Join Friends of Pambazuka

Subscribe for Free!

Fahamu Bulletin Archive

About our Programmes

Donate to Pambazuka News!

Follow Us

delicious bookmarks facebook twitter

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

Latest titles from Pambazuka Press

African Sexualities

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

Global NATO and the Catastrophic Failure in Libya

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

Queer African Reader

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

China and Angola

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

How Europe Underdeveloped Africa

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

Pambazuka News Broadcasts

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

    See the list of episodes.


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

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

    Current Issue

    Pambazuka News 737: How the West under-develops Africa

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

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


    Follow Pambazuka #PambazukaNews

    Pambazuka News (English edition): ISSN 1753-6839

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


    Financing for (under)development in Africa?

    How the West underdeveloped Africa and is now trying to “finance develop” it

    Alemayehu G. Mariam


    cc ADF
    The cause of Africa’s underdevelopment is well known: Imperialism. Yet heads of state, ministers and representatives have been strutting on the world stage promising to beat the old horse of poverty to death in Africa. Loaners and donors get on their high horses and with great fanfare issue the same old empty promises, sweep up their old broken promises under the rug and recycle the same old pledges about sustainable development and the rest of their meaningless litany.

    The “Third International Conference on Financing for Development” was held in Addis Ababa last week. It was billed as a “gathering of high-level political representatives, including Heads of State and Government, Ministers of Finance, Foreign Affairs and Development Cooperation, as well as all relevant institutional stakeholders, non-governmental organizations and business sector entities.”

    The Conference was organized to “assess the progress made in the implementation of the Monterrey Consensus and the Doha Declaration”, and produce an “an intergovernmentally negotiated and agreed outcome, which should constitute an important contribution to and support the implementation of the post-2015 development agenda.”

    The checklist of things to do at the Conference included evaluation of “recent multilateral efforts to promote international development cooperation and the interrelationship of all sources of development finance”, “assessment of the synergies between financing objectives across the three dimensions of sustainable development” and finding ways of “supporting the United Nations development agenda beyond 2015.”

    In 1972, Walter Rodney, the Guyanese historian and political activist, wrote his seminal book, “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa” and argued that European colonial exploitation is principally responsible for the present underdevelopment of much of the continent.

    Rodney examined the political economy of African “underdevelopment” since the Europeans came to Africa in 15th century and concluded that African “underdevelopment” is the outcome of a historical process of exploitation and oppression of Africa for the benefit of Europe. Rodney argued that the political economy of Africa’s underdevelopment is rooted in the Atlantic slave trade, European violence, conquest, dehumanization, displacement, domination of African peoples and destruction and distortion of indigenous African institutions.

    Rodney asserted that European industrial development occurred at the high price of asphyxiation of African colonial economies or underdevelopment. European capitalism created an international division of labor based on domination, subjugation and exploitation of Africans and their natural resources. The structure of international capitalism has always relegated African economies to be providers of raw materials, a dependent relationship which the West will maintain in perpetuity for its own advantage. The contemporary African state exists with its alliance with foreign interests. The only way to break out of dependency is to repudiate imperialism, argued Rodney.

    Wole Soyinka, the Nigerian poet and playwright who six years after Rodney’s assassination in Guyana in 1980 received the Nobel Prize in Literature, described Rodney as an individual who “was no captive intellectual playing to the gallery of local or international radicalism. He was clearly one of the most solidly ideologically situated intellectuals ever to look colonialism and its contemporary heir, black opportunism and exploitation, in the eye.”

    Rodney observed, “There was a period when the capitalist system increased the well-being of significant numbers of people as a by-product of seeking out profits for a few, but today the quest for profits comes into sharp conflict with people’s demands that their material and social needs should be fulfilled.”

    Today, the West is concocting all sorts of economic conferences and scams to rescue Africa from the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The latest get-rich-quick scam to “develop” underdeveloped Africa and make it rich is the “Global Conference on Financing Development”.

    When I was very young, I used to wonder, actually ask the elders, why people in the “West” (“white people”) were rich and Africans poor. People in the West lived better lives than Africans. They had all sorts of consumer goods that was the envy of everyone. They had planes, trains and cars to make their lives easier. Africans had four-legged beasts to barely keep them alive. People in the West had a much higher standard of living. Africans were dying from famine, starvation, preventable bacterial diseases, poor sanitation and on and on. Could it be an irrevocable divine curse, I wondered?

    I got my answer in a rather odd folkloric way. The elders jokingly (I think) told me that God made man from clay (mud). When it was time to create the white man, he washed his hands and started again. That is how the whites got to be prosperous and black Africans not. Thus the Amharic expression “tatbo yeserachew”.

    In retrospect, the particular tale of creation and predestination seemed to me to be particularly out of place.

    Ethiopia was never under European colonial rule. In fact, Emperor Menelik II was the first African leader to crush a modern European (Italian) army in 1896 and send them home with their tails between their legs. Two years earlier in 1894, the Europeans held the Berlin Conference and carved up Africa. European colonialism consumed Africa until decolonization in the early 1960s. Ethiopia remained independent and served Italy ignominious defeat during the Second Ethiopian-Italo War which began in October 1935.

    I asked my undergraduate economics professor why some countries were rich and others poor. He gave me an explanation which I do not remember, but he suggested I read Adam Smith.

    I tackled Adam’s Smith’s “The Wealth of Nations”, a masterpiece of clarity and intelligibility. My takeaway from Smith’s work was that the wealth of nations is the result of division of labor which increases production. Industrial specialization in production is the key to creation of wealth (accumulation of capital). The more the accumulated capital is invested, the more wealth it re-creates through increased productive capacity, expanding markets, technological innovation and efficiency.

    I was intrigued by Smith’s argument that an economy based on division of labor does not need societal regulation because it can regulate itself through an “invisible hand.” He exhorted, “We address ourselves, not to their humanity, but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities, but of their advantages. ”

    I interpreted the “invisible hand” to mean individual self-interest (greed?) could somehow end up serving the common need. In other words, as the individual strives to use his capital and labor to produce the greatest value for himself (to get rich), an invisible hand unintentionally makes him serve the public interest through market competition.

    What does all that mean for Africa where the vast majority of the African population lives in rural areas eking out a bare existence on subsistence agriculture and conducts economic exchange through a barter system. How could Africa be “industrialized” out of poverty? How could Africa’s vast natural resources transform poor Africans into rich ones?

    Much later, I became acquainted with the idea of “each individual contributing according to his ability and receiving according to his need”. Karl Marx argued “after the enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labor, and therewith also the antithesis between mental and physical labor, has vanished; after labor has become not only a means of life but life’s prime want; after the productive forces have also increased with the all-around development of the individual, and all the springs of co-operative wealth flow more abundantly — only then then can the narrow horizon of bourgeois right be crossed in its entirety and society inscribe on its banners: From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!”

    How could Smith’s division of labor which is the engine of wealth accumulation transmute into Marx’s “enslaving subordination”?

    Well, that is sort of the problem I have with the political economy of the “international conference of finance development”. How can international capital at once be a weapon of liberation from poverty in Africa and a tool of enslavement of African peoples?

    In mid-July 2015 in Addis Ababa, African dictators and their Western saviors are back at it again trying to save Africa from itself. International finance has assembled its mighty forces in Addis to rescue Africa from under-development by financing its development, that is by mobilizing international capital.

    Has global capitalism undergone a tectonic transformation since Rodney recounted how Europe underdeveloped Africa? Are the profit motives of global capitalism aligning smoothly with the material and social needs of Africa’s poor in 2015?

    Is “financing for development” the magic wand the West will wave to save Africa from itself and into the promised land of proseprity?

    Could Rodney’s words be getting a new life in Africa in the second decade of the 21st century: “There was a period when the capitalist system increased the well-being of significant numbers of people as a by-product of seeking out profits for a few…”


    Before the “Global Conferences on Financing Development”, there was the U.S. Point Four Program. I was a teenager when America’s first response to global poverty was in full swing. The Point Four program was an ideological weapon in the Cold War. In 1951, the Truman Administration and the Imperial Ethiopian government signed an agreement promising “to cooperate with each other in the interchange of technical knowledge and skills and related activities designed to contribute to the balanced and integrated development of the economic resources and productive capacities of Ethiopia.”

    The Program launched field missions in Ethiopia and three dozen other countries, with the aim of improving agricultural output and technical training to improve overall economic performance. I specifically remember the use of the pesticide DDT to control and eradicate malaria in the countryside. From my fading memory, it seemed like the anti-malaria program worked. Years later it was said DDT had serious cancer risks to humans. Today malaria still remains one of the greatest health threats in Africa and a major cause of mortality for children under 5. Billionaire Bill Gates spends over $4bn per year fighting malaria, AIDS and tuberculosis in Africa and other parts of the world.


    There is no phrase in the English language I detest more than “sustainable development”. To paraphrase George Orwell, “sustainable development” is political language designed to make lies sound truthful and poverty sound like prosperity, and give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.

    When the phrase was “invented” in 1992, it was intended to refer to the simultaneous realization of three things: “environmental recuperation/revitalization, social progress, and economic development”.

    I am not sure what the phrase means in 2015, but it drips from the lips of every African thugtator and international poverty pimp.

    The mantra among the international loaners and donors is “sustainable development, democratization and good governance”.

    The story of “financing for development” begins in 2002 with the so-called “Monterrey Consensus,” aimed at “promoting sustainable development.”

    The aim of the July 2015 “Third Conference” in Addis Ababa was to assess the progress made in the implementation of the Monterrey Consensus and the Doha Declaration and identifying obstacles and constraints encountered in the achievement of the consensus-built goals and objectives and addressing new and emerging issues.


    Following the Asian financial crises of the late 1990s, under the nominal oversight of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the Western powers and the bulwarks of international finance including the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the World Trade Organization (WTO) began a rescue mission for Africa and other “developing economies”. They fashioned a new agreement to “restore confidence in the international financial economic system and globalization.”

    The First Global Conference on Financing for Development was held in March 2002 in Monterrey, Mexico. The First Conference was organized “to address key financial and development issues”. It was reported that 50 Heads of State or Government and over 200 ministers along with hundreds of leaders of major intergovernmental financial, trade, economic, civil society and monetary organizations attended. They issued the Monterrey Consensus which aimed at providing a new global approach to financing development. That included “mobilizing domestic financial resources for development, mobilizing international resources for development, foreign direct investment and other private flows , international trade as an engine for development, increasing international financial and technical cooperation for development, external debt, addressing systemic issues: enhancing the coherence and consistency of the international monetary, financial and trading systems in support of development.”

    The key objective in the Consensus was to use financing flows for the purpose of achieving the agreed upon goals of sustainable development, not goals uniquely tailored to meet the needs of a specific country. It was a one-size-fits-all development strategy.

    The Second Global Conference on Financing for Development was held in Doha, Qatar in 2008. It was supposed to be a follow up on the First Conference. The Second Conference concluded:

    The implementation of the Monterrey commitments has been by and large mediocre. Commitments to increase official foreign aid were made, but the actual delivery has been disappointing. As of now, it seems unlikely that aid would reach the target of $150 billion a year needed for reaching the internationally agreed millennium development goals by 2015.

    International financial markets have remained turbulent over the past year, with slackening output growth in leading industrial countries and rising inflationary pressures.

    Since the Monterrey meeting, the economic power balance has shifted in favour of the developing world, thanks basically to high-performing China and India and other developing countries.

    What these developments suggest is that the stakes of developing countries in the outcome of the Doha meeting are even higher than at the time of the Monterrey meeting.

    The Third Global Conference on Financing for Development’s “Addis Ababa Action Agenda” was long on empty promises and declarations and short on specifics.

    The heads of state and representatives declared that they “affirm [their] strong political commitment to address the challenge of financing and creating an enabling environment at all levels for sustainable development in the spirit of global partnership and solidarity.” They said they are committed to respecting all human rights, gender equality and women’s and girls’ empowerment. They will promote peaceful and inclusive societies and advance fully towards an equitable global economic system.

    Among the specific pledges included:

    Delivering social protection and essential public services for all particularly the vulnerable, persons with disabilities, indigenous persons, children, youth and older persons.

    Scaling up efforts to end hunger and malnutrition by fighting malnutrition and hunger among the urban poor.

    Establishing a new forum to bridge the infrastructure gap by building on existing multilateral collaboration mechanisms, led by the multilateral development banks.

    Promoting inclusive and sustainable industrialization by addressing major challenges such as growth and jobs, resources and energy efficiency, pollution and climate change, knowledge-sharing, innovation and social inclusion.

    Generating full and productive employment and decent work for all and promoting micro, small and medium-sized enterprises by promoting affordable and stable access to credit to micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as adequate skills development training for all, particularly for youth and entrepreneurs.

    Protecting our ecosystems by providing greater protection to marine and terrestrial ecosystems reducing pollution and combating climate change, desertification and land degradation.

    Promoting peaceful and inclusive societies by promoting good governance, rule of law, human rights, fundamental freedoms, equal access to fair justice systems, and measures to combat corruption and curb illicit financial flows will be integral to our efforts.

    The foregoing checklist is exactly what UNCTAD, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank and the World Trade Organization have been saying since the Monterrey Conference in 2002. What else is new!?


    There is a fable about a vain emperor who cares about nothing but the fine clothes he wears to show off to his impoverished subjects. The emperor hires a couple of con men who promise to bring him a special robe that it is invisible to anyone who is unfit for high position or hopelessly stupid. The Emperor marches in procession to the applause of his subjects until a child steps forward and tell the Emperor he is naked. The Emperor looks at himself and sees he is naked but continues in the procession.

    As far as I have been able to research and analyze the work of the Global Conference on Financing for Development, I find it to be nothing but a fraud and a scam perpetrated on the world’s poor, the African poor.

    For 15 years, the heads of states, ministers and representatives have been strutting on the world stage promising and pledging to beat the old horse of poverty to death in Africa. Poverty continues to spread like wild fire in Africa as the international loaners and donors get on their high horses and with great fanfare issue the same old empty promises, sweep up their old broken promises under the rug and recycle the same old pledges about sustainable development and the rest of their meaningless litany.

    The principal conclusion of the Second Conference in 2008 was, “the implementation of the Monterrey commitments (“First Conference” in 2002) has been by and large mediocre.” The reason is obvious. “Commitments to increase official foreign aid were made, but the actual delivery has been disappointing.”

    Isn’t the implementation of the Monterrey commitments in 2015 by and large still mediocre?

    Has the gap between promised and actual aid and investment in Africa actually changed in 2015?

    Has the West delivered the $150 billion a year it promised in the Monterrey Consensus to help Africa and the other developing economies reach the internationally agreed millennium development goals by 2015?

    Ban Ki Moon says the global mobilization behind the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) has produced the most successful anti-poverty movement in history. In 2000, the West promulgated the MDG and pledged to “spare no effort to free our fellow men, women and children from the abject and dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty”.

    How many African countries have reached the first goal of “eradicating extreme poverty and hunger”?

    According to one analysis, out of 153 countries, only seven were able to accomplish the goal “eradicating extreme poverty”. Only Botswana and Equatorial Guinea were able to achieve the goal in Africa. The analysis concluded, “Other African economies would have to grow at an astonishing rate of 7 percent between the years 2000 and 2015 in order to halve the number of people living poverty.”

    The truth about these “conferences” is that they are public relations stunts.

    The loaners and donors talk about “sustainable development” but in reality they only sustain themselves and their lackeys by conducting ostentatious round table discussions, seminars and forums, giving speeches, holding press conferences, making official statements and announcements, issuing reports, holding retreats and having parties. Basically, they bloviate to each other and go home to plan the next conference.


    According to recent data published by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) the “proportion of people living below the poverty line in Ethiopia has declined from 45.5 % in 1995/96 to 27.8 in 2011/12 (GTP-APR MoFED [“Ministry of Finance and Economic Development”], 2011/12). This represents a significant reduction of 38.9% over the last sixteen years.” The UNDP is basing its conclusions on statistics issued by the regime in Ethiopia.

    I have no confidence in statistical data issued by the regime in Ethiopia.

    As I have demonstrated beyond a shadow of doubt, the ruling regime in Ethiopia cooks the economic numbers like an executive chef at a Michelin 3-Star restaurant.

    The regime has been bragging for years that it had achieved double-digit economic growth for the past decade. I have demonstrated that claim to be a boldfaced lie, a damned lie and a statislie (statistical lie).

    The UNDP report further claimed, “Food poverty is also declining in Ethiopia. The hunger index, weighted equally on three indicators consisting of malnourishment, children’s underweight and child mortality, declined from 43.2% in 1990 to 28.7% in 2010/11.”

    The UNDP concluded, “With this performance, the country needs to reduce poverty by 3.8 percentage points over the remaining three year period in order to meet the target of 24% headcount poverty by 2015. While poverty in the rural areas is higher than the urban areas, the gap has narrowed down quite significantly over the last sixteen years (1995/96 – 2011/12).”

    That’s all poppycock!

    The late Meles Zenawi, in one of his first press conference at the Ethiopian Embassy in Washington, D.C. [nearly a quarter of a century ago], in reply to a question about his goals, declared his Gold Standard for economic growth and development. Meles said he would consider his government a success if Ethiopians were able to eat three meals a day. In 2011, Meles pompously declared, “We have devised a plan [“Growth and Transformation Plan] which will enable us to produce surplus and be able to feed ourselves by 2015 without the need for food aid.”

    I ask the UNDP, the World Bank, the IMF and all the rest who chant the litany of bogus economic growth statistics and massive reduction of poverty in Ethiopia three simple question:

    Do the vast majority of Ethiopians eat three meals a day in 2015?

    Are the vast majority of most Ethiopians better off economically today than they were five years ago?

    Is Ethiopia able to feed itself in 2015 “without the need for food aid” as Meles “devised” in his “Growth and Transformation Plan”?

    What is the real story on Ethiopia’s economic growth and poverty reduction?

    The Economist Magazine in its March 2013 issue told the truth on “one of the fastest-growing economies in the world”. The Economist wrote, in Ethiopia,

    “Even [regime] supporters do not have much faith in official numbers. Annual productivity gains in agriculture are probably not 5-6%, as the official statistics suggest, but more like 2-3%, though that is still impressive. An insider says: ‘Officials are given targets and then report back what superiors want to hear.’ International experts are suspicious of the GDP growth figures of 11% flaunted by the government. They say the actual growth rate is only half that, around 5-7%—which is still respectable.”

    Other independent research organizations have reported even more jarring and distressing facts.

    In 2014, the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHDI) Multidimensional Poverty Index (formerly annual U.N.D.P. Human Poverty Index) reported for the fourth successive year that Ethiopia is ranked as the second poorest country on the planet. Yes, the second poorest in the world!

    In 2010, OPHDI reported that the percentage of the Ethiopian population in “severe poverty” (living on less than USD$1 a day) was 72.3%.

    The OPHDI 2014 poverty statistics are even more shocking. In rural Ethiopia, 82 % of the population struggles “in severe poverty” compared to 18% in the urban areas. The highest incidences of “severe poverty” in Ethiopia in 2014 were found in the following regions: Somali (93% ), Oromiya (91.2%), Afar (90.9%), Amhara (90.1%) and Tigray (85.4%).

    By OPHDI measures, poverty is not simply lack of money.

    Poverty is quintessentially about bad health, bad education, bad nutrition, high child mortality, bad water and electricity supply, bad housing and bad sanitation.

    The root cause of poverty in Ethiopia is bad governance!

    Despite the hype about “double-digit economic growth over the past ten years”, Ethiopia is in very bad shape; and that is how she got to be ranked the second poorest country on the planet!

    To expect the West to “finance develop” Africa out of its “underdevelopment” is like expecting the robber to guard the bank vault or asking a monkey to watch your bananas.

    The sure bet of 500 years of history says, the West will “finance develop” Africa out of underdevelopment when pigs fly.

    Rodney anticipated the question of whether Europe and the West could “finance develop” Africa. He wrote:

    When citizens of Europe own the land and the mines of Africa, this is the most direct way of sucking the African continent. Under colonialism the ownership was complete and backed by military domination. Today, in many African countries the foreign ownership is still present, although the armies and flags of foreign powers have been removed. So long as foreigners own land, mines, factories, banks, insurance companies, means of transportation, newspapers, power stations, etc. then for so long will the wealth of Africa flow outwards into the hands of those elements.

    Foreign investment ensures that the natural resources and the labour of Africa produce economic value which is lost to the continent. Foreign investment often takes the form of loans to African governments. Naturally, these loans have to be re-paid; and in the 1960s the rate of repayment (amortization) on official loans in underdeveloped countries rose from $400 million per year to about $700 million per year, and it is constantly on the increase.

    Besides, there is interest to be paid on these loans as well as profits which come from the direct investment in the economy. These two sources accounted for the fact that over $500 million flowed outward from the underdeveloped countries in 1965. The information on these matters is seldom complete, for the obvious reason that those making the profit are trying to keep things quiet, so the figures given above are likely to be underestimates. They are meant to give some idea of the extent to which the wealth of Africa is being drained off by those who invest in, and thereby own, a large part of the means of production of wealth in Africa. Furthermore, in more recent times the forms of investment have become more subtle and more dangerous. They include so-called ‘absentee’ management of local African companies by international capitalist experts.

    Things have gotten much worse for Africa since Rodney wrote those words.
    In November 2014, The Economist Magazine wrote:

    “Africa used to borrow from official lenders: governments, the World Bank, the African Development Bank and the IMF. Today most of its borrowing is from private sources (see chart). Government loans and “assistance” are out of fashion. Instead it is private investors that are betting on Africa’s future ability to pay, with bond funds, private-equity and individual investors (including African ones) buying government debt. Private debt issued by larger African companies is adding to the pile; there have been large corporate-bond issues from Ethiopia, Mozambique and Nigeria, as well as from the traditional issuer, South Africa. Corporate debt is usually dollar-denominated, making it hostage to currency fluctuations, though several governments, including those of Mozambique and Ghana, have recently had to issue bonds denominated in dollars instead of in local currencies. But the bigger worry for Africa is the nature of private lending. If governments get into trouble and need to reschedule their debts or borrow more even while they pay less, official lenders typically oblige. Private lenders are less forgiving.


    If the West wants to “finance develop” Africa out of underdevelopment, it needs to do only one thing: Stop illicit financial outflows from Africa. Period!

    In 2011, Global Financial Integrity reported: “Ethiopia, which has a per-capita GDP of just US$365, lost US$11.7 billion to illicit financial outflows between 2000 and 2009. In 2009, illicit money leaving the economy totaled US$3.26 billion, which is double the amount in each of the two previous years…”

    In 2008, Ethiopia received US$829 million in official development assistance, but this was swamped by the massive illicit outflows. The scope of Ethiopia’s capital flight is so severe that our conservative US$3.26 billion estimate greatly exceeds the US$2 billion value of Ethiopia’s total exports in 2009.

    GFI concluded, “The people of Ethiopia are being bled dry. No matter how hard they try to fight their way out of absolute destitution and poverty, they will be swimming upstream against the current of illicit capital leakage.”

    Stop illicit capital leakage from Africa to enable Africa to swim its way out of the rip tides of underdevelopment.

    * Professor Alemayehu G. Mariam teaches political science at California State University, San Bernardino. He blogs at



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

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

    The ‘New Brazil’ of Africa

    How development institutions are financing land grabs in the Democratic Republic of Congo

    Zahra Moloo


    cc FL
    In this interview, Devlin Kuyek, Senior Researcher at GRAIN, talks about a report that reveals how a Canadian agribusiness company, Feronia, financed by American and European development institutions, is involved in land grabbing, corrupt practices and human rights violations in the Democratic Republic of Congo.


    Kuyek traces the colonial origins of palm oil plantations in the DRC along the Congo River, dating back from the time of King Leopold and the Lever Brothers (which became Unilever), to present-day land grabs funded by development finance institutions and sanctioned by the World Bank; a process which has occurred as part of a re-orientation of aid from poverty alleviation to straightforward investment in private companies.

    Community members interviewed as part of the report claim that their land was never ceded to the company and that conditions on the plantations are abysmal.

    According to Kuyek, this type of large-scale intensive agricultural model that is expanding in different parts of Africa is deeply problematic, taking away valuable land and water resources from small farmers and pastoralists, and creating greater food insecurity in places that are suffering most from the global food crisis.


    ZAHRA MOLOO: Your recent report looks at what you call ‘agro-colonialism’ in the DRC, and in particular at a Canadian company that’s investing in palm oil plantations in the Congo. Perhaps we can start with some historical context. We think of agribusiness and land grabs more in a contemporary sense on the continent, but in the DRC there’s a whole history to palm oil. Can you go back a bit and give some historical context to palm oil plantations in the DRC?

    DEVLIN KUYEK: Yes, many of the current land grabs are actually new companies taking over old plantation concessions. This is the case in the DRC with Feronia (a Canadian company). These plantations go back over 100 years and were set up by the Lever brothers at the time, which became Unilever, now one of the largest food multinationals in the world. They were given an enormous concession by King Leopold along the Congo River, which is a beautiful area of forest. Palm oil is a traditional crop of the people and has hundreds of different uses, one of which is palm oil. They started forcing people to collect and harvest palm oil for them. So initially it wasn’t plantation agriculture, but it quickly moved to a plantation model as they took over vast areas of land. Their concessions were for around 100 000 hectares. It was the most severe and grave forms of colonial plantation exploitation you can imagine. Most of the local people would describe it as slavery and this is how it was for about 80, 90 years. Then into the 90s, with war in that part of the Congo, Unilever’s activities started to decrease and they put their plantations up for sale. And you now have this new investor, Feronia, set up by financial players that have no experience in the agricultural sector, but were interested in taking advantage of the new push into agribusiness in Africa. They set up Feronia and were going to turn the DRC into the new Brazil of Africa, introducing a Brazilian model of GMO, intensive monoculture, large-scale farming in the Congo, which is a mainly a country of small-scale production.

    ZM: Can you tell me more about Feronia, where exactly it is based, what investments it has?

    DK: It started off in the Cayman Islands, where it was first registered in 2008. They then acquired the Unilever plantations and paid Unilever 3 - 4 million dollars for those plantations. In about 2010, they became a publicly listed company on the Toronto Stock Exchange. By 2012, their stock prices had collapsed quite significantly. The company had been running losses for a number of years, well, all the years of its existence. Then you had these development funds, DFIs, which are the arms of European and US development agencies; they have these branches that invest in foreign or private companies involved in agribusiness and other activities in developing countries. These DFIs started buying shares in Feronia and today they control over half of the company’s shares. So Feronia itself is now controlled by European and US governments.

    ZM: Are there any ethical issues around DFIs investing in private companies like Feronia? Has this become controversial in any way?

    DK: A lot of money has been re-oriented from typical overseas aid, which is supposed to go to poverty alleviation and social projects towards straightforward investments in private companies. The idea being that there is not enough of a private sector in places like the Congo, so if European governments can finance private sector activity, it will stimulate further investment and you’ll get economic growth. They claim that they’ll invest responsibly, but just from our simple visit and meeting with the communities, we were able to document a number of violations that quite clearly contradict the policies of the DFI investors in Feronia. This is not only a pretty glaring case of how this form of development finance is contributing to human rights violations and corrupt practices and actually rewarding companies that have been engaged in this, but it also points to how the whole model of agriculture that such kind of investment or aid is encouraging is really problematic. In Congo, just outside Feronia’s plantations, people themselves are producing palm oil locally and they do so in a very sustainable way, with significant production that goes to feed the local economy and food system. Feronia has this plantation model – all of the palm oil is exported out of these communities. The workers are paid abysmal salaries, the poverty within the plantation concessions is severe, and certainly worse than it is outside of the plantation concession areas. And then you have numerous human rights violations, food insecurity, malnutrition, inadequate housing and education.

    ZM: In your report, you gave examples of people who have been intimidated by the company for harvesting palm oil in specific areas where there are plantations. There was also a case of a young man who disappeared. Can you talk about some of those incidents?

    DK: Whoever we spoke to, one of the first complaints they had was about the local company security. These concessions are like states within a state. So the company controls everything, whether it’s the roads, the social services and their own police force, the company guards. All of the people that we spoke to had stories of intimidation or abuse from these company security agents. What often seems to happen is, given the poverty and lack of access to land and forest that the people have, they will occasionally collect nuts that have fallen in the plantations and apparently, if they are caught by the company security forces with nuts in their hand, they are severely treated. We’ve heard cases of people being whipped, arrested, brought to local prison and in this one case, we were told of a boy who was caught with oil palm nuts and was detained, put on a company vehicle and was supposed to be brought to the local police station, but never made it. He has not been heard of since. The family was afraid that they would be targeted and harassed so they fled as well and have been in hiding ever since. So this is what people have to deal with, this harassment from the local police.

    ZM: Have you put any of these findings to the DFIs and Feronia?

    DK: Well, the report is very public. It has been covered in the media. We haven’t had a formal response from [the DFI’s]. It’s not really our job to do that. Our intent was simply to give voice to these communities who are very isolated. One community talked about how they only recently got access to a cellphone network. They had previously had to use the phone that was available at the company’s reception, so their capacity to speak out about what has been happening has been really limited for over 100 years now. But they are coming forward – there are petitions, complaints, there’s been work with the local government to improve their conditions and try to get their lands back, but it’s not easy.

    ZM: Your report mentioned that there might be an assessment undertaken of all these findings – do you know if that will have any impact?

    DK: Well part of the agreement with Feronia when the CDC (a UK DFI) bought shares was that they would have to carry out an environmental and social action plan. But there are a few fundamental problems, the main one being that these communities have really never ceded control over their territories. They were forced to give it up by colonial occupation. The Mobutu regime provided renewals for the company’s concessions. And then Feronia took them over. The communities were never consulted. Communities in the Lokutu concession area - all they’ve ever seen is a copy of this registration certificate or land survey certificate, that they say is false because it doesn’t properly demarcate the area, and then that in itself is not testament to any kind of legal title that Feronia could claim. All these DFIs have in their principles and mandates that they cannot invest in companies that have taken or are occupying lands where they do not have the prior and informed consent of people, particularly when it comes to indigenous people. And these are of course indigenous people in these areas. So that right there, this environmental and social plan, is not going to be able to address. The other issue is corruption. You see quite clearly that they have been giving, we calculated, almost 3 million dollars to the former private secretary of President Kabila, who is his Minister of Information and currently the ambassador to the UK.

    ZM: Finally, the push toward large-scale agribusiness and the land-grabs that accompany it seems to expanding all over the continent. Aside from when you go to these communities and see what’s happening on the ground, a lot of the institutions that support large-scale agribusiness projects, for instance the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), actually have a lot of legitimacy on the continent. Why is that and how can people challenge it?

    DK: Well, I would say that since 2008, when this whole rush for investment and scramble for land in Africa started breaking out, there have been many land conflicts. Organizations like ours and many others in Africa said that this has to stop. It’s taking away land from small farmers and pastoralists, people who need land the most. And immediately, there was a response from the World Bank and others to say no, this new wave of investment is good, finally, we have companies investing in agriculture and we need to turn this into a win-win situation, we need to tame it and make it responsible. So when you see these DFIs investing in Feronia, it’s under the same logic. But when you look at it, these are land grabs. These are companies investing in plantation style agriculture, providing the worst, most exploitative jobs, taking valuable land and water resources away from small farmers and pastoralists. And these projects are almost always for export so they creating greater food insecurity in places that are suffering the most from the global food crisis. So the idea that this wave of investment is anything other than just a greedy rapacious attempt to secure control over resources I think is false. And much more needs to be done to resist things than to regulate things.


    To view the full report, please visit here.

    GRAIN is a small international non-profit organisation that works to support small farmers and social movements in their struggles for community-controlled and biodiversity-based food systems. In 2011, GRAIN was the recipient of the Right Livelihood Award.

    * Zahra Moloo is a multimedia journalist and producer based in Kenya.

    Obama in Ethiopia: A presidential visit in context

    Seifudein Adem


    cc Getty
    In order to understand the broader significance of President Barack Obama’s July 2015 visit to Ethiopia more fully, we must put it in a historical perspective, argues Professor Seifudein Adem, associate director of the Institute of Global Cultural Studies at Binghamton University, United States. Tracing back the history of Ethio-American relationship is one step in that direction.

    In his recent book ‘The Lion of Judah in the New World’, American political scientist Theodore M. Vestal, has argued: “The images of Africa and of Africans that the American people developed during Haileselassie’s prominence will no doubt be referred to by historians, psychologists, and sociologist - as well as the media - as having played a part in the election of Barack Obama as president in 2008.” Even if Vestal may be exaggerating to some extent, his observation is nevertheless intriguing without a doubt.

    In any event, Barack Obama became the first sitting US president to visit Ethiopia when he arrived in Addis Ababa this week, after his pilgrimage to his father’s homeland, Kenya. Regardless of whether or not Emperor Haileselassie’s charm offensive had influenced the election of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the US, it is important to note that Obama’s visit to Ethiopia would take place in the shadow of a long tradition of diplomatic interactions between the two countries.

    It is significant that Ethiopia was perhaps the only country outside the United States to issue a stamp in commemoration of the anniversary of the death of an American president, as it did under Haileselassie in 1947, two years after Franklin Delano Roosevelt died. During the Eisenhower administration, Ethiopia was also the only African nation and non-NATO country to send its troops to fight alongside Americans in the Korean War (1950-53).

    But Haileselassie’s aspiration to project Ethiopia’s soft power was not limited to North America. For instance, he was the only Head of State to address the League of Nations and the first to visit postwar Japan. He was also the first foreign leader to visit Germany after World War II, arriving there with loads of blankets that were made in Ethiopia, “for the immediate distribution for the war-ravaged Germans”. Perhaps, Vestal’s more concrete contribution, therefore, lay in the wealth of factual information he packed in his book about the superstardom of the Ethiopian monarch, internationally, and in North America, in particular.

    The evidence shows that many Americans were indeed fascinated by Emperor Haileselassie. The New York Times wrote in 1954 that the Emperor was “a man of courage, intelligence and great humanity,” and carried the full text of his speech to the joint session of the US Congress, on the occasion of his first state visit to the country.

    Previously, within a span of less than ten years, Haileselassie was named, twice, Time’s man of the year. American presidents who had known Haileselassie, too, and many of them had indeed known him or about him, were unreserved in their praise for the African monarch.

    In 1954, Dwight Eisenhower described the Emperor as “a defender of freedom and a supporter of progress.” It was a measure of Haileselassie’s weight in the eyes of America’s leaders that he was the only African leader to be invited to attend the funeral of President John F. Kennedy. In 1963, President Lyndon Johnson told the Emperor that he looked to him for advice and counsel. President Nixon honored the Emperor by inviting him to the US as the first foreign leader to visit the White House after he was elected president.

    With regard to the attitudes of America’s presidents toward Haileselassie and his attitudes toward them, I think we can safely draw the following sets of generalizations. Franklin Roosevelt barely knew Emperor Haileselassie, even though the two had met aboard USS Quincy off the coast of Egypt in February 1945 when Roosevelt was returning from his meeting at Yalta with Joseph Stalin and Winston Churchill. Dwight Eisenhower respected Haileselassie and was appreciative of his decision to send Ethiopian troops to fight alongside Americans in Korea.

    Harry Truman mostly ignored Haileselassie perhaps because the relationship between the two countries was stable at the time. Furthermore, Truman’s major concern, as the first Cold War president of the US, was the emerging challenge from the Soviet Union.

    John F. Kennedy was intrigued by Haileselassie so much so that he once said: “There is no comparable figure in the world today who held high responsibilities in the 1930s, who occupied and held the attention and the imagination of really almost all free countries in the mid-1930s, and still could, in the summer of 1963, in his own capital dominate the affairs of his continent.” It is also a matter of historical record that President Kennedy accepted in principle the Emperor’s invitation to visit Ethiopia.

    We would therefore never know if President Kennedy, rather than President Obama, would have become the first sitting president of the United States to visit Ethiopia had he not been assassinated.

    In any case, could we attribute Kennedy’s special fascination with Emperor Haileselassie, at least in part, to the monarch’s political longevity?

    This is a defensible proposition for, after all, Kennedy was not even born when Haileselassie emerged as a ruler in the Ethiopian political scene in 1916.

    Lyndon Johnson who had known Ethiopia’s Emperor since his years in the US Congress cared less about him, preoccupied, perhaps, as he was with Vietnam and domestic political issues. It appears that Richard Nixon was another US leader with a very favorable attitude toward Haileselassie; and this had perhaps to do at least in part with the royal reception he was accorded when he visited Ethiopia first as the Vice President of the US and, later, as a private citizen.

    At a state dinner in honor of Emperor Haileselassie in 1969, Nixon reportedly said: “I had the great privilege, which some in this room had enjoyed, of visiting his country in 1957. My wife and I were received as royal guests at that time and treated royally. I returned again to his country in 1967, holding no office, having no portfolio whatsoever. I was received again as a royal guest and treated royally. This is a man with an understanding heart.”

    As far as Emperor Haileselassie’s own attitudes toward America’s presidents were concerned, it appears he was deferential toward Eisenhower, indifferent toward Truman (whom he met possibly only once at the funeral ceremony for John F. Kennedy in November 1963), affectionate toward Kennedy, puzzled by Johnson and disillusioned with Nixon. The attitudes of US administrations towards Ethiopia under Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush seemed either less eventful or alternated between what a distinguished Kenyan political scientist had called the diplomacy of hostility, charity, benign neglect and co-optation, reflecting the periodic convergence and divergence between what were regarded as the vital interests of the two countries.

    We do not know if Obama’s visit to Ethiopia (and Kenya) in 2015 would have wider consequences for the relationship between Africa and the US in general. But we can be sure about the enormity of the symbolic significance of the first visit to Ethiopia by the first African American president of the US.

    If so, could Ethiopia inspire a sentiment in Obama which is akin to what Nelson Mandela felt after he was released from jail? Mandela wrote: “Ethiopia always has a special place in my imagination and the prospect of visiting Ethiopia attracted me more strongly than a trip to France, England, and America combined. I felt I would be visiting my own genesis.”

    Such an emotional attachment in the case of Barack Obama would probably have to be the exclusive preserve of Kenya which is Obama’s own genesis - almost literally. But that does not diminish the fact that Ethiopia is also a stimulator of pan-African imagination and a beacon of hope for Global Africa.

    After all, as Ali Mazrui, a contemporary and compatriot of President Barack Obama’s father once put it: “[f]or a long time Ethiopia was in reality the one Black country which could demonstrate to Europeans that it had a recorded history of many centuries, that it had a heritage of written as well as oral poetry, that it had centuries of demonstrated feats of science and engineering in its monuments.” Barack Obama, Sr. and Ali Mazrui shared friends, they did not meet each other.

    * Seifudein Adem, Ph.D. is Associate Research Professor of Political Science & Associate Director, Institute of Global Cultural Studies, Binghamton University, New York.



    * 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.

    Obama’s triumphant return to Kenya as president

    John Githongo


    cc JE
    US foreign policy vis-à-vis Africa has always been transactional. The bottom line is that the value of Africa for the United States is essentially how to mitigate global terrorism and other issues like AIDS and Ebola that could harm US national security.

    We Kenyans generally aren’t rational about President Barack Obama. To most citizens he is the much loved and admired Kenyan son who made good. Indeed, while his visit to Kenya last week was engineered around the US government’s annual promotional Global Entrepreneurship Summit, or GES, this was largely overlooked in local reporting. Kenyans genuinely reveled in the visit itself, swept off their feet by Obama’s lyrical orations and capacity to mesmerize an audience. We were left brimming with pride and inspiration. Newspapers carried details about his vehicle nicknamed the Beast; the location of Air Force One; the names of those receiving a hug; and profiles of young Kenyan men who offered dozens of head of cattle and proposed to Obama’s eldest daughter, Malia.

    During the visit more than 30 new-borns nationwide were named “Obama,” and others were named Michelle, Sasha or Malia. A few were christened “Airforce One.” The Republicans in the United States searching for a Kenyan birth certificate for “Barrack Hussein Obama” probably would find one though its bearer won’t be of voting age.

    Obama visited Kenya in 2006 as a US senator from Illinois, a hit back then, but a superstar as president. His message was consistent with the one he delivered in 2006. He spoke eloquently about the need for Kenya to up its game in anti-corruption, protect democratic gains, ensure youth opportunity and safeguard the rights of women and other minorities. He took time to meet with the opposition and civil society and even managed a media interview. Lost in the delirium of celebration of Obama, Kenyans forgot that the summit is an event held in countries where the United States is seeking closer economic and other ties. For Kenyans, perhaps understandably, the narrative represented Obama’s much-awaited grand homecoming as president.

    In reality, Kenya has been the most steadfast political, military and diplomatic US ally on the eastern side of Africa for more than 50 years. Obama clearly meant to reinforce this. Partly as a result, the Kenyatta team also saw the trip as a massive endorsement conferring much needed legitimacy to a regime that has been weighed down by the International Criminal Court, rolling back democratic gains, with hostility to media and civil society, a myriad of corruption allegations and incompetence in management of public finances and security challenges. During the summit’s run up, Kenyans spoke little of who else was coming or the summit’s agenda. In the public imagination Obama came to Kenya and, by the way, a Global Entrepreneurship Summit happened.

    As president of the United States, Obama understandably pushes US interests. In general, US foreign policy vis-à-vis Africa has always been transactional. The bottom line is that the value of Africa for the United States is essentially how to mitigate global terrorism and other issues like AIDS and Ebola that could harm US national security.

    Over the past decade Kenya’s foreign policy has shifted emphatically eastward. Economically the Chinese dragon has over the last three years in particular found unprecedented comfort, succor and profit in Kenya under the Jubilee regime. It is an open secret among the chattering classes that businesspeople from the West seeking Kenyan work permits are pushed to the back of the line and Chinese competitors waltz through. The US and other western and traditionally frontline partners have scrambled to respond.

    In terms of messaging, Obama was on point regarding the issues that will determine the character of Kenya’s future and he emphasized three challenges: empowering women, encouraging youth entrepreneurship and discouraging corruption. All resonate deeply with Kenyans. He was clear that the answers won’t come from outside the country but from Kenyans themselves. Over the past three years corruption has deepened and spread in Kenya to levels last seen in the 1990s.

    President Obama acknowledged Kenya’s contribution to the contingent of African Union, or AMISOM, troops currently propping up the government in Somalia – a strategic priority for the United States.

    It is also an issue that has prompted some dissonance among Kenyan policymakers and civil society. In truth, the 2011 entry of Kenyan troops into Somalia was a dubiously justified invasion that has emerged thus far as the greatest strategic blunder in the history of the Kenyan military. The blowback has been intense, catching Kenyans by surprise. The Westgate Mall terrorist attack of September 2013 by Al Shabaab stands out partly because of the soft target: more than 60 were left dead and at least 175 wounded, many middle-class Kenyans and foreigners.

    Since then Al Shabaab has proved resilient, despite regular predictions of its imminent demise with its leaders killed, many by US drones. The insurgency has spilled over into Kenya shutting down a significant chunk of the coastal tourism industry. Tourism represents 12 percent of the economy.

    Heavy-handed ethnic profiling by Kenyan authorities has served to further confuse citizens and alienate the Muslim community, about 10 percent of the population, while increasing the rate of radicalization within Kenya. Without a strategy, no one seems to have an idea what success should be for Somalia, and this has deepened Kenyan domestic opposition to the endeavor. Indeed, the political opposition has called for a withdrawal of Kenyan troops from Somalia, and in April a poll showed that 88 percent of Kenyans regarded Al Shabaab as a threat with half suggesting that Kenyan troops should be withdrawn from the neighbor to the northeast.

    Ironically, corruption, one of the issues President Obama emphasized most frequently in his speeches is partly responsible for the hollowing out of security agencies meant to interdict Al Shabaab. Some analysts argue that countries like Uganda and Ethiopia, which also have troops in Somalia have partly mitigated the blowback because their security machinery, despite some weaknesses, isn’t as dysfunctional as Kenya’s. Media inquiries, for example, demonstrate the extent to which incompetence and corruption facilitated the attack on Garissa University in May this year that left at least 147 students murdered.

    Progressives may have been partly assuaged by Obama’s comments before the Africa Union. But many may have a bitter taste, expecting a more robust defense of civil society and media in Kenya’s shrinking democratic space.

    Still, Obama’s first trip to Kenya as US president leaves little besides the fondest of memories. It also recalibrated relations with the Kenyatta regime, which at times have been testy. As noted earlier, Kenya has long been America’s best friend in Eastern Africa. The jury is still very much out on the controversial presence of Kenyan troops in the territory of their neighbor Somalia.

    * John Githongo, a former Permanent Secretary for Ethics and Governance in Kenya, is active in the anti-corruption field regionally and internationally. He can be reached at [email protected] This article previously appeared in Yale Global.



    * 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.

    Behind the Obama visit to East Africa

    United States imperialist policy a source for instability throughout the region

    Abayomi Azikiwe


    cc BBC
    In Kenya, Obama pledged over a billion dollars in investments from the U.S. government along with U.S.-based businesses. Half of the investments will go to women and young people to promote entrepreneurship. Yet U.S. policy in Eastern Africa has been militaristic along with extraction of minerals, exploiting labor and agricultural commodities.

    Washington’s foreign policy towards Africa was highlighted recently through the visit of President Barack Obama to Kenya and Ethiopia.

    Also the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, came to the United States the previous week and held high-level meetings with Obama along with other officials in the State Department and the Pentagon.

    Obama’s term ends next year and many have criticized him for not visiting the country where his father was born since he was elected to office in 2008. Kenya has been a longtime ally of the U.S. since the early days of independence in 1963 under the leadership of Jomo Kenyatta, the first president of the East African state.

    The president attended a business development conference in Kenya. He emphasized during his trip the much-touted phenomenal economic growth on the continent.

    Although there has been the enhanced exploitation of natural gas and other strategic resources in East Africa, economic problems persist. Kenya is a capitalist country that is heavily dependent upon the marketing of agricultural produce, clothing and tourism to the West.

    Unemployment and poverty continue to trap millions while economic relations with the imperialist states do not offer any significant prospects for the absorption of large segments of the population into the urbanized labor market. Most people still work in the agricultural sectors of the economy through the production of tea, coffee, sisal and other products.

    During the 1990s, Kenya was unable to pay its loans to the international financial institutions and instituted reforms which made the country more attractive to multi-national corporations and banks for investment. With the institution of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) in the U.S. under the administration of President Bill Clinton, the country began to produce clothing for export to the western states.

    The mineral exploitation taking place inside the country is limited at present.

    Nonetheless, there has been exploration for oil inland and offshore on the border between Kenya and Somalia. These new areas of potential investments by the multi-national petroleum firms may be clearly related to the Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) intervention in Somalia which was carried out in late 2011 at the aegis of Washington through the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM).

    The Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Nairobi was opened by Obama who pledged over a billion dollars in investments from the U.S. government along with U.S.-based banks, foundations and donors. 50 percent of the investments will go to women and young people, who face obstacles when trying to start businesses, says Obama.

    "If half of your team is not playing, you've got a problem," Obama told the conference, ostensibly referring to women who face gender oppression in Kenya.

    Yet the major thrust of U.S. policy in Kenya, Somalia and other East African states has been militaristic along with extracting minerals, exploiting labor and exporting commodities from the these countries. The current crisis in Somalia is a direct result of failed U.S. policy during both the former Bush administration and the present government.

    An article published last year in Somalia Current says that “what is currently taking place across the Somalia-Kenya offshore border where Kenya recently awarded six oil and gas blocks to the international oil companies (IOC), within Somali offshore territory approximately 120,000 km2. Italy, Norway, the USA and France are tended to be exploiting the trans-boundary area. It was apparent that those greedy alliances’ aim is to plunder Somalia’s offshore hydrocarbon resources and this has become more obvious since Kenya started invading southern Somalia in October 2011 while its allies such as France, Italy and Norway kept quiet about the invasion.” (Sept. 23, 2014)


    The counter-terrorism strategy of Washington through AFRICOM has still not stabilized the political situation in Somalia or Kenya. On July 26, the same day that Obama arrived in the neighboring Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, a car bomb exploded outside the Jazeera Hotel in Mogadishu, Somalia killing 13 people, at least one of whom was a Chinese national.

    In December of 2006, under the previous administration of President George W. Bush, the U.S. encouraged the Ethiopian government to invade Somalia in order to overturn the growing influence of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU). After a two-and-a-half year occupation, the Al-Shabaab guerrilla movement emerged from the ICU and continued a war of insurgency against the U.S. and European Union (EU) supported regime in Mogadishu.

    At present some 22,000 troops from the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) are still occupying the Horn of Africa state. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Pentagon regularly conducts drone strikes in Somalia where they have bases of operation.


    The 1974 Ethiopian Revolution and its socialist orientation were overthrown in 1991 just several months prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union. Under Gorbachev, support for national liberation movements and national democratic revolutionary governments in Africa was withdrawn creating a crisis throughout the international community.

    The post-revolution government in Addis Ababa has been closely aligned with the U.S. and other western states. Ethiopian troops although withdrawn in early 2009 after defeats in Somalia, have re-entered the country.

    The presence of both the KDF and Ethiopian troops are a cause for concern even within the Somalia Federal Government that is recognized by Washington and Wall Street.

    Obama also addressed the security and political crisis in the newly-independent Republic of South Sudan. This state is a result of a western-supported secessionist movement which resulted in the partition of the Republic of Sudan based in Khartoum, which previously was the largest geographic nation-state in Africa.

    South Sudan leaders have been split since December 2013 over the future course of the country. President Salva Kiir and former Vice-President Reik Machar have led separate factions within the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLA/M) resulting in the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people and the deaths of several thousand in a civil war in the continent’s and the world’s most recent United Nations and African Union recognized state.

    In a joint statement issued by Obama with Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, it says that “We have agreed to intensify the campaign against terrorism in the region, and we both noted with satisfaction the progress AMISOM forces and Somali National Army are making, with the support of the U.S. and other partners, in their fight against al-Shabaab.”

    This same statement continues stressing: “We have agreed to deepen our intelligence cooperation both bilaterally as well as regionally. We have both noted and underscored that this cooperation is essential to curb the menace posed by terrorism. The terrorist attack that was launched in Mogadishu yesterday is a stark reminder that we need to work even more in this respect.” (White House Press Release, July 27)

    Obama was scheduled to address the AU Commission based in Addis Ababa on July 28.

    Nonetheless, there were no plans to meet with President Robert Mugabe of the Republic of Zimbabwe who is the sitting chair of the continental body. Instead he will likely meet with Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the AU Commission Chairperson, who is originally from the Republic of South Africa.

    Such a situation of not meeting with a head-of-state that leads the continental body is reflective of the character of U.S. imperialism even under Obama. Zimbabwe is not a favored state by Washington particularly since the land reform program of 2000 which redistributed white-owned farms to Africans who were expropriated during the colonial wars of the late 19th century.

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



    * 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.

    Rwanda and Burundi: Who’s ‘promoting instability through violence’?

    Ann Garrison


    cc CCTV
    Burundi has received far greater vilification from the West compared to Rwanda which has supported rebels in neighbouring countries and whose government is accused of widespread assassinations and forced disappearances targeting the opposition and the media. Burundi appears to provide perfect cover for the odious Kigali regime and its backers abroad.

    As Burundian voters went to the polls on Tuesday, the U.S. State Department warned that “elections held under the current conditions in Burundi will not be credible and will further discredit the government.” It also said it planned to suspend partnerships that it hasn’t already suspended with “anyone promoting instability in Burundi through violence.”

    Will those “promoting instability through violence” include the renegade Burundian military officers who staged a failed coup attempt in May, then fled to Rwanda and declared war on Burundi? Will it include Rwandan military and political support for a rebel force?

    And why did the State Department accept the “credibility” of the presidential election in Rwanda, Burundi’s neighbour and ethnic twin, in 2010?

    Aug. 9 will mark the fifth anniversary of that 2010 Rwandan presidential election. When it was announced that the U.S. and U.K. would send election observers that year, Rwandan American legal scholar Charles Kambanda, a former member of Kagame’s ruling party, told KPFA Radio that there was nothing to observe.

    “We’re not talking about the election day,” he said. “We are not talking about a few hours after elections or before elections. We are looking at the entire social, political environment before, during and after the elections. Anybody who has been following involvements in Rwanda knows that it is impossible to have free and fair elections, so why do people seriously think of going there to observe elections?

    “Which elections are they going to observe? There is NOTHING to be observed because what we have is a one-man show. What we have is a situation where they have created the so-called opposition. RPF (Rwandan Patriotic Front) has kicked out all the potential political opposition leaders. They are either in prison or they are already dead or in exile.”

    Victoire Ingabire attempted to stand for the presidency in Rwanda in 2010. She has been in prison since, and prison authorities have refused to let her meet with the lawyers preparing her appeal to the African Court of Human and People’s Rights.

    Victoire Ingabire tried to run for president in 2010. She was not quite in prison by election day, but she had, since April 1, been under house arrest, forbidden to leave Rwanda’s capital to speak with the country’s rural, subsistence farming majority.

    She was finally imprisoned on Oct. 14, 2010, two weeks after the release of the U.N. Mapping Report on Human Rights Abuse in the Democratic Republic of Congo, 1993-2003, which documented Kagame’s army’s atrocities in Congo and said that an international court of law would likely rule that they included genocide – meaning the ethnic massacre of Rwanda Hutu refugees and Congolese Hutus.

    No such international criminal tribunal has ever been convened.

    An international criminal defense attorney traveled to Rwanda in May to defend Victoire Ingabire while she was still under house arrest, but he was thrown in prison for “denying” Rwanda’s constitutionally codified, legally enforced genocide history.

    Victoire Ingabire remains behind bars today, convicted and sentenced to 15 years on preposterous charges of terrorism, urging Rwandans to rise up against their government, and “genocide ideology,” which means challenging President Paul Kagame, the Rwandan government or the constitutionally codified, legally enforced genocide history.

    Last week Victoire’s party reported that prison authorities have refused to let her meet with the lawyers preparing her appeal to the African Court of Human and People’s Rights, have confined her in harsher isolation, and have even taken away her books and hymnals.

    Bernard Ntaganda, another 2010 presidential contender, was sentenced to four years in prison long before the polls for organizing an illegal gathering, “threatening state security” and “inciting ethnic divisions.” Regarding those ethnic divisions, Ntaganda had actually said: “The problem in Rwanda is not Tutsi. The problem is not Hutu. The problem is a small group of people, a small group of people who have between their hands all power, government power. They have the wealth. And they have the majority of Rwandese, who are very poor.”

    Deo Mushayidi, former president of the Rwandan Journalists Association, was sentenced to life in prison after a summary trial way ahead of the polls in 2010. Mushayidi is a Tutsi who lost his entire family in the Rwandan massacres.

    Rwandan journalists Agnes Uwimana and Saidath-Mukakibibi were imprisoned ahead of the polls for writing a series of articles that criticized President Kagame and other officials and, like Victoire Ingabire, challenged Rwanda’s constitutionally codified, legally enforced genocide history.

    There was no credible investigation of the June 25, 2010, murder of Rwandan journalist Jean Leonard Rugambage or of the July 14, 2010, murder of Rwandan Green Party Vice President Andre Kagwa Rwisereka, whose body was found beheaded by the banks of Rwanda’s Makula River.

    Nor has there ever been any Web accessible report of any investigation into the July 15, 2010 murder of international criminal defense lawyer and University of Dar Es Salaam professor Jwani Mwaikusa. Professor Mwaikusa was at the time preparing his client’s appeal to the International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda’s Appeals Chamber.

    During the 2010 World Cup festivities in Johannesburg, South Africa, a team of assassins shot former Rwandan Gen. Kayumba Nyamwasa in front of his home, then followed an ambulance to a hospital, where they tried and failed again to kill him before being arrested.

    Rwandans died in grenade explosions, as they have in Burundi, but after the Aug. 9 polls, Rwanda’s Election Commission announced that Kagame had won a thoroughly implausible 93 percent of votes cast. The U.S. and the rest of the “international community” blessed the results and turned their attention elsewhere.

    Enemies of the Rwandan government have since been assassinated, disappeared and threatened with death or deportation in Rwanda, Uganda, South Africa, Kenya, Europe and Canada. A 2012 U.N. Group of Experts report said that Rwanda’s defense minister, who reports, of course, to President Paul Kagame, was at the top of the chain of command of the M23 militia guilty of mass atrocities and the displacement of another million people in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

    Nevertheless, U.S. Rwandan military partnership has been strengthened, U.S. and U.K. aid to Rwanda has continued to flow, and though Kagame is not so secure in the West as before 2010, he has never been subjected to anything like the vilification now heaped on Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza. No matter how violent and lawless Burundian coup plotters and rioters are, the U.S., the E.U., most of the Western press and even U.N. human rights investigators blame it all on President Pierre Nkurunziza.

    Nkurunziza is damned for seeking a third term in office, even though that is exactly what Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Congolese President Joseph Kabila have already done. Both Kagame and Kabila were, like Nkurunziza, appointed to their first terms and both went on to claim the constitutional right to be elected twice by universal suffrage, amidst harrowing election violence and media and political repression, but without protest by the U.S.

    Now there’s a raft of bogus headlines about Kagame’s “consultations on his third term,” which is really his fourth. Kagame was appointed in 2000 and elected, reportedly, by universal suffrage in 2003 and 2010. That will make Kagame’s next term his fourth, and of course he’s on his way to a forever term by abolishing term limits. Grim as that may be, however, why is the discussion of Rwanda and Burundi so dominated by term limits?

    Isn’t it more important that Victoire Ingabire and Deo Mushayidi remain in prison in Rwanda, that Rwanda is harboring renegades who’ve declared war on Burundi and that the U.S. is trying to oust another popular Hutu president? I’ve not heard anyone deny that Pierre Nkurunziza is hugely popular with Burundi’s very poor, rural, Hutu peasant majority. The Burundian opposition, whose voices have been so amplified by the international press, simply leave the country’s very poor rural majority out of their conversation.

    The danger of mass violence is no doubt great, but why is the West blaming it all on President Pierre Nkurunziza? Shouldn’t we instead stop and reflect on the assassination of three Hutu presidents that turned the African Great Lakes Region into the killing ground it became in the 1990s? Burundian President Melchior Ndadaye in 1993, Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana and Burundian President Cyprien Ntaryamira in 1994. No one has ever been prosecuted for the catastrophic murders of Presidents Habyarimana and Ntaryamira, and the region’s deep wounds remain unhealed.

    The BBC documentary “Rwanda’s Untold Story” exposed some of the lies told about Rwanda and the African Great Lakes Region since1994. “The Deluge,” a film about genocide and the plunder of Central Africa, aims to bring much more of the truth to light. To see how you can support this film in progress, visit the website,

    * Oakland writer Ann Garrison writes for the San Francisco Bay View, Black Agenda Report, Black Star News, Counterpunch and her own website, Ann Garrison, and produces for AfrobeatRadio on WBAI-NYC, KPFA Evening News, KPFA Flashpoints and for her own YouTube Channel, AnnieGetYourGang. She can be reached at [email protected] In March 2014 she was awarded the Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Democracy and Peace Prize for promoting peace in the Great Lakes Region of Africa through her reporting. This article was previously published in Francisco Bay View.



    * 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.

    Joseph Kabila forever

    The dangers of an extended presidency in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

    Ken Roth and Ida Sawyer


    cc RT
    Joseph Kabila, the president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, faces a historic choice: Does he step down when his constitutionally limited two terms in office come to an end in December 2016, or does he succumb to the delusion of indispensability that is making the rounds in parts of Africa and try to cling to power?

    The issue is the subject of intense debate in Congo. When we met with Kabila last week in Kinshasa, he pointed out — correctly — that he has not yet publicly stated his position about what he will do in 2016. “Let’s wait and see what will happen,” he cautioned. But he has done little to stem intense speculation about his possible reluctance to relinquish office.

    If Kabila chooses to abide by the constitution, he would become the first Congolese president to step down voluntarily for another elected president — arguably making him the “father of democracy” in Congo. That would be a major step forward for a nation that suffered brutal colonial rule under King Leopold II of Belgium, decades of post-colonial dictatorship under Mobutu Sese Seko, and then years of deadly war in which a constellation of rebel groups and armies from nine African states battled on Congolese soil.

    Kabila came to power in 2001 at the age of 29, following the assassination of his father, Laurent Désiré Kabila. He is not without his accomplishments in office. Under his leadership, Congo has emerged from the dark years of war, and he led a transitional government that in 2006 brought about the country’s first democratic elections in more than 40 years, which he won. With mixed success, he has sought to stabilize the eastern part of the country, which has been plagued by armed groups that continue to kill, rape, and pillage, and he has sought to end the impunity that underwrites these atrocities. His government asked the International Criminal Court to investigate the crimes committed in Congo and has surrendered more suspects to that court than any other government in the world.

    His “zero tolerance” policy toward sexual violence by security forces — announced two days after we encouraged him to take this step at a meeting in the eastern Congolese city of Goma in 2009 — has led to a spate of domestic prosecutions and a notable reduction in complaints about rape by government soldiers. And in late 2013, he succeeded in ridding eastern Congo of the last of a succession of abusive Rwandan-sponsored rebel groups that operated in the region for 15 years.

    Yet if Kabila chooses to try to hang on to power, his reputation will be tarnished not only by the failure to respect the unamendable constitutional two-term limit but also by the likelihood of a violent and abusive chain reaction. To envision how a downward spiral of protest and violent repression might unfold in Congo over a disputed extended presidential term, one need look no further than neighboring Burundi, where President Pierre Nkurunziza’s insistence on a constitutionally questionable third term has yielded the deadly suppression of mass protests.

    In January, when Kabila’s government attempted to change the electoral law to enable extending his time in office, thousands of people took to the streets of Congo’s major cities to protest. Government security forces responded with violence and repression, killing at least 38 protesters in Kinshasa and five in Goma, and jailing — and sometimes beating and torturing — politicians and activists who were seen to challenge the idea of an extended presidency.

    Why might Kabila want to stay past his mandate? Beyond the perks of power, many assume that he fears for himself and his family. For example, in our meeting, he raised the specter of Congo’s first democratically elected leader, Patrice Lumumba, who was executed after an apparently Western-backed coup. “Have I been successful? I don’t know. Lumumba is the real father of democracy, and he was assassinated.”

    Moreover, according to political insiders and investigative journalists, the Kabila family has amassed a considerable fortune, which could make them vulnerable to future investigations . Plus, Kabila in 2016 would be only 45 years old; those close to him say he has no desire to leave Congo, but there is no Congolese precedent of a former president assuming an elder statesman role of the sort played by South Africa’s Nelson Mandela or Nigeria’s Olusegun Obasanjo.

    Yet Kabila has little room to maneuver. A broad consensus has emerged in the country that a formal third presidential term is constitutionally impossible, so Congolese speak instead of a possible “glissement” — the use of some pretext to allow the prescribed limits for his second term to “slide.” The pretext might be intensifying armed conflict in the east, making the prospect of genuinely national elections difficult. It might be the seemingly deliberate lack of preparations for elections: little of the budget has been funded, and no steps have been taken to register more than 5 million youth who have come of age since the last national election in 2011. Or it might be the government’s insistence on proceeding with complicated plans to subdivide the country’s 11 provinces into 26 and then hold local and provincial elections before national ones — a sequencing that could lead to significant glissement.

    But it’s hard to imagine how any of these scenarios would buy Kabila more than another year or two in office. That would accomplish little for him, while significantly undermining his interests. Prosecutors, for example, would be far less likely to proceed against a former president who is respected for having reinforced the foundation of Congolese democracy by handing power to a newly elected leader in timely fashion, than one who oversaw intensifying rounds of brutality against a public that seemed clearly to want a constitutionally mandated handover of power. A tumultuous period of repression would also make it less likely that Kabila’s endorsement of a friendly successor would succeed — another option that might help Kabila safeguard his interests.

    We made these arguments to him directly in our meeting last week, but the president was coy in answering them: “Why are you trying to anticipate what will happen?”

    He was more responsive when we stressed the importance of allowing people to protest and criticize the government, especially in an electoral period, though he hedged his commitment to democratic principles: “People want to hold demonstrations and protests, good enough. But if the idea is to go beyond free protests and create mayhem and anarchy, that’s completely unacceptable.” We noted that democracy can be messy yet, short of violence, shouldn’t be equated with anarchy. He let the point hang.

    Kabila put a special stress on the need to ensure stability. “The issue in Congo is about stability. Stepping down — anyone can step down.” But, again, it’s far from clear how a contested extension of his term in office coupled with likely protest and repression would contribute to Congo’s stability.

    Kabila has proposed a national dialogue to iron out electoral questions. If he were to state clearly his intention to relinquish office at the appointed time and indicate that the dialogue would discuss only the modalities for the next round of elections consistent with the constitution, Congolese would most likely welcome the opportunity. But in his typically cryptic fashion, he has left people speculating that dialogue might be just another ploy for glissement.

    That we left our meeting with Kabila cordially suggests that the arguments we made are not beyond the pale. He listened politely and even joked: “You say ‘father of democracy.’ You’re not the first one to say this and you won’t be the last.” But he gave no indication that he accepted or rejected our suggestions. He simply asked: “As for my future, continue to pray for me.” For the sake of democracy’s future in Congo, we can only hope Kabila understands that his personal interest, not to mention his country’s, lies in accepting, rather than abusively fighting, the limits that the Congolese constitution so clearly impose.

    * Ken Roth is Executive Director, while Ida Sawyer is Senior Researcher at Human Rights Watch.



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

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

    The Venerable Julius Nyerere of Butiama, teacher and leader

    Mary Serumaga


    cc BT
    The rare display of groundedness and humility by a sitting African head of state was enough to catapult Nyerere on to the path to canonization. His daring socialist experiment and the decision to leave office at the end of his term, something that remains difficult for African presidents, are significant highlights of his pro-people politics.

    The canonization of Julius Nyerere, first president of Tanzania, draws ever closer. The long and costly process involves data collection and canon lawyers arguing for the cause, and used to include a Devil’s Advocate arguing against it. Having passed the first stage, Nyerere is now properly referred to as Venerable. If he passes the further tests he will be beatified, Blessed Julius; and finally canonized as Saint Julius with a Feast Day falling on his birthday or some other significant milestone.

    On a visit to Uganda, Nyerere astounded everyone when, attending Mass at a central Kampala church, he avoided the honours that the State scrambled to offer him. While the usually overflowing congregation was inconvenienced by being made to pass through body scanners and having the already insufficient space reduced in order to provide him with a buffer against them, the man took a random seat in the church. A Catholic from the pre-Vatican II period, he sought confession before Holy Communion and insisted on joining the long slow-moving queue rather than being leap-frogged to the front.

    John Paul II once defined a saint as an ordinary person who does ordinary things in an extraordinary way. That rare display of groundedness and humility by a sitting African head of state was enough to catapult Nyerere on to the path to canonization. Earlier, he had admitted that his experiment with Ujamaa had not been a success, that it had in fact left Tanzania’s economy a shambles. Then in 1985, Nyerere resigned the presidency.

    To understand why this would warrant more than a month’s attention, one need only consider the number of presidents who, approaching the end of their final terms in office, have altered their country’s constitution in order to extend their tenure. Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso was overthrown last year when still not sated, he tried it for a second time. Joseph Kabila of DR Congo had to violently put down riots in order to hang on to what is known in East Africa as ‘the Chair.’ President Museveni of Uganda was exposed by some opposition members of parliament after they were offered UShs 5 million each (around US$2,000 at the time) in order to make up the quorum required for the constitutional change that removed term limits, allowing him to possibly rule for life. Two months ago President Nkurunziza of Burundi sparked off the ongoing political unrest and extra-judicial killings in his country by attempting to prolong his stay at State House. At the time of writing and with Burundi still smouldering, Rwanda lifted its presidential terms limit.

    So difficult it is constitutionally to unseat an incumbent African leader that Mo Ibrahim, a Sudanese business mogul and philanthropist, has founded the Ibrahim Prize to encourage them to step down voluntarily. US$5 million is awarded for good governance and “to ensure that Africa continues to benefit from the experience and expertise of exceptional leaders when they leave national office, by enabling them to continue in other public roles on the continent.”

    Definitions of good governance bear a striking resemblance to the social doctrine of the Catholic Church, a point not lost on Nyerere. There is no question that what President Nyerere attempted, a fusion between socialism and Christian values, and what he did when he resigned are both worthy of credit. His support for independence movements in Angola, Mozambique, and South Africa assure him a place in Africa’s political history.

    But what might the Devil’s Advocate have argued against the Cause for the Canonization of the Venerable Julius? He may have received reports from Ugandans about the Y.K. Lule Affair in 1979. President Lule was in the Chair for 68 days before he was abducted. The first political riots for over a decade ensued. ‘No Lule, No Work’ was the phrase chanted by citizens defying bullets in City Square (now cordoned off to the public). Lule then surfaced in Tanzania where he was held in state custody.

    On arrival in Dar es Salaam, he was brought before President Nyerere who tried to pressure him to sign a resignation, thus legitimizing his overthrow. Lule demurred. He would not sign. He became ill during his detention and it took pressure from the international community to bring about his release and transport to London. Nyerere had been in the presence of Milton Obote, a long time ally and fellow believer in what was called the ‘move to the left’. Within a year Obote had become president for the second time.

    Even saints make mistakes. Bernard of Clairvaux was canonized for reviving the monastic movement yet he preached a now infamous sermon justifying the Second Crusade. Is that qualitatively different from condoning the abduction of a head of state, trying to coerce him in to signing a resignation, and then imposing your own choice of leader on a neighbouring country? Extraordinary, but not in the way John Paul meant.

    Furthermore, the principle of humility by which Nyerere lived is trampled on every June 3, Martyrs Day, when Uganda celebrates her own 22 martyrs executed at Namugongo in 1886 (and the recently canonized killed in Northern Uganda). Over 3 million pilgrims attended in 2015. They begin walking from all over the country a week before and from DRC, Tanzania, Kenya and Rwanda even earlier. On arrival they attend mass in the Basilica in their own languages led by their bishops and then bed down in the open air. West Africans fly in with European, American and other pilgrims.

    However whenever Mrs Nyerere attends, so does President Museveni accompanied by all manner of dignitaries and his security apparatus which includes a convoy with vehicles mounted with guns and carrying armed men in military fatigues. The night before, sleeping pilgrims are woken up by policemen with sniffer dogs and asked to move their bedding from one place to another. Security cordons off areas sufficient for hundreds of pilgrims in order to make room for the portable toilet, the police dogs and a tent for the Inspector General of Police and his invited guests. The man-made lake now has a military-green rubber dinghy floating on it and pilgrims were recently barred from collecting water in the time-honoured fashion.

    After the final mass, pilgrims are usually too exhausted to take in the president’s delivery of his equally tired old dogma about Africans needing a common language and other Pan-Africanist noises; stuff it is difficult to believe he aspires to anymore (his memoirs and other reflections are written in English). But there is no escape. Security requires that no pilgrims leave the venue or enter their cars and buses until the big man’s convoy has left. What is a campaign opportunity for him begins to feel like a land grab to the pilgrims who built Namugongo by public subscription over the decades.

    Nyerere would not have approved, he would have chided us for eulogizing him for doing something as straightforward as going home at the end of his shift. Perhaps for that reason alone, he should be canonized.

    * Mary Serumaga is a Ugandan writer.



    * 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.

    Mozambique’s 40 years of independence: Past and present challenges

    Fredson Guilengue


    cc Wiki
    In 40 years of self-rule Mozambique has undergone drastic political and economic changes, from a socialist one-party state and to a neoliberal democracy. The people of Mozambique have been plunged into – and survived – a civil war, political crisis and now the neoliberal appropriation with high economic growth but persistent poverty.

    On 25 June 2015 Mozambique celebrated 40 years of independence. The south-east African country gained its independence in 1975 following 10 years of armed struggle (1964 – 1974) against its old colonial master, Portugal. The struggle for liberation was led by the Mozambique Liberation Front, the Frente de Libertação de Moçambique (FRELIMO), which has been the ruling party since independence.

    In four decades the country has experienced important political and economic transformation. It went from a single – party state (1975-1992) to a multiparty democracy which also coincided with its transition from a devastating civil war (1976 – 1992) to peace. Since the mid 1980’s, Mozambique has undergone yet another transition from having a centrally-planned economy into a market-driven one. Since the introduction of political and economic reforms, Mozambique has become one of the fastest growing economies in Africa. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has consistently grown at 7% per annum. Since the implementation of reforms Mozambique has long been regarded as the darling of donor countries, signalling that multiparty democracy and market reforms equated to economic growth and some social development.

    However, recent events in Mozambique seem to have clouded its sparkling image in Africa. The ongoing military and political crisis which started in 2012 (the clash between FRELIMO and the main opposition party RENAMO), its former adversary of in the civil war, including the taking up of arms again, put a question mark behind the political stability of Mozambique. On the economic side, another question mark appeared alongside sustainability of the economic bonanza derived from the exploitation of natural resources (mining) mainly coal and gas, considering the lack of adequate infrastructure and the poor impact this has had on poverty reduction.

    In this article I shed light on the political and economic evolution of Mozambique by looking at the structural political and socioeconomic challenges the country inherited in 1975 as well as at the prevailing principal ones. I try to discuss the extent to which the progress achieved (e.g. 20 years of a multiparty democratic system and economic growth) can be seen as a positive political and economic evolution. By evolution I mean the gradual process in which political and economic institutions are invented and re-invented leading to a qualitatively better democratic process (more effective and inclusive) and economic development.


    At independence in 1975 the new republic inherited a challenging social, political and economic situation. Portugal itself (with Greece and Ireland) was amongst the three poorest countries in non-communist Europe. It had little to speak of without the resources and land of its colonies like Angola and Mozambique.[1] In Mozambique, the population was growing at 2.5% per annum (7.6 million in 1960 and 9.4 million in 1970).[2] The colonial education system was characterized by a poor infrastructure, shortages of qualified staff, and explicit regional and gender inequities. As a result, by 1975, nearly 95% of the country’s total population of 11 million was illiterate and less than 4% could speak Portuguese. Not more than 5% of the black population lived in around the white major towns.[3]

    The health conditions of the majority of the population were also considered extremely poor. With the exception of some health programs, very few or no health services were provided by the colonial state outside the country’s major towns. Most of the existing healthcare services were provided by church groups or traditional medical practitioners.[4] Shortly after independence, only 80 of the 500 doctors remained in Mozambique. In terms of Human Development Index (HDI), in 1975, Mozambique ranked 172 out of 177 countries. Life expectancy at birth was 43.21 years.[5]

    During the colonial years black Mozambicans were totally excluded from any kind of political activities. Economically, the population was almost entirely dependent on remittances from migrant workers within South Africa and Rhodesia (numbering 100 000) as well as from a plantation and settler dominated export-oriented agricultural sector, where cash crops accounted for more than 80% of the country’s foreign exchange. This context of structural economic challenges was further exacerbated by the exodus of 200 000 Portuguese who (fearing FRELIMO’S Marxist–Leninist policies) left Mozambique resulting in a dearth of capable administrators and skilled labour in almost all sectors from production to service activities. [6]

    In terms of the regional politics, the newly independent Mozambique was surrounded by two white minority governments - Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and South Africa neither willing to co-exist with a socialist-oriented neighbour open to supporting independence struggles in both Rhodesia and South Africa. At the global political level, although Mozambique gained its independence in a relatively good period (characterized by the temporary weak interventionist role of the United States), this global context changed five years later in 1980 with the election of the vociferously anti-communist American president Ronald Reagan.[7]

    In retrospect, colonialism had resulted in a weak state, underdeveloped infrastructure and inefficient bureaucracy, a culture of authoritarian paternalism and a limited human resource base.[8] This was aggravated by the adoption of a Marxist-Leninist one-party-state system by FRELIMO in 1977, its strategic position in Southern Africa and a neighbour as powerful, aggressive and ruthless as apartheid South Africa.[9]

    This bore heavily upon Mozambique’s future until 1994 and the vestiges and consequences still impact the country’s development path today.


    Although with minimal reach, Mozambique was also a battlefield of the Cold War. Less than a year after independence, the county fell into one of the most brutal civil wars of the twentieth century which lasted for 16 long years. Understanding the complexities of what pushes a country into a civil war is an onerous task. However, one cannot avoid the factors below when trying to understand Mozambique’s descent into civil war in 1976.

    Some schools of thought point to FRELIMO’s socialist (then Marxist – Leninist) policies adopted just after independence as having created significant disgruntlement amongst the rural population. This stemmed mainly from northern and central Mozambique where the population felt marginalized by these policies and the manner in which they were being implemented. There was also a sense of ethnic and regional domination of the northerners and central regions by the southerners and the heavy-handed attempts by the FRELIMO government to rapidly displace existing social and economic relations they encountered without prompt and effective replacement of the colonial legacy. [10]

    Regionally, the existence of majority rule in Mozambique threatened the continuity of the apartheid regimes both in South Africa and Rhodesia. These two regimes worked incessantly to destabilize Mozambique. Amongst other reasons, Ian Smith was threatened by Samora Machel’s government because Mozambique supported both the Zimbabwe National Liberation Army (ZANLA) and the United Nations’ sanctions against Rhodesia.[11] The same applied to the Apartheid government because Mozambique also strongly supported the struggle against apartheid offering shelter to the African National Congress (ANC) operatives.

    Globally, as mentioned above, Mozambique gained its independence in the context of the Cold War. FRELIMO’s struggle against colonialism was backed mainly by the Eastern bloc and after independence support came from the Soviet Union, Cuba and some Nordic countries. Mozambique’s alliance with the soviet bloc served as a good argument for some western governments and their pro-western allies to side with any kind of political and military opposition to FRELIMO.

    It is against this domestic, regional and global background that in 1976 the Rhodesian Central Intelligence Organization (CIO) organized some former Portuguese and FRELIMO operatives to form Mozambique National Resistance (MNR today RENAMO) to lead the struggle against FRELIMO. After the death of André Matsangaíssa in 1979, Afonso Dhlakama took over the leadership of RENAMO.

    By the end of the war in 1992 the social and economic impact had reached devastating proportions. One hundred thousand people are said to have been killed in the conflict. Nearly one million indirect casualties were registered. 13% of the total country’s population (of 15 million in 1990) was forced to become war refugees and nearly 4.5 million people were internally displaced. The country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was estimated to be US$1.969 billion. This is only half of what it would have been without the impact of the war. The economic infrastructure of the country was also in tatters. 60% of all primary schools where either destroyed or closed. Roads, bridges and communication systems were extensively damaged. Furthermore, Mozambique’s debt had grown from US$2.7 billion in 1985 to US$4.7 billion in 1991 marking the country as one of the most aid dependent nations in the world. [12]


    At the time of independence Mozambique was one of the world’s poorest countries. It maintained this uncomfortable status up until the end of the civil war in 1992. Nevertheless, Mozambique’s economic situation started improving with the attainment of peace, macroeconomic reforms, foreign aid and more recently with significant increases in foreign direct investment mainly in the mining sector.

    Privatisation was at the core of the macroeconomic reforms. In terms of the number of privatisation transactions, until 1990 Mozambique’s privatisation programme was the largest in Africa and a decision was made to further expand and accelerate the trend in 1992. The World Bank classified Mozambique’s privatisation process as a success story, despite the disastrous impact it had on the cashew production sector in the 1990s.[13] Privatisation resulted in the creation of national oligarchic families or a national bourgeoisie. But domestically, under the new dispensation, only the “comrades” deserved entry to this group. The reason being they were [and still are] regarded as the most patriotic, capable of defending the national sovereignty by controlling the national wealth. In this context, privatisation allowed for the rapid transformation of Mozambique from the so-called “grave of capitalism” into its actual nursery.[14] It allowed the creation of a political capitalist class in terms of its heavy dependence on the state for state capture and rent-seeking opportunities. This new dynamic brought about economic growth.

    Meanwhile, in 1990 Mozambique adopted a new constitution which, coupled with the new international political and economic context (brought by the end of the Cold War and some domestic factors like drought), paved the way for the end of the war and the signature of the General Peace Agreement (GPA) on October the 4 1992.[15] The GPA also created the necessary legal and economic conditions for the transformation of the former guerrilla movement RENAMO into a political party.

    Since 1994 Mozambique has undertaken periodic multiparty elections. The country organised five general elections (presidential and parliamentary). Two provincial elections and four local elections have taken place.[16] At national level the president and 250 national parliamentary members are elected. FRELIMO has won all the general elections held so far (Joaquim Chissano – 1994 and 1999; Armando Guebuza – 2004 and 2009; and now – 2014 - Filipe Jacinto Nyusi) and most of the provincial and local ones. All these electoral processes have been highly contested by the main opposition parties.


    Behind FRELIMO’s apparent electoral hegemony are factors such as neopatrimonialism, electoral fraud and FRELIMO’s machinery and financial robustness. Added to these factors is a lack of financial and organizational capacity by the opposition parties.[17] Though since the 1990 constitution, there is no formal connection between state and party, FRELIMO continues to dominate all spheres state. The relationship between membership of the party and access to the state and wealth is undeniably deep, multifaceted and multilevel. Active membership or possession of FRELIMO’s membership card can ease access to a job, career advancement, promotion, business, and services. On the other hand FRELIMO’s control over the state provides it with human and material resources to run the party and its electoral machinery effectively. The opposition parties, however, struggle to provide minimal adequate oversight.[18] These factors are omnipresent in Mozambique’s democracy but played a major role during Guebuza’s term of office. His advent as FRELIMO’s candidate in 2004 and his re-election in 2009 seemed to rekindle the party’s domination formerly weakened during the Chissano’s period. Based on a politic of total marginalisation of opposition parties, he further strengthened the party apparatus and reward to faithful members.

    Although, downplayed by political analysts, FRELIMO’s internal cohesion plays another important role in maintaining its electoral prowess. Amongst others, the party’s capacity to manage internal friction particularly after independence and more visibly since the 1990s includes the strategy of “one generation after another”. This strategy entails allocating and/or prioritizing access to political power and wealth within the party, state, government and economy according to established generational groups, one after another. It gives members of the so-called generations the idea that there their time will come to easily access power and wealth without having to fight for it. At present, FRELIMO recognizes the existence of three different generations (25th September, 8th March and Geração da Viragem). While Samora, Chissano and Guebuza belonged to the first generation, Nyusi is said to belong to the 8th March generation. Meanwhile, the cadres of the Geração da Viragem are in waiting.

    1999 AND 2014: A PYRRHIC VICTORY

    Judging by RENAMO’s electoral performance, the years 1999 and 2014 indicated an eminent change in Mozambique’s politics. These years also coincide with the most contested electoral process and generalized political crises in Mozambique. In 1999 while it’s possible that RENAMO may have lost the elections, it’s highly probable that the party presidential candidate was a victim of extensive fraud. In the presidential election the difference between Chissano and Dhlakama was only 2.3% of the total votes. Though RENAMO vehemently rejected these results they were, however, confirmed by the Supreme Court. RENAMO demanded to appoint governors in the provinces in which the party had obtained a majority vote. This was rejected by the government and no concession was made to RENAMO. A political crisis followed. This political crisis was averted by the floods in early 2000 which diverted the national and international attention.[19]

    RENAMO’s contestations against the fairness of the electoral processes came to a head in 2012 when after 20 years of apparent peace and stability it returned to armed struggle to, amongst others, demand a revision of the country’s electoral legislation which it said – and is generally accepted - to favour the ruling party. The electoral legislation was amended. Although a cease-fire agreement was signed between RENAMO and the Mozambican government, on 25 August 2014 which seems to have reduced instability, at political level instability still prevailed and was further exacerbated by the results of the 2014 general elections that RENAMO and a local civil society consortium classified as not free, unfair and unjust (fraudulent).[20] Although this time the difference in official results between the two presidential candidates was much wider (20.4%) they too were contested by RENAMO and it again demanded appointing governors where it obtained majority even if it meant using force.[21]

    However, while it may seem that political crises in Mozambique are simply products of complete distrust in the electoral institutions and organisations that clearly favour the ruling party, in reality its roots are more profound. In fact, there is a general crisis of political representation exacerbated by the imposition of a system in which “the winner takes all” in a territory where there is a “country without a nation”.[22] The result of this system is a recurrent situation in which the people are governed and represented by whomever they failed to elect (e.g. Sofala, Nampula and Zambézia).


    The government’s attempts to estimate poverty can be backdated to 1996/97 when 70% of the population was considered to be living below the poverty line. Between 1997 and 2003 the country experienced a significant decrease in poverty of 14% (56% in 2003). By contrast, between 2003 and 2009 poverty fell by only 4%. Meanwhile Mozambique’s GDP has been growing at a constant rate of 7% since 1994. This rate in GDP growth is considerably above the 2.5% population growth rate.[23]

    While the World Bank is of the opinion that the weakened relationship between growth and poverty reduction in Mozambique is caused by the changing pattern of growth (which in the past decade was driven by capital-intensive, import-dependent sectors) for economist, João Mosca, this is a result of a narrow pattern of economic growth. The economic growth is mostly confined to the mining sector and to the areas such as services and infrastructure which are associated with the extractives. This growth pattern is relegating the agriculture sector, for example, which could have a tangible impact on poverty reduction.[24]


    Mozambique has achieved considerable progress in 40 years of independence, the right of self-determination arguably being the most important gain. A crucial and relevant question is how inclusive and pro-poor are the political, social and economic decisions the country has made or is making since 1975.

    Emphasis should be placed on the last twenty years, with the advent of peace, a multiparty democratic system and economic growth. Nevertheless, the state of political and economic evolution of Mozambique is reflected in its major prevailing challenges which are: the consolidation of peace, effective democracy and the transformation of economic growth into development.

    The future of the country should be viewed long-term. Most of the political, economic and social challenges the country is currently experiencing derive from the normal transitions from an extremely centralized colonial administration system to a radicalised socialist system (Marxist-Leninist), and then to a radical neoliberal system (mixed with economic populism) with successively questionable policy options. All these transformations in Mozambique are part of the formation of an evolutionary process.[25]

    * Fredson Guilengue works with Rosa Luxembourg Foundation Southern Africa.


    [1] See: Arnold, Guy, Africa: A Modern History (Great Britain: Atlantic Books, 2005), 309.
    [3] See: Arnold, Africa: A Modern History.
    [4] Magnus Lindelow, “Health care demand in rural Mozambique: evidence from the 1996/97 household survey”, a discussion paper, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), February 2002, p.5. Available at:
    [5] “Mozambique - Life expectancy at birth: Life expectancy at birth, female (years)”. Index Mundi. 2015. URL:
    [6] Finn Tarp. “Agrarian Transformation in Mozambique” Munich. Accessed January 11, 2013. Accessed on:
    [7] Following their defeat in Vietnam (1975), the Human Rights Policy of the President Jimmy Carter in the late 70’s (which affected the Apartheid in South Africa) and the “New International Economic Order” approved by the United Nations, only a year before Mozambique’s independency. See Joseph Hanlon and Teresa Smart. Do Bicycles Equal Development in Mozambique? (UK: James Currey, 2008), 8.
    [8] Cahen, 1997 apud Pavignani and Colombo 2001. Enrico Pavignani and Alessandro Colombo “Providing health services in countries disrupted by civil wars: a comparative analysis of Mozambique and Angola 1975 – 2000”. World Health Organization, Accessed 02 July 2015, p. 27. Accessed on:
    [9] Pavignani and Colombo 2001; Hanlon & Smart 2008
    [10] See: Jaime Pinto, Jogos Africanos (Lisboa: Edição esfera dos livros, 2008), 215; Carrie Mannning, The Politics of Peace in Mozambique: post-conflict democratization (Westport: Praeger, 2002); Martin Meredith, The State of Africa: a history of the continent since independence (UK: Simon & Schuster Ltd, 2011).
    For Hanlon and Smart (2008:8) e.g., by the end of the 1970 Frelimo “was hugely popular and widely trusted”.
    [11] See: Ann Phillips, “Mozambique: A chance for Peace” Complex Operations Case Study Series, no.10 (2010): 6. Ian Douglas Smith the Prime-Minster of the South Rhodesia between 13 April 1964 to 11 November 1965. He maintained this position after the Unilateral Declaration of Independence until 1979.
    [12] See: Loaft Juergensen “ The United Nations Comes to the Hinterland: Peacebuilding and Reconstruction in Mozambique” Peacebuilding and Reconstruction Programme Initiative, pp.1-39; Hanlon and Smart (2008:8);
    [13] Christopher Cramer “Privatisation and adjustment in Mozambique: A 'hospital pass'?,” Journal of Southern African Studies, no. 1 (2001): 79; Margaret McMillan, Horn, Karen and Rodrick, Dani “ When Economic Reform Goes Wrong: Cashews in Mozambique,” accessed on 02 July 2015, Available on:
    [14] From the third to the fourth line of the fourth strophe of Mozambique’s 1975 – 2002 national anthem read that the country would become the grave of capitalism and exploitation.
    [15] This constitution finally included most of the issues RENAMO “allegedly” had been fighting for: A multiparty democracy system, freedom of organization, free and secret elections, individual basic rights and direct vote of the president.
    [16] At provincial level, since 2009 Provincial Assemblies, elected at the same time that the national elections.
    [17] Michel Cahen, e-mail message to author, July 02, 2015.
    [18] Redacção “Faltam membros de partidos políticos para fiscalizar votação.”OPAÍS, 13 October, 2014, accessed on 03 July, 2015, URL:
    [19] A demonstration organized by RENAMO to contest the electoral results 43 people died with asphyxia in a single sell in the Province of Cabo Delgado and many other were injured.
    [20] One of the local NGOs’ coalitions which were observing the 2014 general election was composed by the following organizations: Liga Moçambicana dos Direitos Humanos; Fórum Mulher; Parlamento Juvenil; Fórum das Rádios Comunitárias and Centro de Integridade Púbilca.
    [21] “Renamo anuncia criação de polícia e reorganização militar para forçar autarquias provinciais.”SapoNoticias. Last modified 11th June, 2015. URL:
    [22] Michel Cahen, e-mail message to author, July 02, 2015.
    [23] “Mozambique Overview.” The Word Bank. Last modified 16th April, 2015. URL:
    [24] 40 anos de independência de Moçambique. RDP África (2015; Lisboa: estúdios centrais), audio.
    [25] Mosca (2015)



    * 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.

    Why I support the BDS movement against Israel

    Chris Hedges


    cc CCUN
    The fight for the Palestinians is our fight. If the Palestinians are not liberated none of us will be liberated. We cannot pick and choose which of the oppressed are convenient or inconvenient to defend. We will stand with all of the oppressed or none of the oppressed.

    The Palestinians are poor. They are powerless. They have no voice or influence in the halls of power. They are demonized. They do not have well-heeled lobbyists doling out campaign contributions and pushing through pro-Palestinian legislation. No presidential candidate is appealing to donors—as Hillary Clinton did when she sent a letter to media mogul Haim Saban denouncing critics of Israel—by promising to advance the interests of the Palestinian people. Palestinians, like poor people of color in the United States, are expendable.

    Justice for Palestine will never come from the traditional governmental institutions or political parties that administer power. These institutions have surrendered to moneyed interests. Justice will come only from us. And the sole mechanism left to ensure justice for Palestine is the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. Sanctions brought down the apartheid regime of South Africa. And they are what will bring down the apartheid regime of Israel. BDS is nonviolent. It appeals to conscience. And it works.

    All Israeli products including Jaffa citrus fruits, Ahava cosmetics, SodaStream drink machines, Eden Springs bottled water and Israeli wine must be boycotted. We must refuse to do business with Israeli service companies. And we must boycott corporations that do business with Israel, including Caterpillar, HP and Hyundai. We must put pressure on institutions, from churches to universities, to divest from Israeli companies and corporations that have contracts with Israel. The struggle against apartheid in South Africa was long and hard. This struggle will be too.

    Gaza, a year after Israel carried out a devastating bombing campaign that lasted almost two months, is in ruins. Most of the water is unsafe to drink. There are power outages for up to 12 hours a day. Forty percent of the 1.8 million inhabitants are unemployed, including 67 percent of the youths—the highest youth unemployment rate in the world. Of the 17,000 homes destroyed by Israel in the siege, not one has been rebuilt. Sixty thousand people remain homeless. Only a quarter of the promised $3.5 billion in aid from international donors has been delivered—much of it diverted to the Palestinian Authority, the Israeli puppet regime that governs the West Bank. And no one in Washington—Republican or Democrat—will defy the Israel lobby. No one will call for justice or stay the Israeli killing machine. U.S. senators, including Bernie Sanders, at the height of the Israeli bombardment last summer voted unanimously to defend the Israeli slaughter of a people with no army, navy, air force, mechanized units, artillery or command and control. It was a vote worthy of the old Soviet Union. Every senator held out his or her tin cup to the Israel lobby and chose naked self-interest over justice.

    Israel, like the United States, is poisoned by the psychosis of permanent war. It too is governed by a corrupt oligarchic elite for whom war has become a lucrative business. It too has deluded itself into carrying out war crimes and then playing the role of the victim. Israeli systems of education and the press—again mirrored in the United States—have indoctrinated Israelis into believing that they have a right to kill anyone whom the state condemns as a terrorist. And Israel’s most courageous human rights campaigners, intellectuals and journalists are slandered and censored in their own country, just as American critics such as Norman Finkelstein, Max Blumenthal and Noam Chomsky are in the United States.

    Those who become addicted to the wielding of the instruments of war, blinded by hubris and a lust for power, eventually become war’s victims. This is as true for Israel as for the United States.

    Israel’s goal is to make life a living hell for all Palestinians, ethnically cleansing as many as it can and subduing those who remain. The peace process is a sham. It has led to Israel’s seizure of more than half the land on the West Bank, including the aquifers, and the herding of Palestinians into squalid, ringed ghettos or Bantustans while turning Palestinian land and homes over to Jewish settlers. Israel is expanding settlements, especially in East Jerusalem. Racial laws, once championed by the right-wing demagogue Meir Kahane, openly discriminate against Israeli Arabs and Palestinians. Ilan Pappe calls the decades-long assault against the Palestinian people “incremental genocide.”

    In Gaza, Israel practices an even more extreme form of cruelty. It employs a mathematical formula to limit outside food deliveries to Gaza to keep the caloric levels of the 1.8 million Palestinians just above starvation. This has left 80 percent of the Palestinians in Gaza dependent on Islamic charities and outside aid to survive. And the periodic military assaults on Gaza, euphemistically called “mowing the lawn,” are carried out every few years to ensure that the Palestinians remain broken, terrified and destitute. There have been three Israeli attacks on Gaza since 2008. Each is more violent and indiscriminate than the last. Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has said that a fourth attack on Gaza is “inevitable.”

    During its 51-day siege of Gaza last summer Israel dropped $370 million in ordinance on concrete hovels and refugee camps that hold the most densely packed population on the planet. Two thousand one hundred four Palestinians were killed. Sixty-nine percent—1,462—were civilians. Four hundred ninety-five were children. Ten thousand were injured. (During the attack six Israeli civilians and 66 soldiers were killed.) Four hundred Palestinian businesses were wiped out. Seventy mosques were destroyed and 130 were damaged. Twenty-four medical facilities were bombed, and 16 ambulances were struck, as was Gaza’s only electrical power plant. Israel tallied it up: 390,000 tank shells, 34,000 artillery shells, 4.8 million bullets. Most of the civilians who died were killed in their homes, many of the victims torn to shreds by flechette darts sprayed from tanks.

    Children were burned with white phosphorous or buried with their families under rubble caused by 2,000-pound iron fragmentation bombs. Others died from dense inert metal explosive, or DIME, bombs—experimental weapons that send out extremely small, carcinogenic particles that cut through both soft tissue and bone. The Israel Defense Forces, as Amira Hass has reported, consider any Palestinian over the age of 12 to be a legitimate military target. Max Blumenthal’s new book, “The 51 Day War,” is a chilling chronicle of savage atrocities carried out by Israel in Gaza last summer. As horrible as the apartheid state in South Africa was, that nation never used its air force and heavy artillery to bomb and shell black townships.

    A report by Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) found Israel killed and injured more civilians with explosive weapons in 2014 than any other country in the world. Hamas’ indiscriminate firing of wildly inaccurate missiles—Finkelstein correctly called them “enhanced fireworks”—into Israel was, as a U.N. report recently charged, a war crime, although the report failed to note that under international law Hamas had a right to use force to defend itself from attack.

    The disparity of firepower in the 2014 conflict was vast: Israel dropped 20,000 tons of explosives on Gaza while Hamas used 20 to 40 tons of explosives to retaliate. Israel’s wholesale slaughter of civilians is on a scale equaled only by Islamic State and Boko Haram. Yet Israel, in our world of double standards, is exempted from condemnation in Washington and provided with weapons and billions in U.S. foreign aid to perpetuate the killing. This is not surprising. The United States uses indiscriminate deadly force in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia that outdoes even Israel, leaving behind civilian victims, refugees and destroyed cities and villages in huge numbers.

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who during his last election campaign received 90 percent of his money from U.S. oligarchs such as Sheldon Adelson, has internally mounted a campaign of state repression against human rights advocates, journalists and dissidents. He has stoked overt racism toward Palestinians and Arabs and the African migrant workers who live in the slums of Tel Aviv. “Death to Arabs” is a popular chant at Israeli soccer matches. Thugs from right-wing youth groups such as Im Tirtzu routinely beat up dissidents, Palestinians, Israeli Arabs and African immigrants in the streets of Tel Aviv. It is a species of Jewish fascism.

    Israel is not an anomaly. It is a window into the dystopian, militarized world that is being prepared for all of us, a world with vast disparities of income and draconian systems of internal security. There will be no freedom for Palestine, or for those locked in our own internal colonies and terrorized by indiscriminate police violence, until we destroy corporate capitalism and the neoliberal ideology that sustains it.

    There will be no justice for Michael Brown until there is justice for Mohammed Abu Khdeir. The fight for the Palestinians is our fight. If the Palestinians are not liberated none of us will be liberated. We cannot pick and choose which of the oppressed are convenient or inconvenient to defend. We will stand with all of the oppressed or none of the oppressed. And when we stand with the oppressed we will be treated like the oppressed.

    * Chris Hedges spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than 50 countries and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times, for which he was a foreign correspondent for 15 years. This article was previously published by Truthdig.



    * 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.


    2015 Drivers of Change Awards: A call for nominations


    Nominations for the 2015 Drivers of Change Awards are now open! Nominate individuals, businesses, civil society organisations and government agencies that are making a real impact to end poverty.

    Drivers of Change Awards recognise individuals and organisations from across southern Africa that are implementing effective public policies and strategies to overcome poverty. In tandem with the 24th African Union Summit’s declaration of 2015 as “The Year of Women's Empowerment and Development towards Africa’s Agenda 2063” the 2015 Drivers of Change Awards will specially recognise innovative practices that improve and develop the lives of women and girls in southern Africa.

    The closing date for nominations is 31 July 2015. Visit for more information, or contact Katiana Ramsamy at +27 11 318 1012 or [email protected]

    Call for applications: Master’s degree (LLM/MPhil) in human rights and democratisation in Africa


    Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria


    c c CHR
    This prestigous degree is presented by the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria in partnership with 13 leading African universities.


    FEES: US$ 15 000

    Partial or fully self-funded students are encouraged to apply for this programme.


    Eligibility criteria:

    - Law students (LLM option): A degree allowing access to the legal profession
    - Non-law students (MPhil option): At least an Honours degree in a discipline relevant to human rights and democratisation

    Applicants must have excellent academic credentials and demonstrate human rights experience or interest. Members of minority groups such as indigenous people, LGBTI persons and persons with disabilities are particularly encouraged to apply.

    The LLM/MPhil in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa is a unique programme to which 25 individuals from African countries with the following degrees and preferably experience in the field of human rights are admitted:

    The objectives of the LLM/MPhil programme are:

    + To train human rights experts who can be employed in government ministries, other national, international and regional bodies concerned with human rights and democracy. The aim is to ensure effectiveness of these bodies, through imparting professionalism and operational competence. The end result is to ensure transfer of technical skills and strengthen the capacity of these organisations with the goal of improving the protection and promotion of human rights and democratisation in Africa.

    + Expand collaboration among African universities. Collaboration should result in a network of lawyers and academics specialised in human rights and democracy. The programme envisages promoting research and teaching that addresses the particular needs of Africa. Some identified needs include conflict prevention; democratic transition; strengthening of civil society, institutional building and the rule of law. The programme also aims at developing and strengthening links between civil society, governmental bodies and international organisations.

    + Develop relationship between the African Masters and the other regional masters, such as the European Masters Degree in Human Rights and Democratisation (EMA), the Master’s Degree in Human Rights and Democratisation in South Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean Master’s Programme in Human Rights and Democratisation.
    During an intensive one-year course, they are taught by eminent lecturers in the field of human rights and gain invaluable practical exposure. It is the only course of its kind in Africa.

    The LLM/MPhil is a regional cooperation initiative presented by the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria (South Africa), in conjunction with the faculties of law at Université d'Abomey-Calavi (Benin), Addis Ababa University (Ethiopia), University of Alexandria (Egypt), Catholic University of Central Africa (Cameroon), University of Nairobi (Kenya), Universidade Eduardo Mondlane (Mozambique), Université Gaston Berger de Saint Louis (Senegal), University of Ghana, University of Lagos (Nigeria), University of Mauritius, Makerere University (Uganda), University of Venda and the University of the Western Cape (South Africa).

    Individuals from all African countries are invited to apply for admission to study for the Master’s Degree (LLM/MPhil) in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, South Africa.


    -Download the Call for Application 2016

    - Download 2013 the LLM/MPhil (HRDA) brochure

    Second Call for Papers: Pan-African Colloquium in Barbados University of the West Indies/Barbados, January 12-15, 2016

    Pan-African Colloquium


    The Departments of History and Philosophy; Government, Sociology and Social Work, The University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados and PANAFSTRAG are pleased to issue a second call for papers for this inaugural international Pan African Colloquium to be held at The University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados over the period January 12-15, 2016.

    The broad theme for this inaugural colloquium will be "Heroes and heroines of the back to Africa movements, Pan Africanism, African nationalism and global Africanism: Their philosophies, activities and legacies."
    This international conference hopes to brings together scholars/researchers, activists and policymakers to interrogate the philosophical, political, socio-cultural and economic thoughts and legacies of these Africanists. Since the nineteenth century these persons have agitated and protested against imperialism, emancipation, racism, violation of human rights and inequality of economic opportunity, conditions that still characterize our reality. This conference provides a platform for the exploration of such issues and the questions related to the viability of Africanist movements. Interrelated issues of solidarity, self-determination, self-awareness, black consciousness, economic empowerment, spiritual enlightenment and cultural awareness will also be discussed. The conference is further intended to build synergies and forge dialogue on how the movement in Africa and the African diaspora can improve its position in a globalizing world and aid in shaping consciousness of Africans worldwide building on the efforts of these heroes and heroines.
    Please visit the following link and click call for papers for more information.

    Comment & analysis

    Putting profits first

    10 labourers hospitalised after use of toxic pesticide at China-Zimbabwe farm

    Promise Ndlovu


    In a scenario reminiscent of the slave era, workers at this farm jointly owned by Zimbabwe and China have been exposed to high levels of a toxic chemical without adequate protection, in contravention of both local and international laws. Complaints have been met with deaf ears and some worker leaders have been dismissed for airing their grievances.

    As the cock crew in the early hours of the morning, Address Makaya (39) knew it was time to leave the comfort of her blankets and get to work. Makaya, a farm labourer at the Zim-China Wanjing Agricultural Development Company, a joint venture of the Chinese and Zimbabwean Defence Forces (previously known as Agricultural Rural Development Authority [ARDA] Sisi Farm), had to rush to the fields and report for work. She and the other farm workers were applying Temik to the tobacco fields that day.

    As the morning turned into noon, Makaya started to feel dizzy and her body became weak, with sweating and blurred vision. She collapsed. She was rushed home but then had to be taken to Banket District Hospital when her condition worsened. Makaya lay on a hospital bed for the next three days.

    Makaya is among more than 10 workers at the farm who have fallen sick from the alleged use of the toxic pesticide, Temik, which they were handling. Temik is used on tobacco in Zimbabwe to kill nematodes or pests to prevent plant foliage and insects from compromising plant health.

    Temik uses the active ingredient Aldicarb, a powerful nerve toxin that if used in high doses can kill on skin contact or by ingestion. The highly toxic insecticide is used to kill pests on cotton and it has been banned from use on several crops by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) due to its toxic effects on humans and the environment.

    In October 2014 more than 10 employees at the farm were taken ill by some unknown sickness that resulted in the death of one employee. According to Esnath Gengezha (42), secretary of the workers’ committee at the farm, Goodluck Ngoroma fell sick, was rushed to the hospital and unfortunately died a few days later.

    ‘Ngoroma was vomiting and he was weak and sweating, a curse that has not just befallen him alone but other employees at the farm. Unfortunately, he succumbed to the disease,’ says Gengezha. Though still unconfirmed, the cause of death is believed to be exposure to Temik.

    The Zim-China Wanjing Agricultural Development Company owns vast pieces of land (1000 hectares) in Raffingora, which is 109km from Harare (Zimbabwe’s capital) in Mashonaland West Province. The farm undertakes various agricultural projects including production of tobacco, wheat, soya beans and maize. According to workers at the farm, they started planting tobacco for the first time last year after the takeover by the new owners in 2011.

    Makaya feels that she was unfairly treated as she had to solely bear the cost of her sudden illness. ‘I am yet to be reimbursed the money I used to procure medical services for an illness I got as a worker in the farm; this is very disheartening.’

    Effort Tindika, a member of the workers’ committee, has been at the farm for the past 13 years, and noted that the incident occurred as a result of workers applying a very harmful chemical without protective clothing. ‘Despite the incident we still work without protective gear and some of us are forced to buy our own gear for fear of dying while on duty. The employers are only worried about their profits, not our safety.’

    There has been no attempt by the company to address the grievances of the workers; however, there are those that have been sacked for being too vocal about their health and safety concerns. The chairman and vice chairman of the workers’ committee at the farm have been dismissed for speaking out on the ill-treatment of workers by the employers.

    According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), workers in developing countries are at especially high risk due to inadequate education, training and safety systems.

    Edgar Dzehonye, a labour activist based in Harare, feels that subjecting workers to harmful working conditions is reminiscent of the slave era, when people were seen as tools by employers who did not value human life, only their profits.

    ‘This is tantamount to murder as they are contravening the fundamental laws of workers as stipulated in the supreme law of this country,’ Dzehonye says.

    Section 65 (4) of the Zimbabwean constitution states that every person is entitled to equitable, just and satisfactory conditions of work. Subsection (3) further highlights that an employee has the right to participate in collective job action, including the right to strike, sit in, and withdraw their labour and to take similar concerted action.

    The largest documented episode of foodborne pesticide poisoning in North American history occurred in July 1985 from Aldicarb-contaminated California watermelons, when more than 2000 people were affected by Aldicarb poisoning. More than a thousand probable causes were reported in California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona and Canada. The spectrum of illness attributed to Aldicarb ranged from mild to severe and includes cases of seizures, cardiac arrhythmias, severe dehydration, bronchospasms, and at least two stillbirths occurring shortly after maternal illness.

    According to the EPA, Adicarb no longer meets safety standards and may pose unacceptable risks especially to infants and young children. Furthermore, the EPA has classified Aldicarb in the highest toxicity category and has defined strict control over its use and delivery. Aldicarb intoxication has been said to be severe.

    Rhoda Masukwedza, an entomologist with the Tobacco Research Board (TRB), noted that the TRB has withdrawn the use of Aldicarb in tobacco production for reasons stemming from scientific research and the toxic effects of the pesticide on human life and the environment.

    ‘Temik is neurotoxic and poses a lot of environmental and health hazards,’ according to Masukwedza.

    Speaking to the pesticides registrar from the Pesticides Registration Unit in the Agriculture Technical Extension Service Department (Agritex), Kwadzanai Mushore states that ‘the chemical is highly toxic and full protective gear is recommended for users.

    ‘As a country we have stopped registering new users of the pesticide and we are in the process of phasing it out,’ says Mushore.

    He further admits that Aldicarb is a restricted-use pesticide and as such cannot be handled by people not properly trained. Again, Mushore hints that it is difficult to enforce restrictions on such harmful pesticides as people are selling the chemical everywhere, even in the streets.

    ‘Employers must ensure they provide information to their employees, a safe and just working environment, and ensure they are wearing full protective gear especially when using Temik,’ says Mushore.

    According to ILO, there are about 1.3 billion workers active in agricultural production worldwide and the majority of them are found in developing countries. About 170,000 agricultural workers are killed every year, thus agricultural workers run twice the risk of dying on the job as compared with other sectors.

    The labour organisation noted that millions more agricultural workers are seriously injured in workplace accidents involving agricultural machinery or poisoned by pesticides. However, widespread under-reporting of deaths, injuries and occupational diseases in the agricultural sector means that the real picture of the occupational health and safety of farm workers is likely to be worse than official statistics indicate.

    Fanuel Mutengo, the farm manager, concurs that workers were not wearing protective gear at the time of the incident and this resulted in the death and hospitalisation of some staff members. He notes that the management has stopped using the chemical because of its fatalities.

    However, workers at the farm feel as long as they are not given protective clothing, they will continue to suffer unnecessarily. ‘The management is reluctant to buy us protective clothing, in some instances we are made to even exchange respirators,’ Tindika says.

    According to ILO, occupational safety and health in agriculture needs to be addressed with a well-defined strategy and must be integrated into a rural development policy involving both commercial (plantations) and small-scale farming. The extension of occupational safety and health to workers in agriculture can be done progressively through its integration into rural development projects.

    * Promise Ndlovu: The actual name of the author of this article has been withheld to protect his identity.

    The assassination of Sandra Bland and the struggle against state repression

    Ajamu Baraka


    The young black woman from Illinois, an activist with Black Lives Matter, was stopped for a minor traffic violation, beaten, jailed and found dead two days later in her cell. The official explanation about her death is unacceptable.

    During the struggle in South Africa black activists who were captured by the state had a strange habit of jumping to their deaths from the windows of jails and courthouses whenever the authorities would turn their backs. In the U.S. the method of suicide black prisoners appear to choose is death by hanging – that is, when they are unable to pull a gun from an officer and shoot themselves in the chest while handcuffed behind their backs.

    In Waller County, Texas, Sandra Bland, a young black woman from Illinois, an activist with Black Lives Matter, who was, according to friends and family, excited about her new job in Texas, is stopped for a minor traffic violation, beaten, jailed and found dead two days later in her cell. Her death is labeled a suicide by the Waller County Sheriff Glen Smith.

    Because Sandra Bland was an activist who advised others about their rights and the proper way to handle a police encounter, no one is accepting the official explanation that she took her own life.

    What does seem clear is that Sandra was a woman who understood her rights and was more than prepared to defend her dignity. However, for a black person in the U.S. defending one’s dignity in an encounter with the police is a crime that can lead to a death sentence, or in the parlance of human rights, an extra-judicial execution by state agents.

    While many are calling for something called justice for Sandra Bland, we would be doing Sandra and all those who have had their lives taken by the agents of repression a disservice if we didn’t place this case in its proper political and historical context.

    A psycho-analytic analysis of the dynamics involved with Blands’ gender and blackness could easily conclude that Bland was perceived as an existential threat to the racist male cops who pulled her out of car. Being a conscious, “defiant” black woman she probably disrupted their psychological order and meaning of themselves by her presence and willingness to defend her dignity.

    However, as interesting as the individualized analysis and expressions of the psychopathology of white supremacy might be, the murder of Sandra Bland has to be contextualized politically as part of the intensifying war being waged on black communities and peoples across the country.

    And because the state is waging war against us and will be targeting our organizations, as an activist, organizer and popular educator, Sandra’s murder must be seen a political murder and receive sustained focus as such.

    Coming right before the Black Lives Matter Movement gathering in Cleveland, Sandra’s murder dramatically drives home the ever present dangers of not just being black in a culture of normalize anti-blackness, but the vulnerabilities associated with being a black activist and especially a black woman activist.

    Historically the tyranny of white power has always had its most dehumanized expressions in relationship to black women. The unrestrained and unlimited power of white supremacist domination converged on the captive bodies of black women during slavery and has symbolically and literally continued during the post-enslavement period of capitalist/colonialist subordination of black people in the U.S.

    However, from Harriet Tubman, Ida B. Wells, Claudia Jones, Fannie Lou Hammer through to Assata Shukur, Elaine Brown, Jaribu Hill and countless others, revolutionary black women held up the sky and provided the vision of liberation over the ages.

    When the South African government began to target black women activists, the popular response was that now the racist government had “struck a rock.”

    This week, under the leadership of black woman activists, much of the resistance movement to the escalating violence of the state will gather in Cleveland to engage in reflection and planning. Sandra Bland will be on the minds of those activists as well as Malissa Williams, who found herself at the receiving end of 137 bullets fired by members of the Cleveland police department that ripped apart the bodies of her and her companion Timothy Russell. And the activists will certainly highlight the case of 12 year old Tamir Rice who was shot point blank two seconds after police arrived on the scene where he had been playing with his toy gun in a park near his home.

    Yet, the assassination of Sandra must be seen as a blow against the movement. That is why the BLM must struggle to develop absolute clarity related to the political, economic, social and military context that it/we face.

    The struggle in the U.S. must be placed in an anti-colonial context or we will find ourselves begging for the colonial state to violate the logic of its existence by pretending that it will end something called police brutality and state killings. The settler-state is serious about protecting white capitalist/colonialist power while we are still trapped in the language of liberal reformism demanding "justice" and accountability. Those demands are fine as transitional demands if we understand that those demands are just that – transitional. Authentic justice and liberation will only come when there is authentic de-colonization and revolutionary power in the hands of self-determinate peoples' and oppressed classes and social groups.

    The martyrdom of Sandra Bland and all that came before her and who will follow – and there will be more – demands this level of clarity. We did not ask for this war. But we understand history and our responsibilities to our history of resistance and our radical vision that we can be more than we are today. Our enemies want us to think that they are invincible but we know their secrets and know that they can be defeated. All we have to do is to be willing to fight.

    * Ajamu Baraka is a human rights activist, organizer and geo-political analyst. Baraka is an Associate Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) in Washington, D.C. and editor and contributing columnist for the Black Agenda Report. He is a contributor to “Killing Trayvons: An Anthology of American Violence” (Counterpunch Books, 2014). He can be reached at



    * 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.

    Most post-disaster funding is a disaster: How to do it right

    Fatima van Hattum and Arianne Shaffer


    In the world of post-disaster funding, good intentions are at best simply not enough, and at worst, actually harmful. The crux is to be an engaged ally as much as a funder.

    A recent report from Pro Publica reveals that the American Red Cross raised half a billion dollars for Haiti after the earthquake of 2010 and built just six homes there. Similar stories are likely to emerge from Nepal following the devastating earthquakes in April and May of this year. The road to post-disaster recovery is paved with mismanaged funds and botched projects. Many large international agencies, often lacking local connections, have a dismal track record.

    There is a pressing need to directly support communities following a catastrophe. There is also a widespread, compassionate desire to give. The question is, how do we avoid the six homes scenario?

    As advocates for disrupting status quo philanthropy and amplifying outside-the-box, effective and creative funding, we explore how underlying values of Indie Philanthropy – trust and balance in relationships, collaboration, experimentation, and empowerment – can shift post-disaster funding practices. What are the most effective models and practices for funding? Clear directives come from our interviews with Trishala Deb, the Asia Regional Director of International Development Exchange, which strengthens grassroots efforts for poverty alleviation and justice, and Beverly Bell from Other Worlds, which supports global movements for economic and social alternatives. Deb has worked in the post-disaster context of Nepal, and Bell in Haiti and New Orleans.


    BELL: Ask lots of questions. Do serious homework about whether the group approaching you has a record of trustworthiness, whether it is accountable to local communities, what exactly it plans to do with the money, and what its politics are. The Red Cross will likely siphon off your dollars, as it did with huge amounts of money in New Orleans after the flood and in Haiti after the earthquake. A lot of right-wing organizations will use your donation in ways that undermine progressive agendas – and what happens after disasters is very political, all about who gets the power and the money. If they are right-wing and evangelical Christians…well, you can guess. Follow your money.


    DEB: Look for the grassroots organizations. Look for the people who have been building and repairing their own homes and communities. There’s always a way to find the effort on the ground that potentially makes a huge difference for people.

    BELL: Support community-led programs. A study conducted by Grantmakers without Borders found what many of us did ourselves: local and grassroots organizations are by far the most effective in delivering aid and services. If they are progressive to boot, they may be working to ensure that the most vulnerable and excluded have power in shaping their own solutions and in determining the country’s redevelopment model.


    DEB: Our belief is that larger societal change comes from grassroots organizations that represent local residents. People living and working in their own communities and geographies have the knowledge and strategies to build their communities, as well as an understanding of the barriers to development. We will never walk into a community with an action plan.

    Is it better not to give at all than to give to the wrong outcome, or where there’s no infrastructure for distribution?

    DEB: IDEX has been partnering with Women Awareness Centre Nepal and ASHA Nepal for about 11 years. When the earthquake happened, we were able to send out money within a week through these organizations, knowing it was channeled directly to their member cooperatives since they already know how to make community-based decisions around their recovery priorities. Both of the organizations with whom we work are deeply invested in developing layers of local leaders. That is the best-case scenario for any recovery. What we don’t want to see is money going in where there’s no infrastructure for distribution.

    BELL: If you are reading this article, you have a good chance of finding a contact who can connect you with a group that can use your money in powerful ways. If not, then use your funds to help other progressive international movements. Better not to give than to give to the wrong outcome. In Haiti, we all wished that most of the aid had never been given.


    DEB: There’s so much donors can learn from partners in times of crisis. I want to encourage all my colleagues in philanthropy around the world to embrace the opportunities for learning and the various paces of learning. For example, in the first two months after the quake there were so many five- to ten- minute conversations that enabled us to understand their capacity and degree of crisis. Then things settled down and they were busy with their recovery work and it was important to honor their time there as well. Our main job is to listen.

    Adopt a broader and deeper analysis that helps you support work to resolve the structural problems that create vulnerability and poverty in the first place.

    BELL: When we talk about ‘natural’ disasters, beyond the event of nature, what happens in the aftermath is usually unnatural, highly political phenomena that exacerbate pre-existing inequalities and vulnerabilities. To guide your and others’ efforts, learn and share the priorities and analyses of social movements and organized communities. Most important of all, go beyond giving aid to supporting local movements in resolving the structural problems that created their vulnerability and poverty in the first place. This means connecting with sources that organize solidarity, and challenging US government policies and corporate tyranny playing out in disaster capitalism.


    DEB: We understand that long-term funding is always more important than short-term funding. It helps communities plan. We always provide support through general operating funding and our grants are not connected to outcomes. The groups are then able to adapt to changes that may occur over time. This approach is a manifestation of our trust in our partners, a reciprocal trust.


    DEB: We must understand the cultural assumptions we have and appreciate the cultural context and specificity of the places we’re working in as much as we can. With this type of approach, we don’t get sucked into an expectation of one set of goals for all of the organizations we’re working with. Each organization and location is really different. There is a potential for the most impact when we appreciate these differences.


    BELL: First, support what those directly impacted are doing instead of starting your own initiative. Second, at every step, promote mechanisms and opportunities for communities, especially of those whose voices go unheard, to take the lead. Third, act with care and deliberation instead of acting as fast as possible. Fourth, avoid material aid unless you have a direct and reliable connection with the group who has asked of for it; otherwise, you may be putting local production out of work or just feeding a giant sidewalk sale.

    A word on why to use an Indie Philanthropy approach when funding post-disaster.

    BELL: Indie Philanthropy addresses a lot of the principles that I have seen work in places in crisis, either natural disasters or political ones. In a nutshell, these principles are: Trust that those living the situation know best about what they need. Help shift power dynamics so that those impacted get to be part of the decision-making. Be as transparent and accountable as you expect your grantee to be to you. Be willing to take risks.

    In the world of post-disaster funding, good intentions are at best simply not enough, and at worst, actually harmful. The crux is to be an engaged ally as much as a funder. Listen to, support and trust those who are already doing effective work locally.

    * Fatima van Hattum is the Project Coordinator at Kindle Project and works with in Santa Fe. She has a background in international development, food justice, gender and labor rights. Arianne Shaffer is the Communications Director at Kindle Project. She is a storyteller based in Toronto with a background in interfaith education and documentary film.

    Want to get involved in Indie Philanthropy? Click here to see how!



    * 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.

    Advocacy & campaigns

    10 years of defending human rights defenders in East & Horn of Africa

    Hassan Shire


    The East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project marks ten years of its founding this year. In that period, the organization has done extensive work in providing protection for human rights defenders, advocating against repressive laws and building capacities to strengthen regional civil society.

    JULY 28, 2015

    Dear Friends,

    Ten years ago, I was a human rights defender in exile. Away from my native Somalia, outside of Africa, I was living in Canada, making the most of my time by volunteering with Amnesty International. At Amnesty I interacted with other members of the human rights defender diaspora. Through discussions with them, I came to appreciate the hospitality and service offered by asylum-offering countries like Canada, but at the same time deeply regretted the human tragedy unfolding every time a voice for peace, justice, and freedom disappeared from their society.

    Fast forward 10 years and I am sitting in leafy Kampala, in the Directorship of the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, an organisation which has touched the lives of thousands of human rights defenders from across the region. This organisation was launched at Lake Victoria Hotel in Entebbe, Uganda on 4th November 2005, and in November of this year we will mark 10 years of operation.

    I arrived in Kampala in 2005 with little more than a suitcase and a laptop. Now we operate with 24 full time staff members constantly moving in and out of the office, travelling to the countries of our region providing protection for human rights defenders, advocating against repressive laws, and building capacities to strengthen regional civil society.

    There are many stories I want to share with you from the past 10 years. I want to tell you about the Somali human rights defender who stood up against Al-Shabaab forced into exile and separated from his wife and children for over 5 years. I want to tell you about the look on his face when our Protection Officer stepped off of the airplane with his entire family trailing behind her.

    I want to tell you about the Eritrean journalists and dissidents disappeared under unknown condition, all but forgotten by the international community, whose cases will have their day at the United Nations thanks to the work of our advocacy team and the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea and the newly formed Commission of Inquiry on human rights in Eritrea, two mandates this organisation was instrumental in forming.

    I want to tell you about the robust civil society network dedicated to the protection and security of human rights defenders in Kenya – the Kenyan National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders, one of several national coalitions handling threats and emergencies within communities as they arise, without needing recourse to international support or to the loss entailed by going into exile.

    I want to tell you about our collaborations with human rights defenders protection organisations in Egypt, Cameroon, Togo, and Zimbabwe, working together to build protective capacity across the entire continent through the Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network.

    And I want to tell you about the thousands of human rights defenders who now have the tools to avoid exile through our security management team interventions, promoting better protocols and strategic actions by human rights defenders, allowing them to continue their work while increasing impact via skills building in areas of digital security, advocacy, documentation, financial management, and more.

    These are some of the everyday stories you will find this team working towards at the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project. But let me not tell you about these stories, when instead I can show you.

    Over the coming months we will be releasing a series of video, photographic, and testimonial media to share the stories of human rights defenders in the East and Horn of Africa and the stories of our work with this community. In November we will hold our 10 year-anniversary celebration in Kampala and also release a commemorative publication looking over the turbulence, challenges, and accomplishments of our work in the region over the past 10 years.

    As always, we stand committed to serving human rights defenders in our region. If you have been affected by the work we have been doing, we want to [url=[email protected]]hear from you[/url] and share your story during this celebration. We will be tweeting and sharing material in this campaign under the hashtag #10yearsdefendering and #wedefend and I invite you to join us!

    I would like to thank the staff, partners, donors, governments, educators, and individuals– the thinkers, dreamers, and doers who bring that special spirit that moves the global community towards the enjoyment of human rights entitlement.

    We look forward to the next ten years together!

    * Hassan Shire is Executive Director East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project



    * 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.

    An open letter to Obama: We need your partnership in the fight against climate change

    Mohamed Adow


    With about one billion people, Africa contributes very little to cause the climate problem but its people are among the most seriously harmed. The US, which accounts for nearly a third of greenhouse gas emissions now causing climate change, should lead efforts to heal the Planet.

    As a Kenyan, I was delighted to extend our heartfelt welcome to you on your inaugural visit to Kenya as the President of the United States.

    Through your Kenyan father, you share a strong connection with Kenya, and we have watched with pride as you have risen to the highest office in the most powerful nation in the world.

    Being a ‘son of Kenya’, Kenyans understandably looked forward to your visit with a carnival spirit.

    A Kenyan climate activist myself, I’ve followed closely your efforts in the fight against climate change. I have seen your visit as a great opportunity to usher in a new era of enlightened partnership between Kenya and the US, in which our people’s aspirations can be fully realised.

    Mr President, Africa is bearing the burden of the climate challenge, one not of its making. With around a billion people, the whole continent contributes less than four per cent of the global greenhouse gas emissions. For their part, Kenyans each year emit less than one tonne per person.

    Africa may have contributed very little to cause the climate problem but its people are among those most seriously harmed. We are already seeing the impacts on the economy, livelihoods and crops, as well as water supplies and nature, while scientists warn that worse lies ahead with increased drought.

    Yet the US, with only about five per cent of the world’s population, accounts for nearly a third of the historical greenhouse gas emissions now causing climate change. Americans emit around 20 tonnes per person each year - more than 20 times the average Kenyan.

    It is these excessive emissions by the US and other rich nations that have caused climate change.

    But Kenya is not just sitting on its hands. It is in fact leading in the international response against the problem. It’s investing in renewable energy and demonstrating African countries do not need to be slaves to fossil fuels as they plot their future development out of poverty.

    A successful deal in Paris later this year will require all countries to contribute to the global effort to tackle climate change. The Paris agreement is expected to include national contributions by all countries on emissions reductions, adaptation actions and the required support by wealthy countries to poorer developing countries.

    The US pledged to cut its emissions by 26-28 per cent below their 2005 levels by 2030. This may sound significant but it is unfortunately a small reduction compared to the levels required by science. Kenya by contrast pledged to reduce its emissions by 30 per cent below its current business as usual trajectory by 2030, subject to international support.

    Kenya also announced a detailed programme of action for adaptation to enhance its resilience to climate change impacts. It is arresting that even poorer African countries are putting forward more ambitious pledges.

    Fortunately, Kenya is committed to doing its part. We - and the rest of Africa - have an abundance of renewable energy resources below our feet and above our heads, including geothermal, wind, solar and hydro energy. But we need financial and technological support from richer countries so we can leapfrog a dirty energy development path and become low-carbon leaders.

    Given that the impacts of climate change are already being experienced to a degree that is beyond Kenya’s capacity to respond effectively on its own, we call on the US and other developed countries to commit to provide the support we need to address the inevitable impacts on our people.

    It’s worth bearing in mind that at present, the energy consumption of the whole of sub-Saharan Africa, excluding South Africa, is roughly equivalent to that of New York State. It is therefore critical that the US joins hands with the good people of Kenya and helps to deliver the actions that Kenya has pledged to fight this menace.

    Mr President, we recognise your efforts in helping to shift the US to make the required steps in the domestic arena, albeit small ones. We encourage you to go further and help safeguard Kenya and the continent of Africa by building a partnership for a green and prosperous future.

    Kenya has committed to playing its part in this fight. The US must do its fair share and embrace Kenya’s efforts to help create a better world for us all.

    Mohamed Adow
    Senior Climate Change Advisor
    Christian Aid


    Country Campaigner: Horn of Africa


    Amnesty International


    cc A I
    The mobile revolution. Geopolitical power shifts. A radically altered global economy. The world is changing, and so is the way that people fight for their rights. In order to be effective, Amnesty International’s (AI) International Secretariat needs to change how we work. That’s why we’re opening a hub in Kenya. And why we need your campaigning expertise with us on the ground.

    Closing Date: 9 August 2015
    Directorate: Global Operations
    Location: Nairobi
    Type: Permanent
    Working Hours: 35
    Salary: $48,254


    Our Horn of Africa Campaigner will tackle issues like freedom of expression and association, human rights abuses in the context of armed conflict, and abuses in the criminal justice system. As a Campaigner, you can expect to have a direct impact on these key areas, as well as our overarching regional campaigning and research strategies. Focusing mainly on Ethiopia and Eritrea and human rights themes, you’ll develop effective, strategic campaigning plans and work with both AI colleagues and external partners to deliver them. You’ll also create clear and compelling campaigning materials for a range of audiences, writing reports and public statements, making videos and web features, and raising awareness and mobilizing our members to effect human rights change. And you’ll constantly look for ways to improve your work too, researching effective campaigning methods, monitoring impact and staying up to date with the latest human rights developments.


    A practised campaigner, you’ll know how to create successful campaign strategies and build awareness through powerful actions and recognized techniques. You’ll also understand the importance of flexibility and be ready to adapt and evolve your plans. We’ll expect you to understand human rights and the political landscape within East Africa, both in general terms and specifically, with knowledge of Ethiopia and Eritrea and key thematic areas. You’ll be able to translate that knowledge into campaign materials and creative initiatives that inspire activism online and off, and have the fluency to express complex ideas in English and a relevant regional language. You’ll have a network of civil society and government contacts and the clout to represent AI to audiences ranging from civil society groups and governments to our global membership. Beyond that, you’ll be a real team player relishing close collaboration with our researchers, colleagues and partners.


    Our aim is simple: an end to human rights abuses. Independent, international and influential, we campaign for justice, freedom and truth wherever they’re denied. Already our network of over three million members and supporters is making a difference in 150 countries. And whether we’re applying pressure through powerful research or direct lobbying, mass demonstrations or online campaigning, we’re all inspired by hope for a better world. One where human rights are respected and protected by everyone, everywhere.

    For more information and to apply click here.

    The CIHA Blog WordPress Developer and Designer


    The CIHA Blog


    cc CIHA
    The CIHA Blog is looking for a talented freelance WordPress developer with a keen eye for design to update the blog design, customize existing themes to design specification, fix bugs in the back and front-end, and improve usability and site performance.

    The Critical Investigations into Humanitarianism in Africa (CIHA) Blog seeks to transform the phenomenon of aid to Africa into egalitarian and respectful relationships that challenge unequal power relations, paternalism and victimization. Our research and commentaries highlight critical and religious voices to explore connections among issues of faith, governance, gender, and race in colonial and postcolonial contexts. Through analysis and dialogue, we strive for equality, justice and, ultimately, respect for others’ desires, beliefs and practices.


    ● Work with Co-editors and editorial assistants to update blog with latest technologies
    ● Optimize the design for readability and improve display of uploaded media, including photos, videos, and PDFs for high and low bandwidth
    ● Integrate the capacity to include additional technologies (e.g., livestream videos, paper archive, podcasts) and improve integration with social media
    ● Develop template and technology for subscription email newsletters
    ● Enhance analytic monitoring of site
    ● Provide assistance with other graphic design or technical tasks


    ● Extensive knowledge of modifying existing theme templates (support, extend and/or enhance existing code)
    ● Full knowledge of WordPress and CMS platforms, HTML5, CSS, PHP, JavaScript, jQuery
    ● Ability to modify and customize plugins and create new plugins, as necessary
    ● An understanding of DNS records and cPanel web server admin
    ● Fluency in English

    Preferred Education, Skills, and Experiences:
    ● Bachelor’s degree (or equivalent)
    ● French language skills strongly preferred (as well as any African languages; Arabic also helpful)
    ● Experience with design, including Adobe Creative Suite
    ● The ability to advise on UX improvements
    ● Aware of WordPress security pitfalls and follow best practices to ensure tight security
    ● Knowledge of SEO practices
    ● Knowledge of or interest in the role that NGOs, humanitarianism, and religion play in the social and historical context of Africa


    Email resume with portfolio and links to website examples to [email protected]

    Fahamu - Networks For Social Justice

    Pambazuka News is published by Fahamu Trust Limited.

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Order cutting-edge climate titles from Pambazuka Press:

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

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

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

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

    ISSN 1753-6839 Pambazuka News English Edition

    ISSN 1753-6847 Pambazuka News en Français

    ISSN 1757-6504 Pambazuka News em Português

    © 2009 Fahamu -