, Julius Malema, to try and score cheap political points based on the mining victims’ families’ fragility. This shows the total misjudgement of handling critical situations by the leadership. All these issues show government’s ignorance and lack of a deliberate strategy in dealing with the critical issues that affect the poor and vulnerable members of society. The only apology for such a catastrophe happening in South Africa after 18 years of democracy came from the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula. This has left analysts such as Grynberg questioning why South Africa after 18 years of democracy has not changed [25].

      The lack of government urgent response to the situation baffled many, leaving analysts asking why government did not intervene prior to the incident and why ministers of labour, police and mineral resources were silent weeks before the incident and not resolving the problem as a labour dispute weeks preceding the massacre. [26] The only apology that the public got after the tragedy was a half hearted gesture by two ministers that are heading the major ministries that were involved, which are in fact beside the focal point. The minister of mineral resources, Susan Shabangu, claimed after two days of the shooting that she was not aware that Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) operates in the mining industry which is beside the point; and Riah Phiyega commending police not to feel sorry about what happened, as they acted in self defence. [27]

      The Marikana tragedy drew international headlines and domestic scrutiny on how could this be possible in a constitutional and democratic country such as South Africa (RSA) that is supposed to ensure accountability, responsiveness and openness. [28] The judicial commission of enquiry inot the tragedy will not solve the underlining issues of socio-economic inequalities that society face on a daily basis. Furthermore, one wonders whether the commission will unpack the real truth of what led to the shooting as it remains mysterious and suspicious. [29] This has raised emotions as people feel pessimistic about the Farlam Commission that has been setup by the Presidency while the same government now fails to provide financial assistance for the family members of the miners and policemen who died to attend the commission hearings. [30] Although the inquiry might be a genuine concern and commitment to getting to the bottom of what caused the violence, [31] analysts argue that the commission was set up as a way to pacify the public ahead of the Mangaung electoral race.

      This has also led the public to question government’s interest in the mining industry and whether the nationalisation agenda that the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) is pursuing is of relevance. Although nationalisation has been a contentious issue amongst most prominent politicians who have shares in the mining sector, could it be the possible way to wealth redistribution? [32] The implication of one of South Africa’s richest men and chairperson of Lonmin mine, Cyril Ramaphosa, who was elected ANC deputy president, has raised a lot of emotions. Some argued that the man who was once a general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) in the 1980s showed no sympathy for the cause he once fought for. While some showed their disappointment on the man that most thought could take up a position of the President, some still argue that he can still contest the position. During the Commission, it emerged that Ramaphosa had a hand in the massacre that he described as a criminal act, that needs "concomitant action”. It is therefore permissible to argue that Ramaphosa's emails with Lonmin management show how they conspire to influence the outcome of that fateful day. [33]

      The government’s intervention and role in the mining industry need to be properly interrogated. Since the 2007 Polokwane conference, the state’s intervention in the mining sector has been to drive the growth, development and transformation of the economy to benefit the masses; however, only few people have been benefiting as the sector is full of corruption. [34] It is therefore arguable that the Marikana protest is permissible looking at the living conditions of the mining communities as well as the working conditions of the miners. This is further exacerbated by poor service delivery as most municipalities where the wealth of mines is located fail to provide basic services. This is also despite President Zuma’s promise to enhance socio-economic conditions of the people who live in abject poverty. [35] On the other side of the coin, mines export stacks of minerals but do not benefit the local people that are most affected by the horrible conditions of the mines. This has forced commentators to blame the country’s socio-economic conditions (poverty and inequality) as the main reason for Marikana. Furthermore, resource rich countries such as South Africa need to ensure that sustainable growth strategies are pursued that really benefit the people so that “Africa’s natural resources can be a blessing and not an economic curse” [36].

      The Bench Marks Foundation [37] argues that the benefits of mining are not reaching the workers or the surrounding communities. Lack of employment opportunities for local youth, squalid living conditions and growing inequalities contributed to the mess. The Foundation claims that the workers are exploited and this was motivation for the violence. It criticised high profits when compared with the low wages of the workers. AMCU’s Jeffrey Mathunjwa said that the protests were in response to poor pay. “As long as bosses and senior management are getting fat cheques that is good for them and these workers are subjected to poverty for life. 18 years of democracy, the miner is still earning R3000 under those harsh conditions underground”. This is totally unacceptable and can only lead to crisis and instability such as the one witnessed at Marikana.

      High levels of inequality are unacceptable especially in a context of plenty. There are a number of issues where the Zuma administration has been seen to have done well in, especially an increase in foreign direct investment, more people are being tested for HIV and treatment is available. However, social discontent as highlighted by the Marikana tragedy reflect the slow redistribution of wealth that is marked by high unemployment rate currently at 25 percent, abject poverty and poor living conditions within a democratic country. [38] Grynbeg [39] suggested that Marikana signifies the inequality within the country that the poor and young and unemployed have lost patience with the political process that is inadequate, corrupt and cannot deliver services to the poor.


      Mangaung should have been a platform to elect transformational leaders with a moral component that emphasises changing the lives of the people. Servant leadership is what is required as it is more genuinely concerned with the needs of its followers as defined by Greenleaf, who defined a servant leader as a leader governed by creating opportunities for followers to help them grow. . The servant leaders does not just depend on their power to have things done but they also use persuasion to convince their people. Furthermore what South Africa needs is a set of leaders who holds and plays the role of stewards meaning, holding the country in trust. Basically the characteristics of servant leadership has essential attributes such as listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion, conceptualisation, foresight , stewardship, commitment and building a community. These are important attributes which our leaders should strive to uphold.


      • The tragic memories of Marikana cannot just go away like a whiff when it had such a profound impact on the communalities, the mining companies and the country as a whole. Although government’s response to the mining tragedy was found wanting and lacked a credible response especially around Lonmin and Marikana by the benchmarks foundation, the root causes of the of discontent need to be thoroughly investigated and set the stage for a new social compact that addresses concerns. Government needs to take the responsibility of ensuring compliance with the series of regulations, legislation and waste management standards and the enforcement of fines, to actively pursue corporations that are not adhering to the laws. Furthermore, the role of politicians deployed on boards and are share holders needs to be thoroughly examined So that South Africans will know exactly when they are answering the question “in whose interests was government response to Marikana directed to?” The people will know if the government was acting in the people’s interest and such questions can be avoided. Curbing social discontent is not the responsibility of government alone but the government has to take the lead in designing and implementing a social compact together with mining companies, parliament, civil society and the communities at large. The government and stakeholders should ensure that a regulative environment is imposed and strict measures to ensure the implementation of Social and labour plan of action as well as ensure mining accountability so that resources benefit the communities in addressing the scourge of poverty and inequality.

      • Consultation between government, businesses and labour and all concerned stakeholders in the spirit of servant leadership is required so that the resources are not a curse but a blessing and save the well being of society at large as well as maintain the environment that is conducive to a healthy, productive and peaceful sustainable environment.


      * 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.

      * This paper was a result of a discussion of the Sustainable Development Program at the Africa Institute of South Africa. The authors are staff of the institute.


      [i] RM Govea, and JD Holm ‘ Violence and Political Succession in Africa’ Third world Quarterly, Vol, 19, No 1 pp 129-148 (1998)

      [ii] Jo-Ansie van Wyk Political Leaders: Presidents, Patrons or profiteers? Occassional Paper series: Vol 2 Number 1 2007
      [iii] ibid

      [iv] ibid

      [v] ibid

      [vi] ibid

      [vii] ibid

      [viii] Nelana, B, The ANC Polokwane Conference and its Aftermath’ AISA Policy Brief Number 11- February 2010, p. 7

      [ix] ibid

      [x] Govea RM and John D Holm p 130 Crisis Violence and Political Succession in Africa Third World Quaterly Vol 19 No 1 1998 pp 129-148

      [xi] Rodger M Govea and John D Holm (1998) Crisis Violence and Political Succession in Africa. Third World Quarterly, Vol 19 No 1 pp 129-148

      [xii] R M Govea and JD Holm p131

      [xiii] Leon, P. 2012. Marikana, Mangaung and the South African Mining industry. Address to the South African Institute of International Affairs.

      [xiv] Ibid.

      [xv] Molefe.O. 2012.The State of Income Inequality in South Africa.The Daily Maverick, 23 May 2012.

      [xvi] Ibid.

      [xvii] Ibid.

      [xviii] Mkentane, L.2012. New Movement Threatens Mines. The New Age, 16 October, 2012.Johannesburg.

      [xix] Ibid.

      [xx] Ibid.

      [xxi] Ibid.

      [xxii] Ibid.

      [xxiii] Ibid.

      [xxiv] Grynberg, R. 2012. The Marikana massacre: What does it mean for Botswana. Mmegionline. 06 November 2012: Vol 29(165).

      [xxv] Smith, D. 26 August 2012. Jacob Zuma risks removal over handling of Marikana mine killings: Political rivals and press blame South African president for 'string of errors' over police shooting of striking mine workers.

      [xxvi] Grynberg, R. 2012. The Marikana massacre: What does it mean for Botswana. Mmegionline. 06 November 2012: Vol 29(165).

      [xxvii] Ibid.

      [xxviii] Ibid

      [xxix] Leon, P. 2012. Marikana, Mangaung and the South African Mining industry. Address to the South African Institute of International Affairs. Webber Wentzel: Cape Town

      [xxx] Munusamy, R. 27 August 2012. Marikana: What price will Zuma pay?

      [xxxi] Germaner, S. October 2012. Government must continue funding marikana families.

      [xxxii] Munusamy, R. 27 August 2012. Marikana: What price will Zuma pay?

      [xxxiii] Leon, P. 2012. Marikana, Mangaung and the South African Mining industry. Address to the South African Institute of International Affairs. Webber Wentzel: Cape Town

      [xxxiv] Hlongwane, S. 2012. Cyril Ramaphosa's Marikana email batters ANC heavyweight's reputation: Lawyer tells commission investigating deaths of 34 striking miners of explosive email from struggle stalwart. Daily Maverick. ttp://

      [xxxv] Leon, P. 2012. Marikana, Mangaung and the South African Mining industry. Address to the South African Institute of International Affairs. Webber Wentzel: Cape Town

      [xxxvi] Ibid

      [xxxvii] Joseph Stiglitz “Africa’s natural resources can be a blessing not an economic curse”. Accessed 5 August 2012

      [xxxviii] The Bench Marks Foundation. 2012. Marikana Miners’ strike. Johannesburg

      [xxxix] Ibid.

      [xl] Grynberg, R. 2012.

      [xli] Leon, P. 2012.

      [xlii] Leon, P. 2012.

      [xliii] Munusamy, R. 27 August 2012. Marikana: What price will Zuma pay?

      [xliv] Rk Greenleaf Servant Leadership: A journey into the nature of legitimate power and greatness. New York Paulist Press

      [xlv] D van Dierendonck and I Nuitjen ‘ The Servant Leadership Survey: Development and Validation of a multidimensional measure’ Journal of Business Psychology 2011 26: 249-267 p 250

      [xlvi] D Van Dierendonck and 1 Nuijten p 250

      [xlvii] R F Russel and Stone AG , (2002) A review of servant Leadership attributes: Developing a practical Model. Leadership and Organisation Development Journal, 23 145-157.

      [xlviii] W Kumuyi WF The New African February 2008 p 58

      [xlix] W F Kumuyi P 58

      [l] W F Kumuyi p 58

      [li] Statement by the benchmarks foundation “ What Government needs to do to prevent another Marikana” Thursday 4 October 2012

      [lii] Statement by the benchmarks foundation

      Zuma and Zulu nationalism

      William Gumede


      cc J G
      Zuma has skillfully used Zulu or African ‘traditions’ to cover-up poor personal choices, indiscretions and wrong behavior, and portrayed those who oppose such poor behavior of being opposed to African ‘traditions’ or ‘culture,’ argues William Gumede.

      For most of the 100 years of the ANC’s history, two distinct strands of Zulu nationalism competed for dominance in the ANC, but especially in the KwaZulu Natal wing of the party, the one conservative, and more closed-off, the other, progressive and more inclusive of other communities.

      Since the death of Zulu King Cetshwayo in 1883, the leitmotif of politics in what has become known as Zululand has been how to hold together the different communities within the larger Zulu community as a recognizable unit, following repeated attempts by colonial governments and later apartheid governments to break it up, through divide-and-rule tactics and appointments of pliant chiefs, and civil wars within.

      Within this overarching drive, different approaches emerged over how exactly should Zulu identity be defined within the mosaic of South Africa’s ethnic diversity. Broadly speaking, the conservatives emphasize Zulu-ness as the defining feature of one’s identity, and for the Zulu community to be the dominant one within the broader African and South African community. The progressives sees Zulu-ness as but an element of, not the most defining, of a multiple or layered African and South African identity, and the wider Zulu community as an equal with others.


      Jacob Zuma’s election as ANC President at the party’s 2007 Polokwane conference and his possible re-election at Mangaung signifies the triumph of the conservative wing of Zulu nationalism, and the retreat of the progressives. Yet, narrow Zulu nationalism is dangerous to both the ANC and South Africa, as it may unleash ‘the demon of tribalism’ as the ANC’s first general secretary Sol Plaatje, put it, and may undermine efforts to cobble together a common South Africanness.

      Former president Nelson Mandela’s 1962 statement in the dock during his political trial for inciting resistance against the apartheid government neatly put it that a common South Africanness must never be defined in relation to a majority community. Neither off course, should it again through one dominant community, as whites dominated during the colonial and apartheid eras.

      The ethnic, language and regional diversity bequeathed by both colonialism and apartheid, must mean that modern South Africanness cannot be but a ‘layered’, plural and inclusive one. The fact that South Africa is a country with a multiple identity should be the basis of its shared South Africanness. Furthermore, a common South Africanness will have to be weaved around the new constitution, democratic values, rules and institutions.
      The best way forward for South Africa, is not Afrikaner or African nationalism, but what Michael Ignatieff described as ‘civic nationalism’. In ‘civic nationalism’ the glue that hold different communities together is equal rights and shared democratic cultures, values and institutions, rather than ethnic nationalism, whether Zulu, Afrikaner or Coloured.

      Immediately after the First World War and into the early 1920s, John Dube, the former ANC President, but also leader of the ANC KwaZulu Natal, held essentially what today can be described as the conservative Zulu nationalist line. However, by the 1926 the rise to prominence of a generation of radical black trade unionists, socialists and communists which formed a new Left lobby within the ANC at a national level, infused a new strand of progressiveness into Zulu nationalism.


      The rise of a new more radical grouping of Zulu nationalists included George Champion, who was in 1925 appointed as the Natal regional organizer of the Industrial and Commercial Workers' Union of South Africa (ICU), by the largest black trade union movement in the country.

      At the same time a new generation of black communists rose to senior leadership positions in the South African Communist Party (then the Communist Party of South Africa). Josiah Tshangana Gumede, who started his early political career as a conservative, had by the 1920s, after a trip to Moscow, converted to a more inclusive Zulu nationalism and adopted socialism as his political creed.

      The new ANC Left pursued a strategy of mass action and strikes against the Union government, while conservatives, including the national leadership of the ANC, preferred negotiations, discussions and petitions with the authorities to express their grievances.


      Such was the division between the conservatives and progressives, the two groups of Zulu nationalists in KwaZulu in the 1920s, that the ANC split into two parallel provincial branches, with both groups claiming to be the legitimate ANC provincial branch. Dube was in control of the Natal Native Congress, and Gumede ran a dissident Natal African Congress. Gumede’s Natal African Congress was recognized by the ANC mother body. The battle between the progressives and conservatives in the ANC’s KwaZulu Natal branch would spill over at national level and dominate both the trade union movement and ANC mother body.

      In 1926, a conservative leadership takeover of the national ICU, purge communists, including Champion, from his position KwaZulu Natal organizer of the ICU. Champion then retaliated by forming his own KwaZulu Natal ICU, called the ICU yase Natal.

      The 1927 ANC national conference was a triumph for the progressive wing of Zulu nationalism, as they, allied with trade unionists, socialists and communists took control of the ANC, with Gumede elected president of the party.

      However, conservatives, led by Pixley ka Izaka Seme and Dube, the old veteran, rallied at the ANC’s 1930 national conference, and with the help of key chiefs and traditional leaders, ousted Gumede as ANC president, and elected Seme as the new president. Seme spent a large part of his time as president of the ANC to ‘re-establish the old esprit de corps of the Zulu nation’. However, this strategy naturally alienated other groups, sparked tribalism and was part of the reason for the decline of the ANC in all provinces under his presidency.


      Gumede pushed through two new strands into the South African version of African nationalism. Firstly, he emphasized the unity across all African communities, with all groups being equal; and secondly, he stressed the concept of non-racialism, the notion that all groups – whatever their colour, creed or religion, within SA should together fight against colonialism and apartheid. He argued that such a common struggle against oppression would help forge an alternative common South Africanness across tribe, race and colour.

      Although Seme won the presidency at national level, the battle between the conservatives and the progressives continued at both national and KwaZulu Natal provincial level. The tussle only abated when Albert Luthuli took over, in 1951 as leader of the ANC KwaZulu Natal, and brought new energy, ideas, and leadership to the province.

      Luthuli belonged to the Christian liberation theology wing or the Christian socialist wing of the ANC, which was pursued by James Calata, when he was elected ANC general secretary in 1936. Luthuli brought a new dimension to Zulu and African nationalism, arguing a common belief in the social justice, human rights and solidarity message of the Gospel could be the glue that holds communities together and the source of a common identity, across ethnic, racial and colour differences.


      The dimensions of the battle between the Zulu conservatives and progressives changed when the ANC was exiled. By the 1980s, what would be described as the conservative wing of Zulu nationalism was embedded in the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP). The UDF-ANC internal wing in KwaZulu Natal had now mostly taken over the mantle of progressives. One aspect of the violent confrontation between the UDF-ANC and the Inkatha in the 1980s was essentially a battle between a conservative, and more closed-off Zulu-ness – represented by Inkatha; and the other, progressive and more inclusive, represented by the UDF-ANC. At the time Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the IFP president, and Harry Gwala, the underground ANC KwaZulu leader represented the leadership faces of these two forces.

      With the electoral defeat of the Inkatha Freedom Party in the late 1990s it appeared that the inclusive vision of Zulu nationalism had triumphed. Or at least, the space was opened up for individuals to mold their own Zulu-ness, without one single version to be the ‘accepted’ version – which should be the way things must be in a democracy. Furthermore, by the early 2000s, a split emerged in the IFP with the likes of Ziba Jiyane, began to argue that the IFP must embrace a more inclusive Zulu nationalism, to come to terms with the dramatic social, demographic and democratic changes in South Africa.

      Many of the traditional leaders in KwaZulu Natal subscribe to the conservative tradition of Zulu nationalism. The leadership, moral and values crises in South African society, has not only affected politics, but traditional leaders and institutions also. Many traditional kings, chiefs and leaders – from whatever community - are morally corrupt, are living ‘bling’ lifestyles on public money, and have on many occasions abuse their traditional power for personal enrichment – and have resisted democratic efforts to hold them accountable. Some appear to fear that South Africa’s new constitutional democracy, laws and institutions were eroding their power.


      Kings, traditional leaders and chiefs hold a powerful sway over communities in the rural areas. Zuma appears to have based his campaign to grab the ANC presidency from former ANC President Thabo Mbeki at the party’s 2007 Polokwane conference on portraying opposition to his (Zuma’s) bid for the ANC president as part of a conspiracy against a ‘Zulu’ to become president, on securing the support of traditional leaders fearful that the new democratic dispensation is eroding their power, and on portraying himself as the defender of the black ‘poor, rural and the vulnerable, against a conspiracy between the white establishment and the black middle class .

      In the run-up to the 2007 Polokwane ANC conference, and again in the run-up to Mangaung, Zuma mobilized traditional leaders fearful of being held publicly accountable for their personal behavior, public decisions and performance, to his side. In his fight with former President Thabo Mbeki over the leadership of the ANC, Zuma explicitly appeared to portray Mbeki as part of the ‘educated’ elite, who were waging a ‘war’ against African traditions, institutions and traditional leadership. Recently Zuma has expressed his support for the Traditional Courts Bill, which Patrick Mashego in his 2008 submission to Parliament rightly said, if adopted, will ‘instead of making rural people equal citizens in a unitary South Africa’, make them ‘subjects of chiefs who are given the coercive power to get rid of those who try to hold them to account.’


      In his battle with former President Thabo Mbeki, for control of the ANC ahead of the ANC’s Polokwane conference, Zuma’s used a thinly-veiled strategy of corralling Zulu speakers behind him – and then use them as the launch pad for his bid for the presidency of the ANC. Ahead of Mangaung Zuma has used the same strategy to secure re-election. At Polokwane and ahead of Mangaung, Zuma have explicitly mobilized voters in KwaZulu Natal to support him on the basis of his Zulu-ness – rather than performance in government and in the party. Zuma have casted the investigation of corruption charges against him and the opposition to his election as ANC and South African president as a conspiracy against a ‘Zulu’ being elected to the highest office in the ANC and country – which it is not. Even Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the IFP leader, in 2006 warned that ‘it was a dangerous thing’ to use ethnicity for purely political and personal enrichment ends.


      Zuma has skillfully used Zulu or African ‘traditions’ to cover-up poor personal choices, indiscretions and wrong behavior – and portraying those who oppose such poor behavior of being opposed to African ‘traditions’ or ‘culture’. Zuma appear to have selectively elevated the elements of African and Zulu ‘traditions’ (some which authenticity can be contested, or which was introduced as a defence for problems in a different social context) – which go against the democratic constitutional precepts, for example those against gender equality or those that give ordinary citizens the power to hold their kings and chiefs accountable. This strategy has also brought conservative elements of Inkatha, which was already electorally defeated by the ANC, into the ANC, and has emboldened the conservative Zulu nationalism strand in the ANC and KwaZulu Natal, and has beaten back the progressives.

      A core part of the covenant of the foundations of South Africa’s 1994 democratic and nation-building project is for leaders not use ethnicity to secure political power or for self-enrichment. Zuma has broken that covenant, and in so doing undermined his very positive contribution to bring peace in KwaZulu Natal and South Africa in the post-1994 period – and persisting with this strategy may fuel the flames of tribalisation which may destabilize the ANC and South Africa, and may yet break-up the 100-year old ANC.

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      William Gumede is author of the recently released bestselling Restless Nation: Making Sense of Troubled Times (Tafelberg). He is Honorary Associate Professor, Graduate School of Public and Development Management, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg

      Politics, profits and policing after Marikana

      Patrick Bond


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      As the official South African judicial investigating commission into the Marikana Massacre draws to a close in 2012, with many weeks of testimony in 2013 still ahead, what did the SA Police Service (SAPS) learn from their behaviour?

      SAPS Brigadier Zephania Mkhwanazi – who heads ‘public order policing’ and hence control of demonstrations – was asked this by commission chair Ian Farlam last week, and judging by his four answers, the SAPS have not begun to grasp the reality of the crime they committed on August 16:

      • First, “Operational commanders and overall commanders rely on tactical commanders to give information,” and the latter’s communications broke down, so “We need to work that.”

      • Second, Mkhwanazi recommended “less lethal” weapons in future. Teargas, stun grenades and water cannons were used to move thousands of wildcat-striking workers off the hill on the outskirts of Marikana where each day they had gathered. The semi-automatic rifles that killed 34 miners and wounded 78 others should be accompanied by “more options.” Reflecting police unpreparedness, while tear gas was being used on miners, forcing dozens of them down the mountain into a 5-meter gap in barbed wire where the first 16 were killed, the police were not issued with gas masks.

      • Third, the operation “could have been conducted at night when there were fewer protesters on the koppie.”

      • Fourth, the disarming of protesters was not attempted in the migrant labour hostels where wretched workers live in apartheid-era conditions. “It is important to know where firearms are kept,” said Mkhwanazi, yet “A hostel has a lot of rooms.” SAPS failed to search the hostels. (Actually, the police gave evidence of only one striking worker using a firearm against the police on August 16. The police suffered no casualties that day, although two of their members were killed by the same striking workers a few days earlier.)

      During a famous service delivery protest in the small farming town of Ficksburg more than a year earlier, the televised police murder of community leader Andries Tatane traumatised viewers and gave the police a bloody nose. Many other failed public-order policing experiences required a rethink, and in August, SAPS were on the verge of banning sometimes-lethal rubber bullets from their armaments. But a resurgence of gung-ho cowboy policing took hold under the ‘shoot to kill’ leadership of recent commissioner Bheki Cele, judging by the testimony of Mkhwanazi, who joined the old SA Police back in the bad old days of 1986, when P.W. Botha was at the peak of his racist tyranny and thousands were killed, injured or jailed by apartheid cops.

      Here are 19 other Marikana lessons that Mkhwanazi apparently didn’t consider:

      • Don’t shoot unarmed people dead, in their back, when they’re fleeing from you.

      • Don’t plant weapons on dead bodies to make it look like you were threatened before you murdered.

      • If 3000 people are on a mountain nowhere near Lonmin property and not blocking anybody or anything, just leave them there.

      • Don’t take orders from Lonmin’s Cyril Ramaphosa to break a strike and call it ‘D-Day’.

      • Don’t allow your leading on-the-scene official to suddenly become unavailable – even by phone – so that she can attend a purely political event.

      • Don’t claim a massacre was ‘appropriate force’ and that ‘maximum force’ was justified.

      • In a tumultuous setting, don’t cage people in with barbed wire.

      • Don’t send police to a scene if they are irrationally hyped up with intent for revenge.

      • Don’t demonise your victims.

      • Stop torturing people.

      • Stop intimidating people who are testifying to the investigating commission.

      • Don’t use the tactical response team, national intervention unit and special task force for crowd control.

      • Don’t hire police video experts who are old-guard idiots and don’t send them to the investigating commission with utterly useless tape.

      • Hire forensic investigators who know their job.

      • Stop banning peaceful marches by women.

      • If your troops are guilty of murdering unarmed people who are fleeing, then they should becharged and investigated as soon as possible instead of being told they did ‘the right thing’.

      • Don’t charge massacre survivors with murder under apartheid-era common purpose doctrine.

      • Don’t laugh and smile at video footage showing a massacre, especially if you are police commissioner.

      • For even an iota of credibility, don’t let your two prior police commissioners be corrupted by the mafia and real estate industry, or let your head of crime intelligence loot a police slush fund.

      If the head of the unit responsible is unable to consider such obvious reactions, then the vital tasks of analysis, contrition and reform will apparently not be undertaken within the SAPS.

      Meanwhile, Ramaphosa was elected deputy president of the ruling party and at some stage within the next 18 months, will take the #2 political position in the country. The firm in which he is the leading South African-based shareholder, Lonmin, continues to repatriate profits to London where in 1973 British Tory prime minister Edward Heath termed it ‘the unacceptable face of capitalism’.

      With the exception of a few whiners, big business is delighted that the ANC team elected at this week’s Mangaung leadership conference beat back the Julius Malema attack, and pose no fear of nationalizing anything.

      With a few exceptions, trade union leadership appears paralysed. And backed by a Communist Party whose roots and current shoots reek of Stalinism, the ruling party has re-elected a sloppy, ultra-hedonist leader who apparently can be bought by even the sleaziest French or German arms dealer.

      There’s a word for the political direction in which South Africa is headed, and it begins with F.


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      * Patrick Bond directs the University of KwaZulu-Natal Centre for Civil Society in Durban.

      Good-enough racial equality at World Bank

      Adrienne Smith


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      The effort to abolish racial discrimination within the World Bank largely depends on the whims of its president and his perception of what is good enough for blacks. Adrienne Smith argues that after more than three decades of pledges and reaffirmed promises to end discrimination the Bank’s reforms have failed

      Good governance anchored in accountability and transparency is widely accepted as a prime factor for economic development and the rule of law. There is also a watered-down version of good governance that some say is more suitable for relatively less developed regions such as Africa. It is called “good enough governance” that was proposed by a Harvard professor in 2002. Long before “good enough governance” was proposed, the World Bank has been using the concept with respect to its racial equality policy.

      The essence of ‘good enough governance is articulated as follows. Not all governance ills can be treated all at once where there is a capacity problem characterized by weak institutional infrastructure, shortage of human capital, and absence of a democratic culture and the rule of law. Reformers are advised to focus on selected strategic areas in the short term and broaden and deepen the reform gradually overtime. The downside of this is that in practice such reform efforts are often dictated by what can be done easily rather than by what ought to be done, resulting in cosmetic rather than substantial change. The proposal comes with a risk of allowing those in a position of power to reign with impunity while reformers are left on their own to deal with marginal and inconsequential areas that the powers that be point as “priority." This has been the story of the World Bank’s policy on racial equality.


      In keeping with the ‘good enough governance’ principles the World Bank acknowledges the existence of systemic and deep-rooted problem with respect to racial equality, but argues that for a host of reasons it must be addressed as a long-term strategy rather than as a short-term reform agenda. One explanation often given by Bank managers is that there is a shortage of qualified blacks. In 1978, then President Robert McNamara mentioned lack of qualified Sub-Saharan Africans as one of the reasons for under-representation of blacks in the Bank’s management cohort, according to an op-ed article in the Washington Post (November 10, 1978).

      The Bank continues to use the same excuse for under-representation of African Americans 30 years later. According to a 2009 report by the Government Accountability Project (GAP), one of the Bank’s directors suggested that historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in the US, such as Howard University, do not produce good quality graduates. The World Bank, the Director said, needs to help them upgrade their graduate programs as part of the Bank’s long term diversity goal. This is, of course, a lame excuse to say the least. The message the Bank is sending, however, is that there is not much the Bank can do in the short term, but to do what is good enough given the constraints.
      Let us divide the Bank’s history into three periods to have a better handle of the issue - 1978 to 1997; 1998 to 2007; and 2007 to 2012.

      1978 TO 1997

      In November 1978, William Raspberry, A Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist, wrote two consecutive op-ed articles in the Washington Post bringing to light the extent of lack of racial diversity in the Bank’s management cohort. He pointed, for example, “There was no black among the 160 division chiefs, the lowest management rank.” In 1979, African members of the Bank’s Board of Governors discussed the issue at the Bank’s Annual meeting in Belgrade and issued a request to address it. Nothing of substance happened for over a decade. In 1992, a World Bank report documented: “People of African heritage receive less favorable treatment than is the norm in the Bank, including recruitment at a grade lower than comparably qualified staff from other parts of the world, significantly lower average salary level, lower profile assignments and unusual difficulty getting assignment outside of Africa region.” This was a confirmation of what an earlier 1990 study found. A third study in 1997 reconfirmed what had been confirmed earlier: racial discrimination in the World Bank is systemic and the internal justice system is deficient.

      On December 12, 1997, the Board met again to discuss the lingering problem, almost two decades after the Belgrade meeting. The meeting was organized after the above-noted 1997 report found that the Bank did not follow through with earlier recommendations. The Bank’s reaction, as presented in a 1998 official report, was: ‘Although past efforts have been less than fully effective, the Bank Group should be proud of its continued commitment to this issue.’ The 14 page report did not indicate what the ‘past efforts’ were. However, whatever the efforts were real or feigned they were good enough for the Bank to be proud of.


      In 1998, a World Bank report prepared by an internal Team for Racial Equality concluded the problem is far more entrenched and widespread than the 1997 report documented. In 1999, the US Congress commissioned the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to undertake a study of the access to legal redress provided to victims of racial and gender discrimination and sexual harassment. The GAO Report stated without qualification that the Bank’s internal justice system did not adequately protect grievants complaining of discrimination and harassment. It noted also that the justice system did not hold managers accountable, and employees often saw it as neither fair nor credible and this deterred them from using it.

      The report also carried a response letter from the Bank’s then President, James Wolfensohn, which indicated ‘Substantial resources are being invested to build capacity within the system to deal with discrimination and harassment in an effective manner.’ Were not the Tribunal judges appointed to their positions precisely because they were considered to be seasoned jurists, well-acquainted with legal standards? Were the Tribunal judges really in need of training to understand that judicial independence and due process of law that they willfully breach are cornerstones of justice? Or was it, rather, the Bank’s managers, who hold multiple postgraduate degrees from big name universities, who were found in need of further schooling to learn that discrimination is wrong? To the contrary, what was needed in fact was accountability--not capacity building.

      In the same letter the President told the US government: ‘We are in the process of implementing reforms and I can assure of my personal commitment to administering a conflict resolution system in the World Bank Group that ranks among the most effective and progressive of its kind.’ He went further and promised ‘a state-of-the-art justice system.’ To his credit he initiated limited policy actions but failed to succeed for two reasons. First, as one of the managers, who was involved in the process wrote recently, ‘The problem proved to be bigger and deeper than the President or anyone of us could comprehend.’ Secondly, he tried to abolish a deeply entrenched practice without first establishing accountability as if discrimination happens without perpetrators. As a result, some of the very perpetrators were put in charge of the proposed reforms. The reform was partially neglected, partially sabotaged, and ultimately aborted.

      A 2003 World Bank report prepared by external experts established that (i) racial discrimination remains systemic, (ii) the majority of the staff still has no confidence in the Bank’s justice system and will “never use it for discrimination claims,” and (iii) the organization was not doing enough to repair policies, procedures, and systems that have failed to constrain racial bias.

      In contrast, the reform proved to be successful in tackling gender discrimination and sexual harassment. The Bank took decisive actions against perpetrators of sexual harassment including termination and forced resignation. The Tribunal also ruled in several cases in favor of victims of sexual harassment and upheld the Bank’s disciplinary actions when they were challenged. In the meantime, a number of diversity scorecards published by the Bank indicated the Bank was making headway in closing the gender gap, showing the Bank’s systemic and sustained attempt to curb gender discrimination.


      During this period, the Bank made remarkable progress in combating gender discrimination because of the steadfast leadership of President Robert Zoellick. In the July 16, 2012 issue of Forbes, Richard Behar wrote: ‘When arriving at the bank Zoellick was flabbergasted at the glass ceiling for women–despite 20 years of studies and internal promises to change it. Within five years he could boast that half of his top managers were female.’As the number of women managers increased the number of reported sexual harassment complaints declined. In the meantime, both the Bank’s management and the Tribunal continued to send a clear message that sexual harassment would not be tolerated.
      In contrast, neither Zoellick nor his HR vice president showed any interest in addressing the glass ceiling for blacks, despite 35 years of official acknowledgment of racial inequality and repeated unfulfilled promises to end it. They did not even bother to pretend they cared. The vice president failed to act even when the Bank’s Appeals Committee “strongly recommended” that he take immediate action on specific racial discrimination cases. The situation for blacks deteriorated markedly. As documented in at least two reports, Ghettoization of blacks in the Africa region worsened and the number of racial discrimination complaints increased significantly. ‘Niggers go home’ graffiti appeared in the corridors of the main headquarters on multiple occasions, as documented in the July 2009 issue of Foreign Policy in Focus.

      This is a period in which blacks were subjected to degrading and inhuman treatment even by the World Bank standard. One example would suffice to make the point. As documented in one of the Justice for Blacks reports, a Sub-Saharan-African staff was engaged in a racial discrimination dispute for over two years. During this time he endured vicious and systematic retaliation without any institutional safeguard to protect him. After many months of unrelenting humiliation, alienation, and harassment, he was under tremendous psychological stress. During that same time he had a serious physical health issue to address. Consequently, he requested provisional relief. He offered to submit a doctor’s report if it was deemed necessary. The Bank’s Chief Ethics Officer visited one of the Bank’s sr. vice presidents three times ‘to resolve the situation in a constructive manner,’ but her appeals were rejected. The Bank’s ombudsman contacted the HR vice president to intervene, but his efforts met no success. The Bank’s lawyers argued that the aggrieved staff was claiming health problem to win sympathy and that he should not be granted provisional relief. The Appeals Committee ruled for the Bank with the following explanation: ‘The Appeals Committee has interpreted undue hardship to refer to situations where staff members demonstrate the likelihood that the consequences of the management actions would cause immediate and irreparable harm.’

      Apparently, to get provisional relief he was required to prove imminent risk of “irreparable damage.” Only the doctors could establish that. However, a psychologist’s report that the staff submitted which flagged serious potential consequences was ignored and his offer to submit a doctor’s report was deemed unnecessary.


      During the first period the problem of racial discrimination in the Bank was acknowledged but nothing was done about it. In the second period there were half-hearted efforts made without success. During the third period the issue of racial discrimination was taken off the Bank’s radar screen as President Zoellick gave priority to gender equality. The lesson here is that the effort to abolish racial discrimination largely depends on the whims of the president in office and his perception of what is good enough for blacks. After more than three decades of pledges and reaffirmed promises to end discrimination the Bank’s reforms have failed to materialize.

      In its petition on Justice for Blacks, a group organized to end racism in the World Bank, asked ‘Would the World Bank have tolerated such naked discrimination for so long had the victims been any other group?’ The answer is made obvious by its sustained actions to end gender discrimination and sexual harassment. Racial discrimination continues unabated because the victims are black.

      The bottom line is that the Bank has failed to accept people of African heritage as deserving of the full protection of international human rights laws that assure equality in rights and access to the security of justice. The Bank fully realizes that allowing access to a genuine legal system will have serious legal repercussions. If justice were to prevail, the Bank would face serious repercussions as the floodgate of lawsuits open. The Bank would be held accountable for systemic and protracted racial discrimination that seriously undermines its proclaimed commitment to “improving the lives of the poorest people on the planet.” Therefore, not a single allegation of racial discrimination can be allowed to prevail within the Bank’s justice system, lest a precedent can be established and the floodgate be breached, and the Bank’s image be damaged. The role of the Tribunal judges is keeping the floodgate shut tight.

      The Bank envisions conferring full equality upon blacks in the distant, hazy future, but for the present, good-enough equality will remain the Bank’s personnel policy. This has been the story of the World Bank’s reforms to end racial discrimination. Clearly, as pointed out in this article, left to its own devices, the World Bank is incapable of reforming itself. In the July 27, 2010, issue of the Huffington Post, Reverend Gregory Livingston, a Chicago based civil rights leader wrote: ‘We cannot expect the World Bank to change its discriminatory culture without a powerful and organized demand. We need everyone accountable and at the table.’ I reiterate, indeed, we need everyone accountable and at the table! Then, and only then, will racial equality at the World Bank be made GOOD.

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      The author, an African American is a member of Justice for Blacks. She holds MBA from Morgan State University. She can be reached at [email protected]

      Africa: the next twenty years

      J. Paul Martin


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      What can Africa anticipate over the next twenty years? More of the same? If it is not to be more of the same, what economic and political processes need to change? J. Paul Martin looks into Africa’s future and addresses these crucial questions.

      Given the political and economic patterns set over the last 60 years, what can Africa expect over the next 20 years? If not more of the same, what needs to be changed?

      Sixty years ago, emboldened by such figures as Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere and Leopold Senghor, Africans were enjoying the fresh air and the expectations of independence. The newly independent states boasted new constitutions, new universities and new social and economic plans for growth supported by strong development aid programs and optimistic populations.

      Today the atmosphere is much less optimistic. Rather than planning for tomorrow, most Africans, if not also their governments, are more concerned with getting by today. Overseas aid has degenerated into a network of lotteries where African governments and NGOs scramble to fit into funding priorities set by Washington, Brussels and now China and India. Few are the African governments and local NGOs that do not feel dependent on friends from overseas. Foreign direct investment increases, but few governments manage to guide the income into sustainable local social and economic development. Even Africa’s civil society, where local initiative, self-help and energy have been the most visible, is denigrated by Africa’s intellectuals as being too focused on their international donors rather than on responding to the needs and priorities of African communities. Given the patterns set over the last sixty years and the situation today, what can Africa anticipate over the next twenty years? More of the same? If it is not to be more of the same, what economic and political processes need to change?


      The general trajectory of change in Africa over the last sixty years has to a large degree set parameters that will govern what it can expect over the next twenty years. Such a premise provides little to suggest that future political and economic change will come in other than uneven and modest increments. For some countries the change will be progressive, while others may have little to show. Although arbitrary, the lens of the next twenty years is a useful timeframe. It is short enough to be constrained by trends and factors that are already visible. It is also a substantial enough in the sense that in twenty years the Africans born today will be taking on their adult roles. What is the world that Africa’s leaders are planning for them? What can be predicted and for what does Africa need to prepare over the next twenty years?

      By 2033, it is reasonable to expect that Africa will have become an even more important source of the world’s minerals, resulting in a strong, even dominant, presence of large and small, legal and illegal, extractive and agricultural industries, financed largely by external funds and protected by national officials as needed sources of national income. As today, the economic, political, environmental and social impact of these industries will remain problematic. Countries that are truly able to harness the income from these resources in ways that contribute to the general welfare of the country have the chance to be in the progressive scenario. Those that are unable to harness the income and to use it fruitfully will inevitably fall into the regressive segment. As it is also likely that Africa’s mineral and agricultural resources sector will be the major source of most governments’ revenue in the next twenty years, success or failure in benefiting from these resources will have a serious impact on each government’s ability to govern and to provide services to its citizens. Judging by the last twenty years, growth in other economic sectors including, unfortunately, traditional agriculture and especially energy will be modest and will absorb rather than generate national income. International consumer businesses such as Coca-Cola and communications’ corporations will continue to find markets in Africa. Other corporations from Brazil, China and India will join them. Some African countries will be successful in developing local industries but even the latter will be susceptible to acquisition by their international counterparts. Even without considering the impact of payments for Africa’s international debt, the net result of these trends in both the extractive and the consumer industries will be a continuing flow of wealth (funds and non-renewable raw materials) out of Africa.

      Judging by the trends visible today, this macro pattern will do little to change wealth distribution within most states in Africa where the top 1 percent of the population control most of the domestic wealth. Only in a few states such as Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Tunisia, Senegal, South Africa and Uganda can the middle class be expected to grow significantly. This growth will depend on diversification within those economies, on the ability of larger segments of the citizenry to earn the income needed to assure improved standards of family life, access to education and healthcare as well as savings for retirement, and thus on their ability to reduce professional brain drain. Good governance will be crucial to all. In spite of current efforts, it is hard to see that poor governance, corruption and identity politics will not continue to play influential roles in the acquisition and distribution of wealth and political influence.

      One powerful determinant of Africa’s economic and political future will be the capacity of each country to prepare and retain the range of professionals needed to run its key private and public sectors and thus to reduce dependence on international expertise. Building the capacity of the needed indigenous professionals depends on each state’s education system and especially on its universities. It is already possible to see a growing gap between those African states such as Ghana that are able to commit major new funds (and greater independence) to the education sector and those that are not making any such commitments. To remain within the progressive segment of the development spectrum, the level of in-country education must increase to provide graduates at the different levels with the skills needed for national development. At the same time, economic planning must open up real entrepreneurial and employment options to reduce both dependence on international personnel and the brain drain.

      It is equally reasonable to predict that over the next twenty years, two factors bringing change to social, political and human relationships across Africa will be the continuing growth of civil society organizations and the political presence of women. Gender mainstreaming in government is being promoted by some governments, most recently in Liberia under the leadership of President Ellen Sirleaf Johnson. Women’s organizations in Ghana have successfully lobbied the government to pass strong legislation on domestic violence, and are following through by building partnerships among private and public institutions to enforce the provisions. But there are also many negative societal forces. Violence against women in war has increased. Trafficking of women and children still receives a low priority in government budgets. For their part civil society organizations have expanded their agenda and range of action, moving from cities out into the rural areas. Local human rights groups now seek to build more cooperative relationships with governments, rather than simply confronting them. There is also some evidence to show that civil society has begun to persuade Africa’s legislatures and its justice and court systems to assert more independence from the executive branch.

      Nearly ten years ago the UN set the Millennium Development Goals, a group of development goals to be achieved by 2015. Now two years away, it is agreed that achieving these goals in Africa is impossible in all but in one or two countries with respect to one or two goals. Once more, promises and optimism have to give way to reality. This time it took less than a decade. This limited achievement has made clear that sustainable development in Africa calls for strategies to address more directly, concurrently and comprehensively all the ongoing major causes of underdevelopment and human rights abuses, notably governance, civil conflicts, corruption, arms, drugs and human trafficking, not to mention other obstacles to social order such as the abysmal conditions of Africa’s prisons, its inadequate criminal justice systems, identity politics, failing education and healthcare systems, poor provisions for sanitation and clean water, the prevalence of HIV/AIDS and other contagious diseases, as well as the many violations of other civil and political rights that undermine fair, non-violent political process. Africa’s governments and civil society organizations are now confronting this basket-case scenario more systematically. In the process they are finding forces for change but also major obstacles, all of which have to be addressed if Africa’s youth is to look forward to a better tomorrow.


      Calls for systemic economic and political change today in Africa appeal to different ideologies and motivations, notably those of human rights, development, pan-Africanism, anti-neocolonialism and nationalism. The ambiguities of these languages were recently captured in the following words by an NGO leader from Liberia: ‘Human rights and development discourses today are laced with all kinds of hypocrisy, conditionality, selective enforcement and notions of “Do as I say, not as I do!” European governments and their big brother, USA, see themselves as the defenders and enforcers of human rights standards and often talk to the rest of the world in very condescending terms.’ Nevertheless it is the language of rights to which local groups turn to legitimize their agenda in both domestic and international fora. Local civic and human rights organizations increasingly look to the promotion of rights as a step towards the political and economic mobilization of communities. However, outside the meetings of the African Union, most African governments eschew the language of rights, entitlements and empowerment, especially when they talk about their domestic affairs. Rarely is the language of rights to be seen in Africa’s primary and secondary school textbooks or even in its university curricula. Governments prefer to use the language of nationalism, while the languages of pan-Africanism and anti-neocolonialism are heard largely within the domains of Africa’s intellectuals and some politicians.

      Moving beyond language and ideology, if we look for evidence of work for future change, it is to be found in the growth of civil society, the expansion of electronic communications, new attention to education, and the changing partnerships among local and the international political and economic actors. There are certainly many other forces influencing the economic future of Africa, but these merit closer attention as they represent more recent and potent forces of change.

      1. The Growth of Civil Society

      Over the last twenty years there are two sectors that have grown more rapidly than any other in Africa: civil society and women’s organizations in particular, and electronic communications. The growth of both fields has been hugely facilitated by international expertise, resources and networking. The resulting local civil society groups seek to serve needy poor urban and rural communities in many sectors, notably education, healthcare, legal advocacy and lobbying, as well as with respect to safe water, sanitation and personal security. These tasks, however, require specialized knowledge and planning skills as well as the ability to generate the income needed for their sustainability which local groups do not often possess. Local groups are also entering a new stage as they face local strong criticism to the effect that they, based as the most successful tend to be, in the main cities, are more accountable to their international funders than to the local constituencies they serve. The growth of civil society remains uneven. Religious organizations, for example, continue to enjoy strong popular appeal and to provide substantial social services, but show little growth in terms of agency in the society at large. Labor unions have also struggled over the last twenty years. Universities remain largely under the control of government and thus only nominally within the civil society sector. Similarly the media in Africa has to function within varying degrees of government control. Its growth has also been limited. Nevertheless, overall, the size, competence and influence of civil society are growing steadily across Africa.

      2. Expansion of Electronic Communications

      There have long been iconic photographic images of herd boys in Africa watching their handful of goats. Today, far from any major town, we can see such a herd boy with his five goats and his stick in one hand, but now with a cell-phone in the other. Taxis in Africa rely on the cell-phone for business. Community radios rely on call-ins from cell-phone users. Within the last decade, cell phones have permeated the rural areas of the continent, enabling community radios to become instruments of public debate, social change and even banking. Information is thus circulating more quickly in Africa today than ever before. In the human rights field, advocates are being trained to use video and encryption technologies to collect and report out their evidence of human rights violations.

      The communications changes over the last twenty have been so massive that their implications for social policy and planning in the future are hard to predict. African NGOs, for example, now argue that the flow of information to and from the villages needs to be more systematic and be driven more by villagers’ needs. They want modern communications technologies to improve the lives of the truly poor and increase their participation in the political and economic decisions that affect their lives. If the pertinent information is to be shared, discussed and evaluated in village meetings, how do rural communities access and use information systems? Local village and community leaders, teachers and religious figures need to be able to select from general information flows those that match the needs of the groups they serve.

      Elsewhere in the world the potential of electronic communications has been grasped well by the young. In fact more than Africa’s modest television networks and weak print media, new communications technologies are likely to undergo major growth and thus increase their influence on the political and economic development. What role can youth play in this process? Gone are the days in Africa when youth were routinely emancipated with defined roles and responsibilities as adult members of the community through initiation ceremonies and other institutions. Today in Africa many young men and women find little to keep them in their villages. They move to the cities if not to Europe and the United States, depriving local communities of their energy and imagination. Could the ongoing communications revolution change this trend, empower these young people and thus benefit their home communities?

      3. Education

      Education has long been trumpeted as the generator of the energy and the skills needed for economic and political development in Africa. In practice, over the last sixty years educational projects launched in Africa have had great difficulty in sustaining their goals once external inputs are withdrawn. In the 1960s, for example, promises of universal literacy and free, universal and compulsory primary education were supposed to be achieved by the 1980s. Today adult literacy in Africa is less than 10 percent in Niger and only about 55 percent in a relatively rich country like Nigeria. Only a few universities in Africa enjoy the funding and independence from government control to ensure wide-ranging thinking on the part of their faculty members and students. The net result is that few African countries can train and retain more than a small segment of the cohort of the government, diplomatic, health, educational, business, development and other professionals needed to run the country tomorrow. One exception might be the legal profession, although this has yet to translate into proficient criminal and civil justice systems.

      Recognizing the central role that it plays, education has become a particular target for African women’s groups. One hears women say that Africa may not change in their lifetimes, but it must in the lifetimes of their children. African women are successfully encouraging impoverished African communities to contribute funds and labor for schools to educate their children. Some international and local development groups in Africa are utilizing traditional and non-formal approaches to capacity building and consciousness-raising. One strategy is the increasing use of theatre and music. Social intervention theatre, for example, is based on the premise that communities must be involved in the planning and implementation of the development projects. The movement uses the language of empowerment that is often seen as subversive by governments. Education remains highly valued but few governments are able to maintain, for example, rural schools that have adequate facilities, qualified teachers and textbooks.

      Education is, of course, only one piece in the development equation. Economic development cannot take place without jobs and access to income through commercial and service activities. Only then will a community be able to sustain its economic and political development and the schools and other capacity building needed for economic growth.

      4. Changing Development Aid Partnerships

      There is a growing realization that the last sixty years of external financial and technical inputs have not paid off as expected. More experts are beginning to believe that many of the inputs have even been detrimental to development. The point is forcefully made in a recent publication by Zambian economist, Dambisa Moyo entitled Dead Aid (Penguin Books, 2009). However, the immediate demise of traditional development aid is unlikely. More likely is an adjustment in the balance between external and internal inputs in economic and political development. This re-thinking of internal-external relationships is matched by a pattern of growing number of partnerships across international aid sectors, notably among international NGOs and some governments in the fields of human rights, development, conflict management and the environment. Greater attention is being given to micro financing, community self-help, and adult education. The test will be to see how this new international re-thinking plays out in Africa’s villages. If the goal is to strengthen the knowledge base and the ability of the local institutions to operate without external inputs, then the new thinking must also give more priority to local capacity building and thus also to moving funds now being spent in head offices in New York, London, Brussels and Geneva to in-country capacity building. The big change will be the move from aid to foreign direct investment from the private sector in ways that the benefits accrue to the population as a whole. This will be the biggest challenge to Africa’s governments, namely how to ensure that their people benefit substantially from these international private sector investments.


      1. Recourse to the Use of Force and Violence

      While one can be amazed at the resourcefulness of individual Africans and their families as they eke out an existence in the Africa’s sprawling urban slums and impoverished villages, one also has to look at the systemic obstacles they face, the ones categorically beyond their individual control. For many, the absence of government security services means having to deal with armed gangs seeking ‘protection’ taxes. For others, there are the horrors associated with living in regions contested by opposing militaries, both of which expect loyalty and material support. The last three decades have witnessed, even under the rubric of support for economic and political development, a massive inflow of small arms from the industrialized world to virtually all parts of Africa. Apart from the clandestine imports, even the guns sold to governments soon find their way to the black market, and then to rebel groups, mercenaries and criminals, if not also to individual citizens seeking to protect themselves and their families. The net result is not only deaths and injuries, but also protracted civil wars, kidnappings for ransom and the further exploitation of natural resources to pay for more arms and ammunition. Easy access to guns makes them a common recourse for conflict resolution, if not also for political ennui.

      Reducing violence in all its forms is major challenge. The continuing substantial legal and illegal importation of small arms to Africa means that threats to personal security are increasing across the continent. In spite of theories of non-violent politics, civil society has yet to develop the strategies needed to diminish force and violence, whether it is exercised by the state or non-state entities. Moreover, Africa is all too familiar with the enormous challenges of building trust and effective public institutions and services after periods of civil conflict. These challenges even include intellectual debates about impunity and forgiveness, but also the practical problem of finding ways to re-educate the young men and women who have been socialized to bullying, insurgency and living by the gun. The net result is that threats to personal security are never far away.

      2. The Status of Women

      Gender discrimination is to be found worldwide, as is the related phenomenon, domestic violence. In Africa violence against women has recently taken some virulent forms, notably within the context of civil conflicts where rape has been and continues to be used as a weapon of war. In its more traditional forms, gender discrimination in Africa has long been especially problematical in terms of labor distribution within the family. In many parts of Africa, for example, men and women share the work in the fields but all the other domestic tasks, including often distant, daily travel to obtain clean water, fall to the women in both monogamous and polygamous relationships. Analogous patterns of work distribution are to be found in urban life in Africa, with women assuring domestic life, the health and wellbeing of the family, but also often holding down one or more jobs for income to buy the basic necessities for their families. One major negative consequence of this bias is to limit the women’s effectiveness as educators of the next generation, all at a time when other traditional educational mechanisms have broken down and the primary and secondary education systems leave much to be desired.

      While accounts of rape and other forms of sexual exploitation in Africa, especially in conflict zones, are common, sexual harassment is also visible in daily life in the ‘modern sector.’ There are, for example, many reports of sexual expectations from women seeking professional advancement and from girls wanting a good grade in class. These practices, where male ‘gate-keepers’ seek sexual favors, marginalize and undermine the potential contributions of women to society as a whole. This comes at a time when women are becoming more visible on the national political scene as peacemakers and as proponents of social and economic agenda for the population at large.

      3. Identity Politics

      The 2008 upheavals in Kenya sent a shiver down the spines of even seemingly thriving democracies in Africa. Ghanaians and others worried that it could also happen there. Nationalism, tribalism, pan-Africanism and religion are but some of the potential sources of group identity in Africa. Many citizens in Africa have stories to tell of how government officials favor their own family or ethnic group over others. Such practices associated with identity politics run the danger of igniting or heightening conflicts between one group and another.

      Academic studies on the roots of ethnic and religious violence have pointed to diverse causes. Ethnic and religious fractionalization, for example, leads to competition for common resources, not the least of which are land and government appointments. Any perception of gains on the part of the one group quickly leads to fears of their seeking a monopoly of power and wealth in winner-take-all politics. On the other hand family, religious and ethnic loyalties, a common language and history make for easier social mobilization and action. Critical in these circumstances is the existence of bridges or other mediating mechanisms between groups, especially among the leadership, and at the level of professional and business associations. Typically the leaders of major NGOs in Africa come from different segments of their communities. Many have been educated to the point that they have both a sense of being part of a nation and part of a larger movement for social justice. Typically also their work calls upon them to work for fellow citizens who suffer discrimination. During the Kenyan upheavals, local NGOs were very active opposing the violence, but we have yet to see a study of their and the public officials’ achievements.

      4. Limited Accountability, Transparency and Sustainability

      Many countries are in Africa are endowed with valuable oil and minerals. As indicated above, the political and economic well being of these countries, however, will depend on the ability of governments to harness the income from these resources and to meet the needs of their citizens. Harnessing the income depends on many factors. One of the most basic will be the ability of each government to negotiate and monitor contracts and leases that maximize the income to the nation. This will depend in turn on the presence in government of qualified and committed officials able to develop the contracts and the monitoring mechanisms that ensure transparency and the best possible returns for the benefit of the citizenry. Given the high level of dependence on income from natural resources for political development of their countries, local civil society, human rights groups and the media must also develop the capacity to ensure increasing accountability and transparency on the part of government. As is the case of the government officials themselves, such a role calls for specialized training in finance and monitoring, skills that are not easily accessible to these local groups. This need for local monitoring has long been felt by NGOs in Africa. In Guinea, for example, for more than ten years, local groups have been appealing to the international community for the advanced training necessary to enable them to monitor the social and environmental impact of the aluminum industry in their country.

      Whether it is the kleptocratic sovereign or the local policeman trying to pay for his child’s education by collecting bribes, even after making allowances for different cultural practices, it is hard to see how corruption does not seriously undermine development. The literature and advocacy groups like Transparency International depict corruption as a continent-wide disease. Accountability, transparency, sustainable development and good governance are closely related in the sense that they are mutually reinforcing and necessary. Accountability assures that there is a formal system whereby all actors take responsibility and are held responsible for their contributions. Transparency discourages questionable relationships and accounting. Sustainable development requires planning and implementation that ensures that a given project or institution will be able to stand on its own after external inputs are withdrawn. Good governance requires the institutionalization of all three. These qualities take many forms. Accountability, for example, must be recognized by all the various agencies. It must also be enforced through sanctions when it fails, whether on the part of a public or private official, the ex-patriot development consultant or the NGO vis-à-vis the community it claims to serve.

      The literature on accountability, transparency and sustainability is now extensive and need not be recounted here. There is a UN Convention (2005) that emphasizes its criminal nature and calls for worldwide action. Both accountability and sustainability have received extensive attention in UN debates about development. All three are recognized by the international community as critical components of development planning and training. The challenge over the next twenty years will be their enforcement.


      African countries face many powerful forces outside their control. In addition to those considered above, there are obviously also climate change and multiple global economic and political forces. The thesis here is that all of them must remain as major active items on the agenda of Africa’s governments, regional organizations and civil societies. The reasons are simple: any single one of the obstacles could by itself hamstring development; and each of the above forces for change is a necessary ingredient for progress. Ignored, each has the power to undermine the whole enterprise. Even with attention to all of these sectors, economic and political development over the next twenty years will be uneven and insecure. The bottom line and litmus test, however, will be how African governments maximize, manage and reap the benefits being and to be derived from the exploitation of their natural resources.

      The trend that has to be changed at all costs is each country’s ability to deal with its own problems and especially the ongoing exploitation of its resources. This can only be achieved through good governance and a corps of professionals and politicians able to assure good governance and to monitor and regulate the wealth generation processes in ways that ensure real benefits to the population as a whole. As can be seen in cases such as oil development in Chad, this cannot be achieved by external organizations such as the World Bank. National control is crucial. Building the corps of these professionals depends substantially on each nation’s educational institutions and the creation of living conditions which will encourage young professionals to remain in the country and to be able to educate their children there. The critical education sector will be higher education and its ability to produce creative leaders for all of each nation’s social, political and economic sectors. Although quality higher education is not a stand-alone remedy and many other initiatives are necessary, it is certainly an essential component if Africa is to make significant strides in economic and political development. Governments that continue to limit the creativity of their universities will find themselves without the local resources needed to assure themselves and their citizens a comfortable place in the modern world.

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      J. Paul Martin directs human rights studies at Barnard College and teaches both at Barnard and Columbia.

      Electoral politics and transition in Kenya

      The 2013 general elections as a tipping point

      Antony Otieno Ong’ayo


      cc J N
      With elections in March 2013 Antony Otieno Ong’ayo reflects on how ethnicity has become politicised in Kenya’s past violent elections and argues that the forthcoming election is a bridge between stagnation and a forward leap towards a middle-income country


      The political violence and near eruption of a civil war in the aftermath of the botched 2007 general election in Kenya is still fresh in the memory of Kenyans and the world at large. It took the efforts of Kofi Annan and the Panel of Eminent African Personalities to extinguish the flames of self-destruction that had engulfed the country, by cobbling a power sharing arrangement that prevented Kenya from state-collapse. The country once touted as an oasis of peace in Africa almost burnt because of a political culture in which impunity, politicised ethnicity and access to the state largesse through ethnic prism has been the hallmarks of its governance system since independence.

      In the history of Kenya, electioneering periods have always witnessed intense competition for political power and political violence of different magnitudes. Examples include the ethnic clashes in the Rift Valley Province prior to the 1992 election, and similar clashes in the Rift Valley and Coast Provinces prior to the 1997 election. However, the more open conflict that engulfed the entire country as in 2008 was incomprehensible. The major underlying factor is politicised ethnicity, a practice that has been part of the electoral and representative politics in Kenya since its independence in 1963. It is an area where Kenya has refused to grow as a nation, where different sub-nationalities co-existing in one polity.

      On 4 March 2013, Kenya will be going into another general election, which is critical for its stability and future. The forthcoming election is a bridge between stagnation and forward leap towards a middle-income country as outlined its vision 2030. It is also a historical moment in Kenya’s nation building and democratic transition because the full implementation of its progressive constitution hinges on the outcome of the forthcoming general election. The leadership that will emerge from this electoral process will be vital for the entrenchment of the new constitutional dispensation in the everyday governance practice in Kenya. The significance of the forthcoming elections is not only about structural changes, but also about one that will recalibrate the mind-sets of Kenyans in terms of accepting the plural and multicultural nature of the Kenyan polity. It could present a second opportunity for a person from a non-entitled community to take the national leadership. Breaking such a historical glass ceiling in Kenya will dispel the myths that have kept various sub-nationalities in Kenya in a political container of systematic marginalisation


      The forthcoming general election has the potentials for state restructuring and the establishment of the necessary institutional, policy and legislative frameworks that would safeguard the interests of the multicultural polity that Kenya is today. Kenya is a melting pot of nations, sub-nations, and transnational citizens. In Kenya, we have Africans of very different backgrounds; Asians of Indian, Arab, and Persian backgrounds; Europeans of American and continental Europe backgrounds, besides hundreds of thousands of African migrants who have found a home in Kenya either as refugees or as labour immigrants. The place of Kenya in Africa is indisputable due to its geo-political and economic position, and as a regional hub and host for internationals institutions, which adds to its rich multicultural heritage.

      The unfortunate reality is that the there is still no political will to create and entrench a system of governance that balances the plural nature and interest of the diverse groups in Kenya. As a result, Kenyans remain deeply polarized along ethnic lines especially during electioneering periods. This is because acquisition and retention of political power in Kenya holds key to state resources for co-ethnics and the elite from the ruling communities who will always try to reclaim or retain power by any means necessary including manipulation of the electoral process. The notion of pluralism as used in politics denote a theoretical standpoint on state and power, which to varying degrees, suggest an adequate model of how power is distributed in societies. In this regard, groups compete in a fair manner to access state power. Depressingly enough, the political competition in Kenya as witnessed in the on-going campaigns shows the struggles between the dominant forces behind the status quo and representation of impunity and those that have waged decade-long struggles to safeguard the interests of the majority of the citizenry. What we observe is the emergence ethnic-oriented and purposely formed for retaining political power and state resources in the communities that feel entitled to the Kenyan leaderships for reasons that are myopic and draconian.


      Following the 2008 crisis, the National Accord and Reconciliation Act negotiated by Koffi Annan recommended fundamental changes regarding the political system and grievances around historical injustices that contributed to the post-election violence. Moreover, with the election date drawing closer, apprehension and anxiety is beginning to grip the citizenry. The traumatic experiences from the post-election violence in 2007 and failure of the government to address the underlying factors as observed in Agenda Four of the Kenya National Dialogue and Reconciliation Accord, have made majority of Kenyans to realize that the old order is not going to disappear through regular multiparty elections. It is an entrenched system whose beneficiaries trample on the Kenyan economic and political landscape like an out of space colossal monster. A system that only benefits a few local capitalists and the political elites whose interests are served by the status-quo of weak state institutions, unaccountable leadership, political corruption, and impunity. It is this group whether in the public domain or in the background that has placed huge bottlenecks in Kenyans transition especially after the posy election violence. The change that Kenyans desire to have is not in their best interest and as a result, the group has attempted to scuttle the constitutional dispensation using every trick from the dirty books of post-colonial Kenyan leadership. The mentality of our turn to eat has and feelings of entitlement and arrogance has blocked this group mainly composed of ethnic chauvinists from seeing the long-term interest of their co-ethnics and possible grand children in a Kenya that belongs to all who belong in it.


      Despite some significant achievements by the Kibaki led-government especially in terms of improved infrastructure, economic growth, increased access to basic education, and expanded political freedoms, Kibaki’s regime has also brought back the issue of ethnicity in the public sphere to levels that seem to suppers his predecessors. Kibaki’s government has been embroiled in a number of flagrant official economic and political corruptions, which is contrary to his inaugural promise to end the pervasive corruption that was the hallmark of both Kenyatta and Moi regimes. Looting of public coffers has increased threefold, in terms of the volumes that are involved through official contracts, government procurement, inflation of public project costs or omission of substantial digits in the national budget on the pretext of technical computer errors. Large segments of the Kenyan masses are still in poverty, experience cyclical droughts, and floods, lack basics such as water, health care, education, and housing. Moreover, the imbalances in regional development in terms of infrastructure development and decades of economic and political marginalization especially in the northern, coastal, and western regions and challenges of insecurity because of youth unemployment are some of the factors that will still inform the choices of voters in the coming elections. However, this will only depend on how loud the ethnic drums will beat, and what kind of new tunes will emerge for the purpose of political expediency and retention of power where it belongs regardless of the costs. With such realities, any desired change in Kenya will only take place when the citizenry consciously refuses to give up their “agency” to the Kenyan political class and the “middle class” that derives their opulent lifestyle from the status quo in Nairobi.


      The 2013 general elections will therefore offer an interesting political litmus test for the new constitutional dispensation and path to democratization in Kenya. Despite the periodic setbacks largely occasioned by the lack of political will to engage in a serious national building process, Kenya has always emerged as a country that can rebound back even in the face of near state-collapse. The forthcoming elections will once again test Kenya’s resilience. Ethnicity in Kenya is here to stay, but Kenyans must find better ways of dealing with it, making use of its positive sides by accepting that sub-nations can live and work together in one polity. The forthcoming elections present Kenyans with an opportunity for societal transformation and a moment to lay a good foundation for social cohesion and nation state building. However, confronting both the voters and politicians alike is the question of the implications of a scenario in which politicians that have been indicted at the International Criminal Court due to crimes against humanity following the 2008 post-election violence may assume the national leadership? What would the implications for Kenya becoming a pariah state from economic and geo-political and economic perspectives? What signals will such a scenario send to the segments of the Kenyan population that is still yearning for justice in the aftermath of the post-election violence in Kenya and redress of the historical injustices that the Kenya National Dialogue and Reconciliation Agenda Item 4 pointed out as the fundamental underpinning of the post-election violence? Last, where does such a scenario leave the Kenyan stride towards a democratic transition? With such a scenario, will Kenya manage to come off the yoke of corruption and culture of impunity? These issues rest with Kenyans as well as the international community whose interests are embedded in the socio-economic and political dynamics in Kenya.

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      Antony Otieno Ong’ayo is a PhD Researcher at the International Development Studies, Human Geography Department, and Faculty of Geosciences in Utrecht University. He is also a Research Fellow at the European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM), Maastricht/Brussels, and the African Migration and Development Policy Centre (AMADPOC) in Nairobi, and a member of the Advisory Board, Research Group Globalisation, Aging, and Health Care in the Netherlands, Tilburg University, and Marga Klompe Foundation. He can be reached at [email protected]

      Rule Britannia: empire on trial

      Katie Engelhart


      cc BBC
      An attempt to twist posterity and the archival record for future generations has been exposed as a consequence of a British court ruling in a case by Kenyan freedom fighters

      On 5 October 2012 in London, lawyer Martyn Day walked out the front door of London’s High Court to greet a throng of ravenous reporters gathered outside. He was there to tell them what they were hungry to hear—that the British Empire is now on trial. Earlier that day, the court ruled that three elderly Kenyans who were tortured and abused by British colonial officers in the 1950s can move forward with their claims against the British government. In dismissing the objections of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) that today’s Britain is not to blame for the wrongs of its colonial forebears and that too much time has elapsed for a fair trial, the High Court removed the claimants’ last barrier. The case can now go to trial. For the first time, colonial victims can sue the British state.

      ‘This is an historic judgment that will reverberate around the world,’ Day said, in what felt like a muted call to arms. ‘There will undoubtedly be victims of colonial torture from Malaya to Yemen, from Cyprus to Palestine, who will be reading this judgment with great care.’ Already in London, the Kenya case has exposed a deliciously dramatic, if damning, tale of missing archives, clandestine purge operations, and high-level state cover-ups.

      In Nairobi, the trial’s three plaintiffs had gathered with supporters at the Kenya Human Rights Commission. Sitting quietly together, the three octogenarians, none of whom speak English, were a crude testimony to the violence that marked 1950s Kenya. Wambugu Wa Nyingi, Jane Muthoni Mara, and Paulo Muoka Nzili are exhibits of beating, rape, and castration respectively. Sixty years later, the Kenyan plaintiffs are asking for financial compensation and an official apology. When the call arrived, bearing good news from London, members of the crowd rose to dance in slow, joyous shuffles and sing nostalgic ballads from the days of Kenya’s independence struggles.

      History is on trial, say the headlines. But, for its part, modern-day Britain does not dispute the basic chronology of events, nor the fact that ‘each of the claimants suffered torture and other ill-treatment at the hands of the colonial administration.’ What Britain does deny is legal liability for that abuse—and, implicitly, for other abuses committed in its old colonial realm.

      The FCO moved to reverse the High Court’s decision, but on 26 October, its request for leave to appeal was denied. Imperial Britain will indeed face the harsh scrutiny of contemporary justice. Now, the FCO must proceed prudently. How British officials handle this case will affect their legal liability for other long-ago wrongs in far-away colonial lands and could serve as a precedent for other former imperial powers.

      This has been a long time coming. After World War II, a generous handful of German leaders were brought to Nuremberg to legally atone for their wartime crimes. Financial penance followed, and the first major reparations deal between Germany and Israel was signed in 1952. Former colonial states have largely escaped such scrutiny—though that is changing.

      The last decade has witnessed a new trickle of judicial claims by former colonial subjects and their descendants—for one-off massacres or counter-insurgencies gone violently awry. In rare cases, financial reparations have followed. In 2011, the Dutch government was ordered to compensate those affected by the 1947 Rawagede massacre in Indonesia. More often, though still rarely, the result is an apology—stiff-lipped or effusive, but with no dollars attached. Germany said sorry to Namibia in 2004 as did Japan to South Korea in 2010. A successful outcome in the Kenya case could inspire new legal scrutiny—not just of the British Empire but of empires writ large. There are undoubtedly shadow plaintiffs poised to emerge from the dark corners of history—surviving victims of assorted colonial atrocities across Africa, South America, Asia, and the Middle East.

      A week after his courtroom appearance, Martyn Day, lawyer for the Kenyan claimants, is relaxing in his sparse central London office. ‘You know, we [Brits] hold ourselves out as being pretty good, fair, decent, honest sorts of people,’ he says. ‘We look at the Germans and the Japanese and other people who have done really terrible things. We hold ourselves out to be rather different. But actually, one recognizes through cases like this that we have sides to our character that are … not quite as bad, but pretty bad. It’s important that we understand that.’

      EDITOR'S NOTE: Read the rest of the article in the World Policy Journal's Winter Issue,"Africa's Moment".

      History, imperialism and endangered Africans

      Sankara Kamara


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      Whilst the international community celebrates the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on 10 December 2012, Sankara Kamara reflects on the dehumanization and outright denial of human rights for Africans through the experiences of enslavement and colonisation

      On 10 December 2012, the international community celebrated the 64th anniversary of the ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights.’ On the same day in 1948, the phrase ‘International Community,’ assumed a new meaning when the United Nations General Assembly adopted the ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights.’ By formally making ‘human rights’ international, the world became a place where the dignity of every human being is theoretically recognized.


      The purpose of this article is to edify young African minds by discussing an aspect of our history slowly forgotten by some of Africa’s educational systems. From Cape Town in South Africa to Freetown in Sierra Leone, young African minds continue to be engrossed by modernity without necessarily trying to understand what it means to be an African in a world held hostage by imperialism. In the fast-paced world in which we live, it is easy to forget that the African continent has trekked a long way, from the throes of colonial rule to the emergence of ‘independent’ states in the 1960s. Rather than use modernity’s comforts to delve into their history and keep it alive, modern-day Africans are actually losing their history to willful ignorance, one generation at a time. I cannot end this article without letting young Africans know that before the ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ in 1948, international law—as understood by Europeans---did NOT recognize the human rights of Africans. The European powers which colonised the African continent, abolished the human rights of Africans by robbing the continent at gunpoint.


      Were it not for the Carnation Revolution of 1974, which radically changed Portugal’s foreign policy toward people of color, Lisbon would have continued to oppress its colonised Africans until the end of the twentieth century. Portugal was one of the earliest European powers to arrive in Africa as a coloniser and slave-catcher. Disquietingly enough, Portugal did not grant independence to its African colonies until fairly recently, in 1975, one year after a leftist military coup forced Lisbon to end its costly wars of oppression in Africa. How does a synopsis of colonial rule fit into the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?

      The colonisation of Africa was based on the racist belief that Africans do not have human rights. Animated by the racist beliefs of the day, the colonisation of Africa was conducted to destroy the indigenous institutions which kept African societies on an even keel. On top of being exploitative, the colonisation of Africa came along with variants of cruelties that amounted to crimes against humanity. The first amputations of innocent Africans were committed in the Congo, where King Leopold of Belgium killed millions of Africans with genocidal intent. In the jostle to seize African territories and exploit the natural resources they contained, King Leopold of Belgium took over the Congo as virtual ruler, from 1885-1908. A European fraudster living in an era of the imperial brutality approved by the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885, King Leopold fixed his gaze on the Congo, where he starved, amputated, and mass-murdered millions of Africans.


      Alas, King Leopold was not the only mass-murderer with African blood on his hands. While the Belgians literally gored their African subjects to death in the Congo, the Germans were similarly active in Namibia, where the German state committed its first genocide. The Nazi extermination of the Jews was not the first genocide committed by a German state. When the Herero people of Namibia rebelled against colonial rule in 1904, the German government responded with a killer Blitzkrieg, murdering tens of thousands of colonized Africans! Germany wanted the Africans in Namibia to know that resistance against white supremacy would be met with European savagery. A few decades after the German genocide against the Herero people in Namibia, the British Empire showed its fangs in colonial Kenya, where the nationalist Mau Mau movement was targeted for destruction in gulags and torture centers.


      In 2004, the-then German Minister for Economic Development and Cooperation, Heidemarie W. Zeul, officially ‘apologized’ for Germany’s killing sprees in Namibia, calling them a ‘genocide.’ Although the German spokeswoman recognized her country’s ‘guilt’ and ‘moral responsibility’ for the slaughter of Namibians, she implicitly refused to respect the human rights of the Africans murdered in that country. Her argument was that today’s Germany cannot be legally responsible for the 1904 genocide in Namibia. According to her twisted logic, there was no international law at the time to protect civilians against colonial brutality. What the German politician was saying, albeit in codes, is that colonial-era Europe legally saw Africans as sub-humans marked for murder without consequences. Almost every modern European state has made this racist argument, often through invented, legal sophisms. In 1992, the late Nigerian tycoon, Chief Mushood Abiola and a group of eminent Africans coalesced around the Organization of African unity (OAU), with the specific aim of holding Europe accountable for crimes against humanity committed in Africa during slavery and colonial rule. Chief Abiola and the group of eminent Africans failed to make headway because international relations—like race-relations in a multicultural country—are dominated by oppressors versus the oppressed. Africans will remain uncompensated because race and power determine who gets what in the pitiless world of capitalism. Cliché-driven but true, the expression ‘History Repeats Itself,’ remains valid in Africa, as the continent tries to chart a new course in the twenty-first century. Apparently forgetful of its tragic, historical encounters with Europe, Africa continues to lay itself bare to the exploitative designs of multinational corporations. All over sub-Saharan Africa, governments are entering into questionable deals with multinational corporations, selling large tracts of land to foreigners who want to re-colonize the continent, this time with official, African approval. The lopsided deals signed by African leaders, continue to give open checks to multinational corporations, who pompously put themselves above the rule of law when dealing with Africans. Lest we forget, the Europeans who enslaved, and later colonized, the African continent are the same actors behind the multinational corporations grabbing lands in Africa today. Capitalism is very powerful, but its predatory tentacles can be resisted by a measure of African unity. If we continue to ignore the historical lessons of the past, the imperialists will re-colonize Africa—economically, that is! Needless to say, the economic re-colonisation of Africa will reduce our political independence to a mere, laughingstock.

      * 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.

      Sankara Kamara is a Sierra Leonean academic living in Atlanta. He has traveled extensively in West Africa, where he once lived and worked as a teacher and journalist.

      Ethiopia and Kenya have taken over Somalia

      Mohamud M Uluso


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      The recent Memorandum of Understanding delegitimizes the federal government and pre-empts its sovereign leadership role in the internal and external affairs of Somalia

      In implementing their recently concluded regional security cooperation agreement and reaffirming their indefinite military occupation of Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya have decided to takeover and perhaps later annex Somalia under the cover of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD). Since only Ethiopia exercises uncontested power within the Organization, on 6 December 2012, IGAD Joint Committee of Ethiopia and Kenya under the auspices of former Kenyan Minister, Mr. Kipruto Arap Kirwa, IGAD Facilitator for Somalia Peace and Reconciliation (IFSPR), issued a statement and Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Grand Stabilization plan (GSP) for South and Central Somalia.


      As explained in the prerelease statement, the GSP covers political reconciliation, local administration, national security, rule of law, and delivery of necessary assistance to communities in need. In addition to Ethiopia and Kenya, a Somali team liaised with the Office of the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Somalia and led by former head of the Somali National Security Services (SNSS), General Mohamed Sheikh Hassan attended the IGAD Joint Committee deliberations in Addis Ababa. It is not clear if the new federal government had full knowledge of the team’s existence, working responsibilities and accountability.

      The Office of IFSPR is independent from IGAD’s Secretariat. The IGAD Facilitator is based in Addis Ababa, while the IGAD Secretariat is based in Djibouti. For further background information, on 28 April 2010, a Memorandum of Understanding on Somalia has been signed among AMISOM, UNPOS, and IGAD Facilitator. This tripartite MoU marginalizes IGAD Executive Secretary, Inj. Mahboub Maalim who is of a Somali-Kenyan origin from Somalia peace process.

      The new IGAD Joint Committee initiative takes place while the international community- the donor countries, the United Nations, the Arab league, the Organization of Islamic Countries and the African Union are reviewing their strategic cooperation with the newly elected post transitional federal government in the light of the decisions reached during the Mini Summit held in New York in September 2012. Furthermore, it comes out after the first official visit of the president of the federal government, Dr. Hassan Sheikh Mohamud to Ethiopia and Djibouti and in the midst of his official visit to Turkey with which the federal government has signed important economic and security agreements.


      Fortunately with unblinking honesty, the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General (DSRSG), Peter de Clercq published a brief titled ‘What next for the United Nations in Somalia?’ in the Tumblr blog of the United Nations Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS) in which he highlighted the ongoing strategic review process dictated by the new political dispensation. While reading the brief is more informative, the DSRGS made the following critical points:

      • That the federal Government has sought UN and AU support for rebuilding the security apparatus (national army and police force), rebuilding a credible judiciary system, implementing a decentralization and local/regional administrations as well as undertaking a comprehensive capacity building of Somali Institutions;

      • That the UN has committed to align itself along the ‘six pillars’ plan announced by the President of Somalia and the new UN mission will concentrate on state and peace building. He quoted President Hassan Mohamud saying to the UN Review Mission: ‘If you don’t start treating us as a viable State, we will never become one.’

      • Finally that the ambitions of the new administration match the challenges ahead and that the administration has asked a space to think through and implement the new strategy laid out by the president in his ‘six pillars’ strategy.

      It is absolutely buoyant to see that an official of UNPOS is capable to voice such a rightful and honest statement in opportune time so that the end of transition would not be a farce. The DSRSG argued forcefully that ‘peace building is a complex business, but not giving this important [Somali] initiative a chance brings even bigger risks.’ Time will tell if his views are embraced wholeheartedly and implemented without delay by his leaders.

      Rather than reinforcing the message of his deputy and five days before the signing of the MoU in Nairobi, Kenya planned for 13 December 2012, the SRGS, Dr. Augustine Mahiga, issued a statement in which he welcomed the IGAD Facilitator Initiative for Somalia. The assertion that the new initiative is a Somali-owned, led process is far from the truth.

      The content of MoU raises many questions and concerns. It consists of a preamble and 9 articles. The preamble stresses the threat of terrorism, threats of State, human insecurities, other emerging security concerns, commitment of government of Somalia to work within IGAD’s framework and stabilization, and the ‘required partnership engagement’ for greater stability in Somalia. Article 5 of the MoU overrides and restricts the constitutional, political and administrative responsibilities, prerogative and citizens’ relationship of the Somali Government.


      First and foremost, the MoU delegitimizes the federal government and pre-empts its sovereign leadership role in the internal and external affairs of Somalia. It attempts to completely abort the prospect of the international efforts geared towards statebuilding and peacebuilding in Somalia. It is takeover, not support of Somalia. Above all, it ignores the political arrangement created by the adoption of the provisional constitution, the ending of the transitional period and the rehabilitation of Somali State in accordance with the political platform announced by the new Government.

      Other glaring shortcomings of the MoU include the exclusion of Eritrea, Sudan, Uganda, Djibouti and Burundi, and the empowerment of IGAD Facilitator over UN/AU Facilitators. The MoU creates multiple overlaps and weakens the centrally guided and coordinated implementation of the approved Somali National Security and Stabilization Plan (NSSP), which outlines in detail the establishment of complex structures at national, regional and district levels and the legislations required to create a secure and safer Somalia. These tasks fall under the jurisdiction of the President, Federal Parliament and the Council of Ministers.

      During his first visit to Kenya in November 2012, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn of Ethiopia stated that his country views Kenya as a strategic all-weather partner and friend in a troubled region. He also defended Kenya’s direct control of the process for setting up administrations in Jubba and Gedo regions in violation of Somali sovereignty, provisional constitution and UN resolutions.

      It is interesting to see if the international community and the United Nations are willing to go along with the Ethiopian and Kenyan takeover of Somalia in violation of the latter’s independent self-governance and political transformation. The Ethiopian bid to secure its regional power role at a time of state failure, civil conflicts and undemocratic regimes in power could be potentially a destabilizing factor rather than a stabilizing power in the region.

      As a matter of urgency, the federal government has to streamline its strategic dealing with the international community, develop and practice protocols and procedures for uprooting its internal dysfunctional behavior and creating disciplined working habit that will strengthen its decision making and execution process. The basis of this reform must be the development of a national political platform that will boost national loyalty to a clear domestic and foreign policy agenda. In a nutshell, to diminish the unwarranted external influences and interferences, the federal government must act quickly by mobilizing the public awareness on citizenship, sense of patriotism, justice, social harmony and common interests.


      * 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.

      * Mohamud M Uluso, a Somalia analyst, can be contacted on [email protected]

      Will US stand by the side of brave Africans?

      Alemayehu G Mariam


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      Is the US standing with brave Africans or in bed with Africa’s strongmen? Now, at the cusp of the beginning of President Obama’s second term, there are some tough questions about his promises to Africa

      When President Obama visited Accra, Ghana in 2009, he delivered two distinct political messages within one overarching moral imperative: “History is on the side of brave Africans”. His message to African governments and leaders was emphatic:

      “Make no mistake: history is on the side of these brave Africans, and not with those who use coups or change Constitutions to stay in power. Africa doesn't need strongmen, it needs strong institutions… [G]overnments that respect the will of their own people are more prosperous, more stable, and more successful...”

      His message to the people of Africa was inspiring, upbeat and passionate:

      “You have the power to hold your leaders accountable, and to build institutions that serve the people. You can conquer disease, end conflicts, and make change from the bottom up. You can do that. Yes you can. Because in this moment, history is on the move.”

      President Obama also made a solemn promise to Africans:

      “What we will do is increase assistance for responsible individuals and institutions, with a focus on supporting good governance - on parliaments, which check abuses of power and ensure that opposition voices are heard; on the rule of law, which ensures the equal administration of justice; on civic participation, so that young people get involved; and on concrete solutions to corruption... to advance transparency and accountability.”

      Now, at the cusp of the beginning of President Obama’s second term, we have to ask some tough questions: Are there more African strongmen in 2012 than in 2009? Are there fewer brave Africans on the streets and more of them in jail in 2012 than in 2009? Does Africa today have more debilitated institutions than it had in 2009? Do more African governments respect the will of their people today than they did in 2009? Is there less conflict in Africa today than in 2009? Does Africa today have good governance and is the rule of law the rule in Africa? Are more opposition voices heard, more civic participation seen and more youth and women involved in the political process in Africa today than they did in 2009? Does the U.S. today "stand with all those who seek to advance human dignity"? Is history in Africa today on the move forward to democracy, freedom and human rights, or is Africa marching backwards into the darkness of dictatorship and tyranny?

      Is the US today standing tall with the brave Africans or in bed with Africa’s strongmen?


      According to the U.S. Department of State's Human Rights Practices Report for 2011 (May 2012), many of the “brave Africans” President Obama spoke about in 2009 are jailed, tortured, silenced, on the run, dead or just scared stiff under relentless official harassment and persecution. Arbitrary arrests, lengthy pretrial detentions, torture, and mistreatment of detainees by security forces, harsh and life-threatening prison conditions, illegal searches and seizures and infringements of citizens’ privacy rights, restrictions on freedom of speech and of the press and assembly in one form or another are the common facts of African daily life. African societies and institutions are decimated by official corruption and bloated bureaucracies. Justice is traded to the highest bidder in politically-controlled judiciaries; and rubberstamp parliaments crank out laws and proclamations like a Chinese toy factory. African societies are plagued by discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, gender, language, religion, culture and region.

      Among the most flagrant violators of human rights in Africa is the regime in Ethiopia. In May 2010, the ruling party in that country “won” 545 of 547 [99.6 percent] seats in parliament. A White House Statement on that election turned a blind eye and voiced muted “concern”:

      An environment conducive to free and fair elections was not in place even before Election Day. In recent years, the Ethiopian government has taken steps to restrict political space for the opposition through intimidation and harassment, tighten its control over civil society, and curtail the activities of independent media. We are concerned that these actions have restricted freedom of expression and association...

      In a speech given at the National Endowment for Democracy in October 2012, Karen J. Hanrahan, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor characterized the deplorable human rights situation in Ethiopia as merely a “challenge”:

      “In Ethiopia, we are faced with a challenge. The principal question is how to work constructively with both the government and civil society to advance democracy and human rights when the government has limited political and civil space. This has included restrictions on civil society organizations, the curtailment of media freedom, and the conviction of journalists and members of the political opposition under the Anti-terrorism Proclamation. We’re particularly concerned about the Charities and Societies Proclamation and the Anti-terrorism Proclamation...”

      The "challenge" Hanrahan talks about includes the arrest of “more than 100 opposition political figures, activists, journalists, and bloggers," massive suppression of the independent press, virtual bans on civil society and nongovernmental organizations, beatings and torturing of detainees by security forces and poor prison conditions. It also includes the unlawful persecution and imprisonment of the 2012 PEN America Freedom to Write Award winner Eskinder Nega; Reeyot Alemu, the 2012 winner of the International Women's Media Fund's Courage in Journalism Award; Woubshet Taye, editor of a popular weekly, opposition party leaders Andualem Aragie and Natnael Mekonnen among many others. The evidence reported in the latest U.S. State Department Human Rights Practices Report on Ethiopia (May 2012) shows that describing the human rights situation in Ethiopia as a “challenge” and glossing it over with a polite expression of “concern” is tantamount to adding insult to injury. The human rights situation in that country should provoke unmitigated moral outrage and immediate and direct action to uphold democratic principles and standards of universal human rights.

      Perhaps current U.S. leaders could learn valuable lessons from their predecessors who faced similar “challenges” posed by tyrannies and dictatorships. President Truman once said, “Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of the opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.” Such is the indisputable fact of life in Ethiopia today and no amount of empty talk about “concerns” and hollow promises about overcoming “challenges” will change the situation!


      According to Assistant Secretary Johnnie Carson who heads the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of African Affairs, there are “five pillars that serve as the foundation of U.S. policy toward Africa.” These include “(1) support for democracy and the strengthening of democratic institutions including free, fair, and transparent elections; (2) support for African economic growth and development; (3) conflict prevention, mitigation, and resolution; (4) support for Presidential initiatives such as the Global Health Initiative, Feed the Future, and the Global Climate Change Initiative and (5) working with African nations on transnational issues such as drug smuggling, money laundering and trafficking in persons.”

      Carson reported that U.S. policy in Africa “in recent years” has contributed to democratic transitions in Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, and Niger; successful elections in Nigeria; and a referendum that led to the independence of South Sudan. The Bureau promotes African economic development through the annual Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Forums. It is actively striving to end sexual and gender-based violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and eliminate the atrocities perpetrated by the Lord's Resistance Army throughout Central Africa. Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s global food security initiative, is focused on 12 African countries...

      In her Preface to the U.S. Department of State's Human Rights Practices Report for 2011 (May 2012), Secretary Hilary Clinton declared:

      “In my travels around the world as Secretary of State, I have met many individuals who put their lives on the line to advance the cause of human rights and justice. In ways small and large, they hold their governments accountable for upholding universal human rights... The United States stands with all those who seek to advance human dignity...”

      These quite modest accomplishments in Africa fall far short of President Obama’s lofty and eloquent words and majestic promises in Accra and his Administration’s actions to support good governance and promote human rights in Africa. Shakespeare said, "Action is eloquence." Though there is always a gap between political rhetoric and political action, one should not confuse the eloquence of words with the eloquence of action. But this is not the time to look back and engage in recriminations, teeth-gnashing, belly-aching and finger pointing. We shall march to our President’s battle cry and “Keep Moving Forward”.


      Americans are generally known for straight talk, cutting down to the chase or cutting out the bull. It is one of the great qualities I have always appreciated in ordinary Americans and some of their great leaders. They say what they mean and mean what they say. It was “plain talkin’” President Harry S. Truman who said, “I never did give anybody hell. I just told the truth and they thought it was hell.” So, I will do a little bit of straight talking. We have heard enough of human rights pontifications and declarations. We know all about the “challenges”, “problems”, “difficulties” and “issues” in improving human rights and good governance in Ethiopia and the rest of Africa. We have also heard enough grousing, whining and complaining in Diaspora Ethiopian communities, particularly in the U.S., about what the U.S. has done, not done or could have done to promote good governance, democracy and human rights in Ethiopia. In President Obama’s second term, there are only two choices: Put up or Shut Up! Put another way, the U.S. can step up and stand tall with the brave Africans or roll over in bed with the shameless and cowardly dictators who cling to power through handouts, World Bank and IMF loans and the barrel of the gun.


      Many veteran Ethiopian human rights advocates will no doubt remember H.R. 2003 (“Ethiopia Democracy and Accountability Act of 2007”; originally introduced as H.R. 4423 “Ethiopia Consolidation Act of 2005” by Congressman Chris Smith of New Jersey when he chaired the Subcommittee on Africa and later renumbered as H.R. 4423 and H.R. 5680 in the House Committee on Foreign Affairs). Congress Donald Payne of New Jersey took the lead on H.R. 2003 when he became chairman of the Africa Subcommittee in 2007 and obtained the co-sponsorship of some 85 members of Congress. That bill passed the House in October 2007. Its key provisions focused on a number of issues central to good governance and protection of human rights in Ethiopia, including the release and/or speedy trial of all political prisoners in the country, prosecution of persons who have committed gross human rights violations, financial support to strengthen human rights and civil society groups and establishment of an independent judiciary, support for independent media operations, training assistance to strengthen legislative bodies, electoral commission and civil society groups, among others. Unfortunately, the bill never made it for a floor vote in the Senate.

      Recently, the U.S. Congress passed and the President signed an important piece of legislation last week known as the “Sergei Magnitsky Law” (Senate Bill 1039 sponsored by democratic Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland, a long-time civil rights and civil liberties advocate and co-sponsored by 33 other Senators; and H.R. 4405 in the House sponsored by the well-known human rights advocate and democratic Congressman Jim McGovern of Massachusetts and co-sponsored by 15 other members). This law is designed to “impose sanctions on persons responsible for the detention, abuse, or death of Sergei Magnitsky, for the conspiracy to defraud the Russian Federation of taxes on corporate profits through fraudulent transactions and lawsuits and for other gross violations of human rights in the Russian Federation.” The “Magnitsky” language was incorporated in a larger legislation (‘‘Russia and Moldova Jackson-Vanik Repeal and Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012’’).

      Sergei Magnitsky was a brave and principled 37-year-old Russian lawyer who exposed massive government corruption involving money-laundering by Russian officials. He died in prison in 2009. Russian President Dimitry Medvedev, citing the conclusions of the independent Presidential Council for the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights, reported that Magnitsky was illegally arrested, detained and denied justice by the very courts and prosecutors of the Russian Federation he was investigating and accusing. While in detention Magnitsky was denied necessary medical care and died from beatings he received by prison guards. Despite overwhelming evidence of official criminality in the Magnitsky case, no officials have yet to be brought to justice.

      The key provisions of the Magnitsky Law requires the State Department to maintain a list of human rights abusers in Russia, freeze their assets and deny them U.S. visas.

      Section 404 of the law (“Identification of Persons Responsible for the Detention, Abuse and Death of Sergei Magnitsky and Other Gross Violators of Human Rights”) requires the President to submit to Congress within 120 days “a list” of names of persons likely to have been involved directly or indirectly in “the detention, abuse, or death of Sergei Magnitsky” and other individuals “responsible for extrajudicial killings, torture, or other gross violations of internationally recognized human rights committed against individuals seeking to expose illegal activity carried out by officials of the Government of the Russian Federation.”

      Section 406 requires the President to use his legal authority to “freeze and prohibit all transactions in all property and interests in property of a person who is on the list required by section 404(a) if such property and interests in property are in the United States, come within the United States, or are or come within the possession or control of a United States person.” The law further imposes penalties on any “person that violates or conspires to violate” the law to the same extent as a person that commits an unlawful act.


      In his 2009 Accra speech, President Obama told Africans that the U.S. will “increase assistance for responsible individuals and institutions, with a focus on supporting good governance... to advance transparency and accountability.” He also said that it is possible to “make change from the bottom up because in this moment, history is on the move.” Well, the moment of history to get Ethiopian human rights legislation passed through the U.S. Congress is now! There is a perfect alignment of the bipartisan legislative stars. Human rights as a policy issue is taking front and center among both Democrats and Republicans. The Magnitsky Law was a significant legislative victory not only for the memory of the brave Sergei Magnitsky but for all brave victims of official human rights abuses everywhere. Senator Cardin toiled for years to get the bill through Congress and managed to do so with the support of senior republicans. (Truth be told, the Obama administration did not support linking the human rights legislation to a trade bill, but in the end had to give in.)

      The bipartisan support for human rights as evidenced in the Magnitsky Law is refreshing, invigorating, inspiring and long overdue. Republican Arizona Senator John McCain said the United States had a moral obligation to speak out for Magnitsky, as well as others who are still alive and languishing unjustly in Russian prisons: “We are sending a signal to Vladimir Putin and the Russian kleptocracy that these kind of abuses of human rights will not be tolerated without us responding in some appropriate fashion. I believe that this legislation is not anti Russia. I believe it's pro Russia…. I continue to worry about them and I pray for them.” Republican Arizona Senator Jon Kyl said the bill should have applied to all countries.

      Democratic New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen said that the United States intends to pay attention to human rights everywhere. “We will stand up for those who dare to speak out against corruption. This bill is for all the Magnitskys around the world.” Senator Ben Cardin said he would push to make it universal in scope so it could be used to punish other human rights violators around the world. “Now we start a new chapter in human rights. The legislation sets a precedent for international conduct that we expect will be honored globally.” Even the White House issued a Statement indicating that the President will support legislation that will “promote the rule of law and respect for human rights around the world".

      There are thousands of “Ethiopian Magnitskys” who have been denied justice, languishing in prison and forgotten. For starters, there has been no accountability for the post-2005 election massacres in which, according to an official Ethiopian Inquiry Commission, some 200 unarmed demonstrators were gunned down and another 800 wounded by security and police officials of the regime. There is a certified list of at least 237 individuals known to be involved or strongly suspected of direct involvement in these crimes against humanity. It is mandatory that these officials be brought to trial without delay.

      It is great to see a sea change in the U.S. Congress on the issue of human rights. There seems to be a new attitude and renewed commitment to human rights and good governance and a recognition that human rights are an integral part of international law and civilized humanity. President Ronald Reagan said, “Freedom is one of the deepest and noblest aspirations of the human spirit.” President Jimmy Carter said, “America did not invent human rights. Human rights invented America.” In Ethiopia and many parts of Africa, the noblest aspirations of the human spirit go unfulfilled. And just like human rights invented America, I believe it is time for human rights to reinvent Ethiopia and the rest of Africa.

      As far as I am concerned, what is good enough for the brave Sergei Magnitsky of Russia is good enough for the brave Melesachew D. Alemnew, age 16, Hadra S. Osman, age 22, Etenesh Yimam, age 50, Teodros Gidey Hailu, age 23, Gashaw T. Mulugeta, age 24, Lechisa K. Fatasa, age 21…. of Ethiopia! History is on the move. Now Ethiopian Americans, let’s get a move on! Yes, We Can have an “Ethiopian Magnitsky Law”! With a little help from our friends!

      Standing tall with the "brave Africans" is standing up on the right side of history.


      * 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.

      * Professor Alemayehu G. Mariam teaches political science at California State University, San Bernardino and is a practicing defense lawyer.


      Calling young women leaders

      The 2013 Akili Dada Fellowship application process is now open

      Akili Dada


      The Fellowship is an opportunity for Kenyan women to design and implement solutions to the challenges faced by their communities.

      These one-year fellowships (renewable for up to 3 years) will be awarded to young women leaders between the ages of 17-35 who are driving transformative change in their communities and are looking to grow their projects to scale and sustainability.

      Fellows will be selected on the basis of the strength of their social change project, previous leadership initiative, willingness to learn from peers and more experienced mentors, and the ability to share their skills with peers and intended project beneficiaries.

      All fellows will need to have deep roots in the communities they seek to transform and be from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

      In order to reach out to young women who may not have had access to formal education, selection will not be based on past academic performance. Applications from young women engaged in social entrepreneurship are encouraged.

      Akili Dada fellows will benefit from a modest stipend for the duration of the fellowship, a series of seminars from experts in the field, site visits to successful social change organizations, an assigned mentor, access to the Akili Dada network of funding partners and social change agents, and access to Akili Dada’s office facilities.

      By the completion of the program we expect fellows to possess the skills and resources required to lead a strong, healthy, sustainable, and accountable organization that is bringing about measurable social change.

      For more information on the fellowship, the selection criteria and application form, please see here.

      Comment & analysis

      Heroes and “hero-ization”: A caution

      David Cupples


      Heroic efforts by individuals and NGOs may have beneficial outcomes and in very poor countries may be a prime option for dealing with social ills. But African leaders are advised against the wholesale adoption of Western ideals of “personal responsibility.”

      Symbolism of the hero is dominant in Western, in particular American, culture. The rugged individual who overcomes all trials and tribulations to defeat a seemingly invincible foe is virtually the embodiment of an underlying sense of who Americans are. We worship outstanding athletes, movie stars, celebrities, the glitterati, occasionally even real-life heroes in the finest sense—persons who perform selfless acts in the cause of social justice, as in CNN’s annual Heroes TV show, which aired recently. In the actions of such persons (and innumerable unsung others) the archetypal theme is enacted in highly positive ways, having direct impact on people’s lives as well as inspiring the rest of us to strive toward achievement and greatness. But as renowned Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung noted, archetypes may play out in negative ways too, to the point of seizing the psyche and precipitating dangerous, even fatal, consequences, at the collective as well as the individual level. Is this all a bunch of psychological gobbledygook or does it have real meaning in the world, and Africa, today?

      In emphasizing the individual, one correspondingly de-emphasizes the various larger communities—local, state, federal, etc—of which the individual is a part. This zero-sum relationship holds, generally, if we broaden the concept of hero to include heroic groups of individuals, such as non-governmental organizations, or NGOs. Arundhati Roy has argued against the “NGO-ization” of social programs to promote the common good, in that she sees the shunting of the task of dealing with social ills onto the shoulders of NGOs as an abnegation of governmental responsibility [Democracy Now, 8/23/2004]. The universal human rights stipulated by the United Nations, for example, are not to be left to the vagaries of charitable entities.

      In America, governmental responsibility for the wellbeing of citizens is enshrined in the Preamble to the Constitution in the explicit wish of the founding fathers to “promote the general welfare.” This was 200¬-some-odd years before “welfare” became the dirty word it is today. The venerated icons of the American way of life recognized that hardships that were nobody’s fault were likely to arise from time to time. Winter might be unduly harsh. Crops might fail, locusts swarm. The levees could burst. Beavers might chew away the dam. The family breadwinner might suffer debilitating illness. Such unwelcome events were likely to occur quite at random, affecting the “general welfare.” The wise and humane thing to do was to establish a means for helping each other in time of trouble; metaphorically, to establish a kind of social safety net that would protect everybody (at least everybody that mattered to them, i.e., white male property owners of substance). The founding elders wished to “establish a more perfect union,” an in-this-togetherness that gave strength in numbers, collective identification and communal bonding to citizens of the young nation. It was good to be in with the in-crowd.

      Life these days continues to present challenges. When demographic data reveal patterns of social problems among segments of the larger population—e.g. minority districts in America, much of sub-Saharan Africa, etc.—there are two radically different types of conclusions that might be drawn. The first attributes the inequities, the pockets of poverty, crime, incarceration and other social ills, to characteristics of the people involved. The afflicted groups are populated by lazy “welfare queens” or “irresponsible manipulators of the system,” and so on. The second, and proper, type of conclusion recognizes that some failing of the society itself is at fault. Note that when it is ethnicity which is the defining characteristic of the suffering populations, conclusions of the first type—particularly given their disengagement from the historical background and lack of scientific confirmation—come very close to being racist, if not qualifying outright. They violate the basic axiom that no race is superior to any other and the philosophical truth that “there but for fortune go you and I.”

      This type of racist statement often falls under the philosophical shield of the dogma of “personal responsibility,” i.e., that the essence of the matter is in pulling oneself up by the bootstraps, that failures of effort and initiative are the all-important causes of people’s woes, and that accordingly there no longer remains any need for social safety nets. As these statements typically come from persons living privileged lives—whether American, European or African—it takes no great perspicacity to discern the self-serving bias of their rhetoric. The tangling-up of such statements with an “Ayn Randian” loathing of “losers” as biological or evolutionary misfits adds an element of hateful bile to the racism. Note the extension of the argument, on the global stage, to the tendency of wealthy nations to dismiss the struggles of the Third World, even while promoting policies that weaken poor countries.

      Which brings us back to Roy’s point: that promoting the common welfare is properly the work of society and should not be left to the vagaries of charitable institutions and individuals, whose ability to help may be a pittance in comparison to the resources of the state. The American founding fathers, if we can take them at their word, agreed—they considered promoting the common welfare of such importance that they enshrined it in the Preamble to the Constitution. Nowadays we are urged instead to heed those who, having reached the mountaintop—often boosted by public aid or family fortune—would cut the safety ropes by which those at the bottom might struggle up and from their cozy perches preach the virtues of “tough love” and doing for oneself.

      Jung argued that any archetype that seizes control of the psyche may wield deleterious, even disastrous, results. In the West, the hero archetype dominates our collective psychology. Even the CNN show, as wonderful and inspiring as it is, by its very nature reinforces this dominant paradigm in the cultural Zeitgeist. Promoting personal responsibility is all well and good, but clinging blindly to the heroic ideal at the expense of failing to recognize and value the importance of wise and studied governmental intervention invites social decline and ruin.

      The “hero” is a deep element of human psychology, some would say mythic and archetypal. Heroic actions accomplish much good and inspire individuals to do their fair share and more. But let us not make a leap of illogic and fall in line with ideologues endorsing the shifting of society’s role in promoting the common welfare onto the shoulders of heroic individuals and NGOs. Obviously this applies particularly to wealthy nations and less so to poor ones that have little choice but to open up to outside sources of wealth. Still, African leaders would do well to guard against the glib and superficial proselytizing of anti-government crusaders.


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      * David Cupples, Ph. D., is the author of Stir It Up: The CIA Targets Jamaica, Bob Marley and the Progressive Manley Government (a novel). He can be reached by email at [email protected] or through his Facebook page

      Why Malawi’s education sector is in a mess

      Steve Sharra


      Problems in Malawi’s education sector are tied to the country’s governance and have their roots in a broader global context of economic and education policy prescriptions

      In its editorial of Thursday 29 November, The Nation newspaper expressed alarm at the revelation that Malawi’s education sector was performing worse than our neighbours. The Nation posed the question “Where are we getting it wrong?” The news of our dismal educational performance came via the Minister of Education, Science and Technology, Eunice Kazembe, who was speaking at an Education Joint Sector Review meeting in Lilongwe that week.

      The Joint Sector Review is a periodical gathering of donors, Ministry technocrats, academics and other educationists to discuss progress against benchmarks outlined in educational policies and implementation plans. Amongst the problems the newspaper quoted the minister highlighting was that seventy percent of Malawian pupils lacked basic skills and necessities, and that most of these learners drop out before reaching Standard Six.

      In this two-part article, I want to argue that any analysis of the problems that have paralyzed Malawi’s education sector ought to be understood in the larger context of Malawi’s governance and the political economy of the country. I also want to point out that what we see as local and internal causes of these problems have their roots in a broader global context of economic and education policy prescription and domestic adaptation.

      A primary school teacher and a primary education adviser enact a literacy strategy during a continuous professional development training in Mzimba North

      It would be an exaggeration to argue that education is the only sector performing miserably. A lot of Malawians still suffer from chronic hunger, despite all the efforts of the Ministry of Agriculture. Most Malawians have no access to a hospital, and the few available hospitals have no drugs. Medical personnel are overworked and disgruntled. Many Malawians die needlessly, due to sheer negligence and lack of empathy. Electricity continues to be a nightmare for the 8 percent of Malawians who have access to it, and water supply is highly erratic.

      The majority of Malawians go without police protection, and most of the times the police are unable to prevent crime or apprehend criminals, leaving Malawians helpless. The conditions of our cities are atrocious. Garbage is everywhere, most roads are dirt roads even in the capital city, and have not been maintained since they were constructed. Our city markets are so filthy it’s a miracle we don’t have Armagedon cholera epidemics.

      We therefore need to put the malaise of the education sector into perspective. The failures of the education system are symptomatic of the general failures of the country as a whole. As I am writing, the majority of Malawi’s primary school children have no access to a school textbook. Textbooks were last distributed to schools in 2008, and schools no longer have those books due to wear and tear. A niece of mine told me recently her Standard Six class has three English pupils books against sixty eight pupils. A day later a group of Primary Education Advisers told me entire classes in their schools do not have a single pupils’ book.

      And our teachers are an angry lot. They are always paid late, teach in classrooms unfit for purpose, live in houses not worthy the name, and are treated as second class citizens. Recently Malawians have lamented on social media sites remarks purportedly made by the president herself demeaning teachers. She is alleged to have said, at a public rally in Thyolo, that farming was a better paying preoccupation than the teaching profession. As teachers have no means of expressing their anger directly at their ministry or at the country’s leaders, they resort to other tactics easily misinterpreted as incompetence unprofessionalism. Left unaddressed, the anger our teachers are nursing is slowly but steadily eating away at the educational fabric of the country.

      The causes of the problems bedeviling Malawi’s education sector are local and global, internal and external, structural and political. They are the same problems ailing every aspect of Malawi’s governance system as well as social architecture. They must be addressed in a holistic manner.
      Much has been said, lately, about the problems of leadership that have stagnated the country’s progress. Little has been mentioned about those Malawians who have persevered against the odds, and have been an inspiration to others. Teachers are amongst these unappreciated leaders.

      It’s hard to acknowledge, in the current atmosphere, but there are things that still work in this country. We need to highlight them, celebrate the leaders behind them, and make them an example for everyone else.

      The local, internal and political causes are easier to recognize than the global, structural and external problems. There is a part where we as a country, as The Nation editorial alluded to, are indeed “getting it wrong”. But there is a part where it is global structures of economic governance and geopolitical power that are “getting it wrong.” Somewhere along the continuum, the internal and the external causes are connected.

      Inefficiencies such as late salaries and bureaucratic bottlenecks that choke career prospects for teachers are part of the local and internal causes. So is the size and structure of the country’s economy, which makes it impractical for teachers and most civil servants to be better paid. There are capacity problems that have led to millions of kwacha being returned to donors or to the national treasury because we are unable to utilize the money, despite all the known problems that are, paradoxically, caused by lack of money. The global and external causes also factor into the local and internal causes, something we will explore in part II.

      PART II

      In the first part of this article I argued that the mess in Malawi’s education sector is not occurring in a vacuum; it is a reflection of the state of the country’s governance and political economy. I also suggested that the internal causes of the problems are tied to external causes. In this concluding part I discuss the external causes, focusing on arguments made by a prominent Malawian development economist and an American educational researcher. I end by calling for more investment in the professionalism of Malawi’s teachers, and in addressing the root causes of the anger that has gripped the country’s teaching profession.

      Writing on the discussion forum Nyasanet in October 2012, Malawian development economist Thandika Mkandawire, professor and chair of African Studies at the London School of Economics, helped put into perspective some of these causes. Professor Mkandawire listed mistakes that the IMF and World Bank had admitted to making in the decades that developing countries were forced to adopt prescriptions for which there was no guarantee that they would work. In the decades leading from independence of African countries, international financial institutions had what Professor Mkandawire called an “anti-tertiary education stance.”

      This stance led to declines in investments in human capital, whose results are unfolding today. The mistakes these institutions have admitted to have had a “profound impact on African economies,” examples of which include “serious shortages of energy, lack of a skilled labour force, and an absence of long-term financing,” according to Professor Mkandawire. The lack of a skilled labour force and the absence of long-term financing have struck at the very heart of African countries’ governance and social service provision. They have crippled the capacity of countries such as Malawi in not only the education system but right across the entire public sector.

      Steven J. Klees, professor of International and Comparative Education at the University of Maryland in the USA, argues similarly in a September 2012 article, titled “Why Does the World Bank Hate Teachers?” In much of the world, including Malawi, teachers are some of the lowest paid civil servants. Professor Klees traces this phenomenon to World Bank policies that pushed for low salaries for teachers. He also accuses World Bank policies of promoting teachers’ “ignorance,” a result of prescriptions to governments to cut both pre-service and in-service training for teachers, as part of structural adjustment programmes.

      Untrained teachers have become a common full time feature of many educational systems around the world, another mistake Professor Klees attributes to the World Bank. When I started teaching in January 1990, it was after a ten-day crash course that introduced us to the basics of the curriculum and lesson planning, after which we were unleashed onto thousands of unsuspecting learners. In the mid-1990s Malawi hired 20,000 thousand school leavers and left them handling full classes on their own for years.

      Malawi is still years away from achieving the optimal teacher-pupil ratio. Education policy documents prepared by the Ministry of Education indicate a target teacher-pupil ratio of 1:60, considered the ideal. Professor Klees argues that this ratio prescription came out of a flawed World Bank study. Anybody who has taught young children knows how demanding it is to handle just a handful. For the World Bank to have prescribed 60 learners in one classroom just shows how out of touch some policies can be. Professor Klees notes, cynically but poignantly, that this prescription could not have been made for children of World Bank staff. We can add to that list children of Malawian cabinet ministers and high ranking government bureaucrats and other elites.

      What this means is that countries such as Malawi must never accept policy prescriptions without subjecting them to scrutiny and examining them for suitability to our contexts. Currently many donors are prioritizing early grade literacy, in recognition of the pivotal importance that the ability to read holds for the future of a child. But Malawi’s needs are such that little can be achieved in early literacy as long as classes continue being very large and learners continue having no books to read. Government needs to make its priorities clear to donors, and to take an active role in the formulation of donor projects so as to ensure relevance and efficacy. Pilot projects are helpful, but it is pointless to have pilot project after pilot project without applying the lessons nationally.

      We cannot afford to revert to training just a few thousand teachers at a time when school enrollments are at an all-time high. Handled well with resources and commitment, the Open and Distance Learning (ODL) model is the most efficient way of training a large number of teachers at once, using new instructional technologies. In other parts of the world, the ODL model is being used to upgrade teachers’ minimum professional qualifications from a certificate to advanced degrees. We need to invest in the professionalism of teachers, providing them with resources so they can form professional associations and acquire advanced qualifications.

      We must address the root causes of the seething anger that has demoralized teachers. We must motivate them with meaningful career prospects. There are some excellent, highly motivated Malawian teachers out there. We must invest in identifying them and supporting their efforts. It is high time we started having teacher professional associations and national teaching awards as is the case elsewhere. Only when we have understood the broader context of Malawi’s socio-economic problems and its crossover effect in education, and made the necessary investments as described above, can we begin an earnest attempt at getting it right in education.


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      * Steve Shara, PhD, is a 2012 fellow of the Programme for African Leadership, London School of Economics. He blogs at

      Working on the things that really matter

      Reflections on leaving Kenya National Commission on Human Rights

      Lawrence Mute


      During his time at the commission, Mute recalls many achievements on behalf of Kenyans. But there were also times when people appeared to be momentarily distracted from the things that really mattered

      I wish to reflect on some of my work during the past nine years at the National Commission on Human Rights under the theme: working on the things that matter.
      It was the poet Emily Dickinson who said:

      "If I can stop one heart from breaking, I shall not live in vain. If I can ease one life the aching, or cool one pain, or help one fainting robin unto his nest again, I shall not live in vain."

      For the past nine years, I have had the privilege and honour of serving as a Commissioner at the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights. During that time, Kenya has encountered momentous triumphs at many levels: the people made for themselves a new Constitution; Kenyans now may speak and associate howsoever and with whomsoever far more than they ever could have; even economic and social rights now are justiciable in our courts. Yet adversity has been an undeniable fraternal twin of this prosperity, as sadly illustrated by the post election violence of five years ago.

      In my time at the National Commission, I couldn’t help noticing and being extremely concerned by the extent to which all those of us that should know better – civil society, commentators, professionals, academics, leaders of faiths - would even if momentarily become distracted from the things that really mattered: how often we focused on the look, the head-lining sound-byte, immediate glorification. Strategy was blinkered by ad hoc tactics and callow thinking. Far too often, we kept making demands of society using absolutist terms. Our debates, advocacy campaigns and even research far too often were framed in overly strident, dogmatic and exclusive terms. Our conferences and workshops dispensed high-minded rhetoric on national unity, transparency and accountability; then our actions or inertia fragmented us into the cocoons of our ethnicities, faiths, genders or orientations: that is why you could always surmise the political allegiance of a columnist or commentary writer prior to the 2007 elections once you worked out their ethnicity.

      So, what things really do matter? And, what things don’t?

      Surely, we have lent too much credence to form, appearance and perception. We have responded in the heat of the moment without taking stock of the medium-term and long-term. We have consequently allowed ourselves to be outmanoeuvred on important issues such as establishing the right balance between protecting individual rights and securing the country against terrorism: for far too long civil society pontificated against legislation and stuck their heads in the sand; and I kept saying: the moment there is a major terror outrage, a bad law is going to be passed. So, now, if the law Parliament passed hurriedly this year undermines individual liberties, to who shall we account?

      Surely, what really matters is that your next-door neighbour who happens to be of Somali ethnicity shouldn’t be stopped when you are not being stopped: you know her well; yet she is obviously a terror suspect? And I am not stopped because my brown teeth clearly mark me out as a likely robber?

      So, what matters here? To my mind, there is no such thing as a reset button which we as Kenyans have pressed or will press to return to some idolised default setting approximating our best set of values and principles: I say this even in spite of our new Constitution. I mean, just look at our epic truth, justice and reconciliation process!

      Approaches and attitudes in our society swing in arcs, like a pendulum, from point to point. What we may influence, by our actions or inertia, is the next point that the pendulum may stop at. That is why in the face of apparently great societal resistance the National Commission had to keep shining a torch against capital punishment in this country; why you must all keep asking the Catholic Church, my Church, why the Episcopal Conference of Bishops did not stand firmer during the constitutional debate in support of abolition even while Church doctrine is clearly now against the death penalty. That is why I do know that in due course the pendulum will swing to a point where Kenya too will repeal Section 162 of the Penal Code which criminalises same-sex acts.

      And yet, the strength of our society is its diversity of character and views. Society cannot simply tow your line because you are an abolitionist or because you are pro-choice. That is why it would be futile for you to be too upset or angered by those who are in the opposing camp: those who support the death penalty or who are anti-choice or homophobic. The best you must do is seek to influence the pendulum’s arc. That is what we sought to do at the National Commission with our reproductive rights inquiry and our occasional researches.

      And so, again, for the things that matter. Forty years ago, a peasant couple in rural Meru opted to send their three-year old blind toddler to a far-away mission school for the blind. No wonder then that a veritable armada of grannies closed in for battle: where are you taking the child? Is it that there is no food here that you should abandon him to strangers? Is there not enough grass here where he may play?

      The 2006 UN Disability Convention now affirms, if there needed any such affirmation, that children with disabilities must get an education as a matter of right on an equal basis with their non-disabled peers. So, back to the things that matter: yes, every single teacher, but really more so that unsang teacher who each day must complement his classroom training to ensure that the autistic child or the child with intellectual disability or cerebral palsy is toilet trained, and that those disabled children too do get an education; so that while you elite parents demand that your high-end academy remain at the top of the national performance table, this teacher thinks: this year I succeeded: I performed because one more disabled child smiled or said “baba”.

      That is what matters: that even those of us whose children may be in private academies will surely hail the 2011 High Court decision which reaffirmed that it is not unfair discrimination for State policy to determine that children from public primary schools (read lesser-endowed backgrounds) may get placements in top secondary schools on an affirmative basis.

      One other thing that matters is the paradigm shift established by Article 12 of the Disability Convention: that all those of my disabled sisters and brothers who you typify as insane or of unsound mind or mad actually do have legal capacity which they exercise on an equal basis with others. Kenyans should ask themselves why they should have a ballot while the new Constitution says a person of unsound mind should not. Are Kenyans that really sound of mind when they vote for a war-mongering or thieving politician?

      These are the things we all need to keep asking: that even as we seek to resolve the one-third gender constitutional quandary, women (and men) may not countenance that a percentage of that one-third should or could be women (or men) with disabilities; as though persons with disabilities really were neither male nor female!

      That, despite what Justice Majanja said last month when allowing losing presidential candidates to be included in party lists for nominated seats, is the priority consideration really about some high ideal of democracy? Is it not the case that persons with disabilities will be shunted from their constitutionally-established seats in deference to losing candidates or candidates’ spouses? And then, when a deaf candidate seeks to go to court, a learned friend will ask her to raise five million in fees and disbursements!

      What really must matter is substance, the end-product … and I know here I almost sound like Machiavelli … almost but not quite.

      At the National Commission, the thing that mattered to me was not a theoretical or impetuous expression of our independence and autonomy. What really mattered and which must continue to matter for Constitutional Offices and Independent Offices is that they are able to exercise their independence with judiciousness, with political astuteness and savviness.

      In 2008, it was incredibly fascinating to be part of the conversation on whether to include or exclude names of alleged perpetrators from our post-election violence report, ON the Brink of the Precipice. One view worried that since we had not undertaken a criminal investigation, perhaps we should not include names of alleged perpetrators in the report. The majority view though was that our statutory role as a national human rights institution conferred upon us a human rights investigatory mandate and excluding names of alleged perpetrators would not enable effective closure by spurring the other mandated agencies to do their work with expedition. When the International Criminal Court indictments happened, I recall some of us asking each other: if we knew this is how things would have turned out, would we still have done the report the way we did it? And, from me, the answer remained decidedly affirmative: yes, we would.

      One of the things being in the Commission illuminated for me is that the potency of policy stays shackled so long as rank and file individuals are unable to benefit from it. We have been perhaps far too quick to lurch onto systemic actions and responses: public inquiries; class suits; macro-responses. In the end, we need to keep in mind that it is an individual that is violated: a child defiled; a disabled person run out of school because her dyslexia damages the school’s mean grade. That’s the essence of the Emily Dickinson quote I began with earlier.

      Take the National Commission’s capital punishment campaign. When President Kibaki commuted the sentences of over 4,000 capital convicts into life imprisonment in 2009, we all commended it. But at Kibos GK Prison, the National Commission now finds that those whose sentences were commuted to life imprisonment still remain in condemned cells alongside other capital offenders: nothing really had changed for them; yet we praised the President’s actions at the world’s various human rights tables: treaty body committees, the Human Rights Council, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights …

      So, to the question did we make a difference on the things that really mattered, yes, I think we did, but let the jury deliberate, long and hard.

      What now I know with certainty is that you could not possibly do human rights work if you were a pessimist. Earlier this year, the National Commission launched a report entitled: It’s Hard to Be Good. This was an assessment on how it had effected its mandates since its establishment in 2003. Then, two months ago, my six-year old saw the report on my desk at the Commission. Now, Raphael on occasion can be rather unkind to one of his sisters. So when I asked him why he was not nice to Bakhita, he thought for some moments, and then told me: “You see, Dad, it’s hard to be good!”


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      * Lawrence Mute is a former commissioner with Kenya National Commission on Human Rights. This article was adapted from the acceptance address he delivered at the award of 2012 Jurist of the Year by the Kenyan Section of the International Commission of Jurists, 7 December 2012.

      Biofuels fueling and cementing the cycle poverty

      Collins Cheruiyot


      Many farmers who were duped into growing crops for biofuels have nothing to show for their investment. As well, the biofuels craze is behind land grabs in Africa

      “There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.” Mahatma Gandhi once remarked.

      The 2007/8 sharp food price rises and associated riots by citizens sent panic across the food security corridors. The rise has been linked to increased speculation and a shift to biofuels crops for energy. These crops range from jatropha, cassava, sweet sorghum, sugar cane, sugar beet, maize, soybean to oil palm and others. In this scandal of growing food for engines instead of stomachs, the Jathropha plant has become a scandal within a scandal.

      Jathropa plant is an oil-bearing shrub, a castor bean bush. At beginning of 20th century, Henry Ford used ethanol his Model Ts with ethanol. The plant was used in the Second World War, in Benin and Madagascar as surrogate for biodiesel. In parts of South Africa and Australia jathropha plant is banned for commercial production, an invasive plant. In Kenya, it has been planted in the Dakatcha woodlands of Kenya’s coastal district of Malindi.

      Promotion of jathropha plant in Kenya wasn’t grounded on evidenced derived locally. Gains for poor smallholder farmers were never thought of. For a long time in Kenya, the plant was considered a weed and used by farmers in farm fencing, only until 2000 when some actors promoted it as an economically viable plant that was going to drive out poverty.

      The plant has been mistaken as best suited for drier areas and a viable source of green energy. On the contrary, it comes with many tribulations. Small holder farmers who have planted jathropha have faced mountains of predicaments ranging from lack of returns on investment, limited market for jathropha seeds, environmental destruction to loss of biodiversity. The crop’s diseased nature has frustrated the poor farmers. The crop was perceived to do well in arid areas, yet it requires a lot of water for cleaning the plants, the seeds and as an evaporative coolant.This beats the logic that it’s a magical crop for the poor communities living in drier areas, as it can easily amplify the conflict over water resources. The plant has resulted in change of land use and land use management, through emitting between 2.5 and six times more greenhouse gases than fossil fuels. Biofuels have a lower energy output than fossil fuels, high cost associated with developing manufacturing plants, increased carbon emission throughout its entire cycle.

      In 2008, an estimated 120,000 hectares of Africa grew the jathropha. These figures are widely believed to have increased since then.

      By 2022, the 2007 US Energy bill will have quintupled the biofuels to 36 billion gallons. The current EU law calls for a 10 percent of transport energy to come from renewable sources by 2020. EU and US targets of achieving bio fuel, and green energy. This has sparked a wild rush to Africa by foreign governments and multinationals, using the ‘unequal power’ tools arm-twists the weak African governments for lands. The end result has been forceful eviction of the poor powerless and voiceless communities from their lands, to the horizons of seclusion, misery, hopelessness and cycle of poverty. Thus the massive violation of human rights and the cementing the cycle of poverty.

      What about exploring better alternatives? Instead better targets could be achieved such as use of electric cars, to allow channeling of food into the stomachs rather than the engines. Why not focus on reduction of energy consumption after all?

      The protect the poor communities requires participatory development process across policy frameworks, laws and measures to counter land grabs associated with biofuels, eliminating ‘biofuel energy targets’, exploring other viable energy sources and safeguarding of citizens human rights in context of food and energy sectors. Let’s not embrace bio-fuels; it’s a threat regional food security.


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      * Cheruiyot Collins is a Pan Africanist working in Nairobi as a Policy Advocacy Adviser for the Horn and East African Region .The views expresses here are personal.

      Books & arts

      Mugabe: Villain or Hero?

      Ama Biney


      This new film exposes the truth behind President Robert Mugabe’s troubles with the West. But it lacks the nuances, complexities and critical questions (other than ‘the land question’) that are key to understanding Mugabe’s legacy

      Born to Ghanaian parents in Britain, Roy Agyemang, director of a new film on Robert Gabriel Mugabe, entitled ‘Mugabe: Villain or Hero?’ intended to make this film in three months but instead took three years (from 2007-2010). Its debut was at the British Film Institute (BFI) in London on 15 December 2012. The end product is much welcome as it counters the demonization of Mugabe who has fallen from grace in Western eyes. Agyemang shows how Mugabe was lauded and feted by Western leaders until 2000. Accolades and numerous honorary degrees were bestowed on Uncle Bob. Even a knighthood from the British Queen was awarded in 1994.


      Yet in 2000 European leaders and America turned against Mugabe when he sought to resolve the land issue by introducing a land democratisation programme. In their imperial role as a former British colony, the British were most vitriolic in their attacks and dictates and sided with the 4,000 white Zimbabweans who had control of 80 percent of the best land. Perennially duplicitous, the British reneged on the Lancaster House Agreement of 1980 which clearly stated that for a period of ten years the ZANU government would postpone the land reform programme and Britain would provide millions of pounds to assist in the process. As the film points out, Mugabe honoured the Lancaster House Agreement not to touch land reform for ten years. It was under the Labour government of Tony Blair that matters escalated. This was a government that some grossly mis-perceived at the time to be Left-wing and were optimistic that domestic and foreign policies would be of a Left-wing orientation. That the film points to the letter of Clare Short, then Secretary of State for International Development, in an attempt to set the historical record straight, is laudable as it is a powerful indictment of the amnesia of British imperialism.


      It should be pointed out this letter came in the wake of the volcanic eruption in the Overseas Dependent Territory of Montserrat in July 1997 and Short not only refused to visit the island but in response from pleas for aid, said ‘they will be wanting golden elephants next.’ On 5 November 1997, Short audaciously and patronisingly proclaimed in a letter to the ZANU government:

      ‘I should make it clear that we do not accept that Britain has a special responsibility to meet the costs of land purchase in Zimbabwe. We are a new Government from diverse backgrounds without links to former colonial interests. My own origins are Irish and as you know we were colonised not colonisers.’

      Furthermore, in her letter, she stated: ‘We do, however, recognise the very real issues you face over land reform. We believe that land reform could be an important component of a Zimbabwean programme designed to eliminate poverty. We would be prepared to support a programme of land reform that was part of a poverty eradication strategy but not on any other basis.’

      In short, the Blair government, and subsequent British governments as well as other European governments have imposed sanctions on Mugabe despite the British government failing to honour the Lancaster House Agreement. Yet it was the British who lauded themselves for ‘gentlemen’s agreements’. British governments have also continued to impose sanctions even though the opposition, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) have entered into a power sharing government with the ZANU-PF since the 2008 elections. The double standards of the British government and the West in general is the strongest point made in the film as well as the point that land reform has involved 350,000 rural families. However, a stronger case and details of the time span of this reform could have been made. It would also have been interesting to expose how many white Zimbabweans remain in the country and continue to possess land, and how much land remains in their hands since the entire controversy over the ‘land question’ arose since 2000.


      A positive of the film is that it was financed by Neville Hendricks, who runs a production company called UTR Films. If it had not been for Hendricks perhaps the film may never have been made or the efforts to do so would have been greater. Therefore, more people of African descent and continental African businessmen such as Hendricks are to be commended for putting their money into films about our history and issues, even when we disagree about how that history is selectively presented or mis-represented. For ‘only when lions have historians will hunters cease being heroes’.

      Another positive is that the film is an entry point as a film for a younger generation of Africans both in the Diaspora and on the continent seeking to understand the vilification of Mugabe. This point was made by young Africans in the audience in the question and answer discussion after the film. Equally strong in the film is Mugabe’s nationalism. That ZANU-PF has ensured that 51 percent of shareholding in all Zimbabwean companies remains in the hands of Zimbabweans is staunchly supported by not only Zimbabweans but many other Africans. As Mugabe says in the film, ‘Zimbabwe is for Zimbabweans. It cannot be for the British, it cannot be for the Americans, if you want to be friends with us, fine. You stand there and I stand here, we shake hands but remember, the gold in my country is mine.’ In response to Mugabe’s economic nationalism the audience gave a rousing applause.

      Agyemang and his Zimbabwean ‘fixer’ and colleague named Gari show in the film that they acquired their accreditation to film and follow Mugabe around the country and on his international engagements. However, despite this accreditation Mugabe’s lieutenants remained wary of the two and played a game of keeping them at arm’s length from the President. When they did finally get to interview Mugabe, a fuller range of critical questions failed to be asked.


      However, ‘Mugabe: Villain or Hero?’ is a film very much lacking in nuances, complexities and critical questions other than ‘the land question’. Among the criticisms is a simplistic dichotomous representation of an African leader as either villain on hero. In fact, in the film Agyemang poses rhetorically ‘what will Mugabe’s future legacy be?’ The reality is that his legacy will be a highly contested one (very much like that of Kwame Nkrumah and other continental leaders). Yet, my disquiet concerns the failure to ask some uncomfortable questions to Mugabe when the hour struck.

      Among them would have been: after 32 years why has a successor not been anointed and a handover taken place? Surely a ‘revolutionary party’ and government committed to the longevity of a revolution should have groomed a successor by now? To what extent should we judge political leaders and parties by not only their economic programmes but their ability to conduct a smooth transition of leadership of the top man (or woman, as rare at it is for a woman to become head of state among 54 African states)? Surely in a country of 12.7 million a competent political leader can be found to replace an incumbent? In short, in my view, Robert Mugabe has made a significant contribution to the national liberation struggle up to a particular historical juncture and should have stepped down much earlier in the footsteps of his counterparts Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia and Nelson Mandela in South Africa. His place in the revolutionary pantheon of African leaders is tarnished by his commitment to ‘stayism’ i.e. staying in power to the ripe age of 88 alongside his ruthlessness in dealing with his opponents during the 1981-1987 Gurkurahundi suppression of dissidents in the Ndebele regions of the country and towards other oppositional forces. It is interesting that the film fleetingly revealed that elements both within the military and ZANU-PF want Mugabe to step down, yet did not explore this further.

      During the question and answer session chaired by ebullient director and presenter of Colourful Radio, Henry Bonsu, I asked why the filmmaker did not address the problematic longevity of Mugabe’s rule. A perfunctory response was that the people of Zimbabwe had voted for Mugabe. Baffour Ankomah, editor of New African magazine who has interviewed Mugabe on numerous occasions, said that he could reveal a ‘secret’ that Mugabe was being pressured to stay by elements within ZANU-PF. My minority opinion on the unjustifiable 32 years of a single leader were unpopular and were quickly dismissed in the adulation of the film with only one further criticism coming from the audience.

      Back in 2008 when the Zimbabwe elections took place amidst Western mudslinging against Mugabe, the late Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem, formerly Deputy Director of the Millennium Development Campaign, was a critic of not only Mugabe but other long-distance runner leaders in Africa such as Muammar Gadhafi, Yoweri Museveni, Paul Biya, Meles Zenawi and many others. Abdul-Raheem succinctly addressed why Mugabe has been uncritically defended by Africans living in the beast of the belly. He wrote in relation to Zimbabwe and Mugabe:

      ‘Unfortunately for Africa when one of us fails it is blamed on all of us. No one will blame Americans and other westerners for all the atrocities of George Bush. No one will even blame Brown for Blair’s evil fraternity with Bush, and other Europeans will quickly wash their hands clean of him. Yet these same people use Zimbabwe and Mugabe to beat our heads all the time. Consequently many Africans, whether presidents or peasants, have become defensive about the situation… It is high time we are more proactive in saying to the old man: thanks for the land but enough is enough of your personal rule’. [1]

      In addition, Africans in the Diaspora need to rid themselves of the conditioned unconscious knee-jerk reaction of embracing in blind and unquestioning solidarity anyone attacked by the West and thereafter catapulted into an African nationalist and anti-imperialist hero or heroine. [2] It is analogous to the syndrome of ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend’. Such reactions were particularly acute during the time Gordon Brown was in office and Brown maintained the bullish stance of his predecessor. As Abdul-Raheem contends: ‘There is nothing revolutionary in perpetuating personal rule in the name of liberation.’ [3]


      Another glaring omission in the film was the gender narrative. One political commentator in the film crudely commented that the land question in Zimbabwe emerged when Europeans came to Zimbabwe without visas and passports and occupied the land on the premise that Africans were not using the land. To paraphrase the commentator who conceded he was going to be vulgar, he said: imagine if you have a beautiful wife and I came to you as a man and say you don’t know how to screw her and ‘I will screw her for you’ – what would be your reaction?

      Whilst Africa is often referred to in popular culture as ‘mother Africa’; and the land is symbolically associated with fertility, as well as considered a legal possession (whether communal or individual), on an ideological level, a woman is also accepted as a male possession in patriarchal African societies. This offensive sexual analogy legitimises phallocratic indulgence. When this analogy is made in seeming jest to make an argument, such depictions of women legitimise patriarchal attitudes towards women i.e. that they are possessions of men; that they lack a voice, agency and rights.

      Apart from the two Zimbabwean women at the end of the film, who briefly applauded ZANU-PF because they had become successful business women, there was invisibility of female political commentators or as participants in Zimbabwean society in the whole film. Agyemang, apologised for this, particularly as it was pointed out that the Zimbabwean Women’s League existed and a spokeswomen from this organisation could have been interviewed as well female government officials. Moreover, Zimbabwean women have played a critical role in the liberation of the country as female combatants and continue to play important roles.

      After the film there was a panel discussion followed by questions and answers. The panel was initially made up of four males two Ghanaians (including the filmmaker, a Zimbabwean and a Jamaican) until pressure from a tiny but vociferous element in the front audience forced the responsive chair to concede. Two Zimbabwean women from the audience joined the three males as a tokenistic concession to address the gender imbalance. The discussion was lively as was the packed audience’s reception of the film that drew not only sporadic laughter and applause during the film but both Agyemang who briefly introduced the film and Neville Hendricks were given warm applause.

      Agyemang spelled out the gruelling task of editing six hours of film down to three hours and finally to 117 minutes. Consequently, whilst recognising this tough undertaking, Zimbabwe’s role in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is another issue and set of questions that people and historians will need to reflect on as to whether Mugabe is indeed a villain or a hero. Questions such as: why did Mugabe provide arms, troops of up to 11,000 and money to the government of Laurent Kabila in 1998 against the rebel groups backed by both Rwanda and Uganda (and of course their imperialist backers in the governments of the US and UK)? [4] To what extent are the motives of Mugabe and the other regional players (i.e. Angola, Namibia, Rwanda and Uganda) undermining genuine Pan-Africanism and resolution of the conflict in the eastern Congo?

      Overall, the question whether Mugabe is a villain or hero will continue to consume and divide ordinary Africans and African historians. His legacy like that of other African leaders will be a fiercely contested one for continental Africans and Africans born in the Diaspora.


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      * Ama Biney (Dr) is a scholar-activist and the Acting Editor-in-Chief of Pambazuka News.

      1. Speaking Truth to Power Selected Pan-African Postcards of Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem, 2010, p. 33.
      2. Ibid, p. 34.
      3. Ibid, p. 33.
      4. Dancing in the Glory of Monsters the Collapse of the Congo and the Great War of Africa by Jason Stearns, 2011, p. 273.

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