Pambazuka News 442: Obama in Ghana: The speech he might have made
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Highlights from this issue
- Firoze Manji writes the speech that Obama might have given in Ghana
- Eric Holt-Giménez and Raj Patel on Africa and the end of hunger
- Bruce A. Dixon on the unravelling of the Darfur 'genocide' lies
- Yash Tandon sets out how the G8 takes more from Africa than it gives
- Jan Sithole on how Swazis are claiming their democratic space
- Mihret Goitom recounts the tragic end to an Eritrean family's reunion attempt
- William Gumede says put South Africans' needs over their leaders' wants
- Henning Melber on the Namibian sellouts cashing assets in for crumbs
- Khadija Sharife on a landmark ruling that allows apartheid victims to sue multinationals
- Tendai Marima calls on Barack Obama to acknowledge America's role in African affairs
- Zaya Yeebo on why we still need Pan-Africanism
- Chambi Chachage discusses whether Tanzania needs dual citizenship
COMMENT & ANALYSIS
- Gerald LeMelle reveals the real US–Africa policy
- Emira Woods on the Obama visit to Africa’s 'oil gulf'
- Kia Mistilis on the Niger Delta standoff
- Gerald Caplan thinks President Obama needs a refresher course on Africa
- Beth Tuckey on denouncing dictatorship in Uganda
- Mutsa Murenje says its time to change the rules in Zimbabwe
HIGHLIGHTS FRENCH EDITION
- Pambazuka News 108: Les limites du rapport Stiglitz
- Horace Campbell on Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem and the tasks of Pan-Africanists
- Vincent Nuwagaba says predatory leaders are destroying the trades unions movement
ADVOCACY & CAMPAIGNS
- Waking the devil: The impact of forced disarmament on civilians in the Kivus
- Nigeria: ASUU strike ends when...
LETTERS & OPINIONS
- Mike Rainy on the continued cattle raids in Samburu
- Lavinia Limon on a victory for Burundian refugees in Tanzania
- Kingwa Kamencu on helping realise the dream for African unity
- Chris Maina Peter pays a personal tribute to Professor Haroub Othman
- Professor Haroub Othman's memorial gathering
- Okello Oculi tracks Taju’s political roots
BOOKS & ARTS
- Chiku Malunga's Understanding Organizational Leadership through Ubuntu
AFRICAN WRITERS’ CORNER
- Roland Bankole Marke's Alabaster balm of love
- Sokari Ekine rounds up reactions to Obama's Ghana speech in the African blogosphere.
- Sanusha Naidu covers the latest in Sino-African news.ZIMBABWE UPDATE: Biti announces salaries for civil servants
WOMEN & GENDER: accountability to women could upset ‘business-as-usual’
CONFLICT AND EMERGENCIES: Nigeria militants declare 60-day ceasefire
HUMAN RIGHTS: Can Africa trust international justice?
REFUGEES AND FORCED MIGRATION: Botswana denies Congolese refugees entry
SOCIAL MOVEMENTS: Urgent Abahlali update
ELECTIONS AND GOVERNANCE: Angola poll postponed
CORRUPTION: DRC sends corrupt magistrates packing
HEALTH & HIV/AIDS: Major funding boost for pediatric ARVs
DEVELOPMENT: Africa Grantmakers network launched
LGBTI: Zimbabwe’s gays uncertain about their future
ENVIRONMENT: Playing with fire in Nigeria
LAND & LAND RIGHTS: UN to protect land rights for displaced
FOOD JUSTICE: G8: High food prices continue to hurt the poor
MEDIA AND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION: Media observatory ‘flawed’
INTERNET& TECHNOLOGY: New Tunisian online crackdown mobilizes Facebook users
ENEWSLETTERS & MAILING LISTS: AfricaFocus: Obama in Africa, What kind of change?
PLUS: seminars and workshops, and jobs
*Pambazuka News now has a Del.icio.us page, where you can view the various websites that we visit to keep our fingers on the pulse of Africa! Visit http://del.icio.us/pambazuka_news
Obama in Ghana: The speech he might have made
Good morning. It is an honor for me to be in Accra, and to speak to the representatives of the people of Ghana. I am deeply grateful for the welcome that I've received, as are Michelle, Malia, and Sasha Obama. Ghana's history is rich, the ties between our two countries are strong, and I am proud that this is my second visit to Africa as President of the United States.
Let me begin my admitting that the history of my country’s relationship with Africa has not always been positive. The United States government and its agencies have on a number of occasions undermined the legitimate democratic aspirations of African people, either by sponsoring opposition, destablising governments, assisting coups d’etat, and, God forgive us, assassinating your elected leaders. During my visit to Egypt, I offered my apologies for the role played by the CIA in the overthrow of a legitimate and democratically elected government in Iran. The litany of such actions taken by successive US governments, either directly or indirectly, would be too long to recount here. Suffice, for the moment, to mention Kwame Nkrumah, Patrice Lumumba, Thomas Sankara, and the events in countries such as Mozambique, Angola and others where we have supported the use of terror against the liberation movements and the people, just as our government has done in many countries in Latin America. I could not legitimately place my feet on this beautiful continent, this land of my father, without my apologies.
I say this knowing full well the tragic past that has sometimes haunted this part of the world. I have the blood of Africa within me, and my family's own story encompasses both the tragedies and triumphs of the larger African story.
My grandfather was a cook for the British in Kenya, and though he was a respected elder in his village, his employers called him "boy" for much of his life. He was on the periphery of Kenya's liberation struggles, but he was still imprisoned briefly during repressive times. In his life, colonialism wasn't simply the creation of unnatural borders or unfair terms of trade - it was something experienced personally, day after day, year after year.
My father grew up herding goats in a tiny village, an impossible distance away from the American universities where he would come to get an education. He came of age at an extraordinary moment of promise for Africa. The struggles of his own father's generation were giving birth to new nations, beginning right here in Ghana. Africans were educating and asserting themselves in new ways. History was on the move.
I do not see the countries and peoples of Africa as a world apart; I see Africa as a fundamental part of our interconnected world - as partners with America on behalf of the future that we want for all our children. That partnership must be grounded in mutual responsibility, and that is what I want to speak with you about today.
We must start from the simple premise that Africa's future is up to Africans. This is the simple truth of a time when the boundaries between people are overwhelmed by our connections. Your prosperity has expanded America's. True, the western world has contributed more than $2 trillion in aid to developing countries over the last five decades. But at the same time, the West’s wealth has grown exponentially as a result of aid being used as fuel for the engine of wealth creation, taking many trillions of dollars out of Africa for the benefit of a few. If the West is able to find $18 trillion to bail out the banks from the result of a financial crisis that has been largely of their own making, it should not be difficult for us to raise much more to bail out Africans from impoverishment that has largely not been of their own making.
The greatest burden faced by African people is the burden of debt accumulated often as a result of the irresponsible lending surprisingly similar to those that led to the crisis in the housing market in the United States of America recently. I commit my government to calling on the G8 countries to cancel all debt – not just for the poorest countries. To be making money out of impoverishment should be unacceptable.
And if trade partnerships are to work, then there has to be an equality of opportunity in the market. I don’t believe that we will be able to stop subsidies to farmers in the USA in the immediate future. But I believe that one way forward is to ensure that African farmers receive a subsidy that is equivalent. Only then will the market work for the many, not just the few.
I am deeply aware of the increase in suffering through starvation that has affected the continent. By the end of 2008, the UN has reported, “the annual food import basket in LDCs cost more than three times that of 2000, not because of the increased volume of food imports, but as a result of rising food prices.” These developments added 75 million people to the ranks of the hungry and drove an estimated 125 million people in developing countries into extreme poverty. With record grain harvests in 2007, there was more than enough food to feed everyone at least 1.5 times current demand. Globally, population is not outstripping food supply. We are seeing more people hungry and at greater numbers than before. There is food on the shelves but people are priced out of the market. So the problem is not that there is not enough food, but how it is produced and for whom. Rather than chaining African farmers to the agro-industrial complex of fertilisers, pesticides, and genetically modified crops, my government will seek to learn from, and promote, African family farming systems that have thousands of years of experience of ensuring the production of nutritious and environmentally sustainable agriculture.
I believe that this moment is as promising for Ghana - and for Africa - as the moment when my father came of age and new nations were being born. This is a new moment of promise. Only this time, it will be the young people - brimming with talent and energy and hope - who can claim the future that so many in my father's generation never found.
To realize that promise, we must first recognize a fundamental truth that you have given life to in Ghana: development depends upon good governance. That is the ingredient which has been missing in far too many places, for far too long. That is the change that can unlock Africa's potential. And that is a responsibility that can only be met by Africans.
By good governance, I mean not only how citizens hold their elected governments to account, but also how citizens hold other institutions, including in the private sector, to account. Many American corporations have offered to help in Africa’s development by investing in oil, mining, and other industrial ventures. But their capacity to ensure that the investment benefits the countries and the people requires active engagement of citizens in monitoring their behavior. Just as having a written constitution ensures that there is a code of ethical behavior that you expect your representatives to abide by, so you need to have a written code of conduct for the operations of foreign companies – whether they be from China, Europe or the United States of America. My Administration has limited powers to enforce an appropriate code of conduct overseas. It is up to citizens in Africa to ensure that their governments enact legislation that ensures that foreign corporations prioritise benefits for the majority and ensure that we do not see the kind of environmental destruction that some corporations have been involved in in neighbouring countries. That is the heart of good governance. The US administration cannot do it from Washington. But together we can.
The actions and views of citizens are central to any effective democracy. In the United States, our citizens would not accept – under any conditions or for any reason – the presence of foreign troops on our soil. Yet it is a sad fact that current negotiations between a number of African governments and AFRICOM may indeed lead to the presence of such troops on your soils. How does that reflect on good governance, governance that is based on the will of the people? My father lived through the tragic times of foreign military occupation of much of the continent. It would be a tribute to his memory if I were to ensure that the future of Africa brings an end to such a situation.
The world’s attention has often been focused on the scale of corruption in Africa. Good governance requires citizens to hold to account those who take corrupt money for favour. But corruption is a two-way street, it is not just the taker but also the giver who has to be held to account. Where there is evidence of any US government or corporation that engages in this practice, my Administration needs to know about it. But we depend on the citizens of Africa to police the behaviour of all those in positions of power.
I am aware that my election, as a son of Africa, to the office of the President of the United States of America has unleashed great hopes and expectations – most of which it is impossible for me to fulfil on my own. I am President of all citizens of the United States of America. But I also recognize that not all American citizens voted for me. My administration has to work within the constraints of building consensus for policies amongst people who have widely different aspirations. Policies that my administration adopts are frequently a reflection of the balance of forces of different constituencies. Until and unless there are strong voices expressed from American citizens in combination with the voices of the citizens of Africa, the policies of my Administration will inevitably have shortcomings from the perspectives of Africa’s people. The same goes for claims for reparations that are demanded of the former colonial powers. Until and unless there is clear evidence of popular demand for reparations, and governments in the North recognize that there is no alternative but to concede, then individuals, no matter what position they hold, can do little to change the prevailing consensus. Let me repeat. Together we can.
So I do not see the countries and peoples of Africa as a world apart; I see Africa as a fundamental part of our interconnected world - as partners with America on behalf of the future that we want for all our children. That partnership must be grounded in mutual responsibility.
As I have repeatedly said during my election campaign and since, we can change the world, together we can. My visit to the continent is about listening and working with you all to bring about that change, a change that benefits all, irrespective of our color, class, creed or nationality. Above all, it will be the young people - brimming with talent and energy and hope - who can claim the future that so many in my father's generation never found. As for America and the West, our commitment must be measured by more than just the dollars we spend. I have pledged substantial increases in our foreign assistance, which is in Africa's interest and America's. But the true sign of success is not whether we are a source of aid that helps people scrape by - it is whether we are partners in building the capacity for transformational change.
Visiting Ghana gives me great pleasure especially as Africa is not only the birthplace of my father, but also of humanity and some of the oldest civilisations of the world. That a continent with such a rich heritage should have been reduced to its current impoverished state in so short at period of time is unacceptable. I commit myself and my administration to building with you a world that respects that heritage and where the people of Africa will benefit directly from the wealth and richness of this continent.
Across Africa, we have seen countless examples of people taking control of their destiny, and making change from the bottom up. Young people, especially women, across the continent have risen up in the shack settlements, farms, cities and countryside to clamour for their rights, to claim their share of the fruits of independence. We all need to listen to their views, their vision of the future.
One area that holds out both undeniable peril and extraordinary promise is energy. Africa gives off less greenhouse gas than any other part of the world, but it is the most threatened by climate change. A warming planet will spread disease, shrink water resources, and deplete crops, creating conditions that produce more famine and conflict. All of us - particularly the developed world - have a responsibility to slow these trends - through mitigation, and by changing the way that we use energy. But we can also work with Africans to turn this crisis into opportunity.
Together, we can partner on behalf of our planet and prosperity, and help countries increase access to power while skipping the dirtier phase of development. Across Africa, there is bountiful wind and solar power; and geothermal energy. These need to be harnessed primarily to bring benefits to the majority of Africans, rather than yet another resource that is sold to the developed world for a string of beads and benefits for a few. From the Rift Valley to the North African deserts; from the Western coast to South Africa's crops - Africa's boundless natural gifts can generate its own power, while exporting profitable, clean energy abroad. There has been much talk of the putative benefits of biofuels: but linking the price of food (already excessive) to the price of fuel would have disastrous consequences and result in escalating starvation. My Administration is deeply concerned by the threat to the livelihoods of ordinary people by the large scale land-grabbing taking place supposedly for economic development.
We are today living in times of economic crisis. The policies of leaving everything to the market place, and expecting benefits to trickle down to the poor is now a discredited idea – it has failed to lift people out of poverty in Africa and even in the United States of America. We must seek an alternative way forward, one where the governments elected by the people take responsibility for ensuring that the economy is run to satisfy need, not greed. Together we can.
I remain ultimately hopeful of the capacity of Africa to show the way forward, to transform the landscape into what it once was – a land of plenty, a land that produced some of the world's finest art, literature, science and philosophy. It is to be part of that ambitious project that I am here today setting foot for the second time this year in this continent of hope, this continent of my ancestors.
* Firoze Manji is editor in chief of Pambazuka News.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/.
The full text of President Obama's actual speech can be read at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/07/11/obama-ghana-speech-full-t_n_230009.html
Africa and the end of hunger
Eric Holt-Giménez and Raj Patel
Africa is central to any lasting solution to hunger on the planet. When poverty and hunger are eliminated in Africa, all of the world’s poor will be better off. Whatever happens in Africa—or doesn’t happen—will have a profound effect on the world’s food systems.
What is happening in Africa to address the food crisis is in many ways emblematic of global events. Successes or failures in Africa reflect the potential or the limitations of the global food systems to serve the interests of the world’s poor majorities. If the system doesn’t work in Africa, then it doesn’t work for the world. In this sense, ending hunger in Africa is not simply a “global challenge” for the world’s governments. Just as the persistence of poverty in Africa is a challenge for the global economic system, the food crisis is a challenge to the dysfunctional global food system. The stakes on the continent are high in human, environmental and geopolitical terms.
In many ways, of course, Africa’s recent history is one of conquest by and resistance to foreign economic and geopolitical interests. The carving up of the continent at the 1884 Berlin Conference sealed the first “Scramble for Africa.” Countries that missed the opportunity to profit from Africa in the 19th century had plenty of chances in the 20th and even more in the 21st century. Africa was the continent most consistently pushed towards extreme structural adjustment policies. As Walden Bello has observed, the continent was a net food exporter in the 1960s, “averaging 1.3 million tons a year between 1966–70. Today, the continent imports 25% of its food, with almost every country being a net food importer” (Bello 2008).
A corollary of this import dependence has been an opening up of the continent’s resources to the highest, and in some cases most unscrupulous, bidder. Thus US businessman Philippe Heilberg has claimed 4,000 square kilometers of fertile land by the Nile in a deal with a Sudanese warlord (Blas and Walls 2009), and the Korean Daewoo corporation attempted to lease 1.3 million hectares of land in Madagascar (Jung-a and Oliver 2008). While there are other high profile land grabs involving foreign powers, notably from Europe, North America, India and China, the inequities of land distribution in some parts of Africa have been merely exacerbated by neoliberal agricultural policy. Under the ‘willing buyer, willing seller’ models of land reform promoted by the World Bank in South Africa, less than 5% of the land has been redistributed from white to black owners since the end of apartheid (Zigomo 2008). Yet social movements in Africa are vital and active, working on concrete solutions in the fields and concrete policy changes for governments—to bring about food sovereignty. Central to these efforts have been the work of women and women’s organizations—women grow the majority of the food on the continent, yet they shoulder the triple burden of needing to work for a wage, build community, and feed their family. It is no surprise, then, that at the 2008 Via Campesina 5th international conference in Maputo, Mozambique, one of the loudest calls was for the recognition of food sovereignty as an end to violence against women.
It is important to realize that just as there is a world-wide diversity of people-driven food systems struggling to emerge from under the weight of the agrifoods monopolies, there is also a continent-wide diversity of grassroots initiatives to end hunger in Africa. Collectively, these life-affirming initiatives cover more area and reach more people than official, more centralized efforts. Their organizational and technological approaches tend to be grounded in a people-first, noncorporate perspective. They employ more agroecological and democratic means for improving smallholder agriculture as a strategy to end hunger. These African alternatives were not given a seat at the table at the Comprehensive Framework for Action (CFA), nor were they considered in the planning of the new Green Revolution in Africa. However, because extreme hunger is so widespread, it is hard to imagine how any effort to end hunger in Africa could be successful without them. Whether or not official and grassroots efforts can work together to end hunger is the question facing not just Africa, but the entire world.
AFRICA’S AGRARIAN QUESTION
Because the majority of sub-Saharan Africa’s hungry people come from poor farming families cultivating two hectares or less—and because over 80% of the continent is still rural—the challenge of ending hunger and poverty on the continent is necessarily an agrarian question. Africa’s agrarian questions concern land, labor, markets, technology and politics at local, regional, national and international scales. These concerns are not just about feeding people, but also about changing the present conditions of production that keep the rural poor from feeding themselves. Africa’s agrarian questions are not adequately addressed by simply asking, “What is the role of African smallholders?” Because of the great diversity of smallholder agroecosystems on the African continent, we also need to ask what kinds of technologies, markets, resource use and ownership rights will suit Africa’s diverse agricultural transformations. And, we need to ask, who will lead these transformations? This last question is especially important because, as the result of decisions regarding the food, fuel, and economic crises, Africa’s smallholders are increasingly falling victim to new grabs for land, water, markets, and genetic resources. Will the food crisis usher in a new era of rural debt, contract farming, and agricultural exports for foreign food and energy needs? Or will the crisis provide an opportunity for new agrarian models of development and food sovereignty? In Africa, the struggle to eliminate hunger is the struggle for the future of agriculture.
There are many parallels between the continent’s historic movements for independence and today’s struggles for food sovereignty. Though sub-Saharan Africa is a region rich in minerals and natural resources, over 450 million live on less than $2 a day and over a third of the population suffers from malnutrition (Faurès and Santini 2008). Proposals to end poverty and hunger on the African continent must come to grips with the fact that since colonial times, Africa’s food systems and natural resources have been relentlessly appropriated by foreign capital, frequently in collusion with national elites. Even today, at the height of the food crisis, some African governments are negotiating the sale and long-term lease of agricultural land to foreign governments and corporations. Others are providing forests, brushland and pastureland to foreign agrofuel corporations.
The struggles for food sovereignty in Africa are widespread, and are especially difficult because the continent not only continues to be a major source of natural resources for the industrial North, but, in a time of shrinking global markets, the food crisis actually makes Africa’s poor farmers a prime target for major seed, biotechnology and fertilizer companies desperate for new consumers. While each poor farmer may not have much money to spend, taken as a whole these farmers constitute a big and lucrative market, particularly if foreign aid and African governments provide conditions for market expansion with infrastructure, research, and investment incentives.
Of course, African governments must increase aid to agriculture. Encouragingly, in 2003 at the African Union summit in Maputo, Mozambique, African leaders endorsed the Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Program (CAADP), in which they promised to increase government agricultural support to 10% by 2015.12 The private sector has an important role to play in ending hunger, and in these times of crisis has a social responsibility to serve the public good. However—especially in Africa—care must be taken to ensure that the benefits from improvements in agriculture accrue primarily to poor farmers, not state farms, agro-export farms, sovereign wealth funds or transnational corporations.
Who improves African agriculture, how, under what agreements and by what means, will determine whether the efforts to end hunger in Africa succeed or fail. Lack of attention to these issues runs the risk that the long-overdue support to African agriculture will be used as a prop for a flawed global food system when what is needed is a thorough transformation of agriculture.
Tensions between top–down and bottom–up approaches to solve the food crisis in Africa are being played out in a transnational “development arena” where official discourses of “partnerships” frequently accompany less altruistic political or commercial agendas, and often mask the real exclusion of farmers from participating in the substantive decisions that affect their lives. The future of Africa’s food systems and the fate of millions of smallholders and hungry people hinge on the outcomes emanating from this arena. Informed public debate, institutional transparency and accountability, and amplifying the diverse voices of farmers’ organizations and their proposals are essential for finding a sustainable and equitable path through the food crisis. The challenge is to diversify and democratize initiatives for agricultural development and at the same time respond quickly and effectively to the crisis on the ground.
The difficulty in doing all of this is especially evident in the rift between official calls for a new Green Revolution in Africa and the continent’s grassroots movements for African agroecological alternatives.
THE GREEN REVOLUTION RETURNS
For two and a half decades the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) invested 40%–45% of their $350 million a year budget in an unsuccessful effort to spread the Green Revolution across Africa (World Bank 2004). Supporters of the Green Revolution offer multiple explanations for its failure to raise yields on the continent, among them Africa’s exhausted soils, inadequate infrastructure, poor governance and declining support for African agriculture (Evanson and Gollin 2003). They claim the Green Revolution “bypassed” Africa, and the CGIAR’s failure to eradicate hunger on the continent is due to lack of proper implementation of the Green Revolution model (Rockefeller Foundation 2007). Critics of the Green Revolution maintain that Africa can’t be blamed for its actual conditions, and that the failure is with the Green Revolution’s model itself (see Food First www.foodfirst.org; ETC Group http://www.etcgroup org; and GRAIN http://www.grain.org)
There is some basis for claims that Africa was bypassed by the Green Revolution. Prior to the oil shocks of the 1970s, many African governments moved decisively to increase food production by enacting land reform, implementing rural development projects, providing producer subsidies, establishing marketing boards and price guarantees, and increasing investments in rural infrastructure. National agricultural research systems were established to test and distribute packets of seeds and fertilizer. Under these conditions, the Green Revolution did begin to raise yields in basic grains in some places, leading many to believe that the “Asian miracle” could be replicated in Africa (Havnevik et al. 2007).
However, following the oil shocks and the debt crisis of the 1970s, and the World Bank/IMF structural adjustment programs of the 1980s, African governments were forced to reduce state services, dismantle marketing boards, close development projects and end subsidies and price guarantees. Government research and extension vanished. As market-led approaches to economic development replaced stateled approaches, agriculture fell off the development agenda and the Green Revolution ground to a halt (Havnevik et al. 2007). In the 1990s there were multiple high-profile unsuccessful attempts to score victories in Africa, notably by former US presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, and philanthropist Ryoicho Sasakawa with the “father” of the Green Revolution, Nobel laureate Norman Borlaug. The repeated failures of the Green Revolution in Africa also coincided with the Green Revolution’s overall global slump. Notwithstanding, at the 2004 African Union summit, then secretary-general of the United Nations Kofi Annan called for a “uniquely African Green Revolution.”
RENEWED ALLIANCES FOR THE GREEN REVOLUTION
In 1997 then newly appointed president of the Rockefeller Foundation Gordon Conway published The Doubly Green Revolution: Food for All in the 21st Century, in which he called for a new, high-yielding Green Revolution based on equity and sustainability. Rockefeller’s attempt to re-launch the Green Revolution in Africa in 1999 made little headway until June 2006, when it cosponsored the African Fertilizer Summit with the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) in Abuja, Nigeria. Representatives from 40 African governments, African and multilateral development banks, the CGIAR, and agribusiness executives discussed strategies for modernizing African agriculture. A month later, the foundation rolled out its strategy in Africa’s Turn: The New Green Revolution for the 21st Century. It included:
- Promotion of hybrid and genetically engineered seeds and chemical fertilizers
- Training of African agricultural scientists for crop improvement
- Market development
- Local agrodealer distribution networks
- Infrastructure investments
- Agricultural policy reforms.
Two months later, the Rockefeller Foundation partnered with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to launch the Alliance for a Green Revolution for Africa (AGRA)—the non-governmental organization designed to implement the ideas of the Doubly Green Revolution and the strategies in Africa’s Turn. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s $38.7 billion philanthropy put up $100 million of AGRA’s initial $150 million budget.
The alliance quickly formed the Program for a Green Revolution in Africa (ProAGRA) to implement AGRA. Most of the board members of both AGRA and ProAGRA were employees of the Gates and Rockefeller Foundations (Daño 2007).
AGRA: RECYCLING THE GREEN REVOLUTION?
While AGRA adopted the Green Revolution’s technological paradigm— prioritizing genetic crop improvement and fertilizer applications as the central pillar of their strategy for agricultural improvement— it also added variations that reflect new developments within the CGIAR, the seed and chemical industries, and the global finance sector. This time a broader array of traditional African food crops will be included in the technological mix. Microfinance, and loan guarantees to state and commercial banks will provide credit. The project is establishing a powerful advocacy arm to influence the policies of African governments. AGRA is making a special effort to reach women—both as farmers and as researchers. Its “integrated soil fertility program” will use “smart subsidies” to increase the application of chemical fertilizers of four million farmers by 400% to 30 kilogram per hectare per year (Gates Foundation 2008). This is to be accompanied by instruction on how to build up and conserve soil organic matter. While AGRA’s Program for Africa’s Seed Systems (PASS) is not now distributing genetically engineered seeds, AGRA has made it known that it will consider introducing GMOs in the future when regulations are in place. Meanwhile, AGRA’s training programs are steadily preparing African crop scientists in biotechnology (Agra-Alliance 2008). Further, AGRA’s main benefactor, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, along with the Yara, Monsanto, and Syngenta Foundations, support African biotechnology institutions such as the African Harvest Biotech Foundation, the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), and the International Service for Acquisition of Agricultural Biotechnology Applications, in a concerted push for GMO research and promotion (Daño 2007). This work focuses on genetically engineering crops for high vitamin content, pest resistance, drought, and weed tolerance. Within the larger Green Revolution scheme, these projects and AGRA are mutually reinforcing: as one prepares the scientists, the other prepares the biotechnology; as one establishes seed distribution networks, the other releases GMOs.
Strategically, AGRA signifies a substantive shift for the Green Revolution. In the absence of the 1960s’ African “development state” that provided funding for credit, research, infrastructure and marketing services, supporters of the new Green Revolution are hoping that this time public–private philanthropy partnerships will step in to take up the slack. While there may not be large profits to be made at first, “recognition is a proxy” until profits can be obtained (Gates 2008). Given the reluctance of the private sector to invest in infrastructure and services for the poor, this is clearly a big gamble. Africa needs some $15 billion a year in agricultural investment. If Northern governments are backtracking on their promises for increasing aid, how can we be sure the private sector will make up the difference? The Green Revolution requires major social investment in order to be successful (even on its own terms).
Structurally, however, AGRA appears to reproduce the same commercial bias of former Green Revolutions and reinforces the World Bank’s antagonistic position against smallholder agriculture. For all its claims to independence, AGRA is considered by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to be the “African face and voice for our work.” AGRA’s benefactor clearly spells out its function in the Gates Foundation’s theory of change:
In order to transition agriculture from the current situation of low investment, low productivity and low returns to a market-oriented, highly-productive system, it is essential that supply (productivity) and demand (market access) expand together and that production systems use natural resources efficiently and help farmers manage their risks… [this] involves market-oriented farmers operating profitable farms that generate enough income to sustain their rise out of poverty. Over time, this will require some degree of land mobility and a lower percentage of total employment involved in direct agricultural production… We are uniquely focused… on 150 [million] smallholder households in Sub-Saharan Africa… that have the potential to transform agriculture at scale. We consider these farmers, most of whom are women, our customers and their needs and realities guide our work. (Gates Foundation 2008)
AGRA will follow the market-driven development strategies of the World Bank designed to open Africa’s smallholder sector to the volatile world market and push the “least efficient” African farmers out of agriculture. When combined with the same social and technological paradigm that has driven the Green Revolution for four decades, and given the present economic and political limitations of many weakened African states, potential for a renewed structural violence against poor rural communities is great.
* Food Rebellions! Crisis and the Hunger for Justice is available to order from the Pambazuka Press website. Pambazuka News readers can get 20% off the recommended retail price of £16.95 by entering 56784813 as the discount code when ordering online, an offer which also includes a free ebook copy. The Food Rebellions! ebook is also available individually for only £5.
* Eric Holt-Giménez is the executive director of Food First. Raj Patel is an honorary research fellow at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and works with the South African Shackdwellers’
movement Abahlali baseMjondolo.
* This article is an extract from chapter 8 of Food Rebellions! entitled 'Africa and the End of Hunger'.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/.
Darfur 'genocide' lies unravelling
African Union says only 1,500 Darfuris died in 2008
Bruce A. Dixon
For more than five years, the Save Darfur coalition has used a slick and star-studded multimillion dollar ad campaign to paint a horrific vision of 400,000 dead in a black vs. Arab war of extermination in Sudan. No historic or political causes are offered for this scenario; it's a case of 'genocide' involving good vs. evil and demanding our attention and action. But the big lies underpinning the Save Darfur campaign are coming undone. Reporters, scholars and even US envoys are returning from the region affirming that if there ever was a genocide in Darfur, and there may not have been, there isn’t one now. The British government has even ruled that Save Darfur cannot, in that country, use the figure of 400,000 dead which it throws around in all its US advertisements, 'cause it just ain’t true.
A hundred years ago, in the 'Souls of Black Folk', W.E.B. DuBois observed that '… the country’s appetite for facts on the Negro question has been spoiled by sweets'. If he was around today, DuBois would be able to say the same for America’s appetite for facts on Darfur, the rest of Africa, Iraq, and most of the world. Facts are messy things. Facts come with historical contexts and uncertain consequences. Eternal truths, like good vs. evil are sweet like candy, simple and comforting.
Since its founding in 2004, the Save Darfur coalition has spent tens of millions of dollars on a state-of-the-art advertising campaign to paint us a picture that is exactly that. Sweet and simple, easy-to-understand, and most of all, we get to be the good guys. Darfur is, to use Samantha Power’s phrase, 'a problem from hell', a piece of pure, unambiguous evil in which the global power of the US can be put to use constructively, because stopping a genocide calls for action, not for politics. Stopping genocide, we are told, is above politics. The lesson of genocide is that great powers must act; people of conscience and goodwill must intervene.
There are several problems with this, both as a general proposition, and specifically as it applies to Darfur. In the first place genocide is defined as the attempt to wipe out a nation or a people. There is so little evidence that mass killings on the scale necessary to be called genocide have occurred in Darfur that back in 2007 Save Darfur’s UK operation was prohibited from using the figure of 400,000 dead that routinely appears in its advertisements in the US. Britain has a government truth-in-advertising agency called the Advertisement Standards Authority. They looked at Save Darfur’s massive death toll. They took into account a 2006 US General Accounting Office (GAO) report in which the GAO assembled a number of death and casualty estimates, high and low for Darfur, and summoned a panel of experts to determine which were accurate.
The GAO study found the low estimates of 50,000 to 70,000 dead from a variety of causes – including disease and starvation due to desertification on all sides of the conflict – to be more accurate than the high estimates of 200,000 to 400,000 by direct armed violence on one side alone claimed by Save Darfur. The GAO report maintained that the peak death toll occurred in 2004 and early 2005 and had been trending downward since. This was compelling enough evidence for Britain to ban the inflammatory claims that Save Darfur still makes with impunity in the US, which have no truth in advertising laws.
Ugandan scholar Mahmood Mamdani has travelled extensively for many weeks in Sudan and Darfur as part of the African Union’s Dialog for Darfur project, interviewing officials, activists and ordinary people on all sides of the conflict. In a talk at Howard University on 20 March 2009 he reported that only days before the general in charge of the African Union’s peacekeeping forces in Darfur had pegged the death toll for the entire year in and around the refugee camps at a mere 1,500. While the deaths of 50,000 to 70,000 people several years ago on multiple sides of an armed conflict are a grievous matter – not to be minimised or brushed aside – they don’t count as the ongoing genocide of helpless civilians.
Around the same time that several members of the US Congress got themselves arrested at the Sudanese embassy in Washington, DC, Afshin Rattansi – a reporter and broadcaster for Al Jazeera, CNN, The Guardian, Bloomberg News and other outlets – toured Sudan, speaking to Africans as well as the representatives of Western women's organizations in the country who attested that they were able to travel and speak freely and had seen 'no evidence' of genocide.
Even USAF (United States Air Force) General Scott Gration, travelling in the region as a special envoy, returned to Washington last week saying that the situation in Darfur was at worst 'the remnants of genocide', clearly implying that the worst violence had been over for some time. Gration’s remarks may have exposed a divide in the administration, since UN Ambassador Susan Rice stoutly maintained only two days before that genocide was 'ongoing' in Darfur. Clearly, the genocide story is becoming less and less tenable.
But Save Darfur is all about advertising, and in the US, advertisers are under no obligation to tell the truth. Save Darfur is in fact not a mass movement but an advertising campaign, headed by the CEO of a public relations company that boasts such clients as Dupont, the company responsible for murdering tens of thousands when one of its chemical plants exploded at Bhopal, India, sending a cloud of poison gas rolling downhill into a city.
As Black Agenda Report revealed in a 2007 story, 'Ten Reasons Why Save Darfur Is A PR Scam to Justify Oil and Resource Wars In Africa', according to a copyrighted Washington Post story in 2007:
'The Save Darfur [coalition] was created in 2005 by two groups concerned about genocide in the African country – the American Jewish World Service and the US Holocaust Memorial Museum…
'The coalition has a staff of 30 with expertise in policy and public relations. Its budget was about $15 million in the most recent fiscal year…
'Save Darfur will not say exactly how much it has spent on its ads, which this week have attempted to shame China, host of the 2008 Olympics, into easing its support for Sudan. But a coalition spokeswoman said the amount is in the millions of dollars.'
Though the 'Save Darfur' PR (public relations) campaign employs viral marketing techniques, reaching out to college students, even to black bloggers, it is not a grassroots affair, as were the movements against apartheid and in support of African liberation movements in South Africa, Namibia, Angola and Mozambique a generation ago. Top heavy with evangelical Christians who preach the coming war for the end of the world, and with elements known for their uncritical support of Israeli rejectionism in the Middle East, the Save Darfur movement is clearly an establishment affair, a propaganda campaign that spends millions of dollars each month to manufacture consent for US military intervention in Africa under the cloak of stopping or preventing genocide.
The construct of genocides, 'problems from hell' popping up around the world in which the US is obliged to intervene, is a very useful one. It appears to be the successor to the so-called 'War on Terror' as the justification for American military adventures around the world. Hear it from the lips of UN Ambassador Susan Rice herself:
'The Responsibility to Protect or, as it has come to be known, R2P represents an important step forward in the long historical struggle to save lives and guard the wellbeing of people endangered by conflict. It holds that states have responsibilities as well as interests and that states have particularly vital duties to shield their own populations from the depraved and the murderous. This approach is bold. It is important. And the United States welcomes it…
'The Responsibility to Protect is rooted in the principle that states have a fundamental responsibility to protect their populations from such atrocities as genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing. It holds that other states, in turn, have a corollary responsibility to assist, if a state cannot meet its fundamental responsibility to its citizens or to take collective action, if a state will not meet that fundamental responsibility…'
Like the War on Terror, stopping genocides, real or imagined, is above politics. It’s a cause that absolves Americans of any responsibility to understand either their own history or that of the countries they intervene in.
The real Darfur is a complicated place with complicated politics that Save Darfur does not help us understand. What Save Darfur doesn’t tell us is that there is a many-sided civil conflict of insurgency and counterinsurgency, not a one-sided slaughter in progress. Save Darfur never mentions how the area was flooded with arms by the US, France and Israel on one side, and by Libya and the Soviet Union during decades of civil war in neighbouring Chad. And in volumes of briefing papers and advertising copy, Save Darfur invariably forgets to tell us that the lines between which Darfuris are 'black' and which are 'Arab' have been fluid for centuries, and as Mahmood Mamdani in his book Saviors and Survivors explains, have more to do with culture and status than with 'race' in Western terms.
The stark and horrific picture painted by the Save Darfur coalition in fact prolongs the civil conflict in that unhappy country, encouraging one faction or another to avoid negotiations for a settlement in the hope that Western intervention will put them on top. The 'responsibility to protect' doctrine espoused by Ambassador Rice ensures that regardless of the facts, Save Darfur will have the ear of policymakers for some time to come as they look to sweeten the public excuses to intervene in other countries, and to spoil America’s appetites for unpleasant truths in which it is not always the good guy.
* Bruce A. Dixon is Black Agenda Report's (BAR) managing editor. He can be contacted at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.
* This article was originally published at BlackAgendaReport.com.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/.
G8 and Africa: Some give, plenty of take
Why we shouldn't hitch our wagon to the G8 engine
The summit of the world’s richest and most powerful Northern countries that constitute the G8 took place in L'Aquila, Italy from 8 to 10 July 2009. In attendance also were the heads of state and government of a host of other minor or lesser countries, some of whom were admitted to the inner sanctum of the G8 summit, and some simply hovered around in the corridors at the call of the G8 waiting to be ‘invited’ for ‘breakfast meetings’ or press conferences or ‘bilaterals’. At one of these ‘breakfast meetings’ the G8 broadened their participants to take in the African countries of Algeria, Angola, Egypt, Ethiopia, Libya, Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa, as well as the IEA, World Bank, IMF, ILO, OECD, WTO and United Nations and the African Union Commission’s representatives. At this meeting the G8 graciously agreed to increase aid to Africa for food security and agricultural development from an earlier figure of US$15 billion to US$20 billion.
A summary judgement of the G8 Summit (the first for President Barack Obama) must be that against the multiple crises the world is currently facing, the outcome of the discussions was a whimper, a puny response to an acknowledgement of the magnitude of the challenge. It is not surprising, then, that the world media largely hyped up the promise of US$20 billion L’Aquila Initiative on Global Food Safety for Africa [PDF 239.5kb], for there was very little else that was on show.
So the question is: how significant is the promise of US$20 billion?
To properly appreciate the significance of the US$20 billion envelope, let us put the facts and a proper perspective to it.
First, it is just a promise. Promises have been known to remain just that – promises.
Second, if past experience is any guide, the money is not likely to be ‘new’ money, but recycled from previous unfulfilled commitments.
Thirdly, the US$20 billion package is for three years; about US$7 billion per year. This is to be shared between 53 African countries, an average of about US$132 million per country.
Compare this with the following:
- Between 1990 and 2003, African countries had received US$540 billion in loans and had paid back US$580 billion in debt and service charges (US$40 billion more than what they had received), and yet by the end of 2003 US$330 billion debt had still remained to pay.
- In 2003 alone African countries had paid over US$25 billion in debt servicing while 2.3 million lives were lost lives because of HIV/AIDS. Many of them spent more per capita on debt servicing than on health care. For example, in 2002 the Democratic Republic of Congo – where 1.1 million people live with HIV/AIDS – spent more than four dollars on external debt servicing for every dollar spent on health care. And in the same year Angola had paid out US$106 per capita in debt servicing compared to US$38 per capita on health.
Compare this also with the ‘promise’ made by G8 at the 31st G8 Summit of July 2005 at Gleneagles. The issue that got most media hype on that occasion was debt cancellation – to write off the entire US$40 billion debt owed by 18 Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) to the World Bank (WB), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the African Development Bank (ADB). Four years down the line, a more sober assessment exposes the scenario of ‘business as usual’. What are the facts about the much-touted debt cancellation and the ‘road to recovery’ for Africa?
- The US$40 billion debt write-off applied only to 18 HIPCs. How were they identified, and who selected them? Africa itself had no say in this. They were selected by the ‘donor community’, not by any agency of Africa, such as the African Union.
On what criteria were they selected? These 18 countries were identified as those that had faithfully followed the IMF/WB strictures on Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAP – policy prescriptions that demanded pro-cyclical, deflationary, measures from these countries). The G8 stated that 20 more countries, with an additional US$15 billion in debt, would be eligible for debt relief on condition that they met targets on fighting corruption and continued to fulfil SAP conditionalities and provided they eliminated impediments to foreign private investments in their countries.
Since the debt cancellation only referred to multilateral institutions, the crippling bilateral official and corporate debts of Africa still remained intact.
So what did the G8 achieve at the Gleneagles summit?
As far as Africa is concerned, very little. In fact, it was ‘business worse than usual’. Why? Because of two reasons:
The debt write-off managed to tone down, to neutralise, the pressure from African civil society on their governments to unilaterally repudiate those debts that were illegitimate or odious – a technical concept recognised in international legal practice.
Furthermore, it triggered fresh false illusions in and about Africa. Some people concluded that this was going to be the turning point for Africa. With debts written off, Africa was expected now, finally, to get down to using its resources to develop the economy and look after the welfare of the African people without the crippling debt burden.
The reality is that Africa is worse off today than in 2005. Currently much of the blame is put on the financial crisis. In fact, the embedded structured economic relations between the industrial North and Africa is the root cause of Africa’s enduring poverty. Through these structures, there is a ceaseless transfer of net resources from Africa to the North, and this predates the financial crisis.
The neutralising of pressure from African civil society was well calculated. Taking advantage of the easing of this pressure, the G8 creditor countries now put pressure on African governments to pay their debts and to conform to IMF/WB conditionalities. For example, in Nigeria, which is not eligible for debt relief under the HIPC Initiative, the civil society organisations were putting pressure on their government to unilaterally cancel all odious external debts, and the Nigerian parliament was about to move to repudiate these debts. The Paris Club of rich country creditors called an emergency meeting in September 2005, and managed to make a deal with the Nigerian government. In the deal, which covered US$30 billion in debt, Nigeria agreed to pay 40 per cent of the total, or US$12 billion. Nigeria paid the US$12 billion, which it need not have if the parliament had carried the day. The G8 would have probably imposed sanctions on Nigeria, but in my view that would have been totally ineffective. In fact, the West would have lost out both politically and, given the option to go to China, also financially and commercially.
Out of the Gleneagles promise of rainbow, what Africa lost at the G8, Europe in particular gained. Above all, from a European perspective the governments were able to placate their own civil society members that had mounted pressure since the start of the Jubilee Campaign in 2000 ‘to do something’ to alleviate the sufferings of the African people. Their champion, Bono, is complaining today about lack of follow-up to the promises of Gleneagles, but at the time he was a media hero.
It might be argued that at least the 18 HIPCs got their multilateral debt cancelled. Africans should be grateful for this. This is a false argument. Why? Because:
These countries had already paid for these debts many times over not only in financial terms but also in terms of transferring real resources (minerals, agricultural products), as well as in terms of profits by Western corporations as a result of reckless trade and capital liberalisation policies pushed through as conditionalities of the so-called ‘development aid’.
And secondly, debts are not something that are always expected to be paid off in certain kinds of transactions, especially when the creditors have already secured most of what they wish to get out of their debtors. In the United States, for instance, the Federal Reserve Bank (a bank owned by a group of private commercial bankers) provides credit to the government (through bonds, for example), and as long as the government pays the interest, the premium is simply rolled over and over and never paid. By 2007 the Federal debt stood at US$8.679 trillion which is never expected to be paid back; the interest the banks earn is more than enough to satisfy their shareholders. In the same way, the IMF and the World Bank not only secured the interest on the loans given to the HIPC countries, but as argued earlier, they also secured huge benefits for their own principals – mainly commercial banks and corporations. So ‘writing off’ of US$40 billion debt owed by 18 HIPC countries in Africa was not such a big deal after all.
What do we learn from this experience? There are two lessons to learn: One, do take the G8 seriously, but not in terms of what they promise to ‘give’ to Africa, but in terms of what they intend to ‘take’ out of Africa. Second, Let us not hitch the African wagon to the G8 engine. What looks like an act of benevolence and charity is, in reality, an act of creating subtle forms of debts by which to tie the future of Africa to their single-minded pursuit of capturing Africa’s resources and Africa’s markets. ‘Development aid’ is, when applied to the reality on the ground, a contradiction in terms.
* Yash Tandon is a writer on development issues and chairman of SEATINI (Southern and Eastern African Trade Information and Negotiations Institute).
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/.
Swazis claim their democratic space
Ask most people around the world who are not from Swaziland what they know about the country, the most likely response will be a blank stare. Those who have heard of Swaziland are mired in stereotypes about an exotic mountain kingdom.
As a Swazi citizen who was born, brought up and lives in Swaziland, these conjured images bring weary smiles every time I am confronted with them, especially when I am abroad on an assignment representing the trade union movement.
Yes, Swaziland is a beautiful kingdom at the southern tip of the African continent, dotted with mountains and full of exciting flora and fauna and other natural scenery. Yes, Swaziland is very proud of its rich cultural heritage, which includes the famous annual reed dance. And yes our country is so small that it is often barely visible on the African map.
But we are all that and more.
Swaziland, just like the rest of Africa and the global South, is a country grappling with all the contradictions and challenges thrown up by history, globalisation and internal power politics.
As one of the leaders of organised labour in Swaziland, I am painfully aware that the vast majority of the working people in my country eke out a very difficult daily subsistence amidst seemingly impossible odds.
The statistics are sobering.
Sixty nine per cent of the population lives below the poverty line. We hold the dubious distinction of having the highest HIV prevalence not just in Africa, but the entire world. Close to half of the nation survives on food aid. There are more than 110,000 orphaned and vulnerable children – this is in a country with a population barely topping one million, less than half the people living in the city of Nairobi. Women in Swaziland are treating like second-class citizens. They cannot own and inherit land directly and they constitute a disproportionate 63 per cent of the poor.
The rate of unemployment nationally is pegged at 40 per cent but could be as high as 70 per cent among the youth, who make up more than half of the population.
Speaking of governance, we are officially under an absolute monarchy. On the surface there are 'democratic' institutions like a parliament, a judiciary, periodic elections and even a constitution promulgated in 2005.
In reality the King’s Proclamation of 1973 banned all political parties and today any Swazi can be arbitrarily arrested and incarcerated by the authorities for simply exercising their constitutional rights of freedom of speech, freedom of association and freedom of assembly. As recently as 12 July 2009, hordes of police descended on a church compound to disperse dozens of youth who were attending a workshop on the grounds that some of the organisers were linked to a banned group that has been outlawed under the controversial Suppression of Terrorism Act.
In terms of the economy and despite the raging conditions of poverty and deprivation, Swaziland is officially described as a 'lower-middle income developing country', partly because the Coca-Cola behemoth chose Swaziland as the location for assembling the concentrate for its world famous cola brand. It is a little known fact that tiny Swaziland supplies the Coca-Cola concentrate to most of Africa, big parts of Asia and all of Australia and New Zealand from its industrial plant in Matsapa, a small working-class town just outside the financial capital of Manzini. The World Bank estimates that Swaziland’s economy is in long-term decline. The main income is from the aforementioned cola concentrates, remittances from the Southern African Customs Union and sugar. Very little of the revenue that the state accrues trickles down to the ordinary people. Recently Swaziland was among the countries which signed the Economic Partnership Agreement, widely seen as short-changing Third World countries vis-à-vis Europe when it comes to international trade.
On 14 November 2008 the government, using the provisions of the Suppression of Terrorism Act, banned the Peoples United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) and other political organisations and soon after arrested its leader Mario Masuku after making a speech at a funeral. Human rights leader Thulani Maseko, who was acting for PUDEMO, is himself facing charges of sedition.
There have been protests from workers, youth, women and broad elements of Swazi civil society in reaction to these social, economic and political realities. At the height of the 40th independence day celebrations – which coincided with the 40th birthday of the king – women in Swaziland organised marches and demonstrations to complain about the lavish spending by members of the royal household at a time when Swaziland was going through dire hardships. Human rights lawyers continue to challenge the draconian laws that have criminalised democratic dissent. Workers have taken up the cudgels against exploitation, low pay and a horrid anti-labour environment as they organise a campaign for decent work. For decades, trade union leaders and human rights defenders have been beaten, arrested and harassed for championing democratic rights.
Over the last few years the broad forces for peaceful democratic reform have been coalescing under the rubric of an emerging coalition of organised labour, I inter-faith communities, women, youth, civic organisations and other NGOs.
As part of this democratic resurgence, a meeting to explore ways of working for a more democratic Swaziland is planned for Saturday 18 July 2009. The meeting, dubbed 'Sidla Inhloko' in recognition of the widespread Swazi custom of eating cow heads in the process of discussing important issues in the community, has convened 12 commissions dealing with HIV/AIDS, health, education, gender, youth, governance, human rights, privatisation, food sovereignty, the environment, the informal sector and other related concerns.
Clearly Zimbabwe is not the only country in Africa which deserves the critical engagement of progressive forces in the international community.
* Jan Sithole is the general secretary of the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/.
Tragic end for Eritrean family's reunion attempt
In 2000, my brother, who had married in 1993 and had three children, left Eritrea alone. He left to study journalism in another African country, and he was fully aware that returning to Eritrea would be problematic.
From 1994–95, my brother and I had become acquainted with foreign researchers who used us as translators. Because of those acquaintances, we were both under surveillance and frequently under scrutiny by state security agents.
Around that time I had to accompany my grandmother to Asmara for a cataract operation. In Eritrea, there are checkpoints everywhere. Travelling requires exit and entry permits from the local authorities, which take time to obtain. While I was away, the military did one of its ‘recruitment drives’ and came to look for me in the middle of the night. When they found out I was away, they accused my mother of hiding me and took her to the military training camp in my place.
Neighbours got together and went to the local official who had given me the permit to accompany my grandmother to persuade him to confirm to the military where I was, and for what purpose, so that my mother would be released.
My brother came to inform me of what had happened to my mother and the threat I was under if I returned: To be sent to Sawa, the military training camp where many people who had been forcefully recruited had already died due to the harsh conditions (i.e. malaria, forced labour and malnutrition). For these reasons, I managed to leave Eritrea.
My brother kept out of urban centres – basically living in hiding – until he was able to leave Eritrea for the purpose of studying, but without his family. I hardly need say that both of us would have preferred to stay in Eritrea, if circumstances had been otherwise.
In 2004, my brother’s wife and two of her children were allowed to visit him where he was studying. His wife had to leave the eldest child behind as a guarantee that she would return, together with the equivalent of 50,000 nakfa per person (they were three), also to make sure they would return. Having no money, a neighbour agreed to put his up shop as surety. While she was abroad with her husband, she was approached by Eritrean officials and asked to return to Eritrea before her visa had expired. That obviously cut short this reunion with her husband. The reasons why they made this demand is unclear.
When she came back to Eritrea, my sister-in-law, who was teaching at a primary school, began to face questions from the government. She was told that if ever she wanted to see her husband again while he was abroad, she would be required to produce documentary evidence of what he is doing, how long he has been out of the country (although this should be plain knowledge, from his passport) and a letter from the Eritrean embassy from the country where he was studying, to confirm he was paying his ‘income tax’. (Eritrea had just introduced a 10 per cent income tax on the whole Eritrean diaspora.) In spite of her efforts to explain that her husband was still a student with no money, they demanded written evidence.
Obtaining such documents would require her husband approach the embassy in that country. He was afraid – journalism is not the favourite subject of the government and he also had a history of contact with foreigners.
As time went on, Eritrea became harsher: Imprisoning mothers and wives when their sons or husbands were ‘missing’. In Eritrea, there is a population survey every year, to account for every household. After 1995, births and deaths were registered for the first time. It has become government business to know how many people there are in a particular household so as to keep account of people’s movements.
My brother and his wife agreed that she would attempt to escape Eritrea via Sudan. In 2008, on the pretext of visiting relatives in a remote village, and without an exit permit, she, together with their three daughters – fourteen, ten, and seven years old – set out to travel by bus to the border. She found the funds for her travel through a charity organisation. The bus stops far from the border of Sudan, so she and the children had to travel on foot for a long distance to cross into Sudan.
Their plan was to proceed immediately to Khartoum to board a plane to reach her husband. Things turned out differently. They were apprehended by the police and handed over to officers of the Sudan office of the Commission for Refugees. They took them to a refugee camp (Shagharab), on the Atbara/Girba River. Because my sister-in-law was worried that the money intended for air tickets fares would run out, she resorted to desperate means to leave the camp.
Few people realise that refugees need an exit permit to leave camps. My sister-in-law, with her three children, had no choice but to use a smuggler to cross the river. The boat was overcrowded, there was a storm and torrential rains, and they drowned. Only four Eritrean men and a Somali woman survived; 21 died in all. One survivor reported that everyone had paid the smuggler US$100 for the passage (see Refugees feared drowned in Sudan river crossing).
When I was told of this tragedy, a long time after it occurred, I went to comfort my brother. I had not seen him since I left Eritrea. Words cannot describe his devastation, and my sadness. At Christmas time, so it happened, we went to Sudan to see their humble graves.
Having been brought up as a Catholic, I had been active in one of the missions’ centres in Eritrea where I stayed during the civil war. When Eritrea gained independence in 1991, we visited the Wodsherifoy Camp which was being closed at the time. In 2008, I was struck by the changes that had occurred. Eritrean refugees were suspicious of us as strangers; they were uncomfortable, even though we spoke the same language. There were many more checkpoints on the road than I could remember and we faced many problems obtaining permits to travel outside Khartoum on our sad journey.
The Shagharab refugee camp was set up in 1991 just beyond the river in the middle of a desert. Sandstorms blow with a force that can lift you off your feet and the sun is blazing. The camp is guarded by the Sudanese security services who check movements in and out of the camp; no refugee is allowed out without papers. It is likely that smugglers are from the refugees themselves. We saw the site where our loved ones drowned. The Girba River is very wide and deep.
In Kassala, we found a priest who took us to the camp and introduced us to those who had shared a tent with my sister-in-law and her daughters, as well as the men who had buried the bodies. They took us to the burial site. The only marking is a scrap of metal on which their names are painted. I reflected that another sandstorm would make it no longer possible to see their graves. I thought of the European world, where people visit the graves where their love ones are buried, and lay beautiful flowers on them. We could only leave plastic flowers.
In Kasala, I saw truckloads of refugees arriving from Eritrea and I thought how history repeats itself, knowing that is not history that is repetitive, but the horror. One told us of his recent escape from prison with three companions. They had walked many days across the desert. They had had to pay for water and for someone to direct them across the border to avoid patrols. In Sudan they were helped by nomads on camels who nevertheless extracted a high price: One of the group had had to call his relative (a recognised refugee, miraculously with papers, which allowed her to move freely in Sudan) to deliver $US5,000 – the cost of leading them through the Sudanese border to the camp.
The irony is that they had to pay only to end up in a prison again (i.e. a refugee camp where there is no freedom of movement). I could feel my sister-law’s despair at being trapped again in a camp when she knew her husband was waiting for her just a few air miles away. The people in Shagharab told us how much they had warned her against the hazardous river crossing. But the children could not stand the conditions inside the camp and put pressure on their mother to leave by any means.
This was a closely-knit family. All they wanted was to be reunited. There were no expectations of economic betterment, only the joy of family love, denied them by a few psychopaths who use their power for an alibi for their criminal activities.
The suffering of refugees does not end when they leave their country. My brother still has no other status than that of an ‘asylum seeker’. Even if recognised, he too will be placed in a camp.
* Mihret Goitom is an Eritrean lawyer who has settled in the UK.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/.
Putting South Africans' needs over their leaders' wants
Given the extreme poverty of the majority of ordinary South Africans, it is an affront that political leaders elected after promising to change the lives of the poor live in extraordinary opulence on public money. The majority of South Africans are living in terrible poverty, without jobs, houses and food. They have given the ANC (African National Congress) a mandate to lift them out of grinding poverty as quickly as possible.
Given that the majority of South Africans are dirt-poor, our leaders must start to live modestly. It was an eyesore to see that some political activists during the past elections when campaigning in squatter camps were driving Hummers while urging poverty-stricken people who do not know where their next meal will come from to vote for them. This is really an insult to the majority of South Africans struggling to make ends meet in these tough economic times.
Elected leaders are living the high life, Paris Hilton-like, on taxpayers’ money. It is easier for elected leaders living in a bubble of luxury to forget about the poor. Jacob Zuma must change the culture of opulence so pervasive in government. For starters, Zuma must ban extravagant ‘blue-light’ convoys, where one minister is chartered in a large convoy of cars driving at break-neck speed pushing other ordinary motorists and pedestrians off the road. The crowd of security guards that surround ministers must be cut down to one per minister. It is a disgrace that they are surrounded by so many bodyguards, while an ordinary citizen in Soweto must face the brunt of daily crime, without bodyguards, or responsive police, without the money to buy expensive private security.
Better still leaders must start to use public transport. Ken Livingstone, the former mayor of London in the United Kingdom, took the bus and the train to work and meetings every day. This also made him more accessible to ordinary citizens who could in person vent their anger at him for a lack of delivery. If local politicians take minibus taxis, trains and buses everyday, they will experience first-hand the daily dance-of-death that ordinary citizens experience using public transport.
Leaders must also drive more humble cars. Imagine President Zuma decreeing that all ANC-elected public officials should driving more humble official cars, say cars costing under R50,000. Leaders must also live modestly. Elected leaders must live in the constituency areas which they represent. This means if they represent Soweto, they must live there. This will also ensure they are reminded daily of the hardships and poverty of ordinary South Africans. This will also make them immediately accessible to the ordinary citizens they claim to represent.
Public elected officials must behave with more humility. Ministers must stand in queues in shops like ordinary citizens. President Zuma must issue an instruction that ministers should no longer be addressed with 'Your Excellency' or 'Your Honorary'; instead the president should instruct all his ministers to address ordinary citizens in this way. This should help install a culture of elected officials who are there to serve citizens. There should be no jumping of queues because the person is a minister or a 'VIP’.
Secondly, all VIP areas at public events that are funded by taxpayers must be banned. Leaders must mingle with ordinary people. Furthermore, extravagant parties for publicly-elected officials funded by taxpayers should be banned. So too must the huge food banquets available at meetings of government officials. This will save taxpayers huge amounts of money which can be redirected elsewhere to poverty-alleviation projects.
Excessive bonuses in the public sector should be curtailed. Even worse, in many state-owned companies executives give themselves performance bonuses, when they have managed failing and loss-making institutions. This is also a golden opportunity for President Zuma to bring accountability to South Africa’s political system. Elected leaders who do not deliver must be fired, especially if they are close allies and friends of the president. Under Mbeki, the most incompetent deployees were never fired if they were slavishly loyal to the president. Zuma’s proposal to open a direct line to him, where ordinary citizens can complain about poor service-delivery, corruption and indifference is a good idea. What matters is whether action will be taken against callous government officials following complaints by ordinary citizens.
* This article first appeared in the Sowetan.
* William Gumede is author of Thabo Mbeki and the Battle for the Soul of the ANC.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/.
Namibian sellouts: Cashing assets in for crumbs
Two decades into independence, too little has changed for most Namibians in terms of their socio-economic realities. Their society remains stigmatised as the world’s most unequal in terms of income distribution. In contrast, a new species of ‘fat cats’ has thrived. It prospers despite the sobering picture of an economy lacking meaningful transformation. As a ‘Guide to the Namibian Economy 2009’ summarised in its introductory blurb: 'We need to do much better in future if we are to provide jobs and incomes for all the people rather than just the privileged few'.
Some believe that a free-market gospel (meaning a largely unregulated environment for private capital operations with a minimum of state interference) would be the most opportune development path, provided that it offers newly created opportunities for the participation of members of the formerly colonised majority population (which against the strict logic of this argument does indeed require state interference). Others warn that this kind of laissez-faire approach is the surest way towards further disaster and adds to the problem. Even mainstream economists employed with local private financial institutions – and therefore who keep a low profile in terms of individual criticism – have their reservations concerning the current economic policy. To quote from the recent reference volume again: 'Government’s attempts to promote black Namibian business interests have taken place outside any overall coherent, transparent and accountable policy framework and [have] generally been highly discretionary and shrouded in secrecy. As a result, the lucky few close to power and influence have benefitted greatly, often at the expense of the ordinary taxpayer and consumer.'
CASHING IN ON NATURAL ASSETS
In November 2009 the electorate will, almost 20 years into independence, vote for a fifth time to decide upon the composition of the National Assembly and elect the country’s head of state for the 2010–15 term. On both accounts it requires no prophetic talent to predict that it will be the former liberation movement of the South West Africa People's Organisation (SWAPO), which (despite a new political opposition party recruited mainly from a few former SWAPO officials who had lost out on an internal power struggle earlier on) will emerge again as the dominant party, while its nominated candidate and current officeholder Hifikepunye Pohamba will become Namibia’s president for a second term with an overwhelming number of votes. Given SWAPO’s hegemonic status it is difficult to explain why political officebearers seem to be in a state of denial when it comes to acknowledging the fact that the times are not the best in terms of the country’s socio-economic situation.
The global financial meltdown and the subsequent economic recession have as a kind of ‘collateral damage’ also affected the economies of resource-based African countries. After a short-lived bonanza based on the revenue income from some of its mining commodities with high world market prices (in particular diamonds and copper) as a result of their subsequent plummeting during 2008, Namibia, with its natural wealth, has entered into a critical stage of declining economic performance. It seeks to address this setback by increasing sales of other natural assets (such as the rapid expansion in exploration and mining of its huge uranium reserves), as if such a dubious substitution would provide more than just a temporary, improvised bridging for an ailing economy short of any sustainable social and economic reconstruction.
The Namibia Wildlife Resorts Company (NWR) is, as a state-owned enterprise, like so many other state-funded parastatals mandated to act in the public interest. This includes more than merely seeking economic gains, though being economically viable would be an integral part of the defined tasks. Unfortunately, economic viability has not been the main strength of many among these companies, such as Trans Namib and Air Namibia in the transport sector, who seem to be chronically dependent upon bailouts from taxpayers’ money through subsidies. To compensate for earlier losses – not least due to failed management and disastrous business practices – NWR has started to enter deals with private sector companies to develop, market and utilise the country’s natural assets (landscape, flora and wildlife) to attract more of a potentially international segment of clients willing to pay hefty rates for viewing the country’s beauty. This includes the main water supply for Windhoek (von Bach Dam) as a potential upper-market resort for the wealthy (some of whom already benefitted from the limited access to its shores in the past).
The von Bach Dam saga, as brought into the public domain by an investigative journalist, is among the latest evidence illustrating that Namibia’s public goods – supposed to be in general possession and protected in the common interest – are turned into cash for a privileged few. The euphemism of ‘Namibianisation’ has since independence, along with Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) and Affirmative Action (AA), served as a smokescreen to cover up the kleptocratic enterprises of a post-colonial parasitic elite. This elite collective usurps political offices and dishes out access to the country’s wealth in public hands to a few comrades in business claiming to be entitled to such benefits as a Previously Disadvantaged Group (PDG).
These new acronyms are a masquerade for a class-based cooptation strategy over the more de-racialised socio-economic structure basically already in existence prior to independence. Despite the populist anti-imperialist rhetoric of the new rulers, they perpetuate the exploitation of the common people and exclude them from the country’s wealth. Moeletsi Mbeki has critically dealt with this tendency from within the belly of the beast. In his essays he bemoans the lack of what one could call patriotism on behalf of those who after apartheid moved into political offices. Their self-enrichment strategy is based on an unproductive crony capitalism, which contributes to the perpetuation of a (neo)colonial status quo. It sells the national assets in return for some crumbs.
Mind you, the privileged few make a good living from these crumbs, also in Namibia. A look at upper-market residential areas in Windhoek, Swakopmund, Walvis Bay and elsewhere (in particular further north), as well as the latest cars on the streets and other fancy status symbols of the nouveau riche suggest that they are in no need of social welfare. This is in marked contrast to the majority of the people, who are even denied the benefits of a Basic Income Grant (BIG). But those symbols of accumulated wealth are completely unproductive signs of a voluptuous lifestyle, instead of being invested into productive sectors of an economy to create employment opportunities for others.
PUBLIC GOODS AS PPP
Far from this, it is now the last of the ‘family silver’ Namibian authorities are seemingly willing to carelessly give away, as a sharp-minded and sharp-worded comment on the latest disclosure of the scuffle around the von Bach Dam diagnosed. The ‘struggle aristocracy’, as it was so poignantly termed in the editorial of the same day’s paper, cashes in on Namibia’s remaining natural and strategic resources. It testifies to an economic policy which suggests that the erstwhile liberators have turned into sellouts. ‘A luta continua’, the slogan of the struggle days, almost two decades into sovereignty now effectively translates into ‘the looting continues’.
Iyaloo ya Nangolo offered a lengthy and wordy ideological Trojan Horse published in several local papers in response to the disclosure. As one of the beneficiaries of a von Bach Dam deal, he not surprisingly sings the praise song of Public Private Partnerships (PPPs). He suggests that the PPPs would be not adequately respected as an engine for economic growth and the benefits they offer by means of subsequent trickle-down effects in terms of general welfare. It is worthwhile to recollect (as even ya Nangolo does) that PPPs were originally promoted as part of the neoliberal project by corporate capitalism in the USA. It started its worldwide crusade since the late 1970s by Thatcherism, the Reagan administration and the international financial institutions (in countries such as Chile under Augusto Pinochet!). As of late PPPs were also part of the gospel by politically bankrupt social democratic governments.
As one of two directors of the BEE company Tungeni Africa Investments, ya Nangolo seeks to legitimise his business interests. Fair enough. Hence it is also only fair to engage with ya Nangolo’s arguments instead of simply dismissing them unexplained. As he proposes, PPP 'is driven by the need to fast track sustainable development while expediting service delivery and addressing [the] alleviation of poverty, ignorance and other social evils'. He fails to mention, however, how and in which way the planned von Bach Dam scheme would achieve such effects, which services will be delivered and how poverty alleviation would be achieved. Will Tungeni Africa Investments provide shelter for the homeless, or allow those living in shacks to move into decent housing at reasonable and affordable costs? Will the construction site employ a meaningful number of Namibian workers at minimum wages for a longer period of time instead of awarding tenders to Chinese construction companies notorious for offering best bids because of their negligence of the country’s labour laws?
The advocate of PPPs in general and the von Bach Dam scheme in particular suggests that PPP is 'an economic reform strategy to deliver high quality services in an initiative that leverages the innovations and efficiency of private sector within society'. He does not spell out which high-quality services the von Bach Dam scheme will provide and to whom. More to the point, however, he also states that 'PPP had been developed to de-risk developmental programme [sic!] to private sectors'. For potential investors this is indeed an incentive, as it minimises risks at the expense of state agencies. But who gains?
The von Bach Dam scheme, like other similar potential enterprises in collaboration with the NWR, aims 'to spur growth in the tourism sectors'. But even the most impressive success stories in tourism provide hardly any convincing evidence that a prosperous tourism industry benefits the majority of the local population with lasting structural effects towards an economy based on sustainable growth and welfare. Tourism is among the most vulnerable of money generating activities, highly dependent upon external factors, and its main beneficiaries are not those in – often temporary and seasonal – employment. Rather, these are the first ones to suffer from setbacks.
What makes the von Bach Dam a sensitive issue is the fact that it is the main water supply to Namibia’s capital. Who owes and controls this fundamental public good if the utilisation of its territory is leased for generations to a private company? To what extent is this private investor loyal to the protection of a most precious public good, on which a population depends even if many among those cannot afford to pay the ever-increasing prices for water supply? The latest scandalously flawed budget by the Windhoek municipality (which mocks any ‘pro-poor’ concerns by ultimately scrapping all budgetary items in favour of improving facilities and infrastructure for the ghetto population with reference to the difficult economic times, while at the same time maintaining all expenditure in benefit of the better-off and those employed by the municipality) is of no comfort when it comes to its ordinary residents. In combination with the emerging plans at the von Bach Dam, this is surely reason enough to be worried about the future potential scenarios of such PPP.
PUBLIC VS. CLASS INTEREST
Ya Nangolo suggests that the perception of PPPs as privatisation is a misconstruction and a source of media-wrangling. This covers up the fact that it indeed is a kind of ‘outsourcing’ which allows private capital to generate long-term profits with public property, while the ordinary citizens – as taxpayers, users of privately-operated ‘public’ utilities or in any other way dependent on commercially-traded commodities for their daily life – have to foot the bill. In the end, a few rich are richer, and the poor are poorer, while the state and its administration, as well as the politically responsible officebearers, have failed in their duty to protect and act in the general interest of all members of society (not least the weakest). What is presented as a ‘media-wrangle’, highlights in fact a dimension of class interests.
The just-released 2nd Millennium Development Goals Report for Namibia, which paints a rather rosy picture, cannot help but summarise that 'a segment of the society is very wealthy even by international standards' and that the richest 10 per cent of households consumes 20 times more than the poorest 10 per cent. A background paper on trends in human development and human poverty compiled in 2007 by an economist with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) office in Windhoek points to the fact that 'contrary to the objectives of Vision 2030, human development in Namibia appears to be on a long-term decline' and that 'the administrative regions with the greatest needs are under-prioritised in the development budget'. One does not need to be a brain surgeon to find out where – socio-economically and regionally – the beneficiaries of a von Bach Dam resort scheme will be.
Moeletsi Mbeki (himself a beneficiary of new business opportunities provided to the so-called previously disadvantaged) ended his deliberations on the ‘architects of poverty’ with the conclusion that African elites are with few exceptions a rentier class. They appropriate wealth through access to national assets they are selling to others and 'have no sense of ownership of their country and are not interested in its development. They view the country primarily as a cash cow that enables them to live extravagantly … as they attempt to mimic the lifestyles of the colonialists… With the lack of ownership goes the pillaging of resources, neglect of the welfare of the people, corruption, capital flight and, ultimately, brutality against dissenting voices.' Sadly enough, there is nothing more positive to add from a Namibian perspective.
* Henning Melber is the executive director of the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation in Uppsala, Sweden. Melber joined the South West Africa People's Organisation (SWAPO) in 1974.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/.
 See several contributions to Henning Melber (ed.), Transitions in Namibia. Which changes for whom? Uppsala: The Nordic Africa Institute 2006.
 Robin Sherbourne, Guide to the Namibian Economy 2009. Windhoek: Institute for Public Policy Research 2009.
 Ibid., p. 359.
 See the several reports by John Grobler in the local daily The Namibian during June 2009.
 Moeletsi Mbeki, Architects of Poverty. Why African Capitalism Needs Changing. Johannesburg: Picador Africa 2009.
 Alexactus T. Kaure, Selling The Family Silver. NWR Joins The Pack. The Namibian, Windhoek, 26 June 2009.
 Let’s Start Asking The Right Questions. Ibid.
 I owe this brilliantly catchy and to the point interpretation to Firoze Manji, who shared it during a critical debate on the limits to liberation in Southern Africa with the participants in a seminar in Windhoek a couple of years ago.
 Iyaloo ya Nangolo, Misconstructing of PPP to privatisation a source of media ‘wrangle’. The Namibian, Windhoek, 25 June 2009 and New Era, Windhoek, 26 June 2009. All following quotes are from this text.
 Republic of Namibia, 2nd Millennium Development Goals Report Namibia 2008. Windhoek: National Planning Commission 2008 (launched June 2009), p. XIV.
 Sebastian Levine, Trends in Human Development and Human Poverty in Namibia. Background paper to the Namibia Human Development Report. Windhoek: UNDP Namibia, October 2007, summary page.
 Moeletsi Mbeki, op. cit., p. 174.
Landmark ruling allows apartheid victims to sue multinationals
After seven years of pacing legal hallways, South Africa’s apartheid victims have finally received the green light from a US judge to sue multinational corporations that knowingly aided and abetted the apartheid regime. In her 144-page judgment, Southern District of New York Judge Shira Scheindlin found that select defendants – including IBM, General Motors and Ford – engaged in aiding and abetting apartheid, torture, extrajudicial killings, denationalisation and other crimes and could therefore be held accountable.
Scheindlin’s 8 April ruling also crucially stated, 'Under the Rome Statute – and under customary international law – there is no difference between amorality and immorality. One who substantially assists a violator of the law of nations is equally liable if desires the crime to occur or if she knows it will occur and simply does not care.'
Her landmark decision has been called 'a major advancement in international human rights law' by the plaintiff’s attorney Michael Hausfeld.
The lawsuits were previously dismissed by Southern District Judge John E. Sprizzo who stated that the class action suits ‘could have serious consequences for US foreign relations and US commercial trade.’ The class action suits were later reinstated by the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in 2007 over the objections of the US State Department and the South African government, who granted a blanket amnesty to all corporations active during the apartheid era. The lawsuits Ntsebeza v. Daimler Chrysler Corp and Khulumani v. Barclay National Bank Ltd were later reassigned to Scheindlin on Sprizzo’s passing.
CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY
Though 15 years have passed since South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994, the economic system sustaining the apartheid regime has yet to be interrogated in a court of law.
Apartheid – meaning ‘separateness’ in Afrikaans – is often simplistically reduced to a state of racial segregation, marginalising the economic structure underpinning the strength and staying-power of the regime. The foundation of this structure – legalised in 1948 – was described by South Africa’s notorious former Prime Minister John Vorster who stated, 'Each bank loan, each new investment is another brick in the wall of our continued existence.'
The processes of apartheid – declared a crime against humanity by the United Nations in the 1960s – witnessed close collaboration between foreign corporations including mining, banking, technology, automotive and energy corporations such as Fujitsu Ltd, Barclays, IBM, Daimler AG and the Ford Motor Company among others, intentionally financing, aiding and abetting the regime, in exchange for access to natural resources such as gold and diamonds, and deliberately cheapened human resources or labour. The reasoning – business as usual – was quickly justified by corporations such as Ford who stated, 'Why are we in South Africa? We would not be there were there not an opportunity to make a profit.'
One example of this alliance was the Defense Advisory Board (DAB), created in 1980 by Vorster’s successor, the brutal P.W. Botha, for the purpose of devising ‘security’ policies related to various industries. Botha appointed corporate representatives from Barclays, Anglo American and other corporations to the board. In his statement to the House of Assembly Botha said, ‘We have obtained some of the top business leaders to serve on the DAB in order to advise me from the inside… I want to unite the business leaders of South Africa, representative as they are, behind the South African Defence Force. I think I have succeeded in doing so.’
The loyalty of foreign corporations investing in South Africa continued in the banking sector until as late as 1989–90, when US$8 billion in outstanding foreign loans were rescheduled on easy terms. The period from 1984 onward saw a 400 per cent increase in foreign loans, with 260 banks rescheduling the 1985 government-imposed debt standstill on US$13 billion (of US$23.5 billion) in outstanding debt. The deal ‘hammered behind a veil of secrecy’ was headlined by a local newspaper under the caption ‘South Africa makes a deal … which the rest of the world's debtors can only envy.’
South Africa’s Finance Minister Owen Horwood later said, 'There is a good deal of business with them [banks] which doesn't hit the headlines, and they remain important to us, particularly in the private sector.'
Victims of apartheid, represented by two reparations lawsuits filed eight years ago – Ntsebeza, et al. v. Daimler AG, et al. and Khulumani, et al., v. Barclays National Bank Ltd., et al – have now won the right to prosecute select corporations including General Motors, Ford, Daimler, IBM, Fujitsu and Rheinmetall using the vehicle of the Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA). The ATCA allows foreign victims of tort or injury in their own country to seek redress in US courts. Though the case was labeled ‘judicial imperialism’ by former President Thabo Mbeki, the ATCA vehicle is the last hope of many victims who require neutral courts removed from the influence of corrupt or despotic regimes from which to litigate for justice, and has used been by Holocaust victims as well as those living in Burma and Nigeria.
In 2002, South African victims such as Professor Dennis Brutus, Lungisile Ntsebeza, Jubilee South Africa and the Khulumani Support Group charged a group of multinationals with aiding and abetting the regime through arms, finance and technology and automotive equipment and expertise – something admitted to by the architects of apartheid.
Automotive corporations such as Daimler are charged with knowingly supplying armoured Unimog ‘military’ vehicles to the regime. In July 1988, DaimlerChrysler employee Joachim Jungbeck proclaimed to a shareholder meeting:
‘During a company visit, I was proudly shown aggregates of army vehicles, including huge numbers of axles from armoured vehicles. Storerooms contained large numbers of engines, axles and transmissions for Unimogs and armoured vehicles of the South African police and army.’
Much like the banks who funneled finance to state-owned entities such as ARMSCOR and ESCOM, Daimler directly collaborated with ARMSCOR, purchasing shares in the state-established Atlantis Diesel Engines (ADE) whose main client was the South African army, as well as 56 per cent capital stock in Allgemeine Elektizitätsgesellschaft (AEG) used to monitor the movement of black people.
In their Joint Motion to Dismiss, Daimler AG, Ford Motor Company, Barclays Bank, International Business Machines Corp., Fujitsu Ltd. and UBS claimed that allegations of aiding and abetting the apartheid government were not actionable because doing business with apartheid South Africa did not violate international law, international law did not impose obligations on the corporations to divest and that defendants' home countries did not prohibit South African commerce altogether. These corporations also stated unanimously that the UN General Assembly was not a ‘lawmaking body’ but was instead ‘merely advisory’ and that international law does not recognise corporate liability.
RULES OF ENGAGEMENT
Defendants claimed that South Africa viewed the case as an intrusion on its sovereignty. Although the former Minister of Justice Dullar Omar assured the plaintiffs that the government would maintain a neutral stance, allowing for victims to seek redress in any competent court of law, his successor Penuell Maduna obstructed the case by submitting an amicus curiae brief (also known as the Maduna Declaration) opposing litigation, saying that the responsibility of addressing apartheid lay with the government, and that the case would undermine national sovereignty. The back-pedalling occurred when Maduna received a letter from US Secretary of State Colin Powell requesting the government invoke the issue of sovereignty. According to Mbeki, ‘We are not defending the multinationals. What we are defending is the sovereign right of the people to decide their future.’
Yet according to Scheindlin, ‘International comity does not require dismissal of this suit.’ In a footnote, she wrote that 'defendants [corporations] argue the real issue is not whether defendants were granted amnesty' but whether a federal court should interfere with South Africa's stated preference. In 1994, the ANC (African National Congress) government granted a blanket amnesty to all corporations; no alternative forum was created to investigate the economic structure underpinning apartheid. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) established by the state to redress wrongs committed during apartheid was never mandated to investigate the role of corporations and was instead limited to individual acts of aggression. In 2005, an amicus filed by the TRC proclaimed that the corporations charged with aiding the regime never engaged with the TRC, plead for amnesty or offered reparations. The TRC also found that the lawsuit against multinationals does not interfere with the TRC’s policies or mandate, nor does it undermine national sovereignty, South Africa's courts or the constitution. The TRC stated that private corporations may be held legally accountable as a matter of civil law.
Contrary to the claims of the South African government, Scheindlin quoted the TRC report stating that, ‘there is absolutely nothing in the TRC process, its goals or the pursuit of the overriding goal of reconciliation, linked with truth that would be impeded by this litigation. Such litigation is entirely consistent with these policies and the findings of the TRC.’
Scheindlin quoted former World Bank economist Joseph Stiglitz’s argument that, 'Suits seeking to hold foreign companies accountable for their unlawful collaboration with a prior regime will not discourage foreign investors from investing in that country in the future.’
According to Desmond Tutu, ‘The case is important for what it means to the victims of apartheid. But it is also important as a warning to those who support unjust regimes with their business. Business like sport is never really politically neutral.
'Sadly the litigation if it is successful will expose the meanness of the reparations our country gave to victims and is a rebuke to our government who tried to oppose the case.’
Marje Jobson, director of the Khulumani Support Group, stated that the lawsuit targets 'companies that did profitable business by [knowingly] equipping the apartheid security agencies with the means of enforcing and sustaining apartheid’ and ‘asks for compensation for injuries on behalf of individual victims who fall into four classes of victims. The decision regarding compensation would be based on standards established in international law.’
Individual supplemental memorandums lodged by corporations further contested charges that parent corporations should be held liable for the alleged acts of subsidiaries. Ironically, piercing the ‘corporate veil’ of parent–subsidiary relationships is largely impossible as internal-transfer pricing, information transfer and the overall pyramid structure related to multinational operations – comprising 60 per cent of global trade – is secretive and lacks transparency.
Though Scheindlin narrowed the claims, dismissing charges against banks such as Barclays, she found that the technology corporation IBM could be charged for supplying equipment used 'to register individuals, strip them of their citizenship, and segregate them in particular areas of South Africa', that Rheinmetall Group can be prosecuted for aiding and abetting extrajudicial killing and apartheid through the supply of armaments, and that General Motors, Daimler and Ford were ‘intimately involved’ with aiding and abetting apartheid, torture and inhumane treatment as well as providing military equipment used by the South African Defense Forces and other security branches. Hopes for a settlement are pinned on the new US government of Barack Obama – who supported corporate divestment from South Africa during the apartheid regime – and the presumably left-leaning Jacob Zuma-led South African government.
Despite Scheindlin’s dismissal, the case for prosecuting banks financing ‘terrorist regimes’ or state terror (defined as the systematic use of terror as a means of coercion) is certainly legitimate, especially in light of well-documented supporting evidence concerning foreign financial support and the characteristics of the apartheid regime.
If successful, the case sets a global precedent defining the contours that can be used to hold multinational non-state actors accountable for aiding, abetting and sustaining various brutal, dictatorial and corrupt regimes.
In doing so, the multinationals propping up undemocratic regimes that are dependent on foreign finance, the demand for expropriated natural resources and deliberately cheapened human labour – as well as technology, automotive and armaments sources – may well find themselves out in the cold, subject to the long arm of the law.
One small step for South Africa, one giant leap for mankind…
* Khadija Sharife is a journalist and visiting scholar at the Centre for Civil Society (CCS). She is based in South Africa.
* This article first appeared in African Business.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/.
Acknowledge America's role in African affairs
Barack Obama's recent overnight visit to Ghana is one, as media coverage has shown, that generated enormous excitement for Africans across the world. However for me, as an African, his message of hope and imagined possibility of change in US-Africa relations did not live up to the expectations I had for a man who on 4 November 2008, as President-elect, promised a new way of doing things. His interview with AllAfrica.com before his departure and subsequent speech to the Ghanaian parliament echoed a historical amnesia of the West's role in African affairs which disappointingly does not detract from the traditional inability of past American governments to acknowledge their role in the affairs of other nations. I explore, below how America’s political historical aphasia was reinforced while simultaneously intersecting with questions of cultural heritage and Western support of African dictators.
Firstly while it heartened me to see Obama acknowledging his Kenyan heritage, I wondered why now? Why is his African identity so important standing before a Ghanaian parliament? When he has been taken to task about his race-less modus operandae in the US, he has continually said its not a raced agenda, but an American one. Yet, in differing and complex ways, race is inextricably linked to American issues in the everyday. How does he, the son of a Kenyan migrant-cum-African American President, expect African Americans who come from a slave heritage to feel now that race and heritage are important when he is in Africa but not in the United States? Where is this side of him when dealing with everyday issues of poverty, education, poor social housing, unfair justice system and police brutality all of which are conditions specific to black and other ethnic minority people in their respective racial categories? While it might be argued that race politics is different nowadays, America is ‘not yet there’ in terms of proclaiming a post-race era, given the continued reports of race-motivated police brutality in Philadephia, Oaklahoma, for example and the upsurge of alarming white supremacist derogatory comments that the Obamas have been subject to during their tenure as First Family.
Secondly, it is more complex than simply African draconian nationalist governments springing up one after another, unshaped by history or foreign influence. For too long Africa has been portrayed as the 'black hole of war and corruption' and Barack Obama in both his interview and speech, continued to construct that image without critically exploring just how African wars and dictatorships are made.
Perhaps I'm speaking from an emotional – although no less valid – perspective as an African, but I feel the construction and maintenance of the African 'strongman' is through 'strong institutions' that come from a culture of tolerance of despotism from both within and outside Africa. If Obama had paused in his speech, he might have remembered meeting Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, invited as the non-member Africa representative at the G20 summit in April 2009 in London. Or he might have looked down from his pulpit to see that sitting right there opposite him Ghana’s former head of state Jerry Rawlings, a man who fiercely held onto power, with the support of the World Bank for as long as promises to transform Ghana into a democracy and free market economy were maintained. Or, seeing as Zimbabwe was his choice example in these words:
'The West is not responsible for the destruction of the Zimbabwean economy over the last decade or wars in which children are enlisted as combatants.'
The position of the West in relation to Zimbabwe is an extremely complex one. While on the one hand Western condemnation of Robert Mugabe only came in 2000 when the farm invasions began, all the while America gave financial support to the totalitarian state Zimbabwe had slowly become. On the other hand post-2000, US and EU sanctions against Zimbabwe have negatively affected the economy and have been part of the reason why Zimbabwe is in economic ruin, though the larger part of the blame lies with Mugabe’s damaging fiscal and repressive social policies.
Thirdly, in his impassioned chiding of African leaders, Obama also constructs the image of a new leader of a democratic America willing to give Africans a ‘helping hand’ out of this political mess. This is the pinnacle of America’s civilising mission of the world, prescribing its handbook on democratic ideals, as though democracy were a political feel-good pill every nation needed in order to self-actualise. For those wayward nations that reject this medication, sanctions and no aid is the response, as in the case of Cuba and Zimbabwe, which have recently been relaxed but with limitations – a welcome move that Obama can be credited with.
However his preaching of democracy in Africa, with all its personal anecdotes and touching metaphors, is, in reality, no different from past seemingly benevolent approaches of George W Bush, Bill Clinton or the UK’s Tony Blair or Gordon Brown. Bush and Blair who, in acting in the interests of ‘democracy for African people’, also openly criticised African leaders, resulting in a war of words between the US, UK and the outraged Mummar Gadaffi of Libya and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, respectively.
I find it questionable and almost contemptuous that Obama's speech should be hailed as a 'turning point' in Africa-US affairs, as the New York Times, CNN and AP News have all described it. In some instances they came across as patronising and at other times almost gleeful that Obama was given a platform to scold African heads of state that no white Western leader would ever have been given. Is it a ‘turning point’ because it is a leader of African-heritage speaking to other African leaders with an invocation of Bennedict Anderson's ‘imagined community’ at every turn?
This ‘tuning point’ remains to be seen more concretely in his actions, through his approach in his dealings with African dictatorships, be it Libya or Zimbabwe. However, so far Obama's foreign policy has not reflected a politics of change but more of the same, exercised in silence and diplomacy rather than open vindication as the situations dictated to Obama’s procrastinated responses to Iran, Israel or Honduras in the last 30 days. It took Obama 10 long days to speak out against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's persecution of Iranians after civilians took to the streets in protest to the re-election of Ahmadinejad. Obama again remained silent when Israel captured, imprisoned then eventually deported the passengers of a ship on a peacekeeping mission to Gaza, among whom was former US Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney and twenty other human rights activists en route to Gaza to provide medical assistance and relief to civilians there. He refused to call the incident in Honduras a coup; instead he chose his language very carefully knowing what implications the word coup might have for US troops stationed there. In these instances he has acted in American interests, not in the pursuit of good governance and global humanity as he preached in Accra. Why the hypocrisy? If – as his speech and interview rightly convey to a certain extent – Africa is a hotbed of dictatorships sorely in need of adopting good democratic principles, then why were these same principles not put to practice in Obama’s dealings with Israel, Iran and Honduras?
In full superpower mode, the US has not always practiced the democratic values it preaches and the description of America in Vietnam by the late Dr Martin Luther King Jnr, '[it is] the greatest purveyor of violence' still rings true of the US even today in the age of its waning political influence. Renowned political critic and academic, John Pilger in his insightful criticism of US foreign policy notes that: 'Since 1945, by deed and by example, the US has overthrown 50 governments, including democracies, crushed some 30 liberation movements and supported tyrannies from Egypt to Guatemala…Bombing is apple pie [for America]'.
I concur with Pilger, as the dark side of America’s involvement in Africa in the last 50 years has been nothing short of this. It has been a policy of 'assassinate our threats and install our favourites' as exemplified in the installation of Jomo Kenyatta in Kenya in 1963, the CIA assassination of Patrice Lumumba in 1961 and the subsequent installation of Mobuto Seseko in Zaire and the US-supported killing of Laurent Kabila in the DRC in 2001. When not ‘assassinating threats and installing favourites’, America has bombed or turned a blind eye to atrocities as exemplified in Bill Clinton's ignoring of the ethnic genocide in Rwanda in 1994 and knee-jerk reaction of removing troops, (sent by his predecessor Bush Senior at the UN’s request), to Somalia in 1992, while his hyper-fear of Al-Qaeda’s terror attacks resulted in the bombing of a pharmaceutical factory in Sudan in 2000.
The pursuit of commercial interests of both US corporations and African governments at the expense of local people is another case in point Obama persistently avoided mentioning in his address, yet the history of Shell in Nigeria lurks right next door. Ghana itself is no stranger to exploitation as it is the dumping ground of toxic computer waste from rich countries. According to the BBC, 'Abgoloshie dump site in Ghana’s capital, Accra is a computer graveyard' where the hazardous materials of computers run a serious risk of contaminating water sources, including rivers and eventually the sea.
Intended as the wisdom of hindsight, Obama cautiously advised parliament 'oil is not the new cocoa' in reference to the recent discovery of oil in Ghana. However, ‘oil might just become the new cocoa’ as a symbol of both economic prosperity and ruin for Ghana if indeed the US is to increase its supplies of oil from Africa from its current 15 per cent to 25 per cent by 2015.
Given the US track-record on the Continent, outlined above, I am suspicious of what this mission was truly about. Obama's Africa policy will become clearer as time goes on. For it to live up to the expectations of good governance and democracy promised in his rhetoric, it has to be subject to continual, rigorous political scrutiny and intellectually sustained criticism. It also requires, on both sides, a dialogue of mutual respect that is free from historical amnesia, finger-pointing and hidden capitalist interests. These are essentials for the foundation of new relations between African governments and US, if the Obama administration’s promises and pledges made in the interest of the African Continent as a whole and its individual nations, are to be realised.
* Tendai Marima is a Zimbabwean currently undertaking a PhD in Zimbabwean women's writing at Goldsmiths, University of London.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/.
 Pilger, John Mourn on the fourth of July, New Statesman, 9 July 2009,
 Ross, Will computers pile up in Ghana dump? BBC, 5 August 2008
Pan-Africanism in our time
The people of Africa are united by culture, history and identity. However, colonialism and now neo-colonialism seeks to divide and atomise the continent in several ways. However, the struggle for a united Africa, which began years before the Pan-African Movement was aimed solely at uniting a people bound by history. African Unity has come a long way, but every movement needs an ideology. Pan-Africanism has played that role for Africa.
Today some people may regard Pan-Africanism as a throwback to the immediate post-colonial period. Events such as the crisis in the DRC, Northern Uganda, some parts of Kenya, youth struggling for emancipation in the Niger Delta, and the quest of Mau Mau veterans for compensation bind us as a people. We feel each other’s pain. As we struggle to build a Union of African States, it is imperative that we revisit this concept from a political and radical perspective. After all, Pan-Africanism is partly a response to the way Africa and Africans have been treated within the global world since the Berlin Conference of 1884, which divided Africa into tiny enclaves for the benefit of European monarchs and their hangers on.
Pan-Africanism is not a concept that easily lends itself to definition. It is a journey. For me, what is important is to understand and underscore the point that this journey has brought us to the point where the talk of a unity of African states is no longer sneered at by cynics or seen as a dream, but as something that can happen in our life time. Pan-Africanism for me is an idea, a collective understanding of what binds us as Africans – not Kenyan, Ghanaian, Congolese, Ugandan, or Egyptian – but as Africans with a common bond, and how we intend to conduct our affairs in today’s globalised world.
The colonisation of Africa was formalised at the Berlin Conference of 1884, which led to the most brutal genocide against any race ever known in the history of human beings. The export of millions of Africans to the so-called ‘new world’ was also supported by the colonisation process – which was brutal in its execution and inhuman in its sustainability. The colonial enterprise was a form of one party dictatorship in which Africans were treated according to the whims of the colonial overlords, missionaries, their companies and indeed anyone who thought they were superior to Africans. Apartheid was the most extreme form of colonisation. So far, no one has faced the International Criminal Court (ICC) for these crimes against humanity. But as a result of these events – slavery, the colonial enterprise, racism, the brutal economic exploitation of African resources, and so on, African people all over the world realised that they faced a common destiny. Marcus Garvey’s ‘back to Africa’ movement was largely destroyed as an enterprise, but the ideas behind it were never touched. The basic premise is that all Africans and people of African descent in any part of the world belong to a common African nation, and should work together to address our common problems. The idea of a common front against exploitation, degradation, abuse, racism, colonial exploitation and various forms of slavery, led to the birth of the Pan-African movement as we know it today.
PAN-AFRICANISM: THE EARLY YEARS
Basically, Pan-Africanism is about geo-politics as it relates to the African continent. All Africans and people of African descent are Africans and belong to the African nation. The early years of the Pan-African Movement were mostly dedicated to ending the colonial enterprise, and hence its diaspora origins. Of particular importance in the calendar of Pan-Africanism were the various conferences and meetings: The Pan-African conferences of 1900 (London), 1919 (Paris), 1921 (London, Brussels, Paris), 1923 (London), 1927 (New York), and the last official one in 1949. The All African People’s Conference called by Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah in Accra (1965) is also another important landmark in the history of Pan-Africanism. The last global Pan-African Movement meeting was held in Kampala in 1994. Some of the leading lights in the movements history included influential Africans and people of African descent of the time participated in these meetings: Sylvester Williams, W.E.B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey, Kwame Nkrumah, Jomo Kenyatta, etc. The 1958 First Conference of Independent African states, held in Accra, Ghana marked the formal beginning of the Pan-African movement within the continent. The 1963 Organisation of African unity Charter bore the hallmarks of these efforts.
Following the dark cloud of slavery and colonialism in Africa, visionary African leaders realised that it was imperative that all Africans – wherever they might be – to unite to end the African holocaust which began with the 'European Renaissance' in Italy in 1400. Its practical manifestation, however, dates back to 1900 when Sylvester Williams, a lawyer of African descent, named this coming together of Africans 'Pan-Africanism'. But as a movement, Pan-Africanism began in 1776. It was, however, the fifth Pan-African Congress held in Manchester, England, in 1945 that advanced Pan-Africanism and applied it to the de-colonisation of the African continent politically. Some of the leading lights in the movement’s history included Kwame Nkrumah (Ghana), William du Bois, Jomo Kenyatta (Kenya), Robert Sobukwe (South Africa) and Patrice Lumumba (Congo, now DRC). Pan-Africanism therefore defines the intellectual, political and economic cooperation that should lead, ultimately, to the political unity of Africa.
Unlike other contending ideologies, Pan-Africanism was ‘developed by outstanding African scholars, political scientists, historians and philosophers living in Africa and the diaspora’. It was conceived in the womb of Africa. It is a product made in Africa by Africans. The objectives of Pan-Africanism have changed over time, but not the essence. For instance, while the Pan-Africanist Movement was in its early years concerned with anti-racism, anti-colonialism as spearheaded by Kwame Nkrumah (Ghana), Ahmed Sekou Toure (Guinea) and the founding fathers of the Pan African movement, it is now mainly focused on the actual political unification of Africa.
George Padmore, considered Pan-Africanism an ‘ideological alternative’ for the liberation of Africa from the shackles of imperialism. The new Africa would create the authentic and independent political, social, and cultural environment, nurturing and reproducing what was uniquely African and thus create a framework for uniting all Africans in the world and for waging a struggle against racial and domination. George Padmore also addressed African leaders when he wrote that ‘African nationalist leaders must resolve their own internal communal conflicts and…differences, so that, having established a democratically elected government, the imperial power will find less danger in passing power to the popularly elected leaders than in withholding it.’ In his words, ‘Pan-Africanism looks above the narrow confines of class, race, tribe and religion, … Its vision stretched beyond the limited frontiers of the nation-state. Its perspective embraces the federation of regional self-governing countries and their ultimate amalgamation into a United States of Africa.’
Apart from George Padmore, another fervent believer in Pan-Africanism was Kwame Nkrumah. In the 1960s, Ghana’s founding father and true Pan-Africanist, Kwame Nkrumah argued that ‘the independence of Ghana was meaningless unless it was linked up with the total liberation of the African continent.’ For Nkrumah, Ghana’s sovereignty was secondary to the pursuit of the Pan-African dream. So deep was his commitment that all independent states in Africa should work together to create a Union of African States that he was willing to sacrifice Ghana’s pursuit of national sovereignty: On the eve of Ghana’s independence on 6 March 1957, Nkrumah declared that so deep was Ghana's ‘faith in African unity that we have declared our preparedness to surrender the sovereignty of Ghana, in whole or in part, in the interest of a Union of African States and Territories as soon as ever such a union becomes practicable.’ Ghana started this process by creating an anti-imperialist front called the Ghana-Guinea-Mali Union of radical African leaders.
In his book I Speak of Freedom, published in 1961, Kwame Nkrumah further reminded all Africans that imperialism had so thoroughly distorted and disarticulated African social formations, that only continental unity could save the region from further deterioration. In Africa Must Unite (1963), Nkrumah enunciated a clear agenda for the establishment of an African common market to complement the Union of African States. Nkrumah argued: ‘The unity of Africa and the strength it would gather from continental integration of its economic and industrial development, supported by a united policy of non-alignment, could have a most powerful effect for world peace.’ This position was supported by various West African nationalist leaders like Nnamdi Azikiwe (Nigeria), Modibo Keita (Mali) and Sekou Toure (Guinea). However, this version of Pan-Africanism was not without enemies.
The early years of Pan-Africanism were also a response to the emerging anti-colonial movements, and issues pertaining to post-colonial development, and Africa’s relationship with former colonial powers. African leaders (the radicals) demanded that that the riches of Africa be used for the benefit and development of Africa. Such goals were noble, but also an anathema to the former colonial powers, for which Africa’s only purpose was to fill the coffers of the imperial powers. Most of the radical leaders of the movement were therefore hounded and overthrown on the instigation of these powers. In today’s Africa, the continued hounding of Robert Mugabe (Zimbabwe) exemplifies this trend in all it entirety. The spirit and ideology of Pan-Africanism has moved considerably from what its earlier adherents like George Padmore, Sylvester Williams, W.E.B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey, and C.L.R. James had articulated. As the struggle for African independence intensified, and the anti-colonial movement gained momentum, Pan-Africanist ideology gained a further impetus from the contributions of people like Patrice Lumumba, Frantz Fanon, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Sekou Toure, and Modibo Keita (Mali).
PAN-AFRICANISM IN OUR TIME
Today, globalisation is a truth which we have to live with. But globalisation has not led to the break down of national boundaries, it re-enforced them, allowing those with the military, economic power and resources to try and re-arrange global affairs to suit their national interest. Neo-liberalism and neo-colonialism are the new instruments which pass off as 'globalisation'. To me, globalisation is nothing but a new form of re-colonisation in which western powers justify their continued dominance using economic and humanitarian arguments as further attempts to consolidate their stranglehold of the continent. Under the guise of ‘humanitarian intervention’, the new global powers can invade and blockade any country within their orbit, and when this fails, they resort to the use of international institutions and courts.
The European Union has united Europe in both a political and economic sense. Where this is not enough, it uses global military alliances like the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) to enforce its rule by other means. On the other hand, Africa, which requires this Union to protect its interests globally is still pussy footing, while the masses of African people continue to wallow in the ‘quagmire of underdevelopment, poverty, endless border wars, economic domination and the dictatorship of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.’ This problem is further exacerbated by the type of leadership whose interests is sometimes anti national.
We must challenge authoritarian rule, mismanagement, poor leadership and the lack of accountability of our leaders and public institutions. It is the historic duty to Africa of all Africans to do so. It is also the only way to help address the perennial problems of underdevelopment, poverty, deprivation, and the poor deplorable state of our infrastructure when a lot of resources go to private sources. But we must also have the courage of our founding fathers, the pioneers of Pan-Africanism and African liberation, to challenge the prevailing orthodoxy that holds the view that corruption and authoritarianism is a typical African problem. This stems from the colonial mindset, allowing international institutions to target African leaders, haul them off to some foreign jail under the guise of answering for impunity. It is inconceivable that the US or Britain will act similarly. That also means that African activists should reappraise and carefully reflect on the sort of activities which passes off as advocacy and campaigning while fuelling anti African actions nationally and globally.
Africa’s shameless dependence on the West, the unproductive disposition of our elite to foreign inspired theories and ideas, the wanton abuse of human rights, the appropriation of state power and its resources, and hostility to popular and progressive forces have not helped Africa to propel Africa’s glory. Even today, Africa remains a continent for denigration, racist jokes, pity, and exploitation. The negative stereotyping of Africa in the western media remains a durable part of the Western intellectual landscape. Jokes about African leaders abound in the bars and conference halls of westerners, with Africans providing the laughter.
Even today (in a globalised world), some westerners still regard Africa as a wild dark jungle, largely preserved to satisfy the lecherous and erotic dreams and fantasies of American and European tourists. Africa remains the huge laboratory preserved to satisfy the academic curiosity of European and American scholars, what with the instability, wars, and strange tales of administrative and political blunders. The personalities of leaders dictators like Nguema, Idi Amin, Kamuzu Banda, Jean Bedel-Bokassa, and Mobutu Sese Seko provide intriguing patterns and models for research into the African personality and idiosyncrasies.
The abuse of African children and hospitality by so-called tourists and preachers is a sad indictment of the sort of leadership we have installed. These tendencies have been reinforced by the inability of the African elite to think independently, and map out a clear and creative agenda for reconstruction and development, mobilise their peoples, develop infrastructures, and generate confidence in Africa’s resources, economies and abilities, rather than ape and mouth theories which have no relevance to Africa’s development.
But for Pan-Africanism to remain relevant to African lives, the creation of the Union of African States should go beyond state-to-state relations and permeate to the people of Africa, who by no means would like to live in peace and harmony with each other. African Union meetings should cease being a meeting of presidents and their accolades (including a few select civil society groups). When African mothers, market women, traditional queens, birth attendants, etc get to attend an African union meeting to put before our leaders, the sort of deplorable lives they lead, it would be a major step. That should move on to farmers, policemen and women, soldiers, children, and so on. Why should African children be transported to New York and not Addis Abba, Tripoli, Nairobi or Kampala?
African economists and intellectuals need their own framework for development, free from the encumbrances of donor requirements. For example, the policies outlined in the African charter for popular participation in development must be seen as guidelines for structural transformation, democratisation, empowerment, accountability and a determined march towards the 21st Century. For Pan-Africanists, the central question remains how Africa should confront its own economic crisis in the context of a highly exploitative, unequal, protectionist and sometimes hostile, global order?
I have argued over and over again that Africa needs first fundamental transformation of the national orders. This transformation has to be people-led, democratic, self reliant, credible, and viable. Once this is achieved, it will be possible to transform the continent through a continent-wide political agenda arising naturally from the national reconstruction projects, and people to people initiatives. Secondly, Africa needs solidarity – we must learn to support each other. According to a recent report by the Ghana News Agency (23 June 2009), Leaders of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) agreed to pay arrears owed to the Guinea Bissau armed forces as part of measures towards peace in the country.
In addition, they would contribute to the funding of the 28 June presidential elections to improve the security situation. The decisions were taken at the end of their 36th Ordinary Summit held in Abuja. The leaders would provide US$3.5 million to pay for the arrears and US$350,000 towards the elections, according to a release from the ECOWAS Commission. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) also agreed to assist Zimbabwe with a hefty sum to get the country back on track after the formation of the collation government. These sort of Pan-African arrangements and cooperation is what Africa needs. Pan-Africanism is relevant in our time, but it requires a recognition of the new forms of threats posed to African sovereignty, to African interests, and the future of generations of Africans to come. Any other approach will amount to the usual political posturing, reactive to other people’s provocations, defensive radicalism, and more of the same neo-colonial approach to development.
* Zaya Yeebo is programme manager for the UNDP’s Civil Society Democratic Governance (CSDG) Facility but writes here in his own capacity.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/.
Does Tanzania need dual citizenship?
In his most recent official visit to the United States of America (USA), the President of the United Republic of Tanzania, Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, met a group of Tanzanian citizens – as well as citizens of USA who have renounced their Tanzanian citizenship – residing in Los Angeles, California. One of the burning questions that they had for the President – as the buildup to the event indicated – was the question of dual citizenship. Prior to this presidential visit it was a common knowledge, as garnered from parliamentary debates and ensuing media reports such as The Citizen’s Preparations for dual citizenship law underway (15 July 2008) and The Daily News’ Bill on dual citizenship coming (15 July 2008), that the government was in the process of preparing a Bill for dual citizenship to be tabled in parliament in one of its 2009 sessions.
Thus the anticipation the Tanzanian diaspora had, despite the fact that their campaign to push for such a Bill goes back as early as 2004, was based on the hope that as the head of the government, the president could reveal how soon they should expect such a parliamentary motion. Surprisingly, flanked by the minister responsible for foreign affairs, Bernard Membe, the president told his audience in Los Angeles that the move has stalled as it has been a subject of opposition among a number of people including the highly regarded intellectuals at the university, some of whom he affirmed they know very well. He noted that the minister for foreign affairs has frequently talked in favour of it but has now stopped doing so, for every time he speaks about it they blast – as in criticise – him.
In his characteristically humouristic tone, President Kikwete grinningly said that these opponents of dual citizenship are saying that their fellows who are abroad want to ‘kula huku na huku’, which when literally translated means, they ‘want to eat here and there.’ It is obvious he was referring to certain ‘Intellectuals at the Hill’, that is, those at the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM) which is still highly regarded as the leading higher learning institution in Tanzania. The president promised, however, that they will keep on educating, as in sensitising the people, about it, that is, presumably about its benefits.
But who are these renowned intellectuals that the government seemingly listens to when they speak and what are their main arguments against dual citizenship? They include those who participated in an international conference on ‘Unbinding Dual Citizenship in Tanzania’ convened by the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) at UDSM in April 2007. In her media report of the event in The Guardian (12 April 2007), Christina Mwangosi concluded that most participants disagreed with the adoption of dual citizenship by arguing that it will endanger peace, security and livelihood of poor Tanzanians.
Moreover, they argued that it will increase pressure on land because in most cases people with access to dual citizenship may take advantage of their affluence to purchase land, thus leaving the poor landless. Another argument advanced against it was that it may also put the nation at a high security risk. According to the Centre for the Study of Forced Migration, the International Refugee Rights Initiative & the Social Science Research Council, however, some people argued that introducing it might perhaps help Tanzania to access investment from the diaspora and that there was recognition of the existence of an emerging elite with children born outside Tanzania who could also benefit.
Arguably one of those famous intellectuals who are against dual citizenship is Professor Issa Shivji. As far back as 2006, when the Law Reform Commission of Tanzania, chaired by the renowned Judge Antony Bahati, issued a report on the introduction of dual citizenship in Tanzania, he had expressed concern that the reforms were spearheaded by an elite few. According to the Sunday News (21 May 2006), Shivji said this was so because the majority of Tanzanians would not benefit from such a reform. Moreover, he contended that the reform in favour of dual citizen was/is a sign of a lack of patriotism and would lead to a loss of national identity. In tandem with these contentions he wrote an article on dual versus African citizenship in The Citizen (24 November 2007).
Therein Shivji offered a critique of one of the parliamentary debates on dual citizenship in which the response of a deputy minister concerned with citizenship implied that ‘many’ Tanzanians were/are in favour of it. After noting that previously newspapers have reported that vocal Tanzanians particularly those residing abroad had clamoured for that form of citizenship and also after observing that it seemed even those in authority were/are in favour of it, Shivji predicted that perhaps it was thus a matter of time before dual citizenship is legalised and then posed two set of interrelated questions that we need to ask. The first one is which Tanzanians want such citizenship and how many are those ‘many Tanzanians’ who want it? And the second one is what does dual citizenship imply, and who stands to benefit from it?
The answer to the first question, he contended, is clear even without taking a head count. It is – for it can only be – the members of the minute elite who constitute that ‘many Tanzanians’ implied by the said deputy minister. To Shivji, these ‘many’ Tanzanians cannot be the majority Tanzanians, for the latter live in their villages and may have never travelled outside the country and perhaps not even to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s business capital. As such, he affirms, it matters little to the large majority of Tanzanians. In a way this view was supported by Chachage in an interview with Sunday News (21 May 2006) whereby the latter was quoted as saying that dual citizenship was not a priority because there were many other pressing issues at that moment.
In the absence of such a headcount, it is important to note that according to one of the leading advocates for dual citizenship known as Abdul Wakil, the online ‘Dual Petition for Tanzanians’ was filed online at www.tanzaniacyberzone.com by Tanzanians living in America, that is, the USA. At the time Wakil announced that on 18 March 2004, as cached in The Africa Guide Forums, he noted that 450 signatures had been collected. By 17 November 2007 another leading advocate of dual citizenship and propagator of the petition, Apollo Temu, noted in Tanzania Edinburgh Community Association (TzECA) online yahoo group that at least 2,574 signatories had already endorsed the privately arranged petition. Even though the then posted petition can neither be accessed nor cached online, it is clear that the move was primarily a movement of Tanzanians abroad, the majority of whom come from middle class families in Tanzania.
I had an opportunity to visit the petition site once before it became inaccessible, and observed that I could recognise a number of the signatories who happened to belong to a class of Tanzanians who had relatively more access to civil, political and social rights which are the bedrock of citizenship as defined as ‘formal citizenship’ – these rights range from access to better social services to freedom(s) of movement as evidenced in their relatively easy access to passports and opportunities to go abroad for studies among other things.
It is Shivji’s response to the second question of his cited above that touches on the dilemma of being both a national and a citizen. After reviewing the above-discussed rationale(s) for maintaining single citizenship at the time of independence, which he affirms were centered on the question of building nationalism and national loyalty, he laments the irony that now, being over forty years after independence, the whole debate on citizenship is conducted without reference to nationalism, African identity and political loyalty to the nation-state which he sees as being connected. In regard to that connection, he also laments the irony that the issue of nationalism is not linked to the issue of pan-Africanism, which was so prominent in the nationalist debates of the 1950s and early 1960s.
By locating the debate of citizenship within the discourse of nationalism and the vision of pan-Africanism, Shivji is attempting ‘to transcend the contemporary conceptualization of citizenship, as simply formal citizenship’ [PDF 503kb] which Chachage ‘defined as membership of a nation-state and loyalty to the state and its policies as prescribed by the donor and international community, rather than an attempt to restructure the relations between the people and the state.’ In the wake of this conceptualisation, it is further observed, the vocabulary of ‘nationalism’ and ‘patriotism’ are increasingly being replaced by that of ‘citizenship.’
This bourgeoisie/elitist neo-liberal conceptualisation of belongingness overlooks the fact that to many of those who struggled for independence and their descendants, ‘formal citizenship’, as a form of belongingness, is not as readily accessible. It is relatively out of reach to the majority because the privileges that are associated with it are mainly confined – by the ‘party state’ – to the political, civic, academic and business elites who have the means and connections to access it. The following statement from the latest Tanzania Human Report issued by the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC) in 2009 thus paints this state:
‘In 2008, many Tanzanians were still denied certain basic human rights, such as the right to life, the right to equal protection of the law, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.’
These many ‘Tanzanians’ – for to be Tanzanian ought to imply having full access to basic human rights which primarily defines Tanzanian citizenship – include: 35 albinos who were killed because of beliefs that their body parts could be used to make a person rich; not less than 10 people who were subjected to mob violence and killed after being suspected of committing certain crimes; and at least seven people who became victims of extra-judicial killings by the state’s law enforcement officials as reported by LHRC. On the basis of the United Republic of Tanzania’s latest Poverty and Human Development Report (PHDR) 2007 [PDF 58kb], the many Tanzanians who do not fully enjoy the privileges of ‘formal citizenship’ also include those mothers whose children die at an infant mortality rate of 68 out of 1,000 live births and those whose children die before they reach the age of 5 at an under-five mortality rate of 112 per 1,000 live births. Moreover, it include each woman who is expected to die every hour from maternal causes in Tanzania whereby the leading causes, according to PHDR 2007, are haemorrhage, sepsis, unsafe abortion, pregnancy-induced hypertension and obstructed labour.
Thus, in a way, by unmasking the way dual citizenship is also conventionally conceptualised as ‘formal citizenship’, Shivji is showing that to be a citizen does not necessarily mean to be a national and vice versa. This point about citizenship vis-à-vis nationality is elaborated further below. Here it important to take note of the fact that in the case of Africa in general and Tanzania in particular, post-colonial citizenship was a product of the struggle(s) – by the majority – for a form of inclusive belongingness that transcends the one introduced by the colonial state whereby to be a citizen was to have access to what others didn’t have access to.
In other words, Africans became African nationals, and nationalists for that matter, way before they won their right to citizenship after gaining independence. As it has been shown in my earlier essay When does a 'subject' become a 'citizen'?, in Mamdanian terms, this struggle was based on a quest for a transethnic identity, that of being ‘African’ rather than being a member of this or that tribal/ethnic groups which were, after all, denied full citizenship. Theirs was a quest for citizenship based on a universal African identity accessible to the majority vis-à-vis a quest for citizenship based on a fragmented identity that is not accessible to the majority.
One of the strongest arguments in favour of dual citizenship, however, is that Africans who are residing abroad contribute to their respective home economies through remittances. According to a World Bank’s Migration and Remmittance Factbook as cited by Claire Mercer, Ben Page and Martin Evans in 2008 in their book on Development and the African Diaspora: Place and the Politics of Home, the flow of remittances to the so-called sub-Saharan Africa in 2007 amounted to US$10.8 billion. Even though this flow is low compared to other world regions, as Mercer, Page and Martin note, it is still very significant when it is measured relative to the total inward flow to the area. They also note those who support the migrations associated with these flows claim that the benefits that Africa and other regions gain view remittances as constituting money, ideas, values and other social remittances return to these regions. They further note that, apart from those individuals who send remittances to their own family members, there are some who are using their social and welfare associations to generate collective remittances.
These remittances are then sent to earmarked development projects in their respective regions. Remittances, they affirm, can reduce foreign exchange and thus offset what economists refer to as balance of payment deficit. By the very fact that the flow involves exchange of currency this offsetting, it is thus claimed, is done without incurring interest liabilities. They also assert that this type of flow does not necessarily increase the level of imports of foreign goods or services because those families who receive the remittances often spend them on public services and other forms of consumption that often puts money into local economies. The reason that Africa receive less remittance compared to other continents is partly explained by 'the existing analysis of remittances' which, it is further asserted, ‘argues that the determining factors governing the scale and patterns of international remittance flows are fundamentally financial (relative wage levels, exchange and interest rates, investment environments, economic stability in Africa and financial capacity)’. It is these determining factors that the introduction of dual citizenship in Tanzania is expected to influence for the sake of Tanzanian ‘development’.
In the case of Tanzanians abroad, the claims cited above resonates with their situation especially in the current context whereby a number of associations – ranging from foreign branches of the ruling party to associations of Tanzanians living in a particular city or country abroad – are mushrooming. In a significant way the decision of the government of Tanzania to change all the passports of its eligible citizens in 2005 contributed to the formation of these associations and/or consolidation of those that were already in existence. At that time I was studying at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland whereby TzECA mobilised itself and invited officials from the Tanzanian Embassy in the United Kingdom (UK) to come and facilitate the process of issuing of passports.
A more or less similar level of mobilisation was observed in the Los Angeles Community which recently met with President Kikwete. Since then the former community which runs an online yahoo group with a membership of at least 92 people and currently host a website has widened its scope and it is now linked to a number of initiatives of supporting development/philanthropic work in Tanzania. Some of its members have also formed a Non-Government Organisation (NGO) in the UK. Understandably the chairperson of the TzECA, Apollo Temu, is an ardent supporter of the introduction of dual citizenship in Tanzania and, as it has been hinted above, was one of the pioneers involved in mobilising Tanzanians to sign a petition for dual citizenship. The Los Angeles Community, which also runs a yahoo group, is also attempting to widen its scope in terms of contributing to the development of Tanzania and, expectedly, its leader, Iddy Mtango, also supported the petition for dual citizenship.
The arguments for dual citizenship advanced by some members of these Tanzanian diasporic communities make are in sharp contrast to those presented by the above mentioned critics from the intellectual community at the University of Dar- es-Salaam. For instance, in a public online exchange in response to Shivji’s argument in favour African citizenship versus dual citizenship discussed above, Temu argues that patriotism in the 21st Century should never be determined by people’s postal addresses since it surely does not come from ones' postcode but, rather, from one's code of conduct in relation to his/her nation. Somewhere else he laments what he refers to as the misplaced views that people from Tanzania who live outside Tanzania are less patriotic. As if to pick a leaf from Nyerere’s above-cited assertion that the terms of the debate on citizenship in 1964 were not the same as the ones in 1961, Temu also asserts that these debates in the 1960s are not the same as the current ones in the 2000s as their contexts differs significantly.
It is these contextual shifts, normally attributed to the intensification of globalisation and transnationalism, which led two professors of migration and citizenship respectively, Stephen Castles and Alastair Davidson, to argue in 2000 – in their book on Citizenship and migration: Globalisation and the politics of belonging – that ‘basing citizenship on a singular and individual membership in a nation-state is no longer adequate, since the nation-state model is being severely eroded' and hence 'new approaches to citizenship are needed, which take account of collective identities and the fact that many people now belong at various levels to more than one society.’
In a similar vein, the Law Reform Commission of the United Republic of Tanzania’s letter entitled Review of Tanzania’s citizenship law and consideration of the possibility of recognising dual citizenship dated 14 June 2004 and made publicly available on its official website, asserted that due to intense globalisation and in recognition of the potential benefits that can be generated from it, the Commission recommended the introduction of a multilateral framework for cross border movement of people as a way of sharing those benefits between nations. To that end it eloquently ‘suggested measures to stimulate such process of skill circulation that could include the acceptance of dual citizenship by both host and sending countries’ [PDF] and unilaterally affirmed that clearly 'early 20th Century perceptions of state sovereignty, citizenship, nationality and inter-state relations, will have to change and adapt to the new forces of globalization’. Its accompanying Position paper on the introduction of dual citizenship in Tanzania [PDF] thus concluded about dual citizenship being a given fact of globalisation before it even conducted its said assessment – which was supposed to show if that was/is so – and presented its above-critiqued report to the government in 2006:
'The movement towards embracing dual citizenship is slowly gaining momentum as nations become aware that their national security may not necessarily be jeopardised by mere application of dual citizenship under the present circumstances of intense globalization and technological advancements which have melted territorial boundaries and merged the world into a global village. Thus, accepting dual citizenship may now be considered to be in the national interest, as it will facilitate flow of investment, transfer of technology and infusion of democratic values, while at the same time, permitting a nation to affirm its identity. It is, in any case, too late for the entrenchment of dual citizenship to be received, as it has become a fact of globalisation.’
However, all these pro-globalisation conceptualisations have a blind spot that subject them to historical amnesia: They ignore that historically and conceptually globalisation, or globalism to put it more crudely, is part and parcel of Imperialism which has and is still eroding the freedoms and rights of those in the margins of the so-called Global Village, who happen to be nationals of ‘nation-states’ who cannot access the privileges of multiple or dual citizenship let alone those of single citizenship that they are still struggling to reclaim from states whose laws and policies, including those on citizenship, are now prescribed by International Financial Institutions (IFIs) and ‘development partners’ rather than the very people who struggled to decolonise those states.
In 2007 Frederick Longino, another TzECA member, went as far as publishing his affirmative views in a local Tanzanian newspaper – The Daily News. In his article there entitled What does dual citizenship (or dual nationality) mean to Tanzanians? he asserted that it is a fact that there are more benefits in terms of economic opportunities and cultural expansion than risks in allowing dual citizenship, hence he lamented that Tanzania was ever slow to wake up to the said fact. After presenting those claimed advantages, such as broadening the country’s economic base by promoting trade and investment between countries sharing citizens, the enjoyment of the privilege of voting in those countries, owning property/land and accessing government health care and education across the given countries, Longino offers a radical conceptual suggestion.
Perhaps, he cautiously suggests, the time has come as well for a new designation to reflect the shedding of what he calls the old baggage, that is, the so-called old anxieties about ‘dual nationality’. Here he is referring to what made Tanganyikans/Tanzanians be wary of that duality in the wake and immediate aftermath of Uhuru and the Union as discussed above. The historical origins of the said anxieties, which he aptly advise us to explore and examine their relevance in a changed international context, are said to be far more prosaic than what he calls the spectre of spies and saboteurs. Indeed this is a spectre that haunted Africa’s post-colonial states in the wake of assassinations and military coups that swept the continent during the then Cold, albeit hot, War between what was known as the Western Bloc led by the USA with its CIA and the Eastern Bloc led by the then USSR with its KGB. It is a spectre that still troubles a number of radical nationalists who are wary of the ‘War on terror’ and the quest for the militarisation of the continent through the USA’s Africa Command (AFRICOM). Nevertheless, the new designation Longino calls for to replace the characterisation of a person as a dual citizen is a ‘co-national.’
Apart from the above-claimed advantages, it is claimed that this so-called co-national would have greater flexibility, not only in a choice of where to live and work, but also on where to access grants, social security, education and good health services. All this, it is further claimed, s/he will access without having to incur expenses or ‘pay extra’. Moreover, it is asserted that one’s co-nationality may enhance the feeling of belonging because that co-national will have strong personal ties to more than a single country. In sum s/he will be without any immigration worries.
But does becoming a citizen necessarily and/or automatically makes one a national, out of which one can logically conclude that to be a dual citizen entails being a co-national? In order to do justice to this question, one has to analytically distinguish between the nation-state, the nation and the state. After independence, noted Basil Davidson in 1992 in his aptly titled/subtitled book The black man’s burden: Africa and the curse of the nation-state, what was inherited in Africa was in effect states and not nations or states without nations. The first task, then, of the nationalist leaders who took power, as it has been noted above, was to embark on a project of national building. In doing so, however, most of them ended up creating despotic party states. In fact the national building project turned out to be a statist developmentalist project whereby the state hijacked the civil society so as to direct if not dictate it on how it should bring about modernity in the name of modernisation. It is these states that became custodians of citizenship.
As the cases discussed above show, this statist custodianship usurped the role of remaking citizenship from the very aspiring nationals, that is, the majority of people, who, as nationalists, fought for independence so they can have the right to self-determination which included, among other things, the right to define forms of citizenship they aspired to within the realm of social struggles aimed at transforming the relation between the state and society. What they wanted to achieve through decolonisation was nothing less than the nationalisation of citizenship. Theirs was therefore an attempt to achieve a form of citizenship that amounts to nationality. Co-nationality can only be a non-starter unless post-colonial nationality/citizenship is fully achieved.
This debate on dual citizenship that bedevilled independent African states in the wake of decolonisation in the 1960s is indeed back on the agenda. The international/national context which informed that debate, as it has been shown in this article, has changed. However, the international/national power relations that coloured that context, as it has also been discussed in the article, have not significantly changed. In the case of The Tanzania Citizenship Act of 1995, as the Law Reform Commission has aptly noted, there has ‘also’ been ‘public concerns regarding the rigidity of our citizenship laws, which seem to favour foreigners, seeking to become Tanzania citizens, as against former nationals (of Diaspora) who may have been compelled to emigrate and to take up foreign nationalities for social and economic reasons, as well as the gender insensitivity of the current Citizenship Law, which does not appear to confer equal rights between male and female citizens in bequeathing citizenship to their children.’ [PDF]
It is these fundamental concerns that need to be prioritised instead of confining them to the ‘also’ that prompted the Commission to study the citizenship laws and assess the viability and acceptability of dual citizenship in Tanzania. One need to adequately address these concerns regarding our gendered and ‘classed’ single citizenship which renders the majority subjects of the state before one can think of the possibility of dual or multiple citizenships, lest the conceptualisation and operationalisation of the latter reproduce that gendering and ‘classing’.
Thus that most fundamental concern, of decolonising the colonial subjects and transforming them into post-colonial citizens, is as relevant today as – and more urgent in the 2000s than – it was in the 1960s. As Mamdani noted in 2001 in his call to move Beyond settler and native as political identities: Overcoming the political legacy of colonialism, the lamented state of collapse in Africa in Afropessimistic circles is in fact the collapse of the bifurcated colonial state which the post-colonial states have not fundamentally transformed so as to do away with its duality. It is these dualities of the settler versus the native, the urban versus the rural, the informal versus the formal, the man versus the woman, the white versus the black, the state versus the society, the privileged versus the underprivileged and so on and on that need to be urgently dealt with squarely and honestly.
All this amount to recentering the debate of citizenship on the question of self-determination of those nationals who would not have the luxury of dual citizenship let alone that of single citizenship simply because ‘their’ neo-colonial states are busy conceptualising and operationalising citizenship as a formal citizenship that is inaccessible to the majority. Why grant dual citizenship to a ‘minority’ when you can’t even fully grant single citizenship to the ‘majority’? Surely we cannot afford to allow further growth of first and second class citizenship!
* This article is based on a paper titled When Does a Native or Settler Become a Dual Citizen? presented at the 3rd European Conference on African Studies (ECAS) held at Leipzig, Germany (4 - 7 June 2009)
* Chambi Chachage is an independent researcher, newspaper columnist and policy analyst, based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/.
Straight talk: Revealing the real US–Africa policy
It's time for some straight talk on US foreign policy as it relates to Africa. While Obama administration officials and the US African Command (AFRICOM) representatives insist that US foreign policy towards Africa isn't being militarised, the evidence seems to suggest otherwise. While Africans condemned US military policy in Africa under the Bush administration, the Obama administration has not only mirrored Bush's approach, but has in fact enhanced it. President George W. Bush established Africa as a foreign policy priority in 2003 when he announced that 25 per cent of the oil imported into the United States should come from Africa. Just like the Cold War, the global War on Terror establishes a rationale for bolstering the US's military presence and support in Africa. Yet official pronouncements around US policy are routinely presented as if neither of these two developments occurred. Unfortunately, the more evasive we as Americans are about our intentions on the continent, the more we invite not only scepticism but even resistance.
A policy is militarised when military might is deemed the only effective way to accomplish an agenda. In a June statement on US policy in Africa, US Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Johnny Carson said the agenda of the Obama administration is as follows: promoting and strengthening democracy and the rule of law; preventing and mitigating conflicts; encouraging sustained economic development and long-term growth and; working with African countries to face both old and new global challenges. The agenda makes no reference to the recent 2010 financial year budget that doubles the size of AFRICOM's funds. Nor does it mention the doubling of financial support for counterterrorism projects throughout the continent, which include increased funds for weapons, military training and education at a time when US foreign aid money is stagnating.
AFRICOM has been controversial on the continent since President Bush first announced it in February 2007. The Bush administration discussed several sites for its headquarters, but their failure to include African civil society in the discussion is widely regarded as a major mistake. Though the Western press barely reported it, the reaction on the continent was vociferous. Every country with the exception of Liberia rejected AFRICOM, and African civil society, where allowed to speak, has overwhelmingly characterised AFRICOM as a means to secure oil and nothing more.
Officials in both the Bush and Obama administrations argue that a major objective of AFRICOM is to 'professionalise' security forces in key countries across the continent. However, they don't attempt to address the impact of this on minority parties or whether the US is effectively propping up 'friendly' dictators. These are key questions that need answering if our agenda is to include democracy and rule of law.
Training and weapons programmes and arms transfers for Equatorial Guinea, Chad, Ethiopia and even the beleaguered Transitional Federal Government (TFG) in Somalia clearly indicate that using the military to maintain an influence in governments in Africa remains the priority for US foreign policy. Indeed, one of the counterterrorism projects that the Obama administration boosted considerably is the Counterterrorism Engagement Program, designed to 'build political will at senior levels in partner nations for shared counterterrorism challenges'.
The US fascination with oil, the war on terrorism and the military was further exemplified by the announcement that Obama would visit Africa for the first time on 12 July. The president has chosen Ghana as his only African destination on this trip. The US government itself states the purpose of the visit is 'strengthening the US relationship with one of our most trusted partners in sub-Saharan Africa, and to highlight the critical role that sound governance and civil society play in promoting lasting development'. Indeed, Ghana's extraordinarily consistent economic growth pattern for the past seven years (registering a GDP (gross domestic product) expansion of 7.3 per cent in 2008) offers the best evidence of the relationship between governmental accountability and economic development.
On top of that, on 3 January 2009, John Atta Mills defeated Nana Akufo-Addo by less than 1 per cent in the Ghanaian presidential election. Most believe that the election was by and large free and fair, and the transition was for the most part peaceful. There is much to be proud of in Ghana, and the burgeoning success story there is most welcome. However, there are rumblings that the real reason the administration chose Ghana is twofold: Ghana's discovery of oil in 2008, and, perhaps more importantly, the geographically, economically, and politically strategic advantage of establishing AFRICOM's headquarters there.
Could this be a litmus test for future democracy in Ghana? Could we begin providing substantial AFRICOM counterterrorism resources to build political will and promote US interests instead of Ghanaian interests? It been done before. In fact, it was done in Ghana in 1966, when the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) helped overthrow then President Kwame Nkrumah.
These questions arise because it would be hard for Africans not to conclude that security and energy concerns under the protection and guidance of AFRICOM are driving US foreign policy, as opposed to those articulated by Carson. If this isn't the case, then the United States is failing to make clear how dramatic increases in US investment in weapons financing and military training for countries, regardless of their records on human rights or democracy, are ultimately going to help us achieve the agenda.
* Gerald LeMelle is a contributor to Foreign Policy in Focus and the executive director of Africa Action.
* This article was originally published by Foreign Policy In Focus.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/.
Obama visits Africa’s 'oil gulf'
President Barack Obama made his historic visit to Africa. Born of a Kenyan economist father, Obama went not to his ancestral lands but to Ghana, Africa’s newest oil state.
Oil was discovered in Ghana only in 2007. A wide swath of the Atlantic‘s western shores, the area stretching from Morocco to Angola, is fast becoming Africa’s 'oil gulf'. Oil-producing countries in Africa, including those in the oil-rich Gulf of Guinea, now provide 24 per cent of US oil imports. Africa has outstripped the Middle East as an oil supplier to America. Increasingly, Africa’s oil is being produced offshore.
Off Ghana’s deep Atlantic shores, the Texas-based Kosmos Energy already controls the 'Jubilee Fields', one of the largest oil finds in West Africa in the past decade which is predicted to hold 1.2 billion barrels of oil. In May 2009 Kosmos began to draw bids for shares of its stake in the oil-rich fields. Global energy players including Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell, the China National Offshore Oil Company and British Petroleum (BP) – all with a focused eye on Africa and a bloodied record on the continent – are beginning to circle like vultures. After all, the deadline for Kosmos Energy bids has been set for 17 July, a week after Obama’s visit to Ghana.
With heightened interest in Africa’s oil, the US has moved to strengthen its military (and naval) presence in Africa’s 'oil gulf'. In October 2008, the US African Command (AFRICOM) was officially established. Transplanting a framework from the Middle East, US military assets would be aimed at securing Africa’s oil and seeking so-called 'terrorists'. The US AFRICOM is claimed to 'help Africans help themselves'. The command lists humanitarian missions like dental clinics and the building of schools and wells, but what is more opaque is the intention to train and arm proxy military forces that can secure and sustain an ever-present fix for the United States’ addiction to fossil fuels.
Ghanaian human rights and social justice activists have expressed concerns that President Obama’s high profile visit may simply be a fig leaf for covert plans to further the US's military expansion into Africa and to move AFRICOM from its current site in Stuttgart to an African base.
Ghanaians and other Africans are clamouring for a new direction for the US's Africa policy based on mutual interests and respect.
Can the Obama administration curb the thrust towards a militarised foreign policy by reversing the advance of AFRICOM and US military expansion in Africa?
More importantly, can the Obama administration transfer its rhetorical commitment to a green economy into concrete policies that end our addiction to oil?
The long-term impact of Obama’s trip to Ghana may well be viewed through the lens of these critical questions.
* Emira Woods is the co-director of Foreign Policy In Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies.
* This article was originally published by Foreign Policy In Focus.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/.
Niger Delta standoff
Behind fighter-planes and gunboats, Nigerian forces launched a full-scale offensive in the Niger Delta on 13 May, displacing 30,000 people and sparking a humanitarian crisis. Thousands of civilians fleeing destroyed villages are now trapped between armed resistance groups and the Nigerian military. These civilians are hiding in the bush without food, water, or medical supplies, let alone Internet access to alert the world of their plight, as Iranians are doing via Twitter.
Against the backdrop of a world energy crisis, the media are reporting the region's growing instability, mostly in terms of its effect on global oil supply and prices. For the 12 million people living in the Niger Delta, however, the struggle is about their survival.
Nigeria is Africa's most populous nation, with 150 million people. It's the world's seventh-largest oil-producing nation. Nearly all of Nigeria's oil comes from the Delta.
Since 1970, US$350 billion in oil revenue has flowed to Nigeria, yet 75 per cent of Nigerians live on less than US$1 a day. Niger Delta communities continue to live in abject poverty, without schools, hospitals, or basic infrastructure, as oil profits fill the bank accounts of multinational oil companies and the Nigerian elite. Nigerian governments have negotiated joint ventures with multinational companies for unregulated oil production since 1958. Over 50 years of exploitation in the Niger Delta has resulted in systematic human rights abuses and environmental devastation.
According to an independent 2006 report by environmental experts from the U.K, U.S and Nigeria, and convened by the Nigerian Conservation Foundation, the Niger Delta is 'one of the world's most severely petroleum-impacted ecosystems and one of the top five most polluted places on the face of the Earth.' More than 1.5 million tons of oil, equivalent to one Exxon-Valdez disaster every year for 50 years, have spilled into the delta, poisoning delicate mangrove and rain forest ecosystems and destroying fishing and farming livelihoods. Constant gas flaring releases toxic chemicals into the atmosphere, causing cancer, birth defects, respiratory diseases, and acid rain so toxic it corrodes metal roofs.
OIL COMPANY ABUSES
Evidence given in recent U.S lawsuits [PDF] reveals Dutch Royal Shell and US-owned Chevron's complicity with successive Nigerian governments in committing human rights abuses against civilians. From the early 1990s, these companies have provided financing, weapons, and transport to the military to violently suppress community opposition to their oil operations.
Both Shell and Chevron requested the direct intervention of the Nigerian security forces at their sites. The first recorded incident occurred in Umechem in 1990, after Shell sent a letter to the police commissioner, stating: '[W]e request that you urgently provide us with security protection (preferably mobile police force) at this location.' The request was met, and security forces shot dead 80 people and destroyed 495 homes. Colonel Paul Okuntimo, head of the Joint Military and Police Taskforce in the 1990s, part of the Nigerian security forces widely known for their corruption and abysmal human rights record, stated that he was paid or directed by Shell.
Nnimmo Bassey, executive director of Environmental Rights Action, cited plaintiff depositions in his testimony before a US subcommittee hearing on human rights and the law last year. 'Chevron regularly houses and feeds the security forces, including army, navy, and police, and pays them above their government salaries,' he said. 'Chevron personnel have reported “leading” or “supervising” Nigerian security forces in the course of their duties. Chevron provides transportation to the military and police in Chevron-leased helicopters and boats.’
According to Nigerian activists, this is a story of people at risk of genocide at the hands of government and corporate sponsored terror. In 2007, Niger Delta Professionals for Development director Joel Bisina said that ‘from 1999 to date, more than 20 communities have been wiped out completely and more than 50 000 persons killed by military bullets and no one is saying anything about it.’
ONE ACTIVIST'S STORY
As a student leader, Suanu Kingston Bere protested the expansion of Shell's pipeline from Ogoniland to Northern Nigeria, when Shell was paying the Nigerian military to suppress protests in Ogoniland. He fled Nigeria in 1995, after two arrests and three months of detention and torture, spending five years in a Benin refugee camp before securing political asylum in the United States in September 2000.
Active in the National Union of Ogoni Students, Bere was directly inspired by non-violent activist leader Ken Saro-Wiwa and The Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) he founded in 1990. After first hearing Saro-Wiwa speak at a rally in 1993, Bere joined MOSOP and began campaigning in towns and remote villages.
He was present for key events in the Delta's history, witnessing the collusion between the Nigerian military and Shell to violently suppress peaceful resistance to their practices in Ogoniland. He currently lives in Oakland, California, and agreed to go public for the first time with what he witnessed and experienced in Nigeria.
Bere attended a protest with 10,000 Ogoni in Biara village on 30 April 1994 – the day US pipeline contractor Willbros came to lay Shell's new pipeline. They were escorted by military personnel, who shouted to the villagers: ‘This is not your land, it belongs to the government and we are sent by the government and Shell to guard their workers to perform their work. If anyone interferes with the pipeline they will be arrested, shot, and killed.’ Bere says the protestors were standing in lines, chanting and protesting peacefully. Then the military started shooting into the crowd and throwing dynamite. After that day, Colonel Okuntimo sent soldiers to Ogoniland with a ‘kill and go policy.’
Bere was first arrested on May 22, 1994, and says the Nigerian military tortured him in detention for two months. ‘They used batons to flog my back and confess that I would not join MOSOP again,’ he said. ‘They used their gun butts to beat me all over my body until I passed out. They took a piece of iron, burnt it in the fire, and branded my back with it.’ According to Bassey, ‘former President Olesegun Obasanjo admitted in 2005 that Nigerian police and security regularly tortured and killed prisoners in their custody, acknowledging earlier reports by Human Rights Watch and others of systematic abuses by security forces.’
Bere hid in the bush after another rally in November 1996 and says he had to run for his life. ‘I saw people burned alive, shot dead, others had their limbs cut off. They were brutal killings.’ He and 500 other people were arrested and taken to Bori prison camp. ‘I was tortured again, they used the same methods. I saw hundreds of people tortured, without food or water for days. Hundreds dying from beatings and gun wounds. I witnessed all those things. I was there.’
A TIPPING POINT
Peaceful resistance of minority ethnic groups across the Niger Delta has been met with brutal military repression and the broken promises of oil companies, with no opportunity for dialogue or genuine negotiation in 50 years. In this environment, the armed resistance group, the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta Peoples (MEND) emerged in 2006. The group targeted oil installations and caused a 40 per cent drop in supply, from 2.4 million to 1.3 million barrels per day, according to University of California-Berkeley geography professor Michael Watts. MEND claims it has the capacity to shut down oil production in four days.
Watts says the situation in the Niger Delta has now reached a tipping point. There is strong internal political pressure from powerful north and southwest constituencies to clamp down on armed groups and restore stability, so the oil companies don't flee and the oil wealth continues. The continuing military offensive confirms to militants that the government is intent on controlling oil at any cost.
The crisis in the Niger Delta comes at a point in history when issues of peak oil and world energy crisis are looming. Oil supply is a big issue for all stakeholders, and the tragic cost of protecting that supply in Nigeria is the current humanitarian crisis and war.
US policy is closely aligned with guaranteeing oil supply from the Gulf of Guinea and the current situation has direct implications for US interests in the region. Nigeria's high-quality oil is used in US auto and gasoline markets and is therefore an important component of overall supply. With Nigerian oil expected to rise from 14 per cent to 25 per cent of US petroleum imports by 2015, Washington should play a key role in brokering a peace agreement.
MEND has indicated it is open to dialogue and willing to negotiate. It has sought both from the Nigerian government in the last few years, but to no avail. Left unchecked, the region's descent into war threatens to become a humanitarian disaster.
A combined international effort is needed to demilitarise the Niger Delta and use diplomacy to broker a peace agreement. The United States should join with the EU to set the process in motion with a fact-finding mission that would give way to negotiations, along the same lines as the Good Friday peace agreement in Northern Ireland.
‘We want the world to know what is happening to us,’ says Suanu Kingston Bere. ‘We want our rights and the freedom to express what belongs to us. These are our ancestral lands — we want an environmental clean up, and the Nigerian government and oil companies to pay royalties for what they have taken from us. We want to benefit from what God has given us. We do not want to die for it.’
* This article first appeared in Foreign Policy in Focus.
* Kia Mistilis, a contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus, is an independent journalist and photographer based in San Francisco.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/.
President Obama needs a refresher course on Africa
The American president made his first official trip to Africa last week when he visited Ghana for two days. In an interview Obama, with no false humility, stated that 'I'm probably as knowledgeable about African history as anybody who's occupied my office.' I'd say two things. First, the bar in that particular competition was not exactly set very high. Second, as the rest of the interview demonstrated, he's not nearly as knowledgeable as he thinks he is. Much of what he believes about Africa, and how it can get out of the many messes it's in, are simply wrong.
In his interview with allafrica.com, the president focused on internal African causes for the continent's woes, highlighting especially the need for good governance and ending widespread corruption. So, for example, he argues that 'you're not going to get investment without good governance.' That's simply wrong. For decades most foreign investment in Africa has gone to South Africa first, even under apartheid, and then to such oil-rich nations as Angola and Nigeria. In all cases, good governance played no role in investment decisions. Making an assured profit, regardless of the governance system, was the only criterion.
Similarly, Obama insisted that business won't invest where 'government officials are asking for 10, 15, 25 per cent off the top'. That too is wrong. Nigeria, Angola and South Africa show that, as do Kenya, Cameroon and the DR Congo, just to name obvious exceptions to his statement. In all cases, foreign businessmen have shown themselves only too eager to play the bribery card. If they didn't, those African government officials couldn't get away with demanding a cut off the top, which also means that high-level corruption in Africa couldn't – and doesn't – happen without Western complicity.
Obama says there is 'a direct correlation between governance and prosperity'. That's why he chose democratic Ghana for his first official state visit, rather than his father's country, Kenya. Heaven knows that the ruling parties in Kenya are brazenly corrupt and show little interest in anything other than enriching themselves and their supporters. Ghana, on the other hand, after years of bad governments following the CIA-instigated coup that overthrew the first president, Kwame Nkrumah, can now be said to be fairly stable and politically democratic. Obama knows lots of things. As he observed, when his father left Kenya in the early 1960s to study in the USA, the GDP (gross domestic product) of Kenya was higher than that of South Korea; today, South Korea is one of the world's great success stories, while Kenya languishes.
The UN's Human Development Index backs this up. In 2008, of 179 countries, Korea was ranked 25th, placing it among the rich developed nations of the world, while Kenya was 144th. But the president should look at these ratings more closely. Despite good governance, Ghana was ranked 142nd, virtually tied with Kenya among the bottom 20 per cent of the world's nations. Something else must be going on here that accounts for this situation, because Obama's analysis can't.
Here's the heart of his diagnosis, as his interview made explicit: While the international community 'has not always been as strategic as it should have been [regarding Africa] … ultimately I'm a big believer that Africans are responsible for Africa … for many years we've made excuses about corruption or poor governance, that this was somehow the consequence of neocolonialism, or the West has been oppressive, or racist. I'm not a believer in excuses.'
Well, this is partially true. Africans have for decades been betrayed by a veritable pageant of monstrous leaders. But another truth is that the United States actively supported the very worst of these African tyrants, and if the US didn't, France did; that's called neocolonialism. This included, by the way, the apartheid government of South Africa, which, with the quiet backing of Britain and the US, only stopped destabilising much of the continent 15 years ago. The West also supplied many of the arms that were used in the terrible internal conflicts that have roiled Africa for so long. Even today, the US, Britain and France continue to remain close allies with many African leaders whose democratic credentials leave much to be desired.
The little-grasped reality is that year after year far more of Africa's wealth and resources pour out of the continent to the rich world than the West provides through all possible sources, from aid to investment to trade.
Beyond that, even if every African country was led by a saint, they could do nothing about the severe environmental damage that global warming – for which Africa has no responsibility whatever – is inflicting across the continent.
Even the best African leaders could do nothing about the destructive impact on African development of the present worldwide economic crisis, for which Africa has no responsibility whatever.
No African leader has the slightest influence on the drastic increase in food prices that is causing such suffering – including outright starvation – to millions of Africans.
Even a continent's worth of Mandelas couldn't change the massive subsidies Western governments provide to their agribusinesses. When they're in Ghana, the Obamas should do some comparison shopping. They may be taken aback to find that it costs more to buy a locally-bred chicken than one that's been shipped all the way from Europe, thanks to subsidies to European chicken farmers.
And nothing will now change the vast damage already done to Africa by the destructive neoliberal policies that were imposed on African governments by the World Bank and IMF (International Monetary Fund) over the past 30 years. Even today, while their rhetoric has changed, these institutions, deeply American-influenced, continue to insist on discredited policies that fail to promote growth while vastly increasing inequality.
At the risk of being pushy, I recommend that President Obama reads my little book, The Betrayal of Africa, which documents the twin burdens that actually account for Africa's situation – the continent's own wretched leaders combined with exploitative Western policies and practices. Unless he grasps this truth, his administration will become yet another in an endless line that has caused Africa more grief than good. And I'm confident that's not what he intends.
* Gerald Caplan is the author of The Betrayal of Africa.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/.
Denouncing dictatorship in Uganda
Three years ago, I would get into long discussions with a friend in Uganda about the United States, global political affairs, and the situations in African countries. On Ugandan politics, he delivered impassioned speeches about democracy and responsible governance, and I often thought I was looking at Africa's next great leader. He knew the rules of Ugandan politics but refused to accept them. Instead, he advocated for a higher standard in government, one that put the interests of the country's citizens ahead of political gain.
When I visited him in Uganda this February, we shared our excitement over the election of Barack Obama, and he described the depth and breadth of expectations for the new president with regard to African issues. But as we continued talking, he narrowed Obama's agenda down to one request. ‘If Obama would just denounce dictatorship, that would be it,’ he said. ‘Nothing else.’
In other words, after years of seeing Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni rewrite the constitution to run for yet another term, my friend wants something different. He, too, wants change.
In the Great Lakes Region, Uganda is one of the most important US allies. For years, Uganda was an aid and investment haven, and one of Africa's rising stars. Today, State Department officials continue to receive critical intelligence information from the Ugandan government, and its military is trained and deployed for peacekeeping in Somalia. Additionally, Museveni is still sometimes cited as an exemplar on HIV/AIDS in Africa, despite recent years of increasing prevalence rates – largely a result of Bush administration pressures.
And yet Museveni isn't a responsible democratic leader. He has been in power since 1986 and plays political favouritism with those from his alleged birthplace in western Uganda. Perhaps most notoriously, he has marginalised the people of the north, cheating them of development aid and prompting the formation of a brutal rebel group, the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). Human Rights Watch has cited Museveni's military, the Ugandan People's Defence Forces (UPDF), numerous times for committing serious crimes against the civilian population. The UPDF also invaded and occupied the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) during Museveni's rule, which led to the killing and torture of Congolese civilians, as well as the pillage of Congo's mineral wealth.
The LRA terrorised northerners for 20 years without any serious action from the Ugandan government. In 1996, rather than effectively dealing with the LRA problem, the government forcibly displaced much of the population into camps. There they were vulnerable to mass attack by the LRA and died of disease, hunger, and inadequate sanitation. International pressure eventually became so strong that Museveni could no longer ignore the humanitarian catastrophe occurring in his country. A peace process was initiated in Juba, South Sudan in 2006, with buy-in from the LRA, the government of Uganda, and the United States. It was the most comprehensive process to date, although it lacked any serious measures of accountability for the atrocities committed by Museveni's government.
The peace process failed in December 2008, when LRA leader Joseph Kony refused to sign the final peace agreement. The International Criminal Court warrant against the LRA might have been the primary reason for Kony's absence. Or perhaps he was never serious about the peace process and simply used the opportunity to re-arm. Whatever the reason, the failure of the talks prompted the Ugandan military to wage a disastrous attack against the Lord's Resistance Army in the DRC. AFRICOM, the US military command for Africa, supported the attack, though the Pentagon tried to deny any responsibility for its failure.
Another intervention, some argue, would end Kony's violent rampage. Among the many reasons to oppose another military strike is that the United States would be repeating its Cold War mistake of supporting an undemocratic regime's armed forces. Northern Ugandans have innumerable stories about the abuses committed by the UPDF in their communities. Although the UPDF's behavior has been slightly better in recent years, it would be a mistake for the United States to train and equip such a force for combat. Museveni has shown no interest in relinquishing his presidency, and yet the United States continues to shower his so-called democracy with aid and military support.
None of this should negate the good things Museveni has done for Uganda. But it's important to recognise that many Ugandans – particularly those not from south western Uganda – question the legitimacy of his multi-decade rule. They highlight corruption, the violence in the north, and his ethnically unbalanced approach to governance. Museveni's oppressive actions and dictatorial attitudes to the presidency effectively rob his government of the ‘democratic’ title.
Obama said in his inaugural address, ‘to those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.’ But what happens if the United States has already extended that hand so far that it resembles an embrace? It may be difficult for Obama to rescind his predecessors' undying affection toward Uganda, but he should know that people like my friend are expecting a firmer stance.
If he is bold enough, Obama will have heeded my friend's advice and denounced undemocratic governments such as Uganda during his trip to Ghana this week. Otherwise African civil society will continue to face regimes that, despite outside support, remain hollow at their core.
* This article was first published in Foreign Policy In Focus.
* Beth Tuckey is a contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus and associate director of program development and policy at the Africa Faith and Justice Network in Washington DC.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/.
Zimbabwe: Time to change the rules
Presidential Powers Act is damaging democratic practice
I am making a clarion call to all and sundry to radically change our orientation and approach to national issues. I am calling for increased interaction with the various pieces of legislation governing our country. I believe it is only through that kind of interaction that we can be able to say no to evil laws. This, my humble contribution, focuses on four provisions of the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act Chapter 10:20 indicating their impact in relation to democratic practice in Zimbabwe. A lot shall undoubtedly be depicted in the subsequent paragraphs.
The Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act Chapter 10:20 is an act to empower the president to make regulations dealing with situations that have arisen or are likely to arise and that require to be dealt with as a matter of urgency; and to provide for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. That a number of provisions of this act are detrimental to democratic practice in Zimbabwe is beyond dispute and this requires nothing but a cogently convincing discussion of this matter and I am overly sanguine that I will not disappoint my readers with regards this issue.
The abovementioned act empowers the president to make urgent regulations. When it appears to the president that a situation has arisen – or is likely to arise – which needs to be dealt with urgently in the interests of defence, public safety, public order, public morality, public health, the economic interests of Zimbabwe or the general public interest; and the situation cannot adequately be dealt with in terms of any other law; and because of the urgency, it is inexpedient to await the passage through parliament of an act dealing with the situation, then the president may make such regulations as he considers will deal with the situation. At face value this appears to be noble, but since human beings are not angels, there is a general tendency by the president to want to enact laws that suit his selfish desire to tighten his grip on power and to thwart any dissent. This however does not encourage democratic practice in Zimbabwe but it is instead curtailed and restricted.
The president is also empowered by this act to declare a state of emergency. This happened during the ‘dissident era’ in the early and mid-1980s that was characterised by mass executions of the Ndebele people by the North-Korean trained Fifth Brigade in what is known today as ‘Gukurahundi’. Nobody apologised and nobody wants to apologise. The thing is that all fundamental freedoms and human rights may be flagrantly violated when the President declares a state of emergency. Detention without trial will be rife and rampant, and the rights to life, personal liberty, and freedom of expression, association, assembly and movement will be badly hampered and this is clearly a negative effect on democratic practice in Zimbabwe.
Furthermore, the president may also dissolve parliament in urgent situations. This dissolution of parliament works against democratic practice in the country because the president may dissolve the parliament that has gone against him. Who then can go against an autocratic leader with excessive powers to dissolve parliament and appoint new members of parliament? Noteworthy however is the fact that such action by the president is constitutional but is equally detrimental to democratic practice in our country. For example, Section 31 (F) of the constitution of Zimbabwe provides for the vote of no confidence in government. Parliament may pass a vote of no confidence in the government if a two-thirds majority votes to do so. In the event of such a development, which is very unlikely given the circumstances of our country, the president has to either dissolve parliament or suspend all vice presidents, ministers and deputy ministers and cabinet or to step down within fourteen days. The likely scenario in these circumstances is that the octogenarian tyrant will dissolve or prorogate parliament as is provided for in Section 31 F (2) (a) of the constitution and this again hinders democratic practice in Zimbabwe.
The Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act also provides for notification of the public about the intention to declare the state of public emergency through parliament. More often than not, notification by the president is minimal at best and non-existent at worst. For example, the act was used in 2006 during the currency seizures when the new currency was introduced (tichine mari here yatinoti ndeyedu?/do we still have money that we call ours?). A number of people found that development inconvenient because it came with little or no notice at all. In short, the act is prone to abuse by the incumbent president whose political fortunes have been waning as long as we can remember.
After having said all this, it can now be concluded that the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act has serious negative implications for democratic practice in Zimbabwe as has surely been depicted in this presentation. I rest my case and I put it to you.
* Mutsa Murenje is a Zimbabwean human rights defender and an intern with World Youth Alliance Africa. He writes here in a personal capacity.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/.
Something rotten in the state of Zimbabwe
Constitutional reform is key to solving the country’s problems
I wish, first and foremost, to satisfy my greatest debt of gratitude which I owe to the National Constitutional Assembly for their production of the simplified Constitution of Zimbabwe whose purpose is no doubt to help the oppressed and suffering people of Zimbabwe to get to know and understand the fundamental laws that govern our country and then make informed judgement about what a constitution should have to say. I was going through the simplified constitution and have just realised that ours is nothing but a rotten constitution. I have also remembered one S. Chimbindi who sometime in 2007 wrote from Canada sympathising with me on the need for a new constitution.
I had written in December 2006 that: 'A new, democratic, people-driven and people-centred constitution remains key to the Zimbabwe problem'. His/her argument was that people like Dr Lovemore Madhuku and Dr Reginald Matchaba Hove have been fighting for a new constitution but without success etc. In my unpublished response to Chimbindi I said without beating around the bush that I didn’t need sympathy, especially from people whom I thought were enjoying a sybaritic, opulent and limousine type of life that an average person in Zimbabwe could not enjoy. I was in my fourth and final year of the Bachelor of Social Work Honours Degree at the University of Zimbabwe when I wrote that article.
I was borrowing Democracy and Human Rights from the Department of Political and Administrative Studies and I happened to be Dr John Mudiwawashe Makumbe’s student under the tutorship of Miss Evelyn Vutuza. But why should I be talking about this? The thing is that we were given an assignment in which we had to critically examine any five key provisions of the Constitution Amendment (No. 7) Act in relation to democratic development in Zimbabwe and I will shortly share with you my submission on the same. But why am I saying that ours is a rotten constitution? Go to Chapter IV of our constitution, which talks about the executive. Are you there? I am sure you are all there. Look at Part 1, which talks about the president. Below there is Section 27 with subsections 1 and 2. I am not comfortable with subsection 2. Have you read it my fellow citizens? It is talking about the president being above all other people in Zimbabwe. Could it be that some people are more equal than others?
In his essay entitled 'Some comrades are more equal than others', the late Professor Masipula Sithole attributed the problems of the day to the forgetful political class. He also made reference to the fact that most people in our country were having it rough; they were hurting; they felt cheated over what he termed the 'independence dividend'. Ndiyo nguva yainetsa Chenjerai ‘Hitler’ Hunzvi. He even made reference to remarks made by the then ‘perceptive’ Prime Minister Robert Mugabe in 1987, who when observing the restlessness of the masses said that: 'The people feel betrayed. They are after our blood'. The answer, according to Professor Sithole, was the Sandura Commission, which probed a motor vehicle scandal involving senior politicians.
Constitution Amendment No. 7 shows us the extent to which we can rightly say ours is a rotten constitution. For this reason, I will reproduce my assignment, the one that I wrote in November 2006 for us to be able to understand why we really need a new constitution in Zimbabwe. We don’t need the Kariba document for our constitution. I honestly don’t think that Zimbabwe is made up of people who are diffident. Here is my assignment:
The debate surrounding Constitution Amendment (No. 7) Act of 1987 is problematic and value laden, especially when taking into cognisance its relation to democratic development in Zimbabwe. Perchance this explains why its critics have been constantly and consistently pointing out that its key provisions are anathema and antithetical to a smooth trajectory from authoritarianism to democracy, as Mahmood Monshipouri (1995) lucidly puts it. The National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) in its press statement released on 29 March 2006 attributes the tattered, torn and shabby state of the constitution of Zimbabwe to Amendment No. 7 and this in itself is a clear indication that Constitution Amendment No. 7 Act has done no good to the development of democracy in Zimbabwe. This discussion is dedicated to the proposition that certain provisions of the Constitution Amendment (No. 7) Act of 1987 have dealt democratic development in Zimbabwe a lethal blow and this discussion shall examine five such provisions.
One key provision of the Constitution Amendment (No. 7) Act in Zimbabwe is the creation of the position of executive president. Mair and Sithole (2002) write that the creation of the position of executive president led to the combination of the ceremonial role of the old president with the executive functions of the prime minister. Such a move dealt democracy a lethal blow in Zimbabwe. This is so largely because it turned Mugabe into an unquestionable dictator by his virtue of being above all other people in Zimbabwe. Being above all other people means that one can also be above the law and this hinders the development of democracy in the country. Who in his right mind then can deny the fact that the creation of the position of executive president gave Mugabe excessive powers which, to use Ncube’s (1993) turned him into a 'myopic little village tyrant', interested only in his own good and wielding power for the sake of satisfying his ego. This makes sense especially when considering the fact that no other person has ruled Zimbabwe since 1980 when Zimbabwe gained its independence from Great Britain.
Another key provision of the Constitution Amendment (No. 7) Act is that in addition to appointing members of parliament and the cabinet, the executive president was also given the power to appoint the governors of Zimbabwe’s then eight provinces and these governors automatically became non-constituency members of parliament. The main problem with this provision is that opposition political parties are not entitled to also appointing non-constituency members of parliament. In other words, the president and the ruling party have an unfair numerical advantage of those who represent them in the house of assembly yet opposition parties are denied the same advantage. This has a tendency of creating a clientilistic pattern of rule whereby appointees become accountable to the appointer and not to the populace. This discourages the development of democracy in that appointees work to please the president at the expense of the citizen. Criticizing the president therefore will be tantamount to treason and in light of this illumination; it can be argued that Constitution Amendment (No. 7) Act is anathema to democratic development in Zimbabwe.
Noteworthy also and germane to this discussion is the fact that Constitution Amendment (No. 7) Act empowers the president to veto any bill presented by members of parliament as it pleases him. Such power works against the development of democracy in Zimbabwe. The president can accept a bill that has serious negative implications for citizens just because of selfishness. This is true when looking at the draconian laws that were pushed through in parliament. The Public Order and Security Bill is one such bill that was signed into law yet it severely curtails the citizen’s right to assembly, association, expression, movement, to make but a quick, short list which could be extended many times over. The Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Bill also signed into law is also believed to be anathema to freedom of expression and media freedom. Surprisingly, the two bills are unjustified in a democratic society but because Mugabe wanted to maintain his grip on power, he signed them into law. This also means that any proposals that threaten Mugabe’s power will be pushed aside and this is not good for democratic development in Zimbabwe.
Constitution Amendment (No. 7) also provides for the prerogative of mercy. The incumbent president has excessive powers from this amendment to ensure that convicted members of his party do not serve prison sentences. This encourages contempt and disregard for the rule of law especially by members of the ruling party. Several ZANU PF supporters, the police, soldiers, war veterans and youth militia responsible for political violence in the elections of 1990, 2000 and 2002 were all pardoned. Corrupt government officials such as those involved in the ‘Willowgate scandal’ were also pardoned. The question we should grapple with is: Will such acts of mercy be extended to members of the opposition? The answer is no. If the answer is no then prospects for democratic development in Zimbabwe remain uncertain at best and gloomy at worst.
Finally, Constitution Amendment (No. 7) Act provides for presidential immunity. This means that as long as he remains in office of the president, he (Mugabe) shall not be charged with a criminal offence nor shall he be sued in any court of law. This places the president above the law and this contradicts Article 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which says that: 'All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law'. This threatens democracy and its development in Zimbabwe. When some people are more equal than others it becomes difficult for any country to enjoy social equality, parity, fairness, equal opportunity, impartiality and egalitarianism and because of this it can be established beyond any reasonable doubt that key provisions of the Constitution Amendment (No. 7) Act are antithetical and incompatible with democratic development in Zimbabwe.
On the whole, it can be concluded that the aforesaid provisions are the five key provisions of the Constitution Amendment (No. 7) Act which have dealt a smooth trajectory from authoritarianism to democracy a lethal blow as has undoubtedly been depicted in this discussion. I put it to you and I rest my case.
* Mutsa Murenje is a Zimbabwean human rights defender and an intern with World Youth Alliance Africa. He writes here in a personal capacity.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/.
Mair, S & Sithole, M (2002) Blocked Democracies in Africa. Case Study Zimbabwe. Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung
Monshipouri, M (1995) Democratisation, Liberalisation and Human Rights in the Third World. Lynne Reinner Publications Inc
NCA (1999) Constitution of Zimbabwe. Simplified Version.
NCA Press Statement On the Proposed Establishment Of A Human Rights Commission. 29 March 2006
Ncube, W (1993) ‘Constitutionalism and Human Rights: Challenges of Democracy’ in Nherere, P & D’engelbronner-Kolff, M (eds) The Institutionalisation of Human Rights in Southern Africa. Nordic Human Rights Publications
Waking the Devil: The impact of forced disarmament on civilians in the Kivus
Oxfam Internartional, July 2009. Briefing Note
Waking the devil: the impact of forced disarmament on civilians in the Kivus
The military operations launched against the FDLR since early 2009 have been presented as a bid for the unity (Umoja Wetu) and peace (Kimia II) that have so long eluded eastern DRC. In that light they have received considerable international acclaim and support, particularly through the UN peacekeeping force, MONUC. Warnings of potentially devastating consequences for civilian protection over recent months have repeatedly met with the response that this is ‘the price to pay for peace’. In May 2009, Oxfam and a number of its partners interviewed residents in some of the areas of North and South Kivu where that price is being exacted.
This report summarises the key findings of a protection assessment carried out by Oxfam and a number of its partners in the latter half of May 2009. The threats, perpetrators and solutions presented here are recorded as the participants in the survey have reported them to us and reflect the views of 569 ordinary people across 20 communities in North and South Kivu affected by the joint operations. The names of the locations and participants (including the partners) have been withheld to ensure confidentiality and the safety of the people involved in the assessment.
The responses in these 20 communities highlight a number of key findings regarding the joint operations:
· The operations have resulted in increased violence against civilians in all affected areas, including where there had as yet been no military engagement at the time of the survey.
· This violence is often a direct result of the operations, with widespread reprisal attacks on communities from both sides and a spike in abuses from the mass military deployment.
· It is compounded by problems linked to the fast-track integration of militia fighters into the army which has run parallel to FARDC deployment for the operations, and by the failure of justice and protection mechanisms.
· There are also significant indirect consequences, as the operations have generated new opportunities for abuse by a range of actors.
‘They want us dead’: increased FDLR violence Communities with an FDLR presence uniformly reported an upsurge in attacks on civilians by that group in response to the operations launched against it since the start of the year. In North Kivu, this was particularly marked in Lubero and parts of Rutshuru and Masisi, areas which have been the scene of offensive operations under Umoja Wetu and Kimia II since February 2009. Where before there existed an uneasy cohabitation with the FDLR, people reported a sharp increase in direct attacks from the latter against the civilian population, often in reprisal for alleged collaboration with the FARDC. Even in villages some distance from the areas most directly affected by the operations, violent looting, killings and death threats, sexual violence against women and men and armed extortion at roadblocks were all reported to have increased. In Lubero all but one of 56 respondents said they felt less safe than last year. ‘With their military operations they have woken a sleeping devil,’ one group suggested.
In South Kivu, although no major offensive against the FDLR had yet been carried out at the time of the survey, Kimia II was already having a negative impact on the population, as the FDLR responded to the threat with increased aggression against civilians, while other militia groups mobilised to align themselves with or against the FDLR. In Mwenga in March 2009, communities taking part in an earlier assessment had reported that violence by the FDLR had diminished as a result of a compromise under which local chiefs collected food and money from villagers for them; by May, nearby villages were reporting high levels of sexual violence, death threats and violent looting. People had reportedly been killed for saying the group should return to Rwanda, and since the survey villages in the area have emptied of their population. FDLR roadblocks in Mwenga were said to have multiplied after the announcement of Kimia II, apparently in a bid to prevent civilians fleeing to safer areas. Payments in cash or in kind that impoverished households could ill afford were being taken at these checkpoints, thereby aggravating food insecurity by limiting access to people’s fields.
After operations started in North Kivu, the arrival of new FDLR contingents into northern South Kivu in February 2009 created fresh tensions in areas already suffering high levels of abuse from a range of armed groups. Villagers told us they had been threatened with torture if they did not provide a regular contribution of cassava flour, palm oil and beans for the FDLR fighters. Torture is a threat to take seriously in this context: two communities in Mwenga territory spoke of underground rooms where people are beaten and plunged in barrels of salt water by the FDLR, while in Kabare there were reports of people being buried in holes in the ground until they agreed to pay a ‘fine’ in exchange for their release. Some of the most widespread and brutal sexual violence against women, children and men was reported in parts of northern South Kivu. Further still from the military action to date, in Uvira territory of southern South Kivu a chief and a local councillor told researchers they had started receiving threats from the FDLR and being accused of collusion against them after Kimia II was launched in North Kivu; both had ceased sleeping in their own homes to avoid attack.
‘No difference between them’: FARDC abuses
Sadly, the reports from communities confirm information from other sources that the FARDC have themselves been committing grave abuses during their deployment against the FDLR, including killing, rape and violent looting. One community said they felt safer when the FARDC were not around: two civilians, a woman and a child, had recently been killed by soldiers in the space of two days, and looting was rife and often associated with extreme violence. In Lubero territory in April, FARDC soldiers robbed a woman, and then killed her because she recognised one of them. Women interviewed in the area described the psychological impact of a spate of FARDC killings since the start of operations against the FDLR: ‘We all live in fear that it will be our turn tomorrow.’ In Beni and Lubero territories, the FARDC were consistently named as the main perpetrators of sexual violence, which had spiked since the first deployments against the FDLR in early 2009. Girls as well as women are targeted, with children as young as four among the most recent victims.
Testimonies confirm that Kimia II has been used to justify the burning of fields and armed expulsion of civilians from their fields and homes; in parts of the Petit Nord Kivu, even school classrooms and church property have been forcibly occupied by the FARDC. Forced labour and degrading treatment have been a consistent feature of troop movements and deployments: mostly men and adolescent boys, but also women and children, are press-ganged into portering and other tasks, and anyone resisting faces beating and public humiliation. In many cases, the FARDC units associated with the worst abuses were ones with a history of human rights violations documented by NGOs and MONUC. Not surprisingly, many respondents expressed declining trust in their own army’s capacity to protect them, when they themselves are ‘behaving no differently from the FDLR.’ One women’s focus group even claimed ‘It would be better to be alone in the village than protected like this.’
This situation has been compounded by problems linked to the integration of militia groups into the army from February 2009. Communities in North Kivu and northern South Kivu reported particular aggression against civilians by newly integrated units, particularly rape, violent looting, and degrading treatment of those they force to carry their belongings.
Delays in paying the newly integrated soldiers have played their part in the economic crimes committed: in Masisi, ex-militia elements of the FARDC are said to justify illegal taxation of traders as ‘contributions’ towards the upkeep of the new units. Lack of pay for the newcomers has also exacerbated tensions with those already on the payroll, causing respondents across the Petit Nord locations surveyed to fear open confrontation between the two sides. On top of this, the militia groups assembled for integration in Masisi and parts of Rutshuru were themselves attacking civilians, with rampant extortion and the burning of farmers’ fields among the abuses reported.
‘With us or against us’: reprisals on all sides
In the insidious climate of fear, which has settled on the whole area, no one is seen as neutral. Individuals are co-opted and whole communities are brutally punished by both sides for suspected collusion with the other. In Lubero, communities dependent on their farms described how the army burns the fields in their hunt for the FDLR and the latter do the same in reprisal. Wherever the FARDC or FDLR deploy, they exact payments in cash or in kind from the local population, which are later branded collaboration by the other party. Every locality consulted in northern and southern South Kivu voiced fears of reprisal attacks from either side as a result of Kimia II. At the individual level, residents in South Kivu described how local people are abducted by one side to spy on the other; one person accused of being an informant was reportedly buried alive in one community in the Petit Nord.
The charge of collusion is also used as a pretext for extortion. Civilians fleeing the violence in FDLR-held areas of the Grand Nord are regularly facing arbitrary arrest by the police and intelligence services on suspicion of collaborating with the FDLR, and have to pay bribes for their release. In northern South Kivu, reportedly hundreds of IDPs who have lost their identity cards in their flight are accused of being FDLR and are being charged USD 2 at each FARDC checkpoint or having to pay bribes to escape arrest. On the other side of the coin, communities across the survey area reported FARDC, Mai Mai groups and common criminals passing themselves off as FDLR or other foreign armed groups when carrying out their own violent looting and other attacks on civilians. The survey also points up a resurgence in violence by other armed groups, including ones identified by other sources as having aligned themselves with the FDLR in response to the operations against them. In Uvira and Fizi territories, where a similar assessment a year before had found most people to be feeling generally safer, this year the overwhelming majority (85%) said their security had deteriorated. This was reportedly due to the increased threat presented by a range of Mai Mai groups responsible for widespread looting, killing, forced recruitment, sexual enslavement and other sexual violence. In Beni territory, respondents reported an extension of the Ugandan militia groups’ areas of operation and a general increase in militia recruitment linked to the partial breakdown of agreements on integration into the FARDC; violent looting and sexual violence were rife, and abduction and killing were said to be the punishment for suspected collusion with the army.
Utterly exposed: failures of justice and protection
In every location, a majority said they felt less safe this year than last. Faced with growing violence, extortion and menace, communities across the survey area complained of a failure of both protection and justice mechanisms. Confidence in the FARDC was diminished by the widespread abuses reported in almost every community, although in North Kivu their presence was acknowledged to have a deterrent effect against militia groups, and the 17th Brigade in northern South Kivu was widely appreciated for its discipline. In some areas the Military Police were seen to be effective in limiting FARDC abuses against civilians.
The police were viewed as corrupt, but also as wholly understaffed and ill-equipped to offer protection or enforce the law. In one community in bSouth Kivu where sexual violence against women, men and children is rife, armed looting has become a routine occurrence and torture and death threats have increased since the launch of Kimia II, respondents described how the town’s four policemen had to share two guns and just one uniform.
Elsewhere we were told that local chiefs and government representatives tended to spend the night away from the villages, for fear of themselves being targets of violence.
International protection too was largely absent, although in the Hauts-Plateaux area of South Kivu the intercession of peacekeepers between rebel groups was seen to have prevented civilian deaths. Respondents generally felt that MONUC had a limited impact, as their presence did not extend beyond the main roads and they were largely not in communication with civilians about security. There was no indication of a move away from the long-standing reliance on motorized patrols for which MONUC has often been criticized: ‘They do that for the good of their health,’ was how women in one community dismissed the patrols.
In the absence of an effective state authority, it is clear that civilians are left at the mercy of parallel administrations. In parts of Uvira territory, disputes are referred to FDLR courts, while troops awaiting integration in Masisi are reportedly imposing high rates of illegal taxation, and some customary chiefs in Beni territory were said to be informers in the pay of the militias.
Peace and protection: ways forward
When asked what they wanted in these circumstances, people’s first thought was generally to be rid of the various militia groups, foreign and Congolese, in their midst. Opinions diverged on how that was to be achieved, however. Of the 14 communities affected by the presence of the FDLR, ten specifically called for voluntary return and repatriation, nine of them specifically recommending inter-Rwandan dialogue, while only two supported forced disarmament. In all the communities consulted which have been directly affected by Kimia II and Umoja Wetu, there were calls for dialogue and peaceful repatriation of foreign armed groups, and in four of the six localities of northern South Kivu covered, respondents went so far as to call for the military action against the FDLR to be abandoned. The preference for a negotiated solution tended to be higher where there were significant levels of intermarriage with the militia within the community, but those consulted also pointed to the civilian suffering caused by the operations to date, and cast doubt on the FARDC’s capacity to disarm militia groups by force. ‘The units involved are looting and raping the same as those they are trying to disarm,’ we were told. ‘The way things are going, it is the population who suffer.’
More generally, there was a universal call for justice and state authority to be restored, and for the representatives of that authority to receive adequate pay and training, including training on their rights and responsibilities. Everywhere, improving the discipline, pay and training of the FARDC was a prominent concern. For their part, MONUC were urged to increase their presence in outlying villages and off the main roads, increase communication with communities and carry out more foot patrols and more joint patrols with the FARDC or police.
Straight talking: conclusion
In every community surveyed, the majority felt less safe this year than last. ‘Kimia’, the name of the current FARDC-MONUC operation against the FDLR, can also be translated as ‘keep quiet’, which is appropriate in view of the efforts deployed at various levels to play down its negative impact or silence reports of the associated abuses. The resolutely upbeat presentation of results in regional and international capitals ultimately has much the same effect as the deliberate intimidation deployed in the villages. With their very different motivations and means, both serve to stifle talk of the suffering the operation is directly and indirectly causing; where there should be real debate on alternative courses of action, there is only silence.
The accounts of communities across the areas affected should prompt the Congolese government and its international partners to take urgent steps to mitigate the impact of Kimia II, including giving real priority to planning for civilian protection and the effective application of military justice. That those who suffer direct violence from the FDLR can call for nonviolent means to ensure their demobilisation, meanwhile, should spur more holistic thinking among the many who have promoted a dangerous single-track focus on military action without real investment in accompanying measures geared to securing a lasting political solution. On this basis, Oxfam strongly recommends the following:
· The Congolese government should take clear steps to minimise the negative impact of Kimia II on civilians, including incorporating a far more thorough assessment of the risks to civilians in operational planning and implementation, and ensuring rigorous monitoring and application of appropriate sanctions for any violations of international humanitarian law by its forces. Good practices by individual FARDC and Military Police units should be supported and replicated.
· MONUC should establish and monitor clear conditions for continued support to the operations, upholding its own responsibility to ensure respect for international humanitarian and human rights law.
· Regional governments and their international partners should urgently resource, deploy and expand existing non-military tools for encouraging maximum voluntary disarmament and actively explore additional non-military options, including a full range of measures to promote and facilitate return or resettlement of those who disarm.
· MONUC should ensure that a DDRRR strategy is given real priority in the planning and implementation of operations, and expand currently patchy efforts to provide a visible protective presence in areas of greatest need.
· The UN Security Council should ensure MONUC has adequate resources to protect civilians, including through the deployment of the 3,000 additional peacekeepers authorised seven months ago. These additional troops should be used to enforce MONUC’s prime mandate of protection. The Security Council should also urgently increase specialised civilian staffing to expand the coverage of the joint protection teams.
· The Congolese government and its regional and international partners should urgently renew their investment in inclusive efforts to address the structural causes of conflict in eastern DRC, which include the issues of land, livelihoods, control of resources and representation of all communities.
· All parties must abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law, and any war crimes allegations should be subjected to independent, high-level and urgent investigation.
1 Umoja Wetu (‘our unity’ in Swahili) was the joint Congolese-Rwandan offensive against the FDLR in February 2009; Kimia II (‘kimia’ means ‘peace’ or ‘quiet’ in Lingala and Swahili) is the joint FARDC-MONUC operation launched thereafter.
Nigeria: ASUU strike ends when...
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) strike
The Academic Staff Union of Universities ASUU began a total and indefinite strike after it became obvious that the government was not ready to sign agreements it jointly reached with ASUU through its Technical committee. Really, what does ASUU want? Why is the government acting up? Is there hope for this country? If you want answers, then, join me on this voyage of critical evaluation of the situation.
What does ASUU want?
‘In view of the enormous importance of education for national development, education must continue to be funded heavily by public funds through budgetary and non-budgetary provisions. Aminimum of 26% of the annual budget of the state and federal governments ought to be allocated. We need to develop a knowledge-based society in the 21st century.’
--Excerpt from ASUU NEC Release on the ongoing Indefinite Strike
What are critical issues that have been the bone of contention between ASUU and the Federal Government of Nigeria FGN?
ASUU has struggled to ensure that there is adequate funding of education and remuneration of its members, renovation and upgrade of university facilities, workshops, laboratories, libraries, research centres, studios, and students’ housing facilities. Other issues include autonomy of the universities, pension scheme for members, roles of educational bodies like JAMB, NUC and the Education Tax Fund. ASUU also claims that any agreement reached at the negotiation table should be implemented through massive funding particularly by budgetary allocations.
Because of these pressing needs, it reached an agreement with the FGN in June 2001 after a serious strike during the Obasanjo Administration. ASUU-FGN 2001 agreement needed implementation/review as far as back in 2004 possibly because there was no sign of significant change in the University system. But this did not start until December 2006; for the next three months, the two teams could not agree on the principles of collective bargaining which form the foundation for lasting agreements. So another strike action ensued in March 2007 which rolled into the period of Presidential elections and handover. Soon after he assumed office, President Yar’adua appealed to ASUU to call off the strike with a pledge to resolve the crisis. ASUU, through its NEC, met with the Presidential Ad-hoc committee to establish that the UNILORIN 49 lecturers should be reinstated in line with ASUU-FGN 2001 Agreement; and that negotiations on other cogent issues should be concluded by September 2007 based on the principles of collective bargaining. So the three-month old strike ended and there was hope that the new government may tilt the tide of educational waves.
The Government instituted a technical committee headed by Deacon Gamaliel Onosode to enter into serious negotiations with ASUU and other University staff unions to useful agreements which, if implemented, will facilitate uplift Nigeria’s university system. This arduous tasks commenced in July 2007 but was not concluded until December 2008 [as against the initial September 2007 deadline].
And the final thing: the FGN should sign and implement the ‘unsigned’ agreement. But it refused. Why? I really don’t know. This is reason why the Minister of Education Sam Egwu claimed the FGN did not sign any agreement with ASUU. Indeed, the FGN did not empower its technical team to sign any agreement with ASUU. That’s why we’re where we are! What has worsened the situation is the recent step by government in setting up a technical committee/inter-ministerial committee which may undermine already reached agreements. Now ASUU insists that until the agreement is signed, the strike will continue.
We must not lose sight of the fact that the Gamaliel committee’s work also affects NASU, SSANU and other staff unions. Perhaps, this is the reason we have this University Staff Unions Strikes ‘US-US’ which have totally paralysed the public universities across the country.
What about the government? To understand government’s role, it is important to access ASUU’s achievements. If we critically evaluate ASUU’s achievements between 1999 and 2009, we’d see that 49 lecturers were victimized in UNILORIN in 2001: 5 have been reinstated with full benefits due to the Supreme Court Ruling a couple of weeks ago and the remaining members await the fate come September. There was minimal increase in workers’ salary payment during the Obasanjo Administration. And the Universities have limited autonomy, at least with the POST-UME examinations.
On the other hand, the funding of education has consistently reduced from 5[Obasanjo] and to 2% [2009 Budget] compared with 12% [Abdul-Salami pre-democracy era]. So what does this mean? It is pellucid that there is no significant improvement in university system for past TEN YEARS OF DEMOCRACY.
Will a sensitive government reduce funding of education? Will it not be right to say FGN is at fault for her failure to pay her intellectuals while she pays Equatorial Guinea workers three month salaries? Isn’t it pathetic to realize that the President, his vice, and Ministers of Education and Information and national orientation are former higher institutions’ lecturers who should understand the plight of university dons and the decaying system? Is it not absurd the supposed giant of Africa cannot place premium priority on education by taking it as a ‘do-or-die’ affair as ruling party took the Ekiti State rerun elections? It would be sad to know that most of our ministers wards study abroad or in private institutions: can’t you see why you and I as students waste enormous time at home because it has become a ‘civil offence’ to attend public university? In my career as a Nigerian medical student, I have spent more than a year in all on University Staff Unions Strikes ‘US-US’, what kind of graduates can we produce from such a university system?
No wonder my co-winners at high school national contests opted to go abroad and are now proud graduates of American institutions. Little wonder why many lecturers [at least I know of two personally] leave the country because of perpetual frustration in the class without tables, laboratories without chemicals, workshops without tools, residential halls without stable water and power supply, and lecture theatres where adult innocent undergraduates sit on floors to receive lectures! Tell me: what kind of graduates can we produce from such a system? The mind of this country-the university system-is crying for help. But you what? The flesh is weak.
Is there any hope?
While Luke Onyekakeyah proved in his GUARDIAN article titled ‘ASUU, universities and the wilderness’ that the country and the university system is ‘wondering in the wilderness of despair’, I believe there is a flicker of hope.
But this can only widen when students join reputable organisations like the Promote Education in Nigeria [P.E.N.], Education Rights Campaign [ERC] and support just course to improve funding of education. Private universities may be doing well, but how many Nigerians can afford the exorbitant costs of education there? There will be hope when ASUU refuses to fall at government doughnut-offer in salary increase while it insists on other demands. There will be hope when parents unite, all workers unite, and students unite to wipe out corrupt politicians from this country. This is not a call for revolution it is simply a relevation on what can kindle the light of hope. It is but a town-cry for massive pressure on our government to restore true light.
Our government must quickly wake up from its slumber before the noise of strikes and educational militant wars reach its barricade. Will they even care if that happens? But it must increase funding of education and give workers their due pay. The Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress must join hands with USU and Nigeria Union of Teachers to give hope to the youth. If education is the only hope of masses, any attempt to strip them of that privilege must be resisted by all and sundry. While it attends to other matters of national importance, education must be placed as a priority. The Presidency and the National Assembly must rise to the occasion to save this nation from educational degradation before it becomes necessary to grant amnesty to educational militants! Universities should be given due autonomy so that they can raise enough funds for their activities without compromising integrity of such noble institutions, and so their dependence on government will drastically reduce.
Education, and not religion I believe, is the light of the people. In the film ‘the Great Debaters’, learned Rev. Foreman of Wiley College asserts: ‘Education is the only way out: the way out of ignorance, the way out of darkness into the glorious light’. It is the light while we walk through away from the ‘wilderness of despair’; the light that leads us out of the darkness of imperialism and perpetual Western belligerence whose interest is to keep our government and our people under perpetual 21st century-slavery.
Is there any hope? Sure. That’s education!
Thanks for your patience!
Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem and the tasks of Pan-Africanists
'I am human. Nothing human is alien to me.'
Today we are gathered on 5 July 2009 to restate this simple proposition. Nothing human should be alien to the African or to any other peoples.
Yet today huge, powerful forces are working to reproduce the dehumanisation of the peoples of Africa at home and abroad.
The tasks of Pan-Africanism, yesterday, as they are today, and tomorrow, must be to elaborate the humanity of the African and to end all forms of dehumanisation. The simple task is to strengthen the dignity and wellbeing of the human being.
Africans as human beings want good health. They want to live in clean and safe environments. They want respect as they respect others. They want peace. They want love, they want life and above all, they want to leave a planet for future generations.
These goals of the Pan-African movement have been made more pressing with each passing day as the economic depression of the global system is most keenly felt in the villages, townships and cities across the pan-African world. Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem was fighting for mental and physical health. One of the many challenges before is to seek to better understand Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem, especially those who counted him as a friend but did not fully understand his earthly mission.
Taju did not need a depression and the fall of financial markets to reject the immorality of a system that placed profits before humans. Stand up. Stand up to end poverty and stand up for your rights. This was the campaign that Tajudeen had taken on. Tajudeen was able to penetrate the duplicity of leaders and dig into the lyrics of Bob Marley to transform the campaign of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
If from a little office at the All African Conference of Churches in Nairobi with minimum staff, Tajudeen could mobilise 7 million people to stand up against poverty in Africa, this was just a demonstration of what we can do if we stood up for Pan-African unity, peace and reconstruction. One clear task is to work for the unity of the peoples of Africa. It is the culture of standing up that we are here to celebrate. It is a culture that draws from the depths of our ancestors who have left traditions of resistance. Tajudeen has now joined these ancestors but he has left very clear messages of how we must transform ourselves as we seek to move from resistance to a more profound level of organisation. This is the quantum leap towards African unity as we work for the transformation and reconstruction of Africa. Everyday we hear the words 'Something new is afoot in the world.' Barack Obama’s people argue that we are at an inflection point. Can we use the ideas and hard work of Tajudeen to work for the moment of the quantum leap towards African redemption?
I was in China when I received the news that our brother had moved on and joined the stars. As I travelled in China and bore witness to the future unfolding before all of us, my thoughts about our brother were that we must carry forward his work. We were witnessing in China the transformation of the environment and the building of the capacity, skills, wellbeing and livelihood of the Chinese people. If the tasks of the Pan-Africanists of the 20th century were to resist dehumanisation, enslavement and colonialism, Tajudeen was using his life and his work as a practical message of the commitment to the transformation of Africa. He was not living in one way and expecting the alternative in the future. Tajudeen was saying we are the alternative. It was only the living for the alternative that could turn our dream of being humans away from the nightmares of cloning, cyborgs , trans-humans and the mechanical conceptions that emanate from the eugenics past and the genetic engineering future that deem Africans to be a breed of sub-humans.
Tajudeen understood clearly that old fashioned Hitlerite eugenics was being replaced by free-market and designer eugenics. In Britain, we have a new upsurge in eugenics and petty fascism, we must be aware that the racists took their cue from neoliberalism and xenophobia from the respectable academics that spread hatred through books, journals and the media.
It is our organising and political work that will expose and defeat both the neoliberals and the more vociferous racists. For that goal, Tajudeen dreamt of united peoples in a union of democratic states in Africa.
'We also do so not just as defensive impulse against the more fashionable industry of Afro pessimism. Our optimism is based on the concrete reality of our lived experiences and the brutal reality of the condition of many Africans today both on the continent and in the Diaspora. These have made Pan Africanism a precondition for our survival instead of it just being a dream. And some of us will even go further to assert that we need our dreams and we need to accelerate the process of their realisation because those who have no dreams to live for and work towards will suffer nightmares. And Africa has suffered enough nightmares.'
The transformation was urgent when he wrote these words and it is the fundamental statement of Tajudeen that Pan-Africanism requires the full unity of the peoples of Africa.
This is an elementary task and it is for us to use this celebration of the life of Tajudeen to rededicate ourselves to these tasks. Tajudeen’s ideas are clear. His style of work was clear. He is now calling on us to move from informal networks based on individual ties to him as a person to the love for peace and change. There is nowhere Tajudeen yearned for this as much as the land of his birth. His statements on Nigeria and his commitment to change in Nigeria are on record. Despite persecution, he travelled there, sought to build institutions there, worked in his community, and worked for development and democracy as well as social justice for Nigeria. Many of the organisations represented here today reflect the testimony of his energy and his hard work for peace and justice.
NIGERIA AS A COUNTRY OF HOPE
Tajudeen dreamt of the day to come when the social energy of all of Africa would be unleashed for change, but he was particularly anxious about the energies of youths in Nigeria. Tajudeen did not come from the princely classes of Nigeria and he suffered the same indignities as millions of Nigerians who are criminalised and dehumanised because of the illegalities and extremism of the rulers of that country. Tajudeen dreamt of freedom of movement for the poor African, just as he wanted for himself. His work against militarism and dictatorship, along with his networking with activists for peace and democratic participation in Nigeria, came from his own life witnessing a civil war where millions had died. Tajudeen’s vision of peace and unity in Africa came from his belief that the youth of Nigeria will move again, and when they move, they will sweep away all of the social forces that are holding back the country.
We do not have to restate the conditions in Nigeria and the billions of dollars that have been stolen from the country by its so-called elite. This is an elite that uses religion to enrich itself, speaking about God while in reality using God as a means for networking in order to make deals for more moneymaking.
Tajudeen was always reminding us that the crimes of the Nigerian leadership could not be carried out without the collusion of their enablers in Western, European states. Leaders of these European states continue to decry corruption and theft in Nigeria, but these same leaders of the ‘Western democracy’ will not popularise the Stolen Asset Recovery (StAR) initiative of the United Nations. Our task to popularise this initiative is also part of the task to democratise the UN and to keep up pressure so that the crocodile tears about corruption will only make sense when the leaders from Africa repatriate the money stolen from Africa.
At a meeting of the Royal African Society, Tajudeen stated simply: 'The best way to help Africa is to leave it alone.' Africa does not need aid.
We must stand up to end exploitation. His work in the UN did not diminish his zeal to oppose exploiters. He wrote in one postcard:
'We all know that Mahatma Gandhi’s famous words, 'There is enough in the world to satisfy our needs but not enough to satisfy our greed’, uttered so many decades ago are as true today as ever. The vast wealth from improved technology, science and genetic engineering in the last five decades is more than enough for all of us. However, the structures of power within and between nations continue to reward those at the very top, while penalising the majority poor at the bottom of the pile.'
Tajudeen represented a generation of youths who were able to excel and it pained him to see the level of manipulation in Africa on the basis of ethnicity, region, religion and race. In Nigeria, he consciously identified himself with the followers of Muhammad, but he was scathing of how the rulers used sharia and Islamic fundamentalism to coerce and confuse the people. One of his sharpest criticisms of this religious–political leadership came in his postcard defending Safiya Hussaini, the woman sentenced to death by stoning by a sharia court.
Tajudeen challenged the bigotry of those who sentenced Safiya and was part of a global outcry to save the life of this citizen. How could a woman commit adultery by herself?
Tajudeen had written in another tongue-in-cheek postcard:
'Nigerians like seeing themselves as the "greatest nation", [the] "hope of Africa" and [the] "hope of the black race". It is more a declaration of intent or deification of potential, than a statement of fact. It is a triumph of hope that defies unpalatable reality.'
Yet despite this criticism, Tajudeen identified with the geography of hope that Nigeria represented for a future emancipated Africa. His spiritual and political energies were dedicated to moving this society to be a space of hope. In this he was sure that healing and the removal of fears were all tied up with the rights of women, religious freedom and democratic ideas. He was exercising his tremendous optimism of the intellect in order to open up ways for everyone, even those who scorned him as a mere commoner.
Tajudeen showed the way by investing his time and resources into building democratic relations and democratic spaces. He also wanted to build institutions of higher learning. In short, Tajudeen wanted youths and those committed to change and hope to use all means at their disposal to change Nigeria. When we read of the energy of the Sahara and the new breakthroughs in solar technology, we want to see electricity for all in Africa. Our schools, from kindergarten to universities must not be centres of divisions, but centres to teach about the great possibilities of transformation.
Pan-Africanists must now move beyond the roadblocks of the present leadership and consider the tasks of ending poverty for all and providing electricity and water for all by 2015. Tajudeen always spoke to leaders to their face to ask how it is that they can find the resources to buy arms to fight wars but will always go cap-in-hand to the IMF (International Monetary Fund) or so-called ‘donor’ agencies when it comes to providing healthcare and clinics.
WHAT IS OUR OPINION OF ARMED STRUGGLES?
At present the use of violence – both physical and social – against the people ensure that grassroots Pan-Africanists eschew all forms of armed struggle. Our experiences in the DR Congo after the overthrow of Mobutu cured our branch of the movement from all romanticism associated with armed struggles. Foday Sankoh, Jonas Savimbi, Charles Taylor, the butchers of Sudan, Congo and Somalia have cured the movement. For a brief moment after the overthrow of Mobutu and the rot in society prevailed, our section supported the armed uprising in the East.
This proved to be a colossal error and Tajudeen saw this very early and retreated from any support for that form of struggle. We have spoken openly on this question as one of the roads to healing. It was clear then, as it is now, that there is no work that can be better the work of political education, organisation and mobilisation. So when we see in Nigeria the growth of a branch of a movement for emancipation and some sections of this movement for emancipation call for the bearing of arms for liberation, our branch of the Pan-African movement says, 'This is not the way for peace, nor for a clean-up of the environment and reconstruction.'
At this moment when the enemies of the people have arms and weapons and we are open to massive deaths, we say that armed struggle as a means of achieving the goals of emancipation is at this time not the right tool. As one Grenadian revolutionary wrote recently:
'Armed struggle viewed as a preference for solving political problems is politically immature and in my view, morally wrong. It is possible for a people to pursue their aspirations for a better life and to change society, so that there are more opportunities for more and more equitable distribution of society’s fruits, through legal and constitutional means.'
Tajudeen also warned us about what happened to would-be revolutionaries when they stayed in power too long.
There were many who did not grasp the deep commitment to the process of unity and change. Tajudeen has left a clear testament of the revolutionaries-who-have become-reactionaries.
When we read of the mess associated with global Pan African Secretariat (in Uganda) today, we ask ourselves, how did Tajudeen escape from this? It is here we understand his diplomatic skills. How could he work with Okwiri whose brother, Noble Mayombo, was the head of security persecuting the opposition?
He made it clear that he was not part of the Ugandan establishment.
As in Uganda, so in Eritrea, Ethiopia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Tajudeen made it clear to the grassroots that even if they saw him in pictures with these leaders, he was not an accomplice to their oppression. Tajudeen was not silent in the face of injustice. This is what he had to say about the same people who assisted him to escape from the Nigerian militarists:
'What happens to revolutionaries when they get into power? This familiar question was haunting me all of last week when I was back "home" (I lived in the country from 1992 to 2005) and not afraid to speak out against governments. As an ideologue of the NRM [National Resistance Movement] he displayed the kind of gross insensitivity to the ordinary citizen and ideological retreat that has characterised President [Yoweri] Museveni’s long-term hegemony over the Ugandan state and society. They have stayed so long in power that they have all forgotten their previous jobs, values and visions. From heralding "fundamental change" they have become apostles of "no change". They have become reactionaries, tired revolutionaries exhausting the country they claim they have liberated. The challenge now facing Ugandans is similar to what is facing Zimbabweans, Ethiopians, Eritreans and other post-liberation societies: how to liberate themselves from their liberators.
'The liberators have become establishment reactionaries blocking future changes.'
He continued by observing:
'… they are no longer changing the system because they are the system. The burden of change is now squarely on the shoulders of another generation. They are no longer part of the solution but very central to the problem.
'Many of them have hope of remaining in power for as long as President Museveni is there. This is why Museveni/NRM does not have any exit strategy. They cannot remember not being in power and cannot contemplate not being in power, whatever the citizens may think.'
Who are the revolutionaries today?
'I have argued elsewhere that we are in a revolutionary moment. The convergence of the economic and political crisis along with the search for new ideas about revolution and revolutionary change are to be seen on every continent. We already had one glimpse a month ago by the women of Iran. They have sent a message; women will no longer be oppressed, especially in societies that call themselves revolutionary.'
AFRICAN WOMEN AND LIBERATION TODAY
This is one of the unfinished organisational tasks related to building the Pan African Women’s Liberation Organization (PAWLO). This was a matter close to Tajudeen's heart, but he was clear that on this question men had to take a back seat and let the situation mature for the revolutionary women of Africa to come to the forefront.
He was not shy to remind us in his writings that he was the son of a 'hardworking woman who was a petty trader'. In his last communication he reaffirmed that he was driven to support the rights and dignity of hardworking men and women from the grassroots.
When he wrote on the death of John Garang, he quoted at length from the testimony of his wife and partner, Mrs Rebecca Garang.
Tajudeen used her voice to bring to the fore the oppression of women, even in the ranks of liberation movements. She had spoken at the Oginga Odinga Foundation in Nairobi and said:
'When my husband died, I did not come out openly and say he was killed, because I knew the consequences. At the back of my mind, I knew my husband had been assassinated.'
CAN WE BUILD OF THE WORK OF TAJUDEEN AND JOHN GARANG FOR PEACE IN SUDAN?
What Tajudeen wanted for Sudan was said in his tribute to John Garang:
'For Sudanese democrats, he was a bridge of hope with the potential of turning the country into a genuinely democratic environment where all Sudanese might, in the Martin Luther King hope, "be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character".'
AFRICAN UNITY AND THE FUTURE OF SUDAN
It is in societies such as Egypt, Sudan, Tunisia, Libya, Morocco and Algeria where there are other worthy issues of struggles and challenges for pan-African unity and transformation.
Rising above the European classification of races is a crucial element of Pan-Africanism today and the challenge is nowhere more evident than in Sudan where ideas of race and racial classifications compound real struggles for peace, transformation and healing. In his own life Tajudeen transcended the limits of racial classifications and in the 7th Pan African Congress, his historical testament was to lay this issue of racial classifications within Pan-Africanism to rest. He had written in the book 'Pan Africanism':
'We in Kampala rejected as reactionary blackism this attempt to balkanise Africa behind the so-called Saharan and sub-Saharan divide. We accepted as Africans any citizen (by whatever means acquired) of any of the countries of Africa, from Cape Town to Cairo and all our islands, (Madagascar, Mauritius, Cape Verde etc.) and also recognised anybody of African descent in the diaspora. While a majority of Africans are of Negroid origins, it is not true historically, factually or even politically that blackness is the only criteria for Africanness.'
Tajudeen said then and said up to his last day on the planet earth, that it was not our responsibility to decide who was more African than whom.
Those who continue to promote the exclusivism of race do a disservice to Tajudeen, his family and his children and discredit the Pan-Africanism of the 21st century.
Tajudeen was very aware of the major test for pan-African emancipation in Sudan. He worked tirelessly for peace and he supported demilitarisation and reconstruction in the country. What of the prospect for separation of the South from the North? It is our aspiration that the best vehicle that will bring peace is that which should be chosen by the Sudanese people. As Pan-Africanists we should never stand in the way of regional self-determination projects. This position meant that it was the right of the southern Sudanese to seek their own path to peace. However, Tajudeen reminded Africans that the secession route did not always bring peace. Progressive Africans supported self-determination and independence for Eritrea. The secession of Eritrea did not bring peace. If anything the long war reinforced militarisation and that form of politics held back the entire region of East Africa.
The vision of a peaceful federated Nile Valley union with the flourishing of the peoples of all societies was his vision. To this end, he supported calls for the devolution of power from central governments. On 7 November 2007, during the debates from the Kenyan elections, Tajudeen came out for federal forms of governance in eastern Africa:
'Whether you call it majimbo or devolution, the consensus means that everyone is not happy with the status quo. This is where my defence of federalism begins.
One, the response to an overbearing centralised state is the devolution of power and clamouring for the same by the constituent units in that system. They could be districts, provinces, regions or other administrative areas.
Tajudeen was also opposed to leaders who sought to mobilise the people over petty boundary disputes. So while our task is to build African unity it must not be at the cost of stifling cultural, regional and linguistic diversity. It was Albert Einstein who reminded us that we should not see unity as an imagined uniformity. Unity instead must be expressed through the multiplicities of diversities. Universality then becomes the 'unitary significance of our diverse diversities.' Cultural unity is not then a simplistic concept of unity akin to the uniformity and unity that emanated from the concept of the nation. It is the multiplicity of diversity that assists us in understanding African peoples and cultures in Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, Haiti, the Caribbean, the North American mainland, in Europe and in Africa (in essence, the contemporary pan-African World). There are many examples of this diversity and unity. These examples are to be found in diversities of spiritual reflections, gods, goddesses, rituals and accompanying musical forms. These diversities include the diverse languages of Africa and the African world. These include the diverse peoples, ethnic groups, races and peoples of Africa at home and abroad. It is this diversity that elevates Pan-Africanism beyond the simple universalism and universal claims of Eurocentric modes of thoughts and classifications of races.
Every Pan-Africanist lives in a multi-ethnic, multi-religious or multi-racial society. We are against all forms of racial determinism.
Rising above the European classification of races is a crucial element of Pan-Africanism today and the challenge is nowhere more evident than in Sudan where ideas of race and racial classifications compound the real struggles for peace, transformation and healing.
WHAT DO WE BELIEVE IN?
We believe in reparations and healing. At the core of this concept of reparations is the African concept of ubuntu. Though the current leaders of neoliberal pan-Africanism in South Africa have retreated from this concept of ubuntu, this is an old idea which survived the storms of apartheid and colonialism in Africa. Ubuntu means forgiveness, willingness to share, reconciliation and love.
Tajudeen loved songs of love and hope. He loved Fela, Bob Marley and those cultural artists who inspired love and unity.
It is this love of kin, of fellow humans, that inspires us as we seek to carry forward the work of Tajudeen. It stems from an emancipatory approach to politics which is encapsulated in the call for emancipation from mental slavery. Che Guevara captured the essence of this spirit of ubuntu when he articulated the view that all revolutionaries are guided by strong feelings of love.
We return to the starting point of this tribute. Maya Angelou has said, 'The honorary duty of a human being is to love.' 'I am human,' Angelou said, quoting from her own work, 'and nothing human can be alien to me.'
Tajudeen brought us the love of life, the love of children, the love of peoples and love for family. Most of the people in this celebration were touched in one way or another by the love of life and the joy that came form Tajudeen’s presence. His spirits of joy, care, charity and compassion will be forever be cherished. This is the spirit he has left with us. We can hear his laughter, we can hear him speaking and holding forth. His vision of African unity by 2015 was not abstract. He envisaged the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and the Pan-African Parliament as driving forces, but these institutions will have to be transformed. He wrote in one postcard:
'By far the most potentially democratic and democratising institutions of the [African] union are the Pan-African Parliament and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). The parliament offers an historic opportunity for Pan-Africanism to stop being the exclusive preserve of presidents but a matter for all of us with prospects for popular accountability through elected representatives.'
There was no space that was not worthy of bringing joy to others.
Unfortunately while he was bringing joy, we did not see his pain. We expected him to be superhuman. But Tajudeen was human and nothing human was alien to him. So he loved and he loved passionately, just as he was passionate about African unity.
He was very sensitive to the story of Mr McKenzie, the Pan-Africanist of the fifth Pan-African Congress and he encouraged all of the men and women of the movement to read the book, 'In search of Mr McKenzie'.
Issues of caring and nurturing must not be left to women. We need to dedicate ourselves here to do all we can for the immediate family of Tajudeen and to see that his family enjoys our support, just as he was there for all of us.
It is not possible to enumerate all of the tasks before us. The one clear task that he left is that we should be involved. As one of the sayings of Tajudeen that is hanging in this hall admonishes us:
'There is always something to be done.'
So he travelled, he wrote, he spoke and used every opportunity to telegraph the message. Africa must unite. Where Bob Marley and Fela Ransome Kuti used music, Tajudeen used his pen and his postcard to transform our consciousness of the urgency of the task. By departing on African Liberation Day he is now inextricably linked to the challenges and triumphs of African emancipation and redemption.
WHAT ARE THE TASKS OF THE UNIFICATION OF THE PEOPLES OF AFRICA?
Our task is to popularise the name and ideas of Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem.
We are rededicating ourselves today to using and reinforcing the ideas and values of Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem to create the pivot for the re-politicisation of the youth. Use his example to make the leap to the next stage of Pan-African liberation. We are humans and nothing human is alien to us.
* Horace Campbell is professor of Political Science and African-American Studies at Syracuse University, New York. He is writing a book on Barack Obama and 21st century politics.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/.
 Unless otherwise stated, all quotations are from various postcards from Tajudeen Abdul Raheem.
 Tajudeen Abdul Raheem, ed., Pan Africanism: Politics, Economy and Social Change in the Twenty First Century, Pluto Press, London, 1996.
 Quoted in Zillah Eisenstein, Against Empire: Feminisms, Racism and the West, Zed Books, page 55.
Predatory leaders are destroying trades unions movement
There are two movements that have let down and continue letting down Africans. These are the Pan-African and the trades union movements. The trades union and the Pan-African movements were founded on the social democratic principles of social justice, social welfare and equality. This explains why genuine Pan-Africanists and trade unionists are leftists and abhor western imperialism and exploitation. The two movements cherish equality so much that they address themselves as comrades and brothers and sisters for the Pan-Africanists and trade unionists respectively.
The Pan-African and trades union movements were started to fight multifaceted injustices ranging from slave trade, colonialism, discrimination, exploitation. To date they are still engrossed in fighting neocolonialism and injustices as a result of globalisation. Many post-independence African leaders were trade unionists and Pan-Africanists. Both movements are mass movements as trade unions can recruit from all workers but also have the goodwill of non-workers, because those who are young aspire to join the working class, while many of the elderly have been workers and need social security – a reason why they need the trade unions.
I have had an opportunity of reading the literature of both movements and have for some time now been associated with the two groups. My first experience with the trades unionists was for academic purposes but because of what the trade union movement stands for, I ended up falling in love with the trade union movement and for some time I worked with the National Organisation of Trade Unions (NOTU). With the Pan African Movement, when I joined university, myself together with Comrade Richard Muhumuza, Comrade Rukidi-Mpuga and Comrade Doreen Namara among others genuinely started the Pan-African Universities Students Union (PAUSU). We were well intentioned and organised some activities where we would invite Pan-African staff at the secretariat then. PAUSU died a natural death because of the malady that has engrossed the Pan-African Movement.
In Uganda, workers have been turned into another branch of the National Resistance Movement (NRM) party and so is the way the Pan African Movement has been treated. Workers’ members of parliament are at the same time on the leadership of NRM workers’ league, a situation that has always made them compromise the interests of the workers for the party interests, which are more often than not antithetical to the workers’ interests. Those who become loudmouthed are branded rebels and later panel-beaten back into line. They are cowed into submission either through favours (read bribes) or threats. If you cannot be swayed by the bribes they threaten to campaign against you come the next election and given that many of our politicians exploit situations to pursue their selfish interests, they end up yielding to the pressure and abandoning the cause of their constituents. Accordingly, the NRM has used both the stick and the carrot to muzzle trade unionists. As for the Pan-African Movement I have written before in Pambazuka and I wish to restate it now that it has been reduced into an NRM branch and some of us feel it is an extension of state house. Our conviction is informed by the composition of the secretariat staff and appointment. If you are not a staunch NRM cadre, forget about working at the Global Pan-African Movement secretariat. This poses a threat to the trade union and Pan-African Movements as the secretariat staff are heavily bent on promoting and protecting their partisan interests at the expense of the broader interests of the movements.
It is vital to note that the two movements are necessarily political movements. That notwithstanding, it is imprudent for them to serve petty, trivial partisan political interests. They must strive to promote the common good. They are meant to be the voice of the voiceless. They predate our partisan politics and they are aimed at the social wellbeing. Forget this current bandwagon of liberal democracy – the trades union movement and Pan-African Movement should have no illusions about liberal democracy. They are social democratic movements. They are leftist movements and leftists they will remain. It is because of the ideological confusion that the Pan-Africans we have here in Uganda who at the same time serve the NRM regime that has wholeheartedly moved to the right are always caught between a rock and a hard place. You will never hear avowed Pan-Africanists like Chango Macho, Kajabago ka Rusoke and Kirunda Kivejinja singing the Breton Woods institutions lullabies. This means they are held hostage in a regime whose ideology they don’t believe in and this is purely because of monetary or other inducements.
The trades union movement and the Pan-African Movement should be at the forefront of denouncing dictatorship. It is also vital to note that the slogans of the two movements have been abused, desecrated and rendered meaningless. The trades union movement slogan is ‘solidarity for ever for the union makes us stronger’. The Pan-African movement slogan on the other hand is ‘don’t agonise, organise’. These slogans, given the current state of these movements, have remained for window-dressing purposes. A closer look at the trades union movement in Uganda shows visible absence of solidarity. Infighting and internal squabbles with some leaders and members pulling one another down is the order of the day. The same applies to the Pan-African movement where the national chapter headed by Comrade J.P. Mwesigwa Karooro has another team under Comrade Daniel Rugarama masquerading to be the bona fide team heading the chapter. Paradoxically, the masquerading team is supported wholeheartedly by the executive assistant of the Global Pan-African Movement’s Tony Othieno, whose appointment, I hear, is linked to him and his father being NRM cadres.
From the foregoing, it becomes clear that what the trades union movement and the Pan-African movement have in common is the absence of solidarity and incessant antagonism. This situation is brought about by the fact that there are two categories of members: Those that are genuinely passionate about the ideals, values and objectives of the movements, which are centred on social welfare, and those that seek personal and self-aggrandisement. Unfortunately, self-aggrandisement seekers carry the day in the short run. We must however not give up because winners are not those who never face challenges but those who never give up in spite of the challenges. Trades unions and the Pan-African movement must extricate themselves from the claws of African predatory leaders, who promised too much upon capturing power and have destroyed too much instead. They have turned state houses into their family’s, and are determined not even to be evicted by death, for they put in place situations that make it possible to bequeath statehouses to their offspring.
* Vincent Nuwagaba is a Ugandan human rights defender.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/.
Haroub Othman: Champion of social justice
Chris Maina Peter
'It is not the height that one climbs that matter but the depths from which one came.'
(Alhajj Miraj Othman Mwinjuu)
On the morning of Sunday 28 June 2009, one of the most admired academics and members of the civil society, Professor Haroub Miraji Othman passed on in sleep in his home town of Zanzibar in Unguja Island. This is news which one does not accept easily. Professor Haroub – as we all called him, was not ill. He was fit and okay. On Saturday night he had actively participated in the launching of a book titled Race, Revolution and the Struggle for Human Rights in Zanzibar: Memoirs of Ali Sultan Issa and Seif Sharif Hamad edited by Professor G. Thomas Burjess. He is the one who actually summarised the book for the audience. This book is an important milestone in Zanzibar as it opens new avenues for understanding the history to Zanzibar through the two politicians Maalim Seif Shariff Hamad, former chief minister in the revolutionary government of Zanzibar under the late Idris Abdul Wakil and current secretary general of the opposition Civic United Front and Ali Sultan Issa, a former minister for health in the revolutionary government of Zanzibar under President Abeid Amani Karume. This function was presided over by Ambassador Salim Ahmed Salim, the chair of Mwalimu Nyerere Foundation and former secretary general of the then Organisation of African Unity (OAU).
It is therefore understandable that the news of his passing was received with total disbelief. For me, Professor Othman was not only a friend but a brother, a comrade, a teacher, an academic supervisor, a mentor and many other roles. Therefore, although it pains to write about him – I am deeply grateful that our paths crossed 32 years ago when I joined the University of Dar es Salaam as an undergraduate student! Since then, we shared so much in common from human rights, equality of human beings, politics to football. I remember us rushing after a dinner at the residence of the Danish Ambassador early this year to go and watch at least the remaining half of a Champions League game!
A HIGHLY RESPECTED ACADEMIC AND SCHOLAR
Professor Othman was a highly respected academic and scholar in his own right. He was the first person to receive a doctorate degree (PhD) from the Faculty of Law of the University of Dar es Salaam. His thesis was titled State Succession with regard to International Treaties: Some Theoretical Observations on the Practice of Anglophone Africa. He taught and supervised many students. Most of his students are holding high offices in governments all over the world including that of the United Republic of Tanzania and the revolutionary government of Zanzibar. Others are professors, judges, permanent secretaries, ministers and one is a prime minister.
Professor Othman has also published widely in politics, law, philosophy etc. His works include: Liberalisation and Politics: The 1990 Election in Tanzania (with Professor Rwekaza Mukandala) (1994); Reflections on Leadership in Africa: Forty Years After Independence – Essays in Honour of Mwalimu Julius K. Nyerere on the Occasion of his 75th Birthday (2000); Babu: I Saw the Future and It Works – Essays Celebrating the Life of Comrade Abdulrahman Mohamed Babu (2001); Towards Political Liberalisation in Uganda (with Maria Nassali (2002); Sites of Memory: Julius Nyerere and the Liberation Struggle of Southern Africa (2007) just to mention a few. I was honoured to have edited two books with him: Perspectives on Legal Aid and Access to Justice in Zanzibar (2003); and Zanzibar and the Union Question (2006). Working with Professor Othman on any assignment brought a lot of joy. He was very hard-working, highly resourceful and with keen interest on the details.
He as a well sought person in various consultancies. He was the type of person from whom no one bothered to ask for the CV. His name was like a brand in academic circles and his work just proved how knowledgeable he was. He thus did various assignments for the government, the African Union, the United Nations and many others.
INTRODUCING ME TO MARX, ENGELS AND THE GANG
Unlike most senior academics who have no time for students, Professor Othman was different. He did not only trust students, but showed them the way forward around academics and gave them the opportunity to excel. I was one the many beneficiaries of Professor Othman’s kind heart. He was teaching us development studies in the Faculty of Law (now University of Dar es Salaam School of Law). Professor Othman told me that if I wanted to understand the law properly, I need to approach it from the context of the society. To him, law did not exist in vacuum. He thus introduced me to Karl Marx. Friedrich Engels, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, Chairman Mao Tse-tung, and others were to follow. From that time to date I never looked back. I still remember the very first book he gave me to read – Human Essence: The Sources of Science and Art by George Derwent Thomson published in 1974 by the London-based China Policy Study Group, then followed the three volumes by the British Marxist Philosopher Maurice Campbell Cornforth (Materialism & the Dialectical Method, Historical Materialism, and Theory of Knowledge). This was a good introduction to dialectical materialism, before embarking on the classics in order to be able to interpret the law and the world properly and in context. What Professor Othman had initiated was consolidated through ideological discussions with people like Professor Joe Kanywanyi, Professor Dani Nabudere, the late Omwony Ojwok, and Professor Issa Shivji.
On joining the staff of the Faculty of Law as a tutorial assistant after my undergraduate studies and knowing the academic motto: 'Publish or perish', Professor Othman was there to encourage and mentor me. He published my very first article titled 'The Palestinian Question: International Law and Self-determination', published in his book 'The Palestinian Question', published in Harare, Zimbabwe by the Palestine Liberation Organisation and the Tanzania-Palestine Solidarity Committee in 1982. It is in appreciation of this kind gesture that when I published my very first book titled Choosing Sides: A Polemical Approach to Three Schools of Jurisprudence, published by Hartung-Gorre Verlag of Konstanz, Germany in 1989, I dedicated it to him. When he asked why the book was dedicated to him, I referred him to one of the chapters in the book on the base and superstructure Debate! Modest as he was, he laughed and said he did not think that he deserved such an honour. I think he deserved more than that recognition.
SUPERVISOR AND FRIEND
The Faculty of Law of the University of Dar es Salaam Board appointed Professor Othman to supervise me in 1982. My Master of Laws (LL.M) dissertation was titled 'The Right of Nations to Self-determination in International Law: The Case of Western Sahara'. I was also assigned an external supervisor who was Hon. Mr Justice Augustino Ramadhani, the current chief justice of the United Republic of Tanzania. At that time, CJ Ramadhani was the chief justice of Zanzibar and we held our academic sessions mainly in Chake Chake, Pemba when he was on court sessions there. Unfortunately for me, my two supervisors were both keen on details and this required me to work extra hard in order to get through. Due to the meticulous nature of the supervision by the two supervisors, the external examiner Professor Dietrich Kappeler, then at the Faculty of Law, University of Nairobi, had little to say on the substance of the work.
I must admit that I am lucky to have had such illustrious lawyers as my supervisors. This supervision developed into a permanent friendship. This is because although I was just one of the many students they were supervising, they never looked down at me. They treated me as an equal which is an important lesson I learnt and value and that is how I treat all my students today.
ESTABLISHMENT OF THE ZANZIBAR LEGAL SERVICES CENTRE (ZLSC)
In 1992 Professor Othman together with other two Zanzibari lawyers – Hon. Fatma Maghimbi, the current member of parliament for Chake Chake constituency and shadow minister for constitutional affairs and justice in the parliament of the United Republic of Tanzania and Mr Hassan Said Mzee, former commissioner in the Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC) decided to establish the Zanzibar Legal Services Centre (ZLSC). This was a non-governmental, voluntary, independent and non-profit-making organisation. Its major aim was to provide legal aid, assistance and other legal services to the disadvantaged sections of the Zanzibar society; to provide legal and human rights education to the public; popularise knowledge on law; and produce publications in all areas of legal concern to the people of Zanzibar.
This was a facility of its first type in the isles. Due to paucity of lawyers in Zanzibar, those with legal problems had to travel all the way to the mainland to seek for the services of lawyers. This was a luxury which the poor and disadvantaged sections of the Zanzibari society could not afford. The aim of the centre was to assist this group which constituted the majority of Zanzibaris.
Over the years, the centre has developed into a major player in the areas of promotion of legal education in Zanzibar and protection and popularisation of human rights in Zanzibar. It has since then established a vibrant office in the sister island of Pemba. Professor Othman and his colleagues invited me to serve on the board of trustees of this organisation – a position I have held for over 10 years.
ZANZIBAR ELECTIONS MONITORING AND OBSERVER GROUP (ZEMOG)
One of the major activities undertaken by the Zanzibar Legal Services Centre was organising observation of the first multiparty elections in Zanzibar in 1995. The centre established a group called Zanzibar Elections Monitoring and Observer Group (ZEMOG). Professor Othman was the chair and I was his assistant. Under this group, we stayed in Zanzibar for a period of four months – from registration of voters to the announcement of the electoral results by the Zanzibar Electoral Commission.
It is the work of ZEMOG which established Professor Othman as an institution in Zanzibar. In a country in which one must belong to a political party, Professor Othman proved that one could be independent of party politics and be fair to all. Months before elections, Professor Othman campaigned relentlessly for the constitution of Zanzibar of 1984 to be amended so as to provide for the formation of a government of national unity after elections. This was after realising how divided the Zanzibaris were. This would have been a different type of government of national unity – unlike the Dr Kofi Annan model for Kenya which has now been copied in Zimbabwe, which is an after thought in a post-electoral crisis. Professor Othman wanted a unity government entrenched into the constitution before elections are held. His efforts fell on deaf years and we all know the results – killings and a hanging muafaka! All these could have been avoided.
Through Professor Othman’s efforts, ZEMOG managed to have a very active secretariat – collecting and collating information on elections throughout the electoral season. This task fell in the hands of novelist Shafi Adam Shafi. There were electoral co-ordinators in the five regions of Zanzibar and at least two elections monitors in each of the fifty constituencies of Zanzibar and Pemba. On the eve of the elections – a week before the ballot, ZEMOG invited outside elections observers from all parts of the world including Kenya, Uganda, United States of America, United Kingdom etc. The ZEMOG report remains one the most balanced documents in the electoral history of Tanzania. As Professor Othman had anticipated, the Zanzibar elections produced a winner by 0.4 per cent with the declared winner getting 50.2 per cent of the votes and the loser 49.8 per cent!
Being fair and truthful has its price as well. Immediately after the Zanzibar elections, the ZEMOG report drafting team convened in Tanga. It was assisted by novelist Shafi Adam Shafi and Professor Kivutha Kibwana, then at the Faculty of Law, University of Nairobi, Kenya now adviser to President Mwai Kibaki on constitutional matters – who had been on the international observers in Zanzibar. Upon publication of the ZEMOG report titled Uchaguzi wa Zanzibar 1995: Taarifa Kamili ya ZEMOG, the authorities in Zanzibar reacted. They were not happy and thus began sending feelers that Professor Othman has been using donor money to undermine and fight them. He was thus unwanted in Zanzibar and he would be going there at his own risk. Logically Professor Othman understood clearly that the threats were real and not a bluff. He therefore never set foot on the isles for the next five years between 1995 and 2000. This to a very large extent affected the work of the Zanzibar Legal Services Centre as the board could hardly meet, save for a few times in Dar es Salaam. The centre was run through consultations with me doing most of the work in Zanzibar, as the other remaining board member Mr Hassan Said Mzee was busy with his work as vice chair of the Zanzibar Electoral Commission.
LOVE FOR SOCIALISM, MWALIMU, TANZANIA AND ZANZIBAR
Professor Othman was a strong believer in socialism throughout his life. This was from his secondary school days. At one point, while the chair of the school debating society, he gave the guest of honour the late Abdulrahman Mohammed Babu newspaper cuttings of Marx, Engels and Lenin as a present after addressing his group.
He was thus attracted to Mwalimu Julius Nyerere and his ideas. With time Mwalimu also noted Professor Othman’s affinity to socialism and thus they were very close. Apart from nominating him to serve on the board of the Mwalimu Nyerere Foundation, Mwalimu – before travelling to London for treatment – had accepted the offer by Professor Othman to co-operate with him to prepare his memoirs. Unfortunately this project did not take off because of the reasons we all know.
It is also worth noting that although Professor Othman could have comfortably afforded to send his only son Tahir to any western academic institution, like many in his place are doing, he chose to send him to Cuba for his schooling. This just shows that his bond with socialism both in theory and practice was solid. It is something he strongly believed in.
Professor Othman was also close to those involved in liberation struggles in southern Africa and beyond. He was therefore at home in Mozambique, Angola, Namibia and South Africa. He was on first name terms with people like Thabo Mbeki in South Africa, Nathan Shamuyarira and Ibo Mandaza in Zimbabwe and many other freedom fighters.
Professor Othman was African first, then Tanzanian and lastly Zanzibari. He served the country in many capacities over and above the work at Faculty of Law and later the Institute of Development Studies of the University of Dar es Salaam. He was the director of the Institute for many years; chair of the board of the Tanzania News Agency (SHIHATA) and also served as a member of the respected Nyalali Commission of 1990 which was appointed to collect views of Tanzanians whether they wanted to retain the one-party democratic system or move into multi-party democracy. In the Nyalali Commission, while the majority supported a federal system of the Union between Tanzania mainland and Zanzibar, Professor Othman led a minority group that supported the existing union of two governments. This minority report was appended to the main report.
It is important to add that due to his strong love for Zanzibar, Professor Othman insisted on working with the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC) of Dar es Salaam in the production of the authoritative Tanzania Human Rights Report including a part on Zanzibar which was to be done by the Zanzibar Legal Services Centre (ZLSC). Sure to his word, he ensured that Zanzibar was fully and effectively covered in this report since 2006.
Again, it must be emphasised that it was his deep love for Tanzania and Zanzibar which made Professor Othman remain and work in Tanzania, while people who were less qualified than him were leaving for the so-called ‘greener pastures.’ I have no doubt in my mind that given his level of education, experience and connections, Professor Othman could have worked anywhere in the world. That open opportunity notwithstanding, he chose Tanzania as his station of life.
LIBERIA AND CHANGE OF OUTLOOK
One afternoon in early 2000, Professor Othman came to my office in the then Faculty of Law, University of Dar es Salaam. He did not waste any time and went straight to the point which had brought him. He informed me that the United Nations secretary general appointed him the UN chief technical adviser, Office for the Promotion of Good Governance, Liberia for period of one year renewable. This was an attractive offer in terms of what he could do for the African continent. However, his decision to take or to reject the offer depended on my acceptance to take over and run the Zanzibar Legal Services Centre (ZLSC) for the period he would be in Liberia.
I said I would do it with pleasure and he could take up the offer. He eventually spent almost two years in Liberia. By the time he came back, the Centre had not only expanded but had actually shifted from where he had left it in Vuga in Stone Town to Wireless near the headquarters of Umoja wa Walemavu Zanzibar. Liberia, as an almost failed state and the high level of impunity and massive violation of human rights must have had lasting impact on Professor Othman. He returned a very changed person. He was now listening more and saying less; advising and not ordering anything to be done. He was also more focused in his belief on promotion and protection of human rights. He had little tolerance on violators of human rights and articulated his views on the need to promote civic and legal education in order to raise the level of the awareness of the common people of their rights and entitlements.
I want to believe – and here I am open to correction, that it must have been in Liberia where Professor Othman made peace with his God. He became very religious on return from Liberia. He later went to the Haj in Mecca. Talking about his experience in Mecca, he was fond of telling a story of a believer who was using his cell-phone just next to the Kaaba. He jokingly said that this believer must have been talking to God! Here at home, he was the chair of the renovation committee of Ngazija Mosque in the central business district of Dar es Salaam and the committee did a good job. All said, let me add that although Professor Othman became deeply religious, he was not fanatical nor did he allow his belief to affect his ideological line of thinking. It is therefore interesting to note that notwithstanding what Islam says about death penalty, Professor Othman vehemently rejected the imposition of this punishment. Therefore, every year, under this direction as the chair of the board of trustees, the centre printed hundreds of posters and stickers as part of the campaign for the abolition of this punishment in Tanzania. Also, Professor Othman respected the rights of others to the freedom of belief. Thus, while himself a practising Muslim, he rarely discussed religious matters.
END OF AN ERA
Whenever one passes on, it is customary for people to say that the gap left will be hard to fill and the shoes are just too large for the successor. To some, this is said by the way as a tradition in order to please those present and listening. With Professor Othman it is true that he is irreplaceable. Only two weeks have passed since his passing and we are already feeling the lacunae. In our idealism, we only wish it was a bad dream and it did not happen. This is because there are questions which he only could answer. Advice, which only he could give! It is that tragic.
Professor Othman was a very busy person, with his plate fully packed. He was not only the chairman of the Zanzibar Legal Services Centre but also a board member of the Mwalimu Nyerere Foundation; a board member of the Media Council of Tanzania; board member of Southern Africa Legal Aid Network (SALAN); active member of the Zanzibar Law Society (ZLS) as well as the East Africa Law Society; patron of Tanzania Youth Vision Association (TYVA) etc. He did his work with ease and managed all these assignments within timeframes set. This is not a lifestyle of feeble souls. Yet, he always had time for all of us whenever we needed him. However, it did happen and we have to accept it.
Just a week before his passing, Professor Othman organised a ‘surprise dinner party’ for his dear wife Saida on her retirement from the University of Dar es Salaam. Those invited to this party held at the Epidor Gardens in Masaki, Dar es Salaam for Saida’s close friends and family were specifically asked to wear ‘comfortable dancing shoes.’ This was because there was a lot of dancing to be done that night. In attendance were among others, Ambassador Salim Ahmed Salim and his wife, Professor Gamaliel Mgongo Fimbo and his wife, Professor Joe Kanywanyi and many relatives and friends. What pains now are the words of Saida at that party. She said that she was not going to ask for a contract from the University of Dar es Salaam. She and her close colleagues had decided to establish a firm called Final Draft which would specialise in editing work. That would be her post-retirement pre-occupation. Otherwise, she would spend the rest of her time cooking for her dear husband! I can therefore fully understand her feelings now.
I have no do doubt in my mind that the passing on of this great academic, civil society actor, human rights activist and patriot marks the end of an era. Echoing the same sentiments, Ambassador Dr Juma V. Mwapachu, the secretary general of the East African Community in his SMS message I received on 28 June 2009 at exactly 11:46 am said:
'I join all comrades in mourning the untimely death of our revolutionary brother Haroub. He leaves behind a powerful legacy of untainted and unshakable faith and commitment to the just cause of the struggling masses of Tanzania and around the world. We will miss this champion of social justice and political rights. My heart is with Saida and the family in this darkest hour.'
It is a fact that there remains very few of people of Professor Othman’s calibre in Tanzania today. Thus his passing – whenever it would have occurred, definitely would have been untimely. He will be highly missed – not only by his beloved wife Saida Yahya-Othman, his brothers, sisters, son, grandchildren, relatives and friends, but also by Zanzibar, Tanzania, Africa and the wider civil society around the globe.
* Professor Chris Maina Peter is acting chairman of the Zanzibar Legal Services Centre (ZLSC).
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/.
Professor Haroub Othman Memorial Gathering
Saturday 18 July 2009, UDSM Nkrumah Hall, Dar es Salaam
The Institute of Development Studies in collaboration with the Directorate of Public Service (UDSM), Mwalimu Nyerere Chair, UDASA, University of Dar es Salaam School of Law, UDSM Philosophy Club and Educational Perspective UDSM Chapter, is organizing a memorial gathering in honour of the late Professor Haroub M. Othman. The event will be held on 18th July 2009 at Nkrumah Hall, at the University of Dar es Salaam, Main Campus starting from 10 am. This event is open to the general public and you are all invited.
Tracking Taju’s political roots
'Ogbomosho people integrate into other peoples’ cultures; they allow inter-marriage, unlike Offa people. They were regarded as the "shield of Yoruba"; warriors who can defend themselves. They never became conquered.'
Tunde Asaju, 18 June 2009
'They have been very wandering about all over Nigeria. They are a very accommodating kind of people. They can just flow with all cultures. They catch one niche for themselves and take it easy. They do business not like Igbo type that is cutthroat; and want to control everything. They learn the language and speak it.'
Debrah Ogazuma, 18 June 2009
'Their success generated local resentment but they also did a lot of things for the people. The money that a local woman leader in Jos used to buy a house from a departing European miner was given to her by one of the most successful Ogbomosho businessman in Jos. He also paid school fees for local children, one of whom later became deputy senate president (1999–2007). But they never lost contact with their home. My father left Jos in 1974 and returned to Ogbomosho and became the Seun/Oba.'
Aderemi Oyewumi, 19 June 2009
'Funtua was a railway town which attracted a variety of ethnic groups. The radical Northern Elements Progressive Union, NEPU, could win in urban areas where control by emirs, district heads and village heads was weak. In 1958 Wada Nas was one of the 7 NEPU candidates elected to the Northern Legislative Assembly. He told a story of being posted to Kaita as a school teacher. Because word went around that he was a NEPU supporter, just before he arrived the district head had all the windows in his teacher’s house blocked with mud. No air came in and he had to sleep with the door open. At night a drummer was going around warning people not to have anything to do with him. He could not buy cigarettes. When he went to hire a bicycle to travel to Katsina town to buy provisions for himself, nobody would hire a bicycle to him. He had to walk 12 miles both ways once a week to buy all his needs for the week. Taju’s people could support NEPU because they were beyond the direct control of the local traditional power structure.'
Mahmud Jega, 18 June 2009
Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem was born four months after Nigeria’s independence on 1 October 1960. He did not experience the brutal measures used by the Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) to shut out electoral incursions into the North by Action Group and the National Convention of Nigeria and Cameroons, led by Obafemi Awolowo and Nnamdi Azikiwe respectively. The NPC was also most troubled by an internal radical socialistic challenge to the feudal-colonial administrative dictatorship by the Aminu Kano-led Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU). Britain had learnt from the Mahdist liberation in Sudan to avoid forcing the hands of a local political class that would use the appeal of Islam’s injunctions to arouse a nationalist anti-colonial liberation war. In Nigeria they found and left a defeated Fulani ruling class in power so long as they were willing to pay taxes (including providing hundreds of thousands of subjects to provide forced labour to construct railroads, roads, government building and mine tin), and produce cotton and groundnuts, as demanded by industrialists in Britain. As anti-colonial politics crept across Nigeria, British officials helped rig elections to ensure that radical elites did not inherit power in Northern Nigeria.
At the larger level, Britain had reversed their formula in Sudan by allowing only minimal Western education in predominantly Muslim and Hausa–Fulani Northern Nigeria, recruiting the bulk of the military from the non-Muslim ethnic groups in the middle zone of the country that was administered as part of the Northern Province/Region. Western education had open support in the south-west, south-east and south–south parts of the country. The familiar pattern of those recruited into the civil service coming from a region different from where the bulk of the armed forces were drawn from was also Nigeria’s inheritance from colonial social engineers.
Taju’s Yoruba people came from the south-west and, as Aliyu Ahmed from Kano put it in an interview, 'education happens to be their second religion'. When the rulers of Ilorin rejected the American Baptist missionaries’ request for land to build their base, the ruler of Ogbomosho, that bordered Ilorin, readily welcomed them. The Ogbomosho people emerged with a tradition of members of the same family amicably belonging to the Islamic and Christian religious faiths. Taju’s father sent him to a Baptist school – assumed to provide better quality education at that level – even though a government-run school was only next door from their family’s home at Funtua. That accommodation of education provided by Baptist missionaries would subsequently enable Ogbomosho to provide top personnel in Nigeria’s federal bureaucracy, including Chief Sunday Adewusi, the inspector general of the police during the Shehu Shagari administration (1979–83). Their strategic location as the 'gateway' to the North facilitated their role in commerce and migration to towns all across northern Nigeria. Chief Samuel Akintola, Chief Awolowo's deputy and who would break ranks with him in the rush of events that led to Nigeria’s civil war (1967–70), came from Ogbomosho. He was rumoured to have had a Hausa mother and a secret communications channel with Awolowo’s political opponents in Northern Nigeria, including Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, the prime minister of the northern region.
Taju got brilliant scores in his secondary school examination results in all subjects including what was regarded as the difficult 'science subjects' (namely physics, mathematics and chemistry) and was admitted to Bayero University on a Kaduna State scholarship to study for a degree in engineering. He was also strongly lobbied to enrol in the Islamic Studies department. He fought back by going into a ‘lectures-attendance hunger strike’ by sitting all day long – for several weeks – at the office of the Dean until he was allowed to enrol as a social science student. He attributed this obsession to probably having grown up as a very tiny lad who wished to talk back to people taller and bigger than him. If he could not have physical power he could turn to the power of the uttered word. His verbal 'assertiveness' would become legendary and get him into much trouble during his days as a student politician.
Aliyu Ahmed, an executive assistant at the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) in Abuja recalls that Taju told an audience at Ahmadu Bello University in 2005 that the institution denied him a degree despite the fact he spent three days a week attending lectures on its campus.
He had escorted Dr Patrick Wilmot, a radical anti-apartheid lecturer who had been deported from Nigeria in 1988 without an explanation by the military government of General Ibrahim Babangida. He was one of Taju’s heroes that drew Taju away from his lecture halls at Bayero. While Wilmot was Jamaican, Taju had a home-grown hero in Dr Yusuf Bala Usman, a radical historian who had been converted by Franz Fanon’s work 'Black Skin, White Mask' into a devastating critic of colonial rule and its deception of the Hausa–Fulani aristocracy into seeing the British imperialists 'as friends'. Bala Usman taught history at Ahmadu Bello University and had the strategic social advantage of being a member of the ruling feudal class in the Katsina Emirate. Aliyu Shehu said in a Voice of America radio interview with Saka Ssali that Tajudeen and Tanimu Kurfi, the current economic advisor to President Umaru Yar’Adua, used to revel in rendering memorised whole essays by Bala Usman. That was a measure of their passionate adoration of Bala Usman’s typically eloquent, combative and brilliant oral and written 'documentary and oratory radicalism'. Bala Usman was a follower of NEPU and its successor, the Peoples Redemption Party.
TAJU AND NIGERIA’S CIVIL WAR 1969–70
The civil war, in which an estimated 3 million people died, was the explosion of the brew generated by the British colonial social engineering of Nigeria. Western-educated elites who expected to inherit power from departing British officials found an increasingly intolerable constitutional train which ensured that if northern political classes had the political savvy to block the growth of support for political parties with roots in the south-west and south-east of the country, they would hold power in Nigeria forever. A British-crafted electoral formula assured Northern politicians 50 per cent of the seats in the federal legislature, while they also had the option of competing for 50 per cent of the seats allocated to the southern region. An increasingly acrimonious political rhetoric combined with a coup-viral infection (served by American and Israeli intelligence officers to particular Nigerian military officers who served in the United Nations contingent to end the civil war and secession in Congo) would incite a military coup as the only wedge left to open the skies of power in Nigeria for aggrieved southern politicians. The military coups of January and July 1966 found the young Taju old enough to recognise elements of conflict as they raged around him.
Taju recalled (in several oral discourses in his Westlands flat in a Nairobi suburb) that his father hid frightened Igbo fugitives inside rooms in their Funtua home and also stood in front of his house to ward off those who sought to hack them to death. The anti-Igbo pogroms of July 1966 were in retaliation to the January 1966 coup, which came to be seen as mounted by Igbo officers to pave the way to their taking power away from the ruling Hausa–Fulani political class. The feudal power structure was suspected to be the culprit in that pogrom. The Yoruba in northern Nigeria, however, escaped attacks. The fact that Chief Akintola, himself a victim in the January coup, was perceived as an ally of the top leadership of the Northern Peoples Congress may have also won a degree of immunity for the Oshogbo sub-group. It is probable that Taju’s subsequent radical critique of the conservative North held within it echoes of the anti-Igbo violence and ethno-religious intolerance that Taju witnessed as a toddler.
TAJU AND THE 1993 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS
Taju recalls with much elation the use of campus politics to harass President Shehu Shagari’s National Party of Nigeria (NPN) government at the federal level and to support the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) government in Kano State under Abubakar Rimi. He had a live and dramatic criticism of President Shagari which and in retrospect he found it most remarkable that he was neither interrupted in the act nor picked up later by security operatives. Shagari, a trained school teacher himself, had regarded his vehemence as the harmless bubbling of youth. Dr Bala Mohammed, a lecturer in Political Science, was another idol who conducted informal nightly seminars in his house for Taju and a group of radicals. He was a socialist ideologue with rare skills in the use of the Hausa language to reach out to peasants and the urban underclass. As a political advisor to Governor Rimi he was killed and burnt alive in 1981 when the ruling class in Kano found attempts to undermine the legitimacy of emirate power intolerable and subversive. By 1983 Shagari’s regime had rolled back the wings of democracy in Nigeria, culminating in rigging elections most states held by opposition parties with impunity and the excessive use of federal state violence.
Taju repeatedly said how grateful he was to his Ugandan teacher at Bayero University, Dr Yolamu Barongo, for dissuading him from joining Nigeria’s armed forces. Barongo instead got him to fill out a form for a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University. Taju was convinced that had he been involved in the armed forces he would have been executed in one of the numerous attempted military coups that became fashionable in the successive military dictatorships that ruled Nigeria from 31 December 1983 to 29 May 1999. Being at Oxford gave him opportunity to turn his energies towards the pan-African scene and join a familiar Ogbomosho people’s tradition. Oyewumi notes that Ogbomosho people have settled as far afield as Burkina Faso and Cote d’Ivoire to the west and Cameroon in the east. His own father in 1958 visited Paris as a commercial agent of a French company with branches in Jos. On his way back he had come off the plane in Accra and visited Ogbomosho immigrants in newly independent Ghana. Cross-border and migrant traders had long been anchors of people-based pan-Africanism. It was a theme deeply etched in Taju’s ancestral wit by family tales of relations gone far and away.
The democratic train returned to Nigeria with the 1993 elections. It was less 'free and fair' than the 1979 elections. The military had 'banned' politicians with roots as far back as the 1979–83 civilian regimes from contesting elections and leading political parties. In a ploy to stop the growth of socialist and anti-feudal political parties (as the 1979 elections had given signals of), the military created two political parties: one 'a little-to-the-left' and the other 'a little-to-the-right'. It is a formula that American managers of change had used in Brazil and Indonesia to shut out radical movements. The ruling military junta in Nigeria had trained at American military academies that taught doctrines which emphasised the importance of the military elites in Africa, Asia and Latin America creatively managing social, economic and political change to undercut the appeal of communism in their countries. The ‘leftist’ Social Democratic Party (SDP) contested the 1993 elections against the ‘rightist’ National Republican Convention (NRC).
Coming within a context of the growing rejection of military and civilian groups from northern Nigeria holding top positions from 1960 to 1993 (with a brief period when General Olusegun Obasanjo inherited power from the slain Murtala Mohammed over the 1976–79 period), the SDP candidate Chief Moshood Abiola ran aided by a political wind that rallied other groups against continued Hausa–Fulani domination.
That political wind provoked a generalised wish to see control of the presidency transferred to southern Nigeria. That overarching goal made southern and northern Christian leaders and their followers settle for a southern Yoruba–Muslim candidate paired with another Muslim from a large Kanuri northern minority group who were widely perceived as excluded from the 'Hausa–Fulani hegemony'. The military managers of the 'transition' to civilian rule had made sure that Hausa–Fulani political challengers were excluded. General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, Adamu Ciroma and Umaru Shinkafi had had their victories in party primaries cancelled to pave way for the little-known Bashir Tofa to contest against Abiola. Abiola had prepared for this contest by throwing his wealth into supporting philanthropic activities all over Nigeria. His ownership of the Daily Concord, the Sunday Concord, Concord Magazine and several local-language newspapers ensured that his largesse was widely publicised. His ownership of an airline also helped his election campaign’s transport needs. Above all, he benefited from an intensive campaign by Yar’Adua which had vigorously criticised the failure of past Hausa–Fulani leaders to deliver development to their own people and the rest of the country, an attack which got its punch from Yar’Adua's being a defector from that political aristocracy.
Self-interested reports about the 1993 election include claims by Frederick Fasehun, national president of the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) that 'on June 12, 1993 most Nigerians decided to speak with one voice, disregarding primordial sentiments, divergent tongues, religious inclinations and political divides to elect Bashorun Moshood Abiola'. Kamal Tayo Oropo states that the 'two party system introduced at that time produced two Muslim candidates to slug it out at the polls' but ignored calculations by the power groups in the SDP seeking to appease Muslim voters in the north and appealing to a huge Yoruba ethnic vote with family traditions of harmonious religious affiliations within family households. Calls by Yoruba intellectuals and politicians (notably the widely influential Chief Bola Ige) for Yorubas to revolt against 'Hausa–Fulani apartheid in Nigeria' and to use the Hutu formula against the Tutsi in the 1994 Rwanda genocide were carried in the Sunday Tribune newspaper. It solidified Yoruba ethnic support behind Abiola.
The larger picture was a little more complex. Before the election day, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Redemption Party in the 2007 election, notes that 'Abiola was largely supported by the North, south-east and south–south.' He insists that 'the rich and powerful elite of the south-west never wanted Abiola to be president… When Abiola was campaigning for the presidency they opposed him openly.' When it was clear that Abiola was winning, the military cancelled the election. It was a virtual repeat of the scenario in Algeria in 1992 when it was clear the 'Islamists' were going to win by a landslide.
Various explanations continue to be offered for the 'annulment of June 12'. The latest is by Dr Victor Omololu Olunloyo, the former governor of Oyo State in the Yoruba heartland. He claims that:
'Abiola moved too close with the military. He operated contracts with them. He transacted businesses with them and helped them to transfer money to their foreign bank accounts. He [Abiola] knows their accounts. How could they have allowed him to now come around and be their president? Somebody … who knew every secret in the military and of military men; they knew that if someone like him became their president, they would have been in soup because of their secrets'.
Whatever factors were at play, the Yoruba elite disregarded the fact that Abiola’s appeal was so strong across most of northern Nigeria that he defeated Tofa in his home state of Kano. They quickly moved to accuse all 'Hausa–Fulani' (a concept which came to mean all ethnic groups in northern Nigeria) as holding the conviction that a Yoruba man would never be allowed to rule Nigeria. Balarabe Musa expressed this point thus: 'The struggle to validate the annulled election was hijacked by ethnic bigots.'
Taju joined this 'hijacked' struggle. Aliyu Ahmed reports that he was introduced to the audience at Ahmadu Bello University, which welcomed Patrick Wilmot as 'one of the brains behind Radio Kudirat', the underground radio station that broadcast counter-propaganda campaigns against General Sani Abacha’s murderous dictatorship from 1993 to his death in June 1998. This was a most dangerous affair since assassinations had become a tool of governance under Abacha. Alhaja Kudirat was Abiola’s wife who was shot in the head and died as she drove to the Canadian High Commission offices in Lagos to lobby for the release of her detained husband. The use of open political violence by officialdom had again returned to Taju’s life.
TAJU'S EMBRACE OF KENYAN POLITICS
The migratory tradition of Ogbomosho people and their 'flow' into host cultures saw them assume political posts in Ghana and other parts of Nigeria. Tajudeen expressed this by throwing himself unreservedly across an Africa-without-borders. At a reception by a Nigeria group working for international agencies in Nairobi, his joining the UN was widely treated with disbelief. What was a communist doing inside a conservative organisation? Had the collapse of the Soviet Union brought in so much cynicism and defeatism and abandonment of ‘Ship Socialism’ among even the most trenchant critics of imperialism in Africa? Taju’s fight-back came through his Pan-African Postcard writings each Thursday. It also came with his explosion of the potential for implementing pan-Africanism and the campaign against poverty and the other goals of the UN Millennium Campaign. His excitement in seeking to achieve targets of millions of people all across Africa 'standing up against poverty' was clearly a new dimension in Ogbomosho’s doctrine of flowing into other communities being combined with actively seeking to invent and build that trans-Africa community.
The 2007 elections in Kenya enveloped Taju as he built his UN-based campaign. The themes in its river of contest were familiar to Taju in light of his background in Nigeria, albeit located in a different manner. The call from 'majimboism' in Kenya appeared similar to the clamour for 'decentralisation' or 'true federalism' in Nigeria. Differences were, however, significant. Majimboism had roots in land once taken from groups in the Rift Valley by European settlers. With the end of Mau Mau, British politicians in London and settlers in Kenya harnessed land as a weapon for nurturing inter-ethnic conflict between the Kalenjin and the Kikuyu. KANU’s (Kenya African National Union) nationalist appeal could be combated by departing white settlers selling land to Kikuyu labourers and not giving land back to their ancestral owners. In failing to insist on giving priority to giving land to the landless and holding back elites from buying land from white settlers, the colonial government allowed itself the option of stoking black-on-black conflict and dressing it in new ethnic clothes all across the Rift Valley and beyond.
Reports by the Kenya Human Rights Commission show that from 1988 to 2002 KANU returned to this colonial model of conflicts over land at election time, but this time KANU was not the victim but the exploiter of violence. The KANU youth wings used violence against those expected to cast ethnic votes to political parties associated with immigrant ethnic groups with land titles acquired in the Rift Valley and beyond. It is not clear if Taju urged Kofi Annan and other mediators to propose the redistribution of large landed territory in Central Province to take pressure away from the landless and unemployed and the Rift Valley coastal and Uasin Gishu areas.
Nigeria's 'decentralisation' had been animated by elites wishing assured access to oil money through contracts awarded by state governments where their ethnic groups or political parties are in power. It had never been used to inflict violence against ethnic groups of opposition political parties. It could be argued that religious violence in urban areas like Kano, Kaduna, Bauchi and Sokoto have been used to divert attention away from the failures of ruling groups to deliver development to their own peoples.
The concept of 'apartheid' has also echoed in Nigeria. It had no link with land being expropriated by a minority group and withdrawing the citizenship of its former owners. It also had no link with forced labour by the dispossessed. It was limited to an ethnocentric attitude in which a group insists on holding top posts in government as if by birthright. Often officials were not promoted to top positions and new entrants were simply elevated to over these officials regardless of the level of experience and qualifications. In the awarding of contracts preference goes to persons whose kith and kin are in control of political power. In Nigeria this attitude to power is claimed to be so widely shared that its critics are only differentiated by being out of power. A federal injunction was inserted in the constitution to tame this fatal virus. It stipulated that all publicly funded institutions must reflect 'federal character' in their personnel. It is plausible to argue that a leading faction of Nigeria’s ruling elite created the 'June 12 1993' affair as a strategy for both shaming and frightening the faction that held onto the notion of power being monopolised by one ethnic group. That perspective would allow us to accommodate the consensus that threw up Barack Obama as the presidential candidate of the Democratic Party in American politics. It is a frontier that would have come readily to Taju to recommend even though tempers in Kenya would have been too volatile to consider it as rather slow.
For Taju’s action-oriented perspective, it was tempting to turn to the model of elite-led mass demonstrations that carried the momentum in the 'National Democratic Campaign Organisation (NADECO). 'Ethnic bigots' threw the 'Yoruba nation' into a fight against Abacha’s repressive machine while keeping in view open windows for a negotiated consensus to ensure that one of their own would assume the presidency of Nigeria. The difference was that the fight did not involve a grassroots struggle for land, did not involve the internal displacement of hundreds of thousands of people and did not involve inter-ethnic violence and counter-violence. NADECO’s resort to a permanent occupation of the streets was terminated by the sudden and seemingly mysterious death of Abacha. It is not clear if he was assassinated. His death may, however, have been balanced by the death of Abiola while in detention, thereby placating both the Yoruba power-seekers who wanted power without Abiola at the top of Aso Rock and those in the military who wished for a president who was ignorant of their past economic crimes against the Nigerian economy.
It is not clear if Taju explored this option in the Kenyan situation before and after the post-election violence exploded. It is worth noting that anti-Hausa–Fulani violence broke out only after NADECO had achieved the negotiated goal of getting into office a person that was Yoruba in body but Nigerian and 'Hausa–Fulani lackey' with the assumption of the presidency by Olusegun Obasanjo. That violence broke out mainly in Lagos under the agency of Oodua Peoples Congress. They seemed to wish to achieve the Fanonian goal of regaining their sense of dignity by shedding the blood of the Hausa–Fulani people (meaning all those from northern Nigeria) resident in southern Nigeria (mainly Lagos and Shagamu urban areas in the south-west zone) and forcing them into flight back to their homeland. Northerners would, presumably, return with their shoulders stooped a little. Taju wrote about the paradoxical negotiated formula that brought Obasanjo to power but never mentioned the violence perpetrated by Oodua Peoples Congress. For an immigrant with new roots in Funtua (in Hausa–Fulani territory), this would be anathema. Moreover, for a man who in his early years had witnessed the horrors of a pogrom against Igbos in his own neighbourhood, violence would have been slow in coming to be recommended.
Whatever decisions Taju made, I saw him in the immediate post-election violence do so in close contact with the best trans-ethnic and international minds and hearts he could mobilise under joint efforts to find solutions. His pan-Africanism would not have been compatible with the stand-apart and ‘stay-behind-closed-doors’ stance that would have been expected of a UN employee while Kenyans struggled with pains of nation-building.
* Okello Oculi is the executive director of the Africa Vision 525 Initiative.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/.
 The Guardian, 12 June 2009.
 Daily Trust, 12 June 2009, p.2.
 Daily Trust, June 12 2009.
Understanding organizational leadership through Ubuntu
Understanding Organisational Leadership through Ubuntu offers a creative, innovative and holistic approach to understanding organizational leadership using the principles embodied in the African philosophy of personhood known as ubuntu – or the essence of being human. Using African proverbs, folktales and indigenous concepts, the book discusses the organizational principles of ubuntu and the leadership lessons that modern organizations can learn from these principles.
Samburu cattle raids continue
The last attacks at Sera near Laisamis (Samburu East) carried Somali raiders in Land cruisers, and carried around 1000 cattle out and South from Kom in lorries. (Samburu East). Our Samburu East MP Raphael Letimalo gave a press conference on Monday 6 July, which has not yet been published here in Kenya.
Late Monday night Samburu Murran successfully defended their people and cattle from a similar raid SE of Lerata. (Samburu East). We have tried to get the word out. For the last nine days the death of Michael Jackson has dominated media attention.
And now this clear effort by Ali Abdi in today's EA Standard Newspaper aims to really confuse people:
‘Samburu (East) has lost around 6000 head of cattle in this area since 21 March 2009 in GOK facilitated raids that demonstrate the culture of impunity that has taken hold of our law enforcement branches, but have nothing to do with the flawed election of December 2007.’
Ali Abdi is on a clear mission to mislead people. His article is a just cover for the attacks that have already taken place so far and what is worse also acts as a smoke screen of disinformation for those already planned and still to come.
Ali Abdi's article is a chilling reminder that these raids are being planned far from the killing fields of Samburu East, by people who understand the importance of disinformation.
The fighting and cattle thefts have been overwhelmingly in Samburu East, not Isiolo.
Early last month Samburu murran were successful in winning back over 600 cattle that had already been taken by police and Somali and Boran raiders, earlier. The fierce gun battle that they won took place South of Saba Game reserve on the Ngare Mara River in Isiolo district.
Since then the GoK aided attacks against Samburu have escalated once again. By the time these attacks come to the attention of the media and the world press, there will be no more cattle left in Samburu East.
Let us not forget that these cynical raids come at a time when semi-arid Kenya is already experiencing one of the worst droughts of the Century, when our livestock markets have collapsed, and when Kenya has a Grand Coalition Government which seems able to deal with any crisis affecting its people.
Victory for Burundian refugees in Tanzania
Lavinia Limon (USCRI)
As you may recall, I wrote to you in early June to ask you to help stop the Tanzanian government from closing this camp on 30 June and forcing the remaining refugees to return to Burundi, despite the danger. Many people responded immediately and spoke out on behalf of these refugees.
Subsequently, Tanzania's Home Affairs Ministry has decided to keep the camp open through the end of September and give the refugees the chance to plan their return. Those refugees who can return safely will be able to do so in an orderly manner. Those who cannot will be able to settle in Tanzania. The Home Affairs Minister has even given assurances that no refugee will be forcibly returned and reaffirmed that his government’s commitment to upholding international laws and standards established to protect refugees.
On behalf of these refugees I want to thank all the USCRI supporters who contacted Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete and other international leaders to stop their forced repatriation. People who speak up for refugees around the world often make all the difference.
I am so grateful that I can call upon caring USCRI supporters to act when refugees are in danger. You can learn more about refugees in Tanzania and other countries.
Please ask your friends to join our Action Network so they can help refugees too.
Helping realise the dream for African unity
Alabaster balm of love
Roland Bankole Marke
* Roland Bankole Marke is the author of two collections of poetry, 'Teardrops Keep Falling' and 'Silver Rain and Blizzard'. His third book is 'Harvest of Hate (Fuel for the soul)'. Visit his website at www.rolandmarke.com to sample more of his work.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/.
Obama's Ghana speech lacked substance
The big story this week is President Obama’s visit to Ghana, which is also covered extensively in Pambazuka News. The main focus of the blog posts was his now famous speech, including the paragraph on how Africa should stop blaming the West for its problems. A number of bloggers published the whole speech, including Wo Se Ekyir: What Your Mama Never Told You About Ghana:
‘It is easy to point fingers, and to pin the blame for these problems on others. Yes, a colonial map that made little sense bred conflict, and the West has often approached Africa as a patron, rather than a partner. But the West is not responsible for the destruction of the Zimbabwean economy over the last decade, or wars in which children are enlisted as combatants. In my father's life, it was partly tribalism and patronage in an independent Kenya that for a long stretch derailed his career, and we know that this kind of corruption is a daily fact of life for far too many.’
It’s easy too for Obama to stand up and throw the blame back on Africa and ignore his own country’s contribution vis a vis debt, free trade, arms trade, protection of US based multinationals from human rights abuses in Africa’s extractive industries, to name a few. Some estimate trade liberalisation has cost sub-Saharan Africa US$272 billion over the past 20 years. Nigerian blogger Solomon Sysdelle – Nigerian Curiosity – takes up this point:
‘Some of America's interaction with various African countries has been of benefit to Africans – what with foreign direct investment that has brought jobs to some, educational scholarships that have allowed others to attend some of the world's best institutions of learning and much more. Yet, Obama's speech completely ignored the fact that much of America's conduct on the African continent has bred distrust and discontent. Various American administrations have deliberately interfered in the politics of many an African country and unfortunately, the result has been detrimental to millions.’
More of this kind of balanced and informed analysis would have been more powerful and honest. Ghana Conscious has a roundup of Ghanian bloggers, most of which are uncritical and bordering on the sycophantic:
‘This past weekend marked the visit of Barack Obama to Ghana. A lot has been said about the significance of this visit, this being the first trip to a sub-Saharan African nation by the first black American president. I missed most of the speeches and festivities since I had 'gotten away' for the weekend and have been reading up on some blogs written by various Ghanaians on the Obama trip. I will like to share some thoughts from these awesome people.’
One blogger, Accra Revolution, describes the Obama’s visit as the ‘second coming’ – being the moment which freed the black man after ‘several years of bondage’:
‘The long awaited day has finally come. The Black and Bright Star of Africa now blossoms in the sky. From the moment, the Air Force 1 landed on the tarmac of the Kotoka International Airport, I knew and believed that, the black man is now free after several years of bondage...’
As so often, the comments reveal a more interesting view of the visit, such as this one:
‘Then he repeated the same speech in Cairo about responsibility of the Arabs to find everlasting peace in the Middle East - No comment on this...Now, he is paraphrasing the same to us, as if the ills and exploits of slave trade and colonialism was of our own doing. If he is to give a good lecture, maybe he should start telling his European partners to tow away from Africa and then he follows suit in the Middle East and Latin America... Well, Obama's speeches are well-written by an impressive staff to do a formidable job. What else do we expect from him? Speeches from his heart about the realities of our current world?
‘Massa, let us Africans work out our solutions. We may afterward invite Obama to share roasted corn and groundnuts at the fire side and discuss the politics on the ground - neither Ivy League stuff nor the usual double-talk demonstrated by the Western World, those speeches could be reserved to later occasions, when every hungry stomach in Africa has been filled!’
The Francophone blogosphere has also been vocal about both the visit and the speech. A Senegalese blog went as far as posing a comparison between Obama’s speech and that of Sarkozy’s last year.
Vat.com writes (I confess to using Google translator but the essence is clear:
‘Obviously, given the challenges facing Africa, is whether Sarkozy, president of a white former colonial power, had the right under qu'Obama, black president of a former slave and segregation, to say the things so bluntly does not make sense. And we would rather welcome the consensus that prevails now, Paris and Washington on the need for a new way to support Africa in its development. Still, if Hadopi was not retoquée by the constitutional council, Obama would not have been able to download the speech by Sarkozy as easily.’
(‘C'est évident, face aux défis qui attendent l'Afrique, se demander si Sarkozy, président blanc d’une ancienne puissance coloniale, avait moins le droit qu'Obama, président noir d’une ancienne puissance esclavagiste et ségrégationniste, de dire les choses aussi crûment n'a aucun sens. Et l'on voudrait plutôt se féliciter du consensus qui prévaut désormais, à Paris et à Washington, sur la nécessité d'une nouvelle façon d'accompagner l'Afrique dans son développement. N'empêche, si Hadopi n'avait pas été retoquée par le conseil constitutionnel, Obama n'aurait sans doute pas pu télécharger le discours de Sarkozy aussi facilement’.)
The Nigerian and Kenya media – including bloggers – have also added their opinion on the US president’s choice of Ghana and not their respective countries.The Glory O’Nigeria has no problem with the choice of Ghana which has a strong democracy, but is critical of what he sees as the hypocrisy of the US government’s policy on Africa in general and Nigeria in particular. He raises the issue of the US’ contribution to corruption in the country as well as its role in the Niger Delta and the failure of the US government to address this:
‘There are serious allegations against Obama’s United States that the US is a major contributor to the corruption and bad leadership in Nigeria. Nigeria is a leading producer of crude oil and the United States has been implicated in the crises rocking the Nigerian corrupt government and the genocides that have been perpetrated in the Niger Delta.’
He goes on to comment at the US response to the 1993 elections when MKO Abiola who won the election was later killed in prison after receiving a visit from representatives of the US government.
‘There is an allegation that the US always supports any presidential candidate in Nigeria who will oppress the people if necessary just to ensure that the oil quota that goes to the US from the Niger Delta remain constant or that such a candidate promises a prospect of increase. Nigeria’s former dictator wiped out en entire community for the sake of the black gold and the US or the UN does not see that as a crime against humanity. The US did not press for the trial of Gen Obasanjo. Instead Gen Obasanjo was rewarded with a UN job to Congo’.
Finally from Kenya,Gukira leaves the speech and the political implications behind and instead focuses on the possibility that Obama and his family will visit some of the ‘slave sights’ which have long been and essential part of the diaspora ‘roots tourism’ industry:
‘I am fascinated by the kinds of affective histories that such sites are meant to provoke, and the kind of historical connections Obama will be asked to negotiate... These locations also ask Obama to associate himself with, to create affiliations with Atlantic slave histories. As an aside, it is fascinating to speculate on whether he would be urged to associate with Indian Ocean slave histories were he to come this side of Africa.’
But Obama’s heritage does not lie with the Atlantic slave history. His ancestors were not black people who were slaves on ships in the Atlantic. He is an American of dual African [Kenyan] and white descent, so how will he express this to his huge black American following at home? A further complication and one raised by Gukira centres around Obama’s ‘Africaness’ and what he calls the ‘we that surrounds and haunts Obama’s trip to Ghana’:
‘The “we” with which we keep insisting he’s African. The “we” that creates a line between Ghana and the United States, that implicates him in Atlantic slave histories. The “we” that wants a kind of affect to overcome or intercede between differential structural positions – the “we” that wants him to forget he is the US president on an official visit to Africa.’
* Sokari Ekine blogs at Black Looks
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/.
Pambazuka News 108: Les limites du rapport Stiglitz
Biti announces salaries for civil servants
Finance Minister Tendai Biti used a budget presentation Thursday to announce that civil servants will now be paid salaries, in place of the current flat US$100 allowance. He also scrapped import duty on all Information Communication Technology (ICT) products like computers and cell phones. Duty on capital investment equipment will be scrapped while duty on basic commodities will be waived until November this year. Those importing passenger type motor vehicles of 15-20 passengers will pay duty of 15 percent beginning August.
Constitutional meeting collapses
Zimbabwe’s constitutional conference designed as the first stage of drawing up a new constitution for the country collapsed in chaos in Harare on Monday only 10 minutes after the formal proceedings started. Neither President Robert Mugabe nor his coalition partner Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who were scheduled to speak, attended the meeting. Delegates from the two main parties – Mr Mugabe’s Zanu-PF and Mr Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change – disrupted the opening address by the Speaker of Parliament, Lovemore Moyo, throwing bottles of water, jeering and heckling.
Police still detaining MDC activist after chaos
MDC activist Patrick Danga, who was arrested by the police while restraining ZANU PF MP Patrick Zhuwawo from manhandling an MDC MP, is still detained at Harare Central police station. Zhuwawo is also Robert Mugabe’s nephew. The MDC MP for Mutare Central, Innocent Gonese, told us on Thursday that Danga has not been taken to court and is still detained, and yet the real criminals, who threw bottles and disrupted proceedings at the All-Stakeholders constitutional conference, remain free.
Africa: Accountability to women could upset business-as-usual
A public presentation of the "Progress of the World's Women" report by the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) in Pretoria, South Africa this week suggests that one of the most powerful constraints on realising women's rights and achieving the Millennium Development Goals is a lack of accountability to women's needs.
Africa: Ways to deliver for women where doctors are in short supply
Across most of sub-Saharan Africa, there are fewer than five doctors for every 100,000 people. Each year 20,000 health professionals leave their posts to pursue jobs in urban areas outside their own countries. That’s why innovative approaches to human resource planning and quality service provision are urgently needed if African countries are to reduce maternal death. Such an approach was presented at a recent conference in the Ethiopian capital on Human Resources for Maternal Survival: Task-shifting to Non-Physician Clinicians.
Madagascar: 8 women die during delivery each day
Eight Malagasy women die per day while giving birth, either due to complications during the pregnancy or during delivery, according to a recently-published national Demographic and Health Survey (DHS).
South Africa: Report exposes violence against sex workers
As commercial sex workers in South Africa are fighting for the legalization of sex working, a report by Open Society Institute has revealed harrowing human rights violations inflicted to this minority group by society. Compiled by Open Society Institute’s Sexual Health and Rights Project together with Open Society’s Initiative for Southern Africa this report states that trans women sex workers faced not only physical and sexual violence from police but also public taunting and humiliation for their sexual orientation, gender identity and the kind of work they do.
Sudan: Women lashed for wearing trousers
Several Sudanese women have been flogged as a punishment for dressing "indecently", according to a local journalist who was arrested with them. Lubna Ahmed al-Hussein, who says she is facing 40 lashes, said she and 12 other women wearing trousers were arrested in a restaurant in the capital, Khartoum.
Africa: Can Africa trust international justice?
The image this week of the former Liberian president Charles Taylor, defiant in a black suit and dark sunglasses, taking the stand in a courtroom in The Hague – the first time an African head of state has been prosecuted for mass crimes – resonates powerfully. For many, the trial represents another victory for international justice and another signal of the end to impunity for the likes of Taylor, Slobodan Milosevic, Saddam Hussein and Alberto Fujimori – presidents who murdered, raped and tortured civilians before eventually finding themselves in the dock. In Africa, however, the Taylor trial elicits mixed – and more complex – reactions.
DRC: Hold army commanders responsible for rapes
The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo should urgently investigate and prosecute senior army officials allegedly involved or complicit in rampant sexual crimes against women and girls, as part of its efforts to combat sexual violence, Human Rights Watch has said in a report. Human Rights Watch also called for a series of other actions to prevent sexual violence during conflict in Congo.
East Africa: LRA torture of civilians continues
The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) is continuing to kill and kidnap civilians in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), according to the UN. In the first fortnight of July alone, the Ugandan rebel group carried out 33 attacks in the districts of Upper and Lower Uele, killing 26 civilians and abducting 144, according to a report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
Global: Are instruments of human rights law incompatible with Islam?
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and subsequent instruments of international human rights law and international humanitarian law play a vital role in providing protection for refugees and IDPs. Yet the claim to universality has been disputed and not all states have acceded to these legal instruments. It seems that a particular point of controversy or dispute in the Islamic world is their compatibility with sharia. This publication aims to enhance debate and understanding of the concepts and instruments of international human rights in the Islamic world.
Liberia: Taylor claims war crimes case is built on lies
Charles Taylor, the former Liberian president, claimed the war crimes case against him was built on lies and deceit as he took the stand as a witness in his trial at a special court in The Hague. Mr Taylor, 61, is accused of orchestrating a campaign of terror in Sierra Leone to gain control of the neighbouring country’s diamond resources, using methods including murder, sexual slavery and the recruitment of child soldiers during a decade-long civil war.
Charles Taylor, the former Liberian president, claimed the war crimes case against him was built on lies and deceit as he took the stand as a witness in his trial at a special court in The Hague.
Mr Taylor, 61, is accused of orchestrating a campaign of terror in Sierra Leone to gain control of the neighbouring country’s diamond resources, using methods including murder, sexual slavery and the recruitment of child soldiers during a decade-long civil war.
Protesting his innocence on Tuesday in his first testimony in the two-year trial, the first African leader to be tried for war crimes seized on allegations made by a prosecution witness that he had eaten human hearts.
“Here people have me eating human beings,” a confident Mr Taylor told the court. “Charles Taylor is supposed to be with an orderly of one of my security personnel sitting down eating human beings.
“Charles Taylor is supposed to be out there like some little common street thug involving himself in the acquiescence of rape and murder. This whole case has been about ‘let’s get Taylor’... Haven’t they had their pound of flesh yet? I am not guilty of all of these charges.”
Joseph “Zigzag” Marzah, who described himself as Mr Taylor’s former death squad commander, told the United Nations-backed court in March that he, Mr Taylor and Benjamin Yeaten, Mr Taylor’s former chief of staff, were all members of a traditional west African secret religious society and had on several occasions eaten human hearts.
The prosecution case rests on evidence from 91 witnesses, many of whom have described in horrific detail atrocities committed during the 1991-2002 civil war that killed tens of thousands of people and displaced a third of Sierra Leone’s population.
Prosecutors have sought to link Mr Taylor to the crimes through the testimony of former members of rebel groups such as a radio operator who overheard orders from Mr Taylor to rebel leaders.
His defence team is arguing that he could not have micromanaged a war in a neighbouring country while at the same time governing Liberia. They also contend that Mr Taylor was a peacemaker in the region who became the victim of “regime change” orchestrated by the US.
On Tuesday Mr Taylor also argued that he stood down as president in 2003 with assurances from the African Union that he would not have to answer an indictment for war crimes.
The argument is similar to one deployed by Radovan Karadzic, the former Bosnian Serb leader who shares a detention centre with Mr Taylor in The Hague. Mr Karadzic has claimed the US offered him immunity from prosecution for war crimes.
Mr Taylor, wearing gold-rimmed tinted glasses in the windowless courtroom, gave an assured performance with one 10-second pause during which he appeared overcome.
He denied receiving diamonds “whether it is in mayonnaise, or coffee or whatever kind of jar” from rebels inside Sierra Leone and portrayed himself as man of humble origins who had sought to unite his country.
His testimony is expected to last several weeks.
* Financial Times
West and Central Africa: Strengthening social protection for children
This report seeks to provide an overview of existing social protection policy and programming initiatives in the West and Central Africa and to assess the extent to which these address the particular manifestations of childhood poverty and vulnerability that characterise different countries in the region. It highlights challenges in the design and implementation of child-sensitive social protection and offers a number of policy recommendations based on the analysis and lessons learned.
Africa: UNHCR: interviews with asylum seekers pushed back to Libya
UNHCR staff in Libya have been carrying out interviews with 82 people who were intercepted by the Italian Navy on the high seas on July 1 about 30 nautical miles from the Italian island of Lampedusa. They were transferred to a Libyan ship and later transported to Libya. Based on subsequent interviews, it does not appear that the Italian Navy made any attempt to establish nationalities or reasons for fleeing their countries.
Somalia: $11 million needed for water and sanitation to displaced
Aid agencies in Somalia are appealing for $11 million to provide the hundreds of people displaced by fighting in the capital with emergency water and sanitation programmes, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has reported. Over 200,000 people have fled Mogadishu since fighting broke out between the Government and the opposition Al-Shabab and Hisb-ul-Islam groups in early May, in what the UN refugee agency has described as the biggest exodus from the capital since Ethiopian forces intervened in Somalia in 2007.
Southern Africa: Botswana refuses entry to stranded Congolese refugees
Botswana has refused to admit into the country a group of 41 refugees who were spirited away from a refugee camp in Namibia last week end by a local human rights organization over ‘security fears’. The refugees, including women and children who were driven to the Botswana border by Namibia’s National Society for Human Rights (NSHR, are still stranded at the border.
Sudan: IDPs stretch resources to the limit in Akobo
Poor food security in Akobo, the main town in Southern Sudan's Jonglei state, is being exacerbated by a huge influx of displaced people, including 19,000 who fled attacks by cattle rustlers. “The gap analysis that we have done shows that the needs are greatest among the recent IDPs,” David Tolu Lemiso, health project manager at the NGO Nile Hope Development Foundation (NHDF), said. “Out of 3,442 households from Nyandit, 2,050 are still badly in need of help, and that is minus those from Wanding, Kuechar and Ogal payams [sub-divisions].”
Uganda: Repatriation roils Rwandan refugees
Rwanda's post-conflict recovery has a number of impressive signposts. One is the economy, which grew at an annual rate of about 11 percent last year, according to the country's national bank. Another is the political empowerment of its women. In 2008, Rwanda elected the world's first majority-female parliament and today a woman leads the country's Supreme Court. One third of the cabinet of President Paul Kagame is female.
South Africa: Urgent update on Abahlali baseMjondolo - Western Cape protest
The ABM-WC is calling an end to state criminality of criminalizing it's members by applying old apartheid tactics of arresting, assaulting, and shooting people with rubber bullets when they exercise their right to freedom of expression and the right to protest. The movement will not be silenced by the state under the leadership of so called ANC government, and will continue to be vocal using any forms of engagement.
The ABM-WC is calling an end to state criminality of criminalizing it's members by applying old apartheid tactics of arresting, assaulting, and shooting people with rubber bullets when they exercise their right to freedom of expression and the right to protest.
The movement will not be silenced by the state under the leadership of so called ANC government, and will continue to be vocal using any forms of engagement.
The ANC NWC had issues the following press statement, calling on communities not engaging government on mass base activities and as ABM-WC we are calling on to the ANC-NWC not on employing the old regem tactics through using police force to despense people and we are saying they must come down and listen at peoples demands and not be reactional as their head of human settlement Tokyo who owns a 56 million house, while the poor are struggling to get the security of tenure to the land that they have occupied for years, still dumped our site the cities and living under appallling conditions with no access to clean water and toilets.
Update no 1:
More than 15 people were shot at by rubber bullets by reactional SAPS and Metropolice Members at yesterdays protest at Khayelitsha and one of them is under critical condition at Grooteschuur Hospital. He is the only bread winner for his family and he is having 5 children, which four of them are still schooling, and he is between the age of 45 and 50.
Currently we are not aware of any arrests that have been made and we'll be able to uptade the media regard to arrests during the couse of the day and with futher injuries.
Currently the landsdown road from Steve Biko Drive to Bonga drive is still not working and QQ, RR, and BM residents will make sure that today as early as 08:HRS in the morning they continue with their freedom of expression through mass base activities and if Dan Plato and his disaster management team continues with their attitute of undermining the poor, we will also continue with our protest till he comes down to the poor.
PLEASE NOTE: on the 25th July 2009 Abahlali baseMjondolo Western Cape will be marching to the City of Cape Town in support of macassar village land occupation and against city's illigal demolitions of peoples structures at macassar village and in demand of peoples material that were confiscated illigal by so called city's anti land invasion unit.
fore more info please call:
for macassar village please call Theliwe Macekiswana at 083 248 1658
For Khayelitsha Protest please call
Mbongeni Mkhalipi at 076 981 6945 for QQ and RR
Mthobeli Qona at 076 875 9533 for QQ, RR and BM
Cebo at 073 5657850 for PJS
For ABM-WC march and further information please call Mzonke Poni ABM-WC chairperson at 073 2562 036
ANC NWC MEDIA STATEMENT ON SERVICE DELIVERY PROTESTS
The African National Congress (ANC) National Working Committee (NWC) today (13 July 2009) held its regular meeting at Chief Albert Luthuli House in Johannesburg to deliberate on various challenges facing the organisation.
Noting the various service delivery protests in some parts of the country, the NWC expressed concern at the violent nature of the demonstrations. The burning of buildings and stoning of vehicles have been among the violent tactics employed by the protesters.
We call on our people to stop the violence and engage meaningfully with leaders at all levels to express their concerns.
African National Congress
Chief Albert Luthuli House
54 Sauer Street
13 July 2009
Brian Sokutu 071 671 6899
China-Africa News roundup
China doubles down in Africa
Investors Rush for Africa - by Desie Heita
Chinese delegation in Zambia for feasibility studies on stadia
Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo Meets with South African President Zuma
The business of diplomacy ought to be business
Brazil: Another emerging economy to watch
Iron ore price rise hits China
Xinjiang riots damage Sino-Turkish ties
China and Russia lead oil deals
Beijing Vows to Protect Chinese in Africa From al-Qaida Threat
Botswana's Chinese weekly, The Oriental Post
China’s Currency Reserves May Top $2 Trillion for First Time
What India must do if it is to be an affluent country
The Great Haul of China
Think Again: Asia's Rise
China's Stimulus Package and its Effect on China's SOES: Bad for the Economy and Bad for the Prospect of Democracy
Sri Lanka creates special economic zone for Chinese investors
China's empty land reform
Iraqi Oil Goes To China
Rio accused of bribing Chinese steel industry
China GDP growth accelerates to 7.9%
India can play a global role: Hillary Clinton
FOCAC Media Seminar 2009 Opens in Beijing
From Stimulus to Restructuring
China urges its companies and workers to be on guard after al-Qaida threat
Is a recolonization of Africa underway?
China’s direct investment to Ethiopia reachs $900mln
Liberia: China Signs U.S $10 Million Pact With Country
Al-Qa’ida Threatens Chinese Targets in North Africa
World Bank gives $150M for Africa infrastructure
Dozens of Africans protest in southern China
Angola: Election postponed to 2010
Angola's move to hold its elections this year are doubtful following the absence of a Constitution. Media reports in the rich oil nation said the country's body in charge of drafting a new constitution said preparations of the document would take longer than expected.
Congo: Sassou-Nguesso wins disputed poll
The Congolese President Denis Sassou-Nguesso has won another seven years in office, according to preliminary results from Sunday's election. The electoral commission said Mr Sassou-Nguesso took 78.6% of the vote. His nearest rival gained just 7.5%. About 2,000 opposition supporters came on to the streets of Brazzaville to protest. They were dispersed by riot police firing tear gas.
Gabon: Presidential election set for 30 August
The Spokesman of the Gabonese government, René Ndemezo Obiang, on Thursday said the country would go to the polls on 30 August to elect a new president following the death on 8 June of President Omar Bongo Ondimba
Morocco Courts investigate election fraud
With at least one election result annulled and several candidates arrested, Moroccans are seeing courts take a more active role in dealing with cases of electoral fraud. On Monday (July 13th), the Marrakech administrative court annulled election results in the Menara district, following an appeal by the Front of Democratic Forces (FFD) over irregularities. The ruling overturned the election of PAM candidate Fatima Zahra Mansouri as Marrakech mayor.
Niger: Constitution standoff prompts donor warnings
Amid mounting international opposition to a proposed referendum for President Mamadou Tandja to stay in power, the European Commission – one of Niger's largest donors – has warned of aid cuts if leaders do not respect constitutional order. “Any changes to the constitution, notably its fundamental articles, should not be made in the absence of consensual and inclusive dialogue,” European Commissioner for development and humanitarian aid, Louis Michel, said in a public statement.
Somaliland: Fragile democracy under threat
The Somaliland government's disregard for the law and democratic processes threatens the territory's nascent democracy, Human Rights Watch has said in a report. The administration of President Dahir Riyale Kahin has committed human rights violations and generated a dangerous electoral crisis.
South Africa: Flames to remind the ANC of its promises
The riots that wracked Thandukukhanya township in Piet Retief highlighted just how out of touch the African National Congress (ANC) leadership is with anger on the ground at councillors who abuse their positions to fund lavish lifestyles rather than serving the people who elected them. Days after mobs armed with petrol bombs and knobkierries went on the rampage, burning down several municipal buildings and houses belonging to councillors — including mayor Mary Khumalo — Tim Modise debated the topic on SAfm’s AM Live.
DRC: Corrupt magistrates sent packing
More than 100 magistrates and judges in the Democratic Republic of Congo have been sacked as part of President Joseph Kabila’s campaign to clean the judiciary of greasy dealings. Making the announcement this week, the Minister of Justice, Luzolo Bambi Lessa said the move was only the beginning as other sectors, including the military, were also to feel the pinch of the anti-corruption whip.
DRC: Government criticises Mobutu ruling
The Democratic Republic of Congo has criticised a Swiss court's decision to release the assets of its late ex-leader Mobutu Sese Seko to his family. Information Minister Lambert Mende told the BBC that Switzerland had not done enough to ensure the money was given back to the people of DR Congo. He said his country could not appeal because the legal process had ended.
Africa: The African Grantmakers Network launched
“The African Grantmakers Network will change the face of global philanthropy. And it will happen right here in Africa”, said Sarah Mukasa, Director of Programmes at the African Women’s Development Fund, at a meeting organized to establish a network of African grantmakers. After years of careful planning, preparations, consultations and meetings, the AGN was launched in Accra at a meeting convened by the African Women’s Development Fund, TrustAfrica and the Kenya Community Development Foundation—and attended by key African grantmakers.
Africa: US seeks to underpin oil supply from Africa
The US is increasingly reliant on oil from West Africa for its daily energy needs and forecasts that up to 25 per cent of imports will hail from the Gulf of Guinea by 2015. Ghana, which discovered oil offshore only recently, is set to become a producer next year. Some Ghanaians say Barack Obama’s choice of the country for his first presidential visit to sub-Saharan Africa was partly related to ambitions to ensure an interest in the country’s estimated 3-4bn barrel reserves.
Global: Development in dangerous places
In 2001 the United Nations announced the Millennium Development Goals, pledging to end global poverty by 2015. Paul Collier argued then that it needed to focus its concern on a much smaller group of countries than it had identified. There is, as he argued in The Bottom Billion, an essential difference between a poor family in China and an equally poor family in Chad. Although both enter into the global headcount of families living in extreme poverty, the poor family in China has credible hope that its children will grow up in a society of transformed opportunities: China will be part of the future global economy.
Global: Is the G8 fit for purpose?
Many commentators and development professionals echoed this refrain during the G8 2009 summit held in Italy from July 8 - 10. The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, added his voice to the veritable cascade of dissension by declaring that the G8 “will have to update their politics to grapple with problems that none of them can solve alone: financial panic, rising food and oil prices, climate shocks, a flu pandemic, and more. Political co-operation to address these problems is …a global necessity.”
Kenya: Textile exports decline under AGOA initiative
Kenyan manufacturers have lamented the decline in their export volumes to the US since the introduction of trade rules that do not offer exclusive access to textile products to the American market. The Apparel Sector chairman of the Kenyan Association of Manufacturers (KAM), Jaswinder Bedi, said Kenya's exports to US under the US African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA) had continued to decline over the last six years.
West Africa: Ghana to receive $1.1 billion in IMF resources
Ghana will receive around $1.1 billion in resources from the International Monetary Fund, as the country tries to reduce its widening budget deficit, a senior IMF official has said. The IMF resources include a $600 million loan over three years approved on Wednesday and another $452 million in IMF special drawing rights, IMF mission chief to Ghana, Peter Allum, told reporters on a conference call.
Africa: Further evidence of needless treatment switches
Further evidence has emerged that a substantial proportion of switches to second-line treatment in a resource-limited setting, triggered in the absence of viral load testing, are unnecessary and result in an avoidable inflation in drug costs as people switch to more expensive regimens. The findings, published in the August 1st edition of Clinical Infectious Diseases, are likely to lend further support to calls for viral load testing to be made more accessible in resource-limited settings to confirm cases of suspected treatment failure.
Africa: Major funding boost for pediatric ARVs
Pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has announced plans to invest up to US$97 million over 10 years in improving antiretroviral (ARV) treatment for children and adults in sub-Saharan Africa. The world's second largest drug manufacturer has pledged $16 million in seed funding to a public-private partnership that will develop new paediatric formulations of ARV drugs, GSK said in a statement this week.
Global: Critical need for more viral load testing
New research has again confirmed the importance of viral load testing, which measures the amount of HI virus in the blood, to determine whether someone on antiretroviral (ARV) treatment is experiencing treatment failure and needs to be switched to a second-line drug regimen. Regular viral load testing is standard practice in developed countries (an increased viral load indicates that a patient has developed resistance to one or more ARV drugs) but such tests are often unavailable in resource-limited settings because of their cost and a lack of laboratory capacity.
Global: World Bank health work flawed
A recent evaluation of the World Bank’s health work is damning in its criticism of the lender’s approach, particularly in Africa. Meanwhile, the Bank is continuing to push privatisation in public services such as health, education and water, despite fierce criticism
Togo: Grant from UN-backed fund allows scale up of HIV services
The United Nations-backed Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has signed a grant agreement with Togo worth $20 million over two years, the first part of a five-year grant that will allow the country to scale-up treatment and care for people living with HIV. “This agreement reflects Togo’s determination to continue its fight against the AIDS epidemic,” said Michel Kazatchkine, Executive Director of the Global Fund, who travelled to Lomé to sign the agreement.
Cameroon: Church accused of manipulating public opinion
Gay rights organisations in Cameroon have accused the country’s Catholic Church and the media of deliberately causing confusion about the Maputo Protocol with the intention to influence the public to have negative attitudes towards homosexuality. This comes after Cameroonian President Paul Biya ratified the Maputo Protocol, known in full as, the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights of Women in Africa, during the sixth anniversary of the Maputo Protocol on 11 July this year.
South Africa: Lesbians and HIV: Low risk is not no risk
Women who sleep with women (WSW) are not at risk of HIV transmission – or are they? AIDS advocates warn that it is time for a wake-up call about who is and is not at risk. HIV prevention among WSW and lesbian women remains off the prevention agenda, said Beverley Palesa Ditsie, a founding member of the Gay and Lesbian Organization of the Witwatersrand.
Zimbabwe: Gays uncertain about their future
While pressure mounts for the Zimbabwean government to draft an inclusive constitution, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community in that country remains uncertain about its future in the newly formed government of national unity. Following a public statement earlier this year that called for the drafting of the new constitution to be a people driven process, it now appears that the government is willing to engage.
Mauritius: Hold your fire
Mauritius appears to have a happy problem with the 400,000 tons of waste it produces each year. The island's only landfill is full and the government must decide whether to turn to incinerating waste - generating electricity in the process - or to compost it, to the benefit of farmers.
Nigeria: Playing with fire
Nigeria's gas flare-out date has once again been extended - this time to 2011. The decision follows 25 years of political procrastination by the federal government and illegal behaviour on the part of major oil multinationals engaged in flaring associated gas (AG), the byproduct of oil production in the Niger Delta.
Africa: UN agency commits to helping protect land rights for displaced
The United Nations agency tasked with promoting adequate shelter for all has committed to ensuring better protection of land and property rights for people uprooted from their homes in Africa, which hosts nearly half of the total number of displaced persons worldwide. UN-HABITAT and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) signed a Memorandum of Understanding last week committing them to this common goal.
Global: High food prices continue to hurt the poor, FAO
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has warned in a report that despite a drop in international food prices and good cereal harvests overall, prices in developing countries remain high, and continue to hurt millions of poor people in both rural and urban areas. In several countries, current prices exceed last year’s highs or stand at record levels, according to the “Crop Prospects and Food Situation” report.
Africa: Media observatory 'flawed'
Before the 15 July close of the consultation process on a controversial proposal by the African Union Commission (AUC) and the European Commission (EC) to create a Pan African Media Observatory, media freedom organisations mobilised to have their voices heard on the matter. A component of the "joint roadmap" proposed by the AUC and the EC this year is to create a Pan-African Media Observatory "composed of eminent figures", based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, that would have legal status to mediate disputes that arise with the media.
Ghana: City guards manhandle two radio journalists
Cyrus Degraft-Johnson and Alhassan Suhuyini, journalists of two Accra-based radio stations were on the night of July 9, 2009 violently assaulted by security personnel working for the city authority, the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA). Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA)’s correspondent reported that the incident occurred at about 21: 30 GMT in Shiashi, a suburb in the eastern part of Accra, where Degraft-Johnson, reporter of Joy FM, had gone to cover an ongoing demolition exercise by a combined team of AMA guards and police officers to rid the city of illegal structures.
Cyrus Degraft-Johnson and Alhassan Suhuyini, journalists of two Accra-based radio stations were on the night of July 9, 2009 violently assaulted by security personnel working for the city authority, the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA).
Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA)’s correspondent reported that the incident occurred at about 21: 30 GMT in Shiashi, a suburb in the eastern part of Accra, where Degraft-Johnson, reporter of Joy FM, had gone to cover an ongoing demolition exercise by a combined team of AMA guards and police officers to rid the city of illegal structures.
Degraft-Johnson told the correspondent: “I was reporting live to the station, when the guards pounced on me and accused me of bringing the exercise to the public’s attention so that they would disrupt it.
Degraft-Johnson said the guards seized his equipment including his cellular phone, in addition to his wallet containing a number of identity cards and an amount of fifty Ghana cedis (about US$ 73).
Degraft-Johnson said he was surprised that about the attitude of the police who looked on and that “one of them even pushed me around”.
Rowland Acquah Stevens, news editor of Radio Gold told MFWA that Suhuyini witnessed the incident and began filing a live-report to the station. When the AMA guards saw him reporting they also started attacking him.
“They slapped him, held his neck before seizing cellular phone” he had since being treated and discharged from the hospital.
There has been high official condemnation of the attack on the journalists. Ghana’s President John Atta-Mills on July 11 personally offered apologies to the journalists and ordered the Mayor of Accra to investigate the matter and bring the perpetrators to book.
Meanwhile, the mayor has returned Degraft-Johnson’s equipment to him.
Prof. Kwame Karikari
Tel 233-21 242470
Fax 233 -21 221084
Sierra Leone: Radio stations banned
Two Sierra Leonean radio stations have been stripped of their licences. The national regulatory body, the Independent Media Commission (IMC), says the stations failed to comply with the country's media code. The IMC announced the withdrawal of the licenses of Radio Unity which belongs to the opposition Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP), and Radio Rising Sun, owned by the ruling All People's Congress (APC) on Jul. 7.
Somalia: Renewed calls for journalist protection
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has reiterated its request for an emergency international action to put an end to the assassinations of journalists in Somalia, after the murder of Mohamud Mohamed Yusuf of the Radio Holy Quran (IQK), who was killed on Saturday July 4 in central Mogadishu.
Zambia: Government prosecutes editor
An editor at Zambia's biggest-selling newspaper has been charged with distributing obscene materials relating to a health sector crisis. The Post sent harrowing images of a woman giving birth in the street to government ministers to highlight the effects of a health sector strike. In May and June, Zambia's hospitals and clinics ground to a halt as doctors and nurses went on strike over pay.
Benin: UN agencies increase assistance in wake of floods
United Nations humanitarian agencies have stepped up their relief efforts in the West African country of Benin, where more than 20,000 people have been displaced or affected and numerous farms destroyed by floods. Mosquito nets, water purification tablets, blankets, tents and mats are being distributed and assistance is being provided with water and sanitation and with maternal health care in the wake of the floods.
Kenya: Malnutrition in North West
Poor rains have heightened food insecurity in Kenya's northwestern region of Turkana, where malnutrition rates in children under five have risen above the emergency threshold, according to humanitarian officials."Poor rains in April, May and June worsened food insecurity in the region, where 74 percent of the population [estimated at 550,000] already depends on food aid," Vincent Kahi, the health coordinator for the International Rescue Committee (IRC), said on 15 July at a press briefing in Nairobi.
Nigeria: Militants declare 60-day ceasefire
A leading militant group in the oil-rich Niger Delta on Wednesday declared a 60-day ceasefire and said it would seek talks with the Nigerian government. The ceasefire comes 48 hours after militants expanded their attacks beyond the delta with an assault on a fuel-importing facility near the financial district in Lagos, the commercial capital.
Sudan: Justice, Peace and the ICC
This latest report from the International Crisis Group examines the root cause of the country’s many crises, namely the reluctance of the long-ruling National Congress Party (NCP) to enact policies that would bring justice to the victims of its many conflicts. To end Sudan’s centralised, exploitive and unaccountable governance, the NCP must accept judicial reforms and transitional justice mechanisms as key elements of a Darfur settlement and at the same time fulfil its side of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which halted decades of civil war.
Sudan: Rivals agree to avert war
Rival parties from north and south Sudan have agreed new plans to prevent conflict ahead of next week's ruling on their disputed border. The two sides ended 22 years of conflict in 2005 but tension remains high, especially in the oil-rich region of Abyei, claimed by both sides. A court in The Hague is due to rule on the border next Thursday and both sides have promised to abide by its ruling.
Congo: New presidential term, new hope for better telecomms?
During the 1990s, the Republic of Congo, like most countries, experienced significant growth in the telecommunications sector. However, the liberalisation of the telecommunications market in 1997, when the monopoly held by the National Office of Posts and Telecommunications (ONPT) gave way to free competition among multiple operators, was not free of problems, and the country continues to suffer the effects today.
Tunisia: New online crackdown mobilises Facebook users
A group of Tunisian bloggers started a new campaign on Facebook last week to condemn censorship of the internet by the Tunisian Internet Agency and put pressure on the government to unblock the social websites YouTube and Dailymotion. Over the last few months, internet users have received "404: Page Not Found" errors when trying to surf the two websites. Observers say the motive behind the blockage might be political, coming as it does in the months before Tunisia's presidential and parliamentary elections.
Zambia: Major elearning conference planned
eBrain, the national ICT4D network in Zambia and IICD partner since 2002, will play a key role in organising the 2010 eLearning Africa Conference in Lusaka, Zambia. This annual international conference is the biggest event in digital learning in Africa.
USA/Africa: Obama in Ghana, What Kind of Change?
AfricaFocus Bulletin Jul 10, 2009 (090710)
President Barack Obama's trip to Ghana will be rich in symbolism. But those hoping for a new direction in U.S. Africa policy are tempering their hopes with skepticism. The issue posed, parallel to that in other policy spheres, is to what extent change will remain symbolic or reflect substantive shifts, even if small, away from U.S. policies based on unilateral geostrategic goals or unexamined economic policy assumptions.
Global: IDRC Internship awards
The IDRC Internship awards provide exposure to research for international development through a program of training in research management and grant administration under the guidance of IDRC program staff. The internship is designed to provide hands-on learning experiences in research program management - in the creation, dissemination and utilization of knowledge from an international perspective.
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