Join Friends of Pambazuka

Subscribe for Free!

Fahamu Bulletin Archive

About our Programmes

Donate to Pambazuka News!

Follow Us

delicious bookmarks facebook twitter

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

Latest titles from Pambazuka Press

African Sexualities

Earth Grab A Reader
Sylvia Tamale
A groundbreaking book, accessible but scholarly, by African activists. It uses research, life stories and artistic expression to examine dominant and deviant sexualities, and investigate the intersections between sex, power, masculinities and femininities
Buy now

Global NATO and the Catastrophic Failure in Libya

From Citizen to Refugee Horace Campbell
In this elegantly written and incisive account, scholar Horace Campbell investigates the political and economic crises of the early twenty-first century through the prism of NATO's intervention in Libya.
Buy now

Queer African Reader

Demystifying Aid Edited by Sokari Ekine, Hakima Abbas
A diverse collection of writing from across the continent exploring African LGBTI liberation: identity, tactics for activism, international solidarity, homophobia and global politics, religion and culture, and intersections with social justice movements. A richness of voices, a multiplicity of discourses, a quiverful of arguments. African queers writing for each other, theorising ourselves, making our ...more
Buy now

China and Angola

African Awakening A Marriage of Convenience?
Edited by Marcus Power, Ana Alves
This book focuses on the increased co-operation between Angola and China and shows that although relations with China might have bolstered regime stability and boosted the international standing of the Angolan government, China is not regarded as a long term strategic partner.
Buy now

How Europe Underdeveloped Africa

To Cook a ContinentWalter Rodney
Rodney shows how the imperial countries of Europe, and subsequently the US, bear major responsibility for impoverishing Africa. They have been joined in this exploitation by agents or unwitting accomplices both in the North and in Africa.
Buy now

Pambazuka News Broadcasts

Pambazuka broadcasts feature audio and video content with cutting edge commentary and debate from social justice movements across the continent.

    See the list of episodes.


    This site has been established by Fahamu to provide regular feedback to African civil society organisations on what is happening with the African Union.

      Creative Commons License
      This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.

      Back Issues

      Pambazuka News 615: Fighting FGM, freeing Mali and the pursuit of justice

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

      Pambazuka News is delivered free to you with the support of donations from Friends of Pambazuka.


      Follow Pambazuka @pambazuka

      Pambazuka News (English edition): ISSN 1753-6839

      CONTENTS: 1. Features, 2. Announcements, 3. Comment & analysis, 4. Advocacy & campaigns, 5. Books & arts

      Highlights from this issue

      Due to an unforeseen technical problem, we were unable to publish Pambazuka News on Thursday, January 31, 2013. The inconvenience to all our subscribers and readers is sincerely regretted.

      The Editors


      Mali: African solution to an African Problem

      Omoyele Sowore of SaharaTV interviews Prof. Horace Campbell on the crisis in Mali

      Horace G. Campbell


      cc L M
      The jihadists in Mali are a real threat to freedom, peace and security in the country and region. But French military intervention will not solve the problem. The regional bloc ECOWAS must take the lead in the search for a political solution.

      OMOYELE SOWORE: Professor Horace Campbell is a noted peace and justice international scholar and a professor of African American Studies and Political Science at Syracuse University in Syracuse, NY. He has a book coming out in March called ‘Global NATO and the Catastrophic Failure in Libya’. Professor Horace Campbell, welcome to Sahara TV.

      Let’s go into this directly. What do you think is happening in Mali? Why is the world suddenly interested in Mali and how do you think we got here, because apparently now France is bombing and there are troops over there and there have been a lot of responses all over the world? People need to understand this and that is why we have you on our show today.

      HORACE CAMPBELL: Well, I think your viewers should remember that it was two years ago that African politics changed with the revolution in Tunisia and in Egypt. With these two revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt we had counter revolutions in Libya. The western financial speculators along with their army which is called the North Atlantic Treaty Organization – called NATO – used the expedience of the responsibility to protect to invade Libya and destabilize the country, creating a situation with militias and eventually executing the president, Muammar Gaddafi.

      Mali and South Africa are two countries in Africa that have a very strong civil society, which in Mali is organized at different levels: in trade unions, in youth groups, students groups, women’s organizations, cooperatives, Islamic organizations and they have been active since 1992 to change the political process. Now in the context where South Africa and Mali have this tradition of people organizing to defend their livelihood, western countries are afraid of the potential of the ideas of revolution - that came from Tunisia and Egypt – that those ideas may cascade and spread across Africa, as they will, and that there is nothing to stop the revolutionary momentum because the revolution is calling for one thing: The people of Africa want a better quality of life; the people of Africa want the resources and wealth of Africa to change their standard of living; the people of Africa want unity and reconstruction of Africa; and the people of Africa want peace.

      Today the most important Malian singer, a woman, came out with a new song calling for peace and says that peace can come from the people of Mali. Now, here we have a situation where the worst imperialist in relation to Africa for the last 180 years [is involved in military intervention]. France invaded Algeria first in 1830. France was involved in a brutal war against the Algerian people when they fought for independence. France assisted in destabilizing Africa in the Congo. France has supported military dictatorships all over Africa. How could France suggest to people that they are in Africa to help Africa? That is something Africans will not accept.

      However, Africans are put in a very difficult situation because of the jihadists who destroyed one of the most important cultural sites in Africa – Timbuktu. These jihadists have been financed by the United States of America for the last ten years under the so-called Pan Sahel Initiative and the United States of America with their African Command financed these jihadists to overthrow Gaddafi. So Africans…caught in a trap, what do we do against these jihadists?

      Can ECOWAS send troops to fight beside France, which is a bigger enemy than the jihadists? These are real problems and these problems require priority, organization and political mobilization for peace in Africa. It cannot be short-term and be driven by the Western propaganda about what is going on in Mali.

      OMOYELE SOWORE: Thank you, professor. You have just laid out what happened and how we got here, but it is also important going forward, what would you suggest - with the kind of leadership in Africa now, that led to the leadership in Tunisia and Egypt, the kind of leadership we have in Nigeria that has been engaged in corruption and looting of the common wealth … in several African countries where there have been dictators and where they have refused to allow the civil society, you mentioned, which exists in Mali and South Africa to flourish. How do we trust these internal colonialists? Are they not bigger enemies in some cases to Africa than even the western countries who have financed and supported and sometimes helped them hide their loot in their various vaults?

      HORACE CAMPBELL: No possibility. Most of these African exploiters that you have mentioned would not be able to stand on their own two feet without the support of western military and financial institutions. What we saw in the Congo in 1997, where after 32 years of Mobutu, who was supposed to be this strong person, collapsed overnight. Now with the Mali situation I cannot be very simplistic. It is a complex situation and as the French say, it is a complex operation. But that complexity should have us not take our eyes off the number one question, which is: This matter cannot be solved militarily, it has to be solved politically by the organization of the people of Mali to isolate these people, and ECOWAS must come in to support the people of Mali and we must call for the withdrawal of French troops. That is the bottom line. ECOWAS must be the main force and in my view this attempt by France to intervene in Mali is to lay the foundation to bring the United States into a war to further militarize Africa because France on its own cannot afford a military operation in Africa at this particularly historical juncture. They have a financial crisis and for France to continue fighting it needs the support of the European Union and the United States of America – well, the European Union is bankrupt.

      We have heard about a telephone call between the French President Hollande and the British Prime Minister Cameron that was very instructive. He was calling on the British to give more support. The Europeans do not have the financial or the military wherewithal to intervene in Africa at this particular moment. Therefore they need the United States and the United States Africa Command but it is the United States Africa Command that created a condition for what we see in Mali today. One: Half a billion dollars was spent in the last ten years on what was called the Pan Sahel Initiative; Number Two: What’s happening in Mali is a direct result of the destabilization of North Africa and the war in Libya. Number Three: The United States African Command was discredited when its ambassador was killed in Benghazi because it was allied with militias – the same militias and jihadists that they are financing to fight in Syria - and the United States African Command is under review, because progressive African scholars are calling for the dismantling of Africom.

      Now, if Africom and the United States get involved in this war in Africa it will create a situation where we will have to mobilize even greater in the United States of America and lastly, this is about Nigeria. Nigeria is a giant and a powerhouse in Africa. The attempt by the Wahabi, who are the conservative Islamists, to destabilize Nigeria is part of the plan of imperialism to make Nigeria weak. They have failed so far. They may kill a few people with what they call Boko Haram but the Nigerian people, since 1970, made a commitment that there will never be another civil war in Nigeria that will kill three million people and the Nigerian revolution which now requires political organization, mobilization, education from the Nigerian people to root out the corrupt elements in Nigeria is at the heart of the unification of Africa, bringing one currency for Africa, one freedom of movement across Africa.

      So this invasion of Mali has complexities that we have to be clear about and that is why we have to be tactical to say the United Nations Security Council must call for the withdrawal of France from Mali and give support to ECOWAS to fight the jihadists.

      OMOYELE SOWORE: Prof Horace Campbell, that’s all the time we have for you but it’s important to mention that you have struck at the heart of something that is important to us on this show - you have said that Nigeria needs a revolution and looks like they know that Nigeria is on the path to a revolution that will root out the corrupt elements that have held Nigeria down and this can also be linked to what we are saying now, maybe to slow down the momentum. I think it’s a very deep and fundamental submission that you have made and we appreciate you coming onto this show. We want to remind viewers that you have a book coming out – ‘Global NATO and the Catastrophic Failure in Libya’. It will be coming out in March.

      Thank you very much.


      * 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.

      Eliminating the scourge of female genital mutilation

      Recent successes inspire hope

      Ruth Njeng’ere


      cc G M
      A world without FGM is within sight. But more efforts are needed to ensure worldwide legislation against the practice and increased education to attain that goal.

      Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a global outrage, which has already affected 100-140 million women and girls worldwide. Since 1992, Equality Now has been working to end all forms of violence and discrimination against women and girls. Eliminating FGM globally is one of our key priorities. Although progress has been slow at times, recent developments such as the UN Global Ban, strengthens our ongoing struggle for lasting change.

      Equality Now has been heartened by recent success in the US, with the passing of the ‘Girls Protection Act’. 168,000 girls and women living in the United States have already undergone, or are at risk of undergoing FGM. This legislation seeks to close a loophole, which previously made it possible for girls to be taken abroad to undergo it there. Meanwhile, in the UK, where it is estimated that 66,000 women and girls have undergone, and 24,000 girls under the age of 11 are at risk of undergoing FGM, Equality Now continued as secretariat for the second year running for the FGM All-Party-Parliamentary-Group. We were also directly involved with the introduction of a new 'Health Passport' – a statement opposing FGM, signed by a number of members of parliament including the Minister of State for Crime Prevention, as well as an ‘Action Plan’ on how to remove the barriers to prosecution of FGM crime in the UK. We continue to provide advisory and technical support through the FGM Special Initiative, which seeks to strengthen community-based prevention work on FGM. In early January, the National Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), the oldest and the most recognised civil society organisation dealing with the welfare of children in the UK, finally decided to specifically include FGM within its existing child protection work.

      We are encouraged too by recent positive developments in Africa. In the Gambia, where 78.3 percent of women have undergone FGM, a national consultative meeting geared towards introducing a bill banning FGM began this month. In attendance were traditional and village leaders, as well as several women's rights activists. In a statement, long-term Equality Now Partner and leading anti-FGM activist Dr. Isatou Touray lauded the move, suggesting that it was a manifestation of commitment to the advancement of Gambian women and girls against harmful traditional practices. In Somalia where the prevalence of FGM is almost universal (98 %) and where religious conservatives push for some form of FGM, it is heartening to know that the new Somali constitution includes a ban on all forms of “female circumcision”.

      Meanwhile, in Kenya, progress in the anti-FGM campaign, measured by the reduction of the national FGM prevalence rates from 38% (1998) to 27% (2008), is linked to increased awareness efforts by civil society organisations and the implementation of the law on FGM, which was contained in the Children’s Act passed in 2001. Legal precedents have been set by the Kenyan Courts, preventing parents from forcing their daughters to undergo FGM. A specific law against the practice came into force in 2011, whereby Kenya joined neighbouring Uganda in having an extra-territoriality clause. This closes the loophole, which previously permitted parents to take girls outside of Kenya to undergo FGM. The 2011 law also seeks to prosecute practitioners, procurers, traffickers of (potential) victims, anyone providing premises for practitioners, possession of tools, as well as failure to report a known incident. It prescribes life imprisonment if the exercise leads to the death of a victim of FGM. Kenya's Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Development has been given the task of coordinating the implementation activities of the FGM Prohibition Act through a board that has yet to be constituted.

      In an effort to support the implementation of a new constitution that also bans harmful traditional practices, grassroots efforts continue to focus on changing the mindset of practicing communities. One such initiative is the Tasaru Ntomonok Initiative (TNI), funded and supported by Equality Now. TNI was instrumental in the conviction of the father of 12-year-old Sasiano Nchoe and her circumciser. Sasiano bled to death following FGM. This unprecedented court ruling that took place in 2010, based on the Children’s Act of 2001, was facilitated by Equality Now’s Adolescent Girls Legal Defense Fund with the help of TNI.

      TNI provides a haven for Maasai girls who have been alienated due to their rejection of FGM and forced into early marriage. It provides food and accommodation while enabling the girls to pursue their education. It also reaches out to the Maasai community, educating them about the harmful effects of FGM and encourages them to adopt alternative rites of passage for young girls, which do not include the cut and are not harmful. Equality Now is also supporting efforts by the organisation to encourage the re-integration of the girls into their communities. This often involves convincing the girls' parents that they and those around them stand to gain from the education the girls pursue. The recent Kenya demographic and health survey indicates a decline in the prevalence of FGM among the Maasai from 93% (2003) to 73% (2008).

      The global effort to eliminate FGM also took a major step forward last year at the United Nations General Assembly, where a Group of African States presented a draft resolution to intensify global efforts. No Peace without Justice, which steered this effort, and involved African governments should be commended for their leadership on this issue.

      Meanwhile, our award-winning film ‘Africa Rising’, which highlights the growing grassroots movement, committed to ending FGM across Africa, has been screened around the globe. Travelling through remote villages in Burkina Faso, Kenya, Mali, Somalia and Tanzania, the film shows the ongoing efforts by African women activists in eliminating FGM against all odds.

      In Burkina Faso, where the law is applied alongside public education, there has been a dramatic reduction of FGM prevalence between women (74%) and their daughters (25%) with only 14.2% of women surveyed in that country wanting the practice to continue. This illustrates what success is possible if a government addresses the issue seriously and comprehensively. Despite recent successes on the African continent, huge challenges continue to exist.

      In Liberia, although President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has pledged to make the elimination of FGM a government priority, FGM is still legal and we are not aware of any immediate plans to change this. Over 58% of women have already undergone FGM in Liberia, while the powerful Sande secret society continues to carry it out on young girls with impunity. As is the case in Sierra Leone, FGM is a “vote-catcher” and governments avoid asserting their authority when it comes to traditional power structures such as the Sande society. Our work in Liberia has been two-fold. We have been supporting local partners in their efforts to gain justice for Ruth Berry Peal, who was kidnapped and forcibly subjected to FGM by the Sande society. More recently, we have also been concerned about the well-being of journalist Mae Azango, who was forced into hiding after publishing a story on FGM. Once again, members of the Sande society have threatened to forcibly subject her to FGM. It is hoped that President Sirleaf will do more to help women like Ruth and Mae, as well as the countless other women and girls who are at risk of undergoing FGM in Liberia.

      Recent progress illustrates that although we continue to face challenges in our drive to eliminate FGM in Africa and globally, the movement is gathering pace. At this crucial point, we call on Liberia, Indonesia and all countries where the FGM is legal, to enact a law which prohibits the practice as a matter of urgency.

      A world without FGM is in sight, but we now need to redouble our efforts to ensure that worldwide legislative change takes place, but also that educational efforts, which inform both practicing communities - and the general public about the harm FGM does to girls - are drastically increased. In focusing on these two areas, we can ensure that that the next generation of girls is safeguarded from this and destructive and entirely unnecessary practice.


      * 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.

      * Ruth Njeng’ere works with Equality Now.

      Free Imam Baba Leigh and Ba-Kawsu Fofana

      Imam Baba Leigh disappears, Ba Kawsu exiled

      Alagi Yorro Jallow


      cc K N
      Religious leaders and journalists are being persecuted in the Gambia under the dictatorship of President Jammeh. Yet, they have critical roles to play in cultivating a positive culture of understanding, harnessing the energies of citizens towards social and economic development in the genuine interests of the greater good

      More than three decades ago, The Gambia was widely regarded as a wellspring of democracy and respect for both political and civil liberties. But time has moved The Gambia onto a road of religio-pollitical difficulty. The 22 July 1994 revolution has been accompanied by a number of disturbing events: the disappearance and possible extrajudicial execution of a number of Gambian natives, the persecution of selected religious figures, the decline of a vibrant press, and the fall of civil society movements. As a result, The Gambia has virtually become a totalitarian regime.

      The Gambia has lost something of its former reputation and is increasingly seen as home to an intolerant and unpredictable government. The country is now at a crossroad—will they continue to accept things as they are, or will they fight for change? But when you talk about another revolution, the question is, what price are you willing to pay? The reality is that the 22 July revolution was a pretention and not a reality. The Gambia from the time of its independence was considered to have the longest-standing democracy in Africa and a respect for human and individual people’s rights. After the revolution all fundamental human values were destroyed, people were killed, and then others went into exile and the rest live in fear. Three journalists have been killed—Deyda Hydara, Omar Barrow and Chief Ebrima Manneh—and two religious leaders who acted as great social justice advocates were taken into custody—Imam Baba Leigh was held incommunicado without charges beyond the legal limit of detention and Ba Kawsu Fofana was forced into exile after being tortured during the time that he was in custody. Sheriff Sirifo Samsudeen Hydara of Foni Wassadu escaped arrest from the notorious NIA after President Jammeh wanted him arrested because he is believed to be an opposition sympathizer. He fled to Senegal, where he too is currently in self-imposed exile.


      The Gambia is a country where the state maintains a tight grip on political activity, freedom of expression and religious freedom. A fundamental challenge facing every society is to create political, economic and social systems that promote peace, human welfare and the sustainability of the environment on which life depends. A totalitarian system and a repressive system bring about fear and terror. It is a society with one voice, in which only the voice of the leader is heard. Where civil society is completely crushed, and the state does not recognize a private sphere, the leader has the status of a god, and the people must be made to fear this wretched person.

      Since the time of the revolution things have not been pretty in The Gambia; the conflict has had a steep price. Journalists, human rights defenders and religious leaders are always at risk of becoming victims of possible humiliation, unlawful (and sometimes secretive) custody, or even death. And the long history of hatred and persecution of religious leaders since the revolution cannot be denied. For example, Bishop Solomon Tilewa Johnson and Imam Saja Fatty were sacked unconstitutionally from the Independent Electoral Commission (from the positions of chairman and member of the IEC, respectively) because of lack of respect and contempt towards religious leaders. Imam Alhayba Hydara of the Banjul International Airport was arrested and detained without being charged, Imam Ismaila Manjang of Gunjur Mosque was also arrested, detained, and held incommunicado without being charged. Imam Alhagie Karamo Touray of Brikama Central Mosque was sent to Mile 2 prison and had a protracted trial. It is a shame that the AFPRC government has asked for an expenses refund from late Imam Ratim Alhagie Abdoulie Jobe for medical expenses, which was revealed during the proceedings of the Public Assets Commission.


      Similarly, the Ahmadiyya brotherhood that has operated in The Gambia since 1959 was in 2001 officially declared a non-Muslim minority, after Qadiana scholars were out-classed by Muslim scholars in the courts and other forums. A fatwa was declared against the Ahmadiyya Jamaat and non Gambian Ahmadis expelled from The Gambia. President Jammeh demolished a mosque in Gambisara in the Upper River Division and arrested Imam Karamo Dukureh and four of his disciples; then Captain Sanna Sabally insulted the congregation and further disrespected the people of Gambisara. President Jammeh too on many occasions forced Muslim leaders to observe Eid prayers singularly, lest they face severe consequences. The Gambian president also insulted the executive of the Supreme Islamic Council by stating that they had a lack of internal democracy and forced a new election, which is a sheer contempt against religious leaders in Gambia.

      Under the current circumstances, it is difficult to see how the political winds might shift to support religious freedom in The Gambia—partly because the political conversation in the Diaspora is presently one of democracy versus populism. Consequently, the only alternative is to wait for the rise of a strong, decisive and committed new leadership that will be able to secure the future of democracy and religious freedom in The Gambia. The Gambian people are yet to have a leader who is devoted to democratic principles; instead, we have witnessed dishonest intellectuals and shoddy politicians who have a populist agenda of ‘ending dictatorship in The Gambia’ without offering any desirable alternative system to that of Yahya Jammeh.


      And yet religious leaders have the ability to bring about great change in The Gambia if they decide to and especially if they can work together. Imams and priests (spiritual leaders) represent various faiths in the Gambia and have a moral responsibility to stand together and denounce categorically derision, misinformation or outright bigotry directed against any other religious leader in this country. Silence is not an option. One aspect of this responsibility is to fight for the rights of other religious leaders. Denouncing the arbitrary arrest of Imam Baba Leigh and the forced exile of Imam Ba Kawsu Fofana without fear helps create a safer and stronger Gambia for all of us. Imam Baba Leigh and Ba Kawsu Fofana have been singled out and received unjust discrimination and have been made the objects of scorn and animosity by those who have either misconstrued or intentionally distorted the vision of the Imams. It is profoundly distressing and deeply saddening, the incident of harassment committed against Imam Baba Leigh and Imam Ba Kawsu Fofana by the Jammeh regime. It is unfortunate we are not in a democracy whose constitution guarantees religious liberty for all.

      I believe that the role of religious leaders in The Gambia should be evaluated, redefined and utilized to a greater extent for the good of our country. How can religious leaders peacefully comment on political issues? In contemporary Gambia, religious leaders are required not to engage in politics—that suggests that they have absolutely no positive role to play in the politics or proper governance of their nation. This may be the case in a narrow scope of politics, but in the wider context of development, nation building and uplifting of socioeconomic status is greatly strengthened by the full participation of our religious leaders. The Supreme Islamic Council and some of its executive members are instruments of government propaganda. Some executive members, including the Imam of the State House, are seen on national television helping President Jammeh at his Kanilai farm. The Supreme Islamic Council often call on national prayers for President Jammeh and his family, but I cannot recall when they have called for nationwide prayers for Gambian famers and youth diasporas who actually can help the Gambian economy. Here too is an area for needed change.


      Religious leaders in The Gambia have a moral responsibility and also the authority to speak out on any issue that affects their congregations and, more broadly, the quality of life in their communities, nations and even the world. But that charge involves guiding them so that they know how to relate to political leadership and their role as citizens of the Gambia on one hand and on the other acting as ‘the voices of conscience’ for the nation. Religious leaders stand for values, morals and certain minimum standards that are necessary for a stable, peaceful and prosperous nation. Religious leaders are partners in development and embrace positive views. But religious leaders are representatives of god; they should not be used for political propaganda.

      Members of the Supreme Islamic Council and unholy Imams cut secret or unspoken deals with President Jammeh in order to help keep him in power. They invent doctrines to preach to the masses so that they will believe in the ultimate power of the president and of the state. Imam Leigh and Ba Kawsu instead speak for the poor; they tell the truth as they interpret the holy Quran and Hadith of the prophet Muhammad—and we need more like them.

      Where are those religious leaders who would speak truth to power like the prophet Isaiah, who declared, ‘Ah, you who make iniquitous decrees, who write oppressive statues, to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right, that widows may be your spoil, and that you may make orphans your prey, what will you do on the day of punishment, in the calamity that will come from far away (Isaiah 10: 1-3)? Where are the courageous Imams? Why is there only a deafening silence from religious leaders?’

      Our duty as concerned Gambians is to defend the interests of the people rather than the interests of misguided individuals whose integrity is questionable and who have a populist agenda rather than a democratic agenda. And we need to support, and have the support of, religious leaders who might be in the position to help bring about change. Religious leaders need to have the courage and the foresight to speak out against the human rights and other infringements of liberty that they witness and use their position in society to help end the oppression and the challenges to true freedom that occur all too frequently in The Gambia today.


      * 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.

      * Alagi Yorro Jallow is founding managing editor of the banned Independent newspaper in the Gambia. He is an award winning-Journalist and Harvard Alum. He lives in United States of America.

      Will Ramaphosa make a difference in ANC?

      William Gumede


      cc S M
      Whether Cyril Ramaphosa, the new ANC deputy president, can make any difference in the troubled ANC government will depend heavily on how much power, support and freedom President Jacob Zuma, gives him.

      In the ANC, the reality is that the position of president is all-powerful, with the deputy serving at his behest, no matter the rhetoric of “collective” leadership by party hacks. For one ANC presidential leadership battles are a no-holds-barred fights, because the winner can bestow dizzying patronage to loyalists – from government tenders to heads of state-owned companies and official commissions, can deny rivals and critics jobs in government and the private sector, or can simply use all-powerful state security agencies to sideline them.

      For another, the current ANC leadership collective is loaded with Zuma allies – some who will be very suspicious of Ramaphosa. There is a real danger that Ramaphosa’s voice will be drowned out by those of the pro-Zuma leadership majority.

      The tipping point has been reached where the gap between the bling world of the ANC leadership and the daily grind of ordinary members may have now become such a wide gulf that many ANC members who may have deep affinity with the party may now not be able anymore to identify themselves with both the leaders and the party.

      If Zuma continues on his scandal-prone, poor public service delivery and autopilot presidency – and ANC voters start to abandon him - Ramaphosa will be damned by association with Zuma.

      In the run-up to the 2014 national elections, Zuma desperately needs Ramaphosa, who has a reputation as a dynamic, effective and relatively clean manager, as an electoral crutch to counter-balance his own battered presidential image.

      Zuma has brought in Cyril Ramaphosa, the former general secretary of both the ANC and the NUM, and now successful black businessman, to restore strained relations with the business sector and the markets; bring management capacity to government; and to bring an accomplished negotiator to mediate the myriad political, economic and social conflicts the ANC government is and will be facing.

      At the ANC’s December 2012 Mangaung conference, Ramaphosa effectively neutralized the threat of former ANC Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe. Because Ramaphosa essentially fishes from the same ANC voter support pond as Motlanthe, those who opposed Zuma at the ANC’s December 2012 Mangaung national conference and who may have considered leaving the ANC after Zuma was re-elected may now be persuaded to stay because of the presence of Ramaphosa.

      It is likely that the prospect of an easy path to the ANC and South African presidency was one of the key reasons why Ramaphosa accepted the job as Zuma’s deputy.

      Ramaphosa, by agreeing to be part of Zuma’s slate gets a short-cut back into high political office on the back of the constituencies who have lifted Zuma into the ANC and South African presidency. Currently, Ramaphosa on his own, having been out of political action for such a long time, does not have the grassroots networks needed to win an ANC presidential campaign.

      The cohort of ANC leaders of Ramaphosa’s generation with presidential ambitions is particularly large: from Tokyo Sexwale, the housing settlements minister, to Mathews Phosa, the ANC’s former treasurer. By attaching himself to the Zuma slate, Ramaphosa was carried beyond the reach of his generational rivals.

      In the deal cobbled together between Zuma and Ramaphosa, Zuma will be the face of the ANC in the 2014 national elections, and after winning will gradually transfer power to Ramaphosa. Although there is no firm timetable or detail of how such a transfer of power will happen, the idea is at some point between the 2014 national elections and the ANC’s 2017 national conference, Ramaphosa will be given the country’s presidency, while Zuma retains the ANC presidency. In these Mangaung Zuma slate calculations, Ramaphosa would be elected ANC president at the party’s 2017 national conference – with the backing of Zuma.

      If the ANC, led by Zuma, does badly in the 2014 elections (falling to 55% and below – as some ANC leaders fear), perhaps losing another province, there is a real chance that the ANC will ask Zuma to stand down earlier. In such an event, Ramaphosa, as Zuma’s deputy would be the natural successor.

      In the mid-1990s, ANC strategists put together a similar arrangement for Ramaphosa with Mbeki, in which Mbeki would succeed then ANC and South African President Nelson Mandela, and Ramaphosa would succeed Mbeki. That deal turned spectacularly sour for Ramaphosa – as Mbeki turned against him.

      Many of the Motlanthe supporters have warned Ramaphosa not to trust that Zuma will implement his promises of handing power to Ramaphosa. They point to the fact that before the ANC’s 2007 Polokwane national conference, which saw Zuma oust Mbeki as president, Zuma had promised he would only stay in the presidency for one term. He reneged on this promise.

      Nevertheless, Ramaphosa will as deputy ANC president assume the position in the Zuma Cabinet called “Head of government business”. Mbeki, during the presidency of Nelson Mandela, was also the “Head of government business”, and he used the position to great effectiveness. Mbeki turned the position into the equivalent of a Prime Minister.

      Mbeki was effective at the time because Mandela as principal, gave Mbeki full control of government and the ANC, backed him on almost every issue – even in instances where Mandela disagreed with Mbeki.
      Whether Zuma will handover control to Ramaphosa in the same way Mandela did to Mbeki is highly doubtful.

      Zuma has made contradictory promises to a dizzingly wide number of interest groups, owes patronage to an equally vast network of benefactors and will be expected to protect the sprawling business, political and personal interests of a web of allies, friends and family.

      Zuma, in his second term will also be trying to navigate the myriad of uncleared corruption allegations against him. To do all this, he will want to have full control of party and government – rather than delegating it to Ramaphosa.

      Ramaphosa is in real danger of having very little real power in Zuma’s government, yet share responsibility for Zuma’s failures.


      * 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.

      * Prof William Gumede is author of Restless Nation: Making Sense of Troubled Times (Tafelberg). This article first appeared in The Daily Dispatch, 29 January 2013.

      America in default of its creed for racial equality

      An open letter to President Obama

      Justice for Blacks


      cc G S
      In the quest to end racial discrimination at the World Bank, Justice for Blacks presents an open letter to President Obama beseeching him to honour in deeds the promissory note that the founding fathers of America issued in 1776 that all people are created equal and should receive equal treatment

      Dear Mr. President,

      We, Justice for Blacks, were among the millions of people around the world who celebrated your election for a second term as the President of the United States of America. We were captivated by the eloquent oratory and uplifted by the towering ideals of your inaugural speech.

      “What makes us exceptional, what makes us America is our allegiance to an idea articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago. ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.’" You enthroned, with a healthy balance of humility and authority.

      You went on to say, with deep conviction, “We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths - that all of us are created equal - is the star that guides us still.”

      We write to you to bridge the gap between the ideals of those noble words and the harsh realities of our experiences that stain the canvas upon which America's ideals and creed are narrated. We write not from afar, but from two blocks west of the White House and two miles north of Thomas Jefferson’s Monument on whose walls the words of America’s creed are engraved. We write from the World Bank, where blacks have been treated as second class citizens and denied the security of justice for over half a century. We represent thousands of current and former World Bank black staff and write to you as the ultimate custodian of the US Constitution and keeper of the American creed. We come to you to cash the promissory note that the founding fathers of America issued in 1776 that you reaffirmed in 2013.

      Dear Mr. President,

      The issue of racial discrimination at the World Bank ought to be of paramount concern for the US because it is a violation of civil and human rights committed on its soil. Adding to this is the question of providing tens of billions of tax payers’ dollars in financial support to an organization with an institutional culture of racial bias against a portion of American citizens because of the color of their skin. Not to mention the dilemma of entrusting such an institution with a lofty mission of ending poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa, home to over 900 million Black people.

      In 1978, an award winning columnist, William Raspberry, wrote an op-ed article on the Washington Post about an African with doctorates from both Yale and Oxford who never got his promised promotion to senior ranks. Thirty five years later, Blacks are still marginalized and not for lack of education or experience. For example, in 2011, Africa accounted for 50 percent of the World Bank’s total International Development Association (IDA) funds. In contrast, in the same year, blacks accounted for a dismal 2.4 and 3.8 percent, respectively, of the professional cohort of the Development Economics and the Poverty Reduction and Economic Management vice presidential units (VPUs). These are the two VPUs where the Bank’s poverty reduction programs and development policies are set. Africans are virtually shut out of the Bank’s strategic and administrative decision making.

      In comparison, Asians and Latin Americans are deeply involved in the Bank’s strategic policies that have direct bearings on the development of their respective regions. Furthermore, Asian American and Latin American scholars and businessmen and women are regularly consulted and their inputs and involvements are actively sought by the Bank’s management. African Americans are not only denied similar opportunities, but are pushed back when they reach out. African American vendors face discrimination when they submit bids.

      Dear Mr. President,

      The issue of systemic racial discrimination was formally discussed by the World Bank Board of Governors in 1979 at the Bank’s Annual meeting in Belgrade. The issue was raised by African members of the Board. Thirty four years later the problem remains, but some members of the African Board of Directors seem to have given up trying to fix what they consider to be an intractable problem. On March 15, 2012, one of the African Board members wrote to us that the issue is “a disturbing and saddening matter,” but there is not much he could do. He concluded his note with kind wishes for “the Almighty's guidance.”

      In contrast, gender discrimination was officially discussed at the Board level in 1992. Since then the institution has made significant strides to rectify the problem. For example, as noted in the July 27, 2012 issue of Forbes Magazine, half of the Bank’s top managers are female. More recently, equal treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender society was raised and the Bank has already made a remarkable progress on this front in a short time. What makes racial discrimination against Blacks different is that the Bank sees it as a natural social order to keep blacks at the bottom. Let us allow the World Bank to speak for itself.

      [1993] “Africans received less favorable treatment than is the norm in the Bank, including recruitment at lower grade than comparably qualified staff from other parts of the world; and significantly lower average salary level.” ~ The Stern Report, prepared under one of the Bank’s Managing Directors.

      [1996] “Blacks make poor accountants and the department could not hire too many blacks as the department would look like a ghetto. They should be kept in Africa ghetto [in reference to the Africa region.]” ~ Public statement by a director of the Bank’s Loan department.

      [1998] “Interviews for African working Papers revealed cultural prejudice among some managers, who rated Africans as unsophisticated and inferior… Racial discrimination is present in our institution, and the Problem is serious.” ~ A Report by the World Bank’s Team for Racial Equality.

      [2003] “Blacks can only work in the Africa region because they can be more competitive there… Some nationals do not want to work with Blacks.” ~ World Bank report, Enhancing Inclusion at the World Bank: Diagnosis and Solutions.

      [2005] “Racial discrimination in the World Bank is entrenched and systemic. The World Bank should “address seriously the issue of ‘ghettoization’ [of blacks in the Africa region] to ensure that diversity cuts across the institution” (original emphasis). ~ Staff Association.

      [2006] “You cannot be appointed global manager because Europeans are not used to seeing a black man in a position of power” ~ Explanation given to an African applicant.

      [2009] "The first thing was to promote them [Blacks] in the Africa region. The second hurdle is that having seen them do well in Africa to convince other regions to accept them and to stop putting the screens of our clients that they may not deal with them very well." ~ Video message by former senior vice president, explaining the Bank’s HR policy.

      And then there are Black Americans. They are the most discriminated group even when compared with other Blacks. In 1978 there were only “three Black Americans out of 619 American professionals. In 2009, “only four Black Americans among more than 1,000 American Professional, a significant proportional decline even from the abysmal levels reported in 1978.

      Dear Mr. President,

      Making the gross injustice even worse is the fact that victims of discrimination are denied due process. A 2005, staff Association report found, “450 racial discrimination complaints were filed” in a span of five years. There are 2009 reports and articles indicating that the situation has gotten worse. Despite an astounding number of complaints, not a single manager has been held accountable since the Bank’s Tribunal was established in 1980. As a matter of de facto policy the Bank’s Tribunal does not rule in favor of Blacks.

      On December 23, 2011, you signed into law the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2012, requiring that Bank staff have access to "independent adjudicative bodies.” The intent of the Act is to introduce an independent and fair grievance resolution system (external arbitration), without infringing on the Bank’s immunity from US courts. The Act states “US funds may not be disbursed for the general capital increases of the World Bank” until the Bank has continued to make progress toward, among others things, providing staff access to independent adjudicative bodies.

      The Bank is on record making it clear that it has no intention of opening up for external arbitration. In clear violation of Lugar-Leahy Act of 2005, on June 3, 2011 the former HR vice president rejected a request for external arbitration stating: “Because the Tribunal exists for the final and binding resolution of employment disputes, outside arbitration is not an acceptable resolution mechanism for Bank Group staff grievances.” More recently, in clear violation of the Lugar-Leahy Act and the Consolidated Appropriation Act of 2012, in December 2012, the current HR vice president made it clear that the Bank will not comply with any US law.

      There are pending cases requesting external arbitration that the Bank has refused to even acknowledge, much less respond to. Meanwhile, it has submitted a request for tens of billions of dollars in funding from the US. In light of this we respectfully and humbly ask that you request the Secretary of the US Treasury to:

      • Ensure that the Bank’s request for funding is blocked until it complies with the requirements of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2012;

      • Table a proposal to the World Bank Board for an up or down vote to establish an independent commission, with a mandate to investigate if victims of discrimination are systematically denied due process and recommend redress if and where necessary; and

      • Use the US’s significant financial leverage to influence and ensure the Bank’s inclusion of Africans and African Americans to a significant degree in policy making decisions involving Africa.

      Please accept, Mr. President, assurances of our highest regard.

      Executive Committee, Justice for Blacks.
      Yonas Biru, PhD
      Ibrahim Elbadawi, PhD
      Phyllis Muhammad, JD
      Eugene Nyambal, PhD
      Salomon Samen, PhD
      Adrienne Smith, MBA
      Name Withheld*
      Name Withheld*

      *Names of current World Bank staff are withheld.


      * 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.

      MLK, the national football league and the dearth of black head coaches

      Judson L. Jeffries


      cc Z F
      Until the ranks of the head coaches and upper management in the US National Football League have been thoroughly integrated, Dr. King’s dream will remain a work in progress

      As we reflect on the work, contribution and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we must acknowledge the stark reality that in many facets of American life Dr. King’s dream has not yet been realized. The National Football League in the US is certainly one example where seventy percent of its players are African American, but few of its coaches are of the same hue. Currently Mike Tomlin of Pittsburgh and Leslie Frazier of Minnesota stand as the only African American head coaches in the thirty-two team National Football League, prompting some analysts to question the league’s commitment to diversity in that particular area. This criticism comes on the heels of the firing of Chicago Bears Head Coach Love Smith and Kansas City Chiefs Head Coach Romeo Crennel. In the days surrounding their release, six other head coaches were relieved of their duties as well; all of whom were white. One of them, longtime head coach Andy Reid of the Philadelphia Eagles landed the head coaching job with the Kansas City Chiefs less than a week later, despite coming off a 4-12 record and a 8-8 record the previous year.
      Smith and Crennel are still unemployed. Crennel’s firing was not unexpected after an abysmal 2-14 campaign, but some question Smith’s dismissal as he led the Bears to a 10-6 record. Others are quick to point out, however, that Smith’s Bears failed to make the playoffs six out of the nine years he served as head coach. Only fourteen African Americans have served as full-time head coaches in the NFL’s modern era. Art Shell was the first; hired by Los Angeles Raiders owner Al Davis in 1989—the team for which Shell starred as its perennial all-pro tackle. Incidentally that same year, the voters of the state of Virginia, once considered the capital of the confederacy elected L. Douglas Wilder as its governor, making him the first Black elected governor in the country’s history.
      In an effort to address the dearth of Black head coaches, the NFL established the Rooney Rule, named for Dan Rooney, the owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Chairman of the league’s diversity committee, which stipulates that NFL owners looking to fill head coaching vacancies must interview one minority candidate. The thinking here is that by interviewing a minority candidate, it forces owners to bring in prospects that otherwise might not have been considered. The Rooney Rule also affords minority candidates an opportunity to gain valuable interviewing experience, become familiar with the hiring process, appear on the radar of NFL teams and/or possibly make a lasting impression that may stand the candidate in good stead with a potentially future employer perhaps somewhere down the line.
      The problem is that the Rooney Rule, now in its tenth year, has not yielded the results that the NFL’s diversity committee had envisioned it would. Since the edict was enacted, less than a dozen African Americans have been hired as full-time head coaches. To be sure, the Rooney Rule is a step in the right direction, but it is not sufficient in that it does not ensure racial balance within the head coaching ranks. For example, in 2003, the Detroit Lions filled a head coaching slot without interviewing a minority candidate; the NFL immediately slapped the franchise with a $200,000 fine. Front office executives with the Detroit Lions claimed that the team was all set to interview a minority candidate, but he withdrew, because he believed that ownership had already agreed to hire Steve Mariucci, but had simply not made an official announcement; electing instead to wait until a minority candidate was interviewed so as to be in compliance with the Rooney Rule.
      A few years ago the Seattle Seahawks, identified Pete Carroll, formerly of USC, as their new head coach only to realize that offering Carroll the job without having interviewed a minority candidate was in direct violation of the Rooney Rule. In a purely symbolic gesture the Seahawks, at the eleventh hour, hurriedly extended an invitation to a minority candidate, purportedly, as a show of good faith. Why the minority candidate elected to participate in this charade is unclear.
      Landing a head coaching job in the NFL is a luxury not an inherent right; hence it would be unconstitutional to require NFL owners to hire African Americans to serve as head coach of their respective teams. However, if affirmative action is to win out in the manner that Hobart Taylor Jr. and the other architects of this program visualized, the Rooney Rule has to invoke stiffer sanctions (i.e. heavier fines, loss of draft picks) for circumventing the rule as well as offer incentives for not only making a genuine effort to comply with the decree, but for actually hiring a minority candidate as head coach. There has been talk about applying the Rooney Rule to lower-level coaches as well, which is another good step in the right direction. However, why stop there? The general manager position should also come under the umbrella that is the Rooney Rule. While the owner ultimately makes the decision on whom to bring in as the head coach, the general manager is often not without influence.
      While integration, (the result of a battle waged by the Civil Rights Movement of which Dr. King was the face), has indeed brought about drastic changes in the complexion of American sports, much of that change has transpired on the court and field of play. Until the ranks of the head coaches and upper management have been thoroughly integrated Dr. King’s dream will remain a work in progress.

      * 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.
      *Judson L. Jeffries

      For workers, a thinner slice of pie

      Farooque Chowdhury


      cc Kevin
      In a global examination of the survival of capitalism in crisis, the recent International Labour Organisation report shows that workers globally continue to be extremely exploited and capital continues to exact greater profits for the minority whilst finding new ways to justify this heinous system

      Once again, the much told fact has been reiterated: workers get a thinner slice of pie. The International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) ‘Global Wage Report 2012/13: Wages and Equitable Growth’ records the fact. The bigger slice is always for capital. This is the rule, and the rule was enacted and being implemented by capital. There is no division of power; although capital markets the power-division formula in democracy market.

      An amalgamation of crises, especially financial and economic crises in the advanced capitalist countries have intensified capital’s war against labor. One of the gains by capital in this war is labor’s declining share in income. The ILO report finds: ‘Workers get a smaller share of GDP, as a bigger slice goes to capital income.’ Capital income shares increased in a majority of countries. In China, wages tripled over the last decade, but GDP grew at a faster rate than the total wage bill. This surge cut down labor’s share.

      In 16 developed economies, the average labor share dropped from 75 percent of national income in the mid-1970s to 65 percent in the years just before the economic crisis, and in 16 developing and emerging countries, it decreased from 62 percent of GDP in the early 1990s to 58 percent just before the crisis.

      Labor’s declining share in income means labor is paid less for its necessary labor time, and less payment for necessary labor time means labor is pressed down or squeezed out more for more profit by capital, which is labor’s increased hardship, deprivation, and suffering. Then, labor is dictated to keep silent. And, this is the democracy capital practices. A real capitalist democracy!

      To put it point blank: it’s labor’s starved, half-starved days, untreated diseases, degrading housing condition, more work, less rest, more uncertainty, less security, more indignity. This puts pressure on labor and weakens labor’s bargaining power. So, the ILO report finds: ‘Wage growth suffered a double-dip in developed economies.’

      Between 1999 and 2011, the report tells, average labor productivity in developed economies increased more than twice as much as average wages. In a number of larger economies including the US, Germany and Japan wage growth lagged behind productivity growth.

      In Germany, average wages declined in spite of positive average labor productivity growth in the years 1999–2007. In 2011, hourly wages were only marginally (0.4 percent) above their 2000 level while hourly labor productivity had grown by 12.8 percent over the same period. Real monthly wages remained flat although labor productivity soared by almost a quarter over the past two decades.

      Citing S. Fleck, J. Glaser and S. Sprague’s ‘The compensation–productivity gap: A visual essay’, in ‘Monthly Labor Review’ (US Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 2011) the ILO report says: ‘The gap between hourly labor productivity and hourly compensation growth contributed to a decline in the labor share in the US, where real hourly labor productivity in the non-farm business sector increased by 85 percent since 1980 while real hourly compensation increased by only around 35 percent. In the UK, despite ‘productivity gains real average wages declined sharply.’

      The declining trend is also ‘amazing.’ In a number of countries including Greece and a number of new EU member-countries, wages declined considerably more than labor productivity.


      Large numbers of employees are getting lower wages, finds the report. The reasons include reduced working hours and less overtime. Companies in several countries have reduced employees’ working time: three or four-day weeks have replaced five-day week, daily hours have been reduced, and even plants have been shut down for weeks or months.

      Reducing working hours is no kind-heartedness of capital. The same is with less overtime work. The measure has been taken to avoid laying off labor as laying off labor creates risky situation for capital, especially during the period of increased social tension. The threat to capital’s political instability increases.

      ‘Real average wage growth,’ the ILO report finds, ‘has remained far below pre-crisis levels globally, going into the red in developed economies, although it has remained significant in emerging economies…. Omitting China, global real average wages grew at only 0.2 percent in 2011, down from 1.3 percent from in 2010 and 2.3 percent in 2007. This is the hard fact of 0.2 percent, and the fact turns harder if one casts glimpses on the company, especially bank balance sheets of loss and profit. The sheets show a higher profit, higher dividends.’

      In developed economies, wages suffered a double dip; in eastern Europe and central Asia, real wages contracted severely in 2009; in the Middle East, real average wages appear to have declined since 2008; and in Russia, the real value of wages collapsed to less than 40 percent of their value in 1990s. It took another decade before the Russian wages regained its initial level. In terms of real value of wages, is it a decade lost in the Russian capitalist wilderness?

      In India, wage trends appeared ‘somewhat unclear’, as the report observes. It says: ‘[R]eal wages declined in a majority of recent years, shrinking the purchasing power of wage earners. This would explain the many concerns expressed by workers in India about rapidly increasing prices, particularly food prices. The trend, however, is surprising in the light of the country’s rapid economic growth over the last decade.’

      In a number of Arab countries, the Arab Spring ‘seems to have prompted [...] to make further increases in wages for local people working in the public sector. [But in] the private sector, minimum wages and collective bargaining are underdeveloped in the Arab region.’


      The wage growth-labor productivity growth gap, the ILO report finds, is widening. The fact turns out: labor is made to move wheels with more speed, move its limbs and brain faster, stretch its muscles further but the number of coins that are thrown down on its frail hands increases with a slower speed. The gap widens.

      When necessary labor time is squeezed down further, wheels are turned speedier, and labor’s bargaining power is weakened, the crueler reality declines to hide. It gets exposed. It’s hard time for labor, a time of intensified exploitation of labor, a time for higher profit by capital. It’s not ‘equitable growth’, the ILO report’s 2012/13 edition looks at. So, the academic parlance emerges: ‘working poverty.’

      But there is cheap labor: workers in the Philippine manufacturing sector were paid $1.40 for every hour worked. It was less than $5.50 in Brazil, $13 in Greece, $23.30 in the US, about $35 in Denmark.

      A treacherous space is there. ‘Throughout the crisis wages continued to grow in Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa and Asia.’

      Growth in wages in Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa and Asia will not reach the level in Europe and the US in the near-future. So, there will be scope for threatening labor in these two continents, there will remain space for bargaining with it, and there will be profit.


      In Greece, the report notes, wages were growing ahead of productivity before the crisis. But, average wages were forced down by austerity programs. However, in 2010-2011 cumulatively it fell down close to 15 percent. The minimum wage has been severely cut, losing 22 percent of its previous value, informs the report.

      ‘This change was made on the request of the European Central Bank, the European Commission and the IMF as a condition for giving the Greek Government access to bailout funds from the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF).’ The report cited ‘The IMF’s advice on labor market issues’, IMF Fact sheet [1]: ‘Wage cuts were necessary if the country was to regain competitiveness and growth.... The IMF also considered that the minimum wage in Greece was substantially higher than in other developed economies, even though ... it was not out of range.’

      Referring to the case of Portugal the report says: in the country, ‘access to EFSF came at the condition of a minimum wage freeze.’

      In Serbia and Albania, the report says, ‘real wages fell in spite of positive labor productivity growth, a reflection of the freezing of nominal wages in the public sector.’

      Citing M. Arandarenko and S. Avlijas’ ‘Behind the veil of statistics: Bringing to light structural weaknesses in Serbia’ in V. Schmidt and D. Vaughan-Whitehead (eds): ‘The impact of the crisis on wages in South-East Europe’(2011) the report says: ‘In Serbia, an agreement with the IMF signed in April 2009 included a commitment by the government to keep public sector wages and pensions frozen in nominal terms in 2009 and 2010 – as a result of which real wages in the public administration declined. This measure came with a ban on new employment in the public sector. Similarly, on the advice of the IMF, budgetary restrictions on wage growth in the public sector have been introduced in Albania.’ The IMF’s wage-freezing ‘story’ is told, at least for now.


      It is preached that companies need breathing space – scope for making profit – in times of crisis. So, an arrangement was imposed on labor: work sharing.

      Many companies, the report finds, have adopted new working practices, and labor’s hourly wage rates were changed. Brains in the moneybag of capital have not suggested reducing profit rate.

      Citing ILO’s ‘Decent world country profile: Ukraine’ (Geneva, 2011) and G. Kulikov and V. Blyzniuk’s ‘Impact of the financial and economic crisis on wages, income distribution and the tax system’ (Budapest, 2010) the report says: In Ukraine, ‘[m]any employees had to go on unpaid leave, especially in the industrial sector while others saw their basic wages frozen and their bonuses cut.’ Ukraine labor has experienced the award of formally resorting to open market its red turned white party bosses promised.

      However, the reality emerges: capital finds its breathing space by further and further encroachment of labor’s breathing space.


      The report says: ‘The mirror image of the fall in the labor share is the increase in the capital share of income (often called the profit share), which is measured most frequently as the share of gross operating surplus of corporations as a percentage of GDP.... [I]n advanced economies, profits of non-financial corporations have increasingly been allocated to pay dividends, which accounted for 35 percent of profits in 2007 and increased pressure on companies to reduce the share of value added going to labor compensation.’

      The report shows: in many countries, there is a long-term trend towards labor compensation’s falling share and profit’s rising share.

      Citing studies/reports including OECD’s ‘Divided we stand: Why inequality keeps rising’ (Paris, 2011) and J. Roine and D. Waldenström’s ‘On the role of capital gains in Swedish income inequality’ (in Review of Income and Wealth, Vol. 58, No. 3, 2012) the report said: In the period 1987–2008, a large part of the increased surplus of corporations went into boosting the dividends to shareholders. In France, total dividends increased from 4 percent of the total wage bill in the early 1980s to 13 percent in 2008. In the US, three-quarters of the increase in gross operating surplus went into the payment of dividends. The greater concentration of income with capital instead of labor, booming dividends have often contributed to higher overall household income inequality. No interpretation is needed. ‘Truth needs no flowers of speech’, writes Pope.


      Capitalist globalization was hawked vociferously by the mainstream. But, the void promise by capitalist globalization has been exposed. Financialization is actually gambling with incapacity by a few that savages the broader society. To labor, capitalist globalization is a savage fact. Reality has exposed the lies of the benefits of trade globalization, expansion of financial markets, etc.

      ‘The drop in the labor share is due to technological progress, trade globalization, the expansion of financial markets, and decreasing union density, which have eroded the bargaining power of labor’, says the report. ‘Financial globalization, in particular, may have played a bigger role than previously thought.’

      Citing D. Rodrik’s 1997 work ‘Has globalization gone too far?’ (Washington DC, Institute of International Economics) and Ö. Onaran’s ‘Globalisation, macroeconomic performance and distribution” in E. Hein and E. Stockhammer’s (eds) ‘A modern guide to Keynesian macroeconomics and economic policies’ (2011) the report says: ‘[F]inancial globalization has probably weakened workers’ bargaining position.’

      In developed economies, the report says, ‘global financialization contributes 46 percent of the fall in labor income shares, compared to contributions of 19 percent by globalization, 10 percent by technology and 25 percent by changes in two broad institutional variables: government consumption and union density. ... [F]inancialization, globalization and technological progress have all grown in magnitude over time, thus contributing negatively to changes in labor income shares between the two periods.’


      ‘One of the key findings’, the report says, ‘is the growing inequality in income, in terms of functional and personal income distribution.’

      ‘[M]any waged and salaried workers in developing countries are in fact living with their families in poverty’, says the report. Out of about 209 million wage earners in 32 developing countries from 1997 to 2006, about 23 million were earning below US$1.25 a day and 64 million were earning less than US$2 per day, the international poverty lines for 32 developing countries.

      An ‘interesting’ relation is mentioned in the report. ‘A lower labor share’, the report says, ‘was associated with a higher share of net exports in all countries. A 1 percent lower labor share was associated with higher rates of investment in GDP in nine countries as well as in the eurozone group, but had no perceptible effect on investment in five emergent economies and the US. The positive effect of lower labour share on exports is perhaps not surprising, given the close relationship between the concept of the labour share and the concept of unit labour costs. A decline in unit labour costs is often seen as an improvement in external cost competitiveness [...] lower unit labor costs are [...] frequently advocated as a means of restoring economic growth and promoting employment. This is [...] the rationale behind the decision in Greece to reduce the minimum wage by 22 percent, with a further 10 percent cut for young workers, together with a reduction in non-wage costs (social security contributions) by 5 percentage point. Similar [...] measures were also part of IMF programs in Portugal, Serbia and Latvia.’

      The fact shows capital’s efficiency in imposing burdens on labor: to sharpen competitive edge, press down, squeeze out labor, ask labor to ‘sacrifice/contribute’, which is actually appropriation. To ensure the ‘sacrifice/contribute’, there is force, the force of political mechanism. And, to hide the act of appropriation and use of force, there are crude jargons ‘innovated’ by a section of dignified academic brains.

      The reality of shrinking income, increasing hardship, growing poverty of the labor, and rising profit of capital finds Guy Ryder, ILO Director-General, write in the Preface of the report: ‘On a social and political level this trend risks creating perceptions that workers and their families are not receiving their fair share of the wealth they create.’

      In developed economies, according to the report, unemployment rose from less than 6 percent to more than 8 percent of the labor force. The figure was double-digit in Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain. Worldwide unemployment has gone up by 27 million since the start of the crisis, bringing the overall number of unemployed to about 200 million or 6 percent of the global labor force.

      In this saturnalia organized by capital, shall labor’s discontent and rising appear immoral and illogical?

      * 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.

      * Farooque Chowdhury


      1. (17 Sep. 2012)

      Clan federalism tears Somalia apart

      Mohamud M Uluso


      cc A W
      Clan politics, rivalry and hatred have ruined the social bond, moral principles and trust among Somalis who share a language, culture, territory, history and religion. Now, three political manifestations - secession, clan based federalism and a unitary decentralized political system - divide them and are an obstacle to the recovery of the lost nation.

      The Provisional Constitution (PC) rejects secession, suggests voluntary federalism of regions while it establishes a unitary democratic central government. Respect for human rights, political and civil rights for all citizens, a free market economic system, political pluralis and promotion of peace constitute the basic foundation of the new constitution. The US diplomatic recognition of the government of Somalia gives impetus to the implementation of these goals and offers space and encouragement for internal unity and dialogue

      Therefore the people of Somalia led by their farsighted and legitimate leaders have the responsibility to engage a national dialogue that aims to respond to the sentiments and anxieties underlying the three political manifestations so that a strong Somalia can bargain with the international community. In his 1963 book on Somali nationalism, Saadia Touval wrote,

      “Somali nationalism stems from a feeling of national consciousness in the sense of “we” as opposed to “they” which has existed among the Somalis for many centuries. It was nurtured by tribal genealogies and traditions, by the Islamic religious ties, and by conflicts with foreign people.” This kind of exceptional Somali nationalism is now needed more than ever. Political negotiations in bad faith fail Somalia.

      Today’s acrimonious relations among Somalis are in full public display. The late Said Osman Kenedid captured this sad situation when he said in his book “xusuusqor”, a Somali becomes foe of the other when clan diversity is discovered. This approximates the present social breakdown.

      Clan federalism worsens the situation and tears Somalia apart. It is an overstatement, even wrong, to claim that the PC has created a federal government for Somalia. Yes, article 1(1) stipulates the establishment of the Federal Republic of Somalia (FG). The stakeholders of this FG are the 4.5 clans represented by the 275 members of the Federal Parliament (FP) and not by Federal Member States (FMS), Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama, Ras Kamboni or other factions.

      In accordance with articles 48 and 49 of the PC, the FP must enact a law establishing the parameters and conditions to be used for the establishment of FMS and appoint a commission that will study the issue. The findings of the commission will determine the options. Article 49 (6) sets only one parameter: The voluntary merger of two or more regions based on the 1991 boundaries can form an FMS. In the interim, FG will represent the country and administer the regions and districts.

      Clan-based federalism is against many articles of the PC. For example it is against Article 8 on the people and citizenship; Article 11 concerning equality of all citizens and prohibition of clan based discrimination; Article 21 on the freedom of movement and residence; Article 46 which prescribes that the power of self-governance begins and ends with the people. Article 142 does not recognize in name the existing FMSs and harms national interest.

      To appreciate the concept of federalism in Somalia, a review of the different views, motivations and perceptions propounded by Dighil and Mirifle and Harti Darod (Puntland) for their resolute support of federalism is helpful. In 1991, some politicians suggested a federal system between the two territories united on July 1, 1960.

      Hizbia Dighil and Mirifle (HDM) Party of “Dighil and Mirifle clan” proposed in 1947 a clan-based federal system later debated in 1957 and rejected by the parliament. In his paper titled “The emergence and role of political parties in the inter-river region (1989),” Prof Mohamed H. Mukhtar noted that HDM divided the Somali Italian territory into two regions: North of the Shabelle River and South of it. Sheikh Abdullahi Sheikh Mohamed (Bogodi), founder of HDM, told the Four Power Commission sent to Somalia in 1947 the following:

      “My people are those who behave themselves better than others. We always prevent other people from making trouble or robbing ... The other people who are not Dighil and Mirifle, they may live and stay with us, but we want them behind us recognizing the land as belonging to us and not to them. One of the three things the founder requested the Commission was that “the country in which Dighil and Mirifle live always to be regarded as belonging to them and if the government who live with them wish anything from them they want the government to be discussed with them.”

      As a result, HDM federalism was for land ownership and intended to take place between Dighil and Mirifle clan and the rest. No significant power was allowed to the central Government.

      In May 1998, sub clan Harti Darod decided to form a “Puntland State” composed of five regions –Mudug, Nugal, Bari, Sol and Sanag- and to make “clan federalism” the national form of government. On October 9, 2010, Mr. Mohamed Abshir Waldo published a paper on Federalism: Birth of Puntland in which he put forward three reasons why Puntland decided to predetermine a federal system for Somalia. They are: (1) to heal and overcome the fear, hatred and distrust of the bloody civil war; (2) to take a middle solution between an autocratic, centralized system of government -which is an imaginary future government, and the outright secession of Somaliland. Sanag and Sol regions are claimed by Somaliland; and (3) To emphasize district level socio economic development.

      Somalis in Puntland became divided into two categories: Puntland citizens and refugees. There was no economic, social, political and legal study about the feasibility of a federal system for Somalia or preliminary discussion among Somalis. Mr. Waldo stressed that “It [the decision] was not borne out of emotion, clan sentimentalism or as resentment resulting from the clan cleansing massacre of thousands of people originating from the current Puntland regions that took place in what is now known as South-Central Somalia (SCS) mainly in Mogadishu.”

      Puntland state is now in confrontation with the FG over formation of Jubbaland State which will comprise three regions-Lower Jubba, Middle Jubba and Gedo and will be under the rule of Harti, Ogaden, and Marehan as the majority group out of 38 clans in the area.

      As a consequence, Bay, Bakol and Lower Shabelle regions will be under Dighil and Mirifle rule. Middle Shabelle, Hiran, and Galgudud regions will be under Hawiye rule. Togdher, North West, and Awdal regions will be under Isaq rule. In consideration of clan imagination, Mogadishu, the capital and seat of FG, will be under sub-clan Abgal-Habargidir rule. To revive HDM federalism, a preparatory conference for a new State of six regions-Bay, Bakol, Gedo, Lower Jubba, Middle Jubba and Lower Shabelle is underway in Baidoa, Bay region.

      Puntland federalism aims to deal with past and future “clan cleansing” and to control the central power if ever emerges. In Somalia, “clan cleansing” takes place every day as long as clans fight and people leave their homes for new destinations. It happens in different parts of the country.

      Somalia clan federalism resembles the clan division suggested by President Yuweri K. Museveni of Uganda in his letter dated July 15, 2009 for handling the Banyoro political grievance against Bafuruki in Banyuro region. Banyoro are considered an indigenous (natives) clan, while Bafuruki (migrants/settlers) - a derogatory word - are Ugandan citizens whose ancestral land is not Banyuro region even if they were born in it. The president proposed clan land ownership and ring-fencing the positions of local councils and Member of Parliament for the indigenous (native) Banyoro clan. This has raised a firestorm inside and outside Uganda because it was seen as tribalist, unpatriotic and unconstitutional and later President Museveni backtracked.

      The signs of many problems associated with clan federalism like violent minority dissent within are now visible in Puntland. In fact, clan federalism rather than solving the problems of bad governance expands them. Only Ethiopia, Nigeria and South Africa practice clan based federalism in the African continent. A comparative study carried out in 2012 shows that African federalism fails for at least nine causes like a lack of commitment to democratic values and obstruction of the central government authority.

      In the gloomy prospect for Somalia’s future, the observations of Saadia Touval about Somali nationalism provide pride and hope. He testified that Somali leaders were always striving to eradicate “political tribalism” because it was and still is detrimental to national harmony. In 1958, political parties with clan names were banned. He also stated that Somali leaders (northerners) gave up their privileged positions for the sake of realizing the broader nationalist goals of unifying the British and Italian territories in 1960. These kinds of patriotism are deeply rooted in the Somali culture and could re-emergence at the right moment like today.


      * 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.

      * Somali analyst MohamudM Uluso can be reached at: [email protected]


      February 2013 Issue of the Fahamu Refugee Legal Aid Newsletter


      The February 2013 issue of the Fahamu Refugee Legal Aid Newsletter is now available: Please help us distribute it, and consider contributing in the future. You can also like our Facebook page, and follow us on Twitter!

      In this issue:

      News on countries of origin and asylum

      Deportation news

      Reader Response: UNHCR’s regional policy in Zambia

      New film on Rwanda cessation released

      Israeli Ministry of Interior prevents jailed asylum seekers from filing asylum requests

      Canada court condemns anti-smuggling law

      Ongoing challenges for displaced Rohingyas

      Russian authorities launch anti-gay media campaign

      Why is there no refuge for Roma refugees?: Why Canada’s ‘safe’ country scheme offers no refuge for Roma refugees

      Tightening of Swiss asylum law introduces new form of accommodation for ‘recalcitrant’ asylum seekers and curtails access to asylum

      Stranded at the border: Migrants and refugees trapped in a no man’s land

      The endless suffering of those who fled Libya: Choucha camp

      UNHCR’s Rwanda cessation: Flawed, but perhaps not entirely wrong

      Kenya: Don’t force 55,000 refugees into camps

      Detainees’ rights overrule absconding and rioting charges, courts rule


      Call for papers

      Conferences & workshops

      Grants & awards

      Information links

      Resources & publications



      Comment & analysis

      West is taking people for imbeciles

      Belgian MP stands up against war in Mali and exposes neo-colonial plot

      Laurent Louis


      In this candid and charged speech to parliament, the Belgian MP condemns the West’s growing military interventions and regime destabilization under the pretext of preventive war on terror. The real agenda is capitalist plunder.

      BELGIAN MP LAURENT LOUIS: Thank you, Mr President. Dear Ministers, dear colleagues

      Belgium is indeed the land of surrealism. This morning we learned in the media that the Belgian army is incapable of fighting some extremist soldiers having radical Islamist beliefs existing within its own ranks and who cannot be dismissed by lack of legal means. However, at the same time, we decided to help France in its war against "terror" by providing logistical support for its operation in Mali. What wouldn't we do in order to fight against terrorism outside our borders?

      I just hope we took care not to send for this anti-terrorist operation in Mali these much talked about Belgian Islamists soldiers! I seem to be joking, but what is going on in the world today does not make me laugh at all. It doesn't make me laugh, because without any doubt, the leaders of our Western countries are taking the peoples for imbeciles with the help and support of the media which are nothing more today than an organ of propaganda of the ruling powers.

      Around the world, military actions and regime destabilization are becoming more and more frequent. Preventive war has become the rule. And today, in the name of democracy and the fight against terrorism, our states grant themselves the right to violate the sovereignty of independent countries and to overthrow legitimate leaders.

      There has been Iraq and Afghanistan, the wars of the American lie. Came later, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, where thanks to your decisions, our country has been "first in line" to participate in crimes against humanity, in each case to overthrow progressive and moderated regimes and to replace them with Islamist regimes, and - isn't it weird? - their first will was to impose Sharia law.

      This is exactly what is currently happening in Syria where Belgium is shamefully funding the arming of the Islamist rebels who are trying to overthrow Bashar Al Assad. Thus, in the midst of economic crisis, as more and more Belgians can no longer house themselves, feed, heat and cure themselves - Yeah, I can hear what a filthy populist I am - well, the Minister of Foreign Affairs decided to offer the Syrian rebels nine million Euros!

      Of course, they'll try to make us believe that this money will be used for humanitarian purposes ... one more lie! And as you can see, for months, our country is only participating to put in place Islamic regimes in North Africa and the Middle East. So, when they come and pretend to go to war in order to fight against terrorism in Mali, well... I feel like laughing.

      It's false! Under the appearance of good actions, we only intervene to defend financial interests in a complete neo-colonialist mindset. It's a real nonsense to go to help France in Mali in the name of the fighting against Islamic terrorism when at the same time we support in Syria the overthrow of Assad by Islamist rebels who want to impose Sharia Law, as was done in Tunisia and in Libya. It is about time we stopped lying to ourselves and treating people like imbeciles.

      The time has come to tell the truth. Arming the Islamist Rebels, as Westerners have in the past armed Bin Laden, that friend of the Americans before they turned against him, well, the Western countries are taking the opportunity to place military bases in the newly conquered countries while favouring domestic companies. Everything is therefore strategic. In Iraq, our American allies have put their hands on the country's oil wealth. In Afghanistan, it was its opium and drugs, always useful when it comes to make lots of money pretty quickly.

      In Libya, in Tunisia, in Egypt, or then again in Syria, the aim was and is still today to overthrow moderate powers, to replace them by Islamist powers who very quickly will become troublesome and that we will shamelessly attack pretending once again to fight terrorism or protect Israel.

      Thus, the next targets are already known. Within a few months, I bet that our eyes will turn to Algeria and eventually to Iran. To go to war, to free people from an outside aggressor, is noble. But go to war to defend the interests of USA, to go to war to defend the interests of big companies such as AREVA, to go to war to put our hands on gold mines, has nothing noble at all and it reveals our countries to be attackers and thugs!

      No one dares to speak, but I will not shut up! And if my battle makes me look like an enemy of this system who flaunts human rights in the name of financial, geo-strategic and neo-colonialist interests, so be it! Flaunting and exposing this regime is a duty and makes me proud. And honestly, I apologise for my low class speech, but I f**k you all, the so-called do-gooders, both left and rightwingers or from the center who are today licking the boots of our corrupted powers and who will be pleased to ridicule me.

      I f**k you all, leaders who are playing with your bombs as kids do in a playground!

      I f**k you, you who pretend to be democrats while you are nothing more than low class criminals. I don't have much respect either for the journalists who have the audacity to label the opponents as mentally retarded while basically, they know very well that these opponents are right.

      Finally, I despise, at the highest point, those who believe they are the kings of the world and who are dictating their laws, because I am on the side of truth, the side of justice, the side of the innocent victims of looting at all cost. And it is for this reason that I have decided to clearly oppose this resolution that is sending our country to support France in its neo-colonialist operation.

      Since the beginning of the French operation, the lie is organized. We are told that France is only answering the call for help from the Malian president. We almost forget that this president has no legitimacy and that he was put in place to ensure the transition following the coup of March 2012.

      Who supported this coup d'état? Who started it? For whom is this president of transition actually working? This is the first lie! The French president, François Hollande, dares to pretend to wage this war to fight against the jihadists who threaten (oh do you realize!) the French and European territory! But what an ugly lie!

      By taking this official argument, while taking the opportunity to frighten the population by increasing the terror alert level, implementing the Vigipirate plan, our leaders and media are demonstrating an un-imaginable outrage! How dare they use such a point while France and Belgium have not hesitated to arm and support Jihadists in Libya and that these same countries continue to support these jihadists in Syria?

      This pretext hides strategic and economic purposes. Our countries are no longer fearing inconsistency because everything is done to hide it. But the inconsistency is well present. It is not tomorrow that you'll see a Malian citizen commit an act of terrorism in Europe. No! Unless we'll suddenly create one so we can justify this military operation.

      Haven't we created September 11th, after all, to justify the invasions, arbitrary arrest, torture and massacre of innocent populations? Thus, creating a Malian terrorist is no big deal! It must not be very complicated for our bloodthirsty leaders. Another pretext used these recent months to justify military operations is the protection of human rights.

      Ah! This pretext is still used today to justify the war in Mali. But yes! We have to act, otherwise the evil Islamists will impose Sharia law in Mali, stoning women and cutting off the thugs' hands. Oh! The intention is truly noble. Noble and salutary for sure!

      But then why is it, Good Lord, why is it that our countries have contributed in Tunisia and Libya to the accession to power of Islamists who have decided to apply this Sharia Law in these countries which were still not so long ago modern and progressive? I invite you to ask the young Tunisians who have launched the revolution in Tunisia if they are happy with their current situation? This is all hypocrisy. The purpose of this war in Mali is very clear.

      And since no one talks about it, I WILL. The purpose is to fight against China and allow our American ally to maintain its presence in Africa and the Middle East. This is what guides these neo-colonialists operations. And you will see, when the military operation will be over, France will, of course, keep its military bases in Mali.

      These bases will be a benefit to the Americans as well. And at the same time, as has always been the case, Western corporates will put their hands on juicy contracts that will once again deprive re-colonized countries of their wealth and raw materials. So let's be clear, the primary beneficiaries of this military operation will be the owners and shareholders of the French giant AREVA who have been trying for years to obtain a uranium mine in Falea, a town of 17,000 inhabitants located 350 km from Bamako.

      And I don't know why, but my little finger is telling me that it won't take long before AREVA eventually exploits that mine! I don't know. It's an impression I have. It is therefore out of question that I would take part in this mining colonialism, this modern day colonialism. And for those who doubt my arguments, I sincerely invite them to learn about the wealth of Mali.

      Mali is a major producer of gold, but recently it has been designated - recently, eh....- as being a country that offers a world-class environment for the exploitation of uranium. How strange! One step closer to a war against Iran, it is obvious. For all these reasons and in order to not fall into the traps of lies they are telling us, I've decided not to give my support to that intervention in Mali.

      Therefore, I will vote against it.

      And by doing so, I'm being consistent since I never supported in the past our criminal interventions in Libya or in Syria, and so I am the only MP in this country to defend the non-interference and the fight against obscure interests. I really think it is about time to put an end to our participation in the UN or NATO and get out of the EU if Europe, instead of providing peace, becomes a weapon of attack and destabilization of sovereign countries submissive to financial rather than human interests.

      Finally, I can only urge our government to remind President Hollande the obligations resulting from the Geneva Conventions regarding the respect of prisoners of war. Indeed, I was shocked to hear on television from the mouth of the French President that his intention was to "destroy" - I say "destroy" - Islamist terrorists.

      So, I do not want the qualification to be used to name the opponents to the Malian regime - it is always convenient today to talk about Islamic terrorists- to circumvent the obligations of any democratic state in terms of respecting the rights of prisoners of war. We expect such respect from the Fatherland of Human Rights.

      In conclusion, let me emphasize how lightly we decide to go to war. First, the government acts without any consent from the parliament. It appears that it has the right to. It sends equipment, men to Mali.

      Parliament subsequently reacts and when it responds, as today, well, this institution happens to be composed of only a third of its members.Much less if we speak of the French speaking MPs. It is therefore a guilty lightness which does not really surprise me, coming from a parliament of puppies, submitted to the dictates of political parties. Thank you.

      * Transcript and translation by Feuillien Geraldine


      * 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.

      The Taliban of Timbuktu

      Karima Bennoune


      The war in Mali is not just about preventing terrorism; it’s a fight to defend a secular, tolerant society

      Before the recent French intervention in Mali began, 412,000 people had already left their homes in the country’s north, fleeing torture, summary executions, recruitment of child soldiers and sexual violence against women at the hands of fundamentalist militants. Late last year, in Algeria and southern Mali, I interviewed dozens of Malians from the north, including many who had recently fled. Their testimonies confirmed the horrors that radical Islamists, self-proclaimed warriors of God, have inflicted on their communities.

      First, the fundamentalists banned music in a country with one of the richest musical traditions in the world. Last July, they stoned an unmarried couple for adultery. The woman, a mother of two, had been buried up to her waist in a hole before a group of men pelted her to death with rocks. And in October the Islamist occupiers began compiling lists of unmarried mothers.

      Even holy places are not safe. These self-styled “defenders of the faith” demolished the tombs of local Sufi saints in the fabled city of Timbuktu. The armed groups also reportedly destroyed many churches in the north, where displaced members of the small Christian minority told me they had previously felt entirely accepted. Such Qaeda-style tactics, and the religious extremism that demands them, are completely alien to the mainstream of Malian Islam, which is known for its tradition of tolerance.

      That openness is exactly what the jihadists seek to crush. “The fact that we are building a new country on the base of Shariah is just something the people living here will have to accept,” the Islamist police commissioner in the town of Gao said last August. Until military action began last month, local citizens were on their own in resisting the imposition of Shariah — and they fought back valiantly. A radio journalist was severely beaten by Islamist gunmen after speaking on the radio against amputations. Women marched through the streets of Timbuktu against Islamist diktats on veiling until gunfire ended their protest.

      The acting principal of a coed high school in Gao told me his school had been occupied by militants from the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa. They announced that they had come to protect the premises. Instead, they quickly stole its computers, refrigerators and chairs. “We consider ourselves under occupation,” the principal told me. “We consider ourselves martyrs.” He has risked his life to keep his school open, to continue to educate boys and girls together, though he must put them on opposite sides of the classroom now. “My presence creates hope for my students. I cannot kill this hope,” he told me.

      Since the jihadist takeover, Gao’s economy has come to a standstill. Every Thursday, there are theocratic show trials in Arabic, a language many residents do not speak. The fundamentalists focus on teaching the predominantly Muslim population of Gao “how to be Muslim.” Like Al Shabab in Somalia and the Taliban in Afghanistan, they have a morality brigade that patrols the city, checking who is not wearing a sufficient veil and whose telephone sins with a musical ringtone. Speaking to a woman in public is an offense; this ban has caused such terror that some men flee in fear if they simply see a woman on the street.

      The principal had been attending public punishments to document the atrocities. This meant repeatedly watching his fellow citizens get flogged. He has seen what it looks like when a “convict” has his foot sawed off. Close to tears, he said: “No one can stand it, but it is imposed on us. Those of us who attend, we cry.”

      Some local and international opponents of military intervention have advocated negotiation with the rebel groups as an alternative. But negotiating with groups who believe they are God’s agents and whose imposed mode of governance is utterly alien to the people of northern Mali is unlikely to succeed, especially while the north remains occupied. “The population is not for the Shariah” is the refrain I heard again and again — from those displaced from Timbuktu and Kidal; from women and men; from Muslims and Christians. The preservation of Mali’s tradition of secularism is essential for them all.

      Policy decisions regarding this potential Afghanistan-in-the-Sahara must be informed by the fact that what is happening there is not simply a question of regional or global security, but of basic human rights. The current intervention in Mali could deal a decisive blow to the recent advance of fundamentalism across North Africa, but only if French and West African soldiers take care to distinguish between civilians and their jihadist oppressors, who hide among the innocent.

      They must also avoid simply shifting the problem elsewhere in the region. After all, one of the causes of the Islamist occupation of northern Mali was the displacement of armed men from Libya after the overthrow of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi in 2011. Algeria had lost hundreds of thousands of its own people to fundamentalist armed groups since the 1990s. Since then, many Algerian jihadists have crossed the border into northern Mali, reproducing the problem there.

      Some Malians fear that foreign intervention may have grave consequences for their homes and livelihoods. But most of the displaced northerners I met last month, before France intervened, had already decided that “the risks of non-intervention are 10,000 times worse than the risks of intervention,” as a women’s rights activist told me in Bamako. Or, as a young refugee from Gao whom I met in Algeria put it: “We do not want war, but if these people don’t leave us alone, we have to fight them.”


      * 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.

      * Karima Bennoune, a professor of international law at the University of California, Davis, is the author of the forthcoming book “Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here: Untold Stories From the Fight Against Muslim Fundamentalism.”

      * This article was first published by New York Times.

      Why the fight in Mali is needed

      Stefan Simanowitz


      Following disastrous occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq, there is public anxiety around British military involvement in Mali. Concerns centre not just on the dangers and cost but also on possible ulterior motives and potential unintended consequences.

      On BBC Question Time last week an angry audience member asked the panel why Britain should be sending military help to the French in Mali. “I don’t remember the French coming to our aid when we went to the Falklands” he fumed to loud applause. At the time Britain’s commitment to the French-led Operation Serval in Mali consisted of two C-17 transport aircraft. Yesterday tThe British Prime Minister told the Parliament on 22 January that whilst “not seeking” a combat role, Britain would commit “intelligence and counter-terrorism assets” thought to include Special Forces soldiers, aircraft and surveillance drones, to northern Mali. Today’s The same day the Times led with a front page story that British troops have been “put on alert for action” in Mali.

      A decade after the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq public anxiety around British involvement in a potentially protracted military intervention against an ill-defined enemy in difficult terrain is understandable. Concerns centre not just on the dangers to service personnel and cost to the taxpayer but on possible ulterior motives underlying operation and potential unintended consequences that may be sparked in the region and beyond. Indeed last week’s hostage-taking in Algeria is likely to be the first of many so-called reprisal attacks on Western interests by al Qaeda cells in the area. But whilst these concerns are legitimate, they should not distract from the importance of the current intervention in Mali.

      Despite little media coverage al Qaeda-linked Islamist groups have been consolidating and extending their grip across northern Mali for several months. Jihadist fighters have reportedly been crossing Mali’s porous borders described by Malians as having come from as far afield as Yemen, Somalia and Afghanistan. In plain view a new terrorist haven was being created whose chief exports would have been organised crime and global terror.

      So long as they stayed deep in the desert controlling the principle cities of the north – Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal – the Islamists were going to be very difficult to confront. A UN authorised African-led force was not due to be deployed until September and negotiating a diplomatic settlement with groups for whom the establishment of an independent Islamic state was non-negotiable was unlikely. Unsurprisingly many were predicting that Mali might become the new Afghanistan.

      But the Islamist offensive launched early this month towards the Malian capital Bamako presented an unexpected opportunity. Not expecting a swift international response it seems that the Islamists left their strongholds in the desert lightly defended in order to push south. By swiftly deploying a formidable intervention force the French together with the Malian army appear to have not only stemmed the Islamists advance but to have forced it into retreat.

      Whilst the area of combat is vast, intelligence from surveillance drones and satellites have enabled the French deploy their jets and attack helicopters to good effect and Franco-Malian ground forces are being augmented as troops from neighbouring countries are deployed. Around one sixth of the 5,800 African troops expected in Mali have already arrived. Together with 2,500 French soldiers the size of the multinational force in Mali will far exceed that anticipated by the UN last December.

      Material and logistical support is arriving not just from Britain but from the US, Germany, Denmark, Belgium, Canada, Italy and Spain and the Tuareg separatist movement, the Azawad National Liberation Movement, have announced their willingness to join international efforts to fight the Islamists. With neighbouring countries such as Algeria closing their borders and opening their airspace for surveillance and aircraft, the hope is that Islamists in Mali can be destroyed rather than pushed into another ungoverned space in the Sahara.

      As the former colonial power with interests in the region’s resources, France’s role in the current intervention is far from neutral, but to frame Operation Serval as a ‘war for resources’ is misleading. Having said that it is clear that France and other Western powers are keenly aware of the potential impact al Qaeda’s growing presence in Mali could have on resource exploitation across the region.

      David Cameron drew an unfortunate parallel when speaking about the need to tackle Islamists in the Sahel. "I would very much caution against anyone who believes that if somehow we stayed out of Iraq and just said this has got nothing to do with us, that would somehow make us safer” he said. Rather than comparing it with Iraq, the military operation in Mali needs to be recognised for what it is. A multinational UN-mandated counter offensive against well-armed Islamic fighters. The retaking of the north will not be easy and nor will the creation of enduring stability in Mali. But the struggle is a necessary one and through international action a protracted war might be avoided, a failing state shored-up and a major blow dealt to al Qaeda-linked groups in on the African continent.


      * 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.

      * Stefan Simanowitz is a journalist and political analyst. He has reported from across the continent and spent time in the deserts of Mali and Algeria.

      African regional organizations: Contributions to the debate on re-positioning

      Jeggan C. Senghor


      Numerous initiatives have been set up to catalyse development in Africa over the decades. One of the oldest is the Economic Commission for Africa established by the UN over 50 years. There is hardly any evidence of ECA’s impact. It needs revamping.

      In his forthcoming book, tentatively titled ‘Understanding African Underdevelopment: Rethinking the Future’ (Oxford: Peter Lang International Academic Publishers, 2013), Anthony Obeng argues that despite Africa’s history of exploitation and dehumanization during the centuries of trade by chartered companies, slavery, colonialism, neo-colonialism, and the current neo-liberal globalization, there has been relatively little effort to design and implement innovative home-grown strategies that would make for independent and sustained development. For this, it is natural that much of the venom should be directed at the African states and governments, particularly in that for much of the post-independence era the state has played an all-dominant role in the management of economies and societies. The state has been omnipresent and omniscient and, consequently, must be held accountable for all sins of omission and commission connected with the socio-economic well being of the continent.

      Be this as it may, there is no gainsaying the fact that this mammoth failure in development is a shared responsibility, particularly between the African governments and a plethora of national, regional, continental and international actors. In some form or the other, and in line with their official mandates, these actors have been active participants in the business of promoting African development. It then follows logically that they have contributed and continue to contribute to the outcomes of development efforts at all levels. The Organization of African Unity/African Union (OAU/AU), the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), and the African Development Bank (ADB) have been among the most prominent and the main points of reference in this paper. Particular focus is put on the ECA though in several areas the analysis is applicable to the others, mutatis mutandis.

      Why the ECA? Briefly, five reasons come to mind. First, the United Nations resolution establishing this organization (ECOSOC Resolution 671A (XXV), 29 April 1958) assigned it the broad mandate of promoting the economic and social development of African countries, through international cooperation. ECA has evolved into the premier organization for research on African development and for policy advice to its clients, the African governments. This gives it an authoritative voice in Africa in matters related to Africa’s economic development.

      Second, a new ECA management assumed office a few months ago. It has declared as guiding tenet the pursuance of transformative development for a renascent Africa and is currently immersed in introducing wide-ranging internal reforms. It is therefore timely to contribute in-puts to the process of transforming ECA itself for greater effectiveness.

      Third, ECA is the regional arm of the United Nations (UN); this gives it added authenticity in speaking for the continent in all organs of the UN. It is the only structure in the world body whose work focuses wholly on Africa; unlike most UN agencies it is multi-sectoral. To quote:

      “ECA’s dual role as a regional arm of the UN and a significant pillar of the regional institutional landscape in Africa endows it with unique comparative advantages that enable it to make distinct and valuable contributions to member State efforts to address these challenges.” (UNECA, ECA and Africa: Fifty Years of Partnership, Ethiopia: Addis Ababa, 2009, page 3)

      These comparative advantages accord ECA a leadership role in UN inter-agency operations in the continent. Its UN status also gives it clout in mobilizing different types of resources from within the UN itself and from external parties involved in the continent’s development. To add to this, given the nature and scope of ECA’s mandate its own resource base is relatively extensive and diverse, particularly as regards its human resource capabilities.

      Fourth, of the three major regional organizations in Africa ECA was the first on the scene: whereas it was established on 29 April 1958, the OAU was founded on 23 May 1963 and the ADB in September 1964. This gives ECA a certain seniority especially as it was an active player in the creation of the other two. But, for some, it is a UN organization and, as such, not purely African - which detracts from the significance of this claim.

      Fifth, especially in recent years precious few studies, particularly academic studies, have dealt with the ECA; many more published studies are on the OAU/AU and perhaps the ADB. Thin as it may appear this can be another justification for directing the searchlight on the ECA.


      The all-dominant concern has been the inability of the past leaderships (broadly defined) in these regional organizations to think outside the box, to think in terms of alternative development paradigms compared to what is touted as gospel truth. In relation to methodologies and strategies for development in Africa, conventional wisdom is unquestioned; the task at hand then becomes how to manage the variables involved in the process of attaining system-goals. Here and there adjustments were made to the paradigms but the basics remained intact; tinkering at the edges has not affected the core.

      In a direct way, most seminal policy publications of the regional organizations have towed the line; they respected orthodoxy even though, in theory, they were intended to challenge a status quo which since the 1960s had not resulted in any social and economic development of consequence. These included the Lagos Plan of Action (1980), the African Alternative Framework to Structural Adjustment Programmes for Socio-Economic Recovery and Transformation (AAF-SAP, 1989), and the Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community (1991).

      AAF-SAP, for instance, was marketed as: [An] assessment of orthodox adjustment programs (with the classical instruments of control of money supply, credit squeeze, exchange rate and interest rate adjustments, trade liberalization, etc.) led to the conclusion that although they aimed at restoring growth through fiscal and external balances and the free play of market forces, the objective could not be achieved without addressing the fundamental structural bottlenecks of African economies. Consequently, in 1988 the ECA embarked on a search for an African alternative that would address simultaneously both adjustment and structural transformation problems of the African economies.

      The reality is that the thinly-veiled campaign against structural adjustment programmes by the ECA, based on AAF-SAP, was not maintained and died a natural death. Even its most vocal and articulate missionaries soon relented. To fill the space resulting, the structural adjustment programmes spawned the look-alike Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) with changes more in style than in substance.

      This absence of an “ideological” framework for designing and implementing programmes in the African regional organizations contrasts sharply with the situation in the Bretton Woods institutions. They make no bones of their entrenched faith in neo-liberal capitalism and make no attempts to conceal it or to call it by any other name. Therefore, if one desires to do business with these institutions it is assumed that there is this common ground and understanding; invariably, the subject is not even mentioned. In like manner, it is assumed that staff who freely choose to serve in these institutions do not harbour any strong animosities towards neo-liberal capitalism; if they did they would not fit in.

      Backing up the multilateral institutions are educational institutions which reinforce the values and principles underpinning the prevailing neo-liberal system. It should not be forgotten that it is from these self-same educational establishments that the human resources in the African regional organizations were and are still sourced. In this regard, these regional organizations have been very efficient in executing their agency functions.

      Another macro issue of concern relates to processes in programme development and delivery. There is an urgent need for even greater cross-programme cooperation and coordination than at present. The absence of intensive coordination results in each organizational unit conducting research on what it considers the key questions in its own domain, in abject disregard of what others are doing, even within the same organizational unit.

      Granted there has been a recognizable shift for the better in this area. Nonetheless, a bolder scenario would involve selecting an overarching theme for, say, a biennium, to which all sectoral and cross-cutting research to be implemented at the divisional level would relate. Regional integration, trade, or statistics are obvious candidates. Or the theme could emerge from the ECA African Development Forum. This line of thinking and action has obvious benefits; most especially the research would throw up concrete policies which would be “sold” to the client-states in a pluri-disciplinary manner. This deserves urgent attention.

      Turning next to the burning question of the impact of the work of the organization which has bedevilled stakeholders from the early days of the existence of the organization: As afore-noted, the primary clients of the ECA are the African member states. The organization exists for service to these states. This is the level at which ideas for programming should emanate. It is the level for programme design and formulation, and it is the level for performance assessment. Without doubt the organization loses its raison d’être if it does not have impact on the ground, especially on matters of development policy and programmes.

      The reality is that there is still a gap between service provider and client. ECA produces a large range of research papers some of which are of high standard. Yet, for reasons outside the scope of these reflections they tend not to attract and retain the attention of those to whom they are primarily addressed. A pertinent recollection. After one of the sessions of the highest policy-making body in the ECA system, the Conference of Ministers of Planning and Development (as then known), a senior official at the Addis Ababa Hilton Hotel visited the ECA Cabinet Office to complain about the volume of papers that had been left behind in the rooms by the participants; he maintained that it was not the first time that this had happened. He stressed that to dispose of them would be costly so the hotel management had decided that ECA should foot the bill. The policy-makers had not even bothered to take the papers back to their offices! This speaks volumes. It sends out many messages.

      Thus, innovative means must be devised to increase impact in African countries. Perhaps one way out is that there should be fewer workshops, meetings, and conferences. It is worthy of note that bilateral and multi-lateral partners appear to experience less of a problem as far as this issue goes. Why? Obviously, the answers would have implications for ECA’s modus operandi.

      There are three other areas of concern related more to the external environment. In the first place, there is very urgent need for a rethinking of the role of the field arms of the ECA, that is, the Sub-Regional Offices (SRO) in Niamey (Western Africa), Rabat (Northern Africa), Kigali (East Africa), Lusaka (Southern Africa) and Yaoundé (Central Africa) - formerly MULPOCs. First, these offices are not resourced enough to undertake any type of serious research; the infrastructures for quality research are fragile. Anyway, enough research is being done elsewhere in the ECA system; there are enough problems associated with this research not to compound the situation with additional ones from the sub-regional so-called research. Similarly, the effectiveness of the SROs in carrying out policy advisory functions is much compromised by the limited technical knowledge and experience available in the offices.

      The thrust of any new mandate for the SROs should be facilitative. Networking should be the sole remit and this as regards three constituencies. First, the SROs should serve as bridges between ECA headquarters and the national governments. This would involve establishing forward and backward linkages in all areas of work, and multi-level conduits for the ECA divisions in their relationships with the governments. The existing Intergovernmental Committee of Experts (ICE) would serve as a platform for reviewing the outcomes of region-level meetings and their applicability to countries in the sub-region.

      More specifically, the SROs can undertake scientific needs assessment in member countries whose results would be fed into the programming processes at the centre; they can also undertake scientific assessments of the impacts of the products coming out of the centre. The SROs must encourage governments to formally identify individual ECA focal points within the overseeing ministries; SRO personnel will nurture very intimate one-on-one contacts with these focal points, particularly for monitoring implementation of resolutions and policies adopted at meetings of the policy organs.

      This is as far as relations with member states go. Bearing in mind ECA’s long-standing commitment to regional integration in Africa and its varied contributions to the realization of integration ambitions, the second constituency is the Regional Economic Communities (RECs); relations should be both special and privileged not just in speeches but more so in practice. Here, as with the member states, the SROs have to build stronger links and consolidate relations. Focal points for upgrading links should be institutionalized and there should be a more prominent SRO presence in the RECs and more intensive involvement in all phases in the programme cycle.

      The third constituency for networking and partnerships is the growing number of inter-governmental organizations (IGOs), think-tanks, research organizations and the like throughout the continent. Some of these are doing excellent work which easily dovetails into that in ECA. A case in point is the African Centre for Economic Transformation (ACET), Accra, Ghana; as the name indicates much of the research in this centre deals with transformation, including measurement issues. This coincides with the chosen focus-area of the new ECA management and is therefore a ready-made collaborator. Strong substantive linkages with this category of partners can only be of benefit to all – and definitely to the continent.

      Finally, with the SROs reinvigorated and reoriented the question of the country locations would have to be confronted head-on: how suitable are the locations of their headquarters if they are to execute their new roles and responsibilities effectively and efficiently? Apparently, political factors were influential in deciding their present sites; such considerations must now give way to technical imperatives.

      Hopefully, this essay has whetted the appetite. Arguments raised therein need to be further refined and fleshed out; the concerns expressed call for further reflection and action by different categories of stakeholders.


      * 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.

      * Jeggan C. Senghor ([email protected]) is a Senior Research Fellow at the School of Advanced Studies, University of London.

      Nigerian politicians and the craze for recognition

      Uche Igwe


      Why are Nigerian politicians so obsessed with awards when most of them have nothing to show in terms of quality service delivery to the citizens who elected them?

      The tragedy of the Nigerian political class is multi-dimensional. They are greedy, dubious and desperate. They are gullible almost to the point of nincompoopery. They also have a queerstrange false impression of themselves because they assemble various grades of charlatans, perpetual sycophants and praise singers around them who see nothing wrong in everything they do. Many of them are not exposed, they talk before they think, yet they conduct themselves in a queerdubious messianic fashion. They crave for recognition at all costs- anyone, everyone. It is public knowledge that they procure some of them from all over the world with public money just to continue to insult our psyche with their faces in the media as do-gooders, undeservedly.

      The story of drama around the purported Mo Ibrahim award to the former Governor of Yobe State, Senator Buka Abba Ibrahim, exactly mirrors the mindset of the Nigerian political class. This big man woke up and informed his colleagues at the Senate that he had won the Mo Ibrahim Exemplary Leadership Quality Award, for his efforts in the alleviation of poverty. He was so certain that he deserved to get such a globally coveted award without even thinking about the congruence between what he stood for and what Mo Ibrahim personified in the continent. I was told that even Nigerian Senate President David Mark congratulated him at the floor of National Assembly. His friends even took paid advertorials in the media and started putting together a delegation to accompany the award winner for the investiture in Capetown, South Africa before it was discovered to be false. But who is Senator Abba Ibrahim? I must confess that I have not met this Senator before and have only read his comments on national issues in the public arena. I recall that he is of the Committee on Housing and had made interesting comments on the relationship between the insecurity in the North, poverty and budgetary allocations by the federal government. I will return to that shortly. I am also aware that his third wife, Hon Khadija, is a current member of the House of Representatives. However this is what former finance Minister, his kinsman, Mallam Adamu Ciroma had to say about him and his phantom award in an interview to the Daily Sun on the 12th of January. “This man is one of the worst governors that have ever ruled any part of this country. Yobe is the most wretched of all the states in Nigeria. It is the poorest and the least developed. What happens is that some people who have no honour will meet and create something and send it to somebody and ask him to finance the offer. The man receiving it is not worth it. You can never see me receiving any of these awards because a lot of them are worthless”.

      According the European Union, 2.1 million of the 3.4 million that make up the total population of Yobe state live below the poverty line in 2011, lacking in infrastructure, healthcare and safe water. Eighty four percent of the women population are uneducated and 105 babies die out of every 1000 deliveries. So how come a man who superintended over these squalid situations could ever imagine that he will receive an international award? Really? Who could have nominated him? Why are Nigerian politicians always struggling to procure award international awards when their homes are on fire? Who are they trying to deceive?

      Let us ponder further on how giving and receiving awards gradually became popular. One would ask; Are the awards actually given in recognition of verifiable achievements or some other considerations? Has it just become another thriving industry for wheeler dealers? The trend is now something like an annual ritual of many media houses and politicians compete for it and are ready to part with huge sums in exchange. If you visit the offices of many of them, you will see plaques of assorted sizes and shapes displayed on the walls. What for? Now we can see that some of the awarding organizations do not even exist or rather exist only on letter headed papers. I remember many years ago, the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) had more than six factions. What was central to the NANS crisis and fictionalization, among other things was the issue of awards and how to share the money that accrued from gullible politicians. Many students who were dismissed from tertiary institutions across the country relocated to Abuja and found a new business in selling unmerited awards to the likes of Senator Bukar Abba Ibrahim.

      In the National Assembly, Senator Bukar Abba Ibrahim does not guise his motives, as a sectional politician in words and in practicedeed. He is always quick to align with anything and everything potentially divisive and unpatriotic. He is one of those who are viciously opposed to the principle of derivation for resource bearing communities in the Niger Delta as contained in the Petroleum Industry Bill(PIB) and has vowed to mobilise against its passage. As a governor, he was one of those who supported and allegedly bankrolled the infamous third term bid of former President Obasanjo. Often he has publicly defended the activities of insurgents in the North and even threatened that as far as the Federal government continued to allocate paltry sums as budgetary allocations to North East Zone, the insecurity situation will continue. Hear him: “ Boko Haram is product of poverty. It is a product of unhappiness. We are unhappy with Nigeria. Unless something is done to address it, Nigeria should expect bigger Boko Haram insurgency Insha Allah”.

      At another time he said “Injustice is the basis of the entire crisis in the world. Insecurity comes from injustice, if injustice continues, there will be no peace. We are being ignored, we are being considered as if we are not part of Nigeria and continuous injustice will bring more and more insecurity”. Almost true to his prediction, our country has sadly witnessed more and more attacks. Thousands of lives have been lost and millions of properties have been destroyed. The economy of Northern Nigeria is threatening to shut down as many businesses have deserted the region. Poverty is quadrupling and children are too frightened to go to school. The most recent of the attacks targeted the respected Emir of Kano, Alhaji(Dr) Ado Bayero. How does such distasteful commentary and unsavoury posture of such individual Senators affect the public perception of the Senate? Is it not time that the Senate evolves its own way of dealing with issues that could impinge on its collective image?

      Now in a sane, civilised society where there is rule of law, where patriotism is valued above parochialism, where will such a man as Senator Buka Abba Ibrahim be by now? Travelling around the world collecting phantom awards or somewhere else? I leave you to judge.


      * 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.

      * Uche Igwe is a governance researcher, based at the University of Sussex, United Kingdom. He can be reached on [email protected]

      Why President Biya’s Vision 2035 is a pipedream

      Samba Tata


      In slightly over two decades, Cameroon is supposed to be an emerging economy with a vastly better quality of life for all citizens. But at present the government is not doing the right things to achieve that goal.

      In a few short years (22), Cameroonians are supposed to be enjoying the trappings and quality of life that go with an emerging economy. As defined by economists, an emerging nation is one which has achieved industrial capacity and is on the path to becoming an industrialized nation. For Cameroon, that would be a miracle of epic proportions. It hasn’t happened over the past 30 years. If anything the country has regressed; a condition the president blames on the downturn (since 2008) of the global economy. This argument has no merit because by his own admission “developing countries were least affected due to their minimal involvement in the global economy” (Cameroon Tribune Jan 3). In fact the emerging markets (the Asian tigers) were quite resilient and experienced unprecedented growth. They are well governed and have created the environment and infrastructure for economic growth.

      If you ask the average Cameroonian what an emerging economy means to them, the answer will run something like this: I want to be able to travel easily and cheaply; have dependable clean water; enough food for my family; accessible and affordable health care, and a job or means of income to provide for my families’ needs.

      Good roads or physical infrastructure are basic to development. They move goods, people and technology. Even with the potential for hydropower, investors are not going to flock to Cameroon without good roads. They understand that without infrastructure (roads, bridges, rails, rivers and canals) they cannot move their raw materials and finished products. This is not rocket science.

      To the average Cameroonian reliable clean water is another important need. How many times have we read about water shortages in the urban areas? The rural areas are worse off. We all know that cholera outbreaks have been linked to poor or contaminated water supplies. At this time of the year (dry season) more than half the country, especially the northern section, is starved for water. I am not sure the situation will materially change in the next 22 years especially in light of the government’s track record.

      In his New Year address President Paul Biya talked of energy being the sine qua non for development. I think his argument is warped and misleading. In the Cameroon context, good roads and reliable water take precedent. On the pecking order of needs, energy is a poor third. His argument for energy as a prerequisite for development although valid seems more of a justification for concentrating most impactful development projects in the Kribi-Ebolowa axis. As usual, his address was full of empty promises. In a way I admire Biya for being astute. He knows he has a gullible audience that believes anything he says. To most Cameroonians, the massive construction sites, power plants, factories and roads alluded to in his speech are an illusion.

      The next great need to the Cameroonian is health care along with sanitation/hygiene. Health care is unavailable to many. Health care facilities are few and far between and ill equipped. Many deaths are preventable; the result of poor hygiene and sanitation exacerbated by contaminated water supplies. There is a concerted effort to train medical personnel and that is a good thing. But the medical personnel need the tools and facilities to do their jobs.

      The average Cameroonian wants to be able to educate their children, to secure employment and take care of the rest of the (often extended) family. Over the past several decades education has failed to provide that pathway. Part of the problem, which the president admits, is that the educational system is no longer relevant in today’s competitive global economy. Emerging economies have emphasized the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) approach in their educational systems.

      Families want to have enough food year round. Cameroon’s food security is a myth; a sizable proportion of the population goes hungry during the dry season. Moreover, food security does not only refer to quantity but to variety as well. The country has the capacity to be food sufficient given the rich volcanic soils. But like most things in the country, this capacity has been mismanaged.

      Cameroonians need to make most of the goods they consume. The government’s role is to facilitate the transitioning process, from a largely subsistence economy to light manufacturing which defines an emerging nation. The government does this by providing the infrastructure and the environment including nurturing entrepreneurs. It is the private sector that creates jobs for an emerging economy. The Bonaberi–Mutengene corridor used to be a hub of manufacturing back when I was in Sasse (in the 1960s). We used soap, sugar, umbrellas and footwear made in this corridor. The Land Rover was assembled in Douala. Today we import the goods we consume, even toothpicks and fish.

      Lastly, Biya and the 2035 Vision architects must realize that no nation ascends to emerging status with development and the attendant improved quality of life restricted to certain pockets of the country. There has to be a balanced approach involving and including all regions. Restricting development to the Ebolowa-Kribi-Douala-Yaoundé axis at the exclusion of the rest of the country will never achieve the intended goal.


      * 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.

      * Samba Tata can be reached at: [email protected]

      Advocacy & campaigns

      Constitution emboldens citizens to take part in budgeting

      George Jaramba and Salim Changani


      Fahamu is carrying out a participatory budgeting project in two counties in Kenya. In Kwale at the Indian Ocean coast, citizens are in the process of drawing up budgets for their priorities in public spending

      Despite being some of the most taxed citizens of the world, Kenyans have had little say in the manner their economy is managed. For as long as the country has been independent, the national budget , normally announced in June every year, has dictated the costs of basic commodities and essential services. Weeks before the minister for finance makes the important budget speech in parliament, many unscrupulous traders deliberately create a scarcity of particular commodities whose prices they expect to go up on Budget Day. This unpopular trend has affected the cost of essential commodities such as sugar, cooking oil, maize meal, petrol and kerosene just to mention but a few.

      But of crucial concern is the manner the minister prioritizes the issues he wishes the government to spend the most on. In the past, budget allocations have favoured some government departments as opposed to others which are equally in need. The end result in such circumstances has, however, not been very helpful in the general growth of the national economy.

      The Constitution of Kenya (2010) has, however, given much impetus to the ordinary citizen to participate in the management and decision-making process in governance socially, economically and politically. Article 174 illustrates this point. It is this constitutional relief that the residents of Kwale County have taken advantage of to come up with their own budget proposals as a means of kick-starting their development agenda.

      Dubbed Participatory Budget for local governments (PB), residents of Kwale County in collaboration with representatives of local community based organizations are working in partnership with Fahamu, a nongovernmental organization, to sensitize the communities to develop their budgets at the ward level as a way of ensuring that agenda setting begins at the community level.

      Participatory budgeting is a process of democratic deliberation and decision-making, and a type of participatory democracy, in which ordinary people decide how to allocate part of a municipal or public budget.

      The practice allows citizens to identify, discuss, and prioritize public spending on projects, and gives them the power to make actual decisions on which projects to undertake as a matter of priority.

      Although the concept is yet to be actualized in Kenya, participatory budgeting has worked in other parts of the world including the US, UK, Brazil, South Africa and Senegal. Fahamu is currently piloting the concept in two Kenyan counties, namely Kwale in the Coast and Kajiado in the Rift Valley region.

      In September 2012, the Kwale community engaged in a needs assessment process after which the priority areas were identified before electing budget delegates at the ward level. Kwale County currently has 20 wards following the recent boundary demarcations by the Andrew Ligale-led Interim Independent Boundaries Commission. The 20 wards are in Matuga, Msambweni, Kinango and the newly created Lunga-Lunga constituencies.

      The ward delegates are charged with developing specific spending proposals which will later be presented to the community for validation. If the community approves of the proposals, the same are to be forwarded to the county government for consideration of implementation.

      If implemented, participatory budgeting is expected to raise the social and economic well-being of the two counties. Areas that are expected to benefit significantly include education, health, agriculture, roads and energy sectors.

      Kwale and Kajiado participatory budget committees are scheduled to engage individuals seeking elective positions at the county level to sign a charter declaring that they will support and advocate for the implementation of the concept.

      The fate of this noble idea now depends on the outcome of the forthcoming elections and whether the elected leadership implements the proposals submitted by the communities.

      Various studies have suggested that participatory budgeting results in more equitable public spending, higher quality of life, increased satisfaction of basic needs, greater government transparency and accountability, increased levels of public participation (especially by marginalized or poorer residents), and democratic and citizenship learning.

      * George Jaramba is the Ward Delegate elected through the Participatory Budgeting project for Gombato-Bongwe while Salim Changani works with Msabweni Human Rights Watch.

      Jailing of Somali journalist and alleged rape victim a blow to fighting sexual violence

      Office of the United Nations High Commisssioner for Human Rights


      Journalist Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim, who did not even publish any article based on his interview, was jailed for one year along with Lul Ali Isman, the young woman who had alleged she had been raped by members of the security forces

      GENEVA (6 February 2013) – The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said Wednesday that the widely criticized trial and sentencing of a Somali journalist, and the alleged raped victim he interviewed, risks seriously undermining the fight against sexual violence and urged that their case should be reopened as soon as possible.

      “Sexual abuse in the camps for displaced people in Somalia is a real issue, and any effort to expose, denounce and deter these crimes should be supported,” Pillay said. “It is deeply disturbing that a woman alleging rape can be penalized for reporting such a crime, and a journalist jailed for investigating it.”

      “This is a terrible blow to freedom of expression in a country where independent journalists have also been regularly targeted and killed,” Pillay said. “Sexual violence is a perfectly valid subject for any journalist to investigate. No journalist should be arrested and sentenced by a court to one year in jail for doing his work,” she added.

      The freelance journalist, Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim, who did not even publish any article based on his interview, was jailed for one year on Tuesday by a court in Mogadishu, along with Lul Ali Isman, the young woman who had alleged she had been raped by members of the security forces. Her husband and two others charged in the same case were released by the court.

      Pillay condemned the statements made by some public authorities, including police commissioner General Sharif Shekuna Maye at a press conference on January 16, which exposed the alleged victim to public stigmatization, and potentially to personal risk, and in addition undermined her right to presumption of innocence. “The authorities should afford the necessary protection to victims reporting such crimes, and not seek to silence them,” she said.

      “I am very concerned about the impact the penalization of the woman alleging rape could have in the fight against impunity in sexual violence cases, especially given the reports of increasing sexual violence in Somalia,” the High Commissioner said. “And I am particularly shocked by the exposure of the victim of the alleged rape to public stigmatization,” she added.

      The High Commissioner also expressed her concerns about the handling of the pre-trial and trial phases, particularly the use of prolonged detention without charges – in contravention of Somalia’s own law -- and the limited space given to the defence.

      “This sentencing of the alleged victim after such a perfunctory and procedurally questionable investigation into the veracity of her claim does a terrible disservice to the women of Somalia, who will now feel they have nowhere to turn if they are sexually abused -- indeed will be actively deterred from doing so.”

      “I raised this case ten days ago directly with the Government of Somalia,” Pillay said. “I am now calling on the Government to urgently re-open this case and launch a full inquiry to clearly establish what happened and, if any allegations of abuses against the victim and the journalist are confirmed, to hold those responsible accountable.”

      Rights violations follow government directive on refugees

      Lucy Kiama


      Many refugees and asylum seekers have complained about arbitrary arrest and harassment by security officers

      On 18 December 2012, the Kenyan government through the Department of Refugees Affairs made an unprecedented announcement of a new directive to implement an encampment policy. All refugees and asylum seekers living in the urban areas were directed to relocate to the Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps. The directive further stated that the government was terminating all registrations of refugees and asylum seekers that were taking place in urban centres. This announcement came as a surprise to many agencies working on refugee protection within the urban areas and to refugees who have been living in urban centres since the early nineties.

      Following the announcement by the Government, the Refugee Consortium of Kenya (RCK) started receiving complaints from refugees through our protection monitors of their subjection to gross human rights violations by the Kenyan security forces who had began a security operation of rounding up refugees as part of implementing the government’s new directive.

      The complaints that RCK received and documented ranged from arbitrary arrests, extortion, loss of property, illegal detention and harassment of refugees and persons of specific ethnicities by security officers in Nairobi. It is of concern that the government issued the directive on the relocation of urban refugees and asylum seekers without consulting any stakeholders such as members of the Urban Refugee Protection Network (URPN). This is despite the close working relationship that the stakeholders have had with the government on matters of refugee protection and management.

      RCK also noted an increase in xenophobic attitudes from the Kenyan public against refugees. The xenophobic attitudes were being propagated by the media who were linking the increase of insecurity within the urban areas to the presence of refugees and asylum seekers, albeit there being no substantive evidence from the government which has linked refugees with acts of terrorism. It is important to reiterate that refugees and asylum seekers are not a threat to national security; on the contrary some have helped improve the economy of the country through their business ventures.

      On 16 January 2013 the government through the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Internal Security and Provincial Administration issued a directive to the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Special Programmes, indicating the government’s plan to start the relocation on 21 January 2013. The directive indicated that all refugees residing in the urban areas would be rounded up and temporarily accommodated at Thika Municipal Stadium before being transferred to the various camps. RCK and other partners of the URPN are of the view that this amounts to arbitrary detention and disrespect to fundamental human rights. The deliberate act by the government of Kenya to hold the refugees and provide them with humanitarian assistance yet citing the plans on relocation as an emergency, is a matter of great concern.

      As a result of this directive, the arbitrary arrests that had been witnessed in December became aggravated and many refugees and asylum seekers were arrested and others harassed by security officers. In interviews conducted with refugees and asylum seekers by RCK in January 2013, issues such as being detained by security officers and acts of extortion were frequently mentioned and documented. The refugees interviewed noted that security officers openly asked for bribes or asked the arrested refugees to inform their family/friends to take a certain amount of money to the officers in order to secure their freedom. These bribes ranged from as little as Kshs. 1,000 to as high as Kshs. 100,000, which clearly these refugees and asylum seekers cannot afford.

      In addition, RCK has also received unconfirmed reports that some refugees and asylum seekers have gone to other countries in search for “safe havens” while others have repatriated to their countries of origin despite the security risks that exist there.
      In a recent monitoring mission carried out by RCK to the Liboi border point, it was noted that 510 refugees crossed the border in the period between 18 -24 January 2013 and 138 of these had arrived from Nairobi. The refugees arriving from Nairobi had cited police harassment as the main cause for their decision to return to Somalia.

      On 23 January, 2013 refugees and asylum seekers got a reprieve when URPN agencies obtained a temporary court injunction stopping the relocation from taking place pending hearing of a suit that declares the directive unconstitutional. The court has since referred the matter to 19th February to allow time for the Attorney General’s office to file an affidavit reply to the application seeking for temporary orders to stop the government’s plan for relocation of urban refugees. UNHCR and Katiba Institute have also been enjoined in the suit as amicus and they will be making submissions to the court regarding the case.

      It is however disheartening to note that despite the ruling by the courts, the government appears determined to proceed with the relocation and has informed agencies in the camps to make preparations of receiving the refugees and asylum seekers from urban areas. RCK and other partners will continue to seek opportunities to lobby the government against this directive and to ensure that in the event that the government proceeds with implementing it that the rights and dignity of refugees and asylum seekers are fully protected.

      * Lucy Kiama is Executive Director of Refugee Council of Kenya

      Who are we? What do we want?

      Statement of the Network for Pan-Afrikan Solidarity on identity and resistance

      Network for Pan-Afrikan Solidarity



      This statement was delivered at a public education forum organized in response to a comment made Dr. Rinaldo Walcott who was one of the panelists at the event.

      Rinaldo Walcott is Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology and Equity Studies in Education. His areas of specialization are cultural studies and cultural theory; queer and gender theory, and transnational and diaspora studies. He is the author of Black like Who?: Writing Black Canada and the editor of Rude: Contemporary Black Canadian Cultural Criticism. (See video)


      The Network for Pan-Afrikan Solidarity (NPAS) called this public education event because we believe that identity matters. As Afrikan people, our individual and collective identities are consequences of our history.

      We cannot speak of Afrikan history without speaking of the ways in which the Western/colonial world has tried to interrupt it. For this reason, topics of enslavement and ongoing colonial violence remain heated discussions. Tonight, we encourage fruitful discussions on these things in relation to how we understand ourselves as Afrikan people. We also want to share NPAS’ vision of Afrikan identity and struggle.

      We believe that as Afrikan people, our identities matter because they are shaped by rich naming practices, creation stories, ethics, relation to the land and traditions of liberatory struggle, resistance and celebration and revolution.

      Our identities matter because they reach across the oceans and borders that separate us to find a global oneness. Our identities matter because out of diversities in sexuality, gender, gender identities, ethnicity, age, producer class status and ability. We remain a single people.

      Our identities matter because they continue to survive and facilitate the lives and experiences, as well as organizations and liberatory strategies and tactics, which we build in opposition to and that imagine and move beyond the violence inflicted by enslavement, genocide, global colonialism or imperialism and capitalism.

      Our identities matter because our history expresses a tendency towards and necessitates anti-capitalist, anti-patriarchal, anti-racist, anti-colonial and anti-heterosexist politics.

      Lastly, our identities matter because, being shaped by the present world and the foundation of the past, they have equipped us with the insight, courage, inspiration and imagination necessary to create the liberated and just future.

      NPAS asserts that our identity as Afrikan people informs our histories of liberatory struggle, resistance, survival and achievement. In the present stage of the struggle, we view the parallel institutions of enslavement and colonial genocide as running counter to our transformative conceptions of the world. These institutions have attempted to divide our people; to sever us from our Indigenous homelands and values; to make us ashamed of our Afrikaness ; and to instigate internal violence and rivalries.

      But these institutions of domination have also offered us instructive lessons. From enslavement and genocide we’ve learned that a world shaped by white supremacy, labour theft and exploitation, sexual violence, environmental warfare, and state violence is one that seeks to destroy us and the broader humanity. Therefore, we stand in permanent opposition to this world. We continue to survive in spite of the forces that oppress us. We strive to recognize and resist all forms of oppression, including those in which we remain complicit.

      We endeavour to root our identities within the legacy of revolutionary ancestors, histories, people, and ideologies. The preceding approach to liberation will ensure our active, careful[3], and successful resistance to and healing from colonialism, capitalism, white supremacist doctrine, and all forces of oppression that disconnect us from our personhood.

      In short, if who we are is Afrikan people, then what we want is the full and complete emancipation of our people - a liberation that necessitates and entails the liberation of all peoples. This orientation is the foundation for both the Network for Pan-Afrikan Solidarity and the approach to Pan-Afrikanism through which we continue to organize, resist, and reaffirm our value as Afrikan people.


      [1] Delivered at the “Who am I? What am I doing?: Identity, Pan-Afrikanism and White Domination” public forum at the University of Toronto (Canada) on January 19, 2013.

      [2] Members of the working-class and peasantry and the revolutionary petty bourgeois who have committed Cabralian class suicide and become one with the people.

      [3] Not simply in the sense of 'cautious/prudent', but also in the sense of 'with care' - it is absolutely indispensable that we strive to learn to care deeply enough about liberation to live for it, whether or not we're ready yet to talk about those things and people we're willing to die for. we'll die someday anyway, and until then there's work to do.

      Books & arts

      Africa and the drug problem

      Review of ‘Africa and the War on Drugs’ by Neil Carrier and Gernot Klantschnig/, (London: Zed Books 2012)

      Lansana Gberie


      The undoubted merit of this book is in its providing of historical depth to understanding the drug menace. But readers should beware of the danger of substituting one’s irritation with some of the awkward policies of western governments with concern for the African predicament.

      The publishers claim for Africa and the War on Drugs that it is a vital book on a neglected subject. The book is indeed timely and makes important points, but the subject is far from being overlooked, as the authors themselves acknowledge when they complain about the “sensationalizing of the drug situation in Africa.” Neil Carrier and Gernot Klantschnig, the co-authors, begin their argument from this point, noting that the simplifying narrative spurned by the American-driven ‘war on drugs’ has been utterly counterproductive in Africa. This is because the effort has merely led to increased militarization, repression and corruption without tackling the “real problems surrounding the production, trade and use of drugs” on the continent (p.2).

      There is much truth in this observation, but the authors’ conclusions in this brief, well-written and tightly argued book – an extended polemic rather than a substantial study – are overdrawn. This is partly because they anchor their arguments on their distaste for the Reagan-inspired ‘war on drugs’ and its depredations before seriously considering the evidence of its manifestations in Africa. More importantly, they seem somewhat dismissive of African anxieties around the pernicious problem of drug trafficking, and are almost entirely ignorant of the work of African researchers and policy makers who are looking at the problem from within Africa.

      The African Union (AU) Plan of Action on Drug Control and Crime Prevention 2007-2012 captures African anxiety in this respect by noting the “increased linkages between drugs and conventional and organized crime in Africa.” I attended the 4th session of the AU Conference of Ministers for Drug Control and Crime Prevention, held at its headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on 29 September to 2 October in 2010. Meant to review the implementation of the Action Plan, the meeting stressed increased investment in medical treatment, collaborative law enforcement to prevent trafficking, and preventative measures to curb addiction. South Africa and Kenya appeared to possess more advanced treatment programmes, but all the countries agreed on a multi-dimensional approach to limit the problem. Some experts at the meeting, mainly from South Africa, expressed the fear that the increased use of intravenous drugs may well undermine the largely successful efforts to limit the spread of HIV Aids, a point which is not often discussed in the debate on drug abuse in Africa.

      The authors of Africa and the War on Drugs mention the AU Action Plan in passing among other regional initiatives, but only to underline their key argument in the book: that policies implemented based on such plans “have prioritized the tougher interdiction, prosecution and punishment of drug criminals” (p.129). This sounds glib in the context.

      Of the three case studies in the book – Nigeria, Guinea-Bissau and Lesotho – the authors identify only Nigeria as using outright repression to tackle the problem. Guinea-Bissau is said to be complicit in international trafficking, and Lesotho merely neglectful. The authors tediously wrestle with the notion of ‘weak’ (and ‘criminal’) states in Africa, and with respect to Guinea-Bissau – which has seemed to be the complete manifestation of this notion – they argue that though there is “strong evidence” of its military’s involvement in drug trafficking, “some of the subsequent claims of the state-crime nexus made in the media can be considered unfounded” (p.113.

      I quickly checked the publication date for this book – 11 October 2012. This is way after army officers known for their participation in the international narcotics trade in the country overthrew the internationally-credible civilian administration in between national elections on 22 April 2012. The coup showed that these soldiers were the state; and as it happens, recent reports suggest that drug trafficking through the country has increased exponentially. It makes a nonsense of the authors’ claim that political instability in the country “might be the best guarantee for the decline of Guinea-Bissau’s status as a ‘narco-state’”. The absurd statement is made in the context of the authors’ view that the country’s political instability means that narco-traffickers have to constantly look for local collaborators – anyone minimally familiar with Guinea-Bissau knows that its military has remained the unshakable power for decades.

      The undoubted merit of this book is in its providing historical depth to understanding the problem, using mainly the penetrating works of the Harvard (and Ghanaian) scholar Emmanuel Acheampong and the distinguished British Africanist Stephen Ellis, among others. [i] This aspect, however, is almost obscured by the extended discussion that the authors give to perfectly legitimate and largely non-controversial drugs like alcohol, cola nut, cigarettes and khat (the latter a highly valuable export for the Ethiopian government, and a popular and mild narcotic, as I found out while living in Ethiopia in 2010-2011).

      I spent sometime in 2011 looking at the narcotics problem in West Africa, traveling to Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Liberia, and speaking to dozens of local and international officials and journalists interested in the issue. I was particularly keen on examining the problem of internal drug use, especially among youths, since clearly West Africa, contrary to widespread views, is more than just a transit point for South American drug traffickers. Once traffickers establish a foothold, they tend to start paying local agents in kind rather than in cash, and the drugs are then sold in local communities, leading to the emergence of competing gangs. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), in fact, had in 2010 estimated that cocaine abuse among Ghanaians of 15 years and older at 1.1% of the population was the highest in Africa, and was almost as high as that in the UK (1.7% of the population). Ghana also has a high rate of amphetamine abuse within that demographic group, 0.1%. [ii]

      For these reasons – and there are more – Ghana should provide the most important case study of the problem. I interviewed Yaw Akrassi-Sarpong, the Executive Secretary of Ghana’s Narcotics Control Board, in April 2011. He said that because of its stability, reasonably sophisticated banking system and large property market, Ghana is attractive as a base for big time cocaine traffickers and dealers. Money laundering was a key concern.

      “We have the highest convictions for narcotics-related offences in the region,” he told me, “but the problem is manifold.” Akrassi-Sarpong said that the problem has to be tackled regionally, but law-enforcement mechanisms are extremely weak in neighbouring Francophone countries and this trafficking from those countries into Ghana and elsewhere in the region. A May 2010 report by the Dakar-based GIABA entitled Corruption–Money Laundering Nexus: An Analysis of Risks and Control Measures in West Africa, not mentioned by the authors of Africa and the War on Drugs, made similar points.

      In the past, Ghanaian nationals have been convicted in the US for drug trafficking, including a member of parliament who was arrested in November 2005 in New York and was linked to a trafficking network operating in New York. While I was in Ghana in April 2011, six people were sentenced to long terms in prison for unlawful possession of 22 boxes of cocaine “found hidden in a concealed compartment behind a big-sized mirror.” Some high officials of the previous government in Ghana – the Kuffour administration – were widely believed to be complicit in the illicit business.

      Developments such as those largely informed the anxieties expressed in the July 2009 UNODC report, Transnational Trafficking and the Rule of Law in West Africa: A Threat Assessment, which noted that drug trafficking in West Africa has undermined the rule of law, deepened corruption and jeopardised state and human security in the region. This report led to the first UN Security Council debate on this issue, on 8 December 2009, during the rotating presidency of Burkina Faso. The debate led to a presidential statement urging the UN Secretary General to “consider mainstreaming the issue of drug trafficking as a factor in conflict prevention strategies, conflict analysis, integrated-missions’ assessment and planning and peacebuilding support.” Since then, the sheer scale of the cocaine seized in Liberia, the Gambia and elsewhere in the region underline the seriousness of the problem: the worth of the drugs are several times more than that of the budgets of those countries.

      A 100-page judgment in a major trial of cocaine traffickers in Sierra Leone in 2009, by Justice Browne-Marke, showed why these anxieties are not misplaced, and why the problem goes way beyond the implications for health, pace Neil Carrier and Gernot Klantschnig. The trial revealed the range of networks the traffickers had in Sierra Leone, including very senior government officials, top security agents, businessmen, fake NGOs, a fake mining company, safe houses in the interior of the country, and young people, including students, co-opted into the operation. The judgment noted that the country’s chief intelligence agency, CISU, as well as the Special Branch of the police in charge of serious criminal cases, “had become penetrated institutions, accepting shop-worn wares as good intelligence.”

      It may well be, as Africa and the War on Drugs argues, that African “discourses on drugs” are shaped by “western ideas on drugs and the supply-sided control” (p.7). But is that not because the “discourses” are rooted in lived reality? This brave little book unintentionally reveals, once again, the danger of substituting one’s irritation with some of the awkward policies of western governments with concern for the African predicament. Friends of Africa should always have this trap in mind.

      * Dr. Lansana Gberie is a specialist on African peace and security issues. He is the author of A Dirty War in West Africa: The RUF and the Destruction of Sierra Leone (Indiana University Press 2005). He lives in New York.

      [i] See Emmanuel Akyempong, “Diaspora and Drug Trafficking in West Africa: A Case Study of Ghana,” African Affairs 104 (416), 429-47; and Stephen Ellis, West Africa’s International drug Trade,” African Affairs 108 (431), 171-196.
      [ii] The AU that year recognized marijuana as “the most problematic illicit drug in Africa” and estimated that it accounts for 64 percent of drug treatment demand on the continent.

      African-Caribbean Communist defied racism, sexism and class oppression

      Review of ‘Claudia Jones: Beyond Containment’ (2011), edited by Carole Boyce Davies, Ayebia Clarke Publishing (241 pages)

      Abayomi Azikiwe


      This book makes a tremendous contribution to the literature on left, feminist and Pan-African struggles during the 20th century

      Professor Carole Boyce Davies of Cornell University has continued her unearthing of the life and political legacy of Claudia Vera Jones (1915-1964), a leading figure in the communist and Black liberation movements between the 1930s and 1960s.

      Following her previous work entitled: “Left of Karl Marx: The Political Life of Black Communist Claudia Jones” (2008), this book “Claudia Jones: Beyond Containment (2011), is a collection of writings by Jones herself which reveals why her impact was so profound during the period between the Great Depression and the awakening movements of the 1950s and 1960s.

      The first book by Davies was more of a literary critique of Jones’ work combined with analyses of the way in which her journalism and organizing has been largely ignored by the established left and African American scholarship on the history of the struggle for a synthesis of the convergence of national oppression, gender discrimination and class struggle. This book allows Jones to more fully speak for herself over a period of three decades from the Caribbean to the United States and finally Britain.

      Jones was born Claudia Cumberbatch in 1915 in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, which was then a British colony. Although she came from a stable family, the economic crisis which hit the island during the 1920s prompted them to immigrate to New York City in 1922. Her mother worked in a garment factory after arriving in the U.S. but died in 1927.

      A brilliant student, Jones would later join the campaign to save the life of and free the Scottsboro Nine, who were falsely accused of raping two white women in Alabama. The young African American men faced the death penalty and had it not been for the efforts of the Communist Party and later the NAACP, they would have been executed.

      Although Jones was highly accomplished academically, during the 1930s opportunities were extremely limited for African-Caribbean immigrant women. Instead of attending college or university, she took on menial jobs in laundries, factories and retail outlets in New York.

      In 1932, at the age of 17, she contracted tuberculosis which damaged her health for the remainder of her life. Nonetheless, after her involvement with the Scottsboro Nine case, she became deeply involved with left politics and joined the Young Communist League (YCL) in 1936.

      She would also become active in cultural affairs through a drama group organized by the National Urban League. Later she would begin to write a column entitled “Claudia Comments” for a Harlem publication.

      After joining the YCL, she would be recruited as a staff writer for the Daily Worker, the newspaper of the Communist Party during this period. Jones became an organizer in Harlem where she engaged in mass work through the National Negro Congress (NNC) and the Southern Negro Youth Congress (SNYC).

      Her talent and dedication would result in a meteoric rise within the ranks of the Party. By the early 1940s, Jones would serve on the National Council of the YCL, directing its educational division. She sat on the editorial board of the Weekly Review and in 1943 she took control of Spotlight, the monthly magazine of the American Youth for Democracy.

      Jones would become heavily involved as an organizer of youth, civil rights and religious groups as well as immigrant rights committees. In 1945, she was appointed “Negro Affairs” editor of the Daily Worker and became the youngest staff member. During the same year she was appointed to the National Negro Commission and the Party’s National Committee.

      In a report to the Communist Party national convention in 1950 she stressed the need to “demonstrate that the economic, political and social demands of Negro women are not just ordinary demands, but special demands, flowing from special discrimination facing Negro women as women, as workers and as Negroes.”


      Jones’ organizing work brought her to the attention of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). In searching for background information on the young activist, government agents eventually discovered that she had applied for and been denied permanent residence and citizenship.

      In the aftermath of World War II, the U.S. government began an intense campaign against the left. Thousands of people were harassed, vilified and arrested, forcing many into seclusion, exile and deportation.

      During this wave of repression Jones was arrested on immigration charges in 1948. She was held at the notorious Ellis Island detention facility while a campaign was launched which halted her deportation at the time. She was represented by an African American lawyer from Detroit George Crockett, Jr., who would later become a judge and U.S. Congressman.

      Eventually in 1951, she was charged with violating the Smith Act, which outlawed the “advocacy” of overthrowing the U.S. government. She was indicted along with other leading Communists including Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Simon Gerson, James E. Jackson and others.

      She remained free while the case was under appeal. However, in 1955 her appeal was rejected by the Supreme Court and she was sent to federal prison in Virginia where she suffered a heart attack. Later in October 1955 she was released after a national campaign but was forced to leave the U.S. to live in Britain.

      Her years in Britain were heavily centered on the fight against racism. She would publish the West Indian Gazette and initiate the Caribbean Carnival in London.

      Jones traveled to the Soviet Union and China during the early 1960s. However, the conditions under which she lived in the U.S. when she had tuberculosis as a youth and a later heart attack in federal prison compromised her health in later years.

      In December 1964, Claudia Jones passed away in Britain and was buried in Highgate cemetery near Karl Marx. Her life contributions are becoming more well-known in the current period.

      This book makes a tremendous contribution to the literature on left, feminist and Pan-African struggles during the 20th century. A new generation of activists and organizers will benefit immensely from Jones’ writings on the most pressing and burning issues of the period.

      * Abayomi Azikiwe is Editor, Pan-African News Wire.

      Fahamu - Networks For Social Justice

      Pambazuka News is published by Fahamu Ltd.

      © Unless otherwise indicated, all materials published are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. For further details see:

      Pambazuka news can be viewed online: English language edition
      Edição em língua Portuguesa
      Edition française
      RSS Feeds available at

      Pambazuka News is published with the support of a number of funders, details of which can be obtained here.

      or send a message to [email protected] with the word SUBSCRIBE or UNSUBSCRIBE in the subject line as appropriate.

      The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of Pambazuka News or Fahamu.

      With around 2,600 contributors and an estimated 600,000 readers, Pambazuka News is the authoritative pan-African electronic weekly newsletter and platform for social justice in Africa providing cutting edge commentary and in-depth analysis on politics and current affairs, development, human rights, refugees, gender issues and culture in Africa.

      Order cutting-edge climate titles from Pambazuka Press:

      'Earth Grab: Geopiracy, the New Biomassters and Capturing Climate Genes' – OUT NOW

      To Cook a Continent: Destructive Extraction and the Climate Crisis in Africa – OUT NOW

      * Pambazuka News is on Twitter. By following '@pambazuka' on
      Twitter you can receive headlines from our 'Features' and 'Comment & Analysis' sections as they are published, and can even receive our headlines via SMS. Visit our Twitter page for more information:

      * Pambazuka News has a page, where you can view the various websites that we visit to keep our fingers on the pulse of Africa! Visit

      ISSN 1753-6839 Pambazuka News English Edition

      ISSN 1753-6847 Pambazuka News en Français

      ISSN 1757-6504 Pambazuka News em Português

      © 2009 Fahamu -