Pambazuka News 293: Will the real Wilberforce please stand
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Featured this week
-In the 200th year since the end of slavery, Bro. K. Bangarah asks who really led the movement for abolition
COMMENT AND ANALYSIS:
- Tristen Taylor sheds some light on the politics of electricity supply in South Africa
- The faces are different, but the Nigerian elections are the same old story, says Nnimmo Bassey
- It is 50 years since Ghana's independence. Peluola Adewale appraises Nkrumahism
- John Bellamy Foster issues a warning on US militarism in Africa
- Nunu Kidane: Somalia and the US peace movement
- Responses to mis-representation in Africa
PAN-AFRICAN POSTCARD: Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem reflects on Ghana at 50
BLOGGING AFRICA: Hotels for single women in Kenya, visas for Africans, and drying frozen fish in Nigeria
BOOKS & ARTS: Lindiwe Nkutha on Palestine and de-colonising the mind with Ngugi
AFRICAN UNION MONITOR: News on a human rights book fair
CONFLICT AND EMERGENCIES: Peace-keepers arrive in Somalia
HUMAN RIGHTS: New report on abuse of undocumented migrants in South Africa
WOMEN AND GENDER: Zimbabwean women still far from liberation
REFUGEES AND FORCED MIGRATION: 25,000 refugees have returned to DRC
ELECTIONS AND GOVERNANCE: Senegal opposition rejects poll results
AFRICA AND CHINA: China selling off Kenyan oil rights it got for free
DEVELOPMENT: Call to arms over Western governments’ farm subsidies
CORRUPTION: Liberian Ex-President charged with corruption
HEALTH AND HIV/AIDS: Male circumcision and HIV: a broader analysis is required
EDUCATION: Soaring tuition fees deprive Zimbabwean youth of education
ENVIRONMENT: Niger river in intensive-care
LGBTI: Out of the closet in Nigeria
LAND AND LAND RIGHTS: The unfinished business of land reform in South Africa
MEDIA AND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION: AU chief supports press freedom
NEWS FROM THE DIASPORA: Fleeing Haitian gangs set up rural bases
INTERNET AND TECHNOLOGY: South Africa’s government goes Open-Source
PLUS: e-Newsletters and Mailings Lists; Courses, Seminars and Workshops and Jobs
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Will the real William Wilberforce please stand up?
British imperialism: Unrepentant for its crimes against humanity
Bro. K. Bangarah
Bro. K. Bangarah argues that it was a series of military, economic and political forces, as well as the actions of a group of Afrikan activists in Britain that led to the abolition of slavery - and not William Wilberforce. In the first part of this serialised article, Bangarah says Wilberforce merely claimed leadership of the movement.
On 25 March 1807 British imperialism claims to have abolished one of its own institutions. It was an institution that brought with it such a level of human misery that it amounted to an unremitting act of genocide against Afrikan people. The imperialists refer to that genocide as the ‘slave trade’. The first point this raises is evident: British imperialism is so obscenely and profoundly barbaric that it required an act of Parliament to get it to stop kidnapping Afrikan people, chaining and deporting us from our homeland in conditions worse than those suffered by cattle.
The British establishment have totally failed and continue to fail to acknowledge this and their other acts of genocide against Afrikan people as a crime against humanity. Their actions were and are completely and utterly wrong and morally indefensible. In their attempts to mislead Afrikan, British and other peoples of the world, they are trying to claim the credit for bringing this genocide to an end. The truth is that they did not stop kidnapping and deporting our people because they realised how evil and wrong their behaviour was. They did it because they were forced to; the unstoppable forces emanating from Afrikan people determined to liberate themselves from bondage, left them with no other choice.
World military, political and economic forces overwhelmed the institution of slavery
One of the most critical of these forces was the British working classes. They were involved in petitions against the kidnapping and deportation of Afrikan people because they were concerned about the mounting loss of British lives on the high seas and abroad. In order to kidnap and deport Afrikan people from their homes, it was necessary to have able kidnappers; British imperialists called them ‘sailors’. In addition to being evil, theirs was a dangerous occupation, because out of a total of 12,263 kidnappers, 2,643 perished as a direct result of their ‘work’. When the British public learned that almost a quarter of their kidnapper sons were killed or lost (Williams, 1944; Martin, 1999), they engaged in the mass petitioning of Parliament. It was through this process that abolitionists perfected the modern tactics of lobbying Parliament and pressuring MPs (Walwin, 1993).
A few very important forces came via the British enslavers themselves. The older British colonies already had large numbers of enslaved Afrikan people who substantially out-numbered their enslavers (Ferguson, 1998) (James, 1963). Their numbers were in fact the real basis of their enslavers’ prosperity. The existing large numbers was a double edged sword for their enslavers because it meant that it was too risky for them to import any more Afrikan people. The enslaver planters were living on a knife edge, in constant fear of the rebellions and raids mounted by enslaved and marooned Afrikan people. Rebellions whether successful or unsuccessful, could lead to their deaths, the loss of colonial lands and the loss of the stolen free labour of enslaved Afrikan people. Any further importation would simply reinforce the battalions of Afrikan maroon communities and rebel Afrikan people on the plantations. Therefore, if they could prevent further imports to the colonies this would be a good method of preserving their own lives whilst at the same time allowing them to keep control.
They also feared being undercut by competitors from the newer British colonies as well as from other imperialist colonies in the Caribbean. British and French imperialists were constantly warring with each other over Caribbean lands that they each had stolen from the indigenous American Indians (Greenwood, 1980, p. 10-15). In the course of the warring Britain managed to steal two additional Caribbean colonies, Guiana and Trinidad. Both were underdeveloped and desperately needed the labour of enslaved Afrikan people in order to prosper. However, the longer established British colonials recognised that the two new colonies with their virgin soils would offer them stiff competition and they were willing to try any measure that might stave off financial disaster. If they could prevent the new colonies from importing Afrikan people, their position would be protected.
Furthermore, 50 per cent of enslaved Afrikan people kidnapped and deported by Britain were sold to French enslavers and the French ran their sugar colonies more profitably than the British. The importation of more kidnapped Afrikan people meant that the French could undercut the British in the imperialist sugar markets (Ferguson, 1998). This scenario had the added irony that the British trafficking of Afrikan people was helping the French to out-perform them economically. If they could prevent the further importation of kidnapped Afrikan people, they could cut the supply of the much needed Afrikan labour to the French and gain the economic upper hand. In other words, the cutting of the supply of kidnapped Afrikan people would solve all of their major problems in one fell swoop. Therefore, in the spirit of self-preservation, the solution adopted by the older established British enslaver colonists was to join the growing demand to outlaw the process of kidnapping and deporting of Afrikan people to Caribbean colonies.
Another critical force came via the imperialists based in Britain. They were primarily concerned with immediate losses in their own profits and revenue that resulted from the uprisings of enslaved Afrikan people. Additionally that the process of rapid industrialisation, which they were undergoing, would give them a longer term competitive advantage over the other imperialist nations. They therefore had an eye on the potential super profits that could be made from the pending transition from an agricultural based economy relying on enslaved Afrikan people, to an industrial based economy which needed low paid workers. They came to the realisation that giving Afrikan people the illusion of freedom through the paying of wages would make them much richer in the long run. With these changes, even some of the imperialists began to worm to the idea of abolition.
All of the factors mentioned above were far more important contributors to the abolition of the so-called ‘slave trade’ than anything that Wilberforce ever did. They formed part of the range of forces that compelled the British government to change its approach to kidnapping and deporting Afrikan people from their homes. Wilberforce, who was unofficially appointed to his ‘abolitionist leadership’ role by the government, did little more than navigate his way through these forces: it is these forces that drove Wilberforce; not the other way round. Furthermore, an honest analysis reveals that the fundamental cause of all of these forces was the activity and resistance of the Afrikan people.
Afrikan people in Britain drove the diplomatic front for abolition
The first group of kidnapped Afrikan people forcibly deported to Britain, arrived in 1555 (Martin, 1999). By the last quarter of the 18th century, British imperialist kidnapping and compulsory deportation of Afrikan people resulted in 10,000 to 15,000 of London’s 80,000 population being Afrikan people (Martin, 1999). The total population of Afrikan people throughout the whole of Britain was estimated at 20,000 (Martin, 1999). The majority of the Afrikan people in Britain were held captive and enslaved by British citizens. However by employing a variety of ingenious strategies and methods, a small percentage of them managed to procure their personal ‘freedom’.
It is evident that of all of the groups of people in Britain, Afrikan people had the most to gain from the abolition of slavery and the so-called ‘slave trade’. For this reason it is likely that they had a tendency to be amongst the most sympathetic advocates of the anti-slavery cause as well as amongst the most active groups of people fighting for the abolition of slavery. The evidence of their involvement whether enslaved or ‘free’ is scant, but it is possible to trace some of the names of Afrikan people involved in the broad anti-slavery movement in Britain.
There is documented evidence of the involvement of Afrikan people such as Mary Prince, Olaudah Equiano, Ottobah Cuguano, Jonathan Strong, James Somerset, Joseph Knight, Ayuba Diallo, George Bridgewater, Ignatus Sancho, William Davison, Robert Wedderburn, Ukawsaw Gronniosaw, John Ystumllyn, William Cuffay and Julius Soubise. However, this list of names cannot do justice to either the volume or quality of activity that would have been forthcoming from the 20,000 strong Afrikan community based in Britain. It seems that their role has been played down by imperialist ‘historians’.
Some of the Afrikan people named here were involved in important anti-slavery court cases; others wrote and narrated their biographies telling of the brutality they suffered and experienced; others still wrote about the cruelty of slavery and others engaged in revolutionary political activity against the imperialist perpetrators of slavery. They tended to ally themselves with groups of British people who established organisations with a progressive attitude towards the abolition of slavery. Their stories were fed into the organised groupings of which they were part, and then cascaded to the British public at large.
Their stories had a massive impact on the British public, most of whom were ignorant about the evils and injustices of slavery. The evidence provided by Afrikan people in Britain was the crucial spark that ignited mass movements for justice among the working classes. The release of their information raised consciousness amongst the masses of Britons to a point where they began to seriously challenge the British establishment about both the plights of the working classes and the suffering of enslaved Afrikan people. It was therefore the political and diplomatic work of Afrikan people, working in an extremely hostile British environment, which led the national processes that brought about the abolition of slavery and the so called ‘slave trade’. It most certainly was not some character called Wilberforce as some portray.
One of the methods of lying used by imperialism to distort history is simply to omit or prevent the emergence of relevant facts in historical discourse: failing to tell the whole truth. In the case of Afrikan enslavement, an army of imperialist liars presented to us as ‘historians’ have insulted the memory of our Afrikan ancestors who fought for Afrikan liberation in Britain. They have done this by under-representing the contributions of Afrikan people, and by presenting William Wilberforce as some kind of leader in the Afrikan liberation process. Some of these ‘historians’ have taken the lies to even higher levels of distortion by attempting to present Wilberforce as the saviour of enslaved Afrikan people.
Wilberforce: a drug addict and latecomer to the abolition cause
Afrikan people resisted our enslavement from the very first day that European imperialism attempted to steal our people. However, it was not until 1776 that the world began to hear the first openly anti-slavery utterances from the British establishment. This happened when David Hartley condemned the ‘slave trade’ in the House of Commons (Hart, 2006, p. 1). It had taken British imperialism well over 200 years to begin to notice that there might be something wrong with kidnapping, deporting, holding in bondage, enslaving, murdering and otherwise abusing Afrikan people. Another initiative followed in 1783 when the Quakers petitioned parliament against human trafficking (Hart, 2006, p. 1). Wilberforce was not involved in any of these early anti-slavery initiatives.
On 22 May 1787 a group of British people gave themselves the official sounding title ‘The Abolition Society’ and declared their existence to the British establishment. The society gave the outward impression that it was against the enslavement of Afrikan people, although its activities often suggested otherwise. Interestingly imperialism’s ‘great saviour and hero’, Wilberforce was not amongst the original grouping (Hart, 2006, p. 1). Nor did he end up joining the society of his own volition or as a matter of conscience. Instead he was ‘recruited’ and sent into the abolition movement by the then Prime Minister William Pitt (Ferguson, 1998, p. 132; Williams, 1944, p. 123). The fake cover story about his moral and religious conviction compelling him to work for the abolition of slavery was made up later.
The process of recruiting Wilberforce was probably made easier by the fact that he had a related personal vested interest; his family were wool merchants. There is no doubt that he took his family interest seriously since he operated as the official Parliamentary spokesman for the wool industry (Williams, 1944, p. 160). It is likely that he would have perceived the cotton industry, with its abundance of unpaid labour stolen from enslaved Afrikan people, as a rival with a competitive advantage that was unfair even by primitive capitalist standards (Martin, 1999).
The choice of Wilberforce for the anti-slavery ‘moral crusade’ was an interesting one. Throughout his adult life, he is reported to have suffered significant health problems (Howarth, 1973). This is hardly surprising given the fact that he was a known drug addict. Apparently he was a junkie, unable to wean himself off his reliance on hard drugs. British historians inform us that: 'William Wilberforce … took opium every day for 45 years' (Howarth, 1973). This evidence reveals the fact that Wilberforce demonstrated a greater level of commitment to the consumption of hard drugs than he ever did to the abolition of slavery. Evidence concerning whether he took hard drugs more often than he prayed is inconclusive. As if that was not enough, he was also known to indulge in drinking and gambling (Howarth, 1973). The appointment of a known drug addict and apparent drunkard as the champion of the abolition movement suggests that the British establishment had no real intention of abolishing the kidnapping, deporting and enslavement of Afrikan people.
* Bro. K. Bangarah is a member of the Global Afrikan Congress, based in the UK.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at www.pambazuka.org
1. Ferguson. James, (1998), The Story of the Caribbean People, Kingston, Jamaica: Ian Randle Publishers
2. Foot. M.R.D., (2002), Secret Lives: Lifting the Lid on the Worlds of Secret Intelligence, Oxford: Oxford University Press
3. Fryer. Peter, (1984), Staying Power: The History of Black People in Britain, London: Pluto Press
4. Greenwood. R., & Hamber. S., (1980), Emancipation to Emigration, MacMillan Caribbean
5. Hart. Richard, (1998), From Occupation to Independence: A Short History of the Peoples of the English Speaking Caribbean Region, London: Pluto Press
6. Hart. Richard, (2006), A talk 'The Slaves Who Abolished Slavery', London: Centerprise Bookshop, 11th October 2006
7. Hochschild. Adam, (2005), 'Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels' in the Fight to Free an Empire's Slaves, Mariner Books
8. Howarth. David, (1973), The British Empire; Volume 2, London: BBC TV Time Life Books
9. James. C.L.R., (1963), The Black Jacobins, Vintage Books
10. Martin. Steve, (1999), Britain’s Slave Trade, Channel 4 Books
11. Schama. Simon, (2006), Rough Crossings: Britain, the Slaves and the
12. Walwin. James, (1993), Black Ivory: A History of British Slavery, Fontana Press
13. Williams. Eric, (1944), Capitalism and Slavery, Andre Deutsch
1. A Web of English History, dspace.dial.pipex.com/town/terrace/adw03/c-eight/people/wilberf.htm
2. Agnes Bronte 1813 - 1892, freespace.virgin.net/pr.og/agnes.html
3. Ligali, (Monday 6th November 2006), Set All Free Deny Wilberforce Film Endorsement, www.ligali.org/article.php?id=563
4. The Amazing Change, www.theamazingchange.com/timeline.html
William Wilberforce 1759-1833, Biography, www.brycchancarey.com/abolition/wilberforce.htm
The political economy of power
The generation and distribution of power (electricity) is politically and economically driven. It is also surrounded by deception and falsehoods. Tristen Taylor explains why and how.
For too long the issue of energy has been set aside, treated as if it had no influence on how South African society is shaped. And there has been a somewhat valid stereotype that within civil society, energy has been the domain of white environmentalists - aging hippies in sandals going shoo-wah over the teachings of the Dalai Lama and speaking about how we all must conserve electricity, how we all must make sacrifices, whilst black children die in shack fires caused from having to use a paraffin stove because the household electricity lifeline was used up weeks before.
The generation and distribution of power (primarily electricity) does not happen in a political vacuum; it cannot be divorced from the social and economic conditions under which most South Africans labour and starve. In fact, as I will attempt to explain, the generation and distribution of power is informed by social, economic and political realms.
The generation and distribution of energy is a murky topic. Omission, falsehood and deception surround the use of light switches, refrigerators, irrigation pumps and industrial smelters. Mis-information is pumping out faster and harder than a 'six-pack' power station spews out SO2 and CO2.
Who, then, is deceiving us? There are the usual suspects: coal mining companies, government, oil cartels, Eskom (power companies of South Africa), and other assorted free-market robber barons. There are also the traditional flag-carriers of the centrally planned economy. Then there is the environmental movement, which has traditionally refused to see beyond the forest to glimpse human misery and suffering. Without fail, the one lie that all of the above seem to propagate is that there is an energy shortage. It goes like this:
Since we can only generate x amount of power and the practical demand of each and every user is greater than x, x will have to be allocated. Of course, someone will have to make this allocation, and this someone is the state. The state, as a supposed neutral actor and invested with, to quote Max Weber, "a successful claim on monopoly of the legitimate use of force", will decide that industry will get so much power, agriculture so much, and residential users so much. The best allocation of resources will be on the basis of what is deemed in the best interest of the common good. It may be unfortunate that not all of us get the power we want, but that’s life and sacrifices have to be made.
This story is sly and deceiving. To start with, there is no energy shortage in the universe. The universe is awash with energy (all there is, after all, is energy and matter), and energy can neither be destroyed nor created. For the purposes of the human race, there is a virtual limitless amount of energy for the species to tap. And, therein lies the problem. It is not easy to convert energy into power, and part of the struggle of human history has been various attempts to tap into the energy of the universe. This has primarily been achieved through conversion of solar energy into plant and animal energy. This energy chain, like all energy chains, is never 100 per cent efficient. Each time energy is converted there is a certain amount of energy loss. Humans have then eaten plant and animal materials, converting these to human bio-chemical energy. Humans have then used that energy for labour to hunt more animals, grow more crops, build dwellings, and contest for resources - war and conflict. For most of history, the primary source of useable energy has been human muscle and intellect.
This was the case during the eras of the ancient Greek, Persian and Egyptian societies. It was certainly true during the Roman Empire. All these societies were based upon slave labour as the primary source of energy conversion. Since human beings were the most efficient sources of energy (human beings have the ability for rational thought; they can solve problems; are fairly durable; and can be taught to do things with greater efficiency than a cow or a horse), elite groups used slave labour to build, manufacture and grow the materials needed for those societies to function. The elite classes functioned as managers and grew rich from their exploitation of the labour of others.
Things began to change during the Middle Ages in Europe. During this time, while human power still remained supreme, animal power began to be used more and more frequently in agriculture; wood (plant energy) was beginning to be more and more important, especially in the production of iron and other metals; and water was used in mills for the production of flour, although, slightly later, windmills were used for this purpose. One notable consequence of this ‘new’ strategy of converting energy for human use was the complete and utter destruction of Europe’s forests. This led to what is called an energy crisis and forced European society into a potentially painful situation: find another source of power or undergo an economic collapse and a return to the dark ages. The ultimate solution was coal.
However, the most important lesson that should be learnt from this era, with regard to current energy conversion practices, was the political situation regarding water and windmills. But these two different energy sources were used in two different manners despite having the same primary technological function, grinding grain into flour (Debeir, Deléage, and Hémery). Watermills required access to flowing water and were relatively expensive to build. As the feudal structure of the day controlled access to watercourses and held a great deal of society’s capital, the aristocracy was able to own and control the watermills, thus, locking down an important part of agricultural production for its sole benefit. The peasantry had no access to the watermills, and had to compete in the processing of flour with older, less efficient methods of production. Quite clearly, we can see the link between ownership of energy conversion and socio-economic relationships. As Debeir has stated, "[water] mills were not only a good deal for some, but also tended to bolster an oppressive social structure".
Windmills were another story. Not only was wind part of the commons, and thus a renewable resource accessible to all social classes, it was cheaper to build windmills than watermills. The increasing use of windmills enabled the burghers, cities and peasantry to compete favourably in the production of flour, for which the market was growing as bread became more and more part of the general diet. Windmills also also encouraged competition with the aristocracy in the important realm of agricultural production. This began to have a significant impact in political relations, especially in the contest between free cities and feudal landowners, one of the central conflicts of the Middle Ages. Once again, Debier states:
"Thus windmills were established in the conditions of freedom that opened with the growth of cities, and established a further breach in the lords’ energy monopolies. Although feudal reaction against the new facilities persisted - "The windmill was the commoners’ mill which feudal law tried to take over" - it proved unable to stop the irresistible movement which continued until the dawn of the nineteenth century."
The dawn of the 19th century brought about a major technological, social and economic revolution: the industrial revolution. While the social, political and economic effects of the industrial revolution are well documented, the roles of new sources of energy conversion are often overlooked. Coal was at the heart of the industrial revolution. Basically, coal is plant matter that has decomposed, chemically altered, compressed and hardened over millions of years. Coal is made up of carbon, sulphur, methane, water and various other materials. Essentially, coal is the storage of chemical energy produced via long dead plant photosynthesis. Most of the coal used today was formed during the Carboniferous era (280 to 345 million years ago).
While the use of coal had been around for thousands of years, the industrial revolution mined and used coal to a degree never seen before. A new energy cycle was born with coal (and its offspring, steam), the fossil fuel cycle. Coal was used to drive steam engines, railways, furnaces (purified coal (coke) replaced wood as the primary source of heat for metallurgy), shipping and household heating. It provided such an intense and useful source of energy that the industrial revolution was entirely dependent on the mining, distribution, and burning of coal. It should come as no surprise that this valuable energy resource was not in the hands of the common people although it was they who died of Black Lung, but instead in the hands of the burgeoning, to borrow a phrase from Tom Wolfe, 'masters of the universe' - the capitalist class. While perhaps not of conscious design, there was no way that the windmill story (commoner power equivalent to that owned by the feudal lords) would be repeated with coal. Coal quickly became a privately owned commodity to be sold and traded as necessary, and fortunes were made. This, in turn, meant that the majority of the populace were precluded from control of the energy chain and that the power (both economic and political) of the newly formed capitalist class was further increased. The conflict between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat that has consumed human history since provides the basis of entire branches of philosophy, history and political analysis.
To highlight the point, the US was built on the private use of coal. It fuelled the beginnings of an industrial expansion that has lasted until today. Corporations have their origins in the rapid industrialisation brought about through the use of coal and the blood that was shed in producing it. As The Ukrainian Weekly points out:
"In the 19th century, America's industrialisation and dramatic economic development was fuelled, literally, by coal. Coal fuelled the expansion of the railroad into America's undeveloped western states, and in Pennsylvania it fuelled the mighty American steel industry. But extracting coal was dangerous work. Illness, injury and death were common. Several hundred coal miners a year died from methane gas explosions in the mines of the Pennsylvania anthracite region - the same type of explosion that recently killed the miners in Ukraine. Annually, tens of thousands of miners were maimed."
Coal has not disappeared from society as a valuable source of energy conversion. Quite the opposite. About 40 per cent of all electricity generated globally comes from coal-fired power stations with an efficiency of between 30 to 40 per cent; i.e. of one kilogramme of coal used in a power station, 300 grams is used to produce electricity and the remaining 700 grams produces waste heat. Coal is not only an important part of our power generation system, it remains, through its method of use, an important factor in how our societies are controlled and organised. The production and distribution of electricity in South Africa will be discussed later.
While coal remains an important part of the global energy cycle, another fossil fuel has eclipsed it: petroleum or crude oil, also called black gold. Petroleum became increasingly important in terms of the global energy chain throughout the 20th century, reaching a point where our economy is based entirely upon petroleum. About 84 per cent of petroleum extracted is refined into fuels (petrol, diesel, fuel oil, jet fuel, kerosene, and liquid petroleum gas (LPG)), the other 16 per cent is used in the manufacture of material, plastic being the most common. Like coal, petroleum is a finite fossil fuel comprised of decayed organic matter. Furthermore, petroleum is a cheap and effective source of energy.
To understand the extent to which we operate within a petroleum economy, take a look around you. The paper this is written on comes from trees cut down with machinery using petroleum; the wood is transported to the mills via trucks (petroleum again), from the mills to the stores, and from the stores to your office and home. Without petroleum, modern agriculture could not exist. There would be no cars or airplanes, no computers, no modern medicine, no electricity. There would be no plastic materials. There would be no modern economy. We would all be riding horses and to and from our subsistence farms. All of us who are alive now, owe that to the 20th century growth in population made possible by petroleum. Quite simply, if the supply of petroleum dried up tomorrow the world would enter a period of such utter economic collapse; the term 'apocalypse' could be considered an understatement. Many of us would starve to death within weeks.
The petroleum industry is vital to the life of every human being in the modern economy, and, yet, it is a tightly controlled industry with only a handful of key players divided amongst state and private control. Of the ten biggest corporations in the world (as ranked by Fortune 500), five are oil and gas companies with a combined annual revenue of US$$ 1.271 trillion. By way of comparison, South Africa’s Gross Domestic Product is US$215.5 billion. In the global market economy, this translates into an unequal balance of political power.
Not a great deal has changed in the petroleum market since 1900 when Standard Oil controlled 50 per cent of global sales.
Further, control over petroleum resources is vital not only for what is often termed the 'national interest', which actually means the interests of a thin elite class controlling any particular country, but for a country’s economic well-being. Anyone who thinks that America’s current military operations in the Middle East have nothing to with securing America’s long-term supply of petroleum is insane. A recent article in the (UK) Independent on a proposed law to allow multinational companies to drill Iraqi oil states:
"The US government has been involved in drawing up the law, a draft of which has been seen by The Independent on Sunday. It would give big oil companies such as BP, Shell and Exxon 30-year contracts to extract Iraqi crude oil, and allow the first large-scale operation of foreign oil interests in the country since the industry was nationalised in 1972."
Globally speaking, the energy cycle of modern life is dependent on petroleum, natural gas and coal. The global economy is a fossil fuel economy chasing after diminishing reserves with no alternative in mind. The control of this energy cycle is centralised in the hands of the few, with the majority of the world population reduced to mere consumers of energy, at best. Today, there are watermills everywhere and not a windmill in sight.
Part 2 will be published next week and Part 3 on 5th April
* Tristen Taylor is the Energy Policy Officer at Earthlife Africa Jhb. The views expressed in this work are not necessarily those of Earthlife Africa Jhb.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at pambazuka.org
Nigeria: A beclouded transition
Nigerian elections have always been surrounded by intrigue, corruption and violence. Nnimmo Bassey says that as the country prepares for the first elections where one civilian government hands over to another, it appears little has changed.
April 2007 looms near as the month in which Nigerians expect to go to the polls to elect a new set of political officers. Even as the days get closer, the entire exercise is shrouded in uncertainty and Nigerians have been left guessing who the candidates of the various parties would be.
Candidates whose names had been submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) have to contend with the fact that clandestine clearing procedures are being conducted by any number of agencies and panels. It is a curious situation that with less than two months to go before the elections, the Nigerian people do not know their electoral choices.
One of the presidential candidates of one of the political parties is still battling to be cleared by INEC. That candidate is Atiku Abubakar, currently vice president of Nigeria. Mr Abubakar’s attempt to run on the platform of Action Congress after decamping from the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has been strenuously fought by the PDP and the presidency. The presidency has so far unsuccessfully tried to declare the seat of the vice president vacant on account of his changing parties, and for being disloyal to the president. In a judgement on the matter at the Appeal Court, the judges ruled among other things that the loyalty of the vice president is primarily to the nation and not the president.
Judiciary interventions have helped to curb the rabid rush for the impeachment of governors by state legislators. The courts have been heroic in their handling of thorny political matters in the build up to the elections. In fact, the judiciary appears to be the real hope for salvaging the forthcoming elections, even before they are held.
The rift between the president and his vice climaxed as they attacked each other in full public glare, in a manner that would shame writers of soap operas. They threw mud at each other over which one of them corruptly handled funds from the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF). While the vice president accused the president of having diverted funds for less than official purposes, the presidency accused the vice president of making unauthorised bank deposits with resources of the PTDF. So far even the investigations of the Senate have not managed to settle the dust.
The conflict between the two top citizens of the country has largely overshadowed the real issues that ought to be addressed by politicians on campaign trails at this moment. With so far unproven corruption charges flying both ways, the episode has taught election watchers that the Nigerian electoral processes are a long way from being on track. As at the time of writing this piece the Atiku Abubakar’s name had not found its way onto the ballot, even though the electoral body asked for and received his photographs, ostensibly for that purpose.
The 2007 elections may well be one in which candidates spent more time struggling to have their names on the ballot papers than on the soap box enunciating their manifestos and programmes. Only recently, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) released a list of persons it considers to be corrupt and who should not be allowed to seek elective office in the country. While some analysts insisted that EFCC had no statutory powers to screen candidates, the presidency went ahead to set up a committee who reviewed the EFCC list. Out of their activities, it released a somewhat moderated list of persons who will not bee able to run for office at the forth coming elections.
The names on the ballot are not the only names to worry about. The names on the voters register may prove to be another headache. For example Nigerians were apathetic during the voters’ registration exercise. There were a number of reasons for this. People did not have a clear sense of where the registration centres were. Where the spots were known, there was a dearth of registration equipment. It was not until the last few days of the exercise, declared work free days for public officers, that people thronged to the registration centres. Registration of voters has historically offered corrupt politicians the opportunity to engage in multiple registrations, inclusion of fictitious names and the accumulation of voters’ cards with which they perfected their ignoble acts. The recent registration exercise had at least one incident in which registration equipment was allegedly found in the house of a chieftain of the ruling party. While some of the chieftain’s staff were reportedly arrested, the chieftain has not been brought to account.
One may call this selective justice, but that would pale in comparison with the spate of selections that seem to have overthrown elections among the political parties. The parties had to hold primaries aimed at nominating candidates for the forthcoming elections. It turned out that in many instances, the primaries were exercises in futility. How could that be? This happened in two ways. In some cases, the primaries were simply occasions for selection rather than election of candidates. The winners were predetermined by political godfathers even before the primaries were held. The primaries were thus a rubber stamping process. The parties wasted more precious energies in the primaries after candidates who had been announced as winners at the primaries had their names erased and substituted by others, either at the party headquarters or with any other person with sufficient clout to twist the arms of members of such parties.
It was rather intriguing when all the governors, for instance, who wanted to run for the office of the president suddenly, stepped down for Mr Yaradua, governor of Katsina State. Governors of Akwa Ibom State, Rivers, Cross River and a number of other states stepped down for Yaradua at the convention field. Observers wonder why they had spent so many millions in preparation and campaigns if they were not seriously seeking to contest the election.
Throughout this process, persons who never wanted to be on the ballot found themselves there. And it does appear that some of them are depending on the parties that threw up their names to also conduct campaigns and win them the elections as well.
In this perilous situation we cannot avoid mentioning the volatile Niger Delta, where it is difficult to predict whether people will be able to vote freely. The Niger Delta remains an example of a festering ulcer that the nation has failed to heal over the years, and which may infect the entire body politic, if left for much longer without the needed political treatment. Armed resistance is not new in the Niger Delta. It was first utilised in an organised manner by the Isaac Adaka Boro’s led Niger Delta Volunteer Service (NDVS) in 1966. In that struggle, they NDVS declared an independent state of Niger Delta Republic that lasted only 12 days before it was crushed by the Nigerian state. Today the armed groups are not declaring secession but are insisting on political negotiation and that the social-economic and environment debasement visited on the region be addressed.
One would have expected that the question of the Niger Delta would dominate the campaign trail. This has not been the case. In fact only a few of the parties are making any serious attempt to address it. In a situation where candidates are busy struggling to place their names on the ballot and where others are struggling to keep their names off the corruption list, very little energy is expended on issue-based campaigning. It could also be said that campaigning on issues is also difficult because many of the parties are effectively only different in name.
The Niger Delta issue, has however, resonated in a way watchers never expected. On 30 January 2007 while commissioning his campaign headquarters in Abuja, the vice president announced to the world that the government was spending the sum of US$2 billion in arms acquisition in order to crush the insurgents in the Niger Delta. He was quickly accused of playing politics. There was oblique denial of any arms build-up in the region. But not long afterwards the president stated while campaigning for the PDP’s presidential candidate that there were many militia camps in the Niger Delta, to which no government could turn a blind eye.
Investigation by some journalists revealed that a huge investment in arms has indeed been made by the government with the Niger Delta in mind. The sum mentioned is 100 billion Naira, about US$800,000. This sum was allegedly provided by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) through an extra-budgetary arrangement.
Recently the president was quoted as saying that the election would be a do or die affair, or a matter of life or death for his party, and for the nation. This declaration sent shivers down the spine of a nation reeling in violence and insecurity. There have been no retractions. It is thus an open question if the spirit of sportsmanship will be anywhere near the election field when the whistle is blown - or when the gun is fired, for that matter.
The build up to the 2007 election has seen more high profile assassinations and murders than have been seen in other elections in the country. This has raised considerable concern among election watchers as to what level of violence will be unleashed during the actual voting, whether the ballot will count this time around, or whether political thugs will rake up fictional votes. According to Priscilla Achakpa, executive cirector of the Women Environmental Programme (WEP), a Nigerian NGO, 'the whole world is watching Nigeria and it is likely that the politicians will exercise some caution and not act with impunity. We cannot say categorically that the peoples’ votes will not count. What we can say with full confidence is that the electorate is much more enlightened today than they were in 1999 and in 2003'.
This election is not just another election in Nigeria. It is an election with deep historical significance. It will mark the first time a civilian government has handed over power to another civilian government. With dark clouds over the transition route, many are asking: will votes count? Will the electorate stand up to defend their votes? Only time will tell.
* Nnimmo Bassey is the director of Environmental Rights Action (Friends of the Earth, Nigeria) Visit http://www.eraction.org
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at pambazuka.org
Ghana at 50: An appraisal of Nkrumahism
Kwame Nkrumah: From pan-African visionary to one-party state dictator? Peluola Adewale looks back on the legacy of one of Africa's most famous political leaders.
The independence of Ghana on 6 March 1957 was a watershed in the history of Africa, being the first in black Africa. It was a catalyst in the struggle for liberation from colonial rule on the continent. For the African masses one man's stood out, Kwame Nkrumah. Inspired by the independence of India from Britain in 1947, he saw the possibility of defeating imperial Britain with coordinated and consistent political struggle. He thus became a quintessential anti-colonialist. His return to Ghana and formation of the anti-colonialist Convention Peoples Party (CPP) gave radical impulse to the independence struggle and set the stage for the exit of the British colonialists.
Unlike the current generation of African leaders who are mostly only satisfied with earning foreign exchange from the sales of natural resources and self-enrichment, Nkrumah was genuinely committed to using the resources of Ghana for industrial development and economic growth. Ghana was rich in bauxite which could be used to manufacture aluminum, even for exports if there were a reliable power supply. This together with the need to produce electricity for industrialisation informed the Volta Dam project. The project was only half-succeeded, but nobody could reasonably doubt the positive intention behind it.
Nkrumah openly asserted that capitalism was too complicated to achieve the goals of development. But beyond the rhetoric of anti-capitalism and scientific socialism in his celebrated speeches and writings, he never truly cut links with capitalism and imperialism. His socialism was based on the Stalinist Soviet Union model and a utopian African version. This was the undoing that made it impossible to achieve his lofty goals. For instance, his government relied on a bureaucratically run marketing board - a colonial invention - to mobilise the required resources from the sales of cocoa, the country's economic mainstay. This created a more enabling avenue for official corruption than the provision of basic needs and infrastructure development that it was originally designed to achieve.
Nkrumah set up state owned companies and public utilities, apparently to provide some basic needs for the people. But lack of democratic management and control of the companies by the workers themselves bred crippling mismanagement and corruption. They did not only fail to largely achieve their objectives, they became a curse rather than a blessing. Since Nkrumah could only use the revenue from cocoa to bail out public companies, he had to sacrifice poor farmers. The government, through the market boards, reduced the price paid to farmers for cocoa in order to raise more revenue. This was at a period when there was an increase in the price of cocoa on the world market, and farmers expected fortunes. They were thus highly disappointed and demoralised. This culminated in a series of events that made Ghana lose its place as the world's largest producer of cocoa.
The economic downturn created a social crisis that made the government of the self-styled Osagyefo ('the Redeemer') - the once hope of Ghana and beacon of Africa - unpopular. The government's response to the various worker agitations worsened the situation. Rather than mobilising workers and the poor to break completely with capitalism, Nkrumah became dictatorial and took draconian measures against the widespread protest and disaffection to his government. Unfortunately, Nkrumah who had once proclaimed during the anti-colonial struggle, 'if we get self-government, we will transform the Gold Coast (Ghana) into a paradise in 10 years', almost turned the country into hell for workers and opposition alike. He declared strike actions by workers to be illegal, arrested and detained opposition without trial, and declared Ghana a one-party state with him as life president.
There remains no doubt that Kwame Nkrumah was one of the greatest African nationalist leaders. The military coup in 1966 that dethroned him, provided him the opportunity to give more speeches and writings on Africa's development. He was a pan-Africanist, par excellence, with a radical and socialist flavour. However, Nkrumah was not a fully rounded Marxist. This limitation largely contributed to his inability to actualise his objectives and goals.
Their limitations notwithstanding, Nkrumah and his kindred spirits still tower above the current generation of African leaders who have rolled back, the gains of the 1960s that saw massive investment of public resources in developmental projects. The rapacious colonialists refused to develop the continent despite sitting on its fabulous wealth. They only provided infrastructure that would aid exploitation of the resources of the continent. This placed enormous responsibility on the new African leaders after the independence to begin the process of necessary development and develop a welfare state. The idea of a welfare state, built on the Keynesian theory of state interventionism in the economy was fashionable globally in the period after the independence.
In the present era of neo-liberalism the current corrupt leaders of Africa have embarked on the shameless sale of the patrimony of their nations, built with public resources, to the rapacious capitalists locally and internationally. The new set of African leaders has bastardised the original idea of African solidarity, championed by Nkrumah and others. They have come up with initiatives such as the New Partnership for Africa Development (NEPAD) designed to rely on the exploitation of Africa's resources in the service of the West, and the anti-poor neo-liberal economy, as vehicles for development. With this vicious, anti-poor, pro-capitalism, it is no surprise that the idea of Nkrumahism, despite its limitation, has remained alluring to many individuals, genuinely interested in the development of Africa.
It is possible to state that the shortcoming of an Nkrumahist welfare state was not due to the personal failings of Nkrumah; rather that it arose from his attempt to seek improvement and development within the confines of capitalism. Africa is the weakest link of global capitalism. Here a revolutionary movement could start, with international working class solidarity, that could defeat capitalism and imperialism.
Kwame Nkrumah in his speech, 'I Speak of Freedom: A Statement of African Ideology', spoke of economic cooperation and political union among African countries as the viable means of bringing about full and effective development of the continent's natural resources for the benefit of African people. This statement is still largely relevant today. But to be truly valid, and achieve the desired objectives, such economic cooperation and political union was intended to be built on genuine socialist programme that aimed at formation of socialist confederation, if possible, a federation of Africa in solidarity with the working class internationally. This together with discovery of the first-hand ideas of Marxism as taught by Marx, Engel, Lenin and Trotsky should be the task of workers and poor masses in Africa.
* Peluola Adewale writes for the Socialist Democracy, Lagos, Nigeria
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at pambazuka.org
A Warning for Africa
The war for the ‘New American Century’
John Bellamy Foster
The US is increasing its military presence in Africa under the guise of fighting the war on terror and protecting US commercial interests in Africa, especially oil, writes John Bellamy Foster.
Capitalism is a system that is worldwide in its economic scope but divided politically into competing states that develop economically at different rates. The contradiction of uneven capitalist development was classically expressed by Lenin in 1916 in Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism:
'There can be no other conceivable basis under capitalism for the division of spheres of influence, of interests, of colonies, etc., than a calculation of the strength of the participants in the division, their general economic, financial, military strength, etc. And the strength of these participants in the division does not change to an equal degree, for under capitalism the development of different undertakings, trusts, branches of industry, or countries cannot be even. Half a century ago, Germany was a miserable, insignificant country, as far as its capitalist strength was concerned, compared with the strength of England at that time. Japan was similarly insignificant compared with Russia. Is it “conceivable” that in ten or twenty years’ time the relative strength of the imperialist powers will have remained unchanged? Absolutely inconceivable.'
It is now widely acknowledged that the world is undergoing a global economic transformation. Not only is the growth rate of the world economy as a whole slowing, but the relative economic strength of the US is continuing to weaken. In 1950, the US accounted for about half of world GDP, falling to a little over a fifth by 2003. According to the projections of Goldman Sachs, China could overtake the United States as the world’s largest economy by 2039.
This growing threat to US power is fuelling Washington’s obsession with laying the groundwork for a 'New American Century'. Its current interventionism is aimed at taking advantage of its present short-term economic and military primacy to secure strategic assets that will provide long-term guarantees of global supremacy. The goal is to extend US power directly, while depriving potential competitors of those vital strategic assets that might allow them eventually to challenge it globally or even within particular regions.
The National Security Strategy of the United States of 2002 gave notice that 'our forces will be strong enough to dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military build-up in hopes of surpassing, or equalling, the power of the US'. But grand strategy extends beyond mere military power. Economic advantages vis-à-vis potential rivals are the real coin of intercapitalist competition. Hence, US grand strategy integrates military power with the struggle to control capital, trade, the value of the dollar, and strategic raw materials.
Perhaps the clearest ordering of US strategic objectives has been provided by Robert J. Art, professor of international relations at Brandeis and a research associate of the Olin Institute, in A Grand Strategy for America. 'A grand strategy', he writes, 'tells a nation’s leaders what goals they should aim for and how best they can use their country’s military power to attain these goals'. In conceptualising such a grand strategy for the US, Art presents six 'overarching national interests' in order of importance:
• first, prevent an attack on the American homeland
• second, prevent great-power Eurasian wars and, if possible, the intense security competitions that make them more likely
• third, preserve access to a reasonably priced and secure supply of oil
• fourth, preserve an open international economic order
• fifth, foster the spread of democracy and respect for human rights abroad, and prevent genocide or mass murder in civil wars
• sixth, protect the global environment, especially from the adverse effects of global warming and severe climate change
After national defense proper, i.e., defense of 'the homeland' against external attack, the next three highest strategic priorities are thus: (1) the traditional geopolitical goal of hegemony over the Eurasian heartland seen as the key to world power, (2) securing control over world oil supplies, and (3) promoting global-capitalist economic relations.
In order to meet these objectives, Art contends, Washington should 'maintain forward-based forces' in Europe and East Asia (the two rimlands of Eurasia with great power concentrations) and in the Persian Gulf (containing the bulk of world oil reserves). 'Eurasia is home to most of the world’s people, most of its proven oil reserves, and most of its military powers, as well as a large share of its economic growth.' It is therefore crucial that the US imperial grand strategy be aimed at strengthening its hegemony in this region, beginning with the key oil regions of South-Central Asia. 
With the wars on and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq still unresolved, Washington has been stepping-up its threats of a 'preemptive' attack on these states’ more powerful neighbour, Iran. The main justification offered for this is Iran’s uranium-enrichment programme, which could eventually allow it to develop nuclear weapons capabilities. Yet, there are other reasons that the US is interested in Iran. Like Iraq before it, Iran is a leading oil power, now with the second largest proven oil reserves behind Saudi Arabia and ahead of Iraq. Control of Iran is thus crucial to Washington’s goal of dominating the Persian Gulf and its oil.
Iran’s geopolitical importance, moreover, stretches far beyond the Middle East. It is a key prize (as in the case also of Afghanistan) in the New Great Game for control of all of South-Central Asia, including the Caspian Sea Basin with its enormous fossil fuel reserves. US strategic planners are obsessed with fears of an Asian energy-security grid, in which Russia, China, Iran, and the Central Asian countries (possibly also including Japan) would come together economically and in an energy accord to break the US and Western stranglehold on the world oil and gas market—creating the basis for a general shift of world power to the East. At present China, the world’s fastest growing economy, lacks energy security even as its demand for fossil fuels is rapidly mounting. It is attempting to solve this partly through greater access to the energy resources of Iran and the Central Asian states. Recent US attempts to establish a stronger alliance with India, with Washington bolstering India’s status as a nuclear power, are clearly part of this New Great Game for control of South-Central Asia—reminiscent of the 19th century Great Game between Britain and Russia for control of this part of Asia. 
The New Scramble for Africa
If there is a New Great Game afoot in Asia there is also a 'New Scramble for Africa' on the part of the great powers.  The National Security Strategy of the United States of 2002 declared that 'combating global terror' and ensuring US energy security required that the US increase its commitments to Africa and called upon 'coalitions of the willing' to generate regional security arrangements on that continent. Soon after the US European Command, based in Stuttgart, Germany—in charge of US military operations in sub-Saharan Africa—increased its activities in West Africa, centering on those states with substantial oil production and/or reserves in or around the Gulf of Guinea (stretching roughly from the Cote d'Ivoire to Angola). The US military’s European Command now devotes 70 per cent of its time to African affairs, up from almost nothing as recently as 2003. 
As pointed out by Richard Haass, now president of the Council on Foreign Relations, in his foreword to the 2005 council report entitled More Than Humanitarianism: A Strategic U.S. Approach Toward Africa: 'By the end of the decade sub-Saharan Africa is likely to become as important as a source of U.S. energy imports as the Middle East.'  West Africa has some 60 billion barrels of proven oil reserves. Its oil is the low sulfur, sweet crude prized by the US economy. US agencies and think tanks project that one in every five new barrels of oil entering the global economy in the latter half of this decade will come from the Gulf of Guinea, raising its share of US oil imports from 15 to over 20 per cent by 2010, and 25 per cent by 2015. Nigeria already supplies the US with 10 per cent of its imported oil. Angola provides 4 per cent of US oil imports, which could double by the end of the decade. The discovery of new reserves and the expansion of oil production are turning other states in the region into major oil exporters, including Equatorial Guinea, São Tomé and Principe, Gabon, Cameroon, and Chad. Mauritania is scheduled to emerge as an oil exporter by 2007. Sudan, bordering the Red Sea in the east and Chad to the west, is an important oil producer.
At present the main, permanent US military base in Africa is the one established in 2002 in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa, giving the US strategic control of the maritime zone through which a quarter of the world’s oil production passes. The Djibouti base is also in close proximity to the Sudanese oil pipeline. (The French military has long had a major presence in Djibouti and also has an air base at Abeche, Chad on the Sudanese border.) The Djibouti base allows the United States to dominate the eastern end of the broad oil swath cutting across Africa that it now considers vital to its strategic interests—a vast strip running southwest from the 994-mile Higleig-Port Sudan oil pipeline in the east to the 640-mile Chad-Cameroon pipeline and the Gulf of Guinea in the West. A new US forward-operating location in Uganda gives the US the potential of dominating southern Sudan, where most of that country’s oil is to be found.
In West Africa, the US military’s European Command has now established forward-operating locations in Senegal, Mali, Ghana, and Gabon — as well as Namibia, bordering Angola on the south — involving the upgrading of airfields, the pre-positioning of critical supplies and fuel, and access agreements for swift deployment of US troops. 
In 2003 it launched a counterterrorism program in West Africa, and in March 2004, US Special Forces were directly involved in a military operation with Sahel countries against the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat—on Washington’s list of terrorist organisations. The US European Command is developing a coastal security system in the Gulf of Guinea called the Gulf of Guinea Guard. It has also been planning the construction of a US naval base in São Tomé and Principe, which the European Command has intimated could rival the U.S. naval base at Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. The Pentagon is thus moving aggressively to establish a military presence in the Gulf of Guinea that will allow it to control the western part of the broad trans-Africa oil strip and the vital oil reserves now being discovered there. Operation Flintlock, a start-up US military exercise in West Africa in 2005, incorporated 1,000 US Special Forces. The US European Command will be conducting exercises for its new rapid-reaction force for the Gulf of Guinea this summer.
Here the flag is following trade: the major US and Western oil corporations are all scrambling for West African oil and demanding security. The US military’s European Command, the Wall Street Journal reported in its April 25th issue, is also working with the US Chamber of Commerce to expand the role of U.S. corporations in Africa as part of an 'integrated US response'. In this economic scramble for Africa’s petroleum resources the old colonial powers, Britain and France, are in competition with the US. Militarily, however, they are working closely with the US to secure Western imperial control of the region.
The US military build up in Africa is frequently justified as necessary both to fight terrorism and to counter growing instability in the oil region of sub-Saharan Africa. Since 2003 Sudan has been torn by civil war and ethnic conflict focused on its south western Darfur region (where much of the country’s oil is located), resulting in innumerable human rights violations and mass killings by government-linked militia forces against the population of the region. Attempted coups recently occurred in the new petrostates of São Tomé and Principe (2003) and Equatorial Guinea (2004). Chad, which is run by a brutally oppressive regime shielded by a security and intelligence apparatus backed by the United States, also experienced an attempted coup in 2004. A successful coup took place in Mauritania in 2005 against U.S.-supported strongman Ely Ould Mohamed Taya. Angola’s three-decade-long civil war—instigated and fueled by the United States, which together with South Africa organized the terrorist army under Jonas Savimbi’s UNITA—lasted until the ceasefire following Savimbi’s death in 2002. Nigeria, the regional hegemon, is rife with corruption, revolts, and organized oil theft, with considerable portions of oil production in the Niger Delta region being siphoned off—up to 300,000 barrels a day in early 2004. 
The rise of armed insurgency in the Niger Delta and the potential of conflict between the Islamic north and non-Islamic south of the country are major US concerns.
Hence there are incessant calls and no lack of seeming justifications for US 'humanitarian interventions' in Africa. The Council on Foreign Relations report More than Humanitarianism insists that 'the United States and its allies must be ready to take appropriate action' in Darfur in Sudan 'including sanctions and, if necessary, military intervention, if the Security Council is blocked from doing so'. Meanwhile the notion that the US military might before long need to intervene in Nigeria is being widely floated among pundits and in policy circles. Atlantic Monthly correspondent Jeffrey Taylor wrote in April 2006 that Nigeria has become 'the largest failed state on earth', and that a further destabilisation of that state, or its takeover by radical Islamic forces, would endanger 'the abundant oil reserves that America has vowed to protect. Should that day come, it would herald a military intervention far more massive than the Iraqi campaign'. 
Still, US grand strategists are clear that the real issues are not the African states themselves and the welfare of their populations but oil and China’s growing presence in Africa. As the Wall Street Journal noted in 'Africa Emerges as a Strategic Battlefield', 'China has made Africa a front line in its pursuit of more global influence, tripling trade with the continent to some $37 billion over the last five years and locking up energy assets, closing trade deals with regimes like Sudan’s and educating Africa’s future elites at Chinese universities and military schools'. In More than Humanitarianism, the Council on Foreign Relations likewise depicts the leading threat as coming from China:
'China has altered the strategic context in Africa. All across Africa today, China is acquiring control of natural resource assets, outbidding Western contractors on major infrastructure projects, and providing soft loans and other incentives to bolster its competitive advantage.'
China imports more than a quarter of its oil from Africa, primarily Angola, Sudan, and Congo. It is Sudan’s largest foreign investor. It has provided heavy subsidies to Nigeria to increase its influence and has been selling fighter jets there. Most threatening from the standpoint of US grand strategists is China’s US$2 billion low-interest loan to Angola in 2004, which has allowed Angola to withstand IMF demands to reshape its economy and society along neoliberal lines.
For the Council on Foreign Relations, all of this adds up to nothing less than a threat to Western imperialist control of Africa. Given China’s role, the council report says, 'the United States and Europe cannot consider Africa their chasse gardé [private hunting ground], as the French once saw francophone Africa. The rules are changing as China seeks not only to gain access to resources, but also to control resource production and distribution, perhaps positioning itself for priority access as these resources become scarcer'. The council report on Africa is so concerned with combating China through the expansion of US military operations in the region, that none other than Chester Crocker, former assistant secretary of state for African affairs in the Reagan administration, charges it with sounding 'wistfully nostalgic for an era when the United States or the West was the only major influence and could pursue its...objectives with a free hand'.
What is certain is that the US empire is being enlarged to encompass parts of Africa in the rapacious search for oil. The results could be devastating for Africa’s peoples. Like the old scramble for Africa this new one is a struggle among great powers for resources and plunder—not for the development of Africa or the welfare of its population.
A Grand Strategy of Enlargement
Despite the rapidly evolving strategic context and the shift to a more naked imperialism in recent years, there is a consistency in US imperial grand strategy, which derives from the broad agreement at the very top of the US power structure that the United States should seek 'global supremacy', as President Jimmy Carter’s former National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski put it.
The Council on Foreign Relations’ 2006 report on More Than Humanitarianism, which supports the enlargement of US grand strategy to take in Africa, was co-chaired by Anthony Lake, National Security Advisor to Clinton from 1993–1997 and Christine Todd Whitman, former head of the Environmental Protection Agency under Bush. As Clinton’s National Security Advisor, Lake played a leading role in defining the U.S. grand strategy in the Clinton administration. In a speech entitled 'From Containment to Enlargement', delivered to the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University on September 21, 2003, he declared that with the collapse of the Soviet Union the United States was the world’s 'dominant power...we have the world’s strongest military, its largest economy and its most dynamic, multiethnic society....We contained a global threat to market democracies; now we should seek to enlarge, their reach. The successor to a doctrine of containment must be a strategy of enlargement'. Translated this meant an expansion of the sphere of world capitalism under the US military-strategic umbrella. The chief enemies of this new world order were characterized by Lake as the 'backlash states', especially Iraq and Iran. Lake’s insistence, in the early Clinton era, on a grand 'strategy of enlargement for the United States is being realized today in the enlargement of the US military role not only in Central Asia and the Middle East, but also in Africa.
US imperial grand strategy is less a product of policies generated in Washington by this or that wing of the ruling class, than an inevitable result of the power position that US capitalism finds itself in at the commencement of the twenty-first century. US economic strength (along with that of its closest allies) has been ebbing fairly steadily. The great powers are not likely to stand in the same relation to each other economically two decades hence. At the same time, US world military power has increased relatively with the demise of the Soviet Union. The United States now accounts for about half of all of the world’s military spending—a proportion two or more times its share of world output.
The goal of the new US imperial grand strategy is to use this unprecedented military strength to preempt emerging historical forces by creating a sphere of full-spectrum dominance so vast, now encompassing every continent, that no potential rivals will be able to challenge the United States decades down the line. This is a war against the peoples of the periphery of the capitalist world and for the expansion of world capitalism, particularly US capitalism. But it is also a war to secure a 'New American Century' in which third world nations are viewed as 'strategic assets' within a larger global geopolitical struggle
The lessons of history are clear: attempts to gain world dominance by military means, though inevitable under capitalism, are destined to fail and can only lead to new and greater wars. It is the responsibility of those committed to world peace to resist the new US imperial grand strategy by calling into question imperialism and its economic taproot: capitalism itself.
* John Bellamy Foster is a journalist, sociologist, essayist as well as editor of the (US) Monthly Review.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at pambazuka.org
1. V. I. Lenin, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism (New York: International Publishers, 1939), 119.
2. Richard B. Du Boff, 'U.S Empire,' Monthly Review 55, no. 7 (December 2003): 1–2; Dominic Wilson & Roopa Purshothaman, 'Dreaming with BRICs', Goldman Sachs Global Economics Paper, no. 99 (October 1, 2003), 4, http://www.gs.com/
3. Robert J. Art, A Grand Strategy for America (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2003), 1–11.
4. Noam Chomsky, Failed States (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2006), 254–55; Lutz Kleveman, The New Great Game (New York: Grove Press, 2004).
5. See Pierre Abramovici, 'United States: The New Scramble for Africa', Le Monde Diplomatique (Engish edition), July 2004; Revealed: The New Scramble for Africa', The Guardian, June 1, 2005.
6. Fred Kempe, 'Africa Emerges as a Strategic Battlefield', Wall Street Journal, April 25, 2006.
7. Council on Foreign Relations, More Than Humanitarianism: A Strategic U.S. Approach Toward Africa, 2006, xiii.
8. Council on Foreign Relations, More Than Humanitarianism, 59.
9. Center for Strategic and International Studies, A Strategic U.S. Approach to Governance and Security in the Gulf of Guinea, July 2005, 3.
10. Council on Foreign Relations, More Than Humanitarianism, 24, 133; Jeffrey Taylor, 'Worse Than Iraq?', Atlantic, April 2006, 33–34.
11. Council on Foreign Relations, More Than Humanitarianism, 40.
12. Council on Foreign Relations, More Than Humanitarianism, 52–53, 131.
13. Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Grand Chessboard (New York: Basic Books, 1997), 3.
14. Anthony Lake, 'From Containment to Enlargement', speech to School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University, September 21, 2003, http://www.mtholyoke.ed/
The above is a shortened version of the piece originally published in the Monthly Review.
Ghana at 50: Nkrumah never dies
Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem returns from a weekend in Accra where they are busy preparing to celebrate 50 years of independence. For Ghana’s ruling party, the New Patriotic Party and President Kuffour, the 50th anniversary celebrations are problematic. How do they celebrate the legacy of Nkrumah and Pan-Africanism when they and their forbearers opposed him and his party, the CPP (Convention People’s Party)? Well, they do so by having the 'mother of all parties' and attempting to make political gain out of the celebrations.
Last weekend I was in Accra to participate in a symposium at the Great Halof the University of Ghana, Legon. It was organised by a coalition of Nkrumahist and other prgressive forces under the aegis of the African People’s Platform.
The choice of the dates (23-24 February 2007) for the two day workshops were not accidental. On 24 February 1966 the government of Dr Kwame Nkrumah, founder, leader of the independent state of Ghana, and trail-blazer of the anti-colonial movement and foremost Pan-Africanist leader of the mid-2oth century and probably most popular of all times, was overthrown in a military coup orchestrated by domestic reactionary forces and their imperialist backers notably the ex-colonial masters, Britain and their American cousins through the CIA. Two monographs compiled by the Socialist Forum of Ghana: 'THE GREAT DECEPTION: The role of the CIA and right wing forces in the overthrow of Nkrumah', and 'FIGHT BACK: A Response to anti-Nkrumah provocations' refreshes our memories about the local and international context of the various challenges that Nkrumah faced both in life and even in death.
Amidst the official celebratory mood, the Legon symposium sought to situate the independence struggles and Ghana’s emancipation within the context of: the ideals of the Osagyefo on Ghanaian, African and World politics; The fight for freedom, justice and the continuation of the anti-imperialist struggles today; and the struggles of ordinary peoples for a just new economic and social order. It is part of the many alternative celebrations by Ghanaians who feel marginalised by the official anniversary or are dissatisfied with the Opportunistic politics of the celebrations.
President Kuffour is generally seen as a very decent man especially outside Ghana but even many domestic opponents will give him the benefit of the doubt. However ordinary decency is not enough when it comes to state craft. For instance many Nigerians will attest to former head of state, General Yakubu Gowon’s honesty as a person and swear by his personal integrity even more than 20 years after his overthrow. But in the same breath they will condem the profligacy and crass incompetence of his administration in managing post Civil war Nigeria. There are too many uncomfortable parallels with Ghana’s Mr Nice guy President who overwhelms people with his gentlemanliness!. Politically it is too apologetic to continue to perpetrate the sophistry of ‘the good leader ... bad advisers’ about our leaders. If they are so good how come they surround themselves with ‘bad people’. They choose these advisers so they should have responsibility for accepting or not accepting their advice. The flip side of this of course is the disclaimer by many of these advisers soon after they are booted out of office or the president is shown the back door. They mostly come with claims of ‘we told him but he did not listen’. They never tell the public why they remained with a client who never follow their advice. They are all
guilty of political opportunism and that’s why they can only give excuses for their conducts but no convincing explanations.
President Kuffour and the ruling New Patriotic Party have a wider political problem about celebrating Ghana’s 5oth annivessary. They come from the anti –Nkrumahist tradition of Danquah-Busia political families. Their forebears even opposed Nkrumah and the CPP when he moved ‘THE MOTION OF DESTINY” that heralded the final exit of the British colonialists. They collaborated with imperialism to overthrow Nkrumah thereby orphaning not just Ghana but the African revolution. Ironically Kuffour’s victory is the first time that reactionary political group has ever won a democratic election (Busia’s victory was orchestrated by the military junta). The poachers of independence struggle have now become the game keepers hence their ambiguity and cheap politics about the celebrations.
They are trying to celebrate and have the mother of all parties, make enormous political, diplomatic, commercial, cultural, tourism and all kinds of gains from the land mark but are pained to acknowledge the main architect of not only Ghana’s independence but a man who represents the best in the aspirations of Africans for liberty, freedom and dignity.
It is not a dishonour to Nkrumah but a reflection of the small mindedness of Mr Kuffour’s party because for many people inside and outside Ghana the independence of Ghana was not conceivable without the courageous leadership of the Osagyefo. As Basil Davidson said of Liberation struggles in Portuguese Africa 'no hand is big enough to cover the sky'. Nkrumah does not need governments and presidents to remember him as he continues to be an inspiration for millions of Africans and freedom loving peoples across the world.
It does not mean that Nkrumah did not have his own faults as a person or a leader but he has endured because no one since after him has come near his socio-economic and political achievements for Ghana. For many decades until the latter years of Rawlings’ rule and now Ghanaians did not know power shedding as is common among their richer cousins, oil-cursed Nigeria. When Nkrumah conceived of the Akosombo and the Volta Dam projects they were not meant for Ghana alone but for the whole region. He also did not see it as merely provision of electricity but within a wider industrialisation strategy. This point was discussed in detail by Yao Graham of the Third World Network within the context of energy privatisation in Ghana and the West Coast of Africa.
At the Pan-African level we have not seen another leader who has been so inspiring in his example of complete dedication to the ideals of Pan-Africanism and a better humanity. Many pretenders have come forward and but have not had the staying power of the Osagyefo. Today many of them scramble to be friends of imperialism (now euphemistically referred to as donors, development partners, friends from abroad etc betraying their peoples, Africa and the possibilities of a better humanity at the alter personal power.
It is too petty to deny our nationalist heroes/heroines their place of honor in our history simply because our masters of today were either not born then or played no role in them or were on the opposite side of freedom or even on account of what those nationalist leaders may have become later. History is a lived experience that cannot be erased.
It is not only Kuffour and the ruling party of Ghana that are ambiguous about Nkrumah. Even the former military dictator turned reluctant democrat, Jerry John Rawlings has always been anti-Nkrumah. in typical empty populism he claimed that there was nothing to celebrate in the 5O years of Ghana's independence. He was so much in a hurry not to give any credit to Nkrumah that he even forgot that 20 of the 50 years he was rubbishing were under his misrule. Nkrumah was in power for only 10 years and yet all the other forty years combined have not equalled his record!
There are many 50th anniversaries coming up in the next few years and it would be interesting to see how the present occupants of our state lodges celebrate them . For instance how would President Museveni and the increasingly exclusionist and revisionist NRM government (if they are still in power) celebrate Uganda’s 50th anniversary in a few years time? Would they try to write Obote/UPC out it or downplay his role as the NPP is doing and not succeeding with Nkrumah? How would Guinea mark its 50th anniversary next year, with or without its dead-but-not yet buried military dictator who took over after the death of the radical Nationalist, Ahmed Sekou Toure who was a popular leader but made many mistakes too.
If current leaders are sure of their own loyalties and commitment to the cause of their peoples they will not need to be hunted by the legacy of their predecessors. So unsure of their place in history that some of them like Museveni are beginning to honor themselves with statutes completely oblivious to what happened to other self-worshipping gestures most recently Saddam’s many statutes in Iraq that were pulled down with glee once the myth of immortality with which dictators always decorate themselves.
For many years Museveni refused to allow any street to be named after him and also have his picture on the national currency like previouis leaders. But now he has started launching his own statues. May be he does not trust Ugandans to honor him after he leaves office or dies, so he is on a 'DO IT YOURSELF' narcissism. A sage once said: greatness does not abide in how many honors one has BUT IN DESERVING THEM.
Dr Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem, is Deputy Director, Africa, UN millennium Campaign and more recently General-Secretary of the Global Pan-African Movement.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at www.pambazuka.org
De-colonizing the Mind
Ngugi wa Thiong’o is a controversial man! I read some chapters from his Decolonizing the Mind and it was deeply thought-provoking. It made me think especially about what I want to call myself. Let me explain. Most bloggers consider themselves authors, writers. I call myself a writer. (A soon to be published African writer! Am I?
I suppose the answer to that would depend on how I define an African writer. For me, anyone who writes and is African, is an African writer. We will not go into what it means to be African because that is a whole different kettle of fish. So if I am African but set my story in space with a Marsian protagonist, I am still an African writer. But if Bill Gates wrote a novel set in Accra with a spear-wielding 'native' that would not make him an African writer. I think this explanation would go down well with most. It’s simply a question of geography and/or race. Or is it? Ngugi doesn’t think so. Indeed according to him, I am not an African writer at all!
'…"the whole uncritical acceptance of English and French as the inevitable medium for educated African writing is misdirected, and has no chance of advancing African literature and culture...until African writers accepted that any true African literature must be written in African languages, they would merely be pursuing a dead end."'
This is a quote from Obi Wali who Ngugi agrees with in his book. Ngugi himself says:
'What is the difference between a politician who says Africa cannot do without imperialism and the writer who says Africa cannot do without European languages?'
So what this means for me, by Ngugi’s assesment of an African who writes in English, is that I am actually an Afro-European writer. As someone who does not identify in any way with Europe, I find this hard to swallow. The implications are a little too disturbing. The category 'African writers' is now reserved for an elite few who can write in their local languages. There is also the practical aspect to consider. How many people can read your local language? For many of us, our languages are not internationally spoken. But Ngugi has stopped writing in English, opting for his mother tongue, Gikuyu. So how does he circumvent the question of practicality? His books are translated. And that is where my problem lies.
Ngugi’s main contention is that language is a carrier of culture. It expresses and communicates ideas in a way in which a foreign language cannot. It also shapes our world view. If there is no word for 'bomb' in your language, chances are you wouldn’t think much about bombs if that was the only language you knew. So clearly the 'African-ness' of your work would be lost if you wrote in English. But think of how much can be lost in translation. Is this all just mental gymnastics then? Is Ngugi talking the talk but not walking the walk? Am I really an African writer, especially since my first language is English? And then there are those writers who would, under my criteria, fall under the category of 'African writer' but say they are not. To what extent does self-definition shape the work you produce?
* Annie Quarcoopome is from Ghana and is studying Comparative Literature in the US. She is a blogger at Blacklooks.org
what if you were a flower
and your roots were lodged
on that part of earth that
separates Israel from Palestine?
would you give your scent to Israel
your beauty to Palestine
or withhold both?
what if you were a bee
and at some point in your buzzing about
you stopped to draw nectar
from the flower rooted on the edge
of the green line that separates Israel from Palestine?
would you make your nest
in Tel Aviv maybe Bethlehem, or on no strip at all?
what if you were a honey farmer
and you made a living selling
honey that you got from the hive
in which lived the bee
that got its nectar from the flower
that struggled for six days to sprout
and take root along the frame of the wall
that separates Israel from Palestine?
would you sell its texture to Israel
its sweetness to Palestine,
or forfeit the sale?
what if you were a tongue
and on you rolled the taste of the honey
you bought from the farmer
who got it from the hive, in which lived the bee
that got its nectar from the flower (watered by blood)
and rooted on that part of earth
that separates fear from hope?
would you savour its sweetness
spew out its bitterness, or plain ignore the taste in between?
* Lindiwe Nkutha is a poet, storyteller and film maker based in South Africa
Somalia and the US peace movement
This year’s World Social Forum was held in Nairobi Kenya, the first in the African continent. Many who participated in it have written their accounts of the Forum, and the significance to the movement building towards another, a better world. What seemed to be missing from the accounts I’ve read is that while we were in Nairobi, the US bombed the East African country Somalia in what was falsely justified as a move to eradicate Al Queda operatives in the Horn of Africa.
In the many workshops dealing with peace and security held at the Forum, few raised the importance of our presence in Kenya, a country which has played a key role in providing support for US military offensive against neighboring Somalia.
The increasing US military role in Africa should be a concern to all of us and the January 23rd bombing of a defenseless people, while the Social Forum was on its 3rd day, should have raised alarm from the progressive peace movement. US military attack of Somalia should be seen parallel to US aggression in Iraq and Afghanistan.
How then to explain the silence of the US peace movement on Somalia. Perhaps US-based organisations don’t have the proper analytical framework from which to understand the significance of the Horn of Africa region. Perhaps it is because Somalia is largely seen as a country with no government and in perpetual chaos, with 'fundamental Islamic' forces not deserving of defense against the military attacks by US in search of 'terrorists'.
The US has officially made known the intention to have the largest US military presence in Africa, known as AfricCom. The rationale for this of course is to curb further spread of Islamic fundamentalists presence in Sub Sahara Africa which viewed as open ground for possible Al Queda recruitment.
US political and military alliance with Ethiopia – which openly violated international law in its aggression towards Somalia, is destabilizing the Horn region and begins a new shift in the way the US plans to have permanent and active military presence in Africa.
Four days after the bombing of Somalia, one of the largest peace protest was held in Washington DC on 27 January. Somalia remained off the agenda by the expressed intent of the organizers to keep single focus on Iraq and ‘bringing the troops home’.
Does this mean the US public only responds to messages of peace as narrowly defined as securing the safety of US military personnel in Iraq? Visions of the global peace movement cannot be limited the interests and concerns for particular geographic areas and people. What drove hundreds of thousands out to the Washington DC protest in the friging cold weather is beyond self-interest and the concern for all lives, Iraqi, American, Afghani and Somali !
Somalia goes to the relevance (or irrelevance?) of Africa in US history; lack of proper framework from which to understand current political events in the continent and ways of engaging the general public.
It is bad enough that the Washington Consensus views Africa through the lens of national security concerns, or as a source of oil and other minerals. The peace movement, which speaks for all peace-loving people in the US and the world, should maintain a different perspective if we are to move towards the vision that 'another world is possible'.
* Nunu Kidane is Network Coordinator for Priority Africa Network (PAN) based in Oakland, California – email@example.com
Mis-representation of Africa
I just read the article 'The mis-representation of Africa' by Selome Araya and largely agree with its point of view. However, Ms Araya is one of the many, many people, Africans and non-Africans, who have written similar articles denouncing those campaigns and organisations that, despite being mostly well intentioned, do more to perpetuate myths and sterotypes about Africa rather than afford African peoples the dignity and accuracy of representation that any of us non-Africans would expect. What I think would be much more poignant and instructive is if writers like Ms Araya would themselves produce materials that report on African events, peoples, etc. in the manner they feel does them justice. Perhaps Pambazuka News could run a series of articles that intentionally do this. Why not run some mock ad campaigns by mocking NGOs that work to address issues in African countries but that represent those countries and peoples in the manner Ms Araya and many of us would prefer? It's called teaching by example.
* Gary Kenny Program Co-ordinator for Southern Africa Justice, Global and Ecumenical Relations Unit, United Church of Canada
Review of African Blogs
African Painters - is a blog on contemporary African art. In this post he features Ugandan artist, Eria Sane Nsubuga and his latest exhibition 'A piece of Sane art'.
'The jovial Nsubuga began commercial art in 1999 at the age of 20. Nsubuga's work isn't the abstract art that is hard to understand...' He says he's inspired by nature and human activity and most of his paintings and sculptures are of flora and fauna. 'People here want to buy art pieces that are overtly explainable. It's European customers that want the complicated art work. That's why my art is plain and simple.'
The post includes a slide show of some of Nsubuga’s works which may be plain and simple but is full of the vibrancy and colours of Africa.
Black History for Schools - is yes a blog about Black History but not just for schools. It mainly focuses on black British history and the Caribbean and also has a resource section and an excellent set of links related to African and black diasporan history. For those readers in London, he alongside Dr Hakim Adi will be at the Institute of Education, discussing ways in which teachers in the UK can mainstream black and Asian history.
'Some of the areas for discussion will stimulate a lot of debate:
How are empire and the struggle for emancipation and reconciliation represented in our teaching and learning about African and Caribbean history and heritage?
What is "black and Asian history" and should it be mainstreamed?
What are the resources and politics involved in moving the subject forward?
How is the legacy of slavery implicated in contemporary constructions of British identity and citizenship?'
Squatter City - has a report on the local 'fish smoking' industry in one of Lagos’s shanty towns, Makoko. Although Makoko is itself located in one of the many rivers that run through to the lagoons and Atlantic ocean, the fish that is being smoked is imported from Europe.
'50-year-old Ogun Dairo tells me that she's been smoking fish for better than 30 years. She purchases the fish from a local refrigerated warehouse that's also in Makoko, but on dry land. For all of the 30 years she's been in the business, she reports, the fish has been imported from Europe. She buys between five and seven large boxes of fish every day, then she smokes the catch.'
The question is: why is a local fishing community buying frozen imported fish from Europe, smoking it and in some cases exporting it back to the markets of London and other European cities for Nigerian consumers. One of the reasons is that small fisherman and women have been pushed out of business by the commercial fishing trawlers that scoop up huge quantities of sea life (for every 20 tons of fish, 1 ton is dumped dead back into the sea). Another reason is pollution of the rivers from oil from ships and tankers as well as garbage human and animal faeces and other waste that is dumped in the rivers.
Kenyan Blogger, Thinkers Room - who blogs anonymously under the pseudonym 'M' has a hilarious post on the reported demise of one 'M' reported in a Kenyan newspaper.
'You can imagine my acute consternation! To date no one has had the decency to tell me to my face that I had been shot dead in Athi-River! So I have been happily going around my business alive and kicking!'
He goes on to report by the Kibaki government on their achievements. Under 'women empowerment' they list that women are 'guaranteed at least a third of all public employment opportunities' and that 'mothers and children are recognised as key players in development'.
So, all women and children of Kenya in case you did not know it, you are now empowered and recognised as KEY members of society! Why because Kibaki says so and if he says so then it must be true.
What An African Women Wants - posts on the pitfalls of being a single woman traveller in Kenya and trying to get a hotel.
'Eventually, after a great deal of drama which I choose not to go into here, I found myself a decent place to stay at a price I was willing to pay. But the trials of a single woman are far from over.
At the reception, as I sign in:
Guy at the reception: Will your husband be joining you?
Me: No, just me.
Guy creases brow and thinks.
Guy: Who will be paying your bills. (seriously, he asks me this. Yes I know this is Watamum but seriously, he asks me this.)
Me: (trying to be calm. My feet are aching, the rucksack on my back feels like a sack of potatoes.) Me.
And so it continued. But all is not lost as now in 2007 women of Kenya (remember they are now empowered and a Key part of society – see above) hotels are finally beginning to take the single woman traveller seriously!
Ethiopian blog, Lela-Tensae-ETA Moonlight - celebrates Black History month by posting some “hidden facts about African Americans” – inventors amongst the community.
'They made their way over to the car, and found that it just wouldn’t go. You see, Richard Spikes, a black man, invented the automatic gearshift and Joseph Gammel invented the supercharge system for internal combustion engines. They noticed that the few cars that were moving were running into each other and having wrecks because there were no traffic signals. You see, Garrett A. Morgan, a black man invented the traffic light.'
Black Looks - comments on the difficultities for Africans wanting to get visas to visit the West.
'Queues! Waking up at the crack of dawn countless times, to get to the American embassy in the capital, to be subjected to hunger, to rain and wind and abusive Ghanaian security guards who can only bully to relieve their sense of powerlessness. But again, I always had at least one of my parents with me…they would miss work for this. And I didn’t have to hustle with public transport, we had a driver........I’m thinking about visas because I wanted to go to London this spring break. My friends are all jetting off to exotic places but I have to get a visa for many of these places. I let slip to my friend that I can’t go to London with her because the British require me to have a visa, although they didn’t need one when they were coming to colonize my country. She asked me if I was bitter. Ha! Do I sound bitter?'
A friend of mine from Nigeria recently visited me in Spain and had to go through a similar scenario with the addition of being told to produce photos of Granada and bring them back to the Spanish embassy on her return as if not she would never be allowed to enter Spain again – work that one out? Needless to say, she has not and will not be taking the photos to the embassy.
* Sokari Ekine produces the blog Black Looks, and is Online News Editor of Pambazuka News.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at pambazuka.org
Caine Prize winner Segun Afolabi speaks to Pambazuka News
Segun Afolabi, winner of the 2005 Caine Prize for African Writing, the leading literary prize for short stories from the African continent, speaks to Robtel Pailey of Pambazuka News. In the podcast, Segun, from Nigeria, reads an excerpt from his award winning short story 'Monday Morning'. He discusses the impact of winning the prize on his literary success, the situation of publishing in Africa, and the themes of migration, diaspora, memory and loss.
Segun Afolabi's winning story is available in a collection of Caine Prize entries entitled, The Obituary Tango (New Internationalist , 2006). The story is reproduced in this podcast with the kind permission of Random House.
The music in this podcast is brought to you by Busi Ncube from Zimbabwe and kindly provided by Thulani Promotions.
Kenya: China Selling off the Kenya oil rights it got free
There was outrage among European oil exploration companies interested in Kenya when it emerged last week that the state-owned National Oil Corporation of China — CNOOC — has quietly put out notices offering to farm out to third parties some of the oil exploration blocks granted to it by President Mwai Kibaki in April last year.
Human Rights Book Fair
The African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS) will hold an African Human Rights Book Fair in Accra, Ghana starting May 12 to 14, 2007. The book fair will take place on the occasion of the 41st Ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. It seeks to support networking amongst NGOs through exchange of materials, information sharing and publicity of activities on human rights advocacy. Attached are two brochures (English and French versions) which provide additional details on the book fair.
Ghana: Market women and micro-finance
In a bustling Ghana marketplace female entrepreneurs borrow small sums from a micro-finance institution. The loans aren't cheap--annual interest rates are around 36 percent--but a few borrowers explain how the money still helps out.
Global: UN rights chief calls for action to tackle ‘plague’ of violence against women
Progress has been made already this year in protecting human rights worldwide, such as the recent adoption of a convention against enforced disappearances and other legislation, the top United Nations rights officer has said, but she stressed that more must be done in other areas, particularly to curb the “plague” of violence against women.
Zambia: ZARD launches new website
The Zambia association for Research & Development (ZARD) has launched a new website, www.widnet.org.zm under its WIDNet Programme. The Women's Information for Development Network (WIDNet) is the place for information on the status of women and girls in Zambia.
Zimbabwe: Zimbabwe women still far from liberation
Though women in Zimbabwe are finding a greater place in the national economy, this is not necessarily translating into real growth and leadership. Zimbabwe women mastering the current crisis may lead an increasing number of households and enterprises, but still totally fail to promote their sisters to gain economic freedom.
Global: Haitian colonel ordered to pay $4.3 million for human rights abuses
A federal jury in Miami has found Colonel Carl Dorélien, a former member of the Haitian Military's High Command, liable for torture, extrajudicial killing, arbitrary detention and crimes against humanity suffered by plaintiffs Lexiuste Cajuste, Marie Jeanne Jean and her two young children.
Global: New Report on Youth In Crisis
In a newly published report, ‘Youth in Crisis’ In-Depth, IRIN traces the impact of the events shaping the lives of a generation of youth rapidly reaching adulthood bearing the tragic consequences of their nations’ worst problems - from the illegal forced marriage of teenage girls in Afghanistan and Ethiopia, to the tripling of school fees and the deteriorating education system in Zimbabwe.
Guinea: A state of suspension
An explosive political crisis is subsiding. But the west African state is still caught between an ailing autocrat, a desperate people and an uncertain future, says Gilles Yabi for OpenDemocracy.
Morocco: Sahrawis organise conference on liberated land
For the first time in decades, the deserted Western Sahara village of Tifariti is reawakening to life. Located in the strip of land close to the Mauritanian desert border that is under the control of the Sahrawi pro-independence movement Polisario, Tifariti today is hosting "more than 800 delegates" participating in an international solidarity conference.
South Africa: New Report on abuse of undocumented migrants
Human Rights Watch has released a report - “Keep Your Head Down” Unprotected Migrants in South Africa - in which it details how South African officials involved in the arrest and deportation of undocumented migrant workers often assault and extort money from them, and commercial farmers employing them routinely violate their basic labor rights.
Botswana: Court ruling on Bushmen now available
A copy of the landmark ruling made by the Botswana High Court in the case of the Kalahari Bushmen against the Botswana government is now available online, Survival International reports. The court ruled that the Botswana government’s eviction of the Bushmen was ‘unlawful and unconstitutional’, and that they have the right to live on their ancestral land inside the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.
Chad: Funds sought for Internally Displaced
The UN refugee agency on Tuesday issued a US$6.2 million supplementary appeal to fund protection and assistance programmes for tens of thousands of internally displaced people (IDPs) in eastern Chad.
DRC: UNHCR-assisted refugee returns to DRC from Tanzania top 25,000
The number of people helped by UNHCR to return to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) from Tanzania has hit the 25,000 mark. The UNHCR-assisted return programme for Congolese refugees in Tanzania began in October 2005, and as UNHCR reports, the challenges of sustainable reintegration are becoming greater as more and more people opt to return home.
Gambia: Senegalese youth jailed for Spain emigration attempt
A Gambian court ordered a month's jail term for 37 Senegalese illegal migrants that had tried embarking for Spain, after they were proven guilty to the charges brought against them.
Libya: NGO pledges to support UNHCR in North Africa
The chairman of Libya's International Organisation for Peace, Care and Relief (IOPCR) pledged on Monday in Geneva to support UNHCR's work on behalf of refugees caught in mixed migratory movements in North Africa.
Senegal: Opposition rejects results
The Socialist Party (PS), which has supported the candidature of its leader Ousmane Tanor Dieng, in the recent presidential election in Senegal, has rejected the results proclaimed by the registration and voters Commission. According to Maitre Aissata Tall Sall, campaign manager of the candidate, there was a lot of fraud and irregularities during the scrutiny.
Senegal: Wade re-elected
Senegal's veteran leader Abdoulaye Wade has won a second term in the country's presidential elections, according to provisional results. But one of the leading opposition parties, the Socialist Party, which ruled the country for four decades before being ousted by Wade in 2000 elections, said it would contest the outcome of the vote.
Kenya: Crime, corruption harming Kenyan economy - UN
The United Nations says crime is hampering the growth of east Africa's largest economy by forcing businesses to spend heavily on private security services in the absence of effective policing, according to a report by Reuters.
Kenya: Sacked executives told to refund $0.12m
Two former top executives of the state-owned Kenya Reinsurance Corporation (Kenya Re) who were sacked recently to allow investigations into allegations of financial irregularities in the company may be forced to refund Ksh8.5 million ($121,400) to the corporation.
Liberia: Ex-President charged with corruption
The government of Liberia formally charged the country's former Interim President, Gyude Bryant, with theft. He led the country after the world community had sacked Charles Taylor from power and headed the transition into today's democratic regime.
Africa: Call to arms over Western governments' farm subsidies
Africa needs to develop a new global campaign that will target the attention of the public in Europe and the US, in its battle against Western governments over farm subsidies. A meeting of women parliamentarians held in Kigali last week was told that by sensitising the public in the West to the injustices caused by the subsidies, Western governments could be pressured by their own populations to act on the matter.
Africa: Kagame seeks dialogue over Nile Waters
Delegates from 10 countries in the East Africa region gathered in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, last week to mark the first River Nile Day, with most discussions focussing on the need to share water resources equitably in order to avoid conflict. The Nile Basin Initiative is supposed to benefit equally all of the countries in the Nile Basin. “Positive development in one country can have similar effects for the rest of the countries,” said Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame.
Africa: UNDP Says African Privatisation Fails
The UNDP has published a policy research brief which draws on the findings of a UNDP-supported book, Privatization and Alternative Public Sector Reform in Sub-Saharan Africa (Bayliss and Fine, forthcoming). It analyses the effects of privatisation on the delivery of water and electricity. Its chief conclusion is that privatisation has been a widespread failure.
Kenya: Reviving the vital cotton sector
Kenya's cotton industry, once one of the country's main foreign exchange earners, declined substantially following liberalization of the sector in 1991. However, efforts are now being made to address problems bedeviling the cotton sector, including a government-led campaign under the auspices of 'Kenya Vision 2030'.
Liberia: Government takes aim at unemployment
The Liberian government has completed a short-term national poverty reduction plan to tackle the country's massive unemployment. The plan outlines four key areas of poverty alleviation, but principally centres on job creation.
Swaziland: Community gardens flourish to feed the vulnerable
NGOs in Swaziland are shifting the emphasis of their operations from handouts of donated foodstuffs to training households and communities to set up projects that produce food and generate income, to find a lasting solution to perennial food shortages.
Global: Male Circumcision and HIV: A Broader analysis is required
There have been a large number of studies dating back to the late eighties that have looked at the correlation between male circumcision – or lack thereof – and the risk of contracting HIV. The evidence from these studies shows a relatively high reduction in the risk of infection as a result of circumcision. As is the norm, these studies have to different degrees accounted for possible confounding variables, but do not pretend to delve into the broader socio-cultural issues that attend the problem. The studies have been predominantly medical in nature, and there is still a dearth of sociological research on the subject.
In an insightful article published in the Cape Times, Professor Jonny Myers alludes to the element of cultural hegemony underlying the almost casual way in which male circumcision is being mooted. He points to the ease with which groups who have traditionally circumcised males advocate for its cooptation into the AIDS fighting arsenal. Some of the medical evidence on the benefits of circumcision has been refuted, or at least reasonably challenged over in the last few years. Among these was reduced risk of penile cancer, urinary tract infections, sexually transmitted infections, and better hygiene. Today, medical reasons for routine male circumcision are not widely accepted.
To be clear, any intervention that helps the fight against the spread of AIDS merits utmost consideration. However, the more difficult to implement the intervention, the greater the efficacy standard required for it to pass muster.
One still gets the sense of a widely held misconception that those communities that do not practise male circumcision simply ‘neglect’ to do so. In fact, one could argue that not practising male circumcision is characterised by the same level of conviction as practising it. Some communities that do not circumcise males have other rites of passage that serve the same purpose. Introducing male circumcision in populations that do not practise it will require a “de-culturization” of the procedure.
A major obstacle that has characterised the fight against AIDS has been how to change deeply entrenched behaviour. How much more difficult will this be if the behaviour in deeply entrenched in cultural practises. In Western Kenya, for example, where certain communities practise ‘wife inheritance’ it has taken a serious re-orientation of cultural beliefs to make any headway. Furthermore, this has only been successful because sexual relations as a key factor in the spread of the disease are but a peripheral and dispensable aspect of the practise.
Another key consideration is how the underlying assumption that circumcision provides a measure of protection can lead to increased risky sexual behaviour. It is debatable whether the fight against the pandemic has achieved the levels of knowledge and attitudes requisite to reasonable counter this. The most successful communication campaigns have sought to minimize this risk by combining messages, for example, condom-use with abstinence and faithfulness.
Finally, this unfolding debate provides yet another unwelcome detraction from the fact that there still remains a dire need to expand basic health services to the majority who do not have it. This is arguably the biggest factor in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Yet it seems like we are about to ask for these over-stretched and ill-equipped services to add a surgical procedure to their list!
Circumcision is no silver bullet in Aids fight
Does Cicumcision reduce HIV risks?
Male circumcision: a role in HIV prevention?
AIDS: Male Circumcision ‘is the key’
Swaziland: Home-based care system expanding
Home-based care in Swaziland is increasingly being relied on to compensate for the inadequacies of a public health system buckling under the weight of the country's HIV/AIDS pandemic.
Gambia: UN rep expelled after comment on president’s AIDS cure
The government of The Gambia gave the most senior United Nations official in the country 48 hours to leave the country starting Friday 23 February, following remarks she made criticising Gambian President Yahya Jammeh’s widely-publicised cure for HIV/AIDS.
Global: UN warns of 'lethal' fake drugs
Fake prescription medicines are swamping developing nations with sometimes deadly consequences, a report by the UN drugs watchdog has said. The International Narcotics Control Board report says up to 50% of the medicines in these markets are fake.
Africa: Drug-maker launches cut-price malaria pill for Africa
French drug-maker Sanofi-Aventis has launched a new cheap and easy-to-take combination pill to fight malaria that could help reduce deaths from the killer disease in Africa, it said on Thursday.
Malawi: Aids-ravaged Malawi debates male circumcision
Aids-ravaged Malawi launched a two-day national debate on Wednesday on whether to adopt male circumcision in a bid to reduce the levels of HIV infection in the south-east African country.
Africa: Breastfeeding benefits may outweigh HIV risks - study
The benefits of breastfeeding outweigh the risks of virus transmission from HIV-positive mothers to their children, according to studies conducted in four African nations.
Global: Unhygienic circumcision 'increases risk of HIV' - study
The circumcision procedure itself carries a significant risk of HIV transmission if carried out under unsafe conditions, according to a study. The research, published in the March issue of Annals of Epidemiology, adds to the debate over the use of male circumcision for the prevention of HIV infection.
Africa: Calls to improve post-primary education in Eastern and Southern Africa
Experts and education officials from 20 countries in Eastern and Southern Africa are calling upon governments and development agencies to pay greater attention to the large number of children who fail to proceed to secondary school because of limited opportunities.
South Africa: Education against the odds
Thirteen years ago a secondary school in Soweto, South Africa's most populous black urban residential area, was little different from the majority of the country's schools: dilapidated, under staffed and crime ridden, with the vast majority of its students struggling to pass their exams.
Zimbabwe: Soaring tuition fees deprive youth of education
Zimbabwean parents not only have to contend with fees they cannot afford, but also with expensive essentials like uniforms, which now cost 600 times more than they did in 2006.
Africa: One step forward, two steps back for Africa's gay people
The issue of lesbian and gay Africans' human rights again came to the fore recently as Anglican Church leaders met in Tanzania amid the continuing row over the consecration of a gay United States bishop in 2003. An ultimatum was sent from the conference in Dar es Salaam to US bishops to make a commitment that same-sex unions would not be blessed.
Nigeria: Out of the closet in Nigeria
Coming out of the closet in Nigerian society, is not for the faint-hearted; it's not even for the publicity-seeking. But in October 2004, Bisi Alimi - in a first - calmly revealed his homosexuality on live television. He did so on New Dawn, a popular talk show on the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), in an atmosphere of transparent hostility.
South Africa: 'Out In Africa' comes of age
The Out In Africa (OIA) gay and lesbian film festival, South Africa's most popular film festival, is well into its teens. And appropriately, now in its thirteenth year, there are some big changes afoot.
South Africa: Gay couple asked to 'cover up' on flight
A British businessman and his South African partner have brought sexual discrimination claims against a major airline to the Human Rights Commission (HRC) after they were ordered by an air hostess to "cover up" while on a domestic flight earlier this month.
South Africa: Same-sex marriages 'will destroy the zulus'
The Civil Union Act, which legalised same-sex marriages, 'marked the end of the Zulu nation and its way of life'. This was the feeling at the opening of a two-day conference of the heads of Zulu warriors and maidens, organised by Local Government and Traditional Affairs MEC Mike Mabuyakhulu, in Durban this month.
Algeria: Fighting desertification through conservation
In May, Algeria will inaugurate a reserve around a small oasis in the south-west where plants and animals are to be protected in the service of a broader goal. Hopes are that the Taghit National Park will help stop the advance of the Sahara Desert, which already stretches across almost all of this North African country (IPS news).
Global: Are recent flood disasters the result of climate change?
It remains difficult, if not impossible, to pin particular disasters such as floods and storms to the phenomenon of climate change. For all the advances of scientists, such precise causality cannot be established. Michael Renner posits that climate change or not, “natural” disasters are of course a frequent occurrence. But it is clear that a destabilized climate system, together with other forms of environmental damage, will cause havoc more frequently.
Global: Environmental impact of livestock sector must be addressed urgently - report
The global livestock sector is socially and politically very significant, creating livelihoods for one billion of the world’s poor and accounting for 40% of agricultural gross domestic product (GDP). A report by Livestock, Environment and Development Initiative (LEAD) finds that the value of the sector is countered by an often extremely high environmental impact.
Global: Soapie actors stand up for Amazon jungle
An open letter demanding "an immediate halt to the deforestation of the Amazon jungle" has been released by Brazilian television stars taking part in the Globo Network series " Amazonia, de Galvez a Chico Mendes" (Amazonia, from Galvez to Chico Mendes).
Niger: The Niger River in intensive-care
Stretching over more than 4,000 kilometres, the Niger is West Africa's longest river, and greatly threatened in the country of the same name by environmental degradation that is causing the water course to silt up, according to an IPS report.
South Africa: Culling and contraception to curb elephant population
South Africa's environment minister on Wednesday proposed contraception and some culling -- but no mass slaughter -- as part of a package of measures to slow rampant elephant population growth.
South Africa: The unfinished business of land reform
Widely reported as "the first farm expropriation", the Commission on the Restitution of Land Rights recently announced that it had expropriated a 25 200ha farm near Barkley West in the Northern Cape to settle a restitution claim by 471 families.
Africa: AU Chief supports press freedom
A delegation of concerned press freedom fighters flew to the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to meet the continental body's Chairperson, Alpha Oumar Konaré. Mr Konaré assured the delegation of his office's support for press freedom in the continent.
DRC: Journalist sentenced in defamation case
The Kalamu Peace Court in the city of Boma, in Bas-Congo province sentenced Popol Ntula Vita, a reporter with the Kinshasa-based weekly "La Cite Africaine", to three months in prison without parole and a fine of US$6,450 in damages. The journalist was prosecuted for "defamation and damaging allegations" against Thomas Ndombasi, the local head of the public tax office (Direction générale des Impôts, DGI), and three of his colleagues.
Egypt: Court Overturns Jail Sentence for Egyptian Journalist
An appeals court in Cairo has overturned a prison sentence for an Egyptian journalist convicted of defaming President Hosni Mubarak. Ibrahim Eissa, the editor of the weekly newspaper al-Dustour, had been sentenced to one year in prison for criticizing Mr. Mubarak. The appeals court overturned the jail term but substituted a fine of almost four thousand dollars.
Gambia: Police break silence on missing journalist, deny arresting him
For the first time during the eight-month disappearance of Chief Ebrima Manneh, a reporter of the pro-government Banjul-based newspaper "Daily Observer", the Gambia Police Force officially denied ever arresting him.
Liberia: Newspaper's licence revoked, premises sealed
The government of Liberia revoked the operational license of "The Independent" newspaper in Monrovia for one year. The decision was announced at a press conference in Monrovia by acting Information Minister Laurence Bropleh. Minister Bropleh said the decision was in response to "The Independent's" publication of a photograph showing former Presidential Affairs Minister Willis Knuckles in a sex scene with two ladies.
Global: African Love Stories: Is that Not an Anomaly? - Panel Discussion
Yaba Badoe and Wangui wa Goro are joined by publisher Becky Clarke and Elleke Boehmer (chair), a specialist in postcolonial writing, to discuss the African Love Stories Anthology, a radical collection of short stories, spanning the continent and featuring challenging themes hitherto considered a taboo.
Thursday, 22 March / 6.30 pm / £7.00 / McKenna Room, Christ Church
Ayebia Clarke Press is a publisher of African and Caribbean literature in English, its mission is to bring both the best new talent and established, award-winning writers to a wider audience. In 2006 Ayebia published the ground-breaking African Love Stories Anthology, including such authors as Nawal El Saadawi, Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie and Helen Oyeyemi. It is a radical collection of short stories, spanning the continent and featuring challenging themes hitherto considered a taboo. To discuss these themes contributors Yaba Badoe and Wangui wa Goro are joined by publisher Becky Clarke and Elleke Boehmer (chair), a specialist in postcolonial writing.
Haiti: Fleeing gangs set up new rural bases
Heavily armed gangs, fleeing Haiti's dangerous slums in the face of U.N. peacekeeper raids, have established new bases in provincial areas, creating panic in rural populations, officials and residents say.
Haiti: Poor residents of capital describe a state of siege
Nearly two months since U.N. troops began launching heavy attacks that they say are aimed against gang members in poor neighbourhoods of Port-au-Prince, roadblocks and barbed wire remain in place and the atmosphere is grim.
Nigeria: Gunmen abduct Lebanese worker in Niger Delta
Gunmen abducted a Lebanese construction worker near the Nigerian oil city of Port Harcourt in the Niger Delta, police said on Wednesday. The kidnapping, at Mbiama community in Rivers state, brought to nine the number of foreigners held by armed groups in the delta, which accounts for all of Nigeria's oil production.
Somalia: First peace-keepers arrive
A small advance team of African Union troops has arrived in Somalia, say officials in the country.Police sources and airport staff in the southern town of Baidoa told a BBC correspondent that 30 soldiers had arrived in the town.
Sudan: Darfur Peace Agreement behind schedule
The implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement is heavily behind schedule. According the UN Secretary-General’s December 2006 report on Darfur, the implementation of the security protocol is behind schedule and the power and wealth-sharing commitments remain largely unaddressed. This is according to the latest briefing by Waging Peace.
Sudan: ICC names former Sudan minister in Darfur war crimes case
The International Criminal Court's prosecutor linked Sudan's government to atrocities in Darfur, naming a junior minister as a war crimes suspect who helped recruit, arm and bankroll the murderous desert fighters known as the janjaweed.
Uganda: No renewal of truce
A cessation of hostilities in the 20-year civil war between the Ugandan government and Lord's Resistance Army has expired, with no new deal in sight. BBC reports that both sides have warned that they will retaliate if attacked.
Africa: Africa seeks to attract ICT investment opportunities from the US
More than twenty African countries have been invited to the United States to discuss with US investors, Africa's communications and technology needs. Participating countries are expected to include Algeria, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Congo, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda.
Highway Africa News Agency
More than twenty African countries have been invited to the United States to discuss with US investors, Africa's communications and technology needs. In a meeting dubbed "The Sub-Saharan Africa Information and Communications Technology Conference", discussions on a possible vibrant African ICT market will provide U.S. company participants with details on new export and investment opportunities in the areas of telecommunications network expansion, fiber networks, submarine communications systems, rural connectivity solutions as well as e-government solutions for health and education.
The conference that will take place between the 19th and 21st of March 2007 in San Francisco, California is being hosted by the United States Trade and Development Agency (USTDA).
The U.S. Trade and Development Agency is a US government agency that advances economic development and U.S. commercial interests in developing and middle-income countries which include most countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The agency funds various forms of technical assistance, early investment analysis, training, orientation visits and business workshops that support the development of a modern infrastructure and a fair and open trading environment.
According to USTDA Director Thelma J. Askey, ministers and other senior government officials from more than 15 African nations will discuss their ICT needs and present more than 25 projects ranging in value from $1 million to $200 million.
The conference agenda will also address key policy issues and highlight efforts to expand telecommunications infrastructure, improve delivery of government services, and support the growth of e-commerce. Participating countries are expected to include Algeria, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Congo, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda.
Thelma J. Askey said, "many African countries have made significant progress in developing their information and telecommunications markets, and increasing Internet access and mobile phone density."
Furthermore, "Significant opportunities now exist for U.S. vendors, service providers and investors to increase business in the region, while helping African nations meet growing public demand for information and communications services," she adds.
Expected to participate are representatives of the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Commerce, the Federal Communications Commission, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and Sub-Saharan African companies interested in partnering with U.S. firms. Officials from international lending institutions, including the Export-Import Bank of the United States and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, will also be on hand to discuss loan and insurance programs available for ICT exports and investment.
Trade and industry organizations supporting the conference include the Corporate Council on Africa, the U.S. Telecommunications Training Institute and the California Chamber of Commerce. Companies, such as Motorola, Hewlett Packard, QUALCOMM, Alcatel-Lucent and Oracle Corporation, will present information in conference workshops highlighting relevant U.S. technology applications.
Each U.S. participant will receive a resource guide on the projects presented, including critical economic information, export potential, time lines, equipment needs and key contacts.
A series of pre-scheduled one-on-one meetings will also enable U.S. participants to meet privately with the African officials and other project representatives.
Global: Low-cost Internet next step in closing digital divide, officials tell UN-backed forum
Bringing down the costs of Internet access could set off the same wave of connectivity that has made mobile phone usage commonplace in developing countries, said innovators and corporate leaders from some of the world’s leading technology firms meeting in northern California with government leaders, activists and United Nations officials.
Kenya: Communications regulator intervenes in price war
Kenya's mobile phone users last week breathed a sigh of relief following a ceiling put on interconnection charges between the duopolistic mobile operators, Safaricom and Celtel. The Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK),the country's communication industry regulator, capped the charges at Kshs 30 (43 US Cents) per minute.
Highway Africa News Agency
Kenya's mobile phone users last week breathed a sigh of relief following a ceiling put on interconnection charges between the duopolistic mobile operators, Safaricom and Celtel.
The Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK),the country's communication industry regulator, capped the charges at Kshs 30 (43 US Cents) per minute. The decision came in the wake of price wars between the two mobile operators that were threatening to get out of hand.
In January, Celtel complained to CCK over what it termed were unfair trade practices and monopolistic tendencies by its competitor, Safaricom. Celtel contended that Safaricom was locking in its subscribers by charging them highly for placing calls to other networks. In response to Celtel's complaint, CCK warned that it would move swiftly in the next few months to pre-empt any monopolistic tendencies by any one player in the telecommunications industry.
"The commission will soon be releasing a Dominant Market Power (DMP) report designating various operators as dominant in the areas of retail and interconnect pricing?, said CCK in a statement. This designation of dominance will include the relevant regulatory obligations to be applied in each relevant market," the statement added.
It is noteworthy that before CCK cracked the whip, Safaricom was charging its subscribers at least Ksh 50 (71 US Cents) per minute to call a Celtel line and Ksh 45 (64 US Cents for a call to the sole landline operator, Telkom Kenya. Conversely, calls terminating within the Safaricom network were cheap, ranging from Ksh 8 (11 US Cents) per minute. Celtel on the other hand, charges Ksh 16 (22 US Cents for calls to other networks).
CCK's decision was therefore a win for Celtel, which had earlier accused Safaricom of unfair trade practices. The regulator also ordered the two competitors to enter into new interconnection agreements to reflect the new charges. Also brought down was the cost of connecting calls between mobile and fixed line operators by 57 per cent.
"The new rates are meant to ensure that subscribers are able to communicate across networks without restrictions," said CCK Director-General John Waweru, adding: "CCK will monitor the evolution of all telecommunications service prices through competition to guard the interest of consumers because it is the expectation of the commission that prices will continue decreasing as the cost of interconnection comes down."
Indeed, the consumers are expected to be the greatest beneficiaries of this move, while Safaricom is expected to lose as it has mainly been ripping off subscribers by locking them in. On the other hand, Celtel and Telkom Kenya are expected to generate more revenue, as more calls from Safaricom will now terminate in its network.
A price war between the two mobile phone operators have been raging for the last few months. Last year, Celtel, which has operations in the three East African Community member states of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, launched Africa's first integrated network, enabling callers from those countries to travel with their networks across the borders at no additional cost. Last month, Safaricom responded by partnering with MTN of Uganda and Tanzania's Vodacom to launch a seamless service.
Safaricom has a total subscriber base in Kenya of about five million while Celtel has three million. As they continue to scramble for subscribers, consumers will have to wait a little longer before cheaper rates become a reality. This is because attempts to release a third mobile operator have ended in false starts, with Econet Wireless failing to roll out after winning the bid in 2004 while Dubai's VTEL consortium had its licence early this year.
New guidelines to end tariff row.
The new CCK ruling is expected to provide a level playing ground for the two companies who are expected to harmonize their tariffs. For a long time now, Safaricom and Celtel have engaged in a bitter dispute over the pricing of calls, with the latter accusing the former of unethical business practices.
Currently Safaricom charges its subscribers Sh50 per minute for calling the Celtel network while calls within its network are as low as Sh8 a minute. Safaricom calls to Telkom stands at Sh45 per minute. In contrast, Celtel charges its subscribers a flat calling rate for calls within its network, as well as to Safaricom and Telkom Kenya.
Safaricom CEO Michael Joseph has since refuted claims that his company had abused its position as the market leader. "We are not distorting our position because only 5% of the total calls normally leave the network and 95% are normally made within the Safaricom network. If anything, our customers are free to migrate to any network of their choice for their convenience."
CCK guidelines also stipulate that the operators are free to negotiate interconnection rates subject to the capped rates as determined by the regulatory body.
Stiff competition between Safaricom and Celtel continue to intensify. In less than a month, the duo mobile companies have been in hot pursuit of who will score the first goal. When Celtel launched its sole Network that gives its subscribers one tariff for East Africa, Safaricom followed suit by signing a partnership with MTN in Uganda and Vodacom in Tanzania that would allow its subscribers to enjoy a similar advantage.
And responding to the new guidelines, Safaricom Chief Corporate Affair's Officer Joseph Ogutu said that his firm was contented with CCK's decision although it takes time before they can come up with acceptable rates.
Celtel's Corporate and regulatory affairs director Clare Ruto welcomed the move saying the ruling came out as expected and it was in tandem with what is done worldwide.
South Africa: Government goes Open-Source
South Africa is joining countries such as Brazil, India and Uganda in implementing open-source software in all government departments -- and getting rid of widely used Microsoft Windows desktop programmes that come with expensive licences.
Uganda: New IT system to boost Uganda's rural finance
Uganda has just launched a government project to fight poverty. The project is locally referred to as "Bonna Bagaggawale" which literally means "let's all get rich." And to boost this rural financial scheme, government has also introduced a software system known as Loan Performer to ease the rural accounting system.
Highway Africa News Agency
Uganda has just launched a government project to fight poverty. The project is locally referred to as "Bonna Bagaggawale" which literally means "let's all get rich." And to boost this rural financial scheme, government has also introduced a software system known as Loan Performer to ease the rural accounting system.
According to the developers, Crystal Clear Software, which has been working on management information system since 1998, the software, provides the right vehicle to drive financial service to rural Uganda.
Hans Verkoijen the Executive director of Crystal Clear Software says the software has been introduced in the sub-Saharan countries particularly Uganda to boost the recently launched Bonna Bagaggawale government project.
Bonna Bagaggawale was introduced last week and is being implemented by Uganda's ministry of Micro-finance. It gives low-interest loans to sub-country based Savings and Credit Cooperative Societies, popularly known as SACCOs.
The Micro-finance Ministry in Uganda, provides governence and regulates financial services, such as micro-credit, micro-savings or micro-insurance to poor people, by helping them to accumulate usably large sums of money - this expands their choices and reduces the risks they face.
Verkoijen said the software Loan Performer was designed and developed for rural financial institutions that perform those duties including rural banks, savings and credit co-operatives and Non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
"Loan performer has modules for client?s shares, savings, loans and accounting. They are tightly integrated so that one can pay or sell shares from or to the savings account and disburse loans to savings account and repay automatically from it," Verkoijen says.
"Everything is automatically booked into the ledger and at the end of the day you can just print the trial balance or income and expense statement," says Verkojjen.
He explains that among the Micro finance software programmes, Loan Performer is the most prominent in Africa.
"It is now a leading product in the micro finance industry both locally and internationally with a client base of about 170 organizations in East Africa," Verkoijen says.
He says loan Performer has been reviewed many times by the consultative Group to Assist the Poor, (CGAP) a World Bank institution and has come out as the best value for money given its many features and low costs.
As a way of promoting the micro finance sector, he says the Crystal Clear Software offers free use of the Loan Performer software for small organizations having up to 500 clients or loans.
"This is meant to be a stimulus to increase the growth of micro-finance institutions to serve more and more clients and to reach the targets of efficiency and self-sustainability faster", according to Mr. Verkoijen.
There is no case of fraud and people can?t mess up the data. It has a tight system with passwords for all users and limited access to menu items.
But it is not enough. One has to make sure that at the end of the day all financial data that has been punched in, printed out and signed or authorized by the right people, for that is the only way to build a reliable system.
Clear Software Ltd has emerged a winner of the African SMME Awards 2005 and received a Silver award in the fifth President's Export Awards for being the biggest exporter in the ICT category.
The company also received the Investor of the Year award 2003 for the best software developments by Uganda Investment Authority.
Burkina Faso: Knowledge-sharing for Development workshop
As a follow-up to the “Knowledge Sharing for Development: Africa Regional Program Workshop” that was held in Cairo in February 2005, the Global Development Network (GDN) will be organizing the 3rd in its series of sub-regional workshops across Sub-Saharan Africa in cooperation with the Institute of Economic and Social Policies/Centre d’analyse des Politiques Economiques et Sociales (CAPES).
Ethiopia: The African Civil Society Forum
The Conference of NGOs in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations (CONGO) and the African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET), in cooperation with the African Union and the UN Economic Commission for Africa, is organizing the African Civil Society Forum “Building UN/NGOs Partnerships for Democratic Governance through the MDGs” that will take place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from 22 – 24 March 2007.
Global: Oxford University: Masters in International Human Rights Law
The University of Oxford Department for Continuing Education is now accepting applications for its part-time Master's degree in International Human Rights Law for 2007/8 admission. If you have any queries or would like to request a printed brochure, please email email@example.com Application deadline is 16 March 2007.
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