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    Back Issues

    Pambazuka News 617: The scourge of violence: Kenya, Mali, South Africa and Haiti

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

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    Pambazuka News (English edition): ISSN 1753-6839

    CONTENTS: 1. Features, 2. Comment & analysis, 3. Advocacy & campaigns, 4. Letters & Opinions


    Kenya: Fears of poll violence as Mungiki re-emerges

    Henry Makori


    cc P C
    There are rising fears that Mungiki is regrouping to possibly unleash another orgy of deadly violence should their preferred candidate, Uhuru Kenyatta, lose the presidential contest.

    In recent months, media in Kenya has reported the re-emergence of the terror group Mungiki in parts of the central region. Mungiki, an exclusively Kikuyu ethnic militia, has over the years been blamed for atrocious violence and extortion in central Kenya, the Rift Valley and Nairobi.

    Mungiki's last known leader was Maina Njenga, who announced two years ago that he had converted to Christianity and is now seeking election as senator for Nairobi County. No one speaks for the proscribed underground militia nowadays.

    The group is accused of having been used by powerful politicians to conduct retaliatory attacks in Nairobi and Rift Valley during the 2007-2008 post-election violence. The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court alleges that Mungiki leaders held a meeting at State House, the president's official residence in Nairobi, to plot the attacks.

    Several Mungiki leaders were killed in mysterious circumstances or disappeared after the post-election violence.

    Four Kenyans, including Jubilee Coalition presidential candidate Uhuru Kenyatta and his running mate William Ruto, will stand trial from April 10 at the ICC for crimes against humanity committed in the 2007-2008 polls chaos.

    Now, with another hotly contested election only days away on March 4, there are rising fears that Mungiki is regrouping possibly to stage another orgy of violence should their preferred candidate, Uhuru, lose the presidential contest.

    There are eight presidential candidates in this election. The latest opinion polls show that the contest is between Uhuru and the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) candidate Prime Minister Raila Odinga, with Raila leading by two percentage points at most. Pollsters are also predicting a second round, as neither of the two is likely to meet the high constitutional threshold for a straight win on March 4.

    On Wednesday, 20 February, a CORD campaign convoy was attacked by youths in Kiambu County, a Uhuru stronghold neighbouring Nairobi City, where Mungiki is believed to have reactivated its networks.

    The incident comes less than two weeks after gangs of youths attempted to disrupt Odinga’s campaign rallies in parts of central Kenya.

    On the day of the latest attack, Kenya’s Chief Justice and President of the Supreme Court Dr Willy Mutunga issued a statement (see next report) stating that he had received a letter purportedly from Mungiki threatening him and High Court judges. The threat was connected to an integrity case concerning Uhuru and Ruto that was coming up for a ruling.

    Kenyan media has reported that, days before the letter was sent to the Chief Justice, a close ally of presidential candidate Uhuru Kenyatta, Mr. Kabando wa Kabando, issued a threat to the judges similar to that contained in the Mungiki letter.

    These recent developments have led to increased anxiety, with reports saying non-Kikuyu citizens living in central Kenya are relocating to safer places, despite repeated government assurances of increased security during the election period.

    Below is the letter allegedly sent by Mungiki to Chief Justice Mutunga:


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    Threats, harassment of Kenya's top judge ahead of elections

    Statement by Chief Justice/President of Supreme Court

    Willy Mutunga


    cc C FM
    Days to the March 4 elections a gang purporting to act in the interest of Jubilee Coalition presidential candidate Uhuru Kenyatta threatens the Supreme Court president, who also complains of harassment by the all-powerful Head of the Civil Service and Secretary to the Cabinet, Francis Kimemia

    Fellow Kenyans, I have called this press conference to inform the country of two separate but significant events that have occurred in the past one week. I have considered the possible implications of this public statement, but concluded that given the history of this country, such a public disclosure is warranted, necessary, and proper.

    This statement does not seek to cause alarm but to strengthen the resolve of each and every Kenyan to protect our Constitution, secure our transition, and affirm our future.

    On Monday, February 18, 2013, as I was sitting in the Judicial Service Commission interviews for the recruitment of the Deputy Chief Justice, my office received a poison-pen letter from the Mungiki Veterans Group/Kenya Sovereignty Defence Squad.

    The letter, which was dated Wednesday, February 13, 2013, makes all manner of threats against the judges, ambassadors and my person. It warns against an adversarial ruling on the presidential and deputy presidential candidacy of Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto. The letter extols the violent ‘exploits’ of the Mungiki movement and threatens dire consequences.

    This letter was posted only a day before my departure to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, where I had been invited by the Tanzanian Constitution Review Commission to a one-day event to share my thoughts and experiences on Kenya's constitutional experience.

    I was stopped at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) by an immigration officer, who insisted that I could not travel because I had not been cleared by Mr. Francis Kimemia, the Permanent Secretary, Head of the Public Service, and Secretary to the Cabinet. I told the official that there is no constitutional, statutory, or policy basis or requirement that provided for the Chief Justice of the Republic to seek clearance to travel from the Head of Civil Service or anybody. Further, the said circular that he was invoking to make this illegal demand and decision did not -- rightly so -- even have the Chief Justice listed among the public officials on it.

    It requires quite some courage, ignorance, or political patronage or a combination of all three for an immigration officer, on his own motion, to summon the confidence to stop a Chief Justice from travelling, particularly in the face of a nonexistent circular!

    After much haggling, I did eventually travel. The Immigration Shift Supervisor kept insisting that they were awaiting instructions. However, I still find the insistence on permission from Mr Kimemia bizarre to say the least. Even more baffling was that the Chief Registrar of the Judiciary received a purported ‘Clearance to travel” letter by Mr. Kimemia dated February 14, stating ‘ has been noted the Chief Justice is travelling to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’.

    Upon landing in Dar es Salaam, I received a telephone call from the Director General of the National Intelligence Service, Major-General Michael Gichangi, apologizing for the 'small hiccup' at the airport. I told the DG that a Chief Justice being gratuitously stopped by anybody from travelling cannot fit the definition of a small hiccup, however generous one may want to be. It has never happened on any of my numerous previous trips. I have, therefore, concluded that this is deliberate harassment; and whereas I was keen to have this resolved bureaucratically, I am convinced it is political, and public accountability requires that I make it public.

    These two incidents evidence a pattern of emerging harassment against my person, the Office of the Chief Justice, and the Judiciary - especially since no fewer than five Judges have been attacked in the recent past, with some involving gun incidence – as we head into the elections. I, therefore, wish to state as follows:

    1. Kenyans have invested heavily in this country's democratization, and this investment has resulted in a new Constitution. This Constitution must be protected and guarded jealously. Threats and intimidation of this nature against the Chief Justice, judges, or any other Kenyan or individual must be resisted actively, and rejected resolutely. I have given most of my life to a better Kenya and if taking it is what will be required to consolidate and secure our democratic gains in this election, or even thereafter, that is a price I am not afraid to pay.

    2. I have invested heavily in the past one and half years in creating a new Judiciary. I have repeatedly given my pledge to the country that the Judiciary will not flinch in interpreting the Constitution as is required, a task we have executed very well. For the 2013 General Election, we have done sufficient groundwork to handle both pre- and post-election matters in accordance with the law. On February 28, 2013, we shall hold a special session with all judges of the High Court to give Kenyans a final statement on our preparedness. Therefore, candidates or their supporters -- real or claimed -- should not panic. We shall decide all cases independently, and with scrupulous fidelity to the Constitution and the law. Let no individual, group, candidate, or supporter imagine that cowardly and darkly acts such as these will cower us. We have seen and overcome worse, and we will all soldier on for this country. None will be held hostage by a cabal of retrogrades.

    3. The Judiciary has, in a private correspondence, communicated to Mr. Kimemia as to the legal position on the matter of the 'small hiccup' to ensure it never occurs again.

    4. I believe that Kenyan security agencies, unless they wilfully neglect or refuse to, have the capacity and resources to investigate the sources and partnerships of this threatening letter. To this end, I have this morning sent the letter to the Inspector General of Police, the Director of the Criminal Investigations Department, Director of the National Intelligence Service, and the Director of Public Prosecutions to investigate this matter and give the country a progress report. I am also asking the Inspector General of Police to take the necessary steps to enhance the security of judges and other judicial officers at this time.

    5. If anybody, any candidate, any party, any agency, or any other actor thinks that it will bend the ear, mind and resolve of this Chief Justice to do anything that is unconstitutional or illegal, then they are mistaken. On any matter that will come before me or the Supreme Court, I and the Court shall operate strictly within the confines of the Constitution. Intimidation and threats are uninvited guests and will not be hosted in the execution of our mandate.

    6. The political class must choose whether, either through direct pronouncements or suggestive behaviour, they want a peaceful, democratic and fair election free from the ring of rigging and intimidation, or whether they want to put the country on a path of violence. Whatever choice the political class and leadership makes, they must remain aware that ultimately, the people of Kenya and the rule of law will triumph. The Judiciary is playing its part in protecting and upholding the Constitution; let Kenyans also do their part.

    7. I appeal to Kenyans to hold a peaceful election. It is only by so doing that we shall silence these dark forces of retrogression and also advance our constitutional and democratic promise. My fellow Kenyans, with confidence and tribute to the nation, go and vote for our Constitution. It is the only way to reject those who threaten and proclaim violence as a false choice. Thank you.

    * Hon. Dr. Willy Mutunga, D. Jur., SC, EGH, is Chief Justice/President, Supreme Court of Kenya


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

    The scourge of gender based violence in South Africa

    Azwifaneli Managa and Bertha Chiroro


    cc N P
    South African women are regularly confronted with systemic sexual harassment, violence, and murder as the recent cases of Shrien Dewani, Anene Booysen and Reeva Steenkamp illustrate. Sustainable development will be unobtainable when women and children are brutalized by violence and any other form of gender based discrimination of which the state has a duty to prevent.

    Gender-based violence is a persistent worldwide problem, occurring in every culture in all societies. The underlying problem seems to be that many societies consider it a ‘private’ affair and therefore ‘acceptable’. However, women in different social classes, races, age groups, sexual orientation groups; both in rural and in urban areas are vulnerable to violence perpetrated by men. It is deeply ingrained in societies and has serious impacts on women’s health and well-being. Although in South Africa, 16 days of activism against violence on women and children have been set aside; violence pervades our societies on a daily basis with total disregard to the laws, and the conventions that our countries are signatories to. What is more disheartening is that, whilst the laws are available, whenever a brutal act of violence against women and children happens, and the statistics are presented by the police to the public, life seems to go on.

    Sadly, the work of reducing the scourge is left to a few committed individuals and civil society organizations, to continue to support victims, as well as lobby for the dignity, freedom, and security of women. Sustainable development can never be realized when women and children are petrified and brutalized by violence and any other form of gender based discrimination of which the state has a duty to prevent.


    Gender based violence manifests itself in different forms, some brutal, some subtle, such as physical; sexual and psychological violence; domestic violence; sexual abuse; rape and sexual abuse of women and children; ‘corrective rape’ and murder on account of sexual orientation, forced pregnancy; honor killings, burning or acid throwing; female genital mutilation; dowry related violence; violence and rape in armed conflict; trafficking of women for commercial sex work; and sexual harassment and intimidation at work.

    The recent case of the gang rape, and subsequent death of a woman in India that sparked outrage worldwide, showed the pervasiveness of the nature of violence against women in our societies. However, we are outraged by the fact that South Africa seems to be the epicenter of some gruesome and brutal cases of violence against women and children. There seems to be a notion that South Africa is a place where crimes can be committed and somehow people seem to get away with it without any severe consequences. For example, the UK businessman (Shrien Dewani) allegedly came to South Africa to violently murder his own wife; the case is still dragging on in the courts, for the extradition of Shrien Dewani to face murder charges. Furthermore, the case of the rape and brutality of Anene Booysen left the whole country in shock. Subsequent to this brutal death of this young woman, more reports of women being raped and killed all over South Africa have came to light evidently showing the ills of our society.

    The President Jacob Zuma during his State of the Nation Address of 14 February 2013 has alluded to the fact that such forms of brutality and cruelty are unacceptable in South Africa and should be dealt with thoroughly.

    In addition, the controversy over the death of Reeva Steenkamp who was allegedly shot and killed by a person close and trusted to her has had every woman’s blood boiling and living in panic and trepidation. This has raised emotions all over the world, such that society is now calling for tougher sentences for cases of domestic violence. Scholars have reported that this scourge is caused by a mixture of traditional values, relationship jealousy, power relations and ignorance of women and children’s rights amongst many. Violence is a mechanism in which women are forced into a subordinate position and therefore unable to realize their full potential, when lives are lost, careers are cut short, and sustainable development is jeopardized.

    Unbelievably so, after 18 years of democracy, South African women are regularly confronted with systemic sexual harassment and violence. The government somehow seems to have failed to enforce laws and policies intended to safeguard women’s rights, and, even the police often fail to provide adequate protection. Instead of women enjoying the fruits of democratic freedom, they are constantly living in fear of rape, harassment, discrimination and murder. Hence we argue that gender discrimination and violation of women’s human rights should have punishable consequences and effective enforcement.


    South Africa has made so much progress since 1994 in terms of putting together legislation, policies, and even resources for the empowerment of women and children, from South Africa’s renowned constitution to various interventions including the recent Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill which is supposed to fill in some gaps with groups that need protection such as widows, women with disabilities, and LGBTI groups. Section 9 (1) of the Constitution advices us that ‘…everyone is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law’ (2) ‘…equality includes the full and equal enjoyment of all rights and freedoms’ and (3) the same section states that: ‘…the state may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more on grounds, of race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, color, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscious, belief, culture, language, and birth. Furthermore, the South African Sexual Offences Act (2007) affords every citizen the maximum protection from domestic abuse that the law can provide; free from all forms of violence from either public or private sources.’

    In spite of all these efforts and considerable measures, there seems to be a disconnection when an individual has committed a crime and the reaction imposed on such a crime. In addition, the process of allegation to sentencing is long and unrealistic of crimes in South Africa, specifically for women and children.

    Therefore ‘Justice delayed is justice denied.’ It seems as though the legal system does not work when in actually fact it does work but it is too slow.
    South Africa’s decision to join international commitments and obligations to ending violence against women and children seems ineffective, since most cases of these acts are high during times when celebrations are happening.

    Unfortunately, the country always has high domestic violence cases during such critical times that suggest government is failing to offer the victims of domestic violence, which are women and children, the maximum protection and security they most require.


    The UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (1993) states that ‘...violence against women is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women.’ South African society, like most societies, is patriarchal in such a way that women are forced into a subordinate position compared with men which exacerbates their vulnerability to domestic violence.

    There are high numbers of sexual offences in South Africa; however, there are conflicting statistics. The 2012 South African Police Service statistics reported 64, 514 sexual offences for that the financial year, meaning 176 cases per day. Although there seems to be a 3,7 percent decrease from the previous year, the figures are believed to be a considerable underestimate of the true number of rapes, as many cases go unreported. Another study by the Medical
    Research Council study found that 28 percent of men surveyed had raped a woman or a girl, and one in 25 said they had raped a woman or girl in the past year. Seemingly, 7 rape cases are reported to the police every hour. These figures on their own should be a cause for societal outrage, more so the fact that most women and children report that their abusers are people close and known to them.

    Gender based violence is a human rights violation, it is also a brutal manifestation of the wider discrimination against women, which is to be understood against the background of the subordination of women within the patriarchal system that still exists in South Africa and in most countries. Gender roles and expectations can and do play a role in abusive situations, and exploring these roles and expectations can be helpful in addressing abusive situations. Likewise, it can be helpful to explore factors such as race, class, religion, sexuality and philosophy. The fact that tens of thousands of rapes continue to take place every year in South Africa is a clear indication that the problem must be addressed in a much more urgent, holistic, and forceful manner.


    The entrenched culture of sexual violence which prevails in South Africa must end. We need to build a culture that is intolerant of rape and any form of women and children abuse. Perpetrators should understand that it is absolutely unacceptable to violate others’ human rights and should they envisage/contemplate any form of sexual violence they will have to face the consequences of their terrible acts. There is an urgent need for a more thorough response across the whole spectrum of South African society to tackle the root causes of this epidemic of sexual violence. These issues of sexual violence and murder against women are not of concern to women alone. Every member of the society must play their part in widespread response to stopping gender-based violence.


    • Firstly and foremost, society has to realize that committing crimes against women and children is wrong, because it scars the whole community. In addition, women just like anyone else irrespective of sexual orientation, race, class, age, and location are entitled to their human dignity, and integrity.
    • Crimes against women and children need to come out of the ‘private’ arena and become a public issue with political and societal connotations, and hence requires an adequate and effective response.
    • It should be clearly spelt out that gender based violence is incompatible with the values of a democratic state and the rule of law and a serious impediment to sustainable development. The scourge and epidemic of violence against women can be eliminated; it requires a multiplicity of interventions, including tightening the legal instruments moral and political will, and society rallying against this violation of women’s rights.

    * Azwifaneli Managa and Bertha Chiroro are both researchers at the Africa Institute of South Africa, Sustainable Development Program.

    * 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.


    1. Newham, G; Burger, J; Gould, G AND Lancaster, L. September 20, 2012. FACT SHEET: Explaining the official statistics for 2011/12. Total crime level in South Africa. Institute for Security Studies (ISS); Pretoria.
    2. Nicholson, Z; Jones, M. February, 8 2013. Up to 3600 rapes in SA every day.

    Big Oil, human rights and sustainable development in Africa

    Implications of SERAP vs. Federal Republic of Nigeria (ECOWAS Court) 2012

    Olivia Kokushubila Lwabukuna


    cc E M
    The latest court case represents a novel attempt by a regional tribunal to indirectly ensure that businesses carried out in Africa are socially conscious and responsible for the environment and economic as well as social development of the communities within which they operate

    The African continent has lost billions through mismanaged transnational transactions. [1]] These large amounts of funds could have contributed immensely to Africa’s growth. Social and environmental damages caused by activities of some multinationals in Africa have raised additional concerns. Existing legal and regulatory frameworks find themselves incapable of holding multinationals liable especially after investment treaties have been signed. African countries resort to playing catch up, whilst crafty contractual clauses limit or minimise liabilities for these foreign actors. Conventional international law and human rights frameworks impose obligations upon the state, but the role of the private sector in broadly protecting these rights has been overlooked over the years. [2] The increasing role of the private sector in public functions resulting from privatisation, economic globalisation and trade liberalization, as well as the potential of the private sector to contribute to the development of Africa, have made it necessary for existing policy, legal and regulatory regimes to be revisited.


    The private sector is capable of directly violating individual rights. Rights under threat include the right against discrimination, liberty, physical integrity, labour rights, and most importantly health and environmental rights. [3] The commission on transnational corporations has recognised the potential of the private sector in influencing and affecting individual rights. In so doing it has spelt out the responsibility of the private sector whilst ensuring that they realise they have a role to play in sustainably developing areas within which they operate. [4] Growing awareness of corporate social responsibility [5] coupled with multilateral initiatives such as those driven by the UN Special Representative on the Issue of Human Rights and Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises may also provide further guidance on the responsibility of corporations. [6] In Africa necessary legal and regulatory frameworks to manage responsibility by the private sector towards individuals are not yet fully developed or there is lack of adequate regulatory oversight. This coupled with increasing trade openness and non inclusive economic growth has left transnational corporations operating at whim.

    Nigeria is one of the biggest oil and gas producers in Africa and the tenth largest in the world. [7] The country has struggled with slow poisoning of waters and the destruction of vegetation and agricultural land by oil spills which occur during petroleum operations. But since the inception of the oil industry in Nigeria, more than twenty-five years ago, [8] there has been no adequate concerned and effective effort on the part of government, let alone oil operators, to control environmental problems associated with the industry. [9] Nigerian regulations of the oil industry seem inadequate leaving a loophole which has resulted in the private industry self regulating. [10]


    Shell Nigeria is the largest oil and gas company in that country. It arguably obtains 12 percent of its oil from Nigeria and has continuously been accused of environmental damages and human rights abuses resulting from its activities. [11] Numerous cases have been brought in various tribunals globally with the view of addressing social, environmental and governance issues that arise around Shell’s operations in Nigeria. [12] These include the recently decided case in the District Court of The Hague where claims were brought by Nigerian farmers in 2008 seeking to hold Royal Dutch Shell accountable for damage by oil spilled from its pipelines. [13] The verdict for this precedent setting case was delivered on the 30 January 2013 when the Dutch court dismissed most of the claims, but held in favour of one farmer in a spill that occurred near the village of Ikot Ada Udo. The court decided that Shell’s local subsidiary Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria was liable for damages and ordered compensation. The Dutch court’s finding in favour of Mr Akpan can be interpreted as a success towards opening up future avenues for holding multinationals at a higher standard when it comes to responsibility for environmental damages and could open doors for other suits. [14]

    Shell is also facing ongoing legal action brought in a UK court on behalf of 11,000 members of the Niger Delta Bodo community, who say the company is responsible for spilling 500,000 barrels in 2008. Shell has acknowledged liability for two spills within the region but estimates the amount spilled is far lower. The case could be heard in the High Court in London next year. [15] In 2009 Shell agreed to pay 15.5 million Dollars to settle a class action lawsuit which was instituted on the basis of a U.S Alien Tort Claims Statute [16] resulting from the 1995 execution of author and Niger Delta activist Ken Saro-Wiwa. [17] The U.S Statute has been the basis of various claims instituted against foreign multinationals operating outside the U.S. [18] The Act grants jurisdiction to some Federal courts for certain violations of international law.


    On 14th December 2012 the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States arrived at a ground breaking decision that could re-invent determination of liability for private actors towards economic, social and environmental damages within African. [19] This case has the potential of placing a larger responsibility on the relevant governments to ensure that existing regulatory frameworks are adequate and that they are being enforced accordingly. The complaint was lodged in July 2009 by the registered trustees of the socio-economic rights and accountability project (SERAP) against the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Nigerian National Petroleum Company, Shell Petroleum Development Company, ELF Petroleum Nigeria Ltd, AGIP Nigeria PLC, Chevron OIL Nigeria PLC and Exxon Mobil.

    The complaint was based on allegations of defendants’ violation of rights to health, adequate standards of living (including access to clean water, housing, work, education, food, and a clean and healthy environment), as well as the right to economic and social development of the people of the Niger Delta. The complaint was also directed towards failure of the Nigerian government to enforce laws and regulations to protect the environment and prevent pollution. It was contended that the Niger Delta, an area richly endowed in land, water, forest and fauna, was being subjected to extreme degradation due to oil spillage (caused by among others, pipeline corrosion, vandalism and bunkering). It was averred that the Delta had for decades been exposed to oil spills which in turn destroyed crops, damaged the quality and productivity of soil, and contaminated water. It was also pointed out that such damage could have been curtailed or averted because it resulted from human error, poor infrastructural maintenance, and uncontrolled vandalism. It was noted that there was failure by corporations to comply with government regulations pertaining to swift and effective clean up after oil accidents. Where steps to comply with regulations took place, they were neither done timorously, nor effectively or adequately. In addition, corporate social responsibility through community development including the construction of water and sanitation facilities as well individual compensation were either inadequate or done on an ad-hoc basis and very poorly executed.

    Allegations including those based on contravention of article 1 and 24 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR) were addressed. The attitude of the government of Nigeria seemed to be in contravention of the provision of article 24 which required that ‘all peoples shall have a right to a general satisfactory environment favourable to their development’. It also contravened article 1 which required that ‘member states to the Organisation of African Unity parties to the present Charter shall recognise the rights, duties and freedoms enshrined in this Charter and shall undertake to adopt “legislative” or “other measures” to give effect to them’. Nigeria by virtue of being an ECOWAS member state and party to the African Charter was bound by the said articles. The duty assigned by article 1 and 24 of the African Charter was both an obligation to stipulate regulations, provide structural, financial support and other measures, as well as an obligation to diligently and vigilantly ensure necessary compliance and accountability by oil corporations in addressing oil spills.

    Nigeria had a responsibility to set up the requisite legal and regulatory framework, and hold accountable those who caused such environmental degradation as well as ensuring that adequate and timely reparation was provided. In terms of addressing the said spills, the Nigerian government enacted the necessary legislative frameworks and development agencies were set up, but all these measures fell short of preventing the continuous environmental degradation within the region. Actual accountability by the concerned corporations was inadequate due to lack of legislation enforcement by relevant regulatory authorities. The ECOWAS court concluded that by continuously failing or omitting to deal adequately with corporate actions that harmed human rights and the environment, the government of Nigeria had compounded the problem. This in turn rendered it responsible for aiding and abetting oil companies who committed such violations and in essence contravening article 1 and 24 of the ACHPR.


    This case represents a novel attempt by a regional tribunal to indirectly ensure that businesses carried out in Africa are socially conscious and responsible for the environment and economic as well as social development of the communities within which they operate. With numerous recent mineral, oil and gas discoveries in various areas in Africa, [20] it has become imperative that strict measures must be undertaken by governments and the necessary agencies to protect the well being of communities where extraction takes place. At the same time, this calls for the extraction industry to take responsibility for the communities within which they operate. The ECOWAS court seems to have taken a bold step in guaranteeing that where governments by omission fail to ensure compliance with international best practices in terms of business, human rights and the environment, then they bear the responsibility for harm and human rights violations resulting from actions of corporations. By invoking article 1 and 24 of the ACHPR together and stretching it to include not only regulatory and structural provision, but also vigilance and diligence in ensuring compliance with such provisions, the ECOWAS court has put a higher level of responsibility on member state governments. They are now expected to ensure that multinationals responsible for prospecting in Africa are brought to task whenever environmental or social damage is done. The decision in this case has the potential of changing the way private sector responsibility towards individual citizens is addressed, as well as setting precedent in bringing responsible governments to task whenever they independently fail to enforce such responsibility.


    Africa is still lugging behind when it comes to the governance of its natural resources. This loophole is observed when social and environmental damages happen as in the above case. It is also observed when failure in human development and discontent within sectors responsible for mineral extraction happens. Economic growth resulting from mineral, oil and gas wealth is not translating into human development and better livelihoods for most parts of Africa. With the exception of a few countries, most resource rich areas in Africa are concurrently stuck in deplorable poverty and discontent despite or because of their natural resource wealth. African governments responsible for the administration and management of such resources do not seem to have the necessary expertise to negotiate for investment treaties that safeguard their economic, social and environmental wellbeing. They also do not seem to have the capacity or will to enforce relevant regulations. The consequence of such oversight is the inability to hold the relevant private sectors responsible when things go wrong, as well as facing limitations in reaping benefits of Africa’s mineral wealth for its sustainable development. With the right regulatory, structural and policy frameworks aimed at vigilantly enforcing responsibility on the part of the private sector as well as a responsible private sector ready to perform its social responsibilities, Africa has the potential of achieving economic and human development.


    African countries need to invest more in their negotiators so that they acquire the necessary prowess to advance their negotiation positions when it comes to investment treaties and investment disputes. Initiatives such as those taken by the Africa Development Bank’s Legal Support Facility as well as the African International Legal Awareness and the Lawyers for Africa Programme are but a few steps that need to be promoted. These will equip African countries with the right set of skills to negotiate investment and other bilateral treaties on equal footing with their counterparts.

    There is also a need for sound principles to guide the process of drafting effective contracts in Africa’s natural resource sector. Seeing that Africa’s natural resources are attached to the land, that African communities live on, there should be representational involvement and consultation of the communities and civil society when it comes to drafting of contracts and distribution of benefits from oil revenues.

    African countries are also in dire need of revisiting legal and regulatory regimes that address and manage foreign investment. Specific attention needs to be paid to the extractive industry, environmental matters, governance, regulations that manage fiscal arrangements and taxation regulations.

    Monitoring and evaluation as well as follow up systems have to be set up to ensure that regulatory mechanisms put in place are observed. Where there is failure to do so, necessary steps, as per legal and regulatory provisions need to be taken diligently, vigilantly and effectively. Impunity and nepotism need to be put to check both at government and private sector level, otherwise the industry which can prove to be lucrative for Africa’s sustainable development will only result in further plundering.

    * Dr Olivia Kokushubila Lwabukuna is a research specialist in sustainable development and international trade at the Africa Institute of South Africa in Pretoria and an advocate at law.


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    [i] Tasamba J ‘ Africa: continent losing billions through multinationals’ All Africa July 31 2012

    [ii] Adeleke F ‘The case for corporate transparency in Africa’ Paper presented at the First Global Conference on Transparency Research Rutgers University-Newark May 19-20 2011 at 1

    [iii] Adeleke above at 3

    [iv] The 1983 Code by the commission on Transnational corporations states ‘transnational corporations shall/should disclose to the public in the countries in which they operate all appropriate information on the content and the extent known on possible hazardous effects of the product they produce or market in the countries concerned by means of proper labelling, information and accurate advertising or other appropriate methods’.

    [v] See U.N. Econ and Soc. Council, Comm. On Human Right, Sub-Comm. On the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, Norms on the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with regard to Human Rights, U.N. Doc E/CN 4/Sub.2/2003/12/Rev. (Aug. 26, 2003); See also the newly introduced ISO Guidance on Corporate Social Responsibility (ISO 26000)- the most important part

    of the standard relates to its detailed guidance on the seven core subjects of social responsibility: human rights, organisational governance, labour practices, the environment, consumer issues, fair operating practices, and community involvement and development

    [vi] In June 2011 the Human Rights Council unanimously adopted the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights; the Principles state that business enterprises of every size and nationality have a responsibility to respect human rights and that this responsibility exists ‘over and above compliance with national laws and regulations protecting human rights’; See also U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/17/31 (Mar. 21, 2011)

    [vii] Toscano P, ‘The World’s 15 Biggest Oil Producers’ CNBC.Com 3 March 2011 ;Crude production: 2.51 million barrels per day, share of world production: 2.95%, daily crude exports to the US: 1.02 million barrels, proven reserves: 37.2 billion barrels; see also the 2010/2011 Energy Information Administration (EIA), a division of the US Department of Energy

    [viii] In 1956, Shell British Petroleum (now Royal Dutch Shell) discovered crude oil at Oloibiri, within the Niger Delta. Commercial production began in 1958. See also Egberongbe F, Nwilo P and Badejo O ‘Oil spill disaster monitoring along Nigerian coastline’ Promoting land administration and good governance 5th FIG Regional Conference Accra Ghana March 8-11 2006 at 2

    [ix] Greenpeace Internationals’ Shell Shocked, at 11

    [x] Baird J ‘Oil’s shame in Africa’ Newsweek July 27 2010 at 27

    [xi] Jolly D and Reed S ‘Mixed decision for Shell in Nigerian oil spill suits’ Global Business with Reuters at New York Times.Com January 30 2013

    [xii] See also SERAC and CESR vs. Nigeria African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) communication 155/96

    [xiii] The lawsuit involved Shell’s parent company in the Netherlands and its Nigerian subsidiary, which operates a joint venture between the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Shell, Total E&P Nigeria Limited as well as Nigerian Agip Oil Company Limited.

    [xiv] It should be noted that liability in such claims is only limited to the subsidiary company. Such outlook is based on global legal principles of company law and law of corporations. A subsidiary company usually has its own independent personality. This also means that the implications of the decision are limited in application to consequences of actions of Shell Nigeria. Nevertheless, such a decision is a ground breaking standard of guidance for claims brought in other jurisdictions where Shell operates.

    [xv] Reuters ‘Dutch Court says Shell is responsible for Nigeria spills’ at Dawn.Com 3 February 2013

    [xvi] 28 U.S.C. 1350 (2006)

    [xvii] Kiobel vs. Royal Dutch Petroleum Company 621 F.3d 111 (2nd Cir. 2010), cert. granted, 132 S. Ct 472 (2011) (No. 10-1491), argued February 2, 2012 Kiobel was expected to be decided by the Court sometime in 2012 Term

    [xiii] In that case the petitioners claimed that Royal Dutch Shell aided the Nigerian government in committing various acts of violence against protesters of oil exploration projects in the Ogoni region. Shell denied any form of responsibility, and claimed to only have opted for settlement because it wanted to end the litigation and move on.

    [xix] SERAP vs. Federal Republic of Nigeria The Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Ibadan, Nigeria 14th December 2012 Judgement No. ECW/CCJ.JUD/18/12

    [xx] Mozambique, Uganda, additional areas in Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Sierra Leone and various other places in Africa

    Mali, France and the war on terror in Africa

    Is there an imminent threat of terrorism from West Africa?

    Horace G. Campbell


    cc N E
    Africa has been demonized in the West for decades. To justify military intervention and imperialist expansion, Africa is today being depicted again as the scene of instability, violence and terrorism. The progressive forces for peace and social justice should mobilize against this planned remilitarization of the continent


    Imminent threat is a term used in international law to justify a preemptive military strike. This concept of imminent threat had been articulated prior to the war against the people of Iraq by the George W Bush Administration when the peoples of the world were bombarded with information that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Ten years after the destruction of Iraq with millions killed or displaced, we now know that the case for war had been presented with dubious evidence. Today, there is a new propaganda war, that Jihadists across the Sahel pose an imminent threat to the United States. Recently, U.S. Senator Christopher Coons, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee stated in Bamako, Mali, that al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) posed a “‘very real threat’ to Africa, the United States and the wider world.”

    Who or what is this AQIM? What are its origins? What are their sources of sustenance, finance and logistics?

    These questions are not raised when the hype about imminent threat is being bandied about in the media. Both the Washington Post and the New York Times have been prolific in carrying stories about the new threats of terrorism from Africa. Those who do not know about Africa would be carried away by these incessant stories about terrorism in the Sahel, Al Queda in the Horn of Africa and the spread of Islamic terrorists across the length and breadth of Africa.

    This idea that AQIM was on the verge of taking over Mali and West Africa had been promoted by France to justify the military intervention under the banner of Operation Serval. France had dispatched approximately 4000 troops to repel Jihadists who had taken over Northern Mali. After these Jihadists seized a number of towns and desecrated important cultural centers, international opinion was sufficiently outraged to mute criticisms of the French intervention. Progressive African opinion was divided over this invasion of Mali as France promoted the idea through a massive propaganda and disinformation campaign that it was ‘invited’ by the government of Mali. Furthermore, select pictures of Malian citizens celebrating the routing of the Jihadists from towns that had been seized since January 12 gave legitimacy to the idea that Africans welcomed the French military intervention. After this ‘successful’ intervention, western media outlets are replete with stories that it is the alliance between France and her allies along with the United States that can protect this region of Africa (from Mauritania to Sudan) from being overrun by terrorists. I will argue in this submission that the French intervention is also part of a wider struggle within the Western world and within the foreign policy establishment in Washington.

    In a written testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Army Gen. David M. Rodriguez, who has been nominated to be the next leader of the Pentagon’s Africa Command, estimated that the U.S. military needs to increase its intelligence-gathering and spying missions in Africa by nearly 15-fold. Members of the Senate Armed Services Committee who support the expansion of the budget of the Pentagon at a moment of financial crisis for the majority of citizens on the planet pressed General Rodriquez to spell out how the United States will respond to threats and crisis in Africa in the future. This call to beef up the Africa Command is coming from the same section of the foreign and military establishment that opposes Chuck Hagel to become the next Secretary of Defense in the United States.

    We are informed by the biographers of Petraeus that General David Rodriquez was mentored by General David Petraues. Even though both Petraeus and General John Allen have been diminished by scandals relating to their conduct, their ideas about terror and counter terror still hold a lot of sway among sections of the foreign and military establishment. This establishment is torn asunder because the United States cannot continue to finance a large military budget without greater austerity imposed on the US society. Black and brown citizens along with other sections of the working poor have borne the brunt of the austerity measures and the transfer of wealth from the poor to the top one per cent inside the United States. These sections of the population have borne the brunt of police harassment and killings. From this domestic policy flowed the foreign policy imperative to kill indiscriminately with drones.

    In the context of the confirmation of John Brennan as the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) a section of the media was able to get its hands on a Department of Justice white paper, which spells out exactly why it’s perfectly alright for the U.S. to enact extrajudicial assassination of its own citizens by drone strikes. Here was another instance where the idea of imminent threat was being used to justify killings. In the face of the massive anti-war sentiments in the USA, the Pentagon and the CIA resorted to fighting using Special Forces and drones. These drone strikes have killed thousands of persons in Africa and Asia with President Obama giving himself the authority to dispense with human life without trials. One only has to be a suspected terrorist to be targeted. The document is titled “Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a U.S. Citizen who is a Senior Operational Leader of Al Qa’ida or An Associated Force.” The Memo from the Department of Justice said that its definition of "imminent threat" doesn't require "clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future .”

    In the consciousness of the establishment of the United States, Africans had been demonized for decades. Now, with the divisions inside that establishment over its future, and the future projection of military force, Africa is now being conjured again as the scene of instability, violence and terrorism. We will argue in this contribution that it is urgent for the peace and social justice forces internationally to mobilize against this planned remilitarization of Africa. Just as how, ten years after the war against Iraq, we know that the WMD threat was fabricated, it is urgent that the peace forces inside the United States expose the linkages between the military, the Algerian DRS and the Jihadists. This conclusion of this intervention will reassert the claim that it is only the unity of the peoples of Africa across the artificial borders that can start to resolve the outstanding questions of the divisions of peoples such as the Tuareg in differing states. Until the unification of Africa, the Tuaregs will be like the Kurds, manipulated by external forces to suit their own interests.


    When the Malian singer Fatoumata Diawara gathered together the cultural artists in Mali on January 17, 2013 at the Voices United for Mali press conference and sang for peace, she was taking the leadership in calling for the people of Africa to join together to bring peace to Mali. She was carrying forward a deep tendency of popular organizing among the people of Mali. The society of Mali sits at the crossroads of numerous tendencies in Africa. One of the proudest tendencies has been the intellectual and cultural history that boasts the archive of the Africa’s contribution to the intellectual culture of humanity with one of the oldest of the institutions centered in the city of Timbuktu. It was this proud tradition that shepherded the reconquest of the independence of the region of West Africa that had been invaded by France after 1830. Because of the cultural and political strength of the independent states beyond the Coast, the imperial penetration of France beyond the coastal areas could only gain ground after the collective military scramble that resulted in the Berlin Conference of 1885.

    When France was weakened by World War II, the peoples of West Africa organized to regain their independence and it was in this region where there were the loudest calls for the establishment of a United States of Africa- then called Union of Independent African States. Soon after the independence of Ghana in 1957, the leaders of Ghana, Guinea and Mali proclaimed a unity based on Pan-African cooperation. Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana and Sekou Toure started this union that was later joined by Modibo Keïta of Mali. Mark DeLancey in his bibliographical essay on the The Ghana - Guinea - Mali Union: exposed the deep interest in that elementary Union and the deployment of western intellectuals to understand the internal dynamics of that Pan African experiment. [1] After the western intellectuals came the military interventions. First Ghana met the fate of the removal of Nkrumah in 1966 and then in 1968 General Moussa Traoré organized a coup d'état against Modibo Keïta, and sent him to prison in the northern Malian town of Kidal.

    Moussa Traore with the support of external ‘donors’ dominated the politics of Mali until 1991 when he was removed by an uprising of workers, students and others groups that had fought for the removal of the military from the center of Malian politics. After the overthrow of Traore, Alpha Konare carried forward the Pan African traditions of Mali and went on to become the first Chairperson of the African Union Commission (2003-2008). On the international stage, Konaré worked for peace and integration in the West African region. Among the people of Mali, he understood that the outstanding problems of the place of the Tuareg could not be settled outside of the context of unity and so he worked hard for African unity, serving as president of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in 1999 and of the West African Monetary Union (UEMOA) in 2000. Leaders such as Keita and Konare were feared by western powers and France maintained a strong military presence in Africa with permanent bases in Côte d'Ivoire, Senegal, Gabon, Chad and Djibouti.


    In the book, France Soldiers and Africa, Anthony Clayton laid out in graphic detail the military system of France and its impact on both France and Africa. One of the little known aspects of this militarization of Africa was how the French intellectual culture was negatively affected by the history of military engagement and interventions. Between 1960 and 2012 France had undertaken more than one hundred military interventions in Africa. The lowest point of this engagement and its intellectual variant was when France invaded Central Africa to assist those who were carrying out genocide in Rwanda in 1994.

    The embarrassment of shepherding the genocidaires to Zaire and the aftermath of war and destabilization of the entire Eastern African region had led to a temporary retreat by France with the military intellectuals propagating the view that France was reviewing its military policies towards Africa and was going to reform her security policy in Africa, claiming to mark the start of a ‘new African politics’.

    Nearly fifteen years after the appearance of the book by Clayton, Christopher Griffin wrote a detailed study, French Military Interventions in Africa: French Grand Strategy and Defense Policy since Decolonization. The importance of this study was in the full documentation of how this Grand Strategy was connected by three circles, (a) the national independence of French foreign and defense policy, (b) European defense and (c) a global or geostrategic defense of France’s overseas territories, the DOM-TOM, and other regions and states outside of Europe where French national interests were at stake, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa.

    This study of Griffin was written before two major events that changed the world. The first was the capitalist depression and the financial crisis within Europe and North America (after 2008). The second was the revolutionary upheavals within Africa that toppled the regimes of Tunisia and Egypt.

    Both of these seismic changes in the international system affected the projection of force by France and this was most clearly manifest in the manipulations by France in relation to the intervention in Libya.[2] Despite the catastrophic failure of that intervention and the instability that has ensued in Africa (with the deepening military engagements in the Sahara), the momentum for French military activities are driven not only by the grand strategy, but by the necessity to draw the United States and the United States Africa Command into a closer alliance, with the US underwriting the intervention by France. The alliance and cooperation between the COIN strategists of the US military and the former colonial generals of France have been well documented and epitomized by the correspondence between General David Petraeus and the late Gen. Marcel Bigeard, 1916-2010. Bigeard had been the quintessential colonial military torturer whose life and exploits followed the colonial and neo-colonial history of France in Africa and IndoChina.

    The fall of Petraeus after the elections in the United States in November 2012 had provided one opportunity for the top military brass in the United States to rethink its future, especially at a moment when the crisis of capitalism demanded deep cuts in the military budget. The intervention by France was part of a larger strategy to influence the debate inside the foreign and military policy establishment about whether the war on terror is coming to an end.

    Those who are promoting a continuous war on terror have been propagating the idea that West Africa has become a hot bed of terrorism and that the terrorists in the Maghreb threaten the vital interests of the United States. Those who have followed the expenditures of the United States since 2003 in the Trans Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP) and later the US Africa Command will know that of the more than half a billion dollars that was spent, the money went to train many of the forces that are now called terrorist have been trained by the United States. Even from within the corridors of the media in Washington DC writers such as Walter Pincus have documented the huge expenditures of the US military in Mali since 2002. In the same period when the hype of weapons of mass destruction was being propagated by the Bush administration, another fiction was being presented. This was the idea that terrorists were spreading out from Afghanistan and spreading terror from Asia through the Horn of Africa and over to West Africa. This was presented as the banana theory of terrorism and documented in the book, The Dark Sahara: America’s War on Terror in Africa. [3]

    Pincus wrote about the monies spent after 2002 in the counterterror offensives in Mali and West Africa. “With that money, U.S. European Command (EUCOM) sent U.S. Special Forces training units to work with the Mali military.” The fear was that Islamic fighters driven from Afghanistan would settle in northern Mali. Air Force Maj. Gen. Jeffrey B. Kohler, then head of planning at EUCOM, said, “We’re helping to teach them [the Malian military] how to control this area themselves so they can keep it from being used by terrorists.” [4]

    Figures now produced by varying agencies in the USA show that in the counterterror offensives, Mali was the largest recipient of US funds amounting to more than half a billion dollars. The Pentagon had started out with the Pan Sahel Initiative (PSI) but by 2005, the PSI was replaced by the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP), a partnership of State, Defense and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) meant to focus on improving individual country and regional capabilities in northwest Africa.

    As one writer in the USA summed up this relationship between the USA and the corrupt military establishment in Mali, “In the past decade, the U.S. alone has poured close to $1 billion into Mali, including development aid as well as military training to battle an al-Qaida offshoot in the north. In doing so, the U.S. unwittingly also helped prepare the soldiers for the coup: Sanogo himself benefited from six training missions in the U.S., the State Department confirmed, starting in 1998 when he was sent to an infantry training course at Fort Benning, Ga. He returned in 2001, 2002, 2004, 2008 and 2010 to attend some of the most prestigious military institutions in America, including the Defense Language Institute at the Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. He took a basic officer course at Quantico, Virginia, and learned to use a light-armored vehicle at Camp Pendleton, Calif.”

    The aid packages to Mali represented a systematic buildup of the US military involvement in the Sahel region, with a focus on Mali because of the strong history of popular struggles for democratic change in Mali. As far back as November 2009, in his testimony before the Senate Subcommittee on Africa hearing on 'Counter-terrorism in the Sahel' on 17 November 2009, Secretary of State for Africa Johnnie Carson identified Mali – along with Algeria, Mali, and Mauritania – as one of the 'key countries' in the region for the US counter-terrorism strategy. “We believe that our work with Mali to support more professional units capable of improving the security environment in the country will have future benefits if they are sustained”, he stated.

    The current insecurity in Mali is a direct result of the US military presence and the instability represents one more piece of evidence why Africans must be more forthright in opposing the expansion of the US Africa Command. It was when the full extent of the US engagement with the forces in combat became known that the lame duck leader of AFRICOM, General Carter Ham, admitted, “We made mistakes.” [5]


    The US foreign policy establishment was always on the defensive in relation to the formulation of policies towards Africa, because their domestic policy towards Africans has been dominated by racism. During the era of colonialism and apartheid the US foreign policy was informed by the support for the white racist regimes in Africa and for dictators. From the assassination of Patrice Lumumba in 1960 to the execution of Muammar Gaddafi in October 2011, the US hard interests have been dominated by oil, needs of finance capital (IMF), wars, and global US diplomatic and military hegemony. The US Africa Command is the latest iteration of the combination of these hard interests with the counter-terrorism discourse losing its luster. During the period of the support for apartheid, when the peoples of Angola were about to defeat the South African racist army at Cuito Cuanavale, the United States mounted Operation Flintlock to give support to the white racist regime.

    In the era of ‘counterterror, Operation Flintlock was again launched to spread instability and corruption in the Sahel. Operation Flintlock exercises were held in Mali in 2007 and 2008. In 2009, Mali got equipment worth $5 million, including 37 “new Land Cruiser pickup trucks, along with powerful communications equipment” for the desert, according to a U.S. statement. Mali also got $1 million in U.S. mine-detector equipment.


    For this author, AQIM has the same status as the weapons of mass destruction that was supposed to be in Iraq. From the time of the launch of the Pan Sahel Initiative, the United States had partnered with repressive regimes in the region of North and West Africa. Moammar Gaddaffi had gone out of his way to ingratiate himself with the United States associating with the war on terror, until the United States and France turned to the very same jihadists to remove Gaddafi. The names and personalities have been changing over the past ten years but there is a certain consistency with which there has been shifting allegiances in North Africa. One allegiance that has been constant has been the relationship between the US military and intelligence services with the Algeria Secret Police DRS (Département du Renseignement et de la Sécurité) Department of Intelligence and Security (DRS).

    From the period of the well documented Dirty War in Algeria that started in 1992, there has been documented evidence of the fabrication of terrorism by this DRS. Habib Souaïdia, a former military officer from Algeria has written for posterity the role of the DRS in the ‘netherworld of torture, murder and terrorism. [6] The book by Souaidia about the world of the Generals of the DRS had been written before September 11, 2001. After the Global War on Terror was declared by George W. Bush, the neo-conservatives embraced the DRS as an ally and partner to fight terrorism. Haliburton entered into the lucrative business of building defense institutions as well as profiting from the oil and gas business in Algeria. The collusion between the firms such as Haliburton and the DRS has been documented. Although the complex linkages between terrorism, corruption and a section of the politico-military power concealed the exact base for support for AQIM, from inside the national Security apparatus in Washington there were writers who exposed the overlap between governments, smugglers, drug dealers and those who were dubbed as terrorists. [7]

    Western news agencies such as the BBC have been running stories on “Mali's main Islamist militants.” These stories have listed five main Islamists groups in Mali and the Sahel. The sixth group is from time to time listed with the groups that are called Jihadists.

    These are:
    1. Ansar Dine – identified as one movement with a number of Tuareg fighters who returned from Libya after fighting alongside Muammar Gaddafi's troops.

    2. Islamic Movement for Azawad - an offshoot of Ansar Dine which says it rejects "terrorism" and wants dialogue

    3. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) - al-Qaeda's North African wing, with roots in Algeria

    4. Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (Mujao) - an AQIM splinter group whose aim is to spread jihad to the whole of West Africa

    5. Signed-in-Blood Battalion - an AQIM offshoot committed to a global jihad and responsible for Algerian gas facility siege.

    6. The National Movement Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) is a secular Tuareg group which seeks independence for a homeland they call Azawad [8]

    The shifting alliances of these so-called jihadists that were supposed to have threatened Bamako , West Africa and the world are then reproduced by other western journalists without the kind of critical examination of the roots of these organizations. Given the history of the US counter-terror operations and the shifting alliances it would be important for the Senate Armed Services Committee to investigate the claim of Jeremy Keenan that “at the heart of AQIM is the DRS.” [9]

    African progressives have to seriously investigate the relationship between the DRS and these so-called jihadists because Algeria has been one of the strongest supporters of the African Union and the African Liberation Project. Up to today the diplomats of Algeria are held in the highest regard within the corridors of the African Union and the Algerian leadership has gained praise for its unstinting support for the independence of Western Sahara. From the period of the internal war against Islamists in 1992, there had been numerous stories about the DRS and its role in corruption and torture. Algeria and the DRS consider the Sahel to be the backyard of Algeria and hence it has been difficult to separate drug traffickers, smugglers of cigarettes, Jihadists, and corrupt secret services in this region.

    From the evidence provided by the Government Accountable Office of the United States, the large sums of money expended by the United States in Mali since 2005 went to support some of the regional barons who were involved in underground channels that overlapped with the jihadists. A leader of the so called jihadists called Iyad Ag Ghaly has enjoyed the support of leaders inside and outside of Mali functioning at one moment as the envoy of Mali in Saudi Arabia. [10] An unflattering profile of Iyad Ag Ghaly, ‘Mali's whisky-drinking rebel turned Islamist chief,’ [11] gives some indication of the interpenetration between terror, counter terror, the world of drug dealers, kidnappers and organized mafia groups.

    African progressives and intellectuals will have to work hard to expose the linkages between Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United States conservatives and the jihadists across West Africa. One direct result of the Libya intervention was the reality that France, the United States and Britain financed the Islamist forces who they are now supposed to be fighting. For the past sixty years, France intervened militarily ostensibly to protect French nationals but in the main, these interventions have been to support corrupt and unpopular leaders.

    When General Gen. David M. Rodriguez, who is poised to become the next leader of the Pentagon’s Africa Command, estimated that the U.S. military needs to increase its intelligence-gathering and spying missions in Africa, it is important to point out that the Obama administration is empowering a general who was mentored by General David Petraeus.


    There are many lessons to be learnt from the role of France, the United States and Britain in North and West Africa. From Africa, one of the most important lessons is to draw from the discourse on imminent threat to be able to isolate those corrupt officials who participate with external forces in counter-terror activities. And then, ten years later turn around and start to fight wars against the very same forces that they have trained and nurtured. There was no time when the forces of the jihadists numbered more than 6000. It is clear that France jumped the gun to intervene pre-empting the deployment of the forces of ECOWAS. International pundits blamed Africans for their slowness in responding to the takeover of Northern Mali. Experience from Sierra Leone and from Liberia pointed to the capabilities of forces from ECOWAS, especially Nigeria, to eradicate forces of military destabilization.

    There are divisions between progressive Africans as to the danger that was presented by AQIM. These divisions should not divert attention from the fact that the Tuaregs have real grievances all across the region of the Sahel. The challenges of resolving the outstanding questions of self-determination and autonomy for the Tuareg in this region cannot be carried out in the context of the present borders. The French intellectuals and military understand this and hence, France has presented itself as a supporter of the Tuareg while jumping in to fight other sections of the Tuareg.

    The African people know full well that the so-called jihadists have been those who were trained and supported by the USA, the DRS with finance from Qatar and Saudi Arabia. In reality, in order to root out terror in Africa, it will be necessary to excise the sources of funding that is flowing to the Wahabists. The bulk of the weapons and finance for these jihadists come from allies of the USA where the Wahabist forces are financially and militarily well endowed.

    The entire Sahara region abuts the revolutionary zone of Egypt. Every society in North Africa is threatened by revolutionary uprisings. The inequalities and exploitation of the poor all across the region have provided fertile ground for revolutionary openings. Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the USA understand the potential for change after Tahrir Square, hence the tremendous investments to remilitarize this entire region.


    Ten years after the war in Iraq and two years after the NATO intervention in Libya, the western media is again preparing citizens of the West for an escalation of military destabilization of Africa. Since last November, there has not been a week when the western media did not carry a story about how AQIM threatens the west. From these reports, carried especially in the Washington Post and the New York Times, one may be forgiven if one forgets that there is another dynamic at work in Africa, that of a new force of economic dynamism across the continent.

    The recent report about the location of US surveillance drones in Niger was another instance of hyping the so-called terror threat from Africa. The reporting in the New York Times on ‘U.S. Weighs Base for Spy Drones in North Africa’ was part of a wider ongoing debate within the Administration about the future of the US military budget. The New York Times is part of this debate and is on the side of those who want to see the maintenance of the high military budget. In the past 50 years there has not been a major war or deployment of US military force that the New York Times opposed. This organization supported the war in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and now the expansion of western military intervention in North Africa. The reporting in my opinion is part of the effort to promote the idea that Africa is a hotbed of terrorist activity and that the rag tag groups that are called jihadists are a threat to the United States.

    This is patently false.

    What needs to be done is for there to be a clear assessment of how much the US military supported some of these same groups that they are now fighting. When Jeh Charles Johnson, the Defense Department’s general counsel, gave a speech in Oxford in November to say that the war on terror is not endless and that there will be a time when this mopping up of terrorists will be a police operation, the New York Times did not give this story the same exposure as European papers. The item was front and center for British newspapers such as the Guardian. In his speech Jeh Johnson held that, ‘When that point is reached, the primary responsibility for mopping up scattered remnants of the group and unaffiliated terrorists will fall to United States law enforcement and intelligence agencies, and pressing questions will arise about what to do with any military detainees who are still being held without trial as wartime prisoners.’

    ‘I do believe that on the present course, there will come a tipping point — a tipping point at which so many of the leaders and operatives of Al Qaeda and its affiliates have been killed or captured and the group is no longer able to attempt or launch a strategic attack against the United States, such that Al Qaeda as we know it, the organization that our Congress authorized the military to pursue in 2001, has been effectively destroyed.’

    Jeh Johnson did not survive in the pentagon much longer after this speech. The present struggles over the next Secretary of Defense in the United States is intricately linked to the struggle of whether the CIA and the military can continue to create terrorists and then turn around and fight them. One indication of this tension in the administration was exposed when Senator John McCain questioned Leon Panetta (Outgoing Secretary of Defences) on the US military support for those fighting the Assad regime. In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee in early February, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta acknowledged that he and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, had supported a plan last year to arm carefully vetted Syrian rebels. But it was ultimately vetoed by the White House, Mr. Panetta said, although it was developed by David H. Petraeus, the C.I.A. director at the time, and backed by Hillary Rodham Clinton, then the secretary of state.’ [12]

    The CIA had been using Libya as a base for the recruitment of jihadists to fight in Syria. Some of the very same groups that had been trained by the CIA are now fighting in Mali.

    This kind of duplicity is not new in Africa. For the past twenty years, the Pentagon and the CIA have been fighting on both sides in Somalia. When insiders from the western establishment warn that there is a new phase of a war on terror in Africa, serious policy makers in Africa and beyond should take serious note. It has now devolved to the integrated East African Community to bring in Somalia and carry out a process of demilitarization. Such a process of demilitarization weakens the hands of those in the USA who see Africa as a hotbed of terrorism. The present struggles in Mali require new commitment for social and economic transformation in Africa, especially incorruptible leaders who can resist drug dealers, jihadists and smugglers. It is in Nigeria where the forces of destabilization are most active because these forces understand that a democratic and committed Nigeria will be a major force for unity and emancipation in Africa.

    * Horace G Campbell is a professor of African American Studies and Political Science at Syracuse University in Syracuse, NY. He has a book coming out in March titled, ‘Global NATO and the Catastrophic Failure in Libya’.


    [i] Mark Delancey, “The Ghana - Guinea - Mali Union: A Bibliographic Essay” African Studies Bulletin > Vol. 9, No. 2, Sep., 1966 ,

    [ii] Horace Campbell, Global NATO and the Catastrophic Failure in Libya, Monthly Review Press, New York 2013

    [iii] Jeremy Keenan, The Dark Sahara: America’s War on Terror in Africa, Pluto Press London 2009

    [iv] Walter Pincus, “Mali insurgency followed 10 years of U.S. counterterrorism programs,” Washington Post, January 16, 2013,


    [vi] NICHOLAS LE QUESNE, Algeria’s Shameful war, Time Magazine, April 16, 2001,9171,105720,00.html

    [vii] John Schindler, “The Ugly truth about Algeria.” The National Interest 10 July 2012.

    [viii] BBC , Mali Crisis: Key Players,

    [ix] Jeremy Keenan, 'Secret hand' in French Sahel raid,” Al Jazeera, August 29, 2010,

    See also John Schindler, “Algeria’s hidden hand.” The National Interest 22 January 2013. and Jeremy Keenan, “A New Phase in the War on Terror?: “ International State Crime Initiative, February 14, 2013,

    [x] Peter Beumont, “The man who could determine whether the west is drawn into Mali's war,” Guardian UK, October 27, 2012,
    [xi] Leela Jacinto, “Mali's whisky-drinking rebel turned Islamist chief,”

    [xii] Michael Gordon and Mark Landler, “ Senate Hearing Draws Out a Rift in U.S. Policy on Syria,” New York Times, February 7, 2013,


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    An African chapter in the failed war on terror

    The pitfalls of French military action in Mali

    Joan Nimarko


    cc L M
    In the context of the crisis in Mali, the US intends to deploy military drones in neighbouring Niger suggesting that Europe and the US have not learnt from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Another protracted war involving innocent Malians looks likely, unless a viable regional solution can be implemented.

    Although witnessed in the full glare of the international community, Mali’s descent into war appeared remarkable even against the backdrop of a volatile sub region. In little over a year, the country has plunged from rebellion, to coup into a full blown conflict in what could evolve into a toxic regional crisis.

    The extent of civil discontent concentrated in the long contested Northern regions of the country was palpable following a popular rebellion amongst the Tuareg against an embattled government rapidly losing its grip on political power. In the face of a endemic economic crisis and demands for sweeping political reform to address corruption, cronyism and lack of democratic representation, the executive crumbled after a swift military coup leaving a fragile interim government to head off a mushrooming Northern insurgency.

    French military action appeared inevitable after a rebel advance towards the capital Bamako, however the prospects of a French led military operation appeared unfavourable to the Malian government, the UN and notably ECOWAS and the African Union only months earlier, where plans for a regional intervention were placed in motion. The hijacking of the Tuareg rebellion led by the MLNA by radical Islamist groups proved to be the catalyst for French involvement, however claims of Mali’s imminent collapse into a terrorist strong hold capable of launching attacks against the West appear at best fanciful and at worst negligent considering the recent history of the failed war on terror and the implications of a second front on fertile African soil.


    Without learning the difficult lessons from Iraq and Afghanistan, European nations led by France and in unison with the United States have become entangled in what may become another protracted military intervention with disastrous implications for the long term peace and security for the people of Mali.

    A revival of the war of terror comes at a time of growing scepticism around the legitimacy of its aims combined with widespread criticism of the unfolding security crisis in Libya, placing under question the viability of short term military action in the region. Justification of a new counter terrorism front are primarily driven by the consolidation of the US driven AFRICOM where Africa’s militarization has been steadily pursued in tandem with the protection of the region’s vast natural resources as a key strategic priority.

    In this context Mali’s war on terror is a clear opportunity to protect entrenched Western market interests in the region, while developing security infrastructure in defence of critical energy reserves. Emphasis has already been placed on US directed intelligence monitoring and surveillance through the use of military drones in neighbouring Niger.

    The hijacking of the Tuareg rebellion by Islamic fighters from the Maghreb in the form of the AQIM has fuelled suspicion of external interference in domestic Malian affairs. Rising suspicion over the influx of armed fighters into Mali from Libya following the downfall of Gadaffi, points to startling negligence within Western intelligence circles unable to forecast the threat to West African peace and security.


    Behind the headline success of the French military advance the deep social divisions which sparked Mali’s internal crisis remain. Regional disparities in development and democratic representation legitimised calls for change in the North, which has faced decades of marginalisation at the hands of Mali’s clientelist state. Since Malian independence successive rebellions amongst the Tuareg have highlighted the extent of national disunity as the government failed to legitimise its rule outside of Bamako instead depending on a fragile network of regional elites with questionable loyalty to the state.

    The military has also been prey to high ethnic tensions contributing to the large scale defection of Tuareg within the armed forces, after accusations of spying on behalf of the MLNA. Growing conflict over the neutrality of security services has contributed to a decline in public faith over fair representation of ethnic groups in national institutions.

    The inability to craft genuine provincial democratic institutions through a process of devolution and accountability from below is the underlying root cause behind the current conflict. Without a genuine process to achieve this, efforts to enforce political stability primarily through military action may prove fruitless into the long term.


    On the basis of reports from the international media, the French mission in Mali is predicted to be brief and straightforward. Compared to the might of the French military machine the capacity of rebels to successfully launch an offensive are perceived as less than unlikely. Yet military success for the French may be short-lived and without efforts to equip and develop Mali’s national army the long term options for national security remain opaque.

    In fact, the West may be haunted by the decision not to provide the Malian government with either arms supplies or military training after the coup d’etat in March last year, instead opting to wait until a complete collapse in military defences as a basis for foreign intervention.

    In a familiar pattern amongst anti terrorists operations seen typically in the Middle East, foreign forces remain unprepared for drawn out guerrilla warfare preferred by rebel forces. Unremarkably French military intervention in Mali faces a high risk of a protracted insurgency contributing to a power vacuum in a struggle for national control. If this were to occur ordinary Malians would pay the price for liberation in what could be a lost decade for national development.

    Confronted with the prospect of a lengthy occupation by foreign forces largely unaccountable to their government, the impunity of French forces in alliance with their counterparts in the Malian army is likely to trigger a rush of human rights abuses in the Northern territories. Ethnic reprisals have already occurred with allegations of human rights violations made against Malian forces.

    Human Rights Watch exposed civilians testimonies from within Tuareg and Arab communities targeted in violent ethnic reprisals by security forces after accusations of support to armed rebels.

    The French led military action is constrained not only by a lack of financial resources for a prolonged offensive (in the context of European austerity), but by the absence of a long term exit strategy based on the legitimacy of effective national and regional institutions and bound by the accountability of a UN mandate.


    Criticism around ECOWAS and the AU’s slow reaction to the unfolding crisis in Mali comes in the midst of growing unease over the lack of autonomy undertaken by Africa’s institutions in the area of peace and security. Perceived deference toward colonial ties worsened by continuing aid links have fuelled allegations that African leaders have sanctioned Western dominance over regional security instead of taking firm ownership over the delivery of regional solutions.

    However Mali is providing a fresh opportunity for ECOWAS and the AU to assert rising African confidence that it can lead the way in forging diplomatic settlements and take charge in the deployment of peacekeeping forces under its authority. The position of countries such as South Africa who have strongly backed African leadership of the military operation in the country in place of Western command have bolstered arguments that the time has come for Africa to stand on its own. Increasing numbers of troops have already been deployed from a number of African countries including from Burkina Faso, Chad and Ghana.

    Crucially much work can only be done by regional institutions on post conflict development with their enhanced understanding of the national context and political leverage. Here, ECOWAS can play an instrument role in the provision of support to the Malian government to forge alliances towards an effective peace settlement able to address the deficits in democratic governance which initially triggered the crisis.


    The next few months for Mali are essential in determining the trajectory of war and for defining the path towards national reconciliation. Mali’s entanglement in an emerging front in the war on terror poses a direct threat to national stability and development, as the polarized discourse over extremist forces in the hunt for terrorist insurgency overshadows legitimate calls for reform from the moderate centre, pulling the country further away from a swift political settlement.

    The strengthening of a social movements embedded in civil society networks with the influence to bring warring factions back towards the negotiating table is paramount, alongside the capacity to demand the accountability of the foreign occupation and national armed forces in serving the interests of the Malian people.

    Principally , whether Mali will avoid the cycle of insecurity and decline characterised by countries engulfed in military action under the clock of counter terrorism, will depend largely on the depth of its civic resolve to gradually build the process of national consensus on the foundation of a renewed social democracy. Constructing progressive alliances from within supported by calls for dialogue from across the region may prove critical to the success of efforts to pull Mali back from the brink.

    * Joan Nimarko holds an MSc in International Development Studies from the University of London and studied Politics at Leeds.


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    1. International Crisis Group ‘Mali: Avoiding Escalation’ – July 2012
    2. VOA ‘ ECOWAS ready to intervene in Mali’ 1st August 20102

    3. Global Research ‘China and the Congo wars: AFRICOM America’s new military command’
    4. US signs deal with Niger to operate military drones in West African state
    5. Professor Jeremy Keenan ‘ Mali is not another African War’ New African - Jan 2013
    6. International Crisis Group ‘Mali: Avoiding Escalation’ – July 2012
    7. Ibid
    8. Aljazeera: ‘Mali’s North face a new fear’ 25th Jan 2013
    9. BBC News ‘ French success in Mali may herald ‘war of the shadows’

    10. Aljazeera: ‘Mali’s North face a new fear’ 25th Jan 2013

    11. Africa Review ‘The AU’s love for dithering leaves the West in charge again’ 30th Jan 2013

    12. ‘ECOWAS needs to lead Mali interventions’

    The West’s war against African development continues

    Dan Glazebrook


    cc L J
    Tax havens, rising debt-extortion, loans to African military dictators, capital flight, unfair trade prices, militarization of Africa through AFRICOM are the many ways in which the West’s war against African development continues. The recent crisis in Mali and Algeria are being used by the West to further its domination over Africa.

    Africa’s classic depiction in the mainstream media, as a giant basket case full of endless war, famine and helpless children creates an illusion of a continent utterly dependent on Western handouts. In fact, the precise opposite is true – it is the West that is reliant on African handouts. These handouts come in many and varied forms. They include illicit flows of resources, the profits of which invariably find their way into the West’s banking sector via strings of tax havens (as thoroughly documented in Nicholas Shaxson’s Poisoned Wells). Another is the mechanism of debt-extortion whereby banks lend money to military rulers (often helped to power by Western governments, such as the Congo’s former President Mobutu), who then keep the money for themselves (often in a private account with the lending bank), leaving the country paying exorbitant interest on an exponentially growing debt. Recent research by Leonce Ndikumana and James K Boyce found that up to 80 cents in every borrowed dollar fled the borrower nation in ‘capital flight’ within a year, never having been invested in the country at all; whilst meanwhile $20billion per year is drained from Africa in ‘debt servicing’ on these, essentially fraudulent, ‘loans.’ Another form of handout would be through the looting of minerals. Countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo are ravaged by armed militias who steal the country’s resources and sell them at sub-market prices to Western companies, with most of these militias run by neighbouring countries such as Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi who are in turn sponsored by the West, as regularly highlighted in UN reports. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, are the pitifully low prices paid both for African raw materials and for the labour that mines, grows or picks them, which effectively amount to an African subsidy for Western living standards and corporate profits.


    This is the role for which Africa has been ascribed by the masters of the Western capitalist economy: a supplier of cheap resources and cheap labour. And keeping this labour, and these resources, cheap depends primarily on one thing: ensuring that Africa remains underdeveloped and impoverished. If it were to become more prosperous, wages would rise; if it were to become more technologically developed, it would be able to add value to its raw materials through the manufacturing process before exporting them, forcing up the prices paid. Meanwhile, extracting stolen oil and minerals depends on keeping African states weak and divided. The Democratic Republic of Congo, for example – whose mines produce tens of billions of mineral resources each year – were only, in one recent financial year, able to collect a paltry $32million in tax revenues from mining due to the proxy war waged against that country by Western-backed militias.

    The African Union, established in 2002 was a threat to all of this: a more integrated, more unified African continent would be harder to exploit. Of special concern to Western strategic planners are the financial and military aspects of African unification. On a financial level, plans for an African Central Bank (to issue a single African currency, the gold-backed dinar) would greatly threaten the ability of the US, Britain and France to exploit the continent. Were all African trade to be conducted using the gold-backed dinar, this would mean Western countries would effectively have to pay in gold for African resources, rather than, as currently, paying in sterling, francs or dollars which can be printed virtually out of thin air. The other two proposed AU financial institutions – the African Investment Bank and the African Monetary Fund – could fatally undermine the ability of institutions such as the International Monetary Fund to manipulate the economic policies of African countries through their monopoly of finance. As Jean Paul Pougala has pointed out, the African Monetary Fund, with its planned startup capital of $42billion, ‘is expected to totally supplant the African activities of the International Monetary Fund which, with only US$25 billion, was able to bring an entire continent to its knees and make it swallow questionable privatization like forcing African countries to move from public to private monopolies.’


    Along with these potentially threatening financial developments come moves on the military front. The 2004 AU Summit in Sirte, Libya, agreed on a Common African Defence and Security Charter, including an article stipulating that ‘any attack against an African country is considered as an attack against the Continent as a whole,’ mirroring the Charter of NATO itself. This was followed up in 2010 by the creation of an African Standby Force, with a mandate to uphold and implement the Charter. Clearly, if NATO was going to make any attempt to reverse African unity by force, time was running out.

    Yet the creation of the African Standby Force represented not only a threat, but also an opportunity. Whilst there was certainly the possibility of the ASF becoming a genuine force for independence, resisting neocolonialism and defending Africa against imperialist aggression, there was also the possibility that, handled in the right way, and under a different leadership, the force could become the opposite – a proxy force for continued neocolonial subjugation under a Western chain of command. The stakes were – and are – clearly very high.

    Meanwhile, the West had already been building up its own military preparations for Africa. Its economic decline, coupled with the rise of China, meant that it was increasingly unable to continue to rely on economic blackmail and financial manipulation alone in order to keep the continent subordinated and weak. Comprehending clearly that this meant it would be increasingly forced into military action to maintain its domination, a US white paper published in 2002 by the African Oil Policy Initiative Group recommended ‘A new and vigorous focus on US military cooperation in sub-Saharan Africa, to include design of a sub-unified command structure which could produce significant dividends in the protection of US investments.’ This structure came into existence in 2008, under the name of AFRICOM. The costs – economic, military and political - of direct intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan, however – with the costs of the Iraq war alone estimated at over three trillion dollars - meant that AFRICOM was supposed to primarily rely on local troops to do the fighting and dying. AFRICOM was to be the body which coordinated the subordination of African armies under a Western chain of command; which turned, in other words, African armies into Western proxies.


    The biggest obstacle to this plan was the African Union itself, which categorically rejected any US military presence on African soil in 2008 – forcing AFRICOM to house its headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, a humiliating about turn after President Bush had already publicly announced his intention to set up the HQ in Africa itself. Worse was to come in 2009, when Colonel Gaddafi – the continent’s staunchest advocate of anti-imperialist policies - was elected Chairman of the AU. Under his leadership, Libya had already become the biggest financial donor to the African Union, and he was now proposing a fast-track process of African integration, including a single African army, currency and passport.

    His fate is clearly now a matter of public record. After mounting an invasion of his country based on a pack of lies worse than those told about Iraq, NATO reduced Libya to a devastated failed state and facilitated its leader’s torture and execution, thus taking out their number one opponent. For a time, it appeared as though the African Union had been tamed. Three of its members – Nigeria, Gabon and South Africa – had voted in favour of military intervention at the UN Security Council, and its new chairman – Jean Ping – was quick to recognize the new Libyan government imposed by NATO, and to downplay and denigrate his predecessor’s achievements. Indeed, he even forbade the African Union assembly from observing a minute’s silence for Gaddafi after his murder.


    However, this did not last. The South Africans, in particular, quickly came to regret their support for the intervention, with both President Zuma and Thabo Mbeki making searing criticisms of NATO in the months that followed. Zuma argued – correctly – that NATO had acted illegally by blocking the ceasefire and negotiations that had been called for by the UN resolution, had been brokered by the AU, and had been agreed to by Gaddafi. Mbeki went much further and argued that the UN Security Council, by ignoring the AU’s proposals, were treating ‘the peoples of Africa with absolute contempt’ and that ‘the Western powers have enhanced their appetite to intervene on our Continent, including through armed force, to ensure the protection of their interests, regardless of our views as Africans.’ A senior diplomat in the South African Foreign Ministry’s Department of International Relations said that ‘most SADC [Southern African Development Community] states , particularly South Africa, Zimbabwe, Angola, Tanzania, Namibia and Zambia which played a key role in the Southern African liberation struggle, were not happy with the way Jean Ping handled the Libyan bombing by NATO jets.’ In July 2012, Ping was forced out and replaced – with the support of 37 African states - by Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma: former South African Foreign Minister, Thabo Mbeki’s ‘right hand woman’ – and clearly not a member of Ping’s capitulationist camp. The African Union was once again under the control of forces committed to genuine independence.


    However, Gaddafi’s execution had not only taken out a powerful member of the African Union, but also the lynchpin of regional security in the Sahel – Sahara region. Using a careful mixture of force, ideological challenge and negotiation, Gaddafi’s Libya was at the head of a transnational security system that had prevented Salafist militias gaining a foothold, as recognized by US Ambassador Christopher Stevens in 2008: ‘The Government of Libya has aggressively pursued operations to disrupt foreign fighter flows, including more stringent monitoring of air/land ports of entry, and blunt the ideological appeal of radical Islam…Libya cooperates with neighbouring states in the Sahara and Sahel region to stem foreign fighter flows and travel of transnational terrorists. Muammar Gaddafi recently brokered a widely-publicized agreement with Tuareg tribal leaders from Libya, Chad, Niger, Mali and Algeria in which they would abandon separatist aspirations and smuggling (of weapons and transnational extremists) in exchange for development assistance and financial support…our assessment is that the flow of foreign fighters from Libya to Iraq and the reverse flow of veterans to Libya has diminished due to the Government of Libya’s cooperation with other states…’

    This ‘cooperation with other states’ refers to the CEN-SAD (Community of Sahel-Saharan States), an organization launched by Gaddafi in 1998 aiming at free trade, free movement of peoples and regional development between its 23 member states, but with a primary focus on peace and security. As well as countering the influence of Salafist militias, the CEN-SAD had played a key role in mediating conflicts between Ethiopia and Eritrea, and within the Mano River region, as well as negotiating a lasting solution to the rebellion in Chad. CEN-SAD was based in Tripoli and Libya was unquestionably the dominant force in the group; indeed CEN-SAD support was primarily behind Gaddafi’s election as Chairman of the AU in 2009.

    The very effectiveness of this security system, was a double blow for Western hegemony in Africa: not only did it bring Africa closer to peace and prosperity, but simultaneously undercut a key pretext for Western intervention. The US had established its own ‘Trans-Sahara Counter-Terrorism Partnership’ (TSCTP), but as Muatassim Gaddafi (Libyan National Security Advisor) explained to Hilary Clinton in Washington in 2009, the ‘Tripoli-based Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD) and the North Africa Standby Force obviated TSCTP’s mission.’

    As long as Gaddafi was in power and heading up a powerful and effective regional security system, Salafist militias in North Africa could not be used as a ‘threatening menace’ justifying Western invasion and occupation to save the helpless natives. By actually achieving what the West claim to want (but everywhere fail to achieve) - the neutralization of ‘Islamist terrorism’ – Libya had stripped the imperialists of a key pretext for their war against Africa. At the same time, they had prevented the militias from fulfilling their other historical function for the West - as a proxy force to destabilize independent secular states (fully documented in Mark Curtis’ excellent Secret Affairs). The West had supported Salafi death squads in campaigns to destabilize the USSR and Yugoslavia highly successfully, and would do so again against Libya and Syria.


    With NATO’s redrawing of Libya as a failed state, this security system has fallen apart. Not only have the Salafi militias been provided with the latest hi-tech military equipment by NATO, they have been given free reign to loot the Libyan government’s armouries, and provided with a safe haven from which to organize attacks across the region. Border security has collapsed, with the apparent connivance of the new Libyan government and its NATO sponsors, as this =40367&tx_ttnews[backPid]=381&cHash=5a7b4cffa91bea02b8d8f33718a6656d]damning report from global intelligence firm Jamestown Foundation notes: ‘Al-Wigh was an important strategic base for the Qaddafi regime, being located close to the borders with Niger, Chad and Algeria. Since the rebellion, the base has come under the control of Tubu tribal fighters under the nominal command of the Libyan Army and the direct command of Tubu commander Sharafeddine Barka Azaiy, who complains: ‘During the revolution, controlling this base was of key strategic importance. We liberated it. Now we feel neglected. We do not have sufficient equipment, cars and weapons to protect the border. Even though we are part of national army, we receive no salary.’ The report concludes that ‘The Libyan GNC [Governing National Council] and its predecessor, the Transitional National Council (TNC), have failed to secure important military facilities in the south and have allowed border security in large parts of the south to effectively become ‘privatized’ in the hands of tribal groups who are also well-known for their traditional smuggling pursuits. In turn, this has jeopardized the security of Libya’s oil infrastructure and the security of its neighbors. As the sale and transport of Libyan arms becomes a mini-industry in the post-Qaddafi era…the vast amounts of cash available to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb are capable of opening many doors in an impoverished and underdeveloped region. If the French-led offensive in northern Mali succeeds in displacing the Islamist militants, there seems to be little at the moment to prevent such groups from establishing new bases in the poorly-controlled desert wilderness of southern Libya. So long as there is an absence of central control of security structures in Libya, that nation’s interior will continue to present a security threat to the rest of the nations in the region.’


    The most obvious victim of this destabilization has been Mali. That the Salafist takeover of Mali is a direct consequence of NATO’s actions in Libya is not in doubt by any serious analysts. One result of the spread of NATO-backed destabilization to Mali is that Algeria – who lost 200,000 citizens in a deadly civil war with Islamists in the 1990s - is now surrounded by heavily armed Salafist militias on both its Eastern (Libya) and Southern (Mali) borders. Following the destruction of Libya and the toppling of Mubarak, Algeria is now the only state in North Africa still governed by the anti-colonial party that won its independence from European tyranny. This independent spirit is still very much in evidence in Algeria’s attitude towards Africa and Europe. On the African front, Algeria is a strong supporter of the African Union, contributing 15 percent of its budget, and has $16billion committed to the establishment of the African Monetary Fund, making it the Fund’s largest contributor by far. In its relations with Europe, however, it has consistently refused to play the subordinate role expected of it. Algeria and Syria were the only countries in the Arab League to vote against NATO bombings of Libya and Syria, and Algeria famously gave refuge to members of Gaddafi’s family fleeing NATO’s onslaught. But for European strategic planners, perhaps more worrying than all of this is that Algeria – along with Iran and Venezuela – is what they call an OPEC ‘hawk’, committed to driving a hard bargain for their natural resources. As an exasperated article in the Financial Times recently explained, ‘resource nationalism’ has taken hold, with the result that ‘Big Oil has soured on Algeria [and] companies complain of crushing bureaucracy, tough fiscal terms and the bullying behavior of Sonatrach, the state-run energy group, which has a stake in most oil and gas ventures.’ It goes on to note that Algeria implemented a ‘controversial windfall tax” in 2006, and quotes a western oil executive in Algiers as saying that ‘[oil] companies…have had it with Algeria.’ It is instructive to note that the same newspaper had also accused Libya of ‘resource nationalism” – that most heinous of crimes for readers of the Financial Times, it seems - barely a year before NATO’s invasion. Of course, ‘resource nationalism’ means exactly that – a nation’s resources being used primarily for the benefit and development of the nation itself (rather than foreign companies) – and in that sense Algeria is indeed guilty as charged. Algeria’s oil exports stand at over $70bn per year, and much of this income has been used to invest in massive spending on health and housing, along with a recent $23billion loan and public grants programme to encourage small business. Indeed, high levels of social spending are considered by many to be a key reason why no ‘Arab Spring’ style uprising has taken off in Algeria in recent years.


    This tendency to ‘resource nationalism’ was also noted in a recent piece by STRATFOR, the global intelligence firm, who wrote that ‘foreign participation in Algeria has suffered in large part due to protectionist policies enforced by the highly nationalistic military government.’ This was particularly worrying, they argued, as Europe is about to become a whole lot more dependent on Algerian gas as North Sea reserves run out: ‘Developing Algeria as a major natural gas exporter is an economic and strategic imperative for EU countries as North Sea production of the commodity enters terminal decline in the next decade. Algeria is already an important energy supplier to the Continent, but Europe will need expanded access to natural gas to offset the decline of its indigenous reserves.’ British and Dutch North Sea gas reserves are estimated to run out by the end of the decade, and Norway’s to go into sharp decline from 2015 onwards. With Europe fearful of overdependence on gas from Russia and Asia, Algeria – with reserves of natural gas estimated at 4.5 trillion cubic metres, alongside shale gas reserves of 17 trillion cubic meters - will become essential, the piece argues. But the biggest obstacle to European control of these resources remains the Algerian government – with its ‘protectionist policies’ and ‘resource nationalism.’ Without saying it outright, the piece concludes by suggesting that a destabilized ‘failed state’ Algeria would be far preferable to Algeria under a stable independent ‘protectionist’ government, noting that ‘the existing involvement of EU energy majors in high-risk countries like Nigeria, Libya, Yemen and Iraq indicates a healthy tolerance for instability and security problems.’ In other words, in an age of private security, Big Oil no longer requires stability or state protection for its investments; disaster zones can be tolerated; strong, independent states cannot.


    It is, therefore, perceived to be in the strategic interests of Western energy security to see Algeria turned into a failed state, just as Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya have been. With this in mind, it is clear to see how the apparently contradictory policy of arming the Salafist militias one minute (in Libya) and bombing them the next (in Mali) does in fact make sense. The French bombing mission aims, in its own words, at the ‘total reconquest’ of Mali, which in practice means driving the rebels gradually Northwards through the country – in other words, straight into Algeria.

    Thus the wilful destruction of the Libyan-centred Sahel-Sahara security system has had many benefits for those who wish to see Africa remain consigned to its role of underdeveloped provider of cheap raw materials. It has armed, trained, and provided territory to militias bent on the destruction of Algeria, the only major resource-rich North African state committed to genuine African unity and independence. In doing so, it has also persuaded some Africans that – in contrast to their united rejection of AFRICOM not long ago – they do, after all, now need to call on the West for ‘protection’ from these militias. Like a classic mafia protection racket, the West makes its protection ‘necessary’ by unleashing the very forces from which people require protection. Now France is occupying Mali, the US are establishing a new drone base in Niger and David Cameron is talking about his commitment to a new ‘war on terror’ spanning six countries, and likely to last decades.

    It is not, however, all good on the imperialist front. Far from it; indeed the West had almost certainly hoped to avoid sending in their own soldiers at all. The initial aim was that Algeria would be sucked in, lured into exactly the same trap that was successfully used against the Soviet Union in the 1980s, an earlier example of Britain and the US sponsoring a violent sectarian insurgency on their enemy’s borders, attempting to drag their target into a destructive war in response. The USSR’s war in Afghanistan ultimately not only failed but destroyed the country’s economy and morale in the process, and was a key factor behind the gratuitous self-destruction of the Soviet state in 1991. Algeria, however, refused to fall into this trap, and Clinton and Hollande’s good cop-bad cop routine – the former’s ‘pressure for action’ in Algiers last October followed by French attempts at sucking up 2 months later – came to nothing. Meanwhile, rather than sticking to the script, the West’s unpredictable Salafi proxies expanded from their base in Northern Mali not North to Algeria as intended, but South to Bamako, threatening to unseat a Western-allied regime that had only just been installed in a coup less than a year earlier. The French were forced to intervene to drive them North and back towards the state that had been their real target all along. For now, this invasion appears to have a certain level of support amongst those Africans who fear the West’s Salafi proxies more than the West’s own soldiers. Once the occupation starts to drag on, boosting the credibility and numbers of the guerrillas, whilst exposing the brutality of the occupiers and their allies, we will see how long that lasts.


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    *Dan Glazebrook is a political writer and journalist. He writes regularly on international relations and the use of state violence in British domestic and foreign policy.

    Cholera and healthcare in Haiti

    Sokari Ekine


    cc B L
    The problem with healthcare in Haiti is that there is no system, no structures, no plan - at least not one that has been implemented. The healthcare facilities are wholly inadequate

    It is impossible to talk about health care in Haiti without mentioning the 2010 earthquake and the subsequent cholera epidemic which so far has affected 630,000 people and taken the lives of 7,500. It would be easy to believe that cholera was a direct result of the devastation of the earthquake and the heavy rains of June, July and August. In fact the media spent much of 2010 speculating on the possibility of a medical epidemic.

    Two million people were forced into overcrowded internally displaced camps [IDPs] where living conditions were appalling. People were traumatized and fearful of further earthquakes and even to mourn the dead was hard as the struggle to live became harder as months passed. Many women and girls in the tent camps especially, were raped and lived with the fear of physical and sexual violence; food and clean water were scarce; latrines dangerously inadequate; and sewers overflowed. So why were so many health care providers and humanitarian aid agencies caught off guard when in October, the first cases of cholera began to appear and not in the IDP as might have been expected? The answer to this question and others, such as why did it spread so rapidly, who was responsible and what has been the response all serve as an excellent lens from which to examine healthcare and the socioeconomic realities of the UN/US occupation of Haiti.

    Cholera is an acute dehydrating bacterial infection spread through contaminated water and food. The source of the contamination is human feces and the illness is exacerbated by poor sanitation, limited clean water, heavy rains and associated poor hygiene such as failure to wash hands after going to the toilet. Symptoms can be mild or severe with leg cramps, white watery diarrhea and profuse vomiting. They can appear within hours or over a period of days. However once severe symptoms appear, those most vulnerable such as children, the elderly, pregnant women and those already malnourished and or suffering from chronic illness, rapid dehydration can lead to death in just a few hours. Treatment for most people is surprisingly simple: oral rehydration treatment [ORT] and in severe cases, an intravenous rehydration with antibiotics.

    I visited Haiti in November 2010 and by then cholera was already embedded in Haitian lives. Banners and posters announcing the dangers and prevention of cholera hung from streets and decorated what walls were left standing. Radio and TV jingles blared out similar messages whilst schools, camp committees and women’s organisations reinforced all these messages whilst trying their best to create hygienic environments and most important provide clean water.

    A school run by SOPUDEP, a Haitian grassroots movement, did not escape cholera as many parents and students were taken ill. Their priority was to provide clean water through a mix of water treatment tablets and clorox as well as to reinforce basic hygiene regimes - with 700 children it was not an easy task and there were constant school closures as children or their parents were taken ill. Nonetheless they were able to avoid a local epidemic.

    In the early hours of one morning, a diabetic friend was rushed to the Médecins Sans Frontières [MSF] hospital in Martissant 26 which at the time was one of their cholera treatment centers [CTCs]. I arrived in the evening just as dusk was falling to visit my friend. As I waited outside, I watched as cholera patients came and were directed to the side entrance. Some walked, some were carried, frantic parents with a baby wrapped in a bundle but visible enough to know she or he would die very soon; an elderly woman in a wheelbarrow, shrunken and surely at the point of death. In Martissant 26 Cholera was everywhere. It was unavoidable as vendors and customers vied with mountains of rotting refuse and pools of stagnant water lying amidst rubble and buildings destroyed by the earthquake.

    Prior to October 2010 there had been no cases of cholera in Haiti for nearly a century. The first hospitalizied case was on the 17 October in Mirebalais, in the region of Haiti’s longest river, the Artibonite. By October 22 cholera was confirmed and the outbreak in the costal areas of St Marc was established. The disease was able to spread rapidly due to initial misdiagnosis, lack of Oral Rehydration Treatment [ORT] and an already overstretched medical infrastructure.

    Cholera was not the epidemic in waiting. The first responders to both the earthquake and the cholera outbreak were the largely ignored by western media, the Cuban brigade, who had been in Haiti since 1998, along with the well established MSF, also in Haiti for many years. At the start of 2013 these are the only two sizable medical teams left from those first 12 to 18 months. From an initial 72 CTCs in 2010/11, MSF which now accepts all cholera referrals as well as walk in patients, has just four CTCs, in Leogane [40 beds] Delmas 33 [80 beds], Carrefour [275 beds] and Cite Soleil/Drouillard [100 beds].

    In order to place Haiti’s health challenges in a global south context I asked Oliver Schulz, the head of the MSF mission in Haiti, how the country compares to African countries. He gave the example of the eastern Congo where in general there is a structure and willingness by the Ministry of Health to get involved. So within six months of starting a MSF cholera project the ministry is ready to take over. However in Haiti, because the disease is new and because there is neither the capacity nor the necessary health infrastructure, the government is unable to take over. As Schulz pointed out, the situation in Haiti is far more complex than simply pointing a finger at the government as they simply do not have the resources. In particular, Schulz was critical of the WHO and UN whose role should be to support the government in developing a comprehensive health care infrastructure yet despite years of talking little has actually happened.

    “Even with cholera some of the things we discussed two years ago are still being discussed. I do not know how much they are involved in activities like plans etc but it seems to me that by now we should have a national health plan and it seems to me normally the WHO supports the government in making such plans as that’s what they do in other countries.”

    The problem with healthcare in Haiti is there is no system, no structures, no plan - at least not one that has been implemented. What healthcare facilities exist are wholly inadequate - insufficient medical staff, support staff, equipment and treatment, and left to medical NGOs such as MSF, the Cuban Brigade and a few faith-based and charity clinics. For example there is one MSF hospital in Carrefour with 275 beds serving about 400,000 people. In Cite Soleil the figures are similar. In addition to the MSF hospital there is a public hospital, St Catherine’s ,which like most government hospitals, is staffed by excellent Haitian doctors but is rundown and under equipped. The Charity Mission runs a small hospice for HIV/AIDs patients and a few other small clinics serve at least 250,000 people. Finally there is the Centre de Nutrition et Sante Rosalie Rendu which has a pediatric clinic and sees up to 300 under 5s a day, many mothers traveling across the city to reach the clinic. The round trip from for example, Delmas to Cite Soleil can take up to 4 hours and three tap taps at a cost of about $2 - a long and costly journey. But the Haitian and American doctors are excellent and the clinic includes a nutrition center for malnourished children who attend everyday for six months or until their weight and overall condition has improved.

    The public hospitals including the country’s main teaching hospital and clinical and trauma referral center, L’Hôpital Université d’Etat d’Haïti (Haitian State University Hospital or HUEH), are in a terrible condition and have effectively been abandoned by all those involved in running the country - the government, the UN, the USAID and other country donors, and the NGOs. HUEH was partially damaged in the earthquake - 150 nursing students were killed and two thirds of the buildings destroyed. Even before the earthquake, it wasn't in great shape and the rebuilding of HUEH was supposed to be a priority as shown in this []2010 proposal by Partners In Health[/url] [PIH].

    “Significant, strategic, and ongoing improvements to the comprehensive infrastructure, staffing, training, operations, and clinical practice of this central public health facility are investments in the future of all public health throughout Haiti. ...........More immediately, HUEH is in a state of emergency. If conditions at the hospital are not improved in a matter of months, it will become the site of a second round of catastrophic deaths due to disease outbreak or total health system collapse. There has been a vision articulated by the Haitian leadership of the hospital, but they cannot implement it alone. Please join the effort to build Haiti back better by first investing in the health of Haiti’s people.”

    One medical improvement to HUEH and which is exemplary of how things happen in Haiti, is the TB clinic set up in 2010 by an American volunteer, Dr Coffee, and a group of Haitian nurses. The clinic, initially operated under tents, is now housed in a building and has cared for over 1,000 patients TB since 2010.

    Since 2004, when the Medical School of UNIFA (the University of the Aristide Foundation] was forcibly closed, HUEH has been the sole medical training center in Haiti. UNIFA was founded by President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 1996 in order to ‘amply the voices of Haitian people’ by creating an inclusive educational space from adult literacy to training doctors and nurses. In August 2011 the much needed medical school reopened with 63 men and 63 women.

    In the politics of US imperialism in Haiti, the contribution of UNIFA and the Cuban brigade doctors to the health infrastructure have been ignored by western media. I doubt this is by accident given the election of puppet and Duvalierst, Michel Martelly, and the resurgent post earthquake neo-liberal agenda driven by the US, it’s allies and NGOs. Although the rebuilding of the HUEH and other public health clinics has not taken place the new Paul Farmer led, PIH, state of the art University Hospital of Mirebalais [HUM] has now opened. I asked a number of NGO personnel, doctors and Haitian activists why the HUEH has been abandoned yet the PIH NGO hospital has flourished. The response was always the same - “we ask the same question”. No one would question the importance of HUM to Haiti’s health infrastructure. It is the largest post-earthquake project in the country and has taken three years to build. HUM has 300 beds, plus primary and secondary health care for up to 500 people a day. As a teaching hospital HUM along with UNIFA will provide doctors and nurses for Haiti. However questions remain as to the location and who will have access to the hospital.

    There is no doubt that both the earthquake and cholera epidemic played a leading role in the funding and realization of the PIH project. One of the uses of founder, Paul Farmer, is that he is able to raise funds especially since he became a spokesperson for ‘[url= the]]the machine that drives Haiti[/url]”. When questioned by journalist Ansel Herz about the stalling of a wage increase from $3 to $5, Farmer, the new voice of the occupiers, also stalled as he seemed to have forgotten his own treatise on ‘pathologies of power’.

    The inadequate provision of healthcare for the poor in Haiti and elsewhere, as Farmer himself has written over and over, is due in large part to structural violence and a pathology of greed which has left over 2 million people food insecure, forces women into relationships which are detrimental and often abusive; results in people dying needlessly of cholera or because they couldn't access simple surgery as was the case for Elie Joseph.

    In February 2012, Elie Joseph was diagnosed with a heart murmur which is a common congenital heart defect called ventricular septal defect [VSD] where the blood flows the wrong way, putting stress on the heart and lungs which can lead to infections. The charity Haitian Hearts, which sends children suffering from heart related illnesses to the Dominican Republic or the US, arranged for Elie to travel to the Dominican Republic for the 15-minute procedure which would fix his heart. Elie received his travel documents but not his mother so he was unable to undertake the operation which would have taken some four hours plus the follow up treatment. In December 2012 Elie Joseph died from pneumonia in the tent at Aviation camp where his parents are forced to continue to live three years after the quake. VSD is not an illness to die of and Elie is one child out of thousands who have died needlessly as a result of structural violence.

    The violence of poverty is multifaceted so that even when healthcare is accessible there are still other obstacles to overcome. Gladis* lives with her three children aged 6 months, 4 and 9 years in a camp in Delmas 33. She is fortunate because the camp is not too far from both the MSF cholera treatment center in Delmas 33 and the La Paz clinic run by Cuban doctors. Gladis came to Acra camp a few days after the earthquake with her two children. Her home in Tabarre was destroyed in front of her eyes and she wandered the streets for three days disorientated , traumatized, sleeping and walking with the children till eventually she came to Acra. At that time there were no tents and people were sleeping in the open or under whatever makeshift covering they could find. It was about three months before the people at Acra were able to secure tents by searching out various NGOs themselves.

    It was a dangerous time for women in particular as sexual violence was rampant, the only food and water was being handed out by NGOS and you had to queue for hours. Three years later, Gladis is hardly coping with her life and its possible that only the support of her neighbours and the camp committee which has kept her going. In October 2011 when she was about 6 months pregnant, Gladis caught cholera. It started in the morning and within a few hours she was unable to walk. Her neighbours gave her water with the RHT salts but these did not help. She had two problems - she would have to leave her children with neighbors and luckily hers were trustworthy. Secondly she had to get to the MSF treatment center. She was in no condition to travel by Tap Tap or motorbike and besides she did not have the money. The only way was by car. Again Gladis was lucky as one of the camp leaders saw she was ill and suspected cholera. He had an old truck that just about ran and its with this that Gladis, near death, was taken to the hospital where she spent 15 days.

    “I didnt know what was happening until after some days. I saw they had put me in the last room where many people were dying and I thought I would die too. So many people died, I don't know how many but every day they were dying......When I started to get better, I was able to eat. They gave us food sometimes three times a day.“

    Although Gladis was released after 15 days she was still ill suffering from headaches and a fever. But for the MSF her cholera had been treated and they needed the beds as new patients were arriving all the time. Gladis survived but she remains unwell, fearful and hardly able to breastfeed her baby. Again this is one story. Although I have heard many complaints from women on the public hospital and clinics, I have only ever heard good things about both the Cuban doctors, MSF the pediatricians at Sante Rosalie Lendu.

    The cholera epidemic is not over by far and once the rains start the numbers are expected to rise again. The estimates for 2013 are 118,000 cases. To put these numbers in a global context, there were 160,000 cases in the whole of Africa in 2010, that is in a population of nearly 1 billion people compared to the 10 million population in Haiti. I asked Oliver Schulz of MSF his thoughts on the year ahead.

    “My personal fear is that things will get worse before they get better. The structures are weaker today than in 2011/2012. Every year the structures deteriorate. There is no plan for cholera and without a WHO supported comprehensive national health care plan with clear directives, clear action plans and milestones then it will not get better. Also many of the big agencies have left and there are too many unknown NGOs, charities and faith groups”

    Within weeks suggestions began to appear that the origins of cholera lay with the UN and specifically a Nepalese contingent based near the Artibonite river and spread through the base toilets. Initially the UN denied being responsible however there has been mounting evidence of the UN being the source. By October 2012, two years after the outbreak, the evidence against the UN was irrefutable.

    "We can now say," Dr Lantagne said, "that the most likely source of the introduction of cholera into Haiti was someone infected with the Nepal strain of cholera and associated with the United Nations Mirabalais camp."

    In the hope of obtaining justice and reparations for the thousands of cholera victims, the Bureau des Avo­cats Inter­na­tionaux [BAI] and Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti [IJDH] filed a groundbreaking suit against the UN on behalf of 5,000 cholera victims. In addition to insisting on accountability the suit demands that the UN

    • Install a national water and sanitation system that will control the epidemic;
    • Compensate for individual victims of cholera for their losses; and
    • Issue a public apology from the United Nations for its wrongful acts.

    The UN role in introducing cholera is one more abuse in a long list of violent acts against the Haitian people with no accountability. From sexual abuse, rape, cholera to the killing of innocent civilians. UN appointed special Envoy of Occupation, Paul Farmer, suggested as early as December 2010, a vaccination programme as part of a 5-point intervention to halt the epidemic. However Haitians had little reason to trust a UN-led initiative even if it was supported by a world renowned physician.

    Three years later the only evidence of improvement in the healthcare is the teaching hospital at Mirebalais. More than anything Haiti needs clean water, not just for cholera but for a range of illnesses and because everyone has a right to clean water. Provision of clean water however does not make money for pharmaceutical companies - being well does not make money for pharmaceutical companies. But a cholera vaccine every three years is highly profitable disaster capitalism at work. Rashid Haider explains the case against vaccination:

    “The vaccines Shanchol and Dukoral contain large amounts of killed cholera bacteria, the latter having an additional component known as the recombinant B subunit of cholera toxin (rCTB). Both vaccines are two-dose oral vaccines that are taken with an interval of two weeks, and are meant to cause development of protection against cholera one week after the second dose.

    “Harmon’s assumption that these vaccines are 60 to 90 percent protective for a period of two to three years does not concur with facts. The Shanchol that is intended for field testing soon in Haiti had offered a poor protection of 45 percent during the first year of surveillance in a large-scale field trial in India in 2006. Dismal results were obtained in a large-scale field trial in Peru in 1994 when the two-dose vaccine Dukoral was tested.”

    The alternative argument for a national water and sanitation system is a far more sustainable and realistic solution to ending the epidemic and preventing new outbreaks. It is long term, benefits everyone and responds to a range of preventable illness and improves the overall quality of lives.


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    Comment & analysis

    Angola: Is this the country Agostinho Neto dreamt of?

    Abdulrazaq Magaji


    The southern African nation is now peaceful and petro-dollars are pouring in. Yet the greatest beneficiaries are the United States, Great Britain and Portugal, the evil triad that laboured in vain to abort the Angolan dream

    It will be 34 years, come September, since the death of Dr. Agostinho Neto, Angola’s first president. Dr. Neto was the man who changed the face of Angola’s armed struggle against Portuguese occupation after joining the People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA). He had slipped through the claws of PIDE, the Portuguese secret police, in Lisbon from where he fled to join the liberation movement in Morocco. The Marxist-oriented Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola, popularly known by its Portuguese acronym, MPLA, was one of the three visible liberation movements in Angola. The other two are the Union of Total Independence of Angola, UNITA and the front for the National Liberation of Angola, FNLA, led respectively by Jonas Savimbi and Roberto Holden.

    For very obvious reasons, the mantle of leadership fell on Dr. Neto when the Portuguese unceremoniously fled Angola and their other holdings in Africa in 1975. Death aborted the great dream which Dr. Neto had for his country, clearly spelt out in his collection of poems, Sacred Hope, and which, indeed, he staked his life to actualize. He led Angola till he succumbed to cancer in a Moscow hospital one week to his 52nd birthday in 1979. His successor as president of Angola and the MPLA, the reticent and manipulative Eduardo dos Santos, has been in power ever since. Eduardo dos Santos is a joint title holder, alongside another reticent and manipulative African leader, President Mbasogo Nguema of Equatorial Guinea, as Africa’s longest rulers.

    The history of Lusophone Africa is full of ironies. It is one history where the concept of sit tightism is considered the norm. The Portuguese first opened shop in Africa in 1492, at about the same Christopher Columbus ‘discovered’ the Americas and they continued to rule with an iron fist for the next five hundred years. On the eve of the armed struggle and at a time former British Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, made his Wind of Change speech to signal the end to European imperialistic designs in Africa, the Portuguese were still sounding defiant, insisting that their brand of imperialism was integrationist enough to insulate them from anti-colonial struggles elsewhere. How terribly mistaken the Portuguese were became clear after what appeared as an isolated event in northern Angola in February, 1961 when hundreds of Angolan demonstrators were killed, but soon snowballed into a full-scale war. Fourteen years on, Portugal Africa had turned into a hot potato for the Portuguese. It is an ironic twist of fate that, thirty eight years down the road, Africans in former Portugal Africa have watched with disbelief the replacement of fair-faced, boisterous oppressors with reticent, black-skinned despots. Bluntly put, today’s former Portugal Africa is where oppression and corruption jostle for space.

    For obvious reasons, Angola elicits much pity in Lusophone Africa narratives. We may clearly excuse Dr. Neto who came at a very difficult time. He inherited a war-ravaged country; a country treated as a pariah because of the unquantifiable support his party, the MPLA, got from Cuba and the former Soviet Union. This was a period when the West was caught up in the frenzy of containing the spread of communism and to effectively do this, the West had an outpost in former apartheid South Africa from where Savimbi’s UNITA, now in the warm embrace of the West, operated. Angola was probably the first visible place in Africa where the West and the former Soviet Union fought a real proxy war. It is unlikely Dr. Neto’s MPLA could have successfully resisted the Western-backed UNITA without the critical support of the Cubans and the Soviets and, of course, the frontline states. To a large extent, Nigeria became the game-changer in Angola when, in 1975, late General Murtala Ramat Muhammad defied the West to rally continental and global support for the new MPLA government in Luanda. It was this state of confusion that Eduardo dos Santos inherited 1979.

    Angola has witnessed some stability under President Eduardo dos Santos. The threat posed by UNITA is no longer present as the former liberation movement has been forced to join the political process especially with the killing of its leader, Jonas Savimbi in an ambush in 2002. The politicians in Luanda no longer steal glances across their shoulders in fear of UNITA rebels. What is more, petro-dollars are pouring into the country in torrents and the country is enjoying a period of economic bliss. The Cubans and Russians no longer call the shots as they have now taken the back seat. Ditto for Nigeria and the vulnerable frontline states which endured consistent bombings from apartheid South Africa for lending critical support to the MPLA government. Today, the lords of the manor are the United States, Great Britain and Portugal, the evil triangle that laboured in vain to abort the Angolan dream. After more than three decades under the wise guidance of dos Santos, Angola has turned full circle; the country is on the roll. Today’s Angola lends credence to an African saying that all manner of knives are on display the day an elephant is hunted down.

    Indeed, an elephant has been hunted down in Angola and a great party, unheard of in the southern tip of the continent, is on. Pity is that a party that should have enough for majority of Angolans to take home, considering the size of an elephant, is being attended by a select few. On the high table, surrounded by members of his immediate family and a few cronies made up of generals and sundry leeches, is His Excellency, President Eduardo dos Santos. His eldest daughter, the 40-year old Isabel, who was a toddler at independence in 1975, is the cynosure of all eyes: she wields the sharpest and longest knife. At the age of 24, Isabel opened a restaurant in 1997 in Luanda, the capital of Angola and chose, of all names, Miami Beach, as its name in preference over the beach in Luanda or the eye-catching one in Havana. In sixteen short years since Isabel launched Miami Beach, she has made history as Africa’s first female billionaire. Forbes, the American magazine that tracks the world’s super-rich estimated Isabel’s billions in US Dollars, not the Kwanza, Angola’s local currency.

    Like the caring and protective father-patron he has been, President Eduardo dos Santos should feel proud and turn his chest into one big drum for successfully steering his daughter to become the continent’s first female billionaire and ensuring his other children too are at the top of the ladder. The president needs not lose sleep that by turning his country into one huge private estate for family members and cronies to plunder, he has turned Angola into another Nigeria: a plundering ground; a rich country of poor, struggling people. Of course, many Angolans will be sneering at the ignoble honour bestowed on their country’s first daughter courtesy of a benevolent father, an ideological turn-coat who, despite his reticence, is happy robbing his country blind. Better still, the struggling people of Angola, left in the lurch by a corrupt and clueless ruling class should be wondering, like their friends further north, how and at what point they missed the bus.


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    * Abdulrazaq Magaji lives in Abuja, Nigeria, and can be reached at [email protected]

    Two years later uprisings continue in Tunisia and Egypt

    Neo-colonialism and the struggle for genuine democracy and national unity

    Abayomi Azikiwe


    The current struggles in Egypt and Tunisia must take into account the historical lessons of imperialist intervention and destabilization to create the conditions for genuine political and economic independence

    On February 8 in Tunisia a general strike and mass demonstrations marked the response by the youth and workers to the assassination of opposition organizer Chokri Belaid. Over two years after the rebellions and strikes that initiated the upheavals throughout the region of North Africa and the Middle East, the struggle for political democracy and economic renewal is by no means resolved.

    Chokri Belaid had been a staunch critic of the current ruling Ennahda Party, a moderate Islamist organization which won the largest bloc of votes during the national elections which were held in the aftermath of the overthrow of former President Zine Abidine Ben Ali, who fled the country on January 14, 2011 amid a national rebellion against a dictatorship designed to uphold the neo-colonial system of foreign dominance by France and the United States.

    At the funeral of Belaid, the security forces used teargas to break up demonstrations in Tunis, the capital. Protests took place in other cities throughout the country coupled with a general strike led by the main workers’ organization the Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT) which was founded in January of 1946.

    Demonstrations had been taking place since the assassination of Belaid on February 6. The nation was shocked by the murder, which many people have blamed on the operatives of the main Ennahda Party.

    Various activists throughout the country have repeatedly stated that an atmosphere of political intolerance has taken hold in Tunisia. Belaid had been accused by the ruling Ennahda Party of fomenting unrest through his speeches which were highly critical of the government.

    Belaid through his political critiques against the ruling party was held responsible for the discontent that is spreading throughout Tunisia in Gafsa, Kasserine, Siliana and in Sidi Bouzid, where the uprising began on December 17, 2010 that spread throughout the country. In the evening before his assassination, he appeared on Nessma TV where he discussed state-sanctioned violence and political assassination.


    Also in the North African state of Egypt, unrest has been resurfacing on a mass level since the second anniversary of the January 25, 2011 uprising. In Egypt, simmering resentment over the rushed draft constitutional process during late 2012 remains where the secular and other opposition forces are enraged over the failure of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) government to live up to the ideals of the revolutionary struggle.

    During 2011 in Egypt, the slogan “Freedom, Bread and Social Justice” rang out across the country of some 80 million people. Two years later, the same slogans have been raised again as dozens have been killed in Egypt since January 25, and the government of President Mohamed Morsi’s offers of national dialogue has been treated with profound scepticism.skepticism.

    The National Salvation Front (NSF), composed of a myriad of liberal, nationalist, socialist and anarchist organizations and political parties, has formed the opposition to the FJP government. The NSF is by no means a uniform coalition with some groups calling for the resignation or forced removal of the Muslim Brotherhood government of the FJP while others are demanding the formation of a coalition government and the repeal of the recently adopted constitution that was largely drawn up by the Islamist forces of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists, many of whom are represented by the Al Nour Party.

    Demonstrations also took place on February 8 throughout Egypt as well. In Cairo, Alexandria, Port Said, the Delta cities as well as other regions of the country, people went into the streets raising slogans that seek the realization of genuine national liberation and social justice. Clashes between security forces and the demonstrators resulted in scores of injuries.

    Although the demonstrations in many parts of the country began peacefully, the security forces provoked violence and consequently moved to clear the streets of protesters. Morsi claims that he is sincere about reconciling the interests of the FJP with those of the NSF. Nonetheless, he has at the same time ordered the security forces to take repressive measures against the masses.

    In Egypt activists are also concerned about the rising tide of political assassination. The killing of many protesters in recent weeks has not been seriously addressed by the FJP government.

    An Egyptian cleric issued a fatwa saying it was proper to assassinate opponents of the FJP government. Such proclamations cannot create a political atmosphere that is conducive for the reconciliation between the Islamists and the more secular coalitions and parties.

    The various political parties and coalitions in both Egypt and Tunisia are reflective of a broader set of national and class dynamics in these respective states and throughout Africa and the Middle East. Both regions are still dominated by imperialism and absent of a struggle to break free of the strangleholds of the Pentagon, NATO, the transnational corporations and banks along with the refusal to directly confront the State of Israel, events cannot hope to bring about the alleviation of the suffering of the workers, farmers and youth.


    There can be no genuine revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia or any other state within Africa and the Middle East without a protracted fight against the West and its institutions which bolster the State of Israel and other client regimes in regions. These individual states are largely the creation of European colonialism and modern day neo-colonialism headed by the U.S.

    With this year being the 50th anniversary of the formation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) it is instructive to examine where Africa has come since that fateful inaugural meeting in Ethiopia on May 25, 1963. The African Union (AU), the successor to the OAU, met recently at its headquarters in Addis Ababa.

    This summit of the AU was taking place amid not only the renewed upsurge in mass demonstrations and repression in Egypt but also the French imperialist bombing and ground invasion of Mali and the spreading of the residual impact of this onslaught into both neighbouringneighboring Algeria and Niger. The U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), the French military, Britain, Canada and other NATO states are involved in the war against Mali under the guise of fighting “Islamic terrorism.”

    Despite these momentous political and military challenges which pose a direct threat to the national and regional security of Africa, very little was said of these developments in the official documents of the AU. With the formation of AFRICOM and its established relations with various African states and military units, the actual security situations of these governments have been further weakened.

    In Mali, the AFRICOM structures trained, coordinated and directly supported monetarily the military within this West African state. Nonetheless, these actions on the part of the Pentagon objectively weakened the national security capacity of Mali to deal with an internal conflict in the north of the country.

    The democratically-elected government of President Amadou Toumani Toure was actually overthrown by a U.S.-trained officer Capt. Amadou Sanogo. Even after the overthrow of President Toure, the Pentagon-trained junta never entered the battle against the Tuareg separatists or the Islamists who took over the north of the country.

    In fact the destabilization of northern Mali was directly related to the U.S.-NATO war against the Jamahiriya in neighbouring Libya under the leadership of the martyred Col. Muammar Gaddafi. The bombing of Libya and the training and deployment of thousands of rebel fighters into Libya created mass dislocations both internally and externally.

    The destruction of Libya of course was never opposed by the so-called revolutionary groups inside Egypt and Tunisia. The failure to recognize within these political processes that the blanket bombing of a regional state is directly related to the revolutionary trajectory of all neighbouring countries, is representative of a profound weakness in regard to political consciousness and strategic outlooks of the existing movements.

    AFRICOM’s strategy on the continent is designed to develop relationships on a bi-lateral level. What is needed is for Africa and the Middle East to reject any involvement with AFRICOM on principle based upon the impact of the Pentagon’s interference in the internal affairs of African and Middle Eastern nations.

    This same axiom is further reinforced by a cursory examination of the situation in Syria. Damascus is under direct threat by a U.S.-NATO-backed insurgency that is responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of Syrians.

    Patriot missiles have been placed on the border between Turkey and Syria in an effort to further pressure the government of President Bashar al-Assad to relinquish power to the western-backed rebels and their political component. The existing division within the regional states over the situation in Syria is strengthening imperialism in its quest to conquer and dominate all states throughout the Middle East and Africa.

    Consequently, as part of this process of encirclement and regime-change, the Israeli Defense Forces can carry out bombing operations against Syria. Israel can also erect a fence on the occupied territory of the Golan Heights as a means of increasing pressure aimed at the fall of the legitimate and internationally-recognized government of the Syrian state.

    Nkrumah wrote in his book entitled, “Africa Must Unite,” published at the founding of the OAU in 1963, that “A united Africa would be able to make a greater contribution towards the peace and progress of mankind (humanity). For one thing, it would resolve the problems of those arbitrary frontiers erected by the colonial powers, and so eliminate irredentist dissensions.” (p. 202)

    This same book goes on to point out that under a united anti-imperialist continent, and similar Middle East, “There would be no foreign military bases on African soil. With a united foreign policy and a common defencedefense plan, there would be no need for them. In the concourse of African union, no African country would be left in a position of solitary weakness in which it could be bullied into allowing them.” (p. 202)

    Nkrumah continues noting that “Aany kind of military pacts or alliances with outside powers would be unnecessary. Our united strength would be sufficient to deter any would-be aggressor, since an attack on any African country would be regarded as an attack on the Union.” (p. 203)

    With specific reference to Paris in the early 1960s, Nkrumah says “I do not imagine that France would have dared to attack Bizerta if we had been united. Nor would she explode atomic bombs in the Sahara in spite of urgent and repeated African objections.” (p. 203)

    Therefore, the lack of a regional Pan-African outlook will only further subject the continent to imperialist intervention and destabilization. The current struggles in Egypt and Tunisia must take these historical lessons into consideration in order to enhance the capacity of the masses to achieve the objectives that will create the conditions for genuine political and economic independence.

    * Abayomi Azikiwe is Editor, Pan-African News Wire

    Advocacy & campaigns

    Africa Contact condemns severe punishment of Saharawi human rights activists

    Africa Contact


    Africa Contact strongly condemns the harsh and unjust sentences given February 17 by a Moroccan military court to 24 Saharawis - Western Sahara's indigenous population - just for demanding the right to live in their own country without Moroccan occupation and discrimination

    One of the accused, Chaikh Banga, who was sentenced to 30 years in prison, said during the trial: "If my love for my country is considered an offense let the world witness that I am a gangster."

    Africa Contact regards this trial as being both immoral and against international law and urges the Moroccan government to unconditionally release the 24 activists, as well as Denmark and the rest of the world to also call for their release.

    Several of them have been sentenced to life sentences, merely for having organized a peaceful protest camp outside occupied Western Sahara's capital El Aaiun (Laayoune) in 2010 - the so-called "Gdeim Izik" camp. Many others received prison terms of 20 and 30 years.

    The purpose of these harsh sentences is obviously to punish any attempt to challenge Morocco's illegal occupation of Western Sahara, the discrimination against the country's indigenous population, the plundering of Western Sahara's resources, and the gross human rights violations taking place, all matters that continue without the attention of the Western media.

    Africa Contact is not alone in its condemnation of the trial. "The trial of civilians before a military court does not meet internationally recognized standards for a fair trial. The 24 accused must be brought before a civilian court with all the human rights guarantees that go along with it, and in no event must anyone be sentenced to death," said Philip Luther, Amnesty International's director for the Middle East and North Africa, before the sentences were passed.

    “The Moroccan authorities have ignored calls to try the defendants in an independent, impartial civilian court. Instead they have opted for a military court where civilians can never receive a fair trial.” said Ann Harrison, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International.

    “It is disturbing that the authorities have also ignored the Sahrawi defendants’ allegations of torture and coerced confessions.”

    “The use of military courts, compounded by the fact that torture allegations have not been investigated, casts a serious doubt on the Moroccan authorities’ intention and whether they were more concerned with securing a guilty verdict than justice”. Said Ann Harrison, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International.

    The defendants insisted that they had been tortured, including sexual abuse, to make them confess to the charges against them. The judge in refused to investigate these allegations. The defense also substantiated the absence of prisoners' fingerprints, the lack of DNA evidence, and that there was generally no hard evidence against the accused.

    All international observers and humanitarian organizations who participated in the trial as observers agreed that the evidence against the Saharawis was flawed. Before the trial started the European Parliament, amongst others, called for the release of the 24 Saharawis.

    Africa Contact wishes to send a clear message to the Moroccan authorities that their repeated violations of basic human rights in the occupied territories of Western Sahara cannot be tolerated in a world that almost unanimously claims to believe in the observance of basic human rights.

    Morten Nielsen - Head of Secretariat
    Africa Contact - Denmark
    Blågårdsgade 7B st. th. - DK2200 Copenhagen N - Denmark
    Phone: (+45) 35 35 92 32 (AC) or
    Mobil: (+45) 25 39 65 57

    Breakthrough enables individual complaints on economic, social and cultural rights


    The Protocol makes a strong and unequivocal statement about the equal value and importance of all human rights and the need for strengthened legal protection of economic, social and cultural rights in particular

    GENEVA (6 February 2013) - The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Wednesday applauded the upcoming entry into force of a key Protocol to an international treaty which will, for the first time, enable individual complaints on economic, social and cultural rights, thereby helping place all human rights on an equal footing.

    After crossing the required threshold of state ratifications on Tuesday, the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights will enter into force on 5 May.

    “The entry into force of the Optional Protocol is a major breakthrough, which will enable victims under the jurisdiction of the States parties to seek justice for violations of their economic, social and cultural rights,” Pillay said.

    “The Protocol will provide an important platform to expose abuses linked to poverty, discrimination and neglect, which up until now victims have had to endure without any possible recourse at the international level. It will provide a way for individuals, who may otherwise be isolated and powerless, to make the international community aware of their situation,” the High Commissioner said.

    “The entry into force of the Optional Protocol will also finally help place economic, social and cultural rights on an equal footing with all other human rights,” Pillay said. “The Protocol makes a strong and unequivocal statement about the equal value and importance of all human rights and the need for strengthened legal protection of economic, social and cultural rights in particular,” she added.

    Uruguay triggered the coming into force of the Optional Protocol when, on 5 February, it became the tenth country to ratify, joining Argentina, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ecuador, El Salvador, Mongolia, Portugal, Slovakia and Spain.

    The Optional Protocol was adopted four years ago, on 10 December 2008, by the UN General Assembly. It gives the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights – the body which monitors the International Covenant to which the Protocol is attached – the competence to examine complaints from individuals or groups of individuals who claim a violation of rights protected under the Covenant. It also enables the Committee to conduct inquiries if it receives reliable information indicating grave or systematic violations by a State party of any of the economic, social and cultural rights covered by the Covenant.

    “With the entry into force of the Optional Protocol, a jurisprudence will now be developed that will help define the scope of application of economic, social and cultural rights and outline adequate remedies for victims,” Pillay said.

    The High Commissioner strongly encouraged other States among the 160 that are already party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to ratify the Optional Protocol as soon as possible. The equivalent Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights came into force 37 years ago (in March 1976), and has been ratified by 114 States.
    United Nations Press release

    HREA offers a certificate e-learning course ESC Rights in Practice (6 November-17 December 2013)

    British MPs: Sentencing of Western Sahara activists “travesty of justice”


    Several British MP’s have joined prominent campaigners including film director Ken Loach in condemning the sentencing of 24 Saharawi activists by a military tribunal in Morocco at the weekend. In a letter published in the Guardian newspaper, the Members of Parliament describe the sentences, most of which ranged from 20 years to life imprisonment as “a travesty of justice”.

    The letter states:

    “The sentencing of 24 Saharawi activists by a Moroccan military tribunal last weekend is a travesty of justice. The defendants, most of whom received sentences ranging from 20 years to life imprisonment, were involved in setting-up the Gdeim Izik protest camp in Western Sahara in 2010, widely regarded as the first spark of the Arab spring. Amnesty International has described their trial as flawed from the outset, in violation of international standards for fair trials. While in detention, the defendants claim to have been coerced into signing confessions. Any trial of the defendants, many of whom are prominent human rights activists, should have been in a civilian court. It should not have been delayed by over two years and allegations of torture should have been fully and independently investigated. This appears to have been a politically motivated show trial. We urge the international community to speak out against these sentences and support our call for independent human rights monitoring in Western Sahara.”

    After more than a week of hearings, the military court in Rabat sentenced 8 of the defendants, including Sidahmed Lemjiyed, the President of the Saharawi Committee for the Protection of Natural Resources to life imprisonment. 14 others were convicted to sentences ranging from 20 to 30 years. Two were sentenced to two years.

    European observers who witnessed the trial, noted many anomalies including the delay of detention without trial beyond the legal limit of 12 months, trial of civilians in a military court, confessions allegedly obtained under torture and signed with a thumb print.

    To view the letter in full visit The Guardian.

    Signatories to the letter include

    Jeremy Corbyn Chair, all Party Parliamentary Group on Western Sahara
    Mark Williams MP
    Cathy Jamieson MP
    Paul Flynn MP
    Andy Love MP
    Katy Clarke MP
    Kelvin Hopkins MP
    Ken Loach
    John Pilger
    Carne Ross Director, Independent Diplomat
    John Gurr Co-ordinator, Western Sahara Campaign UK
    John Hilary Executive director, War on Want
    Don Pepper Chair, Strategic Conflict Resolution Group
    Erik Hagen Chair, Western Sahara Resource Watch
    Johanna Svanelind Students for a Free Western Sahara
    Danielle Smith Founding director, Sandblast
    Sidahmad Yadasi Adala UK (Human Rights for Western Sahara)
    Professor Chrisdtiane Perregaux University of Geneva, Comité Suisse de Soutien au Peuple Sahraoui
    Dave Green National officer, Fire Brigades Union
    Tom O'Bryan Western Sahara Action Forum
    Cate Lewis Australia Western Sahara Association
    David Stothard Director, Olive Branch Arts

    This Press Release is issued on behalf of the Western Sahara Campaign UK and the Free Western Sahara Network.

    CONTACT: 077534 72295 or 01974 282575

    VISIT or

    Burundian government must stop harassing civil society and media



    CIVICUS, the global civil society network, and the Ligue des Droits de la personne dans la région des Grandes Lacs (LDGL), warn about rising levels of harassment of civil society activists and journalists in Burundi. They urge the Government of Burundi to respect its constitutional and international law obligations on human rights.

    The two bodies are concerned about several recent developments in Burundi:

    On 8 January 2013, journalist Hassan Ruvakuki was sentenced to three years imprisonment by an appeals court in Gitega. Hassan, a reporter for local Burundian radio station Bonesha FM and French broadcaster Radio France International was initially arrested and detained in November 2011. He was charged with “terrorism” in June 2012 and handed a life sentence by a court in Cankuzo in relation to an interview he conducted in November 2011 unearthing the existence of a new rebel movement along the Burundian border with Tanzania. Following a lengthy appeals process, the appeals court altered his sentence to three years in prison, replacing the “terrorism” charges with that of “working with a criminal group.” This constitutes the latest onslaught on free expression and journalistic freedoms in Burundi.

    In January 2013, Burundi went through its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the UN Human Rights Council where concerns regarding judicial harassment, arbitrary detention and threats to human rights defenders were discussed. These were also highlighted by CIVICUS and LDGL in their submission to the 15th session of the UPR. Notably, the practice of summoning of civil society activists and journalists by government officials in reaction to statements and reports on human rights violations continues unabated.

    In July 2012, an anti-corruption court sentenced Faustin Ndikumana, president of Parole et Action Pour le Réveil des Consciences et l’Evolution des Mentalités (PARCEM) to five years in prison for making “false declarations” after he wrote to the Minister of Justice that some judges had confessed to his organisation that they had been requested to pay bribes to be recruited. Although Faustin Ndikumana is currently on bail pending an appeal against his conviction, his movements are severely restricted.

    In June 2012, Mireille Niyonzima, head of the Association for the Defence of Women’s Rights in Burundi (ADDF) repeatedly received threatening phone calls from unidentified individuals after writing to the President of Burundi Pierre Nkurunziza complaining about certain policies that negatively affect women’s rights in the country.

    In May 2012, another journalist, Alexis Nibasumba received threatening phone calls in connection with his investigation into a suspected case of extra-judicial killing by the police in Rumonge.

    CIVICUS calls on the government of Burundi to create an enabling environment for civil society to operate in accordance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights to which Burundi is a party. In particular, the following minimum requirements in policy and practice for civil society to operate should be guaranteed: freedom of expression, freedom of association, the right to operate free from unwarranted state interference, the right to communicate and cooperate, the right to seek and secure funding and the state’s duty to protect.

    David Kode, Policy and Advocacy Officer at CIVICUS said:

    “We strongly condemn the victimization of Hassan simply for carrying out his professional responsibilities. Sadly, this is not the first instance of harassment of activists or journalists in Burundi for telling the truth.”


    CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation is a global alliance of civil society. Founded in 1993 and headquartered in Johannesburg, South Africa. One of the primary objectives of CIVICUS is to strengthen citizen action and civil society throughout the world, especially in areas where participatory democracy and citizens’ freedom of association are challenged. For more information, go to

    LGDL: The Ligue des Droits de la personne dans la région des Grandes Lacs is a network focusing on human rights in the Great Lakes Region with members in Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda. For more information, go to

    The CIVICUS-LDGL submission to the UN Human Rights Council on Burundi click here.


    Kiva La Touché
    Communications Officer, CIVICUS
    [email protected]
    + 27 11 833 5959

    Eradicating dissent in post-Mubarak Egypt

    Civil society face new repressive laws


    International NGOs would not be allowed to settle and activate in Egypt without prior authorisation. Receiving foreign government funding, directly or indirectly, would be flatly prohibited

    Last week, and in the aftermath of mounting political tensions and street violence shaking the country, the Egyptian Ministry of Justice announced a new draft Law on Civil Associations and Foundations and a draft law on demonstrations for consideration and approval by the government.

    The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN), the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation against Torture (OMCT) are deeply disturbed that such repressive legislation should be taken by the Egyptian authorities in an attempt to muzzle dissenting voices and gag public freedoms in the country.

    This most disquieting development comes in a context where public authorities have been meeting street protests with excessive use of force entailing tear gas and rubber bullets, leaving over60 dead and dozens of wounded over the past weeks. Widespread criticism from the media and Human Rights organisations alike, have been met with defamation and trials, and legal moves attempting to criminalise such criticism.

    Our organisations are particularly worried that the Egyptian government aims at institutionalising and legalising repressive practices that have not changed since the Mubarak era.

    If ratified, the law on demonstrations would blankly criminalise peaceful protest movements, by prohibiting any disturbance “of security or public order, prohibiting the hindrance to citizens’ interests, or the blocking of roads and other means of transport, obstructing traffic, or attacking personal property, or hindering the freedom to work.”[1] It would alsoresult in justifying use of excessive force by security forces in dispersing demonstrations.

    The bill on associations and foundations, currently tabled for discussion by the Egyptian government, would leave only a dramatically-shrunken space for NGOs and other Civil Society Organisations to operate in Egypt, by virtually “nationalising” civil organisations.[2]

    This draft law grants indeed broad powers to a “steering committee” composed of representatives from several ministries with heavy presence of the security apparatus.

    In contravention with the requirement of ‘notification’, it mandates ‘registration’ of all NGOs and foundations. It grants this committee the authority to define the associations’ objectives, interfere in their activities, and authorise or not foreign funding based on the type of activities.

    International NGOs would not be allowed to settle and activate in Egypt without prior authorisation. Receiving foreign government funding, directly or indirectly, would be flatly prohibited for all CSOs, threatening the means of subsistence of many associations, in particular human rights organisations, who depend on public grants.

    Finally and worryingly, this draft law provides with “imprisonment for a term of not less than one year” and fines of up to £E 100,000 for a wide range of violations of the law, including "aiding" a foreign CSO "in the exercise of any activity in Egypt" or "field research or opinion polls”... without the approval of the concerned authorities.

    Our organisations are alarmed that the Egyptian authorities should resort to such authoritarian-like measures instead of opening the gates to genuine dialogue with civil society and all the political forces at play in the country with a view to achieve outcomes conductive of human rights and democracy. Indeed these repressive policies do not help building confidence between government and civil society as needed in order to build a successful dialogue and find a way out from the on-going political crisis.

    We therefore urge the Egyptian authorities to:

    · Withdraw without delay the above-mentioned drafts and elaborate a new law on civil organisations or adopt the draft proposed by 56 Egyptian organisations, limiting constraints on CSOs operating in the country, in conformity with Egypt’s self-assumed obligations under international law ;

    · Engage in a genuine nation-wide dialogue, inclusive of Human Rights organisations and all political forces at play in the country and conductive to the respect of human rights and democracy;

    · Stop the assaults against protesters and showcase real efforts to combat impunity for the crimes committed against protestors and establish a robust institutional framework to ease the country’s transition to democracy.

    Our organisations also ask that the European Union:

    · Fully abides by its declared change of policy with its Southern Mediterranean neighbours after the Arab Spring and urgently translate its commitments regarding democracy, rule of law, respect of human rights and gender equality into concrete actions.

    · Strongly urges the Egyptian authority to withdraw the two up-cited draft laws, and to engage in sincere consultation with civil society to set a legal framework conducive to freedom of association and peaceful assembly conform to international standards

    · Makes clear to the Egyptian government that the EU’s level of political, financial and technical engagement will depend on the level of progress with regard to democratisation, human rights and gender equality; and be based on an objective and accurate assessment of the situation on the ground.

    For more information please contact:

    EMHRN: Bérénice Michard, [email protected], Tel: +33 148 18 06 86/Shaimaa Abou Elkhir, [email protected], Tel: +201001077207/Hayet Zeghiche, [email protected], Tel: +32 488 08 00 41

    FIDH: Arthur Manet, Tel : +33 6 72 28 42 94 /Audrey Couprie , Tel : +33 1 43 55 14 12; [email protected]

    OMCT: Delphine Reculeau , [email protected] /Alexandra Kossin, [email protected], Tel : + 41 22 809 49 39

    Statement concerning assassination of Chokri Belaid


    This assassination aims at silencing voices fighting for dignity, freedom and social justice; it aims to create a climate of fear and hatred and to push Tunisia towards a cycle of violence

    We, the undersigned organizations, actively involved in the preparations for the upcoming World Social Forum to be held in March 2013 in Tunis, are dismayed and revolted by the assassination of Chokri Belaid, a political leader who devoted his life to fight for democracy, freedom and social justice.

    We extend our condolences to the family of the deceased, his comrades in struggle, his friends and the people of Tunisia, for their loss of a man who never shied away in defending their cause. This odious crime has taken place two years after the eruption of the revolutions in Tunisia and in the region and less than two months before the beginning of the WSF 2013 in Tunis.

    This assassination aims at silencing voices fighting for dignity, freedom and social justice; it aims to create a climate of fear and hatred and to push Tunisia towards a cycle of violence.

    Such an act will not be able to stop the process in which all democracy loving Tunisians are engaged in and with whom we are in solidarity. We are convinced that the democratic forces in Tunisia will be able to gather their strength and their steadfast conviction and choice for a peaceful resolution of conflicts to strengthen the democratic process.

    We appeal to the Tunisian authorities to urgently order an impartial inquiry and identify the perpetrators of this crime and implement mechanisms so that such an act does not go unpunished and does not reproduce again.

    We are convinced, more than ever before, of the necessity for international mobilization in order to ensure success of the WSF 2013 that will send a strong signal of support to the democratic process in Tunisia

    The list of undersigned organizations:


































































































































    Forum femmes méditerranée

























































    PARTENIA 2000














































    Letters & Opinions

    Zuma targets protesters while taking no serious action on violence against women

    Unemployed People’s Movement


    Our country is reeling with shock at the ongoing rape and violence against women, rich women and poor women, white women and black women, by men of all races and classes. And our country is reeling in shock at the levels of corruption. The trial of the Mpsiane's in KwaZulu-Natal has shown just how extreme the situation has become in terms of government corruption. But we are also reeling in shock from the corruption scandals around MTN, the construction cartel and other big corporates that have even go so far as to fix the price of bread.

    We would have expected a decent President to announce special courts to deal with rape and violence against women. We would have expected a decent President to announce special courts to deal with corruption. Instead we get special courts for protesters!

    Zuma is more like Ben Ali or Mubarak than a true representative of the people. His conduct in his own rape trial was shocking. No one could ever say that he is a leader that has the moral authority to take a stand against corruption. He has militarised the police and said nothing when poor people's movements are openly repressed by the police and the ANC. Now he pretends that violence is coming from protesters when we all know that in most cases it is the police that bring violence into the equation. There is a very long list of protesters that have been killed by the police since 2000. In fact the number stands at more than 70! What kind of democracy is this where the police can kill more than 70 protesters?


    Ayanda Kota 078 625 6462 (Spokesperson, UPM Eastern Cape)

    Motsi Khokhoma 073 490 76 23 (Spokesperson, UPM Free State)

    Fahamu - Networks For Social Justice

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